Month

March 2017

What it’s like to Eat at Alinea (A Three-Starred Michelin Restaurant)

Alinea Chicago

To say I was intimidated to eat at a three-starred Michelin restaurant, let alone the famous Alinea in Chicago, is an understatement. Alinea is world-renowned, sophisticated, elite, and is featured in a Netflix documentary. It’s ranked number one in the country and number 15 in the world. The executive chef, Grant Achatz, is a leader in the molecular gastronomy cuisine and winner of many James Beard Foundation Awards. What’s to be intimidated about, right? Despite the nervousness, I was also feeling extremely lucky and excited. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it wasn’t easy to get “tickets.”

I purchased tickets online about two months in advance. Included in the price of a ticket is all food, wine (if you choose the pairing option), gratuities, and tax. There are three different dining options to choose from, and we chose the category known as The Salon. The Salon offers a 10-14 course tasting menu and is their cheapest category. I also chose a less popular dining time (5:15 PM) to help cut the costs as well. Even though we had the cheapest dining option, no wine pairings, and the cheapest dining time, our total cost was still $495.06. I know what you’re thinking… a $500 dinner?!?! And you aren’t alone… Matt said the same thing! But again, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. At Alinea you aren’t paying for a $500 dinner. You’re paying for a $500 dining experience that is a meal and a show all wrapped into one.

When we arrived, I wasn’t sure we were in the right place. There was no flashy sign, no gaudy entrance, and no pretentious doorman. We began taking pictures in front of the building, and immediately a man in a suit came out of the restaurant and offered to take our bags and camera. He then proceeded to walk into the street, literally stop traffic, and take our picture in front of Alinea. He was so funny, polite, and immediately made us feel welcome and at ease. Upon entering the foyer, the staff knew my name without asking, took our coats, and asked if they could have a cab waiting for us at the end of our meal. Why were these people being so nice?? Didn’t they know they’re supposed to act aloof, exclusive, and annoyed that I’m there to enjoy a meal I’m unworthy of?

Alinea Chicago

Alinea Chicago

This demeanor of welcoming-old-friends-to-dinner carried on throughout our entire meal. Everyone we came into contact with was amazingly welcoming and down to earth. We had several waiters/servers (is that even the proper term at a Micheline starred restaurant?) throughout our ten course meal. Our water glasses were filled after every course, and our table was completely reset with flatware needed for the next course. Tables were wiped down between each course as well. I dripped some soup on the table at one point and apologized to the server as he wiped our table down. He looked at me like I was absurd and said, “The food is messy, not you.” THIS IS THE KIND OF SERVICE WE ARE DEALING WITH! These people are so well trained in hospitality and knowledgable about everything culinary.

I watch the Food Network, and I can cook pretty well. But I was completely blown away by this meal. Culinary terms were thrown around that I had never heard before, and I ate foods that I didn’t even know existed.

Before the meal began we were presented with a blank crossword puzzle. We had a good time searching for words that could describe the next course.

Alinea Chicago

Ice

Arctic char roe on a passion fruit sorbet with a macadamia nut gel topped with a pineapple Kombu seaweed foam served in a hand carved ice bowl

I’d never had roe before and it reminded me of little balls of salt water that pop in your mouth when you bite down. This dish was a play on salty and sweet with the roe and the passion fruit sorbet. Our favorite part was the macadamia nut gel. It was clear and looked like just a plain gel, but it smelled and tasted EXACTLY like a macadamia nut. So weird! I love the attention to detail as well… these ice bowls are hand carved every single day. A man, named Angel, comes in every morning and carves 150 of these bowls!

Alinea Chicago

Crunch and Paper

(1) Candied Nori seaweed braised in soy sauce filled with pureed cornbread and topped with freeze-dried corn dust

(2) Scallops are pureed, then dehydrated, and then made into something that looks like dried paper. Once the dried scallop paper is presented at the table, a sweet corn and butter broth is poured over the top, rehydrating the scallops

Our favorite part of this dish was the scallops! The corn broth was absolutely delicious and it rehydrated the dried scallop into something that was soft, chewy, edible-with-chopsticks, and noodle-like. The weird thing is that it tasted just like scallops. It’s so weird for your brain to see one thing, but taste another totally different thing!

Alinea Chicago

Alinea Chicago

Alinea Chicago

Contrast, España, and Swirl

(1) Green apple bites filled with a citrus pudding served on a dish containing dry ice infused with citrus aromatics

(2) Pears poached in white wine and a Ramón ibérico (Portuguese ham) gel all on top of a roasted red pepper and paprika pudding topped with a Sherry foam

(3) Chilled chestnut soup with an olive oil jam

I hate to say this, but this course was our least favorite. It was heavy on fruit, and I absolutely cannot stand eating fruit. I told Matt, though, that if I was paying $500 for dinner, then I was eating every single thing that they put in front of me (including fruit!). I think overall, the dishes were complicated and had a lot going on. I’m sure it’s me who’s just not sophisticated enough to appreciate it all, but I guess out of ten courses you have to pick a least favorite. However, I did like the unique plating of each dish. And the best thing about this course was the dry ice! The chef had infused the dry ice with “citrus aromatics” which basically was just citrus smelling stuff. So when our server poured hot water over the dry ice at the table, we got to smell all of the wonderful aromatics. I appreciate that Alinea caters to every sense… not just the sense of taste.

Alinea Chicago

Alinea Chicago

Alinea Chicago

Thai Coconut

Florida pompano poached in a clam sauce flavored with ginger, lemon grass, coconut water, and red chili flakes. Dehydrated seaweed meringue with cucumber spheres all topped with fried cilantro. Served in a coconut shell.

I loved this dish! The pompano fish was so flaky, and the Thai inspired sauce had just the right amount of kick. The dehydrated seaweed meringue was a little chewy, but it became easier to eat the longer it absorbed the sauce. Cucumber spheres were a little weird because they looked exactly like grapes!

Alinea Chicago

Yellow

Slow roasted pork belly covered in a banana pepper and yellow tomato curry sauce. Topped with curls of banana peppers, saffron, mustard, marigold petals, and pickled mango.

When the server brought us this dish, he asked us to hold out our least favorite hand. We both held out our left hand, and he placed our food straight into our hands! This dish is inspired by “street food” which is designed to be eaten standing up or walking down the street. The plate for this course was a silicone bowl specifically designed to fit perfectly into the palm of your hand. I’d never had pork belly before, and it was so tender! The curry sauce was rich and flavorful which was complimented well by the crunchy banana pepper curls on top.

Alinea Chicago

Glass and Branch

(1) Vanilla cookie topped with a mushroom crumble and Concord grape jelly all resting on aromatic Juniper branches

(2) Pan roasted Maitake mushrooms with sautéed Kale and pickled pearl onions. Topped with blueberry chips and served with a blueberry sweet and sour sauce

Calling this a cookie was a little deceiving. It was vanilla flavored, but it was savory. There was nothing sweet about the cookie other than the hint of sweetness in the jelly. I’m not sure I’ve ever had vanilla as a savory flavor before so it was really interesting.

The Maitake mushrooms were fantastic! Blueberries and mushrooms? I know it sounds like a weird combination, but the sweet and sour sauce was delicious. The blueberry chips reminded me a lot of fruit roll-ups!

Alinea Chicago

Alinea Chicago

Toast

Gruyère cheese custard sandwiched between pumpernickel toast on the bottom and a black french truffle on top all topped with a balsamic glaze

Poor Matthew… when this dish was first presented, I made a terrible joke that it looked like a fancy Oreo. And I guess Matt didn’t fully listen to what the ingredients actually were because he bit into it expecting a sweet Oreo-like cookie and it was pretty much the opposite of that. I, however, loved this one! The Gruyère cheese custard was warm, creamy, and cheesy, and somehow the pumpernickel toast stayed perfectly crispy on the bottom. Plus, who doesn’t like truffles??

Alinea Chicago

Bone and Smoke

(1)  Crispy rice topped with a Wagyu beef fat and bone marrow emulsion that is then toasted tableside

(2) Beef short rib infused with a licorice smoke

The little bites were crispy on the bottom and had a buttery like texture on the top. The fat and marrow emulsion (the white part) was very rich. It reminded me of eating butter, and it did leave an oily film in my mouth, but I still loved this dish so much. I had trouble photographing the second portion of this course because it was in such a deep dish, and honestly it didn’t look that appetizing anyways. But looks can be deceiving! The short rib was so tender, and the sauce was so flavorful. The gel it was topped with had a strange texture, but that’s probably because I’m not used to eating gels!

Alinea Chicago

Alinea Chicago

Rock

Yellow miso cocoa butter shell filled with a 72% chocolate ganache accompanied with Matcha shortbread and a Okinawan sweet potato custard with white chocolate and cherry blossom gel

This course was so pretty! It’s rightly named the rock because it looks like something you would find on the ground in a fairy forest. The big yellow rock-looking piece was actually a thin shell that had chocolate ganache inside. The green Matcha shortbread cookie was perfectly crumbly and not overly sweet while the cherry blossom gel added the perfect amount of sour.

Alinea Chicago

Nostalgia

(1) Vanilla cake topped with a banana nectar sorbet, frozen bubblegum snow, and strawberry meringue all topped with cherry glass.

(2) Apple and banana sugar balloon filled with helium

This is one of the dishes that Alinea is known for. The whimsical dessert plays on childhood nostalgia with the bubblegum flavors. The chef makes a stock from only brand name Bubblegum and then flash freezes it to create the dish. The cherry glass on top is crunchy and crisp… it’s supposed to represent a candy wrapper! The best part of our dining experience was our balloon! Yes, it really does float! Our server instructed us not to let it touch anything or it would stick… Matt even had to take his glasses off! He also told us how to eat the balloon… give the balloon a kiss, suck the helium out, giggle in a high-pitched voice, and then eat the remaining sugar. We’ll never forget our dessert course!

Alinea Chicago

Alinea Chicago

Remember the crossword puzzle? The wait staff presented us with a copy of the solved crossword puzzle for us to take home.

Alinea Chicago

After the meal, we were led downstairs to where the staff already had our cab waiting for us. When they gave me my coat it had been in a WARMER! It felt like it had come fresh out of the dryer. Dining at Alinea was such an incredible experience from the hospitality to the food. It’s refreshing to witness people pursuing something with such passion and determination. Not only are they succeeding, they are truly a master of their craft. The creativity, long hour, and ingenuity that goes into a plate of food is inspiring. I, of course, appreciate the planning and the insane amount of detail that goes into every aspect of their work. Now I know how Matt feels when he watches professional athletes!

Type A Tidbit:

Looking back, we loved that we booked the earliest dining time. Not only for financial reasons, but because every course for us was a surprise! People that arrived after us started their meal later, so the surprises (like the balloon or dry ice) were ruined for them when they saw our courses being brought out. 

Alinea was such an unforgettable treat to be able to enjoy, and there was no need to feel nervous or out-of-place… not even these two southerners from Arkansas!

Chicago: Where to Eat

Where to Eat In Chicago

Chicago is known for their deep dish pizza and hot dogs… and rightfully so! However, Chicago has so much more to offer besides that. We’ll feature a post dedicated to pizza soon, but until then I wanted to share some of the unique restaurants we found that made our trip that much more memorable… and delicious!

Breakfast

Batter and Berries

It’s not a vacation for Matt unless he eats a huge breakfast. I much prefer the carb side of breakfast, but Matt needs the eggs and bacon side. Fortunately, we found Batter and Berries! Famous for their french toast flight, I knew I had to try this place. A flight of french toast? Yes! The flight featured all of their daily flavors (lemon, caramel, blueberry, and strawberry) plus their monthly special (red velvet)! I loved the idea of trying a little of each, and the portion size was perfect. Lemon french toast sounded a little scary, but it turned out to be one of my favorites. Nothing can beat the red velvet though… I mean, it has REAL cake pieces on top! Don’t skip their vanilla maple butter… It was so good I didn’t even use syrup on my french toast.

Batter and Berries Chicago French Toast Flight Chicago Red Velvet French Toast

Ann Sather

When a restaurant is known for their gigantic cinnamon rolls, you can bet I’m going to be there. Ann Sather did not disappoint. Every bite of my cinnamon roll tasted like the most coveted middle piece… chewy and gooey. We rode the L and could see this quaint cafe from the train station. Super convenient location plus quick service! I definitely recommend this local hot spot.

Ann Sather Cinnamon Roll Chicago Ann Sather Chicago

Lunch/Dinner

We did consume an alarming amount of deep dish pizza, but that post is coming up soon. Here are some other great finds for when you just can’t eat anymore mozzarella… I’ve heard that happens to some people.

Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse

Can a steakhouse named after an NBA player really be that good? Yes, it can be. Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse is on Magnificent Mile, and we were fortunate enough to be seated next to a window with a great view of Michigan Avenue. The ambiance is very romantic, but in a masculine way. The first thing you see when walking in, is a floor to ceiling wine cabinet. A case of engraved steak knives is displayed in the dining room. Matt and I had fun looking through the case and recognizing celebrity’s personal steak knives. Michael Jordan’s steak knife was displayed, and our waiter assured us that he really does use that steak knife every time he comes in. For an appetizer, we shared their award-winning blue cheese garlic bread. The bread itself wasn’t anything too special, but the sauce the waiter pours over it table side makes this dish famous. Normally blue cheese punches you in the mouth, but this was such a rich, creamy sauce that finished with almost a blue cheese aftertaste. It was the perfect amount of blue cheese flavor. For our entrée, we split Michael Jordan’s pre-game meal, their signature Delmonico steak covered in a ginger-balsamic jus. We decided to share a side dish of skillet corn prepared with a chile-lime butter, queso fresco, and red onion. The steak was seasoned and cooked perfectly. Oh, and I couldn’t believe how much I loved the corn side dish! It had a spicy kick to it, but the queso fresco quieted it down. This restaurant is on the expensive side, but if you’re craving steak, it’s the perfect location.

Michael Jordan's Steakhouse Chicago Michael Jordan's Steakhouse Chicago Michael Jordan's Steakhouse Chicago Michael Jordan's Steakhouse Chicago

Yuzu Sushi

Yuzu’s creative presentation style has made this place famous! A sushi artist elaborately paints each plate with different flavors and colors of dipping sauces. In addition to their extensive sushi menu, they also feature robata. Basically it’s different meats or veggies on skewers. We tried the beef short ribs in a Korean marinade, and it was juicy and really flavorful. We ordered bang-bang shrimp as an appetizer, and finally settled on two sushi rolls to share. When our plates arrived, I felt so terrible to mess up their art! But then I tasted the eel sauce, and I didn’t really worry about it too much after that. It tasted as good as it looked! Yuzu was about a 15 minute Uber ride for us, but it was worth the drive. We called earlier in the day to make reservations, but they were already full. So we decided to show up early and hope for a table. Arriving at 5:15, the place was already packed. They squeezed us in at a table by the kitchen, but I definitely recommend making reservations a few days ahead of time. Our table by the kitchen worked out perfectly though because I was able to get a lot of pictures of the food as it was plated!

Yuzu Sushi Chicago

Yuzu Sushi Chicago Yuzu Sushi Chicago Yuzu Sushi Chicago Yuzu Sushi Chicago

If you’re in the Chicago area, give one or all of these places a try… you will not regret it!

You can read about what to do in Chicago between meals at THIS POST!

 

We Went to Chicago, and We DID NOT Get Murdered

Chicago Skyline

Matt’s very last Spring Break ever was this past week, so we knew we wanted to go somewhere for the weekend to celebrate! As I priced flights and hotels online, I couldn’t believe how cheap Chicago was! After I purchased tickets, I realized everything was so cheap because no one in their right mind goes to Chicago in February. I can’t remember the last time I was that cold! We did have a few snow showers, but luckily the weather held off so that we could still enjoy the city… even though we were bundled up from head to toe!

As our trip got closer, I started to worry a little bit. I mean, Chicago’s not exactly known for being safe. I can now personally tell you that Chicago was surprisingly clean and we never felt like we were in danger. Chicago is still a big city though so travel smart. Stay in well-known areas and do most of your wandering during daylight hours. Be aware of your surroundings, and you will be fine!

Where We Stayed

We stayed at the Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront on the river in the neighborhood known as The Loop. The most important thing I consider when booking a hotel is location. Chicago is really spread out and we were going to be sightseeing all over town. So I concentrated on finding a hotel in a safe, centrally located area that was also within walking distance of an “L” station (Chicago’s subway station). This location ended up being perfect for us! It was only three blocks or so from the “L”, and our view from the room was awesome!

The hotel was clean, and our room was larger than I thought it would be. The staff was friendly, and oh, the shampoo in the room smelled amazing!

View from Wyndham Chicago Grand Riverfront View from Wyndham Chicago Grand Riverfront Wyndham Chicago Room

Things To Do

Ballparks

Chicago is home to the White Sox and the Cubs. One of our goals is to visit every Major League Ballpark so this was the perfect opportunity to cross two off our list.

Wrigley Field is a short ride on the “L” and maybe a two block walk once you exit the station. Since we visited during the off-season, Wrigley was busy doing lots of construction, but we were able to walk around the outside of the field and take a few pictures. We also managed to find the gift shop!

Wrigley Field Entrance Wrigley Field Wrigley Field

The White Sox field was renamed Guaranteed Rate Field this past August. I had heard that this field was in a terrible part of town, but from what we could tell everything looked new and safe. Granted, we didn’t wander far from the field. We rode the L to the Sox station, and we were able to see the field from the train. It was a short walk from the station to the ballpark, and we were able to take photos outside.

Matt is blessed with the gift of talking to strangers, and he found a security guard to talk to while I took photos. The security guard, a retired Chicago police officer, invited us inside to see the 2005 World Series Trophy and the World Series championship ring. While we were taking pictures of those, someone walked by and let us try their World Series ring on! Matt was in baseball heaven. This must have been our lucky day, because the security guard then arranged for us to have a tour of the field! We got to go down on the warning track and sit in the dugout. The White Sox pride themselves on being a team with a small town feel. They offer private tours year round and all you have to do is contact the Guest Information Representative at mvillanueva@chisox.com. She loves giving tours and encourages any fans to reach out to her when they’re in town!

White Sox Field

White Sox World Series Trophy

White Sox Field

Skydeck and Hancock 360

These two places offer the best views of the city, and they really deserve their own post. I’ve compared and contrasted the two HERE!

Millennium Park

You can’t visit Chicago without going to see “the Bean!” Its proper name is actually Cloud Gate, and it’s the main sculpture in Millennium Park. Millennium Park is home to many sculptures and a huge outdoor amphitheater called Jay Pritzker Pavillion. In the summer, they host some amazing outdoor concerts here. Millennium Park is worth the trip for the great photos you can take at the Bean. Since we were there in early March, they still had their outdoor ice skating rink open. No matter what time of year it is, there’s always something going on in Millennium Park!

Millenium Park Ice Skating Cloud Gate Millenium Park Cloud Gate Millenium Park

Field Museum

I had no idea how gigantic this museum is! We spent half a day there and couldn’t even see all of the exhibits. We move through museums pretty fast, and we don’t stop to read all of the signs so I was pretty surprised that we didn’t get to see all of it. Our favorite exhibit here was by far Sue the T. Rex! Sue is the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil in the world. It’s easy to tell that the Field Museum is extremely proud of this exhibit, and they do a great job of educating visitors about her. Once again, Matt struck up a conversation with a stranger who happened to be a volunteer for the museum. She told us Sue’s history and informed us about the Netflix documentary, Dinosaur 13, that tells the story of the paleontologists who first found the fossil. Besides The Field Museum’s extensive fossil collection, we were able to see their animal exhibits, the Native American exhibit, the Egyptian exhibit, and the gemstone exhibit. If you’re interested in science or animals then this is the museum for you!

Sue the T Rex Field Museum Fossils at Field Museum Gems at Field Musem

The Magnificent Mile

We very  briefly walked down Michigan Avenue, nicknamed the Magnificent Mile. It’s one of Chicago’s busiest streets, and it’s filled with high-end designer stores. Almost every brand name you can think of has a storefront on Michigan Avenue. Give yourself a budget!

Magnificent Mile Chicago Michigan Avenue Chicago

Navy Pier

Unfortunately since it was so cold outside, we didn’t get to really enjoy Navy Pier. We did go here, but the place looked almost abandoned. We were able to see a great view of the Chicago skyline, and we watched the Ferris Wheel, known as Centennial Wheel (which was surprisingly in operation). In the summer, Navy Pier would be a must-see, but if you’re here during the winter months it would be safe to skip. Chicago’s Children’s Museum is located on Navy Pier, and I’ve heard great things about it!

Navy Pier Chicago

The Second City

I had to prepare Matt a little before we went to our show at The Second City. Improvisational comedy shows are performed here nightly, and I had read that the shows are heavy on political satire and skits about controversial topics. I wanted Matt to enjoy the show and not be offended, but there was no need to really warn him. The articles I had read were correct about the source of humor, but the skits were performed perfectly. The comedians performed in a way where they were laughing with the audience instead of at us. The Second City is known as one of the most influential comedy theaters, and it’s where some really great comedians got their start (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Bill Murray just to name a few). If you have a good sense of humor and an open mind, then you would really enjoy a show at The Second City. You could possibly be witnessing the early career of the next Steve Carell! I wasn’t allowed to take photos during the performance, but I did get some of the stage before the show began. Show up early… seating is done by first come, first serve!

The Second City Chicago The Second City Chicago

Adler Planetarium

We spent one morning at the Adler Planetarium touring the space exhibits. Our favorite thing we did was watch a movie about the search for new planets in their dome theater. I’m glad we went, but the planetarium isn’t something I consider a “must-do” in Chicago. Here’s a little known fact… if you’re interested in telescopes, then head to the cafe area throughout the day. The planetarium’s employees set up different telescopes and allow you to look through them. We saw the sun through a telescope with a solar filter attached!

Adler Planetarium Chicago Telescope Adler Planetarium Chicago

Shedd Aquarium

One of Chicago’s most popular tourist attractions is the Shedd Aquarium. We didn’t have the best experience here, but we went during their busiest time (Saturday afternoon). There were so many people that we struggled to see every exhibit. Even when we did get close enough to see, people were pushing and crowding us. The shark exhibit can be accessed by a set of two elevators, but one of the elevators was broken. We stood in line for one elevator for about 20 minutes. The exhibit did have stairwell access, but the stairs are for employee use only. If both elevators had been working and we had gone on a weekday morning, then that would have completely changed our experience at the aquarium. The exhibits really are fantastic so don’t let our experience sway your opinion. Just be aware that the aquarium is extremely busy, and try to plan your visit accordingly.

Shedd Aquarium Chicago Shedd Aquarium Chicago Shedd Aquarium Chicago Shedd Aquarium Chicago

For this Chicago trip, I purchased the City Pass. It was worth every bit of money! The City Pass is a booklet of tickets to Chicago’s five most popular tourist attractions. You can buy the City Pass online ahead of time for a flat fee upfront. I compared the price of the City Pass to the price of purchasing a ticket at every attraction, and the City Pass is cheaper. One of the best features of the City Pass is that it grants you front of the line access. You’re able to bypass everyone waiting in line since you already have your ticket. When we arrived at the Shedd Aquarium, the line was around the block! However, we were able to walk right in with our City Pass. Having it probably saved us over an hour of waiting in line at the aquarium alone. The City Pass saved us time and money on our trip to Chicago. If you know you’ll be visiting a lot of tourist attractions, then it’s definitely a good deal to consider.

Chicago City Pass

If you’re planning a trip to Chicago soon, hopefully now you have a better idea of what you want to see! Read our Chicago restaurant recommendations HERE!

Ten Things to do in Vegas That Aren’t Gambling

Ten Things to do in Vegas that Aren't Gambling

I love Vegas so much! This city really is one of my favorite places to visit despite all of the touristy cheesiness. Most people come here to gamble, but I’ve only lost $12 in all of my Las Vegas trips! So what do I do if I’m not gambling? Well, I eat. A lot. But besides that, here’s a list of my favorite ten things to do in Vegas that DON’T involve gambling.

Walk

Seriously… go walk around. If you go in each casino and stroll through the shops along the way, it can take you two full days to walk the entire Las Vegas Strip. I love seeing each casino’s unique decor (especially at Christmas time!). Every casino offers a few “must-sees” so by the time you make it around to all of them you’ve definitely met your step goal for the day! Plus, you’ll be building your arm muscles when you’re carrying all those shopping bags!

Type A Tidbits:

Comfortable shoes matter. You’ll be thanking me by mid afternoon.

Each casino has a unique fragrance that they pipe in. Some do this to counteract the cigarette smoke and alcohol smell, but it’s actually a pretty intricate marketing plan. If you like the way the casino smells, you’ll stay longer and spend more. There’s a company in Vegas devoted to creating the distinct scents each hotel uses. We had a lot of fun noticing the different smells as we walked from one casino into another. It’s a detail that most people don’t know about, but I think it’s so fun!

Stratosphere

If you’re brave (I’m not), then  you will love the Stratosphere. It’s the tallest building on the Las Vegas Strip so the views are incredible! We ate at Top of the World, the revolving restaurant at the very top. The food was great, but the revolving… not so much. I think it makes one revolution an hour so it does move slowly, but I got carsick! I could see the seams in the window panes moving slowly by us so it really threw me off. The restaurant is pricey so if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to seeing the best views in the city, head one more floor up to the viewing area. From that level you can go outside on the observation deck for optimal photos or you can choose to stay safely indoors behind floor to ceiling glass windows. Want to take it a step further? They have a giant mechanical arm that DANGLES YOU OFF THE SIDE OF THE BUILDING.  Sky Jump is a free fall from the top of the Stratosphere to the bottom, and Big Shot is a ride at the very tippity top of the building. No thanks. It was kind of eerie to be having dinner and watch someone fall right past your window!

Type A Tidbits:

Tickets must be purchased to ride the elevator all the way to the top, but if you’re having dinner at Top of the World, then your elevator ride is free.

Definitely make reservations for dinner. The OpenTable app is the best way to make restaurant reservations in Vegas.

Bellagio Fountains

We’ve all seen pictures of this famous Vegas fountain, but nothing compares to seeing it in person. I could watch the fountain show at Bellagio for hours! The fountains are choreographed to music that can be heard if you’re standing nearby. Is it sad I almost cried when Celine Dion’s song came on… I love her! Watching the fountains at night is my favorite, but during the day is special too. The Bellagio has several restaurants surrounding the fountain. One of my favorite places to view the show is actually across the street at Mon Ami Gabi. It’s a French restaurant located right underneath the Eiffel Tower. Ask to be seated outside, and you’ll have a fantastic view! You won’t be able to hear the music from there, but I promise Mon Ami Gabi’s creme brûlée makes up for that. Check the Bellagio’s website for exact information, but generally there’s a show every 30 minutes during the day and every 15 minutes at night.

 

Fremont Street

I always tell people that Fremont Street is the older, trashier version of the Strip. Sorry if your cousin works there or it’s your favorite place, but it’s not really my thing. BUT having said that, I do think everyone needs to visit it at least once. The street performers are wilder, the live music is louder, and the people watching is greater. If you do go, make sure you stay long enough for the Fremont Street Experience. No, that’s not the name of a cocktail. It’s the gigantic LED light show shown on a video screen the length of the entire block. The show runs every hour, and it’s best to see it at night. Be ready for anything on Fremont Street though!

Type A Tidbit:

If you’re a thrill seeker, try out the zip line above the street!

Get a Cupcake out of the ATM

Avoid the lines and get a cupcake at all hours of the day! Oh, and it gets better… it’s a Sprinkles cupcake! If you’ve never had one, then this is the perfect excuse. Try the red velvet!

Coca Cola World

Get out of the hot Vegas sun and step into the cool air conditioning of Coca Cola World. Thirsty? You’re in the right place. Try the Coca Cola flight from around the world! It’s fun, and sometimes yucky, to taste samples from different countries. Matt and I split one flight, and there was plenty to share between the two of us. Make sure to read the description of each one before you drink it!

Type A Tidbit:

The Coca Cola polar bear will take his picture with you for free! You can use your own phone or camera, but the catch is that you have to let them take one with their camera also. You then have the option to buy their professional photo.

Madame Tussauds

I had been to the Madam Tussauds wax museum before, but never to the one in Vegas. We had a great time getting our picture taken with “celebrities.” I wouldn’t call Madam Tussauds a “must-do” experience, but if you find yourself with a free afternoon, then it would be a good option.

Pink Jeep Tours

This was one of our favorite things we did in Vegas! You wouldn’t know it, but Vegas is located near several National Parks. We figured it was more trouble than it was worth to rent a car for a day just to get lost on our way to one of the National Parks. That’s why Pink Jeep Tours is so great! We chose to take a Pink Jeep Tour to Red Rock Canyon, and it was gorgeous! Our tour guide was so friendly and was full of good information about Red Rock Canyon and Vegas itself. The tour bus will pick up and drop off at most hotels on the Strip, making this an ideal day trip out of the city. They offer various tours (including Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon) and have different lengths to choose from. Bottled water is also provided. Next time we return to Vegas, we’ll definitely be booking another trip with them!

Indoor Skydiving

I don’t consider myself a risk taker or adrenaline junkie so when I heard about indoor skydiving I thought MAYBE I could handle it. When we arrived at Vegas Indoor Skydiving, we changed into flight suits that made us look like giant flying squirrels! Their purpose is to catch the wind generated from the huge turbine below. I was worried about jumping out over the turbine, but it wasn’t an issue at all. I never got butterflies in my stomach, but at the same time I got to experience the feeling of weightlessly flying through the air… even though I was just three feet off the ground. Our instructor was great! He helped get us into position and then instructed us on how to do flips and spins. Overall, this was fun, but given the cost and the short amount of time we spent “flying,” I’m not sure we would do it again.

Type A Tidbit:

There’s a weight limit… you might want to go do this towards the beginning of your vacation instead of towards the end!

Pool Day

Most of the hotels on the Strip have fantastic pools! My favorite place to stay is Caesars Palace, and their pools are by far the most extravagant. We planned one whole day in Vegas around being lazy by the pool. There are multiple pools, and they all have their different rules about noise and “nakedness level.” One of the pools has a swim up bar with video poker! Get there early for a good spot! Otherwise, there are cabanas and lounge beds that can be reserved ahead of time.

I’ve been to Las Vegas on several different occasions, and there are still so many things I haven’t been able to do! If we go again soon, I’ll update with more fun options.

Did I miss your favorite one? Tell me about it in the comments!