I’ve lived in LA for almost three years now. Until last week, I had never made the trip to Las Vegas. Seems crazy, right? I intended to go about a year ago, but something life-changing happened at the same time– I got sober.
After three days of painful detox at home, quitting drinking was easy for me. I think of it as a preventative measure more than an act of desperation. Still, it’s not a lifestyle I intend to go back to anytime soon. So when my sober friends suggested I stay away from Vegas for awhile, I took them seriously. Ten months into my sobriety, I felt ready.
[Pardon the gaps in text. They’re videos from my Instagram, which is for followers only.]
Much like AA, my trip to Vegas is not a one size fits all program. I don’t live the life of a “traditional alcoholic,” if there even is such a thing. I feel comfortable in bars, and have to be in them anyway to perform stand up comedy. I also go out dancing a lot in clubs. So if you’re triggered by being around alcohol, some of these suggestions aren’t for you. All I can offer are my personal experiences. Hopefully they’ll help someone in some way, but either way I had a blast.
What got me to finally make the 300-mile trip? A favorite non-drinker of mine, Kim Kardashian. Yes, all of my friends hate her. Most of the people reading this probably hate her– or at least pretend to. It was clear that this would have to be a solo trip.
Kim K was to DJ for the first time on Friday at Hakkasan. I took the term “DJ” with a grain of salt. Either way it would be cool to see her in person.
I’d never taken a solo trip, but I had moved to two large cities without ever visiting, or knowing anyone there. (To wit, Honolulu and Los Angeles.) Perhaps a solo trip was just business as usual. Still, I thought I might stand out as rather sad and lonely. Who goes to Vegas alone– a very alcohol-addicted Nicolas Cage character, and Rachel Knight. I would just have to make do.
Kim K provided the timeline, but I had another reason for wanting to go to Vegas. I needed an emotional reset button. A change of scenery might jumpstart my productivity when I got back. The day before I left, my therapist told me, “the desert can be cleansing.” I was counting on it.
When & Where
Given the date of Kim’s appearance, I would need to stay over the weekend. This greatly increases costs in LV. I used Hotel Tonight to book a room as close to last minute as I was comfortable with. (Incidentally, you can use the code KNIGHT7878 to get $25 off a room you book on HT.) I could’ve saved a lot of money by booking a new hotel each day, but the last thing I wanted to do after dancing all night was wake up for an 11 AM check out! I booked my stay on Wednesday night, for Thursday through Sunday. It was $120/night for a King suite at the four star hotel Tropicana. The other decent hotel in my price range was the three-star Egyptian themed Luxor, and from what I hear I made the right choice.
Is it the typical haunt for a young clubber? No, which is part of why I chose it. I crashed around 7 am every “night,” so I didn’t want a bunch of revelers roaming around the hallways keeping me up. Besides, it’s nice to be the young hip one in the room! Or that’s what I told myself as I walked back each morning, in club attire, past senior citizens in the brightly-lit casino.
The Tropicana seems to be rebranding itself to appeal to a younger crowd. Even if it gets loud and raucous, I’d stay there again. The South Beach-style decor was lovely. It made for a very serene atmosphere.
Comfortable with gambling? Great, me too. I don’t have a lot of disposable income, especially after travel costs, so I had to be smart about it. If you really want to get an edge on the house, play Blackjack. I have zero experience with gambling, so I needed something that took literally no skill: slots. It’s the game with the biggest house advantage, but you can up your chances if you know where to look. Luckily the Tropicana has the best slot chances on the strip. Playing downtown will give you an edge as well.
Since my audience includes people with addictive personalities, I have to speak the obvious: there’s no guarantee in gambling. As a wise old Lyft driver told me during my trip, “Don’t play to win. Play to have fun.”
I started with $40, made nothing at MGM, and took my remaining funds over to Tropicana. I made a $100 profit, cashed out, and gained an additional $10 profit whilst downtown. My advice? Cash out as soon as you make a profit, or at least quit before the profit is gone. On nearly every machine I played, I made a profit, then made a larger profit, then it slowly dwindled away.
Next time I’ll try games with a smaller house advantage, and hope that my beginner’s luck continues. Either way, play well below your means at all times.
Since clubs are often free to get into, my biggest expense was food. Not going to lie, I took my $150 winnings and sank it right into room service. The house always wins. The only way to get by on little to no sleep and a lot of dancing is to snack in the room while getting ready for the next night out. I regret nothing. If you’re staying at the Tropicana, I recommend the burger and chicken tenders. Granted, those are difficult meals to get wrong, but the sauce with the tenders was the best I’ve ever had.
Since I was in Vegas, I had to check out some buffets. I’m very picky when it comes to cuts of beef and how they’re cooked, so I had some trepidation. Steak night at Paradise Buffet did not disappoint, nor did the prime rib at Paris Las Vegas’ Le Village buffet. (Try saying that sentence aloud.)
The best option at Le Village has got to be their made-to-order crepes. I sampled a few, and Le Singe (“the monkey”) was the clear winner. Oozing chocolate with thick banana slices and candied hazelnuts– how can you beat that? I recommend going for breakfast if you’re mostly in it for the crepes, though the line is shorter if you get them at dinner. Yes, I went for both meals. I am unashamed.
Nightlife, 24 hours a day
Getting into clubs for free is easy. Just use a Las Vegas-themed hashtag on any social media site, and promoters will line up to give you their number. Being a woman, that feels like a double edged sword. Yes, it’s preferential treatment for “females,” but it’s mainly for the sake of men. I’ll leave it at that. A post about partying in Las Vegas is not the time for my thesis on feminism. And don’t worry guys, you will usually find ways to get in for free as well.
Some promoters use automated systems, and don’t give you all the information you need. Find one who works for you and stick with them.
On my first day, I figured I’d hit up Wet Republic. Clearly, a lot of what I know about Vegas I learned from Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Again, unashamed.
The promoter who “got me in” gave me the wrong time frame for free entry, so I ended up paying $10. The first bouncer I talked to said $30. I’m not saying you should second guess gatekeepers, but take that for what it is.
It was a very fun scene. The music isn’t quite as loud as it is at night clubs, so it’s a decent place for a solo tripper to talk with new people. I was promptly joined by three English guys on vacation. At first one of them tried to buy me drinks despite my insistence on not touching alcohol. I said, “pushy guys aren’t sexy.” That solved that. And despite my stick-in-the-mud persona, I did get to be the first American girl the cute one had ever kissed.
I was planning to switch up my nightlife, but I ended up spending both my clubbing nights at Hakkasan. Steve Aoki performed on Thursday. He has absolutely incredible energy, as I’m sure you’ve heard. He knows how to work a room, and he really utilizes audience participation. The music, of course, was phenomenal. Next time I go to Vegas I’ll spend one night elsewhere– probably Omnia or 1OAK– but it was Hakkasan’s third anniversary, so there was an amazing vibe.
On my first night, I made the mistake of wearing heels. I’m usually comfortable going out in platforms, but headliners don’t seem to take the stage until 2 AM in Vegas. My feet were dying before Steve came out. That’s when I met my club angel, Priya. She was visiting from Toronto for a bachelorette party. When I told her about my problem, she whipped out those Dr. Scholl’s flats that I had always seen around and been too stupid to buy. Priya is my club angel.
I bought my Kim K ticket in advance. I probably wouldn’t have done so if I’d known how easy it is to get on the guest list. Still, I recommend it if you have a few extra bucks. You can show up later, and you don’t have to wait in line.
It was a total mob scene when Kim entered the club. Her and Malika posed for selfies from the VIP area. I honestly still don’t know the extent to which she DJ’d, but I’ll find out more when Keeping Up With The Kardashians airs. There were cameras everywhere. I have to admit, it was nice seeing a Red Dragon somewhere other than on set. Perhaps I’ll see myself when the episode comes out. Having been an extra when I first moved out to LA, I’m very good at playing Where’s Waldo with myself.
In case there was any doubt, Kim Kardashian is a goddess in person. I don’t think there was any doubt about it– I just want everyone to know. I’m not saying that seeing her at Hakkasan was akin to the times I’ve viewed the Mona Lisa at The Louvre, but I’m not not saying that, okay? Forget the haters, you do you girl.
Viva Las Vegas
I know his legacy is complicated, but I’m a huge Elvis fan. I spent my nights getting ready to Live in Las Vegas, but that wasn’t quite enough. I loved All Shook Up at V Theater, inside Planet Hollywood. You can get a great deal on Groupon– I paid $30 for VIP seats, and discounted general admission was $20. Honestly, I would pay full price. The award-winning impersonator was extremely impressive, with very accurate vocals. The videos can’t do him justice, as his energy really made the performance.
My Cool-down Day
Partying is great, but I need a little culture in my vacations. I headed to the Neon Museum downtown. Unfortunately, my tour of the Neon Boneyard was canceled due to lightning. I still learned a lot from the displays and books inside the lobby.
To justify the trip downtown, which will set you back a bit if you call a rideshare, I took advantage of the cheap finds at Fremont Street Experience. It’s a very different vibe from the strip– a lot more casual. I wouldn’t want to stay there, but the increased gambling odds and reasonably priced food was a treat.
Since I’d been clubbing for eight hours a night and baking in the sun the rest of the time, I needed a low-key night. I walked around the Strip until my thighs bled– truth. Maybe Dr. Scholl’s should make something for that, too. Anyway, there are lots of luxury stores and cute casinos to pass through.
Sobriety in the city of sin
One would think that not drinking in Vegas would be a burden, but it’s actually an asset. Yes, drinks are free, but only if you’re spending money on gambling. Even with the exorbitant price of bottled water in clubs, you’re bound to save a lot of money. Maybe I should smuggle little bottles of water in my bra like people do with booze… please don’t tell the very intimidating bouncers that I said that.
I had an amazing time in Vegas. Not only was it fun, the change of scenery did wonders for me. I was more productive in my first few days back than I was in weeks. Granted, I had to catch up on sleep first.
Want to fund my next trip? I’m not sure why you feel that way, but I certainly appreciate it! PayPal me here. I’m thinking Mexico City– all that culture, none of the cerveza.