During my brief hiatus from blogging, I did receive a few actual questions, so let's get right to it...
Question #1 - "When will this weather pattern break?" (from multiple sources)
Answer - Never. It will be like this forever.
Question #2 - "All this damn bowling that you do, do you ever win anything?" (from My-Sugar-Na, West Allis, WI)
Answer - That's a great question! Thanks for asking.
Lately, I've had some success in team tournaments.
On February 28, I bowled with (Sponsor's Name Here)'s Official Son, Mitten (on the right) and his UW-Oshkosh teammate Double Paw (center) to win the Oshkosh Trios at Oshkosh Lanes in Oshkosh, WI.
Then on April 6, I joined four others (and the sponsor, CHiP, who didn't pay the entry or buy us really nifty matching shirts, but he did buy two drinks, so that's kinda cool) to win the 1st Annual Sussex Bowl Team tournament at Sussex Bowl in Sussex, WI.
I'm bowling this in two weeks... I seem to win a tournament every five weeks, so I will be due.
(Side note; on the drive to Sussex Bowl my buddy The Dealer said he had recently had two huge bowling series and listened to one particular song both times. He played it in the car, and my team won the tournament. I may have to have it play continuously on my four hour flight to Reno.)
Question #3 - "My wife and I are taking our first real vacation in a long time, and will be going to Las Vegas and the Phoenix area (for Spring Training in 2015). We haven't been to Vegas in 30 years and understand you go quite often. What hotels, restaurants and sites can you recommend? We wish to stay on the Strip, visit Downtown for a day/evening, and won't be renting a car. Gambling is not a big concern, so staying at a hotel/casino is not highly important." (Reader John from New Berlin, WI)
Answer - Las Vegas can be big and overwhelming, and you did a great service to yourself to ask for some assistance. Based on the parameters you offered, I've got some ideas:
Non-gaming, Strip hotels - The building boom of 2006-2008 seemed like a great idea at the time. Corporations would build big, elegant condominium towers and high rollers would flock to them. Then right upon completion, the market busted, many went unsold and became hotels.
Using March 6, 2015 for three nights as a starting point (and checking availability through each website), The Signature at MGM Grand and Vdara at City Center offer reasonable prices ($400 to $500 total for the three days). Since these are newish properties, they should be pretty, um, new. If over the course of the next six months or so you gage pricing, two other highly rated hotels, the Trump Tower and Elara (behind Planet Hollywood) are also good options. You won't go wrong with any of these four.
Hotel/Casinos on the Strip - You could stay for about $50 a night at some of the lower-end properties like Circus Circus, Excalibur, Stratosphere or Riviera, though I would only recommend those for someone to whom room quality is of no real concern... and if you choose one of these, consider the order I listed them. But costs vary so much depending on what events are in town, the location and the whims of computer occupancy algorithms that recommending one would be impossible. Once you have a handful of hotels that fit whatever criteria you are looking for, just check your websites (Expedia, Kayak, etc) with regularity and track costs.
Here is a list of all Strip hotel/casinos, roughly broken into four categories at my discretion. The higher the tier, the higher the average cost...
High end - Encore, Wynn, Venetian, Palazzo, Caesars Palace, Cromwell, Bellagio, Cosmopolitan, Aria, Four Seasons (within Mandalay Bay).
In between - SLS, Treasure Island, Mirage, Paris, Planet Hollywood, Hotel 32 (within Monte Carlo), MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay.
Good value and not embarrassing - Stratosphere, Harrah's, Flamingo, Bally's, Monte Carlo, New York New York, Tropicana.
El cheapos (doesn't disqualify, but I wouldn't brag about staying there) - Circus Circus, Riviera, Best Western Casino Royale, The Quad (unless renovations are done by next spring), Excalibur, Luxor.
For location information (I listed them from north to south) consult this map.
Last comment on hotels, most (but not all) charge a "Resort Fee" of $20ish per night on top of the quoted room rate (in other words, if they say $199 a night, it is really about $219 per night). It's retarded, but that's the way it is. Here are a couple of websites I've found for checking Vegas hotels (and again, this is by no means a complete list); SmarterVegas.com, VegasUnzipped and TravelVegas.com. When you find a rate that you like on one of these sites, contact the hotel directly and see if they will match (or beat) the price. Lots of good reasons why it is better to book directly with the property, the biggest is that the consolidators charge you full price upfront, and changes and cancellations are almost non-existent.
Restaurants - With a little research, it is very hard to go wrong on this subject. Almost every property listed has been upgrading food choices (including most having gourmet burgers, gourmet pizza sold by the slice and at least one restaurant with a celebrity chef name attached) in an effort to make sure you never, ever leave the property.
On a follow-up conversation, you mentioned that both you and your wife like steak (atta boy!) and that it doesn't need to cost $75 each. Steakhouse options are almost as varied as hotels are, so here are a few hand-picked suggestions...
Gordon Ramsay Steak (Inside Paris) - Say what you will about his TV persona, this is a Class A steakhouse. The decor is trendy, but the steak is phenomenal. I have eaten here and I can't wait to go back. As good as the steaks were, I've been told to save room for the Sticky Toffee Pudding and French Press coffee service for dessert (which we neglected to do). Apparently it is to die for.
Circus Circus Steakhouse - The hotel and casino are much maligned (though the hotel did have a large scale renovation a couple of years ago) but this steakhouse is highly rated (including by me). This place includes salad and potato with the meal while most others offer a la carte sides. Very good steak and possibly the best value steak on the strip.
Charlie Palmer Steak (Inside Mandalay Bay) - I would consider this just another nice steakhouse if not for their Cut of the Week. Each week they offer a specific menu for $48 per person. For example, last week was a spinach salad, bone-in strip steak, Swiss chard, parmesan potatoes gratin, key lime semifreddo and unlimited wine pairing.
I give up on the Strip - There are so many, at so many price points. Just read this.
Andiamo Steakhouse (Inside The D) - Downtown makes its first appearance in this post. I skipped over it in the hotel section because of your stated interest in the Strip, but Andiamo's is one of the highest rated steakhouses downtown. It is an "Italian Steakhouse" so if you aren't in the mood for a slab of meat, they have other elegant offerings.
Triple George Grill - This is a freestanding restaurant a block or so off of Fremont Street downtown. Another highly rated restaurant that serves more than steaks, and is a good option if downtown and not interested in hanging around a casino.
As I said before, you can't go wrong at most restaurants in Strip hotels, and you can drive yourself crazy trying to preplan. But let me throw three personal favorites at you...
Mon Ami Gabi (Inside Paris) - This is a French restaurant and I only dined there for breakfast. But it is one of a growing number of restaurants with outdoor seating on the Strip. Great for people watching, and just a neat atmosphere to eat some French food. (Side note; there are more and more outdoor dining options. This wins because of the menu).
Todd English's Olives (Inside Bellagio) - Ditto Mon Ami Gabi, but in Italian. Patio is in full view of the Bellagio water fountains.
Stuff to do - You mentioned that you didn't plan on renting a car, so a couple of things you might enjoy would include the fountains and the conservatory at the Bellagio, the Shark Reef at the Mandalay Bay and Fremont Street (and the entire Fremont Street Experience in the evening) downtown. A reasonable cab ride from downtown will get you to the Neon Museum and Neon Boneyard.
And if you decide to rent a car anyway, a drive through Red Rock Canyon is only about a dozen miles west of the Strip and offers a driving tour of the sandstone mountain range with multiple opportunities to get out and walk around. Also towards Hoover dam would be a tourist cruise on Lake Mead.
That's my Vegas (well, I do play cards once in a while). Just remember three things and you'll be fine; (1) If you have an iPhone, pay the couple of bucks and download the VegasMate app, (2) buy a portable phone battery charger... those things are lifesavers so that your phone doesn't run out and you need to text your coach, and (3) don't ever... EVER... play blackjack that pays $6 on a blackjack instead of $7.50. Those who play are ruining Vegas for the rest of us.
Here's your homework assignment, John; obsess over Vegas Chatter, VegasTripping, Vegas Message Board, Las Vegas Advisor and (you will have to have a Facebook account to do this, but I will continue to drag you into the 21st Century so you may as well) join the Five Hundy By Midnight and Vegas for Beginners groups.
Question #4 - "Does anybody read your soccer blog" (Weasel from Mukwonago, WI)
Answer - Yes, but its not a soccer blog. I talk about bowling and Las Vegas, too.