I’ve been to Las Vegas several times and each time is a new adventure. I renewed my vows at the Little White Wedding Chapel, I got to meet George Wallace, one of my favorite comedians, and I’ve eaten at some of the best restaurants the city has to offer. But none of those previous trips prepared me for my DadVenture.
I arrived in Vegas in the afternoon and headed to my car. The searing heat accosted me as I left the air-conditioned airport. Locals like to say it’s not bad because it’s a dry heat. That’s a lie. The Vegas heat is slightly more tolerable than Hell (opinion is not based on any actual experience in Hell).
Thankfully the driver had a few bottles of water to cool me off while I waited on him to stow my luggage. My driver had recently moved to Las Vegas after completing a degree in Hospitality Management in hopes of landing a job at one of the major resorts. As he drove, he pointed out a few of the sights and shared some of his personal aspirations.
“I want to be bigger than Steve Wynn in this town,” he said. His passion left no doubt in my mind that he’ll accomplish his goals and make his dreams come true.
We arrived at my hotel, The Cosmopolitan, and I thanked him for sharing his story with me. Before he left, he warned me against ending up like the guys in “The Hangover.”
“I’m here with a group of dads,” I said. “What could possibly happen?’
I entered The Cosmospolitan and I immediately had sensory overload. The pulsating music combined with the trippy, rotating images on the columns let me know I was definitely in Vegas. I soon discovered that The Cosmopolitan whose tagline is, Just the right amount of wrong, was the place where everyone wanted to be. A steady stream of tourists flowed through the lobby throughout the day and night including one guy who was dressed as Winnie the Pooh.
I dropped off my bags in my room and went to meet the other dads for dinner. We dined at Estiatorio Milos. I had some delicious lamb chops that were paired with fantastic Greek wines.
THE VEGAS STRIP
After dinner, I took a walk down the Vegas Strip to do some people watching. That night I saw several showgirls, Edward Scissorhands, Sponge Bob, Buzz and Woody, Optimus Prime, Homer Simpson, Superman, Wolverine, a guy dressed in a diaper, and a Gold Elvis.
I stopped to watch a street magician who was telling jokes and performing tricks. At the beginning of the act, he warned parents about the content. “My act is full of innuendo,” he said. “If your children understand it, it’s not my fault. It’s yours.” He proceeded to do various impressive slight of hand tricks. He ended the act by swallowing a 4 foot ballon.
Before turning in for the night, I watched the water show at the Bellagio. It was a treat for the senses.
I woke up the next day and grabbed a quick breakfast to prepare for the day’s adventures.
Adventure at Bass Pro Shop
They other dads and I piled into a 2014 Toyota Sienna (disclosure: Toyota paid all of my travel expenses) and drove across town to Bass Pro Shop where we participated in a series of outdoor challenges (even though most of it was actually indoors).
We started on the shooting range to test our marksmanship skills. Luckily, I learned to shoot a rifle during a previous trip to Pennsylvania. This time, I not only shot a rifle, I also shot a handgun for the first time. We shot targets at a 50 foot range and I was more accurate with the rifle than with the handgun. However, I was less accurate than my colleagues who had some serious shooting skills.
Next up we had a casting competition. The goals was to cast our line into the target that was floating on the pond. I managed to miss the target every single time. Thankfully, so did everyone else in my group.
I tried to redeem myself in the kayak challenge (note: They had to place guards around the kayak pool 24/7 because a group of drunks went skinny dipping the previous night). The top score was 38 seconds. It took me a whole minute longer to complete both laps.
After poor showings in each event, I was thankful that I lived in the suburbs instead of the wilderness. But my suburban acumen can in handy for the next challenge – Loading a Minivan. My team packed copious amounts of camping gear into the Sienna in 43 seconds.
That victory gave me to confidence as I headed to the archery competition. I hadn’t shot a bow and arrow since I was in 5th grade. I started with a regular bow and arrow and managed to hit the target. My aim improved significantly when I used the compound bow. I felt like Hawkeye.
Our final challenge of the day, was to drive the Sienna to as many Las Vegas attractions as we could before 4:30 pm. My team, John, Aaron, and Pete decided to travel to Lake Las Vegas, Mt. Charleston, and the Vegas Sign.
We ended the day with a nice dinner at Lagasses Stadium at The Venetian Hotel. If you visit, you have to get the Emeril’s Steak BAM’wich with a side of Truffle Parmesan Steak Fries.
Later that night, I relaxed in The Cosmopolitan’s Chandelier Lounge and listened to American Idol finalist, Haley Reinhart, sing a few songs.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Dream Racing
The highlight of my trip was visiting the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. When we entered the facility, I could hear the roar of the race cars and my heart rate increased. I couldn’t wait to get my turn on the track.
The owner gave us a safety briefing and we spent some time practicing in simulators to get used to the track. After our training was complete, we suited up and headed to the track.
A professional driver gave me a final briefing and lead me to a Toyota Sienna SE. It had 19” wheels and a sport-tuned suspension. I never thought I would ever use those words to describe a minivan.
“Remember your training,” the pro said through the radio embedded in the racing helmet. “Trust the vehicle and have fun.”
I revved the engine and entered the track. I was excited and nervous at the same time. On the first turn, it felt like the van would tip over. But I remembered what the pro said about trusting the vehicle. After the first lap, I relaxed and drove the van with confidence. I managed to get the van up to 80 mph on the staight-a-way.
After I completed my laps in the van, I went on a hot lap with the pro driver.
“Do you mind if I push this vehicle to it’s limits?” he asked.
“I don’t mind,” I said. “I doubt that you’d listen to me if I did.”
He smiled and cranked the engine.
That was the thrill ride of a lifetime. He made that Sienna do things that I never knew minivans were capable of. He hugged the curves and managed to push the van to 85mph on the straight-a-way. I will never look at minivans the same way again.
But the best part of the day was getting to drive a Ferrari F430 GT (you can read about that experience on this post – What It’s Like to Drive a Ferrari F-430 GT). It was one of the best experiences of my life behind getting married, having children, and graduating from college.
Mastro’s Ocean Club Restaurant
We ended the day with a great dinner at Mastro’s Ocean Club Restaurant. The appetizers -Seared Ahi Tuna & Tempura Asparagus – were tasty and we had some great wine. For dinner, I ordered the 160z NY Strip (which was huge), mashed potatoes, mushrooms, and broccoli. The dinner was delicious, but the conversation was even better. I enjoyed sharing fatherhood stories with the other dads and reminiscing about our adventures in Vegas.
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