20170402_004547     In March, I met my sister and three friends in Las Vegas. Monica (sis) is getting married this fall, and for a while she’d joked about how much fun it would be to do a Vegas bachelorette. It turned out that the plan made a lot of sense! We were coming from different cities in eastern and western Canada, and it was a good excuse for us to travel.

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This was my first trip to Vegas, and I’d conjured up this weird, wonderful land in my mind, where my senses would be overloaded by sounds and lights day and night. When I saw the slot machines in the airport, I knew I hadn’t been far off!

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As the hotel shuttle weaved on and off the strip, I craned my neck to see the oversized landmarks and famous hotels and casinos, smiling like crazy about how I was actually physically in this place that had always sounded like fiction. Here are five things I learned and loved about Vegas, the city that seems simultaneously so real and so fantastical:

Say yes to bottomless brunch.

On a scale of one to mid-day buzz: 11/10 would bottomless brunch again. (If that scale doesn’t make sense, it’s because brunch scored well above the mid-day buzz range!) We went all out at the Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan, enjoying the tapas-style buffet, and (top priority) the bottomless mimosas. It’s not cheap (36 USD on the weekend, plus $15 for unlimited beverages for 2 hours), but it’s not outrageous for what you get, considering the bottomless-ness of both the booze and the brunch. Plus, I sort of saw it as a when-in-Vegas-type thing I would only try once, which is how I’ll sort of see it the next few times I do it!

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Needless to say, more drinking happened as the day progressed and, well. A hangover. That’s what I got for waking up in Vegas!

You can find delicious food off the strip.

We didn’t focus on searching for fancy foodie eateries on this trip, but the best meals I had (barring my booze-infused feast) were off the strip. My first night there, before the others arrived, I stopped at Tacos El Gordo. What can I say? It was clearly fate that brought me to a hotel so close to this restaurant. Those were very, VERY good tacos, and not just because I was ravenous.

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An off-the-strip happy hour also made us very happy! Herbs and Rye, a speakeasy-type restaurant with a cocktail menu organized by era, has a happy hour with half-priced steaks (5-8pm). WHAT. This was the perfect place to take my sis, who is a steak gal! (As were we all!) If the extensive cocktail menu is too daunting, the waiter can suggest a custom drink – they even made me a delicious mocktail, because see above. Eating here is worth the winding Lyft drive.

The Grand Canyon is worth a whirlwind trip.

Even if you don’t have enough time to go overnight, even though the drive is longer than the time you actually spend at the canyon, it’s worth a day trip. We did a tour with the Grand Canyon Tour Company, spending about 8-9 hours on the bus (round trip, with wifi), 3 hours at the canyon’s South Rim, plus a couple of meal and snack breaks. It was cold, windy, and even a bit rainy at the canyon, but it was still Grand AF. The South Rim walk is reallyyy easy (flat and paved), like… you can wear workout gear if you want to look super sporty in your photos but you could do this walk in flip flops! Warning: getting a glimpse of it will have you planning all kinds of future trips to come back ASAP!

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An unseasonably cold week in Vegas = poolside weather.

This trip happened during a pretty stressful time for me, so I was really eager to carve out as much relaxation time as I could… in a city of endless stimulation. This was totally possible though! We went at the right time: it was still cold back home, but Vegas was mostly warm and sunny, and hotels had just re-opened their pools for the season. I got to spend a day in the sun, reading and recharging at our quiet hotel pool. The others opted for a pool party – to each their own form of relaxation, but the point is, it was bathing suit weather (to us Canadians, anyway)!

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*Note: no amount of days in the sun will make these beluga legs any less white!

You can have the whole Vegas experience in your hotel… or not.

Before the rest of the group arrived, three of us spent a night at Circus Circus, a hotel that manages to compress all of Vegas’ Vegas-ness into one place. This hotel has everything: restaurants, casinos, a chapel, an amusement park, free circus shows, a pool, an arcade, a stuck-up kitten who won’t sign autographs… This all-in-one strategy is the norm across most of the hotels on or near the strip, but this is a cheaper (& kitschier) option. It’s about a half hour walk to the closer end of the strip, or an easy bus ride. (…Plus it’s near the tacos.)

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For the rest of the trip, we stayed at Polo Towers, essentially on the strip but hidden behind some restaurants. In contrast to Circus Circus, it was small and quiet, with no casino or restaurants, and a simple pool on the roof. Customer service was great, it was central, and our suite was a good size and a reasonable price for 5 people. It was a perfect refuge from the sensory overload outside!

 . . . . .

     The people close to me are growing up (me too I guess – #CantBePeterPanForever, sigh), and with increasing adult responsibilities, increasing acceptance of flakiness, and maybe some lesbian nesting on my part, it’s getting harder to align schedules with friends who live in the same city, let alone the growing list of pals and family members who live in other cities and countries. The best part of this trip was being able to combine travel with seeing some of my favourite humans. Visiting home is nice, but flying somewhere new to visit with friends is extra nice. (Plus, Vegas is a cheaper flight than Ottawa from the West Coast, bonus!)

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