A Different Era Riviera, Sands, Desert Inn Casinos

When you love Las Vegas as much as I do, you might get nostalgic when you hear of icons and landmarks from Sin City’s past being removed. Today, the Riviera Hotel and Casino was imploded. In case you didn’t know, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority bought the property to expand the convention center.
Seeing these old school properties that made Las Vegas what it is today, get moved out is way of life in the 9th island, but the memories will always be there. Casinos such as this one, the Sands, Desert Inn, Flamingo and Tropicana can only have your imagination reeling back to a different era of this city. Only the Flamingo and Tropicana remain today.

A few years ago, I was talking with a couple from California at a blackjack table at the Golden Nugget . They were telling me how it was in the late 60’s when they would hang out at the Desert Inn pool and hear pages over the hotel loudspeaker for Don Rickles, Dean Martin etc.  I was waaay to young to have enjoyed Las Vegas at that time, but I wish I could have enjoyed a part of it.

Saving some money on the Las Vegas trip; Total Rewards

Going on vacation or a get away can be expensive, no matter the location; East Coast, Disneyland, Hawaii,  Las Vegas, etc,  and you might end up regretting taking the trip later, but how can you put a price tag on memories?

The Total Rewards program which is includes the properties of Caesar’s Palace,  Harrah’s, Bally’s, the Rio, the Cromwell, Plant Hollywood, the LINQ Las Vegas, and Paris.  And these are just the Las Vegas properties!!  Many more in other states!

One small way I found to save some money if your planning a Las Vegas vacation within the next 6-9 months is to apply for the Total Rewards credit card.  After your approved for this card, you only have to spend $750 in 90 days to earn 10,000 rewards points, not included is what you also earn on your spend.

What you earn when you use this card:

  • 5X the points for every $1 spend at a Total Rewards Destination
  • 2X the points for every $1 spent on gas, groceries, and airlines
  • 1X the points on everything else

A reward for being offered to  targeted new card holders is your choice of:

  • Two tickets to a show at a Total Rewards destitnation OR
  • One night stay at a Total Rewards Destination   OR
  • Two buffet passes at a Total Rewards Destination OR
  • Two tickets for the High Roller

The e-mail I received has these bonus offers, but when I go straight to the Total Rewards credit card web page, the bonuses are not mentioned.

One word of advice is that the tickets for the High Roller are only good during day light hours, which tends be not as impressive as night time over the Las Vegas skyline.

While the accumulation of the rewads points may not seem like it would get you a suite at Caeser’s, the bonus rewards can make getting this credit card worth it.   One of the biggest pluses to this card?  No annual fee and you get automatic Platinum status!!!

To maintain the Platinum status,  you would have to spend $5000 annually on the card, which is pretty easy to do.


Breaking from the Routine Part 3; my review of the Golden Nugget

I have written here about staying at a Downtown Las Vegas hotel in previous posts.  I find it convenient to stay Downtown instead of the Strip mostly because I can easily walk from one property to another.   Anyone who has stayed on the Strip will know that a property that states they are “right next door” or “right across the street” from another property is actually a long walk.

Besides staying at the California, Fremont, or Main Street, I have often stayed at the Golden Nugget.  This is another hotel casino that has been around for a very long time.   It is the largest hotel casino property downtown and, in my opinion, the classiest.

The Golden Nugget has three towers; Carson, Gold and Rush Towers.  In the order I listed them according to cost per night.   The rooms have been re-modeled a few times and they are very spacious rooms compared to other downtown properties.

The property has several restaurants, including Vic & Anthony’s Steak House,  Claim Jumper, Lillie’s Asian Cuisine, Red Sushi, the Grotto, and of course, the Buffet to name just a few.

The casino floor was under partial renovation when I was there in February 2016, but what I love about it is very easy to maneuver your way through and the ceilings are very high so that the cigarette smoke can waft way upwards from those of us who don’t smoke.

The casino also exits onto Fremont Street so you are right there in all the action at night.

For the value, I would say that the Golden Nugget is one of the few in Las Vegas that will give you the best experience and value, if you don’t mind staying downtown.  Remember, there are people who will only stay on the Strip.  I would recommend you stay there when you get the chance and sign up for their player’s program.  I always find e-mail promotions from them, more than other casinos.  Promotions for shows, special room rates and events.


Reality TV in Sin City Part 2; History Channel Counting Cars

One show that spun off from “Pawn Stars” was “Counting Cars”.  Starring Danny, Kevin, Horny Mike, Rollie.  It started off on “Pawn Stars” with Rick or Corey calling Danny aka “the Count” of “Count’s Kustoms” to give his opinion on a car the shop might be buying.  The car might be a fixer, a kit car, or a restored classic and Danny would be called to see if the car would be worth buying and how much it can be re-sold for.

The History channel eventually gave Danny his own show “Counting Cars” which usually runs in half hour segments, shows Danny acquiring a car and a customer brining a car to the shop to be fixed up.   What amazes me is how much these customers spend to have their cars fixed!  Some pay as much as $40,000.00!1

If you go to the shop on 2714 S Highland Dr, it is just off Sahara Avenue between the Strip and the I-15 freeway.  You travel down less than a mile on Highland Drive and you will see signs directing you to the shop on the east side of the street.  When you arrive, you might find an employee sitting at the parking lot entrance who might let you park if there is space.  The shop shares parking with other businesses.  There is also street parking.

As you walk up to the entrance, you will see the familiar garage door where Danny and the customers usually stand and Danny will eventually  yell “Rollie!! Bring that bad boy out”.

You sign in the same lobby they use in the show and the admission is free.  Your allowed to walk around the shop’s collection, take all the pics you want, but you can’t touch any.  Fine by me.  You will see most from the shows and they are strategically placed so that you can walk around several vehicles.

When you get to the end, there is a gift shop that sells the usual gift items, but the hottest seller there seems to be the t-shirts the cast wears.  I wanted a XL black t-shirt that the cast all wears, but they were out of my size as well as the gray and white.  There was alot of red t-shirts, but not for me.  I feel that since I’m at Count’s Kustoms, the shirt should be black!!

While I didn’t see any of the cast, I was told by another Hawaii resident (remember how I mentioned I will be mentioning tips)  that if you go at lunch time, a lunch wagon will pull up, honk it’s horn and the shop crew will come out to eat and some of the cast from show might be included in the bunch.

Horny Mike's Bus
Horny Mike’s Bus

IMG_3872 IMG_3882



Sad but true: the follow-up

A little while ago I posted about the Mlife properties will be charging for parking, especially the Strip.  Today I got an e-mail from Mlife explaining it further.  What it says in summary is that the changes will take effect June 6, 2016.  Here is small sample of what’s to come:

  • Hotel guests just scan their room key card to access and exit the parking lot  for no charge
  • Upper level Mlife Rewards members can scan their cards to access and exit with no charge
  • Up to the end of 2016, Nevada residents can just scan their driver’s license to get complimentary parking
  • Most properties are free for the first hour
  • Monte Carlo, Excalibur and Luxor will be $5 for the first 4 hours and 4 – 24 hours is $8.  Any additional days are $8 per day
  • Bellagio, Aria, MGM, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, New York New York will be $7 for the first 4 hours and 4 – 24 hours is $10.  Any additional days are $10 per day.

click here to read it further in detail

Reality TV in Sin City Part 1; History Channel Pawn stars


I admit that I watch a lot of TV and that is mostly reality shows (besides the major sports).   A few years ago I stumbled on “Pawn Stars” and have a fan since!   I know people that will say that Rick, Corey, the Old Man and Chumlee rip off people, but my reply to that has been “who says you have to sell?”  I love watching the items that come in and some that even get sold.

I have probably visited the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop four times since becoming a fan of the show.  It is located north of the Strip on Las Vegas Blvd.  Sometimes there is a line outside but I’ve been lucky so far; each time I went, I could just walk in but just a little disappointed that I couldn’t see any of the stars.  The only one that comes close to being a star that I saw working there was “Travis“.  He is pretty cool to talk to if he’s not too busy.  If I’m not mistaken, a few years ago, I was in the shop to buy a t-shirt and when I gave him (pretty sure it was him) my Hawaiian Airlines credit card, he told me he was born in Hawaii, at Tripler Medical Center, but left with his mom within a few months, so he can claim the 50th State as  his birthplace, but he grew up in Las Vegas.

Breaking from the routine part 2; the Downtown D Casino

I wrote a few days ago about staying at The D Downtown Las Vegas and now I want to  continue on about my experience.  The lobby is small and has only 4-5 stations to check in guests, compared to Strip hotels that  have 3x the amount of stations.

After getting your key, the room elevators are pretty much right behind you.  The elevator system is one I’ve only seen at this hotel, but I’m sure it’s elsewhere.  You go to one central key pad, enter your floor number and the screen tells you which elevator to enter.  You really by pass a bunch of floors this way.   When you enter the elevator, there is no push buttons for which floor because you already entered it on the central keypad.

Once in the rooms, they are clean and comfortable.   Beds were very comfortable and cleaned daily.  The showers have the type of shower head that gives you the rain feeling.

Overall, I say staying here is worth the money and the experience.

Coffee rewards to cost more

Tomorrow starts the new Starbucks Coffee rewards program.  I’m not too sure it’s necessarily an improvement on the old program.  Under the old program, you load your gold Starbucks card with either cash or pay from a credit card and use your Starbucks Rewards card whenever you would buy something.  Coffee, pastry, gum, it didn’t matter what you bought because you only had to use it 12 times to get a free drink.
Using Hawaii prices, you pay for a tall house coffee for around $1.94.  Do this 12 times and you spend around $23. 28 to get a reward.  Under the revised plan, you earn 2 stars for every dollar you spend and when you earn 125 stars, you get a free drink. So you have to essentially spend $62.50 to earn a free drink!  It is $39.22 more! I can see some people buying a Venti Frappuccino with 20 extra shots just see if they can get their money’s worth.
With that being said, if your visiting Las  Vegas and need your daily Starbucks fix to get  your day started, you might want to  avoid the locations downtown Las Vegas and the Strip.  The Golden Nugget has two locations, one near the Carson Tower and one next Fremont Street.  I have noticed that the prices there might even be higher than the airports.  Some drinks are almost double your neighborhood Starbucks.
On the Strip, you can find a Starbucks at the Venetian, Planet Hollywood, The Fashion Show Mall , the Linq, New York New York, the Mirage, Caeser’s Palace, Harrah’s and Mandalay Bay.  As you can bet, because of the locations, the prices tend to be higher.
Do yourself a favor and buy your Starbucks at a location outside of the Strip and downtown areas.  If you leave downtown via Paradise road, there is one just past the Las Vegas Boulevard intersection.  Of course, if you want to spend the money so you can qualify for your upcoming free drink, feel free to spend at these locations.

Breaking from the routine

As I have stated in earlier posts, when most people from Hawaii travel to Las Vegas, they will stay at either The California, The Fremont or the Main Street Station.  These three are the most popular.  I have stayed downtown more often than I have stayed on the Strip and I have found out that one of the latest hotel casinos is worth the stay.
I have stayed at the Downtown D recently and I am pleased by what I have experienced.  It used to be the old Fitzgerald’s Hotel and Casino but it was purchased back in 2011 and completely renovated.  640 rooms got made over and two bars were added.  The owners for this property also own the classic up the street, The Golden Gate Hotel and Casino.
As far as the gaming floor, it is smaller than other casinos, especially if you compare it to the Strip properties.  On the ground floor it can flashy and have a nightclub feel at night; music playing with dancers elevated behind the tables and a very long bar not too far away.  The dancers I just mentioned are also dealers for the D too!  The blackjack tables have evolved with the times where payouts our 6 to 5 for a blackjack and the trend of the side bets are at these tables too.
The second floor harkens back to Vegas a couple of generations ago.  There are older slot machines and even a Sigma Derby!  For those of you who don’t know, it’s the classic old horse race game you play against other players.  It always seems to have people playing it no matter when I walk by.  One of these days I will jump on this to see what it’s all about.
More to come….



at The Cal

Most people from Hawaii who travel to Las Vegas love to stay downtown, especially the California Hotel and Casino. There are so many reasons why it is popular with Hawaii people, but some of the most common ones are (not in any particular order):
• This hotel casino, along with the Fremont, Main Street Station and sometimes the Orleans, are part of the package that Vacations Hawaii has included so we have gotten used to staying there
• The airfare, ground transportation, baggage handling, and meals are all taken care of for one price
• The dealers, cocktail servers, cashiers, front desk, all hotel employees seem so nice and accommodating, just people in Hawaii
• The restaurants have the staples of home; rice, shoyu, teriyaki, macaroni salad etc
• You can roam around downtown and between these properties and you seem to always run into someone you know. I ran into my cousin Floyd and his wife Sharon on three separate trips to Las Vegas. I also ran into my cousin Claire and her husband Tok, who live in San Francisco, on two trips.
I will expand on this posting and break it down further in the next few days