las vegas in february

outside view of Caesar's Palace hotel in Las Vegas

I was invited to a Friday night work event in Las Vegas and I was excited to finally visit the city, even if I had to be working for most of the trip. Everyone else attending was coming from the West Coast, but my boss’ boss told me to fly in early with the distance/time difference. I thought she was being over-cautious at first, but after spending over 9 hours in airports or planes Thursday, I was very grateful to have a chance to sleep/wake up in the new time zone before the event.

view from the plane, a cloud is hovering over a mountain below

After the flight, I caught a cab from the airport over to Caesar’s Palace and checked in to my room. I knew Vegas was proud of its extravagance and opulence, but it all still felt very much over-the-top. Everything is so big! It was a good walk from the lobby to my elevator and quickly realized I would need to use the hotel map I just picked up if I wanted any chance of finding it, given the size and maze of casinos. I eventually dropped off my bags, called Eric, checked my work email, and took a walk to try and learn my way around.

Caesar's Palace entrance

Since I was now three hours behind my normal time zone and my airplane snacks had long worn off, I decided to get an early dinner. Several people had told me to eat at a Vegas buffet and I saw online the one at Caesar’s was often rated the best in the city. There was already a long line but I was able to check in via kiosk, then walk back to my room to quickly change in the spare time.

Me personally, the Vegas buffet experience was cool but probably not something I would do again quickly. It was expensive for someone who, like me, simply doesn’t have the physical ability to eat thirteen pounds of food (even if it was all delicious). I didn’t go overboard on dinner and I saved my room for dessert: a wise decision because the mini creme brûlée was almost worth the buffet price alone.

bacchanal buffet desserts

When I found out I was flying in early, I looked online to see what shows I could fit in on Thursday night after work hours. I had my heart set on a couple headliners that weren’t available – like Celine Dion (she’s on break) or Cirque du Soleil (touring in Asia). Instead I did a search for all events, saw that Elton John was performing at Caesar’s Palace that Thursday night, and had sort of a heart-soaring letdown moment… My parents had seen him before I was born, so I grew up singing his greatest hits and hearing how amazing he was live, therefore I couldn’t bring myself to see such an awesome show with Eric. The show had sold out by the time I mentioned it, but Eric brought it up again a few days before my flight and I saw that a handful of tickets had miraculously become available! The single upper balcony seat wasn’t a bad price and he bought it for me immediately. He wins best spouse award this year (maybe this century) for that little stunt.

sign at Caesar's Palace reading Elton John & His Band: the million dollar piano man

After I ate myself through the dessert bar, I walked back through the maze to the event hall where the line was forming. I wore my favorite vintage sequin sweater (one of my best thrifting purchases from college) because it only seemed right for the occasion. Even though I was upper balcony, my seat was in the third row and had a great view of the stage. When the lights dimmed and he walked out on stage wearing a full gold sequin cape (GOALS), I started grinning and barely stopped for the next hour and a half.

The concert was mindblowingly incredible and I was really impressed with the whole show. Every sound from the hits was emulated live, with some of the best musicianship and instrumentalists I’ve ever heard. Not surprisingly, Sir Elton an experienced performer, a great singer, a far better piano player than I could have imagined, and the side banter and stories he told were very interesting. The lights and effects were cool, and any event that ends with gold confetti cannons showering the crowd is a winner in my book. I feel so lucky to have seen it.

Elton John on stage in Las Vegas

After calling Eric and giving him a play-by-play of the performance, I wished him goodnight since it was after midnight back home. Completely wired after the last couple hours of music, I changed into more comfortable clothes and headed down to the casino below my room. We’re not real gamblers (a side effect of being naturally cheap LOL), but after happening to honeymoon and vacation at places that had casinos on site, I took a little extra cash to spend for fun. I walked around a little, trying out whichever penny slots looked the prettiest, and watched some of the table games until I was sleepy enough to head to bed.

Since I would be working most of the evening Friday, I tried to sleep in to avoid the jet lag… but still woke up every hour after 5:00. I stay curled up in bed with my personal and work phones for a while before getting up and was feeling sort of foggy. I realized with the airports, planes, hotel, concert inside the hotel, and casino inside my hotel, I hadn’t had more than a few minutes fresh air in almost 24 hours. Simultaneously, I realized that my hotel did not serve or sell Coca-Cola anywhere, and decided it was time for a walk. It was unseasonably cold even for February (40s and 50s mostly but it snowed on the mountains… uh I thought this was the desert?), so I bundled up and set my waking directions to the nearest convenience store. Even though it was cold and windy, it was a bright and beautiful morning that was the perfect time for site-seeing.

statues and fountains outside Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas

Eiffel Tower restaurant in Las Vegas

Eiffel Tower and Paris Paris balloon on the Vegas skyline

The directions led me over several of the skywalks over the busy roads, as they’re mostly blocked off to pedestrians and makes it difficult to cross on the street level anyway. I strolled through the Forum Shopping Center and some of Bally’s hotel before I made it to the store and bought a couple bottles of Coke to hold me over. As I walked back outside and reset my GPS, I realized I was close to the Bellagio Fountains and could quickly walk over. I did, then looked up what time the shows start and saw it wasn’t until 3 in the afternoon. It was still only around 10:30, so I walked back to my hotel to warm up.

calm waters at the Bellagio Fountains

I was getting hungry since I had skipped breakfast, and stopped by Giada de la Renta’s restaurant in Caesar’s Palace for a great ham, cheese, and apple panini (plus one of my Cokes) while I answered emails from my room. I had spotted a Game of Thrones slot machine earlier in the day, so I took a little cash downstairs and tried to find it. After a few minutes, I accidentally won a $100 jackpot from a $1 bet and got high-fived from an elderly lady playing at the machine beside me.

Cashed out, I bundled back up again and took the long way back to the Bellagio Fountains, stopping a couple times to offer to take tourist photos for strangers struggling with their selfie angles (my true calling in life). I saw a Waltzing Waters show in Scotland as a kid and always remembered it, so I figured I would enjoy watching the water enough to see it for free – I didn’t expect to actually grin and “ooh” aloud. This is one of the coolest things to see in Vegas. The show was just two short songs that are a couple of my all-time favorites (the National Anthem and Time to Say Goodbye) but it was a fun 10 minutes.

Bellagio Fountains water show

By now my hands were going numb from the wind and my phone was almost dead from me videoing everything, so I walked back to the hotel again. I hadn’t seen the actual ballrooms where the work event was being held that evening (in the same hotel of course), so I got out my map again and tried to learn the route from my room – limiting the chance I would get lost, in heels, when I needed to meet my boss. There was even enough time for me to take a long, hot shower underneath the rainfall shower head while listening to/watching the news from my in-mirror TV (OK, Vegas can be kind of cool).

The work event went smoothly and I got to spend some time with colleagues and my boss that I don’t usually get. My boss had traveled with her fiancé for her short trip, so we met up with him afterwards for a quick cocktail. We said goodbye as we headed to our rooms to change, and finally “off work,” I went back downstairs to spend the rest of my gambling money. I found the Game of Thrones machine again (because what other slot machine has dragons and Tyrion narrating your wins), I made friends with the girl celebrating her birthday beside me (she kept shouting “my birthday dragons!!” and we had a good time). I ended up winning back almost everything I spent having fun. My flight the next morning was really early, so I went back up to pack up as much as I could before my 6 am wake up call.

game of thrones slot machine screen

I caught a cab back to the airport the next morning and braced myself for another long travel day back. I had my choice of connections when I booked the flight, and found one that actually had a three and a half hour layover at BWI – the airport close to my parents. After crossing back over three timezones, Mom and Dad picked me up so we could have an early dinner together. After we finished, we sat in the car for a while, just talking, before they dropped me off so I could get back through security. It was too short of a visit, but it was definitely the highlight of my trip and I’m so happy it worked out like it did.

After a couple hours of painful delays, I finally made it home and have never been happier to sleep in my own bed and breathe our non-recycled/oxygen-infused air. My first trip to Las Vegas was fun, but I would like to go back on personal time with a travel buddy. Viva Las Vegas!

view from the plane: desert and mountains can be seen in the distance

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