A SURPRISE IN LAS VEGAS

As I said in my last post, for my last full day in Las Vegas before I went back to the cold of New York City, the plan was to visit as many casino hotels as possible and take in everything else happening in Las Vegas for that weekend.

Not only were hockey players invading the home of the Vegas Golden Knights, T Mobile Arena, but over at Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders football team, the NFL All Star game, the Pro Bowl, had football players invading Las Vegas also.

It was the first time in sports history that two sports leagues were having their all star games in the same city, and not only was Las Vegas more than ready for it, the Sports Diva was in her element.

This is what I came for, to see all the hockey goings on in town.

I didn’t go to the Fan Fest on Friday because I was trying to rush back to my hotel in Downtown Las Vegas and pack for a 6am flight the next day.

Plus I wanted to see my favorite part of any sports all star game.

Not the all Star game itself, but the festivities before like the Home Run Derby in Baseball, The Slam Dunk and 3 Point Contest in Basketball and in hockey, Fastest Skater, Hardest Shot, Most Accurate Shooter, Mascots Dance Off and the Breakaway Competition in which players from the different teams come up with creative ways to score on the goaltender .

As for the football all star skills competition, nope, sorry not a fan of that.

Anyway, as I said, I had plans for Friday.

My Vegas Golden Knights friends had other plans for me.

My friend LB: “Jo Ann where are you now?”

“I’m just walking into Resorts World now.”

My friend LB: “Lisa and I are staying at Park MGM.”

Park MGM Hotel and Casino are across the street from T Mobile Arena, but I figured we were going to watch the Skills Competition from the girls room.

“Okay, I was going back downtown to my hotel and watch the Skills Competition.”

My friend LB:”Lisa has an extra ticket to the Skills Competition, you wanna go?”

I didn’t know if half of Las Vegas Boulevard could hear me screaming, but the Sports Diva screamed as though one of her teams had just won the championship or something.

Oh hell yeah, I wanted to go.

Packing could wait, the Sports Diva had a hockey All Star Skills Competition to go to.

Need I mention that LB and Lisa are Vegas Golden Knights seasons tickets holders so we sat in their seats watching the mascots act the fool with fans, dancing with the Vegas Bellas, who are the showgirls who preform at Golden Knights games.

The mascot dance off was won by the Pacific Division mascots from Vancouver, Los Angeles,Anaheim, San Jose and of course, Chance from Las Vegas, who did a routine with the showgirls to a song by The Weekend, “Blinded By The Lights.” Very appropriate for Vegas if you ask me.

The Metropolitan Conference mascots, led by Gritty from Philadelphia, Sparky The Dragon from The New York Islanders, Iceburgh, the Pittsburgh Penguins mascot, and The Eagle from the Washington Capitals, came in second dancing to The Harlem Shuffle.

Outside of the Fastest Skater and Hardest Shot Competition, which was won by Jordan Kyrou of the St. Louis Blues (and really is one of the fastest skaters I have ever seen and I’ve seen some pretty fast hockey skaters in my time)and Victor Hedman of the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, everyone was waiting for the Breakaway Competition.

The event was won by Alex Pietrangelo of the home town VGK, but even the Vegas fans were booing this decision.

Like me, they thought it should have gone to Trevor Zegras of the Anaheim Ducks, who shot into the net blindfolded while the mascots threw dodgeballs at him.

It could have even gone to Alex Debrincat from the Chicago Blackhawks, who dressed like Alan from the movie The Hangover.

You can’t get any more Las Vegas than that.

Debrincat brought the house down when he came out with Derek Carr, the quarterback of the Las Vegas Raiders who threw a football , which Debrincat caught and then shot it into the net.

It got really crazy when the All Stars were announced and the loudest boos weren’t for players from the Los Angeles Kings or San Jose Sharks, the rivals of the VGK, no it was reserved for Tom Wilson of the Washington Capitals, who believe it or not is the second most hated man in hockey.

After the competition was over, it was time for me to go get something to eat and finally pack because the shuttle van was coming to take me to the airport at 3:30am.

I always love my 30 Plus Teams Tours of Las Vegas, but this one was really good and what a surprise.

Youpi and SpartaCat, the Ottawa Senators mascot, meeting the crowd
Blades the bear, the Boston Bruins mascot

NHL FAN FEST AND A HISTORY LESSON PART ONE

This was one, no the main reason why the Sports Diva did a 30 Plus Teams Tour of Las Vegas.

Usually my trips to Las Vegas are twice a year, February and June.

This year there was a real reason to go to Vegas at this time and it had NOTHING to do with gambling.

If you know the Sports Diva, you know that my mottos are, “Staying home is NOT an option”, and my favorite one, “Have a hockey team, will travel.”

Las Vegas does have a hockey team, the Vegas Golden Knights and from February 4-5, they and the city of Las Vegas hosted the NHL All Star game and Fan Fest, which was at the Las Vegas Convention Center and ran from Thursday February 3 until Sunday February 6.

The All Star game was on Saturday February 5, but by the time it came on at 4pm, Eastern time, the Sports Diva was back in New York City.

The Skills Competition has always been my favorite but more about it in another post.

I was ready for two days at convention center for Fan Fest.

It didn’t happen, I only ended up seeing one day of Fan Fest, but that was okay by me.

It was fun seeing all things hockey, including the antics of the mascots from many of the teams including the host mascot, Chance, who is a lizard or as they call them in Nevada, Gila Monsters.

What I didn’t expect, though, was a history lesson on hockey.

The first exhibit as you walked into the west hall of the convention center past the banners of all 32 NHL teams was the exhibit showing the contribution to hockey by not just blacks but women and Native Americans (or First Nations, as they’re refered to in Canada as well.)

I saw names of players that I remembered watching over the years and players that I didn’t even know were black or Indigenous.

I wish this exhibit had been bigger or had as long a line as the line to see the Stanley Cup did.

PICTURES FROM LAS VEGAS POST CORONAVIRUS

No matter what time of the year you come to Vegas, things change.

What you saw the last time you were in town is no longer there.

It’s been replace by something else and something more spectacular that you can’t even believe, and it’s right in front of you.

That’s Vegas.

Take your time looking at these pictures from Bellagio, Planet Hollywood, New York New York , Paris and The Strat among others.

CROSSING ANOTHER THING OFF MY BUCKET LIST

Covid what Covid? Vegas is back and while it’s optional to wear masks in some places, others say if you’ve been fully vaccinated, you don’t need to wear one.

If you haven’t been fully vaccinated, you need that mask.

Now how do they know who’s been vaccinated and who hasn’t, that’s another story.

With mask in hand, my cousin and I decided to cross something off my bucket list.

Riding on that big wheel that’s known as the High Roller.

Now let’s not get it twisted.

The High Roller is NOT a ferris wheel.

It’s an OBSERVATION WHEEL, and it’s the tallest in the United States, if not the world coming in at 650 feet tall.

The difference between a ferris wheel and the High Roller is that a ferris wheel stops to let passengers get on.

The High Roller doesn’t.

It goes slow enough to let people on WHILE it’s moving.

Scary right?

Now if you have a thing about heights like I do, you’re going to be really surprised as your pod, (and that’s what the individual cars are called,pods.)slowly rises to the top.

How do you know when you’re at the top?

This is Vegas people. There’s a narrator counting down like it’s New Year’s Eve and says ,”Congratulations we’re at the top!”

Now it seems that it didn’t take long to get to the top because the ride is so smooth.

I paid $33 for a ride in the daytime.

I understand that it’s more spectacular at night, but seeing the Bellagio Fountains , Caesars Palace and other places, I was pretty impressed with the High Roller in the daytime too.

Would I go on it again?

Oh you betcha!

CHEAP EATS AT LA SALSA CANTINA

A lot of buffets in Las Vegas still haven’t opened and many of the restaurants are expensive and stop serving breakfast at 11am.

Now a lot of us don’t come to Vegas to eat at McDonald’s for breakfast, but we will go into Denny’s, no lie.

For the five days that I was there, I ate at a place that was recommended by YouTubers who go to Vegas a lot and Las Vegas Facebook groups.

It’s called La Salsa Cantina and it’s located in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino.

Like most places in Las Vegas lately, you have to wait in line to get a table.

The wait seems to take forever but once you get in, believe me the food is worth the wait.

The breakfast special, which includes 2 eggs anyway you want them, a choice of ham, bacon and sausage with potatoes, and either Texas Toast, flour or corn tortilla, is under $5.

They even have 99 cents Bloody Marys and for $4.95 you can get what they call breakfast cocktails, Mimosas, Baileys and Coffee or Bellinis to name a few.

The first two times I went, I had Bloody Marys. Strong but not too strong.

My last day there, Mimosas.

As much as I love the Vegas buffets, I think I’ve found a new breakfast spot in town, La Salsa Cantina

BACK AT THE EXCALIBUR HOTEL AND CASINO

The last time I stayed in this hotel which is between the Luxor and New York New York Casino was in March 2020 right before you know who came.

I decided to stay here again for my 2021 30 Plus Teams Tour of Las Vegas.

Now I didn’t get that great rate that I got at Bally’s, but since Excalibur is part of the MGM Properties, as a member of the MLife Players Club, I was able to get a good rate for my stay, which was Wednesday June 23 until Friday morning, June 25.

(Yeah, the Sports Diva plays the slots a lot in Vegas and Atlantic City, which also has MGM and Caesars Properties, don’t judge me!)

I had requested a room in the older, Resort Room section of the hotel.

When I arrived, I did what a lot of people do when they come to Vegas.

I asked if there were any complimentary upgrades on rooms.

All they could say was no, right?

The front desk clerk said she would check and five minutes later, I was moved to one of the newer rooms in the Royal Tower, all the way on the 24th floor, with double beds.

I had a nice view of not only Mandalay Bay and Luxor Hotel Casinos, but Las Vegas McCarran Airport, where I could watch the planes take off and land, and a partial view of Allegiant Stadium, home of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders.

Being the Sports Diva, you know I was happy to see something sports related.

This was a 30 Plus Teams Tour anyway, right?

The bed was nice and comfy.

My only complaint was unlike my stay at Bally’s a few nights before, there was no refrigerator in the room.

You just know another 30 Plus Teams Tour of Las Vegas is going to come, God willing.

If I can get a good or even a great rate, I’ll be making another visit to Excalibur.

STAYING AT BALLY’S HOTEL AND CASINO FOR THE FIRST TIME

Usually when I come to Las Vegas for a 30 Plus Teams Tour, I stay downtown at either Four Queens or the Las Vegas Hostel for a few days then I go to another hotel, more often than not, Excalibur.

This trip was different.

I stayed on the Las Vegas Strip, right in the center of things at Bally’s Hotel and Casino, which is connected to the Paris Hotel and not far from the Flamingo, Linq, Planet Hollywood, Bellagio and Caesars Palace.

To say that it was located in the center of everything would be an understatement.

It is.

This was my first time staying at Bally’s and as a member of Ceasar’s Rewards, I got a not good, but great room deal for the three days that I stayed there.

(You can’t beat $10 a night really. That’s how much I paid and had a double room, not a king sized bed like I had requested.)

My cousin and I were in the middle of everything and we pretty much walked every where, including to T Mobile Arena to see a Vegas Golden Knights Stanley Cup playoff game(which they lost but more about that in another post.)

Even though Vegas is somewhat open, some places require you to wear a mask.

However, while at the pool, one wasn’t required.

The pool at Bally’s was nice and not too crowded, which was great because the temperature was 105 degrees and the water felt oh so nice.

Because I got in so late, I didn’t have to wait to check into my room, which was on the 8th floor.

I had a very nice view, or at least I thought I did.

Good rate, bad rate, or great rate, I think Bally’s is going to be added to the list of hotels that I’m going to stay at when I come to Las Vegas

WHERE I AM

This isn’t a long blog post today because just too much is going on.

Will talk about my flight on Jet Blue in another post.

But right now where did my suitcases and I end up?

Some people guessed Miami, others Los Angeles.

The answer is a place that I hadn’t been to in a year.

VEGAS BABY!

They’ll be lots of craziness going on because the Vegas Golden Knights are in the Stanley Cup hockey semifinals and you just know that Sports Diva just has to be there, even if I don’t go to a game at TMobile Arena.

Enjoy my journey, it’s gonna be “lit”

CUTTING DOWN THE BUCKET LIST

Of all the 136 things left to do on my bucket list, this is one of the things that I really wanted to do more than anything else.

No, it’s not seeing Mount Rushmore, Pearl Harbor, the Grand Canyon or Hoover Dam.

It wasn’t even taking a ride on the High Roller in Las Vegas or a ride on all the streetcars in New Orleans.

It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for three years, but for some reason, never got the chance.

On March 1, I finally got the chance to do number 115 on my list.

Going to a Vegas Golden Knights hockey game.

From the moment you enter the building affectionately known as ‘The Fortress’, the TMobile Arena, which is located right behind New York New York Hotel and Casino and right next door to Park MGM, you get the feeling that you’re in for something completely different than any sporting event that you’ve ever been to.

It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting behind the glass, the benches, high up in the nose bleed seats or like me, watching the game from Hyde TMobile Arena, located on the very top of the arena, you can see all of the action going on down on the ice.

Hyde does have standing room, but if you get there early enough, you can sit next to your closest friends on couches.

There’s big screen tv’s where you watch the action as well if you can’t get close enough to the seats near the ice.

This is Vegas, peeps.

You’re going to get a little entertainment while watching the NHL’s newest team.

It might be the DJ spinning tunes up at Hyde between periods, members of the Cirque Du Solei performing on the ice between periods, the Vegas Vivas, the team cheerleaders taking pictures with fans before, during and after the game, Chance, the team mascot entertaining the crowd with his antics or even the team announcer, who whips up VGK Nation into a frenzy BEFORE the game starts.

I have been a hockey fan since 1967 and I have never experienced anything like I saw in Las Vegas.

It didn’t even matter that the team lost to their rivals, the Los Angeles Kings, that night.

I was finally happy after three years crossing seeing a Vegas Golden Knights game off my bucket list.

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