Las Vegas 2014:
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Las Vegas 2014: [Day 1 - Thursday] [Day 2 - Friday] [Day 3 - Saturday] [Day 4 - Sunday]

Friday, February 14: We were still on Indy time so waking early enough to see the sunrise was very easy to do.


In addition to the airport, our room featured a view of David Copperfield's giant head.
We headed west in our rental car, passing the tower wing where our room was (on the left in this photo), ...
... and the majestic MGM lion, overlooking the Strip.
Here's the Orleans. We continued to drive west.
This park caught our eye, ...
... so we got out and took a brief look. This is what parks look like in places with no water. It was pretty in a very stark, desert-like kind of way.
We decided to spend our breakfast dollars at Del Taco.
We had never been there before so we were excited to try it. After consuming a huge burrito each, we decided that we were fans.
We kept driving west. But why? Why?
This is why. We had a morning date with Red Rock Canyon. We arrived exactly an hour after we left, and that included the park and breakfast stops.
The visitor center features a very long window on one side of the building that provides the perfect frame for the gorgeous scenery right outside.
Behind the visitor center building is an open-air interactive museum with lots to see and do.
Check out this artsy shot.
This metal sculpture featured pinwheels in an exhibit that focuses on desert air.
At the very tip of the exhibit is a round platform with displays identifying the surrounding sites.
For example, here's the Turtlehead Peak sign.
Triops! They're also called tadpole shrimp, according to this sign.
Huge lizard statue. Not to scale.
After spending a nice long time at the visitor center, we headed out to drive the scenic loop.
Our first stop provided a perfect background for some portraits.
Here's more scenery.
And more.
And still more. The rocks are many different colors and it's absolutely beautiful.
At roughly the halfway point, we had a nice panoramic view of the whole valley, which is surrounded on nearly all sides by mountains. That's Las Vegas in the distance, not that you can see it from here.
More scenery.
Here's a wide, shallow gulch.
More scenery. At this point, we weren't far from the end of the loop, so it was only a 42-minute drive from here ...
... to here. We had never been to Circus Circus, so we decided to stop in.
Behold the pink awesomeness that is the giant glass dome over the amusement park inside.
We mostly just walked around and looked at all of the rides and attractions, but we did ride the twisty roller coaster that loops around the park.
Next, we drove down to Mandalay Bay and peeked in on Red Square, a vodka bar with a headless statue of Lenin at the entrance.
It was closed, just as it was the last time we were here. Some day, we'll find it open and we'll check out that ice bar.
Aureole, the restaurant with the two-story wine tower, is right across the way. We probably could have eaten here, ...
... but the more reasonable prices of the food court beckoned to us instead. We got some lunch from Pan Asian, ...
... and watched Sweden take on Switzerland's ice hockey team in the Winter Olympics.
Our reason for visiting Mandalay Bay was to see the Shark Reef Aquarium.
Here's a handsome alligator.
This komodo dragon was just chilling.
Big fish.
Bigger fish.
This colorful dude is a green tree monitor.
The overall theme of the exhibit was based on Southeast Asia. We had seen a statue like this one at the entrance to Angkor Wat in 2012.
Here's a black-tipped reef shark.
Here's a statue out of water ...
... and here's a statue underwater.
We never tire of aquarium tubes. They're very common now but they're still fun to see.
In the touch pool were horseshoe crabs ...
... and not-very-well-hidden rays.
The lionfish exhibit featured this handsome guy with dark markings ...
... and this lighter guy.
Oooh, huge jellyfish! Cool!
This tank was large and dark, so it was especially spooky when this gigantic shark quietly swam by.
It was great fun but it's Vegas and we had places to be.
So we bolted back to the MGM Grand, got ready for the evening, and made the trek to the Signature.
We were here to celebrate! Our dear friends, Dean and Audrey, were getting married.
The suite was fully decorated for a Valentine's Day wedding, with enough food to feed an army.
The sandwiches helped fortify us for our evening activities, ...
... and the wraps came in handy several times over the weekend for a quick snack.
Here was part of our wedding gift to the happy couple: MGM Grand poker chips in a vintage wedding bowl with a custom slot machine card.
The view from the suite was fantastic.
Looking straight out, we could see the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino where we had stayed for a conference four months earlier.
To our right, we could see the north end of the strip.
Straight down, we could see the facility's pool and the monorail below that we'd be taking the next day.
Once the other guests had arrived, Audrey passed out our loot bags, containing souvenirs, shot glasses, and some items needed for the evening's activities.
Dean made cocktails for everyone.
The sun was setting as the officiant and photographer arrived, ...
... and the ceremony started.
Audrey and Dean exchanged vows, ...
... and we all toasted the newlyweds.
Then there were many group photos, both dignified ...
... and not so much.
Here we are with the newlyweds, properly color-coordinated, of course.
Here are our long-time friends, Gina and Patrick, founding member and honorary member of the Vegas Five, respectively.
With the ceremony over, it was time to board the party bus!
Brian and Becky were the fourth couple celebrating with us.
As part of the fun, we were on a mission to visit places in Vegas representing the seven continents. Our first stop was to the iconic Las Vegas sign which represents none other than our very own North America.
Back on the bus, we raised glasses of champagne.
Next, we visited the Rainforest Cafe in the MGM Grand, which represented South America.
Gina and Debbie were sad to see that the Lion Habitat was no more. The famous photo of Gina, Debbie, and a baby lion was recreated, except with sad faces and no baby lion anywhere.
The continent of Africa was represented by a stop at the Luxor hotel, where Dean and Audrey did an excellent job of impersonating the statues there.
Time for a shot on the bus!
Of course, this is the Australia stop and here are Becky and Brian posing for their snapshot. To get here, we walked right underneath a billboard for Thunder From Down Under, featuring handsome men presumably from Australia, but ain't nobody got time for that when you have a party bus to enjoy.
When we got out for the Europe stop, we were right across the street from our beloved Cosmopolitan.
Europe was ably represented by the Eiffel Tower at Paris.
We reboarded our bus to seek out our next destination.
Beverages continued to be poured, or in some cases, drunk straight from the bottle.
The party bus had a pole. For safety reasons, most likely.
Some of us didn't even know that Las Vegas had a Chinatown, but now we do. Continent of Asia: check!
It's not a drive through Vegas without a stop on Fremont Street. We arrived just in time for a Valentine-themed extravaganza at the Fremont Street Experience.
Group photo! Tom took on the photography duties for this one. This was a good opportunity to visit the local establishments -- in particular, their restrooms.
We caught a few minutes of the next show before dashing back to the bus.
At this point, DJ Dean was rocking the bus with crowd-pleasing tunes and there was much dancing.
Our bride and groom performed to one of their favorite Madonna numbers. The bus was moving down Las Vegas Boulevard this entire time.
We passed New York New York just before arriving at the Monte Carlo for our last stop of the evening: ...
... the Minus 5 Ice Bar, representing the continent of Antarctica.
We all bundled up in jackets, gloves, and for some of us, even boots.
We weren't allowed to bring in our own cameras, but their photographer took lots of photos for us to buy.
Here we are! This was our sixth indoor ice experience, having previously visited five locations in the Icehotel/Icebar family of locations, including the Icebar in Stockholm three months earlier.

A good time was had by all, then we helped Audrey and Dean carry everything back to the Signature and called it a night.

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