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Hotel Review: Delano Hotel Las Vegas

Hotel Review: Delano Hotel Las Vegas

Last week I was in Las Vegas for business, and I had the opportunity to stay at the Delano Las Vegas again. Created as a hotel-within-a-hotel concept inside the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, the Delano stands on its own. In my opinion, it’s the one of the best non-casino hotels in Las Vegas.

We’ve been to Las Vegas many, many (many) times, and stayed in quite a few hotels on and off the strip over the years. Without a doubt, we would happily make the Delano Las Vegas our Vegas home if we are visiting without the kids. Why you ask? Because three things: no casino, no smoking, and a sexy vibe. Period. That’ why I think the Delano Las Vegas is one of the best non-casino hotels in Las Vegas.

Casino Gaming Can Be Fun

Vegas is a blast, we cannot deny, and casinos are a huge part of what has made Las Vegas such an enormous success. It can be so much fun to sit at a black jack table for hours, eking out hard-earned dollars on hands you should have folded. The last time we were there, I ambled up to the craps table at Caesar’s Palace. Desperately, I tried to follow the play until I picked up a few of the tricks from some hardcore players. Again, a total blast.

But when I’m done with the casino, I am D-O-N-E. I don’t want to come downstairs from my room for breakfast the next morning, and smell stale cigarette smoke. I don’t want to hear the ringing of the slot machines or whoops from big players hollering about the latest win or loss. I want my coffee, my quiet time, and a slow return to the living. Not more casino shenanigans in the morning. Which is why I  love the Delano Las Vegas for its welcome absence of gaming – truly one of the best non-casino hotels in Las Vegas.

Sexy Lobby

Whomever designed this hotel gets my applause. When it was formerly The Hotel, it was just okay in an opulent only-in-Vegas gilded kind of way. Now as the Delano, the spaces are sleek and warmly stylish. It features appropriately dim cocktail lighting that looks good on anybody.

Low leather couches, lots of random-shaped wood furniture, very cool art and a chill vibe. My kind of place!

Just look at this lobby at the Delano Las Vegas – seriously cool vibe.

HUGE Rooms

These are some of the largest hotel rooms on the Las Vegas Strip. The Delano offers all suites, with enormous sitting rooms, spacious bedrooms with giant granite and marble bathrooms and walk-in showers. The furnishings and design are high style, very chic with a vibe you would normally find in New York.

The suites at the Delano are enormous!

This photo doesn’t do justice to how cool this room is – I couldn’t get the right angle, so just trust me.

Nice Connections to Mandalay Bay

One other cool thing about the Delano is its direct connection to the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. It’s simply down a hallway or two, and into the casino and restaurant arcade. So convenient! You can eat, drink, see a show and gamble at the Mandalay. Then stumble back to the Delano to relax in the rich, quiet vibe of coolness. The best of both worlds!

Hallway leading from Delano Las Vegas to Mandalay Bay Resort & Spa, Las Vegas

This main hallway links the Delano Las Vegas with the casino floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort

Easy Restaurant Options

The Delano Las Vegas has a few basic food options. There is a lobby cafe called 3940 Coffee & Tea that features coffee, baked goods, some salads and sandwiches. This was my go-to spot each morning for fuel before hitting the convention floor. It was also a lifesaver, because using the Keurig coffee machine in the room costs $14! (This spot only open until 2 pm each day).

lobby cafe at Delano Hotel Las Vegas

The lobby coffee shop at the Delano is comfortable and stylish.

Della’s Kitchen is located just off the lobby, and is a basic full-service restaurant for breakfast and lunch. It’s very casual and offers a diverse menu of a little bit of everything. The hotel describes it as “historic farmhouse meets urban kitchen.” We ate there twice on this trip – breakfast one day and lunch another. It was good as hotel lobby restaurants go, but nothing to write home about.

Della's Kitchen at Delano Hotel Las Vegas

Farm to table menu items are featured at Della’s Kitchen inside the Delano Hotel Las Vegas.

Bonus Location – End of Strip

If you’ve been to Vegas a few times, you start to learn the lay of the land. For example, if your dinner reservations are down the Strip a ways, and you need to take a cab or uber. It can be a brutal and very long, expensive ride in heavy traffic. And walking? Out of the question – way too hot! Staying at the Delano Las Vegas can be an advantage due to it being located at the very end of the Strip. This gives cabbies and uber drivers many options to maneuver around traffic using surface streets. If you are always running a tad late (ahem) then every minute counts, and this little secret is a valuable one!

What’s your favorite best non-casino hotels in Las Vegas?  Come on, let’s hear it!

My barometer for a hotel room is the bar and the bathroom. The Delano wins for both!

For another example of best non-casino hotels in Las Vegas, read our story about our parents weekend away at The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas.

 

No Smoking, Please!

Something that seems perhaps a little glamorous at night, framed with cocktails, sly glances and pouty lips, becomes so disgusting the day after. The last thing I want is to smell smoke – or smell like smoke – when the party is over. Again, the Delano Las Vegas comes through as a non-smoking hotel. More points.


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Helicopter Tour of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas

Helicopter Tour of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas

*This post was sponsored by Maverick Helicopters and The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas.

Our family is fortunate to have seen some amazing views from very high places, such as hot air balloons in Turkey and helicopter tours in Kauai. However, nothing tops my recent helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas. It was a breathtaking experience, hosted by Maverick Helicopters for a group of us staying at The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas.

As many times as we’ve been to Las Vegas, we never realized how close The Strip is to the Grand Canyon. These two places could not be more different from one another, and Maverick Helicopters helped us see both from new perspectives. The trip was about four hours of fun, with so many sights crammed into that time that I got lost in all the beauty.

Departing from McCarran Airport

We boarded for our helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas by boarding at McCarran International Airport. Opposite the regular passenger terminals sits a group of hangars, one of which is dedicated to Maverick Helicopters. Flying a fleet of more than a dozen helicopters from this location, Maverick also has bases on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Maui and soon to open in Kauai.

safety briefing at Maverick Helicopters

Our Maverick Helicopters pilot prepped us with a safety briefing before we boarded.

It’s an easy shuttle ride from The Cosmopolitan to the Maverick hangar (they even come to pick you up at your hotel), where guests wait comfortably for a safety briefing and then boarding.

Soaring Away

With seating for seven passengers plus the pilot, the helicopter was surprisingly roomy. Surrounding by windows our sight lines were wide open, and as we ascended straight up into the sky, the Las Vegas Strip came into full view in all its glory. After a brief pass over the southern end of Las Vegas Boulevard, we headed straight out into the desert towards the Grand Canyon.

not a doggie bag

Is this a doggie bag, or something else? Good thing we didn’t need it – the ride was smooth and easy.

The ride was exhilarating. We dipped and soared across the the rooftops of East Las Vegas, low enough to see people in their backyards and yet high enough to see mountains on the horizon ahead. As we moved forward, our pilot took us on a wide turn in the sky that brought an amazing sight into view – one of the world’s most famous engineering achievements.

 

heading to Grand Canyon by helicopter

Heading out towards the Grand Canyon, there were plenty of gorgeous vistas before we ever got there.

The Hoover Dam

We had a chance to visit the Hoover Dam last summer on our great road trip of the Southwest, but this view from high above was just mind blowing. Our helicopter swooped around the canyon and approached the dam from the lower side, where the Colorado River flows out the bottom of the dam to continue on its’ way. Lake Mead sits above, blue and expansive, with Hoover Dam holding all that water firmly in place.

Maverick Helicopter tour of Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam looks so impressive from above, with its fortress barrier and engineering marvels.

As we soared above the dam, our pilot turned our vantage point to look south this time. Hovering over Lake Mead, we could see the top of the dam, the incredible drop to the river far below, and even little people standing on the top of the dam looking down. One of the most beautiful sights was of the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, which spans the canyon with impressive arches in front of Hoover Dam. The photo opportunities were endless.

Lake Mead and Hoover Dam from above

Looking across Lake Mead from above, we could see Hoover Dam holding all the water with the Colorado River below.

Touching Down in the Grand Canyon

We powered on, reaching the crevices and deeply gouged earth of the Grand Canyon in just moments. The color of the earth changed color from dingy grey to a deep ochre red, with interesting variations in tone that are hard to notice close up. From high above, we viewed geological formations, striations in the canyon walls of color ranging from chalky white to blood red, and straggly plants trying for dear life to hang on to the steep walls.

Drinking Veuve by the Grand Canyon

Sitting about 300 feet above the Colorado River, we were descended into the Grand Canyon and resting on an ancient plateau.

Our pilot brought us down into the canyons, flying low over the Colorado River and between the high walls of rock on either side. It honestly felt like a video game, as we sped along with rocks whizzing by.

All of sudden, we came upon a cliff-side clearing, where other helicopters were parked in an area inaccessible by foot or boat. As we touched down, the wind from the rotors whirled up a cloud of red dirt spraying up to greet us. Safely on the ground, we stepped out of the helicopter and were greeted by picnic benches, umbrellas, and delicious Veuve Clicquot cocktails whipped up by The Cosmopolitan’s chief mixologist Mariena Mercer.

Mariena made us some killer Veuve cocktails, hanging out deep inside the Grand Canyon. Crazy cool!

Sitting on a rock, sipping Veuve and looking out over the Colorado River, I couldn’t help but get a little emotional. After all, how many opportunities do you have to helicopter into the Grand Canyon and touch down on a cliff side to take in the view? Yeah, me neither.

Buzzing The Strip

After the incredibly beauty of the Grand Canyon we were pretty quiet as we flew back towards Las Vegas, each passenger lost in our own thoughts. But we were delighted out of our reverie by the stunning view of the Las  Vegas Strip on the horizon. Sure enough, the pilot maneuvered us directly along the Strip. We flew over all the major icons of Las Vegas, including Fremont Street downtown, the Stratosphere, Caesars Palace, the fountains of the Bellagio, the tall towers of The Cosmopolitan, the pyramid of Luxor, and back to our starting point at the Maverick Helicopters hangar.

Las Vegas Strip birds eye view

Coming back into Las Vegas, we buzzed the Strip and flew directly over the hotels and casinos.

Back at The Cosmopolitan, I was so charged up from our helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas that I had to visit the spa for a massage. Luckily, the resort has an excellent spa called Sahra which was the perfect ending to an adventure filled day.

 


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Making Cake Truffles with Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar

Making Cake Truffles with Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar

*This post was made possible through the kind sponsorship of The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas.

It’s not easy to become a famous chef by making desserts, and that is precisely what Christina Tosi has done big time. With her now-famous Milk Bar group of restaurants, she has turned the dessert world on its head with her amazing creations. While staying at The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas recently, I had the incredible opportunity to attend a private session making Cake Truffles with Christina Tosi. I will never look at cake the same way again.

Making cake with Christina Tossi and Jon Bailey

It was so awesome to spend time with Chef Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar fame.

Meeting Christina Tosi in person was the real treat, and she is extremely approachable with a great sense of humor. I mentioned watching her as a judge alongside Gordon Ramsey on the hit TV show Master Chef, because my friend Claudia Sandoval had been the winner of Season 6! Christina loved hearing how well Claudia is doing (we bonded over Claudia’s ridiculously delicious Tres Leches Cake, but that’s another story and another cookbook).

Momofuku Milk Bar

Christina puts such attention to detail into each one of her creations, and the flavor profiles are intensely delicious. She has perfected the exact right balance of flavors, textures and aesthetics to produce gorgeous cakes that taste out of this world. Her focus is on flavors, infusing different combinations into every possible ingredient that enhances them beyond their original. For example, milk is never used plain – it’s always infused with some other flavor to add another opportunity to layer flavors into what becomes a complex combination of many elements. Whatever she is doing, please keep doing it because it works!

Birthday Cake by Milk Bar

Birthday Cake at its finest, by Chef Christina Tosi from Momokufu Milk Bar.

Making Cake Truffles with Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar

The story behind Christina’s now-famous Cake Truffles is amazing, but you first have to learn how she makes her cakes. Each cake layer is baked in a rectagular baking pan, and then circles of cake are cut from the pan. (This is ingeniusly done so that Christina can be assured the cake is cooked consistently through from edge to edge.) This process leaves cake scraps leftover, and she didn’t want to waste perfectly good cake. Thus, she invented Cake Truffles.

Making Cake Truffles with Christina Tossi

Chef Christina Tosi demonstrates how to make a Cake Truffle.

Now so popular that she has to make extra pans of cake devoted just to Cake Truffles, these delicious creations are available in her restaurants by the single or multiple. I came home with 12, and my family devoured them by the next morning!

Birthday Cake Truffles

Here is the general process we followed to make Birthday Cake Truffles with Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar fame, under her personal direction.

Making Cake Truffles assembly line

Our Birthday Cake Truffle assembly line, in which I was a cake crumbler.

  1. We crumbled up a pan of birthday cake into little pieces.
  2. Into the bowl of crumbles, we added some vanilla infused milk
  3. We mixed the milk and crumbles together with our hands, gaining a consistency that was sticky not clumpy.
  4. Using a scoop, we rolled the cake mixture into balls about the size of a ping pong ball.
  5. From there, the balls were dipped in melted white chocolate mixed with a bit of coconut oil to thin out the clumping factor. The chocolate coating seals in the moist cake and creates a crunchy hard shell for added texture.
  6. Then the ball is rolled in toasted birthday cake crumbs, which stick to the hardening chocolate and add a crunchy exterior.
  7. The balls are set aside to cool while the process continues.
    Birthday Cake Truffles with Christina Tossi

    Finished Cake Truffles cooling on the plate, as we perched nearby waiting to taste them. Mmmmmmm.

When all was complete, we had to taste our creations of course. They were beyond delicious.

There were three other teams at our session, all making different flavors of cake truffles. One was a chocolate brownie cake truffle, one was a salty/sweet combo of chocolate, pretzels and peanuts, and one was a lemon cake with raspberry coating that was just stupid good.

If you would like more detail, you can view the recipe for Milk Bar’s Birthday Cake Truffles on their website.

Milk Bar at The Cosmopolitan

If you don’t feel like making Cake Truffles yourself, you can always mosey up to the Milk Bar at The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. Chef Christina has set up an awesome outpost there, where her guests sample creations beyond anything I have described here.

Christina Tossi's Milk Bar in Las Vegas

Mosey up to the Milk Bar at The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas for a sweet treat or two, or three…

Now back home in my own little kitchen, I am definitely going to try this with the kids. Sophia loves to bake, and she will enjoy coming up with interesting combinations of flavors to make her own Cake Truffles. We’ll keep you posted!

Me and the gang made Cake Truffles

Part of Chef Christina Tosi’s vibe is these colorful headbands, which we all wore as we made our creations.

 


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Chicken Soup Worth More Than Its Weight In Gold?

Chicken Soup Worth More Than Its Weight In Gold?

My mama would be proud to know there is now a chicken soup more valuable than hers, In fact, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has made a bold new addition to the Talon Club Menu: a $688 soup that is literally worth more than its weight in gold.

I used to say my mom’s homemade chicken noodle soup was the best thing ever, and it did always make me feel better when I was growing up. However, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas‘ new version takes it to another level.

Valued at over $14,000 per gram, the Cordyceps fungus was handpicked in the Himalayan Mountains and traveled all the way to Las Vegas to create this Cordyceps Soup. The “caterpillar fungus” is historically rare due to its growth in select seasonal locations with altitudes of 3,800 meters above sea level in exclusive parts of the world where these special caterpillars can survive.

Our special ingredient, the Cordyceps fungus, is believed to have extremely powerful healing properties such as acting a natural cancer treatment, anti-aging supplement and even an aphrodisiac,” stated Bryan Fyler, Executive Chef of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Cordyceps Soup at The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

The Cordyceps Soup at The Talon Club at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is worth more than its’ weight in gold. Photo Credit: Anthony Mair

Exclusively offered to the clientele of The Talon Club, a VIP private gaming room at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, the Cordyceps soup features black-skinned chicken breast, longan berry, and red date in an earthy, tea-like broth with a quarter ounce of Cordyceps in every bowl. No noodles though.

This soup is priced at just $688 per bowl  a small cost for all those potential benefits (especially if you’re winning at the blackjack table). The restaurant sold approximately 100 servings in 2017.

Well, wouldn’t my mama be tickled to try that!

The Cosmopolitan soars over the Las Vegas Strip.


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Giada Vegas: Restaurant Deliciousness

Giada Vegas: Restaurant Deliciousness

Let’s get this out of the way first: Giada DeLaurentiis is Kitchen Royalty. No matter that she is the granddaughter of film producer Dino De Laurentiis, or the gorgeous daughter of Italian film stars, or a global TV celebrity with her own show on the Food Network called Giada at Home. Let’s focus on her food and incredible talents, shall we?

Giada DeLaurentiis is a Cordon Bleu trained chef, with early experience cooking in the restaurants of such luminaries as Wolfgang Puck’s Spago. Now a celebrated chef in her own right, she opened her signature restaurant Giada at The Cromwell Las Vegas in 2014 to rave reviews. We had heard amazing things about her simple California-inspired Italian cuisine, and had to try Giada Vegas for ourselves.

The interiors of Giada Vegas are gorgeous with fantastic views of the Strip.

The kids love pasta, and my Sicilian family would be proud to know I make pasta often from recipes they taught me while growing up in their kitchens. My mom was an amazing home cook, making Italian dishes based on her own memories passed down through generations. Plus we’ve been to Italy and sampled the real thing from the Old Country. Suffice to say, we know what good pasta tastes like.

Giada Vegas did not disappoint – on pasta or really on anything else. Everything was spectacular: four thumbs up from the 2DadsWithBaggage crew.

Kitchen

As we entered the restaurant, we were stunned by the gorgeous open kitchen and display of delicious baked breads sitting out to cool. Beside the fresh loaves was an array of delicious meats and cheeses, which are some of the kids’ favorite appetizers. The chefs were preparing dishes on display for guests to view, which always adds a bit of theater to any dining experience. With the bar nearby, it made for a very welcoming scene.

Fresh baked breads and crackers waiting to get in my belly

Decor

The room is perfectly positioned, radiating from a rounded corner that seems to jut out over the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road. We settled into our raised booth looking across towards Caesars Palace and the Bellagio fountains. And here’s the thing: the lighting in this restaurant is PERFECT. Everyone is lit so perfectly that you are just required to take selfies. Honestly, I could live inside this light for the rest of my life and think I was looking damn good.

Selfies were required when the lighting is this good, as Triton demonstrates here.

Food

And the food, oh the food. We started by feasting on delicious homebaked breads, along with a platter of cheeses and sliced Italian salumi. We also sampled Giada’s sumptuous chicken marsala meatballs with roasted wild mushrooms, as well as salads of romaine torn croutons, fried capers & citrus caesar vinaigrette, and a traditional caprese with burrata cheese, arugula & heirloom tomatoes.

The lemon spaghetti with shrimp was out of this world

For dinner, I dined on Giada’s signature spaghetti with shrimp, lemon & basil  – and it was spectacular. I mean spectacular as in craving-it-afterwards-I-had-to-go-back-again-a-few-weeks-later. As in, I googled the recipe for Giada’s lemon spaghetti with shrimp recipe and tried to make it at home. That is saying a LOT. It was that good.

Triton enjoyed his filet with morel mushrooms, white asparagus, parmesan potato cake & salmoriglio (a sauce of lemon, rosemary, garlic and thyme). The girls slurped down their bucatini pomodoro with fresh ricotta, adding orzo meatballs for good measure.

Really a delicious meal – we cannot wait to go back. And back again. Nice work Giada! You would make my Sicilian Nana proud.

Josephine Brushia, my Sicilian Nana, in whose kitchen we all learned to cook the foods we love to this day.

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Hotel Review: Paris (Vegas) in the Summertime

Hotel Review: Paris (Vegas) in the Summertime

*This experience was sponsored by Paris Las Vegas Resort & Casino, and we thank them for hosting our family for this fun weekend adventure.

 

It’s hard to believe that in all the times we’ve been to Las Vegas (and that is a LOT), we have never stayed at the Paris Las Vegas Resort & Casino. Until now. And honestly, I don’t know what we were waiting for. It’s a perfect place for families with kids, and we had a blast!

First of all, there is nothing like walking from that hot weather into the perfectly chilled air inside the Paris Vegas. We valet parked the Kia from our big road trip, running from the car and avoiding chatter with the nice bellhop who unloaded our bags from the hatchback.

NEWLY REMODELED ROOMS

Once checked in, we ascended to our gorgeous rooms – the girls were thrilled after several of days of sharing with their parents to have an adjoining room and bathroom of their own. We’re told the rooms have recently been remodeled, and they were stylish in a chic, modern way with red lacquer accents, cool grey and white print carpeting, and bright red drapes with white patterns. Our rooms were clean, spacious and well appointed.

Our room at Paris Las Vegas was snazzy, and how about that amazing view?!?

Best of all, the view was spectacular. Our rooms looked out directly over the pool, and we could spy on all the guests flapping around in the cooling water. Behind the pool, the Eiffel Tower rises high overhead and for a second I was confused about where we were!

ALL THE AMENITIES WITH A FRENCH FLAIR

The Paris theme is done well, and not overdone like some Vegas hotels that have taken their themes to the extreme. The check-in lobby looks like the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, and the legs of the Eiffel Tower jut into the casino floor which makes it seem all the more authentic. The shops and restaurants meander through the main floor, like a Paris street scene with colorful architecture and scenes.

And the best thing? La Creperie! There is nothing like a freshly made Nutella crepe to bring your memories right back to the street corners of Paris. The taste is out of this world, and I was so happy to have one at Paris Las Vegas.

Yum! Nothing better than an authentic Nutella crepe.

POOL

Of course the kids love a good pool, and so do we. I’ve been in a few Vegas pools that were a bit. how you say, unsavory. The pool at Paris is huge and clean and perfect on a hot summer day. Our family found plenty of room to splash around without running into others doing the same. And the large family group that started line dancing in the pool was an added treat. They are really good!

EIFFEL TOWER EXPERIENCE

After cooling down, we decided to take a ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower Experience. No stairs for this Paris – the elevator whisked us from the casino floor up  46 stories to the very top of the tower. Once on the observation deck that encircles the top of the tower, we had unobstructed 360-degree views of Las Vegas and the surrounding valley and mountains. The landscape was really put into perspective for us, as we pointed out Downtown Las Vegas in the distance, the airport nearer than we thought, and of course the hotels and the Strip below.

Breathtaking views from the top of the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas

From this height, the thunderous water jets of the Bellagio fountains were even more dramatic. We paused for the entire duration of the show, mesmerized by the dancing waters from our perch above the Strip.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

One of our favorite thing at Paris Las Vegas is its location, right in the middle of the strip and next to Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, Bally’s, The Cromwell, Caesars and Bellagio – all within short walking distance.

One afternoon, we walked over to the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood next door, and the girls went crazy with back-to-school shopping (although I don’t know how we ended up buying bath bombs at Lush, but they are OBSESSED.) After all that spent energy in the shopping mall, we were hungry and headed to Gordon Ramsey Burger for – you guessed it – burgers. And incredible burgers they are, full of designer ingredients and sporting patties the size of my head.

What a great experience for the entire family – we will definitely return again soon.

At night, the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas shines like a beacon across all of Las Vegas

*This experience was sponsored by Paris Las Vegas Resort & Casino, and we thank them for hosting our family for this fun weekend adventure.