Monday, October 1, 2018

I Heart Las Vegas #VegasStrong

Today marks the one year anniversary of the Las Vegas shooting, and I reflected in this Instagram post a while back how painful it's been seeing places that mean so much to me struck by tragic events. I often see online debates about whether to visit in the wake of tragedy, but I believe that it's often after these events that it's the best time to visit. Not only for tightened security, but also to stand in support and solidarity. 

Earlier this year when Mr. Lovebird and I found out Life is Beautiful would fall on my birthday we decided to return to Las Vegas for the 11th time, and it went from being a small birthday celebration to a larger family and friends celebration with my brother-in-law, sister-in-law and a few other couples. 

Here's how I witnessed #VegasStrong in action. 

First, we flew Spirit. This honestly deserves its own overdue post about what it's been like flying on that airline over 10x in under 18 months. For now, let this picture be your guide:

We ARRIVED with the suitcase weighing exactly 40.0 lbs (that's Spirit's max weight before crazy fees)

If you follow the rules of Spirit, it *really* can work out economically in your favor to fly with them - we booked using one of their super discount codes and used the savings to fly in the exit row.  And YES, our flight was on time. When it landed there was even applause. I've only experienced this phenomenon when traveling to Puerto Rico, another beloved place we can't wait to return to! The only issue though was on the part of Las Vegas' airport in that we actually arrived quite early and the joy of this was quickly deflated when we sat on the tarmac for 30 minutes then waited another 30 minutes for our luggage. 

We were still able to make our traditional first stop to In-N-Out Burger 30 minutes before they closed at 1a.m. though. SUCCESS!

Yep, they switched the lights OFF! 

We made our way to the home rental about 15 minutes off-strip and crashed hard. In the morning I was excited to see the place my brother-in-law selected and I was seriously WOW-ed! This was our first time doing a home rental and it was a 5 bedroom sprawling ranch. It definitely changed my perspective on single story living. 

Next, we were off to another favorite eatery: Hash House A Go Go. There's a few different locations, but we always go to our favorite off-strip on West Sahara. It didn't disappoint. 

Mr. Lovebird split the Sage Fried Chicken Benedict
The guys had been up since about 6a.m. golfing so they went back to rest while my sister-in-law and I did a first for me: hit up the Las Vegas North Premium Outlets. I was actually good and went with a list that I stuck to: sneakers, make-up and earrings. 

The guys joined us on the strip afterwards for a bit before we made our way back to the house to get ready for my birthday dinner. My Rent the Runway birthday rental didn't disappoint! I decided to wear a color that rarely makes an appearance in my wardrobe...

For dinner we returned to the famed steakhouse Golden Steer which happened to be celebrating its birthday too: 65th, to be exact!  

Located right on the border of Old Vegas, it was fun to return this time with four other couples AND in a private room. The service was fantastic and included a bit of a dark but humorous history lesson from our waiter. 

Afterward we made our up to the top of the Stratosphere to enjoy some amazing views. It had been years since Mr. Lovebird and I had been to the top and we were still in awe of looking down on Vegas. 

The next morning was...

My birthday!

We were up bright and early to head to Life is Beautiful. We had attended the inaugural festival in 2013 (full recap here!) and had hoped to return each year since then so now that we were finally able to go we were excited to see how it had changed. 

The first thing we noticed are their fab pre-events. We had a general admission ticket for Saturday only and while we arrived too late the night before to make the kick-off party which featured Wiz Khalifa and Busta Rhymes, we *were* able to make the pool party at Downtown Grand.

We lasted about an hour in the heat but enjoyed Sir Sly's life performance!

Life is Beautiful opened around 3p.m. and we had a comped room at SLS nearby which made it really convenient to crash at post-festival since we could keep our rental car parked there and take a quick Lyft back. We made our way to our room to rest before heading to our first concert...

"Resting" included a mini-photoshoot for me...

So let's back up and talk about what exactly is Life is Beautiful.

It's a music, arts, food and culture festival that has such a chill and welcoming vibe. I can't remember how we first heard about it but we love the diverse acts it brings, including large and small artists. In the five years since we first attended we definitely felt the friendly vibe. 

From the entrance gates we could tell it was immensely larger plus the fact that they had scan-in and scan-out stations allowing only 3 re-entries per day for general admission. This came in handy since we had planned to step away to join my brother-in-law and sister-in-law for a Cirque du Soleil performance later. 

LIB's whimsical murals didn't disappoint!
There were definitely more sponsors this time and they had some cool perks including Zenni, how gave away free shades. We ended up picking out matching ones then made our way over to hear AJR perform. Mr. Lovebird was familiar with them but they were new to me and I love how they gave a "workshop" breakdown of how they compose. It was cool to see and hear live! 

I also appreciated more recycling and landfill bins compared to last time!
We grabbed a bit to eat from one of the many food trucks before making our way to the Zappos Art Motel. It was an amazing gallery of upcycled installations - a true menagerie that was so photogenic.

We bypassed Foster the People's performance (I'm more of a fan than Uka!) and high-tailed it over to New York New York to meet up with family for Zumanity, our 6th Cirque show. I debated if it'd be too much back and forth, but my sister-in-law got an amazing rate that was too good to pass up! I'm so glad we went. It was an intriguing show and the emcee was so FIERCE. He commanded the stage like no one I've seen at any other Cirque show and I was so jealous of how gorgeous his legs were strutting around in impossibly high heels. My top Cirque shows still remain Ka, Michael Jackson One and Mystere, but Zumanity definitely didn't disappoint! 

As soon as the show was over we made our way back over to Life is Beautiful just in time for N.E.R.D. followed by Miguel, Travis Scott and Florence and the Machine. There were waaaaay more artists than that so it was hard to catch them all since they were split up between stages. 

The crowd size was immense by nightfall and part of the fun was just people watching. Mr. Lovebird always has quite the eye for celebrities and quickly greeted SNL cast-member Chris Redd as he walked by us during Florence and the Machine's performance. 

We had a photo bomber who asked me to tag him, but I explained I couldn't cause I was on airplane mode! 

The next day we slept in a bit then met back up with friends and family for a group trip to the Hoover Dam. Only an hour from the strip, I was surprised that we had never been especially because I'm such a nerd when it comes to American engineering documentaries and have been fascinated by one I watched on the Hoover Dam when I was a kid. 

I drove us there and it was so hard keeping my eyes on the road as we neared the site. The views were stunning!

I always know there's more than meets the eye, so after viewing the limited "history" in the official museum I was prompted to look up the role that Native Americans and African Americans played in its construction. You can read about some of it here, but basically segregation was at play as well as stereotyping. Of course it was a different time, but don't think that excuses us from learning from and understanding the context of things of which we're often taught to revere. 

We made our way back to the Vegas and stopped at Palm for their buffet aptly named AYCE (it was SO good and I liked the small plates presentation), before heading back to Downtown Vegas for the Freemont Street Experience

Heading into Palm's AYCE buffet...

A real shark at Palm's bar seemed quite fitting given the fatal shark attack that happened while I was on the Cape the previous weekend.

Uka and I were spectators from safely down below while the others gave the zip line Slotzilla a try. The wait also gave us some very interesting people watching including the most bizarre shoplifter ever who even had accompanying sound effects for his/her efforts. Even the store staff and a nearby police officer were baffled. 

The next day, Monday, was our last full day in Vegas and with a red eye we slept in a little and made our way over to the house for breakfast before checkout. That wasn't before I did one more Rent the Runway photoshoot - this outfit was what I really wanted to wear to Life is Beautiful, but it became my back-up outfit if we made it to a club, which we didn't. I still like how the outfit fit the style of SLS' rooms. 

Following breakfast and goodbyes we went on the Strip for a bit before an early dinner at another one of our favorite Vegas restaurants: Lotus of Siam. Soon after we visited last year we heard the sad news about their original location, but we were excited to check out their new location. I was also curious if it'd mean the food quality would change. 

Thankfully, it didn't much - their signature Garlic Black Pepper Wings weren't as flavorful as we remembered, but the Tom Yum Noodle Soup was on point same as before. 

After dinner Uka indulged my request to see the Bellagio flower display in the lobby as well as the fountains - it was our first time watching the fountain show from start to finish. Both are still on my must-list of Vegas attractions!

I can't believe how much we packed in this trip and it was the perfect mix of old and new experiences. I especially liked that we got to experience Las Vegas with others this time around and we're already talking about what we'd like to do on our next trip. I definitely think a visit to the Grand Canyon is in order...

If you'd like to join me in anti-gun violence efforts please visit Moms Demand Action to find out more about your local chapter and how to get involved. 


P.S. For more from our trip check out my Vegas Highlight button on my Instagram Stories