This past weekend was my first “pleasure” flight since the pandemic started. I had flown twice in Q4 2020 but those were necessary whereas this was for fun. I did test both before and after my flights back in 2020 but I have been fully vaccinated since February and most of my friends and family are already fully vaccinated as well so I feel safe to travel.
This will not really be a typical Las Vegas trip review since I went to stay with a friend who lives there (so no accommodation review) and I’ll share some activities and food but we also do really boring things like eat at home and shop at Target. So basically a mini trip review.
First off , I want to share a lesson learned. Since this was only a two day trip and I was not sure how plentiful rideshare would be, I decided to park my car by the airport and chose The Parking Spot. They have two locations by LAX, one on Century and one on Sepulveda. I prefer Sepulveda and originally booked at Sepulveda but since I switched my departure flight to a later time, I went to adjust my times on my parking reservation and did not realize I had someone also changed my location (SO ALWAYS DOUBLE-CHECK!). Luckily I left early and the two lots are not to far apart since I first drove to Sepulveda and tried to scan my reservation QR code only to be told my reservation was not at that location. I had to back out and then make my way around to the other lot. The good thing is that they have a lot of shuttles so as soon as I reached the ground floor after parking, I hopped straight on a shuttle. When I returned to LAX, I was also able to hop straight on a shuttle upon exiting the terminal so A+ for shuttle wait times.
When I got to LAX, it was a madhouse in Terminal 4. People everywhere. They also closed the escalator to the TSA Pre-check line so I had to circle around only to find out people had forced their way past the blockade to the pre-check lane and the line was a mess. Luckily by the time I was almost to the TSA person, they split everyone into two lines and set up some pathways making it much more organized.
After making it through security, I rushed over to Tom Bradley International Terminal first. I wanted to stop by the Centurion Lounge which has just opened at 7 am to pick up a grab-and-go box before my flight. The lounge is closed still but they provide a box with food and drink that you can pick up and take to go. The menu was developed with Chef Nancy Silverton, an icon in LA and included a choice of wrap and other items. They had a fried chicken option and a vegetarian option that I think was sweet potato. The wrap was surprisingly good. It also came with chips, a cookie, a clementine and sparkling juice.
For flights, I took American Airlines to Vegas and returned on Southwest Airlines. I believe at this point in time none of the airlines are blocking seats. If I remember correctly Delta has already stopped as of April but I could be wrong. I chose American on the way there because the ticket was not too expensive at $40 and I am currently on a 3-month status challenge where I have Gold status (there is no way I will be able to retain this) and I wanted to take advantage of that especially since I saw open upgrades available on this flight and low and behold I was upgraded the day before to first class. The entire plane was pretty full and I did have someone sitting next to me but at least first class seats are larger and the flight attendant passed out sanitizing wipes as you stepped on board.
The return flight on Southwest would have you believe the pandemic was over minus the fact you had to wear a mask. You still line up by letter and number which… there is NO way to social distance and do that. They also didn’t provide any sanitizer or wipe when you stepped on board and the plane was fully booked without a single empty seat. I lucked out on an emergency row that only had two seats so at least I only had one person next to me.
Now upon arrival in Las Vegas, I was expecting my friend to pick me up but she got stuck at work and said it might be faster if I went to her place by rideshare. This was not true. I first tried using Uber and it just kept looking and looking for a driver. I eventually just canceled to request and was about to try Lyft. As I was getting ready to call a Lyft (which it was showing would take at least 13 minutes for a drive to even arrive), my friend called and said actually she was about to get off work and was wondering how long before I arrive. I asked her to just pick me up then since there were a TON of people waiting in the rideshare area and what looked like barely any cars coming to pick up. So if you’re flying into Las Vegas and thinking about taking a rideshare from the airport just realize you might be in for a wait.
For lunch, my friend had pre-ordered fresh sashimi-grade fish from Ocean Group Las Vegas via Instagram that we went to pick up from their warehouse. It was such a good deal. We got yellowtail, tuna, salmon and wasabi for $50 and it was so much we could barely finish it. We made sushi rolls, ate it as sashimi and also made poke bowls. We really need at least two or three more people in order to eat it all.
We had a lot planned for the afternoon and evening. We were basically going to two “exhibitions” at Area 15 (which is off-strip) and have dinner at the Black Sheep in between since both exhibitions required timed tickets and ours were for 4:30 pm and 9 pm.
3215 S Rancho Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89102
Area 15 describes itself as “an immersive playground, all rolled into a vast and vibrant space”. They have a bunch of immersive entertainment exhibitions as well as other fun stuff. Just think shiny, neon lights, funky items and lots of fun. We booked two of the experiences beforehand:
This one is happening all over the country throughout the rest of the year and we decided to go because my mother had been telling me how she bought tickets to see it in Charlotte in August. In LA, the tickets are sold out I think until September or October but there were tons of tickets for Vegas.
While it was a neat experience… I think it was way overhyped and the group that made this has a brilliant marketing team. Tickets were $39.50 for non-residents and $28 for Nevada residents. You basically go into a room with projections on all four walls and on the ground and they cycle through Van Gogh artwork that kind of moves around. In Vegas you can sit at high tables or cushioned chairs and small tables or benches and order food and drink. My mother was telling me for her tickets, they cost extra to have a cushion to sit on the floor and I saw another person who went in San Francisco and they also just sat on the floor. So the Vegas experience is at least a little better in that you have real seating and food and drinks but you just sit there for about 30 minutes and watch the walls. There’s music but not much narrating and overall I’m not sure it was worth the ticket price.
The second experience we did was an art exhibition/escape room style experience. This one was really interesting and there is a LOT to see and do. Are start time was at 9 pm and we ended up staying inside until about 11 pm. The experience is really interesting. The outside is like a market with funny items and secret paths into a back area or “the Factory” that is like a glow in the dark land which is then connected the “offices” where there’s lots to look through to discover secrets.
When you arrive, the staff gives you a card like a credit card that you can tap at certain monitors for “training”. And they also tell you there’s a mystery to solve before letting you in. That’s pretty much it. So for the first hour we were incredibly confused about how the “mystery” worked and kind of just wandered around aimlessly while looking at everything there was to do. Eventually we buckled down and focused on the mystery. The storyline is not the strongest and it’s confusing because there’s a lot of extra unnecessary information and lots of people trying to access the same information. It got easier the later it got because there was less people milling around.
The tickets are $45 for non-residents and $35 for Nevada residents. There are also discounts for seniors, children and military. I think the experience is definitely worth the price. Like I mentioned earlier, I was there for almost 2 hours and there were so many things to see during that time. I’m not even sure I actually ended up seeing everything.
This bar is located in the center of the warehouse that is Area 15. It’s marked by the large lit-up tree in the middle. There seating at the actual bar and some small tables surrounding. Drinks were I think about $13-$15 and were pretty good. I had a Smokey Paloma and you definitely get the smokey notes.
Emporium is an arcade bar that opens late at night. We stopped by here after Omega Mart. It’s towards the back. Walk all the way to the back then head to the left pass the Meow Wolf gift shop and it will be on the right hand side. It’s two floors with entrances on both floors. Both floors have a bar but the second floor has more going on with more machines and pool tables. The first floor is more quiet with less machines. There machines include oldies like Pac-man, Frogger, etc.. They have the basketball shooting games and skeeball. Lots of pinball machines and Killer Queen. We stayed long enough to have one drink but it had been a long day so we went home after that drink.
The Black Sheep
8680 W Warm Springs Road, Las Vegas, NV 98148
In between our two timed experiences at Area 15, we detoured over to The Black Sheep for dinner. I only recently discovered this restaurant because of the new Top Chef season (18). The chef for the restaurant, Chef Jamie, is one of the contestants on Top Chef (and is adorable) and so I thought it would be a great opportunity to visit her restaurant (before she becomes even more famous!).
Chef Jamie was not at the restaurant but her food was on point. Everything on the menu sounded delicious and we had the hardest time deciding. In the end we chose to order starters only like tapas-style and forgo entrees so that we could fit more dishes. We also grabbed some cocktails that were well balanced and not too expensive at $13 each.
For food we ordered
- Salmon Skin Tacos – these were really interesting. I loved the crunch of the salmon skin. It’s a pretty ingenious way to utilize multiple parts of the salmon
- Fried Beef Crisps – these were much tastier than expected but the amount was huge and as I ate more it began to feel more greasy so we did not finish this dish thought mostly because of the large portion
- Vegan Scallion Pancakes – the actual pancake was perfectly adequate but put together with the mushrooms and other ingredients it was delicious! We ate it like tacos and it made a really unique taco
- Turmeric Crepes – this was another one that we ate in taco form. The crepe portion unfortunately got incredibly soggy but the lengua was really really good and the whole thing was moist and juicy. If there were some way to keep the crepe a little more dry or crisp it would’ve been even tastier.
- Grilled Spanish Octopus – the octopus was well cooked but the sauce was too sweet and strong for my taste.
- Black Sheep Hot Chicken – this was more like Japanese chicken karaage. I’m not sure it could really be considered hot… but it was tasty.
- Chocolate Tres Leches – It was a good tres leches. I didn’t think it was extraordinary which is kind of what I was expecting after reading reviews (perhaps raised my expectations up too much) but it was a delicious cake.
I definitely need to come back again to try their entrees too!
Babystacks – Red Rock
11770 W Charleston Boulevard, #150, Las Vegas, NV 89135
For brunch on Sunday morning, we went to Babystacks which has a few locations around Las Vegas but we went to the Red Rock location since it was closest to us. They are sort of a Hawaiian & Filipino style breakfast joint with tons of different types of pancakes and other breakfast items. I ordered a Hawaiian Eggs Benedict with Hawaiian bread, spam and gravy and also got an adobo fried rice to go. I also tried my friend’s ube pancakes that were also delicious. The food isn’t that expensive and the portions are generous. They had indoor and outdoor seating and we sat along a counter inside. There was a wait but while they told us 20 minutes I think it was closer to 10 or 15 minutes.
That was pretty much all the food and drinks and I just have one last activity to talk about. On Sunday afternoon we decided to go crafting since we both love crafts so much and there just happened to be a crafting place near my friend’s place that also had drinks (does not get better than that) called Corks ‘n Crafts.
Corks ‘n Crafts
1875 Festival Plaza Drive, Suite #100, Las Vegas, NV 89135
This crafting studio is located in Downtown Summerlin and surrounded by a bunch of shops and restaurants. It’s a little hidden away and not super obvious from the main pathway. I reserved beforehand for a resin-pouring class. I’ve started following people on Instagram who do resin-pouring and it’s just beautiful. For this class we would be pouring on charcuterie boards. The class was $65 per person but if you sign up for their e-mail list you get a discount code for your first class.
When we got there, the class was pretty much ready to start. We got lucky and ended up in a super small class of 4 so we made up half the class! They also had drinks and food including $2 mimosas of various flavors. I had a good 4 or 5 mango mimosas during the 2-hour class without breaking the bank! And they weren’t light on the champagne either. I watched the staff member pour the first one and was wondering if there was even room for the mango juice (there was).
When we got started, we all put on aprons and our boards and tools we would need were already laid out for us. The instructor, Rachel, started off by introducing resin-pouring to us since we were all newbies and outlining the steps for our project. We started by sanding our boards then picking stain colors and staining the wood. After that we chose the colors we would use with the resin before making our resin mixture. Make sure your arms are not tired because you have to quickly stir the resin and hardener together for 4 minutes straight! It was quite an arm workout and reminds me of making meringue by hand.
After mixing the colors with the resin mixture, you can start pouring on your board. I went simple and only had two colors, a gold glitter and gold flecks. My friend had like 4 or 5 colors plus glitter and gold flecks. The project was easy in action but did not come out as I expected. There is a lot of give and you can work with it and unexpected moments of accidental genius but also some moments of frustration where it completely did not do what I had wanted or expected. In the end, I loved my result but it was pretty different from what I had pictured in my mind.
Unfortunately, the resin needs about 24 hours to set so I was not able to bring it home with me but instead will have my friend pick it up and have to get it from her on a later date. The class was super fun though and really did take the full 2 hours. I also think my friend is about to go on a resin-pouring binge after that class but that’s a different story.
After class, we rushed through a quick dinner and I was pretty much on the way to the airport. They ended up closing the TSA Pre-check line so it took me a little extra time to get through security but my flight was also delayed so I was fine on time. The airport was definitely busy and actually busier than I’ve seen it normally but then again I’m usually in a different terminal so it may just be Southwest is busier than some of the other carriers in Las Vegas or that terminal is a bit smaller.
It was only two days but I did a lot and it felt more like pre-pandemic days. However, I’m also really tired now and so happy I have nothing planned for the upcoming weekend before my next trip the weekend after. I’m out of traveling shape and no longer used to the back-to-back weekend trip schedule I used to sometimes keep!