Tuesday, November 29, 2016

#VegasHalloween (day 2): Costumes aren't just for kids

One of the benefits of staying for several nights in Vegas is that you don't have to cram 10 pounds of flour into the proverbial five-pound sack.

Having limited sleep the night before I flew out to Vegas, and then staying up past 3 a.m. Vegas time during my first night in Sin City, I was plenty tired. I vowed not to get up for breakfast or hang with the group. Despite the fact I could have used about 12 hours of sleep, I couldn't sleep much past 9 a.m., so I turned on the TV and watched random channels until 10 a.m., when "The Price is Right" came on. Yeah, I watch TPIR some mornings on vacation. My normal Mondays are very hectic, so laying in bed and watching a game show felt like vacation to me.

We had a definite plan for our Halloween afternoon. We were heading to the High Roller. But before we did that we were going to Ellis Island for lunch. My group was going to be introduced to their cafe, and since two of us had Las Vegas Advisor coupon books, we split into two groups, as I assumed they wouldn't honor two coupons at the same table. Irony, all five of us ordered the same meal, the 50-50 burger: half beef, half bacon. Damn delicious.

We didn't gamble much at Ellis Island that afternoon, but I made everyone get a player's card, as we had both LVA and American Casino Guide coupons beckoning us with free play. Nobody realized a big payday that afternoon, but I walked out of there $15 ahead for my effort. I never play to win a car payment at Ellis Island, so I'm happy pocketing a few bucks for my time.

Before heading to the High Roller we had to find a local Halloween shop or Party City store so that the group could pick up a few odds and ends for that night. Everybody brought a costume, but green hair spray wasn't going to fly in Jon's carry on bag, and he managed to travel without checking a suitcase. I flew Southwest, so I had a regular suitcase and a full-size carry on bag, at no additional cost. I looked like Imelda Marcos compared to my friends when we were loading up the SUV on Thursday morning.

We found both a Party City and a temporary Halloween store next to each other, on Maryland Avenue, I believe. They were easy enough to get to, and easy enough to leave when it came time to head to the High Roller.

I stressed a few things before our trip. I didn't plan a daily itinerary, but I had a few activities in mind. I thought the High Roller would be a fun group activity, and something special to do on Halloween afternoon. We chose the bar car, naturally. Trista and I pre-purchased our tickets in early September. Travelzoo had a deal on afternoon bar car tickets: Two for $35. That was a good deal, and we waited until the last day of the deal to order them. Magically Travelzoo offered a bonus discount on the last day of the deal cycle, $10 off a purchase. So we bought two pair of afternoon bar car tickets for $25 per pair. That's $12.50 per person... heck of a deal.

At one point we thought there were going to be six of us on the trip, so it would have worked out beautifully if Joe or Mike had taken my advice and purchased a pair of tickets in September. They didn't. And since our trip wound up being five people, I purchased one discounted bar car ticket on Halloween and Joe and Mike split the cost of my extra $12.50 ticket and the far less discounted Halloween day ticket. Their tickets ended up costing them $22.50 each, which is still a great deal.

I had been on the High Roller twice, both times at night. So it was my first afternoon spin through the air. It turns out they run fewer bar cars during the day. I'm not sure there was more than one in play that afternoon. Besides our group there were seven others waiting for the bar car to reach the loading platform. I think we waited for more than 15 minutes. I was surprised at first, but given how tepid the afternoon attendance is, it made sense. We saw a few regular cars pass by the loading platform with two people in them, and a few that had no passengers.

I had hoped that we'd end up with a bar car all to ourselves, but from past experience I've found that a group of 10-12 works pretty well. Once an initial round of drinks is poured you rarely have to wait more than a few seconds for the next drink. I had at least six drinks during our trip, and I needed to slow down near the end since I was our driver and I planned to take a can of beer with me when it came time to exit the bar car. So my last mixed drink was Diet Pepsi with a tiny splash of Jack Daniels. Joe thought that was funny.

You'll love the view from the High Roller.

High Roller trivia: If memory serves me correct, we learned there are 28 cabins on the wheel. Trista and I also bet whether or not there was a cabin 13. I didn't think so. She won $5.

I'd like to think three trips on the High Roller is enough, but if I can get daytime tickets for $12.50 again some day, I'll be back.

Following the High Roller it was time to head back to the Plaza and get ready for Halloween.

I've been a member of one Vegas online forum or another for years. I don't go out of my way for meet and greets for a few reasons, but I have met a few people in Vegas through my online networking during the last several years. On Halloween 2011 I started my day by meeting up with a handful of people at El Cortez, and I've kept in touch with one of the guys occasionally. We even met up a second time a couple of years ago for an hour.

There's something about Vegas that brings out a communal spirit in many of us. I suspect there's a similar online community surrounding the Disney theme parks. I know there are plenty of online forums and resources out there for Disney fans. Do you think fans of San Antonio, New Orleans or Key West share the same sort of online kinship?

I mention this because a bunch of folks associated with the Facebook group "Everything Las Vegas" were gathering at 5 p.m. in a suite at the Plaza. I'm not known by these folks, and I don't have a lot to contribute to their discussions, but I do chime in now and then. I wouldn't have gone out of my way to track this group down on Halloween, but given the fact they were gathering in the same hotel tower I was, I wanted to stop in and say hello. I had anticipated returning to the Plaza by 5 p.m., but by the time we got back it was after 5:30. That left me 20 minutes to make a cameo, so I did, and talked to several people whose names I forgot.

I talked to a few people from the Midwest, including a guy from Madison, Wisconsin, and two women. I don't recall if both of them were from Canada, but at least one of them was, and she was from Fort Frances, Ontario, across the border from International Falls, Minnesota, where I had lived 20 years ago. Not exactly a "small world" occurrence, but amusing to me.

I also briefly met the evening's host, Michelle, and Nicki, who is a somewhat frequent contributor to the Facebook group. Nicki had no idea who I was, naturally, but I knew who she was, and had to say hello and give her a hug like I was an old friend. I have no idea how awkward that was for her, but I'll chalk it up to the High Roller cocktails.

The ELV folks headed out to Fremont Street at 6 p.m., many in costume, and I headed to my room to put my costume on before meeting up with my friends and hitting Fremont ourselves.

Fremont gets rather congested on Halloween, even when it's on a weeknight. Lots of people parade under the canopy in costume, and there are lots of pictures being taken. I swear Halloween 2016 was busier than Halloween 2011, but perhaps not. Those 2011 memories are obviously vague.

I haven't been in Vegas for Halloween the past couple of years because it has fallen on a weekend and I've been working at my Minnesota haunted attraction. I've never done anything particularly spectacular on a Halloween night in Minnesota, but it's warm enough in Vegas to enjoy the evening without bundling up, and there's always a party on Fremont Street. If you enjoy the pageantry of Halloween, Vegas will provide plenty of free entertainment. I can't recommend it enough, and certainly plan on returning in 2017.

As for my costume, I portrayed a classic pro wrestler, as depicted below. And no, I wasn't Hulk Hogan.

When "Macho Man" Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan wrestled as a tag team, they were known as the Mega Powers.
The group walked around for a while, took a break at the Main Street Station brew pub for late night munchies and then returned to Fremont for more Halloween hijinks. I regret that I didn't take more photos or better video of the ridiculousness, but here's a sample of the frivolity:

Click here for day 3. 

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