BurGR

My wife and I love good burgers. We thought we wouldn’t find a better burger or shake than the Burger Bar in Mandalay Bay. Well, Gordon Ramsey’s BurGR is damn close if not better. First, the service was great. The Parmesan truffle fries were some of the best fried I’ve ever had and the onion rings WERE the best I’ve ever had. 

My wife had the Hell’s Kitchen Burger and I had the Farm Burger. We both were blown away by how good our burgers were. Outstanding. I ended my meal with a coffee shake which was very good. 

So, as compared to Burger Bar, the sides were far better at BurGR. Shake was better at BB. Burgers are so close I could flip a coin. 

Only small criticism was the cost. We spent $100 on 2 burgers, two drinks, three sides& a shake. Not ridiculous but a little pricey. 

But, worth every penny. We will be back!

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What Atlantic City Can Learn From Las Vegas

It may not be fair to compare any gaming city in the world to Las Vegas let alone Atlantic City. They don’t have the lights, shows, mega-resorts or attractions that bring tourists to Sin City. However, after three trips to Atlantic City, I realized that this gaming destination could be MUCH better but suffers from a community that seems to care very little or understand that their success relies on gamblers, vacationers and tourists. Over the past five years I’ve taken tree trips to Atlantic City (2009, 2010 and 2013) and it seems with each visit either my expectations increase OR every person including casino dealers, restaurant servers, hotel staff and retail shop owners have stopped caring.

While I cannot draw an exact connection between service and revenue, I did find some interesting data on gaming revenues. According to the UNLV Center for Gaming Research (http://gaming.unlv.edu/reports.html ), the Las Vegas Strip is slowly recovering from their recession while Atlantic City continues to decline. From 2006 to 2011, Atlantic City has shown a decrease in its gaming revenue of 37% while, during the same period of time, the Las Vegas Strip has show a decrease of only %10. The Las Vegas Strip is now surpassing their totals from 2006 as Atlantic City continues to decline. Without a full analysis of number of tourists, the socio-economic class of gamblers, the impact of new casinos on the east coast (Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, etc…), the continued development and improvements in Las Vegas as compared to Atlantic City these statistics may lack some context. But, as I live only an hour away from Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, two relatively small casinos continue to expand, grow and succeed and Atlantic City fails. The differences between Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods and Atlantic City are minimal. In fact, Atlantic City has advantages that other gaming destinations don’t have. Atlantic City was the primary destination for gaming in the northeast for decades, marquee names, ocean views and history. But it is Connecticut and Pennsylvania casinos that are expanding their entertainment, dining and shopping options and are becoming known as a great weekend destination for anything from anniversary celebrations, bachelor parties or just a relaxing getaway.  Every new venture in Atlantic City seems to fails miserably (Read this.)

This article is less of an exercise in bashing Atlantic City and more of an ode to Las Vegas and the success of other casino destinations. The reason Atlantic City is failing has as much to do with their service and treatment of their guests as it does with their failure to invest in itself. My experiences in Atlantic City speak volumes to their failures as a tourist destination. While Macau (which seems to have become the premier gaming destination in the world) and Las Vegas are the “major league” of gaming destinations, Atlantic City is worse than the “minor leagues.” Connecticut, Mississippi and Pennsylvania casinos can be considered the Triple A affiliates of Las Vegas and Macau. But, Atlantic City is sometimes like a dying Division III football program (think the Mud Dogs from Adam Sandler’s “Waterboy”) or even worse, dare I say, the WBNA.

I will spare anyone who is actually reading this of a day-by-day account of each one of my trips but I’d like to share some terrible moments that just DON’T happen in a quality tourist destination and will also offer a few positive experiences I have had.

Hotel Horror- While staying at The Tropicana with a large group, we had a simple request of moving two of our guest rooms to a different floor from the other guests. After 45 minutes of being rerouted to various hotel staff members because we “came on a bus,” our request was finally granted with the words, “this better be the last change…”  I don’t think Circus Circus would even treat their guests in this manner.

While I was walking to my room, I noticed a room service tray in the hallway. I didn’t think much of it later that night as I figured whoever was staying next door to me must have ordered room service again. However, the next morning, when the odor was more noticeable, I reported it to the front desk to which they responded that they didn’t have room service after 6pm on Sunday so it wouldn’t be taken care of until Wednesday.

Cha Ching- I lost. I gambled even more than I normally do and everywhere I played, I lost. I know of a few people that did ok on the slots but no Vegas-esque stories. Tables are fine. Variety of limits with the same type of odds. If anything, the casinos aren’t terrible. The casino at Caesars is very nice but, overall, most are equivalent to TI or Bally’s.

Can I Get a Drink?- I’m a fan of good drink service in casinos as I’m sure many people are. It is something that makes a difference to me. While playing in the high rollers room and losing a good deal of money for over an hour, only once did someone ask if we wanted a drink. I was shocked. On the penny and quarter machines, the drink service was fast and continual but served in skimpy little plastic cups with a pretty raunchy attitude.

The Boardwalk- Atlantic City has the great opportunity to build a beautiful strip for tourists to walk down. But, rather than nice shops, restaurants and some type of attractions along the boardwalk, it is littered with crappy souvenir shops, shady massage parlors and unappealing food stands. With a view of the ocean and a seaside appeal, this area could be a major attraction.

Attitudes Suck- I’ve already mentioned the hotel staff above but from servers who don’t understand how to cater to a tourist when their order is wrong or the retail shop staff being curt or the dealers looking bored and unengaged, it just seems that everyone HATES what they do.  I’m sure that the buffet servers at the Seasons Buffet in Mohegan Sun, cab drivers on the strip or every black jack dealer on a $5 table at crappy casinos don’t love their jobs but most people employed in gaming destinations, especially Vegas, realize that their jobs revolve around the tourism industry. This is the major reason why I believe Atlantic City suffers. (Shout-out to the Starbucks staff at the outlets who were, by far, the nicest people in AC.)

Where Shows Go to Die- I saw Steve Wyreck in Vegas. It was the worst Vegas decision I ever made. His show was a featured house show in Atlantic City. This seems to be the overall theme of Atlantic City. I’m going to be easy on Atlantic City here as I haven’t seen any of their shows but with Legends, Beetlemania and an I Love Lucy; Live on Stage show, being the only consistently running house shows I doubt any of these shows compares to any Cirque show, Peep Show or even George Wallace.

Pay to Park- Self explanatory.

Some Good Stuff- I’ve stayed in The Tropicana twice because the rooms are actually not bad, the rates are great and they have a nice selection of games, restaurants and the location is convenient. The comps are great and I like enough about it to stay there…when it is free or close to it. My stay at the Taj Mahal was mediocre. They were nowhere near as awful as my stay at the Imperial Palace but they weren’t as good as any of my stays in Vegas including TI.

Some of the restaurants are incredibly good. I had an amazing dining experience at Michael Mina’s Seablue in The Borgotta.

The Tanger Outlets, which are across the street from the strip of casinos, is a nice shopping complex with a variety of stores.

Philadelphia is only 3o minutes away.

Caesar’s Palace is very nice. The casino feels like a Vegas casino. The shops feel like a mini version of the Forum Shops and if you head to the third floor of the shops, you can sit in beach chairs and relax in a comfortable environment with a drink or coffee with an amazing view of the ocean.

The comps pay well. After spending two nights at The Tropicana and playing as I would in Vegas, I earned over $50 in express comps, free meals and offers to return with two free nights, meals and free slot play. I can’t speak to the rewards at the other casinos.

Minor Leagues

Las Vegas was built in a dessert. Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods stand in the middle of rural Connecticut. Macau is barely 15 years old as a gaming destination. Atlantic City is wasting away its potential. This once vibrant and attractive destination continues to deteriorate. It can’t be that the northeast is short on gamblers or people looking for a fun place to spend a weekend as Pennsylvania and Connecticut are doing very well. As someone who enjoys the casino atmosphere, I wonder if Atlantic City will ever take a look at what Las Vegas or its nearby competitors have done the last ten years and invest in itself.

Read http://money.msn.com/now/post.aspx?post=93d5f57f-be2a-48e1-8591-3201172aa0c8 .

 

And the winner is…Vegas! Award Season 2013

Awards Seasos: Vegas Edition

January 27th, 2013

By Sal Rizza,

The Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmys, Grammys and, of course, the Vegas Trippies. It is awards season and Vegas awards are no exception. The people’s choice awards for Las Vegas go through VegasTripping.com where readers and Vegas fans vote, each year, on the best and worst of Vegas.  As opposed to critics, writers or columnists awards, the “trippies” are truly the people’s choice awards. Before I comment on some of the trippies’ winners, I’d like to offer some unique awards of my own.

The First Annual Vegas Expert Awards

Best TV Show, Vegas Strip- While some may select the CBS period drama “Vegas” or the History Channel’s “Pawn Stars” or “Counting Cars,” I’m going to go with the documentary style show, “Vegas Strip” on TruTV,  which  follows real Las Vegas police officers on duty addressing all kinds of crazy Vegas antics. They chase college kids after they jump into Lake Bellagio, arrest hookers with warrants and deal with many, many drunks. My favorite was a tourist from England who was completely blitzed, walking around in his underwear the morning after a major bender, and begged to be arrested because he feared the cops would jump him like he had seen on American TV.  All they wanted to do was help him get to his room.  Great Vegas entertainment!

Best Street Character, Alan from The Hangover- I love a good drunk Mickey Mouse as much as the next guy. I’ve never seen as many street characters in one place and that includes in LA and NY. The collection of Hello Kitty, Elmo, Freddy Krueger, fat Elvis’s, transformers and random super heroes annoys some and entertains others.  My favorite, by far, are the Alan Garner impersonators. I swear, I think one was Zach Galifianakis just playing games.  

Most Interesting Panhandler Sign- Let me preface this by saying that homelessness is not something to find funny nor to be made fun of. However, some of the signs that these individuals come up with can be hilarious. Some great signs include, “Why lie? I just want a beer” or “Kick me in my balls! $20!” are creative and entertaining.  My favorite is the guy I’ve seen for at least two years, in his early twenties, on different bridges (Bellagio, MGM Grand and Palazzo) with a sign that reads “I’m trying to get back home to Boston.” I just think that by now he should have been able to afford a bus ticket. If I see him in April, I may offer to buy him one. If he accepts, I’ll actually feel really good that I’ve helped him. If he refuses, I’ll recommend he get a new sign.

Best Celebrity- Steve Wynn, Andre Agassi, Carrot Top, Celine Dion, Holly Madison or Vince Neil…NO! I’m going to go with Austin Russell, otherwise known as Chumlee from Pawn Stars. This was a close call between him and Pete Rose who is always set up in the sports store at the Forum Shops. I’m going with Chumlee because he’s actually from Vegas and what you see is really what you get. I met him in October when he was signing autographs at the Gold & Silver after a taping. When I was waiting for a bus to take me back, I was talking to a guy that was also at the shop. The guy told me that he asked Chumlee to autograph a t-shirt for his father in-law who was dying of cancer. He showed me the autograph Chumlee signed which read, “To Dawn…” His father in-law’s name was Don. Gotta love Chumlee.

Worst Vegas Feeling- Hangovers suck. Losing money blows. Waiting in line for the buffet is annoying. Making the mistake of attending a timeshare presentation is excruciating. And, the cab ride back to McCarran indicating the end of another Vegas vacation is depressing. However, nothing reminds you that you’re old and uncool like being ignored by the nicely dressed, incredibly good looking, young people handing out cards to clubs like Pure, Haze and XS. It definitely feels like you’re in middle school again and you were just picked last in dodgeball (which has happened to me on several occasions) except, you don’t even get picked. Then, you walk away and tell yourself some lies like “well, maybe I’m not dressed for it,” or “maybe they didn’t see me” while you turn around and see them tracking down young guys in fedoras and fancy shoes begging them to take a card. “Not like I wanted to go anyway,” we tell ourselves.

The Trippies

Now that I’ve provided some of my own awards, here are my thoughts on some of the trippie awards…

(For a full listing, visit http://www.vegastripping.com/trippies2012/ )

Best Overall on the Strip, The Cosmopolitan– Admittedly, I haven’t spent a great deal of time in The Cosmopolitan but I have had a great meal in Scott Conant’s Scarpetta, played a slot machine for a little while, toured the casino and shops, and tried to enjoy the atmosphere. From the Chandelier Bar to the big pink shoe, the place seems like it is still searching for an identity. Does it want to be a classy place for martinis or a place for twenty-somethings to party?  I’m not sure. With The Cosmopolitan receiving nine awards, people obviously love it and critics are raving.  For an overall Vegas experience, I prefer the Bellagio.

Worst Overall on the Strip, Hooters- Well, this is tough to argue but I have to go with Circus, Circus. Both are pretty awful and the only reason I ever step foot in either is to see if they are still as bad as I recall. And, yes, they are. As opposed to Casino Royale and the Imperial Palace which, at least, have great locations both Hooters and Circus, Circus has no redeeming qualities. Where is the dynamite?

Best Buffet, The Bellagio- This year, I’ve had the opportunity to have three meals at the Bellagio Buffet and three meals at The Aria Buffet. I’m baffled as to why The Aria has revamped their buffet. The selection was great, the atmosphere was bright yet relaxing, the food was fresh and the service was outstanding. I honestly cannot say the same for The Bellagio. Granted, The Bellagio may have had more gourmet items but the service wasn’t as good, the atmosphere was a bit dark, the venue is outdated and the food didn’t seem as fresh to me.  I truly hope The Aria hasn’t changed their buffet too much but I’ll find out in April.

Best and Worst Bars- The Chandelier Bar was voted by the readers as the best bar in Vegas while the editors chose The Mandarin Bar. I completely agree with the editors on this. The view is awesome. The drinks, while pricey, are creative and incredibly good and the overall experience is quiet and classy. The readers selected Dick’s Last Resort in The Excalibur as the worst bar. Yes. Nailed it!

Best Act, Cirque Du Soleil Love at the Mirage- I could not agree with this more. As many shows as I have seen and enjoyed, I still have yet to enjoy an experience as much as this show. Good job readers!

Best App, Vegasmate- This is absolutely true without question. Great reviews, advice and information.

Best on the Web- This year, best blog, podcast, twitter, etc. went to different bloggers/social networkers who do some great things but I have to give Michelle and Tim from Minnesota credit. They do a great job and have the absolute best Vegas web name, “Five Hundy by Midnight.”  Congratulations on your awards and keep it up!

An “Imperial” Introduction to Las Vegas: The Story of our First Trip

An “Imperial” Introduction to Las Vegas: The Story of our First Trip 

(Twelve years ago today, Anne and I spent our first night in Las Vegas.)

                We landed in Las Vegas at 11pm on New Year’s Eve.  An hour later, Anne and I stared out of the windows at McCarran airport and watched the fireworks sparkle over the strip. We stood silently watching in what seemed to be complete solitude admiring the Luxor, MGM Grand and other resorts as we waited for the streets to re-open and allow shuttles and taxis access to the hotels so we could rest our heads after an exhausting couple of days.

Less than 24 hours prior, Anne and I stood at an alter and exchanged wedding rings surrounded by our bravest friends and family members as a blizzard whipped above the church and through Connecticut. Our groomsmen shoveled the steps at the church so that our guests could safely make it to their cars and so that we could squint through a picture with our wedding party in front of the church doors. Our robust guest list dwindled with each flake that fell but I barely noticed in the midst of celebrating with those brazen enough to trek through several feet of snow. Shortly after the reception, we learned that our flight to Vegas for later that night was cancelled and the earliest departure was in the early evening on the 31st. With so much wedding planning, we never gave much thought to a honeymoon until a few months prior to our big day. After speaking with a travel agent (they were relevant at one point) and explaining that we were looking for a good New Year’s Holiday get-a-way, she suggested Vegas. I had always wanted to go and Anne obliged.

As the final sparkles burned out over the strip, Anne and I dragged our suitcases to the shuttle stand. While it was just shy of 1am in Las Vegas, it felt like 4am to us because, well, it was in Connecticut. We didn’t expect to be stranded at the airport until then. When we landed, we were both excited to grab our bags, get to the hotel, grab a bite, shower and get some sleep. Instead, we sat in an airport Burger King and scarfed down Whoppers and fries and now, we were once again waiting for a shuttle to take us to our hotel.

I don’t remember our first ride onto the strip. I don’t remember seeing the streets lined with crazy party goers and drunk tourists. My first memory of the Vegas strip was being dropped off at the Imperial Palace (we’ll get to that later), trying to make it through a casino that was too loud, bumping into people that drank too much, checked into the hotel with a staff member that was too rude, and standing by the elevators for too, too, too long waiting to get to our room. When we FINALLY made it to our room, it was approaching 2am. We didn’t expect to walk into a room that had clearly not been renovated since the 70’s featuring a heart shaped tub, see through shower stall and zenith TV that didn’t work. It was only missing the coin operated vibrating option on the bed. But, we were exhausted and just wanted to shower and sleep. After settling in for a few minutes, Anne headed to the shower first, turned on the water and screeched.

“What happened,” I asked as I walked over.

“The shower head attached me,” she replied.

“What?”

“The shower head popped off and
just missed smacking me in my face!”

I called the front desk to report the issue. They said they would be up as soon as they could. The Imperial Palace wasn’t really a choice as much as a recommendation. Our travel agent said, “it’s in a great location but a little old,” in her Fran Drescher voice. “Look, it isn’t the nicest hotel on the strip but you’re getting a great price and you’ll barely spend any time in the hotel.” Anne and I sat in the room, fighting off sleep, staring at the clock, hoping with each minute that the repair man would knock on our door and swoop us away to a magical suite with fresh fruit, tall windows with a magnificent strip view instead of a view of cement, a big screen TV, a lavish shower, free vouchers for an exquisite breakfast and a bag of casino chips. After all, this was Vegas and this is what is supposed to happen. Right?

“Can you call again,” Anne asked stirring me from my Vegas fantasy.

“Yes.”

When I finally got someone on the line, I explained our situation and said, “we are exhausted! We’re on our honeymoon. We got married in a blizzard yesterday. We just want to take showers and go to bed. Please!”

The response, “look, it is New Year’s Eve. We’re kind of busy. What did you expect?” crushed me to the point that I gave up. We decided that it would be better if they could just fix it in the morning. At 4am with the noise of raucous partiers outside, next door, in the halls and all around, we finally fell asleep.

A loud knock on the door jarred me from my sleep. I forced my eyes open.

“MAINTENANCE!” a man shouted at the door.

Anne and I looked over at me. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

“Hold on,” I called out as I turned and looked at the clock. “9am? Did we even sleep?”

A large man with a thick salt and pepper mustache entered our room.

“You got a problem with your shower?”  he said.

“Ummm…yeah,” Anne replied. “The shower head flew off and almost hit me in the face.”

“Wow! You must have partied pretty hard last night, huh?”

“What…no…we checked in late last night and just wanted to shower…” Anne replied.

We explained what our night was like. He seemed more interested in the story than our misery. He said he needed to grab a part and would be back. We decided to grab a bite to eat and then shower. We went to the Imperial Palace Emperor’s Buffet for breakfast and hoped that the shower would be fixed by the time we returned to our room.  As I browsed the very limited selection, I felt like Vegas Vacation’s Clark Griswold choosing between yellow or gray mush at the buffet Cousin Eddie treated him to .* After choking down a mixture of yellow and  gray mush and sludgy coffee, Anne and I returned to the room to find the shower and TV working. I honestly didn’t know how much more she could take. I’m pretty patient. Anne, on the other hand, has a low tolerance for ineptitude, rudeness, disorganization and unprofessionalism. At any moment, I was sure she was going to have our bags packed and a taxi waiting for us to go back to the airport.

Fortunately, as I finished showering, I was happy to find Anne had pulled herself together and was keeping a positive attitude. If our first night was so terrible, I was afraid of what the rest of Vegas had in store for us. We grabbed our camera and other tourist items and happily headed out of the hotel. But first, we had to make a pit stop at the front desk. Over the years, my wife has honed her skills as one of the world’s best complainers. I believe it was our first night at the Imperial Palace in which her tyranny on the world of bad customer service began. She eviscerated the front desk, managers and I believe a valet is still walking funny because of her tirade. I don’t recall how we reconciled our terrible evening but I’m positive it wasn’t with more yellow or gray mush.

Moments later, we stepped into the sunlight for the first time, I felt like we hadn’t seen daylight in years. The early afternoon sun fell warmly on my freshly shaven cheeks, the palm trees were flowing, the Mirage across the street gleamed, and the strip had a calm about it that I have only experienced in Vegas one other time when I walked to a business meeting before 7am many years later. It took me a moment to understand it. New Year’s Day is serene in Vegas. All of the New Year’s Eve debauchery gives way to a peaceful respite for a few brief hours while the partiers are either heading home or are nursing hangovers in their hotel rooms. For a city known for the lights, noise, parties, and its moniker “sin city,” my first happy memory in Las Vegas was the moment Anne and I touched hands and quietly began walking along the strip.

For the next few days we visited most of the resorts, had dinner at Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House, won $100 on an Elvis machine in MGM Grand, watched countless Bellagio Fountain shows, the Mirage volcano explode, toured Siegfried and Roy’s Magical Garden, dealt with the Imperial Palace and as our time in Vegas began to wind down, we even decided to extend our vacation an extra day. We began to understand the rhythm of Vegas and in a few short days, learned to navigate it. I’m not sure what would have happened if we spent all of New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas. Maybe the craziness of the night would have driven us home early. Perhaps we would have become the zombies that seek shelter in the darkness of their rooms on New Year’s Day. It is even probable that I would love Las Vegas as much as I do now. However, I know this; I will never forget our first night in Las Vegas and I’ll always remember my first walk down the strip with my wife.

*If you google, “vegas vacation movie disgusting buffet” the first result will be a Yelp Review of the Emperor’s Buffet.

Meeting the Faces behind the Bellagio Facebook

July 2012

My wife and I were having a late dinner at Café Bellagio on our last night in Vegas. As we waited for our Cobb salads, I checked my twitter, again, as I often do, obsessively. Earlier, I tweeted to the Bellagio (@bellagioLV) because my wife was intrigued by the hospitality crew’s cleaning supplies.

I tweeted, “Only my wife @y_anne_kees goes to #vegas & wants tips on cleaning products from @BellagioLV hospitality.”

I wasn’t surprised to see the following response so quickly-

“@salvegas24 you have to get tips from the experts! She should speak with Mr. & Mrs. Green Thumb in our Conservatory daily at 10am.”

Over the past few weeks, I tweeted to the Bellagio from several of my accounts. They always seem to respond very quickly. Impressed, I relayed my gratitude and compliments to the Bellagio via tweet and mentioned that I would love to stop by and meet them. Moments later, I received a direct message that read, “We’re located in the Hotel Sales & Marketing offices and would love to say hello!” 

The following day, Anne and I checked out of the hotel and decided on having our last meal in Vegas at the Aria Buffet. She encouraged me to accept their invitation and stop by the Sales and Marketing office. She appreciates and shares my love of Vegas. While she might not be quite as obsessed as I am, she knew that the idea of meeting the faces behind the Bellagio social networks would be a “big deal” to me and it certainly was.

We exited the Aria Express tram to the Bellagio and had no clue as to where the Sales and Marketing Office was. We wondered through a good portion of the convention center which included beautiful artwork and some really comfortable looking sitting areas. After walking through, what seemed like, the entire convention center, we came upon the Sales and Marketing Office. 

Entering the reception area, I was greeted by a lovely young brunette woman who looked a few years out of college. 

“Hi,” I said as I began to explain my bizarre visit to the office, “My name is Sal Rizza. I tweeted to the Bellagio yesterday and asked if I could stop by to say hello.” I rambled on about how impressed I was with the responses I received and how excited I was to meet the “faces behind the account.” In other words, I couldn’t be dorkier. 

She sent a message to Patricia the Director of Marketing to let her know I was in the front and if she had a few moments to meet with me. I was impressed by the Bellagio on a number of levels and shouldn’t have been surprised by the professionalism in the office. The secretary offered me water and asked if I could wait a few minutes for Patricia.  

 After a few moments, she made her way from her office and greeted me warmly.

 “Hello,” she said shaking my hand as her curly brunette hair fell slightly over her shoulder as she greeted me, “I’m Patricia Goodman, Interactive Marketing Manager, thanks for stopping by. I recognize you from your twitter picture!” I smiled awkwardly like a teenage girl meeting Justin Bieber or some other Teen Beat cover boy.

 I thanked her for taking time from her busy schedule to spend a few minutes with me. Patricia is more than just the woman who runs the twitter account, which I assumed, but I was surprised to learn that she is responsible for the entire branding and marketing for the Bellagio Hotel. (The casino has their own department). She, along with a staff of four, manages the social network sights, email promotion and campaigns, website, signage within the resort, and overall branding of the Bellagio name and image. What was most interesting is that she works with such a small staff that seems to manage so much. The Bellagio, arguably, has the most distinctive and recognizable brand in Las Vegas and for years, has become symbolic of the current Vegas era.

As fascinated as I was with everything Patricia offered, I was most interested in how they coordinate the social network sites and how they mange the Bellagio brand through social networking. I asked how they seem to respond at all hours of the night and it as expectation. While she didn’t detail a precise plan, I got the impression that between Patricia and her staff, they were expected to monitor the sites almost continuously and respond to messages that required responses as well as keep the conversation going. While several of my tweets to the Bellagio were in regards to being excited about my vacation or interesting observations, at a closer look at the resort’s twitter account activity, the staff is continually responding the questions and/or concerns regarding early check-ins, reserving specific colors or just thanking guests for comments. As an avid “tweeter” that manages 11 accounts and an obsessive Vegas fan, I’ve been most impressed with the Bellagio’s social networking staff. While other resorts respond to tweets or Facebook comments, Patricia and her staff seem to be a bit more sincere and genuinely interested in their guests. I asked Patricia if she as always “on duty” to which she explained that unless she’s away on vacation or inaccessible she’s dedicated to responding to questions and to comment on interesting observations or retweet pictures and posts. They have developed a strong web presence that includes an informative website, Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare pages and continue to provide web resources to their guests. 

This was the overarching theme of staying at the Bellagio. While I am unable to find the Bellagio Mission statement on-line, the feeling that staying in the resort promotes is that they are truly committed to creating a guest-first experience in all that they do. This was evident in each and every interaction I had with a staff member during my four-night stay. Everyone including the black jack dealers, concierge, hospitably staff, bell desk & restaurant staffs seem to genuinely care about every guest’s experience. This is certainly how I felt while speaking with Patricia.

 Our informative conversation ended with Patricia answering some of my random questions including where the scenes in Oceans 11 were shot. Many were filmed at the Petrossian Piano Bar off the main lobby. The scene (one of my favorites) of Tess, played by Julia Reports, descending the stairs was shot near the concierge desk. However, the stairs were removed to expand the resort and add a new tower. The scene of Danny, played by George Clooney, and Tess having a drink was filmed in the Picasso restaurant. The scenes of Terry Benedict, played by Andy Garcia, in his office were filmed in the Bellagio chairman’s office. 

While I could have annoyed Patricia and her staff for hours with my never ending Vegas curiosity, I thanked her incessantly for her time. She provided me with her card and invited me and my wife to take site tour when we return. In true Bellagio fashion, Patricia and her staff demonstrated great class and kindness in meeting with an obsessive and awkward guest.

Why I Love Vegas

July 13, 2012

Why I Love Vegas

By Sal Rizza

                Yesterday, I was in my office speaking with Natalie, a wonderful college senior at SCSU. She noticed my two Las Vegas calendars hanging on the wall amongst the pictures, souvenirs, coffee mugs, magnets and other Vegas paraphernalia. She asked, “Why do you have two Vegas calendars?” I explained that one calendar is the current month and the other is an older calendar that displays the resort I’ve most recently stayed in or where I will stay next. “Oh…” she replied followed by “that seems a bit obsessive.” Then I showed her the website, twitter accounts, and apps on my iPhone. She asked me the question that I’ve been asked countless times, “Sal, why do you love Vegas so much.”

                I always have a difficult time answering this question but I know two things: I rarely fall short on words and I always want to go back. I’m not sure the exact reason why I love the city of Las Vegas the way I do but I learned even more when I answered Natalie’s question.

                Growing up in a lower middle-class home, we didn’t take vacations. Trips to the local beach or city swimming pool were our reprieves from reality. I don’t remember ordering from a waitress until I was in High School as dinner out for us was usually at Roy Rogers, McDonalds and when we got fancy, American Steakhouse. One of my first real vacations was my honeymoon when my wife and I visited Las Vegas for the first time. While I will write about my terrible first night in Las Vegas in a future post (it was NOT love at first sight) as I got to know Vegas, I quickly fell in love.

                It starts with the vibe of the Vegas strip which is mobbed with throngs of tourists often wandering like mindless zombies in awe of their surroundings. Others parade along the mega resorts in their heels, skirts and club shirts double-fisting spirit laden beverages looking for a forgettable adventure. Asian and European tourists pause and pose to take pictures with the Venetian or Paris as their backdrop, and with mere gestures ask for their fellow foreign tourist to snap a few shots in front of the Bellagio. Wedding parties appear in front of you as brides in elaborate gowns smile and laugh for the camera as they celebrate their nuptials and then it just happens. The fountains begin and everyone stops. They cram together in front of the show and quietly watch the water dance. Flashes fill the night air, couples squeeze tight, and even the noisy bachelor parties quiet down until the song ends and everyone cheers and applauds. My wife thinks it is the oddest phenomena that people clap for water as if the fountains can be encouraged by the audience’s approval. The vibe on the strip is as eclectic as the tourists that walk the sidewalks. It is ever changing but never different. The Vegas strip is fun, happy , exciting and thrilling place to be where you never know what you’ll see but you always know the comforts of the fountain show, the lights of the Luxor, and the beauty of the Venetian will be there to enjoy. One walk down the strip when I was 25 and I knew like knowing when you meet the person you’ll marry, that Vegas was my place.

                Like it’s world-famous buffets, Las Vegas doesn’t lack variety and allows you to choose if you want to have filet or sloppy joes. I love variety. Choices. Where else can you dine at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill, see Jerry Seinfeld and play $5 craps all in one night? Moreover, have similar options the next night and the next night after that.

                Vegas isn’t called America’s Adult Playground for nothing. This ISN’T Disney. I’ll save my “Disney is overrated” rant for another post. I’m not a high roller but I like to sit at a blackjack or poker table, with other adults, and play some cards. I LOVE to be the shooter at a craps table while enjoying a complimentary bloody mary at 10am. I love that 3am feels the same, if not more vibrant, than 10pm. I love that a 40 year-old can feel like he’s 25 for a few nights. Vegas is a different type of fountain of youth. It keeps you young, until the next morning when your body reminds you that you aint 25 anymore.

It’s the stories that you’re surrounded by continuously. People watching on steroids. I’ve run into Jimmy Walker, Anthony Keidis, Carmen Electra, Vince Neil, Ryan Bader, Frank Mir and Steve Schirippa on the Vegas strip. These aren’t the biggest names that party on the strip but these are just the people I’ve run into that I recognized. Celebrities aside, it is the bachelor parties, weddings, and newlyweds that provide the character and color that I enjoy. Where are they from? How much did they win? Is that old guy with a hooker? (Of course he is). I’ve seen proposals, people literally having sex in the bushes outside of the Hard Rock and people win small fortunes on slot machines. It is the hopes, failures and indiscretions of Las Vegas that I love to experience. It is like living vicariously through the best and worst of the human condition.

And, my love of Vegas couldn’t be complete if it wasn’t for my partner in Vegas crime. Nine trips to Vegas with my wife and nine great vacations. We have it down. McCarran Airport. Taxis. Shows. Dinners. Pools. Casinos. Drinks. Everything. We step out of our suburban roles and slide into a leisurely routine and weave into the fabric of the Vegas strip and allow Vegas to absorb us for a few days. With each trip to Vegas, we seem to get to know Vegas, and each other ,a little better.

                Maybe I just love Las Vegas because it represents everything that I didn’t have until my 20’s. Mindless fun surrounded by absolute excess and gluttony in a world designed to do things that you aren’t allowed to do in your daily lives. A woman that I can hold hands with while watching a few shows. An escape, where you can forget about your age, your responsibilities, drink, eat lavishly, be surrounded by beautiful people,  and allow your imagination to be over stimulated one minute and be completely relaxed the next. Day trips to beaches with my family followed by a stop at McDonald’s on the way home were some of the best days of my summers growing up. I wouldn’t trade them because they taught me to appreciate what I am fortunate to experience today. As I said, I’m not exactly sure why I love Vegas as much as I do but  as I said to start, I am never short on what to say about why I love Vegas and I absolutely cannot wait to go back in nine days.