downtown vegas

How to Survive Vegas When You’re Not in Your 20’s

sahara sign

The moment you get off the plane, you just know it. You’re in another world…Las Vegas.

You battle vertigo as the lights of slot machines and giant screens promising riches, excitement, and sex greet you around every corner of the airport terminal. You walk faster and faster, charged by the insanity, unable to resist that pull.

It’s time to f*cking party.

We were returning to the scene of the crime for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES)—we hadn’t been to Vegas since we got hitched there WAY back in 2005. One of our taxi drivers congratulated us with a high-five for everlasting love, against the odds.

So, yeah. Back then we were pups. This time we weren’t. But when you have to attend a conference in Disneyland for adults, you need to leave your healthy treehugger Yogi ass back in Portland and prepare yourself for lung and liver debauchery.

Before I get into the debauchery, I’ll tell you that our late afternoon flight got canceled and we had to hang out at PDX for four hours. Thankfully, Portland has been voted the best airport in America the past few years.

They made a big deal about the new carpet, but we didn’t give two shits about that. What we did give two shits about? Organic food options, clean water fountains with water bottle filling stations, and good beer.

We so Portland.

AIRPLANE DELAY TIP:  No matter how annoyed you are, drink two beers and play on the people mover.

pdx

Because all of the hotels were sold out by the time Mr. H booked a room for the conference, we ended up at the Golden Nugget. Downtown Vegas, away from the shiny Strip, is more our speed anyway.

Anyone from Southern California will likely alarm you by telling you they grew up in Vegas. I did. It was a regular vacation for me and my dad. It’s an easy drive, and back then it used to be cheap.

Give me some old Vegas any day. I miss the seediness of it all—that’s the history and the culture, like it or not.

What I wouldn’t give for the sound of filthy coins spitting out of the machines. I came to expect that sound, and loved it in some strange way. That’s long gone now, having been replaced by TITO (ticket-in, ticket-out). Only a few of these noisy, dirty slots still exist in the old casinos…good luck finding them.

Bedraggled and exhausted, we were floored when we were offered an upgrade. With such a late check-in, we half-expected no room, not this.

LATE CHECK-IN TIP:  No matter how tired you are, be nice to the front desk person and you may be rewarded. (I know, I used to be one.)

golden nugget room

It was like being in one of those wild Vegas movies, but in the 1970s. That’s what the high-roller two-level suite in the Spa Tower looked like anyway.

The suite was banged up, well-abused by misfits doing God knows what over the years, spruced up with gaudy accents and art. I won’t even post the picture of the “chandelier” on the bottom floor, because the mini lampshades and beige tapestries will upset all of you. Shitty chic would be considered a compliment.

There were mirrors everywhere, above the bed (blush) and in the bathroom, so you could watch yourself use the bidet. Yep, we had one.

Our old asses had two choices after we unpacked and sprayed down the room with our antibacterial Thieves spray.

  1. Eat a late dinner and pass out.
  2. Eat a late dinner and go out.

We were in Vegas. You know exactly which one we chose.

las vegas suite

We don’t go out anymore. Been there, done that…many, many times.

However, a friend who was being wooed by some old clients invited us to free bottle service at a popular nightclub, Light. We tried and failed to get into a club many moons ago when we were there for our wedding.

To get into a Vegas club, you need to:

  • know someone that works there
  • have a table with bottle service
  • be a regular stripper/dealer/prostitute/escort/high-roller

We had a table, so why the hell not? We knew we would get in and drinks were free. We also knew we were far from the age of 21, and the only way we were going to make it was with sushi and green tea.

PRE-GAMING TIP:  No matter how “Vegas, woohoo!” you are, eat a power dinner and save the booze for later.

light las vegas

I was the only woman at Light without a micro mini dress and thick black eyeliner. About a half hour in, I knew I had to drink faster if I was going to be able to take anymore. The neon lasers were making me schizo and I had surpassed my annual quota of butt cheek sightings—mind you, it’s only the first week of the year.

A few cocktails later, I danced a bit and began enjoying the people-watching. And just like the old days, we closed the place down at 4am.

NIGHTTIME ANTI-HANGOVER TIP:  No matter how wasted you are, chug water all night and eat a gigantic greasy breakfast at hotel (ours was Claim Jumper) before bed.

golden nugget spa suite

The next morning/afternoon we woke up mostly intact. Mr. H pushed the button next to the bed and the drapes creaked and moaned as they drew open to reveal the best thing about our upgraded room…the kick-ass view. Snow-capped mountains to the right, pool just below.

MORNING ANTI-HANGOVER TIP:  No matter how pathetic you feel, chug more water, eat that organic apple you were smart enough to bring from home, double fist coconut water and a dirty chai, then take a well-deserved hot shower.

The main reason I accompanied Mr. H on the biz trip was to see this girl…

neon museum entrance

…my childhood best friend, Laura. Now a Vegas native, I hadn’t seen her in 18 years. Girlish excitement was an understatement.

Because I had a business dinner to attend that evening, the usual non-stop Vegas day-drinking was out of the question. Hanging out by the awesome Golden Nugget pool and watching people go down the shark tank chute—also not an option. In January, the desert gets mighty cold.

We all ate delicious pepperoni pizza at Pizza Rock, then Mr. H traipsed off to the conference. Before he left, he said: “Now don’t you two Irish girls get into too much trouble.”

We nodded obediently. But, we still had a few beers downtown that afternoon. Walking down Fremont Street, thrillseekers flew overhead on the zipline, while a poor man’s Spongebob waved next to a half-naked gypsy woman wearing an open robe with nipple pasties.

With a pleasant buzz, we headed over to my kind of attraction, one that can be enjoyed year-round…the Neon Museum.

las vegas signs

Vegas isn’t exactly known for preserving history, but this non-profit is doing just that. Lovingly called the Neon Boneyard, visitors can only view the signs under the supervision of their tour guide.

I’ve been to many different museums in my life—from Dachau to the Louvre, from the Guggenheim to Pearl Harbor—but this museum was strict. You are not allowed out of the tour guide’s sight for a second. If you have to go to the restroom, you have to ask. And if you think you’re going to be drinking a monster cocktail in a bright plastic carafe with a crazy straw, think again.

The Neon Museum is probably the only dry place in the city. It makes sense that they have to use precautions to protect the signs from sloshed individuals who might be tempted to mount them for the sake of an epic social media pic before slicing their leg open on a rusty edge.

stardust las vegas

There are day tours and night tours, and I’ve heard they are both amazing. Not all the signs light up, but the ambience at night is hard to beat. Plus, the darkness conquered by blinding neon gives off that true Vegas vibe.

NEON MUSEUM TIP:  No matter how gung-ho nerdy you are, drink a couple (but not too many) before you arrive, and bundle up if you’re doing the night tour.

vintage las vegas signs

Vegas reminded me of how I used to be—nonstop, overindulgent, careless and carefree. That really hit home for me when Mr. H told me he heard “I Just Can’t Get Enough” blasting in The Venetian’s casino. That could have been my theme song when I was younger.

Things are very different. Now I can get enough.

I practice the appreciation of life and simplicity. I want to drink tea in my jammies while dreaming about the next time I’ll be on my Yoga mat or hiking on one of Oregon’s beautiful trails. I like clean water, air, and food. If I have all of those things, I’m set.

Besides the travel tips sprinkled throughout this crazy Vegas tale, I thought I would help you guys out if you’re coming home from Las Vegas and wondering how you will ever piece your life together.

Our Vegas recovery routine included:

– water (lots of it)
– healthy snack
– nap (I love you more than anything, Bed)
– more water
– garlic infused honey
– ginger kombucha
– pineapple
– dry brushing (gotta scrub it off)
– epsom salt bath
– launder ALL smoky clothing
– Postmates dinner delivery (Lardo, aka comfort food)
– good, strong beer
– movie with cats on couch
– chamomile tea
– sweet, sweet bed
– 11 hours of sleep

We’re as good as new again.

As an old fart, how do you survive Vegas?


WWII thriller

55 thoughts on “How to Survive Vegas When You’re Not in Your 20’s

  1. Zen A. says:

    Hahaha, I don’t think I would survive Vegas at all! I’d be curling up in my bedroom in a fetal position, trying to overcome the culture shock. xD I’m glad you had a nice time though! And it must’ve been so exciting meeting your friend after such a long time!

    I hope you’re all well-rested now! =D

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      We’ve managed to avoid Vegas the past decade, so I completely understand. The conference was our only reason for being there, but it was a bonus to be able to hang out with my friend. Get those crazy kids! 🙂

  2. eden baylee says:

    I finally made it to Vegas a few years back after swearing I’d never go. I saw the Beatles’ LOVE show and Tom Jones. Both were excellent, and Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon were also highlights. All the rest faded from memory. I survived it by not over-indulging. I won $60 at roulette and ran with the chips to cash them in! It was a fun experience but I doubt I will return given all the other places there are to see.

    Glad you hear you survived it! xox
    eden

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      That sounds like a fun time, Eden! There are some amazing shows in Vegas. We definitely did not have time for any this time as we were running around non-stop. Sounds like you gambled the right way! 🙂

  3. Carrie Rubin says:

    A little Vegas goes a long way, doesn’t it? You saw far more excitement than I did the only time I’ve been there. It was a few years ago when my youngest (magician son) was twelve. I took him for the magic shows since hubs and oldest son were doing a backpacking trip. Luckily most of the T&A went over my son’s head. It wouldn’t now though, so I don’t think there’ll be any mom/son trips to Vegas again in our near future. 🙂

    Your room looks incredible! I’ve never had a hotel room with a spiral staircase before. Wowsa.

  4. Ally Bean says:

    The last time we were in Vegas we survived because we stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel. There are no slot machines there, the ambiance is old fart upscale and the food was delicious. I don’t know that we’ll go back to Vegas because it didn’t seem like much fun anymore. We used to enjoy it, but I dunno… it seemed kind of played out to us. Or maybe we’re just played out!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      No slot machines? Had no idea that existed in Vegas! If it weren’t for my friend, I would not be back either. It is really played out and more expensive than it used to be. Back in the day, it was a cheap trip but not anymore. Many more places I’d rather see if I’m going to fork over that much cash.

      • Deb says:

        Every time that I’ve been to Vegas has had something to do with the dental office I used to work for. My boss used to participate in competition BBQ events so he took our office a few times for that, but we also went (just once I think) for an actual dental related convention. Part of the festivities was encouraging each office to dress like ‘rock stars’ with the theme of the event being related as well. I have no idea why I chose Ozzy, but I had the black clothes, found a wig that I sprayed some deep red paint into, put on fake tattoos, painted one fingernail with black polish, found the perfect glasses, rings and other jewelry/necklaces, and spent the evening shuffling around and mumbling incoherently. One of my co-workers was going as Pat Benatar, but everyone assumed she was Sharon, so we worked with that for the night. It was pretty hilarious, being ‘escorted’ through the casino at the hotel as if we were important. And… I got to meet Slash! Okay, not the real Slash, just a dental office wanna be 🙂

      • Britt Skrabanek says:

        Deb, that’s too awesome!!! Vegas is the perfect place to go crazy, so I’m sure you guys had a ball. My heart skipped a beat when you said you met Slash. Oh well, close enough. 🙂

  5. Gallivanta says:

    Luckily, being so far away, I do not need to worry about surviving Vegas. Closer to home, I can’t even manage the one casino in town. 😀 Sigh! However, I am sure I would be willing to try if it meant time with a good friend. Wonderful that you had a meet-up after so many years.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      My friend was my main reason for tagging along. We had a great time, despite the craziness! The casino I went to in Milwaukee was just plain depressing. Vegas casinos are definitely more lively.

  6. diannegray says:

    I’ve never been to Vegas and I don’t think I’d survive if i did, Britt. Hubby and I used to go out all the time when we lived in the city, but this country gig has really settled us down. At night there are no streetlights here and we sit watching the birds until the sun goes down and then we listen to music before dinner. For my birthday we went out to the local bowling club and the flashing lights from the machines and betting TVs nearly drove us both schizo. Alas (I thought) we’re old! But I did win 500 bucks on the ‘birthday draw’ which had me dancing in the street (like the old days) 😀

    I love your review of Vegas, you crazy kids! 😀

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      We’re in the city, but it is very tame. Not much of a nightlife here in Portland (especially in our neighborhood), because people are more into food and beer than going clubbing. The lights and noise were almost too much for me. Drinking was the only way for me to hang out as long as we did. Sober…hell no!

      $500 bucks…wowza!

  7. Les Petits Pas de Juls says:

    So want to go back to Vegas!!! I was 21 -2months last time I went (as a summer camp leader) and couldn’t even enjoy the Casino times (well, since I was a superviser of 17 year-olds, that was not why we were there…).
    I so love and enjoy the way you tell your stories, Britt! and I’m so glad to read you could reunite with your childhood friend!
    That neon museaum looks awfully cool! Sounds like you and Mr H. had a great time in Vegas and you 2 just rock at fashion in such a place, besides the fact that you got upgraded and totally look right at home there!
    Take care now, get back to that healthy food, healthy air and yoga time 😉 but the spark of crazy in your eyes suits you well too!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Oh, boy! Supervising 17-year-olds must have been cuckoo. We used to go to Vegas every year in high school for a competition, and even though we couldn’t get into too much trouble, we were VERY hyper.

      I would highly recommend the Neon Museum next time you’re in Vegas, love. One of the only places hanging onto history there.

      We had an awesome time! Our outfits fit in, but we didn’t. That room was bigger than our entire apartment!

  8. danniehill says:

    Aww, Vegas. I don”t gamble much when in Vegas. I call it contributing to little people of Nevada– since I never win. One thing that threw me– bottled water faucet?? seriously

  9. Letizia says:

    I just love your photos and your tips! I have yet to make it to Vegas but am terribly disappointed to hear that they slot machines don’t have coins anymore… paper tickets don’t sound as appealing, although perhaps in the excitement of it all, it doesn’t matter in the end. Fun post!!

  10. Casey Sheridan says:

    I’ve never been to Vegas. Not sure I’d survive. I like curling up with my kitties and lounging in my pj’s, sipping tea. That doesn’t seem to fit in the Vegas atmosphere.

    Is that you dancing up there? Sort of looks like you. 🙂

    It’s wonderful that you got to meet up with your childhood BFF. You two could almost pass for sisters.

    Glad you had a good time and glad you’re back.
    xoxo

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Haha, lounging doesn’t really happen in Vegas unless you’re three sheets to the wind by a pool.

      Oh, goodness no! I used to be a dancer, but never a go-go dancer. 😉

      One of the bartenders at a casino thought we were sisters and we played along. We’re close, so we’ve always thrown people off.

  11. Sheila says:

    Hahah – I love your travel tips – especially playing on the people mover! I’ve never been to Vegas and now I know I wouldn’t survive it. It would be fun to try though (with lots of margaritas). That picture of you on the stairs looks like it’s from a classic Hollywood movie. I’m glad you survived it all and if I ever go I’ll make sure to use this as a survival guide!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      So many of you guys are saying you wouldn’t survive Vegas! That cracks me up. I’m sure you would all live to tell the tale. There is no shortage of booze, so you would be able to pick up a margarita around any corner and walk anywhere with it as well…down the street if you want!

      Thank you on the stair pic! We were jetlagged as hell, so I appreciate it. xo

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      You both should totally go! It’s a place everyone should see at least once in their lives. Definitely unlike any other place in the world, and as long as you go in with a “let’s have a damn good time” mentality, you’ll be fine.

      You can go to Vegas at any age. They’ve been marketing heavily to the twenty-something crowd for a while, but there are people of all ages, from all over the world.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      LOL! Sensory overload is spot on. It didn’t used to bother me as much when I was a kid. Of course, I played a lot of video games back then. I definitely struggled with it this time…and the cigarette smoke, holy cow!

  12. Minuscule Moments says:

    Oh Britt taking me on this trip brought back many blurred memories (I think three visits for me) to Vegas. The stardust sign in particular, I use to love that sign. Its been 25 years since I have been there but Im betting it has changed a lot. Like you I now prefer a cup of tea instead of a cocktail and would probably not cope with all the crowds. Cant imagine how modernised it is and I do remember the sleezy old part of Vegas well. Glad I had the opportunity to go though it is very unique experience.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Kath doll, you’re one of my only international blogger pals on here that’s been to Vegas! I may have scared everyone else off permanently with this post. 🙂

      I love the Stardust sign as well. My mom and sister stayed there for our wedding forever ago, so I’m glad I got to see it one last time before they killed her off!

      It’s been almost 11 years for me, and it wasn’t THAT different. I expected to be thrown off, but there were only a few changes. 25 years…yeah, a lot has happened since then!

  13. Roy McCarthy says:

    Ugh. My mother (now 85) has been to Vegas with friends at least eight times now. She hasn’t any money to spend, just loves the whole scene. It will be a might strange day that I’ll ever go but I appreciate all your good advice Britt 🙂

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Wowza, Roy! You know, Grandmother Skrabanek was a Vegas fanatic. It was the only place she ever traveled to, besides an occasional California visit. Though she preferred for us to meet up with her in Vegas.

      Of course, her and my dad like to gamble. Definitely not my thing….I prefer to gamble with other things in life. 😉

  14. Smaktakula says:

    So much to comment on. I’ve been to three of the four museums you mentioned–have yet to make it to the Guggenheim.

    I’m glad you were able to enjoy Las Vegas as an adult.
    My favorite thing about Las Vegas is loving to hate it. Although I live in California, I’ve only been to Vegas about ten times. I’ve been their for weddings (missed yours!), college road trips and most recently, concerts (Erasure, the Killers, Andrea Bocelli). I’ve never been a gambler, and I’m not a huge drinker these days, but I do enjoy eating prime rib in the middle of the night.

    I also love to complain about Vegas. I complain about the stink and the crowds and the garish vulgarity of it all. I don’t know when I’ll next go to Vegas. I tried to convince my wife to go see Skrillex with me a week and a half ago, but she was having none of it.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Haha, I think you nailed it when you said: “My favorite thing about Las Vegas is loving to hate it.” People usually love it, or they love to hate it. I might fall somewhere in between. 🙂

      Even if you’re not a huge Vegas fan, it’s a fun place to go to when you have something specific on the agenda and people to hang out with. For our wedding and the conference, we had drinks and meals with other people, and that made it more festive.

      Jealous that you saw The Killers!

  15. Karin Van den Bergh says:

    Haha this one cracked me up! And you consider yourself old? Vegas would probably be giving me seizures then 😀 but who knows maybe one day.

  16. Leni says:

    Well….I am 55 but not like an old lady…but not a tart either. I remember the Vegas from the 70s …..I stayed at the Plaza with my father an Amtrak exec. In 5 weeks we are going….I am curious and alas…trepidatious as to what husband and I will encounter….I have an adventurous spirit and am not about belting some kareoke. That ferris wheel scares the crap outta me though. But I’ll prob. cave and go at night slightly tight…a few drinks. Should be interesting to see the changes to the town. It looks like a yawn in the day….so we will rest and screw then and hiut the light fantastic at night.

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