Quick January Trip to Vegas

Las Vegas sign at night

It’s been years since I’ve been to Las Vegas, 23 years to be exact. And it’s been even longer since my husband and I have travelled alone together, without the girls. Courtesy of a last-minute deal on a flight, we decided to get out of the Ohio weather and make a quick January trip to Vegas (which ironically was about the same temperature).

Finding a Place to Stay

After a bit of research, we decided we wanted to be as close as possible to the center of the Strip. The Strip itself is more than four miles long and while we were game for doing quite a bit of walking, we didn’t want it to be the focus of our trip.

The entrance of the Flamingo hotel, a value for our january trip to Vegas.
This is the entrance to the Flamingo where it opens into the Linq.

We also didn’t want to take the great deal we got on our flight and sink all of those funds into a hotel. After much research, we decided on The Flamingo. It’s probably the most centrally located of what I would call the value properties.

Despite staying for a bargain, The Flamingo was everything I needed in a hotel, perfect for a quick trip to Vegas. Our room was clean, I felt safe during the stay and there were plenty of amenities. But my favorite part of the hotel was its location.

The desert and mountains as viewed from our 23rd floor room during our January trip to Vegas.
Our first morning we woke up to this beautiful pink glow on the mountains in the distance. Notice the snow on a few peaks.

It’s centrally located, just across from her sister property, the more expensive Caesar’s Palace and caddy corner from the beautiful Bellagio. It’s also located next to the Linq, where you can find the giant sky wheel, zip lining and a number of restaurants and entertainment venues.

Getting Around

I don’t know about Texas, but everything seems bigger in Vegas. The resorts are enormous and getting around seemed a little more exhausting than it did when I was younger. There’s an entire system of escalators and bridges to get you up and over Las Vegas Boulevard.

We spent the first day exploring the nearby resorts: Ceasar’s, Bellagio, the Linq and more. It was fun playing some slots and video craps. We lost a little money, but we don’t play big so we didn’t really lose big.

The Paris resort on the Las Vegas Strip features a half size replica of the Eiffel Tower and a smaller scale version of the Arc de Triomphe.
This is the Paris resort as seen from Bellagio. This version of the Eiffel Tower is half the size of the one in France.

On the second day we decided to go to Circus Circus at the north end of the Strip so we purchased all day tickets for the monorail. The monorail stop is conveniently located at the Flamingo and not a far walk at all. The Riviera was the closest stop to our destination, so we exited the monorail there. We found very quickly that Circus Circus was quite the hike. We were fairly confident at that point that we could have just as easily walked down the strip to get to our destination. And we actually got an Uber for the ride back.

Taking the Monorail to Planet Hollywood

Later in the evening we headed to Planet Hollywood for dinner. We decided to give the monorail another chance. Again, we ended up with quite a walk as the monorail lets you out near the rear of the property. So after dinner we decided to walk the strip back to the Flamingo which seemed a much easier and more interesting walk.

New York, New York resort on the Las Vegas Strip.
The Strip is enormous, as are the hotels. We never made it to New York, New York, but you can see the elaborate theming and the roller coaster they have on the property.

We rode the monorail one more time, since our passes were still good. We both got on and exited at the Flamingo, just riding the monorail and looking at Vegas and the lights. If you are considering a monorail pass you’ll want to take a good look at where you’re staying and where you’re going. The most convenient stops were probably the Flamingo, the Linq, the convention center and the Riviera. 

Something to Eat

I was most excited about the food in Vegas. To be quite honest, I’m always excited about the food no matter if we’re road tripping in Ohio or traveling to other states. It’s not that I like to eat a lot, it’s just that I like to try new and different things.

I wanted to eat at one of the lavish buffets you hear so much about and had good plans to make that part of my trip. The cheap buffets of Vegas past are long gone and prices range from about $45 to $85 per person with available add ons like drink packages and VIP line passes that can skyrocket the price above $100.

The gardens of the Flamingo Resort on the Strip. We enjoyed this during our January trip to Vegas.
The gardens outside of the Flamingo. Every resort on the Strip has something interesting to see.

I had budgeted to check out one of the buffets and had good plans, but word of mouth and online reviews made me think twice. I kept hearing about overcrowding and long lines which could be frustrating. While I don’t mind splurging on dinner occasionally, I didn’t want to splurge only to stand in line like cattle. We decided to skip the buffet and spend the money on a nice dinner when we got back to Ohio.

Hell’s Kitchen

My favorite meal in Vegas was probably at Hell’s Kitchen Burger in Planet Hollywood. My daughter is a huge Gordon Ramsay fan and wanted us to give it a try. We hit it before the dinner crowd and only had about a 15-minute wait with no reservation.

The Hell's Kitchen Burger at Gordon Ramsay Burger in Planet Hollywood during our trip to Vegas.
My burger at Gordon Ramsay’s Burger was probably my favorite meal from the trip. It was a very casual trip so we avoided the nicer restaurants and didn’t eat anywhere that required a reservation.

At first, they wanted to seat us next to the fire feature at the front of the restaurant, but the heat was oppressive so I asked if we could have another table which they gladly accommodated. We both decided to stay with their signature offerings of hamburgers and fries, although hot dogs and fish are available as well. I had the Hell’s Kitchen Burger, with the roasted jalapeños on the side because the waitress advised me it could be a bit spicy. And David had the Backyard Burger. Both were delicious and the fries were good. I didn’t, however, like the house ketchup and would have preferred a bottle of Heinz.

Breakfast and Lunch

My favorite breakfast during our trip to Vegas was probably Maxie’s. It’s a diner style restaurant located in the Linq area. They serve breakfast all day, which was handy because we were a bit late getting out of the hotel that day. We didn’t order anything unusual, just the standard American breakfast fare: bacon, eggs, hash browns and toast. If you were craving something different, they did however offer pancakes with cotton candy or Fruity Pebble French toast. Thinking about that makes my teeth hurt!

We really only ate two meals a day during our trip, mostly because we were just too busy to stop. One day, we wandered as far as the Venetian and into the lunch hour before we decided to have the first meal of the day. Someone recommended The Grand Luxe.

A night time view of the pool at the Flamingo on the Las Vegas Strip.
The pool at the Flamingo. It was too chilly to open during our trip, but you can see how beautiful it is.

Other than being a bit dark inside (it is owned by the Cheesecake Factory), I had no complaints. Our waitress was wonderful and made conversation about the city, the restaurant and more. We both ordered the chicken sandwich, which was delivered hot. It was one of the better chicken sandwiches I’ve had with the only complaint that it struggled to keep itself together. I ended up finishing the last of the chicken with knife and fork.

A Day in the Desert

As hard as I try, I’m not a bright lights, big city type of girl. Perhaps it’s the Ohio coming out in me. I needed a break from all of that, so we did a bit of research, rented a car and headed out to the desert.

The Beehives are a formation of red rocks in the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.
These rocks were named “The Beehives” due to their appearance. The Valley of Fire looked like an alien world to me.

We decided on breakfast outside of the Strip and found a truck stop with attached Iron Skillet Restaurant on the way. Honestly, it was a delicious breakfast with the usual: bacon, eggs and pancakes. It wasn’t fancy, but it was good and definitely cheap compared to anything you’d get on the Strip.

Rock formations at the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.
The rock formations were both beautiful and interesting.

I took a photo of our rental car and texted the girls to let them know we were headed out into the desert, just in case we were never heard from again. I was being dramatic, mostly in good fun.

Just over an hour outside of Vegas we arrived at our destination: Valley of Fire State Park. Admission was $10 per car and they gave us an information pamphlet. It was beautiful! There were unusual formation of bright orange-red rock and large expanses of desert with snow-capped mountains in the background. To this Ohio girl it looked like an alien world.

Petroglyphs on the rocks at the Valley of Fire State Park. We visited during our January trip to Vegas.
The petroglyphs at Atlatl Rock in the Valley of Fire State Park. There was camping in this area.

Our time was somewhat limited, so we did only short walks versus more extensive hikes. We did see petrified logs, which were evidence that at some point parts of the valley were forested. My favorite stop was at Atlatl Rock where we climbed a large staircase to view petroglyphs, paintings or carvings that were dated from 4000 years ago.

Lake Mead and Hoover Dam

On the way home we drove through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. When they say Lake Mead is down significantly, they aren’t kidding. News reports indicate that it is down 70 percent of full capacity and you can see evidence of this along the shore by the previous high-water marks.

Lake Mead showing the waterline due to overuse by several states.
This isn’t the most obvious spot, but you can clearly see where Lake Mead is down. According to a quick internet search the Lake is down due to water usage by California, Nevada and Arizona.

We were losing light as we drove over the Hoover Dam to Arizona and right back across. We decided against getting out as we’d done so on a previous trip and we were anxious to get back into town.

Fremont Street Experience

Once back in Vegas we decided to take advantage of our time with the rental car and headed downtown to the Fremont Street Experience.

This is about as close as you’ll get to old Vegas, but with obvious updates. Here you’ll find that food is cheaper, table minimums are lower and many say the slots are looser. I didn’t win anything, so I can’t confirm that last claim.

The Fremont Street Experience during our January trip to Vegas.
Fremont Street is all about the lights and glitter of old Vegas.

The most fascinating thing at Fremont Street is the giant electric canopy that runs the length of the attraction. It’s a giant video screen that plays out above you lighting up the entire street.

What Not to Miss in Vegas

My favorite thing about Las Vegas was just in walking around and taking it all in. Whether it was the Strip or Fremont Street or even the desert, these are things that just don’t look anything at all like Ohio.

If you’re going, be sure not to miss the Bellagio Fountains. This show was one of my favorite things and there are several different versions set to different songs, so check out the as many shows as you can if you’re nearby.

The fountains in front of the Bellagio were beautiful during our January visit to Vegas.
The fountains at the Bellagio offer a beautiful and free show on the Las Vegas Strip.

The Mirage Volcano will soon be a thing of the past. The casino was purchased by Hard Rock and they will soon change the theming of the entire resort and yes, the volcano will soon be gone. If you make it there before it’s removed, stop by and see the show one more time.

The volcano in front of The Mirage hotel and casino erupts four times nightly. We saw this during our January trip to Vegas.
The Mirage currently features a volcano that erupts four times nightly. That will all change as Hard Rock plans to rebrand the hotel in 2023.

Walk around and appreciate the theming of the different hotels, they all offer a little something different. The Flamingo has a wildlife habitat for flamingoes and other birds. You might want to take a look at the pool area as well.

Gondola boats inside the Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip.
The gondolas glide amongst high end shops in the Venetian.

The Mirage has the volcano for now and also a dolphin exhibit. Circus Circus is themed to match the name and has free circus shows and midway games. You won’t want to miss the window shopping at the luxury shops at the Bellagio or the Venetian including Rolex, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and more. And, of course, you shouldn’t miss the canals and gondolas at the Venetian, they run both indoors and out.

What’s Missing in Vegas

On our last visit, our oldest (two at the time) most enjoyed the pirate show at Treasure Island. And, while the ships and some of the theming still exists, I’m afraid the pirate show is gone. I still remember her sitting on her papaw’s shoulders to watch the show.

One of two ships at Treasure Island on the Las Vegas Strip.
The pirate show is no more, but the ships are still there in front of Treasure Island.

That, I think, was the one thing I really missed about Vegas. On our last trip, my dad and his wife were wintering nearby in Arizona. We travelled out to see them and we all spent a few days at The Stratosphere (now called The Strat).

I remember how much Dad enjoyed showing us around Vegas: the pirate show, the fountains, the volcano and winning Marina a stuffed dog at Circus Circus. I remember cruising up and down the strip in his truck with him pointing out everything to his granddaughter.

We travelled to Oatman, Arizona to feed carrots to the burros and took the tour at the Hoover Dam. I remember Dad quoting Chevy Chase from the Vegas Vacation movie, “dam tour.” I remember Dad sitting down at slot machines and after one pull, wondering out loud where his cold drink was.

The Conservatory at the Bellagio all dressed up for Chinese New Year.
The Conservatory at the Bellagio. The theme is changed regularly. In January it was decorated for Chinese New Year.

Dad has been gone nearly three years now. I didn’t expect our trip to Vegas to be such a trip down memory lane. But it’s funny how the memories get you.  They sneak up sometimes out of nowhere. They put you right back in that moment, to when your kids were young or when your parents were alive. And the grief hits hard all over again. (Sorry, didn’t mean to bring down the room.)

FindingOhio and Beyond

If you’re looking for a trip to Vegas, start your research online. There are a lot of great deals out there. I’d start with Vegas.com, but there are a number of sites and even apps to help you research your trip. And I’d highly recommend looking for something in the middle of the strip. I would definitely stay at The Flamingo again.

If you’re looking for ideas closer to home, check out our Day Trips. We’ve got lots of great Ohio ideas and I am definitely sold on Ohio travel. If you’re looking for adventures outside of the state, we have a Travel section as well. You might find something that sparks an interest and suits your budget. Our travels are usually on a fairly tight budget so you won’t find any trips to Bora Bora listed there.

Thanks for checking out our trip to Vegas Stop back frequently as we try to get an article up every week. And, as always, we appreciate you sharing our content to your social media.