Top Golf at the MGM; First time golf experience

On my last trip to Las Vegas, my friend Brian wanted to check out the Top Golf at the Mgm Grand.  I remember seeing it on my trip in October, but I never got around to checking out, most likely because I don’t golf.

Best way to enter, drive north on Koval Lane from Tropicana Boulevard and you will see the towering building on the left.  They have an open parking lot, valet parking and shuttle buses from the area hotels that drop off right in front.  We made the mistake of parking in the MGM Grand parking garage and walking!.  It is over a mile walk through the parking garage, through the hotel lobby, through the casino and past the shops.  Then, you exit out to a couple of pools, past the convention center then you will find it.

Once we got in, I was surprised to find that it was inexpensive to play.  There was a five dollar initial charge for a membership and $45 an hour, no matter how large the party.  We given a bay that had three couches, a coffee table, and table service for food or drinks.  The hostess explained to us how the system works;  you enter in the type of program you want, ie just practice hitting, competition, etc.  Enter in the names of the participants and the screen will guide you when to begin.

You wave your club in front of a sensor and the golf ball is spit out at you.  Each ball is microchipped so when you hit it, the distance and spot where it lands are all recorded.  Comes in real handy when someone’s competitive nature kicks in.

Overall, it is a fun experience, especially for someone like me who has never hit a golf ball in their life.   Will definitely be back again and I was told by the employees there that there are plans for a Top Golf here in Hawaii!

Super Bowl Sunday in Las Vegas

I recently got to visit Las Vegas from Feb. 5 to Feb. 10.  I flew from Honolulu direct to Las Vegas with my friends Brian, Bert and Darrin. Friends since we weren’t even old enough to drive.  We didn’t plan it, but we ended up flying out on Super Bowl Sunday.  We landed right at kick off and made it to the California Hotel by half time.  On our way there, you could tell that the game was in progress because the freeways and main roads had no traffic and very little cars on them!

We checked into the California Hotel in time for the second half, which I found out I couldn’t place many prop bets at that time. The sports book at the California is more comfortable than when it was upstairs and there was a lot of seats and viewing areas for people to watch the game.

TVs were on all over the casino; near the table games, the upstairs and downstairs bars and even in the Keno room!  There was even a special, by invitation only function going on in the Ohana Room on the second floor.

I took a quick walk down to Fremont Street and could see that it was pretty much a ghost town but I could hear the cheers coming from every casino bar, as most of them are near the entrance off of Fremont Street. While most of the places had some sort of drink special, party special or food special, most of the places were a bunch of football fans sitting together to watch the biggest game of the year. If your a Patriots fan, probably one of the best games ever.

 

 

Just in case; a medical anxiety when visiting Las Vegas

My biggest fear of traveling to Las Vegas is needing medical attention. If you have a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan such as HMSA, your good but I have Kaiser Permanente and believe it or not, Kaiser Permanente has no facilities in the State of Nevada! I always thought that Las Vegas has everything, but I later found out that Kaiser Permanente is not one of them. Several years ago, co-worker told me that her brother had Kaiser Permanente, but when he was visiting Las Vegas, a situation came up where he had to see a doctor and the closest facility to Las Vegas was in California. He had to make a two hour drive, one way, to see a doctor! Just that story alone made me worried every trip I took to the 9th Island.

I know that it were an emergency that would be taken care just like any other person would be taken care of. What I was dreading was getting sick or injured, but not bad enough for an emergency room visit. The drawbacks to an emergency room visit are:

  • It can be depressing because every sort of illness and injury comes in
  • If it’s busy and your not that bad off, every severe case that comes in pushes you to the back of the line to be seen
  • You could be there for hours because even if the doctor has seen you, the rest of the emergency room staff is busy with other patients and they will get to you when they get to you
  • Lastly, it is very expensive compared to a regular doctor visit

My anxiety would soon change. Here’s what I found out by accident: I had to go for a doctor’s visit the other day and while waiting in the examining room, I see a flyer with the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, (which will always catch my eye). I opened it up to find out that Kaiser Permanente has now contracted with Concentra Urgent Care and Walgreens Healthcare to treat their patients when traveling.

I started to read the flyer and found that Concentra Urgent Care might be the best bet. There only four locations and three of them are open Monday-Friday 8:00 am to 5 or 6:00 pm. The fourth location at 5850 Polaris Avenue near McCarren International is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Concentra Urgent Care is staffed by board certified physicians and clinicians. Most of the centers also have X-ray and lab facilties.

Walgreens Healthcare has 13 locations with two right on the Strip, one near the Venetian and the other near MGM Grand. They are staffed by either a board certified nurse practitioner or physician assistant, but all locations have a pharmacy.

Hopefully you or me will never need to use these facilities, but it’s nice knowing that there are options.

Merry Christmas!!

Now that Christmas is here, I look back and realize that Las Vegas can be a fun place to spend the Christmas season.  Believe it or not, the crowds are not that bad until after Christmas Day.  If you check the hotel sites and other travel sites, the room rates are really good leading up to December 25th but will spike the closer you get to December 31st, but we all know that it’s a big party on that date.

Up till today, I would get e-mails almost daily inviting me to stay somewhere for anywhere from $39 to $299 a night.  I’m sure the Aria at $299 a night can be a bargain versus New Year’s Eve or Superbowl Sunday.

Let’s not forget about dining.  Because most of the occupancy is low for the weeks leading up to Christmas, you can get a table at almost any restaurant in town and we know some of them can be excellent and beyond excellent!  The best part, someone else does the cooking and cleaning up!

Christmas is all about spending time with family and I have met many families from Hawaii that have spent Christmas many times in Las Vegas.  While it may exclude the family members that can’t make the trip, it makes for great memories later.

Tis the season; Black Friday and Cyber Monday Vegas Style

Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Two names or phrases that are not that old and conjure up images of frenzied shopping with cash and credit cards leaving wallets after than Usain Bolt in the 100 meter sprint.  As this Thanksgiving holiday approached, we all saw ads on TV, Newspaper, websites, e-mails etc. for specials for both days.  Most of your “brick and mortar” stores) ie Macy’s, Kohl’s etc) those in a mall for example, were more to push the “Black Friday” concept while on line portals such as Ebay, Amazon, eBags etc were more toward the “Cyber Monday”.

I noticed that even Las Vegas got in on this craze and I’m not just talking about shopping the outlet malls, the  Forum Shops or Miracle Mile.  You could check a hotel casino’s webpage and get themed specials.  Most of these specials will be  emphasized on hotel rooms, meals and shows.  One the lesser known but big benefits are the multi point rewards on certain days.  Some casinos were  offering as high as 15x the points on “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday”. This could have been your chance to really rake in the rewards just off of your gaming.

 

My experience on the campaign trail

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Now that the elections are behind us, I will not bore or agitate the readers with how I feel about the results. That issue is left to be discussed, debated and fought over on other sites and forums. I do want to share my closest call I had to both candidates this past October 2016. I was in Las Vegas and scheduled to fly back to Hawaii on October 19 at 6:20 pm from McCarren International on Hawaiian Airlines.

I knew enough ahead of time that the Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was to be held at UNLV on the same date at around the same time. From experience, I know that the area around McCarren International and UNLV will be swarming with Secret Service and police. When the candidates land and start moving, all roads and air traffic surrounding WILL be shut down, no movement at all. With that in mind, I planned to be at the McCarren Rental Car Center by 4:30, which would give me almost two hours before my flight.

As I was driving to the center, I saw that Paradise Road and the intersection of Tropicana Blvd were lined with mostly Donald Trump supporters. Many “Make America Great Again” banners and other signs of support as well as negative messages directed toward Clinton. I have to assume that the Clinton supporters were closer to the UNLV campus? Considering the City of Las Vegas overwhelmingly voted for her, they had to be visible somewhere. The officers of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department were out in large numbers at each intersection. Up to this point, I was grateful that I was ahead of the motorcades and that I would be at the gate with about an hour to spare.

After dropping off the car at 4:40pm , I went out to the shuttle and found that the Secret Service had just given the order to “lock it down” meaning all affected roads and air space are stopped. There were about five shuttle buses full of people just sitting at the rent a car center, idling. We ended up sitting there until almost 5:50!! Luckily, there were other Hawaii people on my shuttle, hoping to make the same flight so I know that I was safe because there must have been 20 or 30 of us that still needed to make it. A lot of other passengers for other airlines were getting nervous too. One man asked if it would be faster if he and his wife walked to the airport!! And his flight wasn’t until 8:00 pm!!!

When the all clear was given we made it to the gate and to walk very briskly to gate 35. As soon as we boarded, the doors were closed and we off! Right on schedule!!

When I had booked my flight back in August, if I had known about all this, I would have arranged to leave either the night before or the next day.

What I was hoping for was would bump me out and I would HAVE to stay another night in Las Vegas!

Professional sports in Sin City

Oakland Raiders might become the Las Vegas Raiders. There is a hockey franchise ready to start and now there might be a NBA team in Las Vegas. Prior to all this, about the only professional sport you had in the desert was the Las Vegas 51’s, the minor league farm team for the New York Mets. There would be occasional NBA preseason games with the Los Angeles Lakers, but it might all change soon.

Imagine how the freeways will look if the Raiders do make their home in Las Vegas. If the Arizona Cardinals or Los Angeles Rams were to play in Las Vegas, there would a constant back up of cars stretching from Las Vegas back to either Phoenix or Los Angeles. I only mention those two for traffic because they seem to be the cities with the most people who will drive to Las Vegas versus flying.

Still no word yet on having these professional franchises in Las Vegas would effect betting at the sports books. We know that it doesn’t effect backroom betting, but the regulated betting lines might not fare too well with these teams in the State of Nevada.

Update: Parking at MLife Properties and how to navigate at no cost

My take on the new parking procedure at the Mlife properties. I had the chance to recently visit Las Vegas and got to see first-hand how this works. I arrived early morning after the red eye flight on Hawaiian Airlines to the MGM. I pulled into the self-park garage and removed a parking ticket.

There are clear instructions for you to take the ticket to one of the pre-pay kiosk as there is no attendant at the exit and it is fully automated. After parking my rental car, I went straight to the Mlife desk to exchange my Sapphire card for a Pearl membership card. I presented my card to be exchanged and after confirming I met the minimum for an upgrade, it was easily changed to Pearl status, which means I’m entitled to the benefits that come with it, but the main focus of this entry is the parking.

On this specific visit to upgrade my membership card, I decided to see if it works. I went back to my car and drove out toward the exit. At the exit, I inserted my membership card and I was let out of the parking garage.

During this trip to Las Vegas, I had stayed at the MGM and Excalibur because I cashed in my MyVegas rewards virtual cash for comp rooms and I got to use this benefit several times, even after I checked out of each property.

On other occasions, I returned to the properties and as I pulled up to the parking kiosk, all I had to do was insert my Pearl status card and within a few seconds, I was let in. Exiting was even easier as my license plate was scanned, which meant I didn’t even have to roll my window down to insert the card!

My opinion is that it is totally worth it to upgrade to Pearl status and the fastest, easiest way to do it is by getting the Mlife credit card.

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Las Vegas Underworld; How illegal money is made fast

I was watching the National Geographic channel’s “Underworld, Inc. Las Vegas Hustle”. I wasn’t too surprised by what I saw when a card counter, a prostitute and the Aria Hotel and Casino security was featured. I found a couple of the features entertaining. Each of the persons featured in the show were wearing masks while they were telling their stories. The card counter was wearing a mask that covered his mouth and nose, but you could clearly see his eyes and the bridge of his nose. Other TV shows that featured Las Vegas casino security technology has publicly stated that they have facial recognition software that can ID someone just off the eyes and nose area because that is the one facial area that can’t be changed or altered. I can just picture it: security professionals, as soon as they saw this feature, began inputting this person’s facial features to match what they have.

The card counter not only demonstrated his card counting, but his slight of hand display. He practiced in his hotel room how he would slip a $25 or $100 chip under another chip after he won the hand and just prior to being paid by the dealer. Now that is really risky as that could get you jail time as well as banned from most casinos.

This card counter closed out his segment by saying that he played at one casino and won $300 from one and $800 from another for a total of $1100. He closes by saying “Not a bad night”. I agree, not a bad night, but hardly worth it to get banned from a casino.

The show also featured a person makes a living robbing casinos, armored cars and couriers throughout Las Vegas for a living.  Those are some dangerous and desperate people because they have no regard for person safety and others.

No thanks, I will just take my chances and have good memories of every trip I take to my favorite vacation spot without having to look over my shoulder.  It wouldn’t be much fun if I was always worried about being caught.

Shopping for Trader Joe’s; a Must Stop when traveling

When people from Hawaii travel to Las Vegas, a must (absolute must) stop is Trader Joe’s! You know that you have to bring something back from this market to the gang at the office, the neighbor that watched your house while you were on the trip, the babysitter, and other people who are close to you.

The most frequented branch is located on 2101 South Decatur Blvd. , north of West Sahara Avenue. I remember a few years ago, walking into this location and right in front, taped onto a support pole was a list titled: “Most popular items for our shoppers from Hawaii”. Which tells you how many of us shop at this certain location because it really close to Downtown Las Vegas.

There are other branches within Las Vegas but not frequented as much as the Decatur Blvd. According to the Trader Joe’s web page, there are two locations in Summerlin and two locations in Henderson.

I can’t confirm this but because the other locations are as frequented by Hawaii people, the stock of Cookie Butter is left on the shelf, not behind the customer service counter like it is at the Decatur Blvd. branch. If you were to vacation elsewhere and come across a Trader Joe’s anywhere else in the country, the Cookie Butter is also left on the shelf or on an end display.

Whenever I shop there, my favorites have been dried figs, trail mix, energy bars, cranberry dunkers, blueberry bars, pumpkin bars etc. I can’t help but envy (sometimes) the locals who can shop there and take home some of the frozen or refrigerated specialty items I see on display; marinated lamb rack, various cheeses, marinated fish and chicken and so many it makes almost anyone look like a gourmet chef.