March Trip Report

I always enjoy reading Vegas trip reports. They are great for keeping up with what is new in Vegas, and it helps to tide me over until the next time I’m able to get out there. It is also a great way to make the reader a healthy bit of jealous, so I offer my apologies in advance. I just returned from a 6-night trip to the Valley, and this is my story.

This trip represented our annual March Madness trip we have done for the last six years, and will probably do for the next fifty. They are probably going to do a 30 for 30 Documentary about us in 2064. For the first time ever, we decided to stay downtown instead of on the Strip. We opted for The D at the urging of the Vegas Tripping “Trippies” awards as well as several other Vegas-y resources. I had visited The D casino several times and loved the vibe, but this was my first stay.


My overall impressions of The D were positive. The rooms were nothing special, but the value was hard to beat. The building is old, the fixtures are old, but the paint is fresh and the rooms were clean for the most part. For the value visitor, I would definitely recommend it. The best part of the hotel? Price. The worst part? The elevators. Slowest in town. They even started letting us use the freight elevator. For the record, I did try the $20 trick at check-in (but substituted it for a $50). Unfortunately, there aren’t a bunch of suites at The D and it was a crazy busy weekend. No dice. Oh well.


The hotel itself was just ok, but the overall operation and the casino are top notch. Just a great vibe in that place. The Long Bar is amazing with great cocktail service. The casino dealers are fun. The upstairs Vintage Vegas slots and Sigma Derby are a must visit and the new blackjack tables upstairs are also legit. We also never waited in long lines at the sports book, where my man Tom was holding down the fort every day. I also met the owner, Derek Stevens, who couldn’t have been a nicer guy. I’m excited to see how downtown Vegas continues to transform as his influence grows.


Let’s get to the trip.

I arrived Wednesday night and had booked the $38 round trip “VIP Shuttle” from Bell Trans Limo. Very simple to check in and get me downtown without waiting in the cab line at the airport (and also cheaper). When I got settled at The D, I headed down to throw some money around at the craps tables. First up was 4 Queens, then Fremont ($3 craps!), then the Nugget. After several drinks, I settled down at the Nugget poker room to play some cards and wait for my buddies to arrive. This turned out to be a very good decision.

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Once my buddies arrived, we closed the night at The D with some more craps, some video poker, and several drinks at The Long Bar. We might have played Sigma Derby too, but it’s hard to say. Great night, and just the beginning.


Thursday we got up and nursed our hangovers with Hash House A Go Go at The Plaza. Nothing like a billion carbohydrates and some mimosas to saturate a little alcohol. We placed our basketball bets for the day and headed back to The D to watch the games at the free watch party in the 12th Floor Ballroom. Very solid setup.


We spent most of the day yelling at televisions and ripping up betting tickets. Standard procedure for March Madness. We grabbed dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in the whole wild world — Hugo’s Cellar at the 4 Queens. It was phenomenal as always.


We then found our way to the Golden Nugget pool area to sit and smoke some cigars and drink some overpriced beers. It’s an awesome place to take a breather from the casino. Decent tunes, great seating options with fire pits, and a convenient bar. We closed the night with several hours of Sigma Derby (and drinking derby). Everybody was a winner, regardless of how many quarters cashed out of the machine.


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Friday we got up and made our bets. We eventually made our way over to Pizza Rock just of Fremont Street (across from the new Downtown Grand) for a little lunch. Great pie and solid beer selection. Definitely recommend it if you’re downtown. Throughout the day, we watched games at The D and the Golden Nugget watch parties. Both were free and solid. One advantage to the Nugget was the addition of table seating.


We were hungry. We were thirsty. And we were in need of chips, dips, and margaritas. We found this magical place called the Cadillac Tequila Cantina inside the Nugget (near the pool). Our waitress, Jennifer, was top notch and we purchased enough margaritas, tequila shots, and mezcal sippers to put her unborn children through college. The dips were on point too. We were shocked to hear that the place had only been open one day and it was their soft opening. Really enjoyed it.


 We finished the night at the Long Bar inside The D because we’re really into flare cocktails. Or Video Poker. Or Both. I also hit my only Royal Flush of the trip. Don’t pay attention to the existence of Deuces Wild. That doesn’t matter. It’s still a Royal Flush. 100 quarters for me. How many quarters did you make today? Yeah, that’s what I thought.


On Saturday we started the morning off with breakfast at The D Grille and then headed to the Strip to meet up with some friends staying at Caesars. We spent most of the afternoon lounging by the Caesars pool drinking fruity $23 cocktails BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO. It was a nice break from the sausage books, err… sports books.


When the sunburn set in, we made our way to the Caesars Sports Book for some games. After yelling at those really big TVs for a while, we walked to the Bellagio and yelled at those slightly smaller but still really big TVs. The evening ended with drinks at the Cosmopolitan. Our Strip Trip was over and it was time to get back to The D for dinner at the highly anticipated Andiamo Steakhouse.


Andiamo did not disappoint. Potato Gnocchi was literally the best I have ever had. Also really enjoyed the meatball appetizer, lobster truffle Mac & Cheese, and the prices. Had two glasses of Stag’s Leap Cab (very solid Cab), shared an appetizer, shared a side dish, and bought an entree and got out of there for less than $70. Hard to beat, and definitely recommended.


After dinner, we met a group of friends at the Downtown Cocktail Room, which is right off Fremont Street. This place reminds me of the coolest bar in your city. You know, the dimly lit bar with great hand crafted cocktails made by bearded guys in vests. House music bumping through the speakers and everyone in the bar is cooler than you. Yeah, felt like that except the laid back Vegas version. Cocktails were amazing and reasonably priced. Vibe was cool and we had no problem securing a table at peak time on a Saturday night. I will definitely return.


We then hit up the The Griffin, which was a very cool bar near Downtown Cocktail Room in Fremont East. Unfortunately it was extremely busy. So busy, in fact, that we decided to hit our third location after only a short while. We debated between Insert Coins (a sweet arcade bar) and Gold Spike, and decided to try the latter at the urging of our Vegas local friend.


Gold Spike is weird as shit. Bona fide hipster convention but I kind of dug it. Imagine taking an old casino, ripping out all the gambling, and replacing slots and table games with bar and family games such as pool, darts, and Monopoly. Now consider the idea that playing beer pong, bags, or Connect 4 isn’t enough. You need to blow these games up to massive sizes. Throw a basketball into trash cans painted red like solo cups. Jenga pieces made out of wooden logs the length of your arm. Bean bags the size of large pillows you throw toward 8-foot boards. A crappy emo band was also playing. A skating rink was open. The bar was uninspiring but the place itself was pretty fun. We spent most of our night by the fire pits out back drinking PBR. Felt like an appropriate choice. Very weird night but also one of the more enjoyable nights. We closed it out with some blackjack at The D.


Sunday morning we got up, placed some more sports bets, and watched the morning games. After yelling at the TVs for a while longer, we walked down to the new Bier Garten at The Plaza. As a craft beer dork, I was kind of excited about this place. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to it. Patch of grass, some picnic tables, and a few TVs. Beer selection was pretty limited, but the beers were cold, so that’s something.

We eventually ended up back at The Cadillac Bar at the Nugget for some more dips because damnit we like dips. We spent most of our time there debating how to hedge a long shot money line parlay bet that I was close to hitting. Two legs down, one left that paid pretty handsomely relative to the original wager.


It was then time for dinner and we were in the mood for a crappy downtown Las Vegas buffet. Our phones informed us that Main Street Station had the best value buffet in town, so we decided to give it a shot. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the buffet for the price of like $12 per person. I have been to the Nugget buffet before and paid at least twice that amount for food that was not all that much better, if at all. MSS wins the blue ribbon for downtown buffets.


It was then time for a little craps at 4 Queens, because why not. Our trip was coming to a close and the drink service at the Queens was solid. We were successful in our buy-in (had a great trip for craps…a rarity), and really enjoyed the dealers.

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Monday morning I got up to find out that my Monday night flight had been pushed back past 2:00 am. That meant one thing and one thing only. THIS guy is staying another night in Vegas because forget that noise. Southwest moved me to Tuesday morning, which meant I needed to find myself a new hotel room for the night. I thought about staying at The D one more night, but decided I was ready to head to the Strip. I cashed in myVEGAS points for a room at NYNY, packed my things, and headed out. But I had one more stop to make before leaving downtown. Pancakes at the legendary Du-par’s inside Golden Gate. And they did not disappoint.


I had never stayed at NYNY, leaving only a handful of hotels left on my #VegasHotelBucketList. I got there a little before noon and attempted to check in, even though the sign said 3:00 PM check in. Not only did they fit me in, but the $20 trick yielded a spa suite upgrade! Two points each for you, MGM Resorts and NYNY. The room was very nice and very clean. The view was great. And I won’t lie… it made me wonder why I hadn’t stayed on the Strip in the first place. Love downtown. Love Fremont. Won’t make a trip to Vegas without at least one jaunt down there. But it may be a while before I spend five days downtown again.


I decided to check out the NYNY pool because it was such a lovely day and I looked at the temperature at home where snow had just fallen. I needed to soak in as many rays as I could before heading back to cold. The pool wasn’t anything special, but it was adequate.

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The bar next to the pool served cold drinks, which was really all I needed. Not much in the way of cocktail servers, but the pool wasn’t big enough to make the walk over to the bar annoying.

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After I got enough rays to even out my sunburn, I headed down to check out the new bridge and shops out in front of NYNY since the last time I was there it was all torn up. I have to say they did a pretty good job of keeping the theme while adding some storefront shopping. Not that I’m really into shopping at places called “Stupidiotic” but it was well done nonetheless.


It was eventually time to grab a bite, and I couldn’t really find anything worth going to, so I settled on The Sporting House so I could watch some games and stay close enough to the horse races I was also walking out and betting. Hadn’t played the ponies all weekend because it was March Madness, and I figured the Vegas gods granted me another day… might as well make the most of it.


I eventually settled in for a little blackjack at the NYNY casino (6:5 Blackjack Blah), then took the winnings to Let it Ride, then took the winnings to Roulette, then took the winnings to Craps, where I eventually lost the winnings and retired to the room. It was a nice run.


My Bell Trans Limo Service was prompt to pick me up for my return trip to the Airport the next morning. Very good service on that VIP shuttle thing, and I’ll definitely be using it again. As for the trip itself, I did well enough on sports, casino, and poker to pay for the trip, which is a rarity. Probably couldn’t have said that had I spent 6 nights on the Strip at 3x the price, so there’s definitely something to that whole Downtown thing. Overall, a great time and can’t wait to get back.