I made a great decision recently: going to Las Vegas with the Stern Adventures Club. Although I had visited Sin City previously, I knew this trip would be different. My first visit, a surprise 30th birthday for my brother with my parents included in the festivities, was fairly tame. I did live on the edge a bit; I took my brother to see PEEPSHOW with Holly Madison. While it was fun, it was also incredibly awkward at times. I guess I did not fully think out seeing a nude show with my brother. Oops. My next visit was with a large group of Sternies this past May. In the company of many awesome classmates, it was a great way to cap-off my MBA1 year and prepare for my internship. Compared to my first visit, this one was not as tame. There were bottles purchased, tables danced on, and too many things captured on social media that shouldn’t have been. If anything, this second trip prepared me for the epic trip before Thanksgiving. What could you be more thankful for than Vegas?
In reflecting on my trip, I’d like to share a quote: “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller. My likely-too-long trip to Vegas (four night stay at MGM Grand) made me take many things into perspective. With this in mind, I’d like to reflect on my key travel lessons from the past trip. Don’t worry, this is definitively within the context of my column, since I managed to go on a date while in Vegas (if there is a “Will,” there is a way) and had a few (maybe more than a few) drinks.
Lesson 1: Great Cocktails are important, but not as important as the Conversation Shared over Said Cocktails
Naturally, while I was in Vegas, I was on the hunt for incredible cocktails. In this city of sin, a vodka soda is just not going to cut it. Whiskey Down, one of the bars located in MGM Grand, served as home base. What isn’t to like about $10 cocktails that feature premium liquor? One of the bartenders had an extra “special” spicy Bloody Mary that he made for us daily; we’re still not sure what made it special, but as you’ll see in Lesson 5, sometimes not knowing is the best answer. I quickly realized I had some new partners in crime during my trip: Miranda and Jenn, both MBA1s. I don’t get to interact with them as much since we aren’t in classes together, but we certainly made up for that during our trip. In addition to their sense of humor, these two ladies shared my passion for an expertly crafted cocktail. We visited many different bars during our days/nights in Vegas. The cocktails were great, but the conversation was the best part. I lost track of how many times I laughed until I cried on that trip. I have a feeling even if I were in a dumpy dive bar with these two ladies, we would still have as much fun. At this point, I know an overwhelming majority of my own class at Stern. This experience taught me that the MBA1s are an incredibly awesome bunch. I need to do more networking!
Lesson 2: Even if you’re hesitant, it pays to “Get in the Kayak”
On Friday, our first day in Vegas, we had a full day of adventurous activities! There would be Kayaking! ATVing! Land Sailing! Biking! I was so pumped! The past two times I had been to Vegas, most of the time was spent disoriented indoors: with the odd lighting, pumped out vanilla scent and lack of clocks there is really no way to tell what is going on. This time would be different! I was going to be outdoors! And in sneakers! When Kate (my amazing roommate) and I opened our blackout shades that morning, we realized it was raining outside. But, come rain or shine, this adventure was a go! We came all this way!
When we got to Lake Mead, it was very cold…wet…generally miserable. I really did not want to go kayaking. I had many rational reasons not to get in the water. I could get sick! I would get wet! I would be cold! But instead, I chose to get in the damn kayak! Looking back, it was the right decision. I was joined by our instructor and Sofia (the fearless leader for the weekend) and Kiran. The rest of the group remained (warm and dry) in the van. When I think of my decision to kayak, it is a metaphor for stepping outside of my comfort zone. It is so much easier sometimes to just say “no” without really thinking about why you’re saying no in the first place. I don’t know if I’m coming from a “place of yes” more because I am freaking out that I will be 30 in August or if there is something else motivating me. Either way, I’m planning to “get in the kayak” much more often. Please don’t say #YOLO.
Lesson 3: Shooting a Gun is like Wearing Lipstick: It gives you Confidence
I am quite aware that this is a grossly simplified simile – just go with it! As one of our optional activities during the trip, we could go mountain biking or participate in a mob-style shooting experience at an indoor range. Likely from watching too much Boardwalk Empire, I was immediately drawn to the shooting experience. It is crazy to think that by paying a fee you have can have such a powerful weapon in the palm of your hand (insert crude joke here). In the past, I’ve often been scared to shoot higher caliber guns (my parents are retired in Arizona and enjoy shooting targets). I often hesitate. I’m too scared of the power of the weapon and the recoil from shooting it. Perhaps I was emboldened – I did kayak the day before. Why not try shooting a shot gun, Glock and Tommy Gun with confidence? The instructor, who was attractive in that “I may have been arrested” way, told me that most people are not as accurate in shooting targets because they anticipate the recoil. Clearly, I cannot pass the opportunity to compare this to a general life lesson. Isn’t bracing yourself for the recoil of the shot the same as having a self-fulfilling prophecy? For example, you anticipate that the gun has a lot of power, so you already start readjusting your posture and grip before you even pull the trigger. Similarly, in life, we often prepare ourselves for a negative outcome before we even start something new! In shooting, it is better to have a more relaxed posture than to tense up. In life, I’m trying to practice the same doctrine. It is far too easy to talk yourself out of something before you even experience it. With this in mind, I’m trying to be more confident about myself and new experiences before they happen. Sure, I will fail terribly at many things I attempt, but if I don’t start with an optimistic mind-set, aren’t I already setting myself up to fail?
Lesson 4: There is a strategy in conquering all-you-can-eat/drink meals
During our trip, I indulged in too unlimited events: a bottomless wine dinner at Charlie Palmers and an all you can eat and drink until-you-hate-yourself buffet at the Wicked Spoon. This lesson is short and sweet. 1. Scout out the buffet before you commit to anything (sort of like dating before getting married); 2. Decide the order that is most appealing to you to eat the food you want to eat (maybe breakfast foods first and dessert last); 3. Taste everything you want but do not eat the full portion size – you will overcommit and ruin your day; 4. If you get something and hate it, abort at all costs (no one won at the buffet by eating gross food); 5. Once you try everything and you really love something, go get some more!
Lesson 5: Sometimes, Less Questions make for a Better Experience
After my first log-in on OKCupid in Vegas, I felt like a piece of meat thrown to hungry sharks. How did I have five messages and 100+ Views since my last log-in? In my settings, I didn’t realize I had it set to update my current location. Since I joined the site, I had not traveled outside of the metro area, so this was a shock to say the least. I wonder if “daters” in Las Vegas are so addicted to the constantly changing inventory that the idea of a committed relationship is mythical. I got a particularly interesting inbound message from a handsome professional poker player. We will call him “Will” – in my last article, I hinted about discussing age. What a wonderful coincidence that he happened to be a bit older than me, let’s say 40. He also happened to be tall (6’5), dark (nice tan and full head of hair) and handsome (professional athlete look). After many “fun” OKCupid dates, I was a bit skeptical to say the least. Surely this person didn’t really exist and I would soon be Catfished. I’m in Vegas though, I thought, so what the hell. I’m not a gambler, unless you consider meeting strangers in bars in Vegas a potentially risky endeavor. He was finishing up a poker tournament nearby and I was already at MGM Grand, so of course I suggested Whiskey Down. Was it even a question?
To summarize, the date was fantastic. Since I knew the likelihood of ever seeing him again was low, I tried to avoid the “interview” date approach, which is terrible regardless of the situation. I just enjoyed his company and went with it. It proved that sometimes you can enjoy yourself without knowing every single detail. Just order a cocktail and the rest will figure itself out. This is a date, not brain surgery (although some are so awful I would prefer to be under anesthesia). Will was a very interesting person, full of surprises; the biggest being that he was exactly (if not better) as I imagined him to be based on his profile. The only disappointment was that I will likely never see him again. Isn’t there a quote in Casablanca? We’ll always have Vegas…I mean Paris?
In summary, I had an incredible time in Vegas. The visit gave me a new lens in which to interpret situations. Hopefully, you’ll get something out of my “Lessons” or at least you enjoyed reading them. Also, if you find yourself in Vegas, check out my recommendations below.
Bar: Whiskey Down
Location: MGM Grand
What to Order: An extra spicy Bloody Mary or The Down Home Punch (Woodford Reserve MGM Select Barrel Bourbon, White Peach, Fresh Mint, Lemon, Tea)
Helpful Tip: The lounge chairs are super comfy. Also, don’t try to bring in outside food, Brienne did and she was scolded – no croissants!
Bar: Double Helix Wine & Whiskey Lounge (do you notice a theme?)
Location: The Shoppes at the Palazzo
What to Order: Feature “winetails” that mix liquor with wine – the Pear Winetini is fantastic (Prosecco, Pear Vodka and St. Germain)
Helpful Tip: Happy Hour Daily from 3-6PM = ½ price featured beer and wine; also a Foursquare check-in special!
Restaurant: Charlie Palmer Steak
Location: Four Seasons
What to Order: “Cut of the Week” Pre Fixe Menu is $48 per person (5:30pm to 10:00pm) and gets you: salad, entrée, two sides and dessert and a bottomless wine pairing (a white and a red)
Helpful Tip: Ask for Tony to be your server, he is a classically trained wine pourer!
Buffet: Wicked Spoon
What to Order: “Taste everything, eat nothing” – Someone smart
Helpful Tip: Explore everything at the buffet first before you pick up one item – this way you can have a strategy and eat food in an order that makes sense. At one point, I had Chinese food next to Eggs Benedict and Meatballs. I was a hot mess.