I now have an official favorite hotel and casino. Actually, two of 'em, but they're 50 feet apart so I consider 'em to be one place. They're the Las Vegas Club and the Golden Gate. We stay at the Club because we're a member of their "season pass" promotion (win $100 on a slot, and you get a free weekend stay every 3 months), which is the best deal in town. We also tend to gamble there because the limits are low, the rules are generous, and the dealers are friendly. They've actually got dollar blackjack, 25-cent craps, and 10-cent roulette from midnight until 9 am, which is easily the cheapest game in town.
Anyway, for the first time we decided to spend a little game-time at the Golden Gate across the street, and it was a pleasant surprise. We usually hop in there once or twice on our trips to Vegas, as they've got the best 99-cent shrimp cocktails in town, and they've got a real-live piano player providing music. This time, we decided to gamble there a bit. Shelly and I parked ourselves in front of an empty craps table, and we threw the dice for a while and chatted it up with the dealers. After about ten minutes, there was a shift-change for table bosses, and we bid the boss goodbye. About five minutes later, he showed up behind us and handed us a couple of free meal comps, which was certainly unexpected --usually you've gotta play for a couple of hours to get a freebie.
We also got a free meal in the "Great Moments Room" room in Las Vegas Club (another perk of their "season pass" club), which is a little dark intimate steakhouse. Really yummy.
I really like these places, as they're about the last of old-time Vegas. Virtually every other casino has a "comp-club", in which you have a card that you put in slot machines and present at tables to keep track of how much you spend, and you consult a pay-table to see if you rate a free meal or T-shirt. It's efficient, but it's impersonal. The days of the friendly casino boss who wanders about handing out free meals and shows to keep the gamblers happy is almost gone, but it was nice to see that it's not completely a relic of the past.
My biggest disappointment this time was Binions next door. They used to be the king of old-time Vegas, but that's pretty-much over. Their late-night meal special has been getting smaller and more expensive, and the tradition of staying up really late so you can get a cheap steak just isn't fun anymore (ironically, Las Vegas Club now has a graveyard special that's cheaper and better).
We headed down to the strip a couple of times. We saw the shark exhibit at Mandalay Bay and the Blue Man Group at Luxor. Both were well-worth the price of admission. Didn't spend any gambling time on the strip this time, which is a first. We usually find ourselves playing games at the Ho or the Slots-A-Fun, which are a couple of fun, dinky, low-limit places on the strip.
Interesting trivia: The Golden Gate was the first hotel in Las Vegas, opening in 1906. They've got their original phone in the lobby. The phone number was 1.