Sarah & Adam
Honeymoon Destination: Las Vegas
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There are many reasons we chose our honeymoon in Las Vegas, Nevada: Dry heat (ehem, we are from sticky Houston, Texas), sprawling resorts with inexpensive luxury suites, nightlife and entertainment abounding, world-class dining, and, most importantly, fond memories from a weekend trip to Vegas the fall before our engagement when we went ring shopping for the first time.
Adam and I are anything but conventional. We wanted a honeymoon that complemented our personalities and wedding style. Our wedding was in downtown Houston with a private ceremony in the hotel's library and a lounge-style bash with an open bar, cocktail tables, Rat Pack-era jams, and all of our close family and friends. We are city folk though-and-through, so we opted for big lights, taxi cabs, and modern amenities over sandy towels. We knew Vegas was our kind of relaxation, and we couldn't wait to keep the wedding party going through our first week as a married couple.
The whirlwind began the morning after our wedding bash, where we boarded a Town Car from our wedding suite spot to the airport. Bottled imported water and a too cool Moroccan driver kept us company on the exciting trip from our old life to new as Mr. and Mrs. Patterson. It was in this car, I discovered, that my Mr. had purchased a brand-new digital camera for our trip two hours before our wedding, simply because he couldn't find my camera's charger in the haste of wedding chaos. What did I tell you about honeymoon incidentals?
We arrived at the airport and checked in for our flight, and so began the honeymoon name-dropping. Yes, this includes the Mr.-and-Mrs.-Patterson-for-the-first-time giggle, but most importantly, the one time in your life when you can say, "We are on our honeymoon"...obnoxiously, and no one will care. In fact, they tend to treat you quite well! In this first instance, we scored some free luggage tags, and the attendant printed our tickets on that cool old-school paper you used to get when tickets were mailed to your house.
Our flight was equally attention-getting and giggly as we entertained our flight attendant with 'oohs' and 'ahhs' at all the sweet things you get when you fly first class (hot nuts!). Three hours and 150 pictures later, we landed in fabulous Las Vegas just as the sun was setting. We checked into our hotel—the very modern and posh Vdara Resort and Spa Las Vegas. Vdara is one of the only smoke-free and casino-free hotels on the strip. Because the rooms were originally designed to be sold as condominiums, all rooms are considered suites with multiple living spaces, washer/dryers, and full kitchens. We had purchased a City Corner Suite that promised a view of the strip and a large room, but we found out that our room had been upgraded to a Panoramic Suite on the 27th floor! Our suite had 270-degree views of the strip and Las Vegas Valley—literally, three walls of the suite were windows! There was even a gorgeous view of the Bellagio dancing fountains from our Jacuzzi tub! The first night we unpacked, slipped into the hotel's plush robes and slippers, and settled in for a quite evening so we could rest up for the excitement to come!
Sunday morning promised the perfect kick-off to our action-packed week perfectly—a couples' massage at the zen-inspired Vdara Spa. But first, we headed over to Aria resort (a sister resort to Vdara) for a delicious and fresh brunch. The mimosas and king crab were plentiful, but it was the delicious coffee and 'Just Married' tank top I sported proudly that we remember most! When we'd had enough food to last a week, we wandered back to the spa at Vdara to spoil ourselves (thanks to generous co-workers of mine who gifted the experience for us!). From the calming fountains in the spa lobby, to the pre-treatment steam shower, we were well relaxed even before our amazing and romantic couples' massage. Our masseuse and masseur were incredible. For Adam's first massage, the bar was set very, very high! After the massage we retreated to the baths for more relaxation and not a clock in sight. The spa even had a full vanity area with brushes, hair products, and styling tools to get me primped for the evening's festivities!
For our first night in the big city, we planned a trip to the Venice-replicated Venetian Resort and Casino just a short taxi ride down the Strip. First, we checked in for a private gondola ride through the Grand Canal Shoppes, modeled after the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. While waiting for our ride time, we toured Madame Tussaud's Las Vegas, where we met wax versions of some of our favorite stars—namely Ol' Blue Eyes himself, whose melodic crooning inspired our wedding music playlist. Madame Tussaud's even had a Haunted House section, were we clung tight to each other while tiptoeing through ominous wax figurines and live monsters alike! After the museum tour, we stepped into our gondola for a delightful meander through the beautifully designed interior of the Venetian Grand Canal. Our gondolier, ANDY, was an authentic Italian from Sicily and had an amazing singing voice! It was a very entertaining and romantic to sail along together and pretend we were somewhere much farther away. Maybe it's as close as you get to the real thing? We'll find out someday...
Next we were off to dinner reservations at Bouchon, an award-winning French bistro with quirky comfort foods like Rillettes aux Deux Saumons (fresh and smoked salmon rillettes served in small Kilner-style jars) and decadent classics like Steak Frites and Croque Madame. Better than the incredible cuisine and romantic ambience was the impeccable service by our waiter, Jeremy! We were even given complimentary champagne, desserts, and special thanks from Bouchon's management staff for choosing to spend an evening of our honeymoon at the restaurant. We even experienced a desert summer rarity during our evening—a booming thunderstorm that we viewed from the tall windows next to our booth.
Next, we were off to Treasure Island Resort to see Mystère, a Cirque du Soleil classic that offers a unique approach to acrobatics, stunts, and even circus clowns! We were so glad that we booked our tickets early—the show was sold out! After the whimsical, two-hour ride through the zany French circus, we understood why. Mystère was incredible!
Independence Day! That's right, July 4th in Las Vegas promised to be exciting, hot, and, well, crowded, so we planned ourselves a private poolside party for two complete with our own cabana! Our cabana service came with pool floats, spritzing water for cooling, and personalized cocktail service—and believe me when I say that we took advantage of all three! Lounging, floating, and sunning about summed up our day, and it was just what we needed to unwind from the excitement of the city.
After naps and showers, we donned our red, white, and blue attire and took a short connecting walkway to the Bellagio resort. Forgetting it was a holiday for a moment (easy to do inside a casino!), we attempted to visit the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, but of course it was closed. We meandered to Bellagio Botanical Gardens, and we were in for a treat! The current display for the Fourth was an all-Americana state fair theme, complete with a Ferris Wheel, Carousel, and Parachutes abounding, all surrounded by sweet-smelling, colorful flora. There was even a replica of the Liberty Bell topped by a bald eagle to commemorate the holiday. It was truly an unexpected surprise in the center of the Las Vegas Strip.
We continued our stroll through the gorgeous Bellagio Resort, where the patriotic flora and colorful themes continued through the luxury shopping areas. The shopping bug got to us as we trekked to the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace put some of those extra registry gift dollars to good use! We then stopped for a commemorative meal at our meeting place—The Cheesecake Factory (Adam and I met at the Austin, Texas location while waiting tables in college). The first time we ever shared a conversation was over a strawberry shortcake at the end of an evening shift, so we commemorated the occasion with the sweet treat and nostalgia.
Day Three was our adventure day into the beautiful Las Vegas desert! We picked up some slick wheels (a blue 2011 Camaro) and sped off into the horizon. Our destination was the Hoover Dam! The drive to the Arizona-Nevada border was beautiful—red canyon rock, sprawling landscapes, and picturesque, puffy white clouds against a clear blue sky. We wound through canyon and cacti, stopping for pictures along the way, before finally arriving at the incredible Hoover Dam National Park. We were immediately routed to an area in the shadow of the newly completed Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge, which offered an awe-inspiring look at the architectural and engineering challenges of building structures within tough canyon rock. We picked up our tickets for the Dam and Power Plant tours, before which we viewed a video in the visitor center about the Hoover Dam's conception and construction. It was a humbling reminder of the sacrifice and grit of the workers who made this amazing feat possible!
Next, we traveled several stories underground via elevator to tour inside the dam. We ran our fingers along the slick walls and saw the power production that supplies the city of Las Vegas and surround areas via Lake Mead. After the tour, we played around at the Hoover Dam museum and marveled at the ahead-of-its time innovation of early dam engineers. An outside tour around the dam proved to be even more spectacular, with amazing views of the Colorado River and the opportunity to view the working dam's immensity up close and personal!
Hundreds of pictures later, we began our trek back to Sin City with a little stop along the way at Hacienda Casino for some $2 Blackjack! Let's just say we didn't come out ahead, but we met some cool people and escaped the Vegas heat for a little while!
Before bringing the wheels back to the resort, we stopped by the Las Vegas Premium Outlets for some more shopping! As we were leaving the mall, however, we noticed another Vegas tourist struggling with a flat tire on his rental car. Because of his limited English communication, he was having a hard time calling for help. Adam immediately stopped to help him apply a spare tire from his trunk. The man was so nice—he offered us cold bottled water from a cooler in his car and attempted to give Adam cash, which of course we didn't take! We were just glad we made his probably not-so-good day a little better. We even took a little souvenir from the experience—Adam ended up with a bruise on his thumb that didn't go away for almost three months after the honeymoon! It was actually kind of sad to see it go, because it was a sweet reminder of that day that Adam so generously helped that man.
We headed back to The Strip to get some stunning street pictures at sundown, and then we retreated to our suite. Just in time, too, because just as we had returned I began to feel a little under the weather. We figured I must have been finally relaxed from all the wedding excitement (and pressure) and let my guard down to catch a little cold.
We ventured out later that evening for a late-night In-n-Out run—a West Coast fast food classic. As I still wasn't feeling too well, I took my bathrobe with me for warmth! We completed our cheeseburger run with a stop to the 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign on the tail of South Strip. It truly is an amazing sight with the entire strip in the foreground!
Day Four began with breakfast at the downstairs Café Vdara - with hot tea and DayQuil for myself and coffee and a pastry for Adam. They had some pretty good jams going on in the café, and Adam cheered me up with his head-bobbing dancing. We were then off to return the rental car and take the CityCenter tram, which connects Vdara to the Aria Resort, Crystals shopping center, and Monte Carlo resort. Its blue-tinted windows and slick design made for a very futuristic travel vibe along the souped-up monorail. We strolled through Monte Carlo and caught the walkway to the New York New York resort. To, you know, soothe my aching throat, we stopped by Coyote Ugly bar for the world's largest margarita (well, at least it felt like it!) to share as we saw the sights of the themed casino resort. I'm not kidding, the margarita was larger than both of our faces combined!
After a stop at Mandalay Bay's Burger Bar to soak up all of that, um, sugar, we headed to the Shark Reef Aquarium. We sneaked in our 'contraband' (the giant margarita bucket, as the sign said no outside food or drink allowed), and wandered through the simulated tropical rainforest to see amphibians, reptiles, and butterflies. We then made our way to the tank exhibits to see colorful tropical fish, snakes, and even alligators! We even got to pet small stingrays at an exhibit area that was probably designed for kids, but we loved it! One of the most amazing exhibits, however, was the pink and purple moon jellies tank, where dozens of colorful jellyfish floated gracefully in a cylindrical tank - just inches from our faces. The mother of all exhibits, however, was the Shipwreck, an enormous 360-degree shark exhibit with an array of ominous sharks swarming a simulated shipwreck. It was incredible to see so many species of sharks interacting and darting between the pieces of sunken ship and cargo.
We headed back to our suite for a nap (see a pattern here?) and shower before getting dressed up for our second show of the honeymoon, Cirque du Soleil's KÀ, at MGM Grand Las Vegas. KÀ chronicles the tale of long-lost warrior twins, who fight through a variety of terrain and obstacles to find one another. We weren't sure what to expect with this show, but KÀ was by far our favorite! The stage transformed throughout the show from a moving target with retracting bow and arrows to a beach scene that rotated to dump its sand downstage after the scene. The show was unbelievably action-packed and produced impeccably, with great acrobatic and choreographic feats by its performers. What a treat!
Day Five was far more relaxed than our previous action-packed days. Again, an unusual rainstorm came through the city, and we enjoyed the views of the rolling clouds over the valley from our panoramic suite views. We didn't venture out that day until the evening, where we gussied up for reservations at BOA Steakhouse at Caesars Palace. We were shown to a secluded table with a stunning Strip view and helped ourselves to house specialty cocktails as we waited for sunset. Scrumptious steaks complete with custom specialty dipping sauces, such as cabaret-merlot reduction, and tender asparagus pleased our pallets as we viewed sundown from what felt like our own private paradise. Our wait staff was, again, incredible, and offered us a desert of choice complete with a sparkler firework served right to our table. Our wait staff even patiently took several photos of us as our camera struggled to adjust to the light. They definitely made us feel very special!
We then took our happy bellies to a taxi destined for Downtown Las Vegas—the pre-Strip original Vegas that maintains its nickname 'Glitter Gulch' with sparkling lights and over-the-top icons. Above our heads along walkable Fremont Street was the Fremont Street Experience light show, which is a dome-shaped giant LED-lit screen that offers colorful animations set to high-energy music. There was even a 1980s-inspired street band playing the decade's favorite hits, and we had a blast dancing along to the classics. We then stopped in for Vegas' favorite entertainment, a little gambling at the El Cortez casino. This time, we finally met Lady Luck and were able to play for several hours on about 30 bucks! We must have had a really good time, because when we finally left the casino Fremont Street was deserted. It was three in the morning!
For our last full day in Vegas, we tried to pack in as many last-minute sights as we could. Because calories on honeymoons don't count, we fueled up on the world's largest plate of nachos at Diablo's Cantina. Our eyes were much larger than our stomachs, because we hardly made a dent! We then visited the Coca-Cola and M&Ms exhibits and stopped by the MGM Grand to see the tigers!
Next we suited up in parkas and fuzzy boots to enjoy a cool cocktail at the Minus 5 Ice Lounge. The entire lounge is made from solid Canadian Ice, including the drinking glasses, chairs, and tables! It was such a unique experience.
We scored some last-minute tickets to Zumanity, another Cirque du Soleil experience with a twist. Zumanity is an exploration of human sexuality and its focus is more artistic and quirky than acrobatic. And what a ride it was! We really enjoyed this unique approach to a Cirque show, and it definitely caught us giggling! For our honeymoon finale, we saw the Jabbawockeez, a hip-hop comedic dance troupe new to Las Vegas. Their funny impressions and high-energy beats were a great way to round out a fun and exciting week in Las Vegas!
Packing day was bittersweet—we were excited to get home and begin our life together, but it was also sad to say goodbye to a wonderful and relaxing first week as a married couple. As we boarded the plane, we reflected on our whirlwind, unconventional dating relationship and engagement, and we realized how fitting our honeymoon really was to our personalities. Most of all, we were so relieved that we were able to completely enjoy our honeymoon without the financial worries of paying for it all. The best gift our guests gave us was the freedom to enjoy this time without the financial stress of an expensive vacation. And secretly, we were relieved that we didn't have to go home and unpack a hundred little presents (and try to figure out where they all belong)!
We would absolutely recommend Las Vegas as a honeymoon destination for a couple who is fun loving, energetic, and appreciates excellent value for dollar. The cost of our incredible suite would have been astronomical at many other popular destinations, and we were able to enjoy the same luxurious accommodations as a five-star resort at a fraction of the cost. Our particular hotel, Vdara, was smoke and gaming-free, so it was easy to escape from 'Vegas' when we wanted. There is certainly a lot to do in the city, and as we found out the day we rented a car, so much natural beauty to soak up as well. Although we didn't make it there this time, there are lots of other accessible destinations from Las Vegas like the Grand Canyon, Lake Mead, and even Southern California in just a few hours' car ride.
How We Thanked Our Guests
We created very personalized thank-you cards for our guests. We custom-designed the cards to look like the 'Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas' sign that marks the start of the Las Vegas Strip. Instead, ours said 'Thank You for Fabulous Las Vegas Honeymoon' and inside included a personalized thank-you and description of the specific experience that our guest had gifted us. In addition, we included a few photos of us actually enjoying the experience so that guests could feel that the experience they gave us was truly something tangible.
We couldn't communicate greater our gratitude for our guests' support of our honeymoon. It was the experience of a lifetime, and it would not have been possible without their generous contributions. We are grateful to Traveler's Joy for providing this venue for our guests to gift conveniently and creatively, and we couldn't have made a better selection in our honeymoon registry provider.
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