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Only a hour flight away from Las Vegas we visit frequently, sometimes once a month. I'll be sharing our trip reports, tips on making the most of your stay in Vegas, reviews of restaurants and shows we have seen, along with my thoughts related to our favorite place to get away from it all.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Grazie Gift Show Trip during November 2013!

Our trip to Vegas started out with our Southwest flight being delayed due to bad weather backing up McCarran airport, so we arrived 2 hours late. Normally this wouldn't be a issue except that we had show tickets this evening to Tim Allen so from the time we stepped off our flight, and were whisked away to Palazzo by our limo driver to the time of the show that evening it felt rushed. Whew!

Check in went quick thanks to Palazzo's VIP desk and my husband went up to our suite on the 32nd floor to wait for our luggage while I ran to the Venetian Box Office to get our comped show tickets.
There wasn't time to unpack before our dinner at Aquaknox so Randy joined me at the restaurant immediately after receiving our luggage.
There's always time for a photo or two and since it's Venice in Winter at Venetian and Palazzo the winter characters are always roaming around and there's plenty of opportunities for photos ops.
One juggler is taking a brief rest before he is off and running again. The photo with the two ladies below was  taken right outside of AquaKnox.
AquaKnox no longer has my favorite spicy drink of past dinners on their menu so I went with a sweet one called Black Garden. This cocktail has Tequila, St Germaine liquor, muddled blackberries and basil in it among other ingredients and I enjoyed it.
Randy's drink was boring. Okay, I'm assuming it was boring because I don't recall what it was!
The amuse looked good but we don't eat raw fish so it went uneaten.
We do love cooked seafood and Randy's shrimp cocktail with atomic cocktail sauce was fresh, tender and spicy!

I had the crab cocktail with the house specialty mustard sauce and it was nom nom nom!
While we were between courses I went through the Winter in Venice coupon book we were given at check in and discovered a coupon for AquaKnox for buy one get one free for the Aquatini blue cocktail with raspberries below,  so Randy and I ordered two of them. It was a tasty drink and we both liked it but I personally preferred the Black Garden cocktail over it.
Randy and I both ordered the halibut with lobster mash, broccoli, served with a lively and fresh tomato and melon salsa. Excellent, would definitely order this again!
Randy ordered french fries tonight and they were fine, but in the end it's just fries!
We had a lovely surprised at the end of our dinner when we received the delicious desserts below, compliments of the chef and restaurant manager.
When we left Aquaknox we went immediately to the Tim Allen show. We enjoyed the show but thought Craig Ferguson and David Spade's show in this same theatre was more funny.
After the show I found myself with two groups of friends I wanted to meet up with. Here's our great group from the Slot Fanatics message board, Jen Jen, Lady Claire, myself, my husband Randy and Dvandentop!
All of us walked over to Palazzo so I could run into Laguna Champagne Bar to say hi to two of my favorite friends Julie and Gina. Unfortunately both of them were leaving the next morning so it was a very short visit this trip. Looking great ladies, see you in 2014!
We didn't have much of a chance to gamble since it had been such a rush since we arrived at Palazzo due to our flight being late but between meeting up with our slot fanatic friends and the end of the Tim Allen show we managed to lose about $600 or so very quickly in Venetian's High Limit Room. Not a great start to our trip!
With the SF group we decided to play the new huge Titan 360 slot.  All of us lost playing on it though a few of us did hit the bonus that only paid for us around $30.00. After Titan 360 we joined some of our friends from SF in the area of Venetian by Grand Lux where they have the slots Top Gun, Wizard of Oz, Hangover, etc…here after I initially lost some money on Top Gun my husband started winning on the original Wizard of Oz thanks to Glinda the good witch flirting with him 3 times within 15 minutes.
It was the wee hours of the morning after our wins on Wizard of Oz, and Jen Jen, her husband, Lady Clare and Daventrop headed back to their own hotels.
Randy and I immediately walked over to the Venetian high limit room and decided to try our luck at $5 Pinball thinking that Glinda the good witch had sprinkled us with lucky dust.
Surprisingly we continued to have some fun bonuses and add to our wins on Wizard of Oz so we recovered our losses and was actually ahead when we left the HL room but not before trying the $25 Wheel of Fortune and losing a few hundred to it, LOL!
I had the urge to try my luck on the $1 Quick Hits slot in the high limit room at Palazzo and we had some brief activity on it, but the largest hit was only around $200 on a $15 push. There was also a new addition to the Palazzo HL room a new $1 DaVinci slot! We were briefly excited to see it until we played and lost on it. Darn, why did they take away the old $1 DaVinci and replace it with this sucky new DaVinci? Yep, I know the answer to that and later we saw a lady putting a grand through this slot only to lose and walk away to another slot in the HL room muttering that the $1 DaVinci was the worst slot she had played this trip. 
We left Palazzo's high limit room to go play the penny slots but couldn't resist a few spins at the $5 Wheel of Fortune where we got lucky enough to get a spin but only for $250.00.
We had some brief fun with the older version of Lord of the Rings, Two Towers.
Randy and I sat side by side playing the new Ferris Bueller slot at $1.75 a spin and we had a fair amount of bonus and lots of fun with it. We walked away winners from Bueller.
For those of you who haven't played Ferris Bueller yet you might enjoy this video of our best bonus.

I love Twilight Zone 3D, it's been good to me most of the year but this trip my bonuses weren't as active or as high paying.
It's about 4am, Randy and I have split up to play different slots before going to sleep.  Randy plays Lord of the Rings and sends me a text that he's had a bonus for $300, while I'm tweeting that I just had a bonus finally on $1 Top Dollar that is slightly over a hand pay! It was perfect timing for once, we both went back to our room winners for the night! Below is the video of that Quick Hit bonus and the photo of the win!

The next morning starts out FABULOUS! We are ahead for the trip and we are meeting up with our friends Laura, Yon and Gwen, at Wynn's Country Club Jazz Brunch!
Before this trip I had asked my friend Terri to join us at this brunch but she said she couldn't make it, so Gwen made our reservation for the five of us. As the hostess was escorting us to our table Gwen and I exchanged glances because she was leading us outside to a patio table and normally we request inside. As the hostess takes us to the end of the patio there sitting at a table in front of a large table is Terri and our Wynn host E! What a fabulous surprise that Terri and E had planned!
Terri and E quickly joined us at the large table behind them that was set up for our group and all of us had a wonderful brunch as you can see from the photos below. While I love my host B at Palazzo, I have to admit that in my opinion E is the best host in Vegas. While Gwen and Terri give Wynn a lot of their gambling budget, I'm a low roller there and none of us this trip was staying at Wynn, but despite that E picked up the tab for all of us for this brunch.
I've reviewed the Wynn Country Club Jazz Brunch enough that I'm not going to go into details again, the photos speak for themselves at this point. If they don't there's a link on the blog to a separate review.
The photo of our group on the Patio of the Country Club Restaurant at Wynn minus camera shy Terri and E.
We walked over to the Wynn tower Valet area to see the Christmas decorations and admire the Koi in the water there and of course for another photo op. 
I'm not sure if you can see it clearly in the photos (clicking on them enlarges photos) above but I was wearing a 18k yellow gold very thick twisted rope choker necklace with a twist of white gold through it. At today's market value the gold alone was worth about 4k but I paid much less then that over 30 years ago on a trip to Egypt, so there was also a lot of sentimental value to this necklace. After we returned from a wonderful time at brunch with our friends I lost it at Palazzo. Of course I went through hoops with security about it as soon as I realized it fell off my neck and I continued to check with them for days afterwards but unfortunately a dishonest person found the necklace and I'm sure it's been sold for the gold content by now. Security told me initially when I went to them that every casino has their share of people who are just hanging around hoping to grab something valuable that someone has lost and not to expect it back. If you have lost something at a casino and had it turned in by a honest person count yourself very lucky as in my case security was correct.
Previously to losing the necklace at Palazzo right after we returned from the Jazz Brunch I met up with a online friend from Trip Advisor, Shorelinepaws and we had fun chatting before she left to return home later that night. Shorelinepaws and I had met up once before last year around this time when all of us were at the Fountain Brunch at Bellagio but this was the first time I got to say more then a quick hi to her. Sadly I forgot to have my husband or hers take a photo of us together, darn it!
A good part of my afternoon and evening at Palazzo was spent wandering around in a unhappy daze retracing my steps and looking for my necklace.

I also played slots and had a few hits but basically with the loss of my necklace my luck had turned sour and I was losing.
Randy fortunately was winning as I was losing, but sadly he couldn't win enough to keep up with my losses!
All of the Lord of the Rings wins below are my husband's. The LOTR slots at Palazzo treated him well all the days of our trip. If I had stopped gambling perhaps we could have gone home winners. :)
That huge slot below is the Titan 360 that I had played with our SF friends the previous evening. There are only 6 of them I believe that have been made since most casinos aren't large enough to put them in place. While I didn't win on it, I did see a lady later get a hand pay on it.
I hit another bonus on $1 Quick Hits but only picked seven spins so it only paid $363.00.
I always have to play the penny Wheel of Fortune at Venetian because I just know that one of these days I'll hit the progressive on this one. ;)
My day started out having fun with friends and our dinner that evening was also special as we were joined by Tricia, Michael and their friend Gretchen for dinner at Cut! We try to get together in Vegas with Tricia and Michael at least once a year and sometimes manage twice a year when lucky!
The amuse Hot Gougeres (Gruyere) and bread sticks above, the pretty drink below, not a clue!
 My favorite drink at Cut, Monroe's Passion. If you like spicy drinks try it!
Cut's version of a Russian Mule with ginger beer and served in the traditional copper mug.
The meat selections and explanation. :)
Our happy group at my favorite booth at Cut. Michael, Tricia, Randy, myself and Gretchen.
Love the pretzel and focaccia bread at Cut!
Heirloom apple salad with fennel, red endive, Medjool dates, Marcona Almonds, and Shropshire Cheddar Cheese. Normally I order their beet salad but having had beets earlier today at the Jazz Brunch I branched out to try a type of salad I normally wouldn't order. It was very good, but I personally still tend to like a non-apple salad better.
Randy enjoyed his favorite Cut salad of butter lettuce, avocado, and Point Reyes Blue Cheese!
Below is the Prime Sirloin Steak Tartare with herb Aioli and mustard that Michael ordered.
The photo below is our server deboning my Dover Sole at the table.
Gretchen ordered the Rib Eye which she said was good.
I branched out and instead of the usual filet I ordered the Dover Sole with preserved lemon. Loved it!
The special of this evening was a pork dish that Tricia ordered and unfortunately I forget the description of it. I did have a taste and it was very tender, but I likely wouldn't order it on a future visit.
The tempura onion rings were delicious!
The Potato Tarte Tatin looked wonderful but I didn't taste it.
At the end of the dinner Cut always serves complimentary pastries which are yummy!
Tonight we were also surprised with a complimentary dessert! Lemon Gelato Baked Alaska, brown sugar meringue, blueberry compote! Fabulous dessert, almost as good as their chocolate soufflé!
Our friends had to leave to return to their own hotel after dinner so it was more losses err slot play for us.
Of course it wasn't all losses we did have some wins like the one above on Ferris Bueller.
The $1 U-spin at Palazzo also gave us a decent hit. However if we had one more Jackpot Wild up there it would have been a win of 10k!
TLC's cake boss Buddy Valastro has one of the newest restaurants at Palazzo called Buddy's V. I'm looking forward to trying it out for lunch on my next trip. Near the Venetian Box Office is a display with a huge cake that is a replica of the Venetian and Palazzo property.
Before we retired for the night I tried and failed to win my Golden Ticket from Wonka!
I found the new Foot Loose slot at Venetian on the other side of the new Phantom of the Opera slot, but its bonus didn't pay much. Venetian has the new Wyland slots and the fish graphics are beautiful on that slot. It was always busy when I walked by it so I never did get a chance to try it.
I was losing more then Randy could win so we went to our room around midnight.

The next morning it was more of the same for me, though I did have a decent hit on $1 Quick Hirts.
I very seldom play the Kiss slots but this trip I did while waiting for Randy to finish up winning on a slot and I actually got a bonus!
My husband continued to have luck on Lord of the Rings so he finally decided to take a video of one of his bonuses, it wasn't the best bonus but it was a fun one. Unfortunately DH didn't think to hold the camera horizontal for a better video but I told him practice makes perfect and he just needs to take more videos on future trips. :)

I couldn't stay away from Palazzo's Twilight Zone due to the fun factor but I just couldn't get a streak of bonuses going on it.
Randy had some nice hits on the Phantom of the Opera slot. The main bonus is fun but it can be hard sometimes to hit a bonus on this slot. Okay so it's hard to hit the bonus on most slots, but this one can have some really long dead periods between bonuses. Here's a video of one of our bonuses. Ignore the fact that due to a few cocktails I couldn't figure out how to turn the crank on the screen for the Music Box Bonus, LOL!

The Firehouse Hounds slot is so funny. It's very similar to the Roller Coaster theme slot by the same company. It usually had someone playing it but the one time we were able to grab a seat at it we had a fun and profitable bonus!

Today was our last full day of the trip and it was time to cash in our yearly holiday gift points. This year the holiday gift show had shorter hours so we had to get there before 5pm. Also the room wasn't decorated as fancy as in past years. The shorter hours by the way were a issue, as the next day I had more points to cash in but didn't have time before we caught our limo to the airport because the show didn't open up until 11am.
Scenes from the Grazie Holiday Gift Show:
We ended up with around $800 in Best Buy Gift Certificates. I ended up using half of those certificates to upgrade my 3GS Iphone to a 5S.
Toward the end of the day there wasn't much of a line. Earlier in the day I was told by friends Laura and Yon the lines were huge.
After the Grazie gift show we played a few more slots and mainly lost. Okay, Randy won, I lost.  Also managed to leave the bag with the Grazie gift show complimentary gift of traveling thermos with case somewhere, so I guess I wasn't done losing things for the trip! Fortunately I had taken my Best Buy Gift Certificates out of the shopping bag and put them in my purse.
Dinner tonight was at Tao, one of our favorite restaurants. We had them make one of our favorite spicy drinks the Phuket. The recipe for this drink has changed on their menu but they are always happy to make it by request to the former recipe that called for muddled cucumbers, Tequila and Thai Chili Peppers.
We tried a new appetizer this trip, their roast pork. The pork was great, very tender and the sauce it came with very flavorful.
We ordered our usual tempura veggies of garlic green beans and asparagus but the kitchen forgot the asparagus and gave us avocado instead. While I like avocado I discovered I don't care for it cooked with tempura batter. Our server of course didn't charge us for the avocado and did bring us our asparagus.
Shocker, we both ordered the Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass! Nom Nom Nom!
Yep, it's the Giant Fortune cookie filled on one side with white mousse and other side with chocolate mousse. I don't think we will ever try another dessert at Tao as we love this one too much.
After dinner it was time for one of the Winter in Venice show and we were lucky enough to find a spot near the rail of one of the 2nd floor balconies.
Here's a video of part of the Winter in Venice show at Venetian:

When we left the Winter in Venice show we followed these characters to the casino. I'm not sure what they represented, any ideas?
The Palazzo waterfall area was decorated festively for the holidays so it was time for my photo op!
Gambling after the Winter in Venice show was mainly losing. Okay, again my husband was winning and I was losing. I did get a hit on $5 Pinball but it was only for $375.00.
Willy Wonka's Oompa Loompa's gave me a couple wilds, but I needed more.
I said farewell to my favorite $1 Quick Hits but I needed more.
The $1 U-Spin gave me a hit, but I needed more.
Yep, more going in then coming out of the slots for me. Randy in the meantime was having some nice bonuses on his ATM, err Lord of the Ring Slot, but when I would get near it the wins stopped!
This was the last night of our trip and I was ready to go home and get ready for Thanksgiving but before we called it a night it was time to meet up with our friend Jon. It's becoming a tradition around this time of year when visiting Vegas to have a hit and run meet with Jon. It might be a short visit but it's always special!
Before going to our room we had point play to use so we took that free play to the Venetian High Limit room where we got it back in cash thanks to a couple good hits on $5 Pink Diamond.
We took that money and ran back to the room and made a reasonably early night of it for us by going to sleep around 1am.  Next morning our host comped all our charges, our limo was on time, as was our flight back to San Jose.
Had a wonderful time this trip except for losing my necklace! Randy and I might have gone home winners if I had stopped gambling. Randy was a winner this trip, he just couldn't keep up with my losses when my luck turned to the dark side after losing my necklace.

For the first time ever we are spending Xmas not at home.  You guessed it, this year it will be Vegas with my Mom and I joining friends at Palazzo for a couple days on the 22nd and then on the 24th moving over to THEHotel at Mandalay Bay, where Randy and our adult son Matt will fly in and join us until all of us leave on Friday. Plans include eating at Gordon Ramsay's Steak Restaurant at Paris and seeing the new Michael Jackson show One on Christmas Day.

Shocker or not?  I have never been to Vegas on New Year's Eve. My parents used to go for NYE's but Randy and I not liking crowds have avoided it. However, it was on my bucket list and I'm finally going this year. Yes, I'm being crazy and flying back a few days after the Xmas trip to be my friend Terri's date at Aria NYE's party! We'll also be meeting up with a few other girlfriends on New Year's Day! My dear husband has encouraged me to go while he stays home and celebrates the New Year with our son. I suspect that in addition to wanting me to have this experience it's his way of helping me cross it off my bucket list without DH being required to join me at the type of formal party he doesn't enjoy. :) Whatever the motivation it's very sweet of Randy to let me go back so soon and also for the first time ever in 26 years not spend NYE's with him.

Happy Holidays to all of you, and a healthy blessed New Year!


  1. Great account, as usual.

    Glinda does seem to come in bunches, but $90 on 3 wilds is soooo depressing. I give her the finger when that happens, lol.

    Have fun NYE! You may find it's like the Superbowl weekend was for me - glad I did it, but once was enough.

  2. Thanks Chuck!

    I suspect you are correct and this will be my one and only NYE's in Vegas.

    I haven't done Superbowl in Vegas yet, but I won't be crossing it off my bucket list in 2014 as I'm sure I'll be out of money after Xmas and NYE! ;)

    Happy holidays!

  3. So sorry to hear about the loss of your necklace. One can only hope karma will visit the culprit who made off with it. Once again another great trip report to get me through the space between my own. End of January is next for me, I hope good fortune finds you during your holiday visit. Someday our paths will cross. Until then keep posting so I can have my virtual vacations beside you.

    1. I'm hoping a bit that Karma bites the person who found my necklace and kept it. :)

      Thanks for reading! I'm going to skip January 2014 but I'm sure we'll meet up one of these days.

      Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones and good luck on that January trip!

  4. Hello and Happy Holidays Diana!

    So sorry to hear about the loss of your necklace.

    Thank you for another great trip report. Which quick hits slot was replaced? The right or left? During my Nov trip I had a small hand pay at the one in the venetian HL room. No love from the Palazzo one.

    I'll be in Vegas from the 27th to 30th. Looks like I will miss you.

    Enjoy your NYE plans. I'm too old for all the craziness at NYE. For this year anyway. Maybe next year. Lol!

    Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones. May 2014 be filled with happiness, health, and great slot wins!!!


    1. Thanks David. Where did I say a Quick Hits Slot was replaced? Did I have a senior moment and put in Quick Hits for another slot? All the usual $1 Quick Hits were still in place as of my November trip.

      We'll be leaving for the airport around 3:30pm on the 27th, perhaps we will pass each other there? I can't believe you are visiting between my 2 close trips and we are just missing each other by hours. Good luck on your trip, knowing me I'll be sure to leave a big donation at Palazzo on Quick Hits!

      I'm expecting this will be the one and only time I go on NYE's. I'm hoping to miss some of the crowds and craziness by staying inside the private party at Aria for most of the evening, .

      Happy holidays to you and your loved ones. I hope to see you in Vegas at some point in 2014 and finally have that drink or at least a longer chat together. :)

    2. Diana,

      My bad. I'm the one having the senior moment. I read too fast. It's a DaVinci you said, not a Quick Hits.

      Hope to see you in 2014!!!

      All the best!


    3. David, hope to see you too in 2014. Quick Hits this trip has given me some bonuses but refuses to give out much money so far even on the one where I had the 20 spins, 3X. Darn it! :)

  5. Hi Diana, hope your latest Xmas trip was fun! Thanks for this fun trip report and sorry as well to hear about your lost necklace. Happy and healthy New Year! ---Tim (inceptiongeek)

    1. Hi Tim, we had a fun trip and also came home winners for the first time this year. However I'm heading out again on NYE's to join up with my girlfriends and go to the ARIA NYE party so I might not get to enjoy being a winner for long, LOL! Of course still down for the year regardless. ;)

      Wishing you and your family a wonderful New Year too!

      Hope to see you next year in Vegas!

  6. Hi Diana!

    I've been an avid follower of your Vegas trips and hope you had a great time at the Aria NYE party :)

    I'm actually heading to Vegas on Jan 16-20 and was wondering if you had any insider tips on things to do. Last time I was there was last August for my friend's bday.

    Planning on making Vegas trips a little more frequently this year given that I've been neglecting my comp hotel trips!


    1. Hi Adro,

      The Aria NYE party was the best party I think I've ever been too. I'll be writing it up soon with photos to share.

      Without knowing what you like to do, it's difficult for me to suggest things for you to do.

      At the moment the Mob Attraction is out of business while they move to new location but the Mob Museum downtown is interesting to go to if you have a interest in the Vegas and the Mob connection.

      I enjoyed going to the Neon Museum so if you like to see the signs they used to have on properties like the Star Dust and others you could consider that.

      I enjoy going to see the dolphins and tigers at Mirage. If you are a M-Life platinum club member or higher you can get free tickets to that and also to Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay.

      If you are a Andy Warhol fan there's a exhibit of his work at Bellagio. I thought it was okay but not great. Bellagio charges for this unless you are Platinum level or higher with M-Life.

      It's always fun to go see the Bellagio conservatory and decorations at the Palazzo Waterfall area. They should be putting up their Chinese New Year decorations soon.

      If you are interested in photographs, Venetian still has the 50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic in a exhibition. Venetian also has a new show called Panda but I haven't seen it yet because it was delayed due to getting Visas for the Chinese performers. If you end up going to this please let me know what you thought.

      Hope this helps a bit. Good luck on your trip!

    2. It definitely does!

      My main purpose of going is for a softball tournament that is happening in Vegas, but I am going there a day early and leaving one day after so I can do some "me" time!

      I was looking at the Panda show and I am quite intrigued! If I end up checking it out, I will most certainly write to you about it :)

      Sad to hear about the Mob Museum... That looked good too!

      Thanks for the tips! I plan on doing some gambling as well, so here's to hoping Lady Luck is on my side ^_^


  7. Adro, have a great time in Vegas and good luck! I'm going to see Panda on February 11th as early reviews sound promising so if you get a chance to go would like to hear your opinion too. Enjoy the soft ball tournament and safe travels to you!