Las Vegas 2021

Day 2: Monday, December 20

I woke up at the crack of dawn, 6am I believe it was...see I told you I was an early riser! It was so early that it was still dark out. I got onto the computer and reviewed my notes to try to plan today's events out. I did not book any shows for the first 2 days because I had been reading how airlines had been cancelling flights and I didn't want that to happen to us and then pay a lot of money for a show and miss it. There were no refunds on shows booked online. I was playing it smart. 

As I looked at my very long list of to-do's something caught the corner of my eye and as I looked over I gasped. No, it was not one of the ghost of the Luxor lerking in the distance...it was a beautiful site outside my 11th story wall of windows.

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We had to perfect room to watch it from too! I loved the way the sun came up over the mountains in the distance. I was even able to catch some planes taking off as well. 

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As the sun continued to rise, I knew that Sakari was missing out. She has a whole collection of photo's of the sunrise and sunset and just loves them!

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The hubby was up by 7am and missed it all. The hubby headed downstairs for his morning coffee fix and discovered that there was a Starbucks...which is not his favorite place and he prefers Tim Hortons. However, there's a Starbucks on every block and 100 in each building you enter...so he'd just have to get used to it for this trip. Well daddy ended up bringing us all a bagel with cream cheese back. This was great since we didn't know our way around quite yet to head out hunting for some breakfast.  We all gathered around our "living room - kitchen table" to have breakfast together while I bragged to Sakari about the sunrise and showed her my awesome pictures. 

We attempted to turn on the tv to see what was going on only to find out there were no batteries in either remote! It was a bit chilly in here too, so I turned on the heat in the living room to warm things up a little.

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So my first decision of the day was to go buy bus passes to the Deuce. You can buy a 3 day pass ($20/pp) and that's what I intended on doing. Now according to my map I printed out, you could buy the passes at the bus stop right in front of Mandalay Bay. We headed over that way, using the shopping hallway, and then stopped at a desk at Mandalay to ask if they knew exactly where it was...I was trying to save steps on getting there. She told us to head across the street and over by McDonald's there was a bus stop with a kiosk. 

So off we went down the street to the light, across, and then back down to the bus stop. 

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Once we were over there, we didn't find a kiosk. There was a little shack there, with no one in it, but it looked like a tour place. We stood there for a minute and decided to walk back down the street, cross at the light and over to the bus stop on the same side as Mandalay and whaddaya know...there was the kiosk! Geesh!

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Since we were on this side of the street, what better way to start our first day than going to the well-known "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign at the very beginning of the strip? So that was our plans to kick start our day.
 

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It was not far, just a little past Manadalay and it was time to get off. It is located in the middle of the street and there is a small parking lot there...it also comes with it's very on Elvis! I knew he was still alive. Viva Las Vegas baby!

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There was a very small line in the middle to take pictures by the sign. We noticed this place had it's very own photographer. So we have Elvis and a photographer out here trying to make a buck. He would take your camera or phone and as many of them you had to take a picture for you, the group, then individuals. He was managing my camera and Sakari's phone at the same time. I did notice some people were not even giving him a tip. How crappy! He did a good job. So we gave him $5. He deserved it.

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Well that was fun. By the time we were done with our pictures, there was quite a crowded lined up now. I'm glad we got there when we did. 

We caught the bus again and my plans were to head all the way to the end at Fremont. Sakari really wanted to sit upstairs, so up we went. I had stopped when we got on the bus to ask if it was ok to go upstairs and as I was doing that, a family went passed us and also went up there. Well, they took the front seat and Sakari was disappointed. 

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We ended up sitting in a seat...for about 5 seconds because Sakari and I were busy going back and forth on the bus, switching seats every time we saw something interesting, and of course taking pictures. 

Passing by the Luxor again...

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Next to us (and connecting to our hotel) was the Excalibur. I know it is supposed to be about Medieval  times, but it still looks like it belongs somewhere at Disney to me. :D

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Next to that is New York New York. I really liked the way this hotel looked...and then there's the roller coaster. Woo Wee. 

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Now I did read, prior to coming, that the roller coaster was not going to be open until December 24th, which was Friday. It was on our agenda for that day. Sakari insisted on going on it no matter how cold it was. 

I spotted the Pepsi place and knew we would have to make a stop there some day.

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Hard Rock Cafe and then we spotted our first Vegas girls of the trip.

M&M's and Coke were side by side across the street. 

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Paris hotel. You know we tried to go in each of the hotels to see what they looked like and in the end, this is one I completely forgot to go in. Darnit

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Passing by the Flamingo...you can't miss the bright pink

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I spotted the Venetian because of the bright blue water and gondola boats.

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More Vegas girls...

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By this time, the family in the front of the bus was getting off and we managed to snag the front view now.

 

 

It's a spaceship at the Fashion show Mall

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Encore

The well known Strat with all of the thrill rides your little heart desires

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And the cool Vegas sign that goes from one side to the other

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Now the cool thing I noticed was that now all of a sudden the buses had their own lane...and it was in the center of the road. They would be weaving in and out from the center to the side to let people off and pick up new people. It was really super weird.  A few times I did spot cars in those lanes...those darn tourist that can't drive.

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I started seeing flashing lights and knew this had to be the Fremont area.

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We got off the bus and started heading out to explore. This area gave off an entirely different "vibe" than the area we had just came from. It seemed older and I told the hubby "this must be where it all started and was here before the area we are staying in". So...I had to look up the history.

Vegas was born in 1905 with only a few 100 people and a dirt road.  A year later Hotel Nevada, now known as Golden Gate opened up and started gaming. However, in 1910 a ban on gambling put a hold on this. 

In 1925 Fremont Street was paved and the downtown area began to develop. The ban on gambling was lifted in 1931 and this sparked a massive casino development...which would be known as the "strip".  

The largest casino, The Golden Nugget, was opened in 1946 and the largest building was the Fremont Hotel that was built in 1956. Entertainment on the strip was paving its way to the future we know now.

Fast forward to 1994, the city closed Fremont Street to traffic and transformed the area into a glittering desert oasis, which was opened in 1995, after spending $70 million, and named the "Fremont Street Experience". A giant canopy, covering 4 blocks and having an estimating 2.1 million lights, was ready to put on a stunning show...and if that wasn't enough, they would invest another $17 million in more LED displays in 2004. In the early 2000's stages were added to accommodate the frequent performances they would have there.

There's a lot of nostalgia in this area that was first in Vegas. There are definitely a lot of signs indicating this today. I wish I would have known all about this and the landmarks to look for prior to going there so that I could have gotten pictures...but I'll know next time.

As we walked along the Fremont Street area, we were amazed by the canopy with flashing lights. It was so beautiful...but man it was cold in that area. The canopy blocked out the sunlight and it was like a wind tunnel.

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We did a little shopping here and there, but needed to find a bathroom. We headed into the Golden Nugget where we found an aquarium. 

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Wandering around the hallways, we spotted a large aquarium out by the pool...the hubby said "look, there's a water slide going through it!"

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Back out to Fremont Street, Sakari had decided she wanted to get a caricature picture done (we had seen this guy as we passed by the first time). We get these everywhere we go and definitely wanted one from Vegas. We learned that he was from Ohio and we talked about everything you could think of (his way of getting to know someone to incorporate it into the picture). This guy worked off tips, which was strange to me because I'm used to paying a certain predetermined amount. 

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I was busy watching the various displays above us.

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This display gave me that part of vacation that I knew I was missing...the beach

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Just a short video of the flashing lights of the Fremont canaopy

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The hubby and I decided that we wanted our picture done as well. 

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There were acts everywhere you looked. People standing like statues that wouldn't move, people dancing to a boom box, people wanting to take a picture for you standing by something with your camera to make a buck. Just everywhere you looked there were people trying to get money. Then there were all the homeless people that were sitting around with signs wanting help.

We had our very own photographer to take our picture by the huge tree...Sakari...and she came free!

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We had found the Slot Zilla zipline, but it wasn't open. We were told that it opens later in the day before it gets dark. Well, honestly, that's when I wanted to ride it, so we would have to come back at a different time and at night. It was just so cold today.

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We were all getting hungry at this point and one of my "to-do" items was to eat at the Heart Attack Grill. I had seen it on tv years ago and thought it would be fun. However, when we went in, they informed us "We only accept cash, you must change into a hospital gown, then if you don't eat all of your food, you will be spanked". Sakari got a really weird look on her face and I could tell the spanking part didn't sit well with her...especially knowing that her anxiety was increasing with the thought of it. I also didn't bring that kind of cash with me. What establishment only accepts cash these days??? So weird. We walked out to find another place that would suit our needs. Maybe we'd come back another time.

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Well Dicks Last Resort was just around the corner and guess what...they accepted credit cards! We had been there before and had a lot of fun so why not? And...as the name says...it was our last resort.

As we were seated, the waitress ask us if we were here for the fun or did we think we were at Applebee's. I told her the fun and she threw down our paper table covering and silverware and said "good, make your table yourself" in true Dick fashion.

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We ordered some Fry'd Pickle Chips because it just sounded good. 

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The hubby ordered the Dick's Huge 12"  Wiener, I tried the Mama Dick's Mac 'N' Cheese and Sakari just got wings. 

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We sat around and joked with the waitress and she actually was funny (and nice even though they were not supposed to be). She made our hats and we wore them proudly.

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We asked the waitress for a pen for Sakari to draw and she was given some crayons. She ended up drawing her very own caricature of the waitress as well.

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The waitress liked her picture and had Sakari sign it and hang it on the wall. Our bellies were full $79.96 later...

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It was time to leave and we did everything I figured we could do, so it was back to the bus stop we went. I ask my personal GPS (the hubs) where did we need to go and he led us back down the street and around to the area that we had originally got off the bus when we arrived. It was quite a walk and then we needed to be on the opposite side of the street to go the direction we were headed. 

After the bus came, it took us around and whaddaya know, it circled around and a stop was right where we were standing after coming out of Dick's and started our long journey of hiking down Fremont Street again to find the bus stop. Geesh! The things you learn.

We managed to get a front row seat on the upper half of the bus and the hubby was in the drivers seat. I don't think he's ever driven a double decker bus, so we were a little scared for our lives.

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We got off at the Strat and decided we would go up and check out the views and attractions. Prior to coming, I had showed Sakari video's of things you could do up there and told her "under no circumstance will you be doing any of these things". It just looked too scary and dangerous and that would make my anxiety go up as well! But I was willing to go up to the top and have a look at the great views while we were there. 

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Tickets to just go up to the top would cost $20 per adult and $14 per child and at this point...Sakari was a child in my book and we told them she was 12 years old. I mean she was almost still 12 right? This place will nickel and dime you to death and ya gotta save a buck when you can. They add $4 per ticket as well. With a whopping $66, just to go up to the top to have a look around, was paid, we were on our way. (Tickets would allow you to visit as much as you wanted for the day)

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Here is how the Stratosphere measures up to other buildings...

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A little information about the Strat. It is the tallest observation tower in the US and second-tallest in the Western Hemisphere. Although a portion of the hotel opened in 1979, the construction of the Stratosphere Tower began  in 1992. It cost $70 million to build. The Strat complex cost $550 million and opened in 1996. 

The thrill rides at the top of the Strat include:

*Big Shot, opened in 1996, which travels up and down the tower's needle dropping your heart as it goes along at 45 miles per hours and generates 4Gs. It was once considered the highest thrill ride.

*X-Scream, opened in 2003, which is a single car the rolls back and forth on a straight piece of 68 ft track and hangs over the edge of the building 27 feet as it goes back and forth like a see-saw. It looks like a small roller coaster on a short track.

*Insanity, opened in 2005, dangles riders 64 feet over the edge of the tower and spins in circles at 40 miles per hour creating 3 Gs. It is also angled at 70 degrees so that you are looking what's below you as you spin.

*Sky Jump, open in 2010, and is a controlled free fall bungee jumping type of ride that visitors step off a platform and plummet 855 ft down to a pad on the ground. 

We arrived at the top and man the views were amazing!

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They did have an interactive screen that told you where to locate various buildings. 

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I heard a weird sound and looked up and seen the X-Scream hanging over the edge of the building above us. Yikes!

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Then of course something caught the corner of Sakari's eye...she said "Did I just see someone jump???" She ran over and yes, she had found the jumping deck. She jumped up and down and did a little squeal and was so excited to watch.

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We watched several people take the plunge to the bottom and it was quite scary to watch from up here. The design of the glass is that it protrudes outward and then there are the "do not lean against the glass" signs everywhere, giving that added sense of non-security if you were to do so...but you had to lean over to be able to see them go all the way to the bottom. I can't imagine standing on the platform on the OUTSIDE of this building and taking that "step". My heart sank just thinking of what would be racing around in my head trying to convince myself to do it. 

Then it happened...I knew it was coming..."I wanna do it mom! Why can't I do it? I wanna do it so bad!" I just knew she was going to do this to me. I really don't understand how someone, anyone, with such a high level of anxiety can be perfectly cool with jumping off a building being secured by a wire. I can't even wrap my head around it. I would think her anxiety would be through the roof at doing something like that. But noooooo...she wouldn't leave me alone about it. I have to remember she has always been an extremist growing up (with a 1 year period of being scared around age 10, but she bounced back quickly) and was jumping off 2 story decks into the ocean without a lifejacket at 3 years old. Why would she change anything now I guess?

"Sakari, come over here and look at these beautiful views..." I said.

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No matter what I said, Sakari was not about to give up on the idea of jumping. Ugh! I explained to her just how much it cost to do this and once you pay, there's no turning back. You couldn't get your money back and I'm not spending that kind of money for her to get nervous and back out. She said she promised that she would not back out. We made an agreement that if this happened, she would be doing her chores until it was paid off! She agreed. Anything to be able to jump. Now we had ask how old you had to be to jump when we first bought the tickets and they told us 14. I reminded Sakari of this and how we already said she was 12. Well, all of a sudden she wanted to be 14 somehow. Ok, let's throw a couple of quick birthday parties and make her 14 and go check out if she would be able to. I can't believe I'm giving into this! My heart was pounding. 

Wait, I'm looking around and where are our caricature pictures? I didn't have them. The hubby and Sakari didn't have them. I just knew this was going to happen! I said it when we first got them done, because I only had a small purse on me instead of a bag to put them in, that I was going to eventually lose them. Now it had happened. We looked everywhere. Then we started to retrace in our heads the last time they were seen. I remember before we purchased the tickets to the top of the Strat that I had them in my hands, twirling them around...I don't know why I remembered that but I did. So that was the last place they were seen. They just had to be at the desk where we purchased our tickets. We immediately headed back down. Yep, they were there and the attendant had them sitting beside her.

Now we couldn't ask this attendant about tickets for jumping when she was the one that we had told that Sakari was 12. I do know they had a different floor where they could be purchased. So back up we went. When we got there, we found that they were completely booked now. There were no jumps left for the night. Awww, shucky darns! Actually by this time, she had convinced me that jumping would be ok, I had come to turns with it, and had wished her farewell and told her what a great kid she has been for us and I would break it to her dogs gently. Looked like I wouldn't have to do that now. I had also convinced myself this would make for a good section in my review here as well and even better with a video from down below looking up at the spec of a dot as she jumped off. Oh the things I do for a good review! However, they did take our name and my number and said if there were any cancellations, they would call me. (What were the chances of that when people pay that kind of money in the first place? They're not losing their money in this small investment!)

Well, now that we were back up here, we found a place to buy pop, I used the bag to place my now rolled up pics in it and hopefully it would be easier to keep track of. Two bottles of pop and a juice would be $10.99 up there.

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We did find out there was another floor up higher that you could go to that was actually outside and you could get a better view of the other attractions. So, we headed upstairs. 

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We noticed a huge fire off in the distance once we got up there.

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The views were amazing and unrestricted as the sun was starting to go down. 

We noticed the Big Shot in action as we heard people screaming on it, but the Insanity didn't have anyone on it and we never did see it in action. The X-Scream had plenty of people riding it and it still made my heart drop when it got to the edge hanging over the building. 

There is a protective "barrier" around the top up here. There was a fence and then an area after that, then another fence for safety. There's no just climbing a fence and jumping. There was also security guards up there as well. 

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They have a bunch of binocular viewers up there, but it said you had to pay to use them. However, every one of them we checked worked without paying. I was also grateful that this side of the building was not cold out there. The building actually blocked the wind and it was decent out there. They planned that right when they built it.

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The X-Scream in action...

Sakari was very disappointed in not getting to jump so I promised her we would come back again and actually we were coming back on Thursday for a show. So, we would just come earlier for her to jump. I had her rate her thoughts on what kind of an extremists she was and this is what she gave me. I would think jumping off the highest building in the US would rate as a Daredevil...just my thoughts.

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Did you know the statue to the right was constructed to draw attention to the Strat? It is pointing up at it and is meant as an advertisement piece.

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 We had waited around long enough that I knew they were not going to call me for a cancellation and Sakari just had to come to terms with that. We had walked a mall area, that seemed quite dead, and there really wasn't much there for us to do. We had stopped to get Sakari Starbucks with a gift card that she had received for Christmas the year before and while she sucked that up at the table in front of us, we donated $39.54 at the slots and walked away with a total of 0.46...yippee. 

 

We wasn't quit sure where the bus stop was in this area (and I have a feeling we went the wrong way as we always seem to do). Down the street was a large gift shop area and we decided to go in and have a look. I always try to find a special refrigerator magnet from each place we go to, so I was on the hunt.

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We finally found the bus stop and took it down to The Wynn taking pictures here and there.

The Wynn was supposed to have a water show called Lake of Dreams, but when we arrived, they said they were not having one that night. Now I may be wrong, but it also looked like you would have to be dining with them out on the patio in order to see it. So, I would not get a chance to go back after this night to test this theory. 

However, they did have an indoor conservatory that was very beautiful with tons of flowers and Christmas decor.

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The atrium was super cool and had escalators that CURVED! I have never seen anything like it before. I was so fascinated by them. 

The lamp shade looking lights above went up and down and would spin. They were so pretty.

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It was time to continue on our journey and I wanted to head over to the Mirage for the volcano show. We would wind in and out of shopping, the streets, escalators going over streets...

We would finally make it to the monorail that would take us over to the Mirage. 

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As we walked outside, we wasn't quite sure where to go. We were at the top of the "volcano" and decided we would head down and around to the sidewalk side. Buy this time, my foot was killing me, but I was going to keep going and then have a seat once we found a spot. I didn't care if it was in the middle of the sidewalk at that point. 

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There was a sign when we got down to the bottom letting us know that the next show would be at 7pm. We had about a 40 minute wait at this point. 

This would be our view:

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And sitting on the sidewalk is what I (we) did while waiting for the show. Notice how there was no one around at that point. This would quickly change about 10 minutes before the show. 

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Now Sakari did not know this was a "volcano" show. She thought it was a water fountain show and she was very surprised and liked it. I was particularly grateful for the "fire" in the water close to us because it was cold out and the heat, even from the volcano, was intense and warming. 

After the show was over, the streets WERE CROWDED! COVID just lurking in the air from so many people in one place. 

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We started seeing a bunch of Disney Characters on the streets...which would be an ongoing theme this entire vacation. I thought we were in Vegas, not Disney. Does Mickey and the crew visit Vegas at Christmas? Again, more people out there trying to make a buck. Mickey was magical though...he'd be on one street corner and you'd walk across the street and he'd be on the other side with a different outfit on. Way to confuse the kids Mickey!

However, in this area, there are 2 Mickey's standing right beside each other. One in "clothes" and the other with a Santa outfit on.