We turned it into a long weekend, flying out of Toronto on the Friday night and back on the Monday afternoon (I would like to make it very clear to the Ontario taxpayers - especially those whose children I teach - that I requested an UNPAID day off from work).
The dates were picked based on the shows we wanted to see (you can take the girls out of the country, but...) and other than that, we decided to just go with the flow once we arrived.
My Dad chauffeured us to the airport, and with check-in kiosks available and only carry on luggage, the whole process was smooth sailing. Upon our arrival in Vegas, we cabbed it to our hotel - we chose the Excalibur, based more on the fact that it was the most reasonable Strip hotel we could find with an Expedia package than anything else - and went to bed right away, since 11 pm Vegas time felt like 2 am to us. (And if you know me, you know that 2 am is WAY past my bedtime. Even in Vegas!)
On Saturday, we headed up the Strip (the Excalibur is at the south end of the action, so we headed north) and ate at the Hard Rock Café (isn't it a rule that tourists must enjoy the Hard Rock in every city?) At $8.95, their farmers' breakfast was reasonably priced and filling enough to call "brunch".
Once we were fueled up and energized, we were ready to shop. While Vegas has unlimited options for those with unlimited budgets, the closest thing to a back-home "mall" is the Fashion Show Mall, where we spent several hours both browsing and buying. (Keeping in mind that we didn't bring any checked luggage. Two of my SIL's were clever enough to bring empty backpacks as their second carry on item, to fill with their Vegas shopping finds!)
A Kate Spade 2014 planner: (Yes, I still insist on planning on paper, and I love that it includes the fall of 2013 so I can start using it now)
and a small Kate Spade purse: (I've been looking for a little cross-body item that I can use when I don't want to lug around a big purse, and I love how it came with a snap-off strap so it can be used as a clutch as well)
I didn't want to go crazy with souvenirs for my girls, so I just went to Build-A-Bear and picked up a Las Vegas tee and a pair of undies for each girl's bear.
As we continued up the Strip, look who we ran into:
There's so much to see on Las Vegas Blvd, and you don't even have to enter the hotels/casinos to appreciate what they have to offer:
We stopped by the Venetian to pick up our Tim McGraw/Faith Hill Soul2Soul show shirts. There's nothing like some merchandise to get you in the mood for a performance!
After freshening up back at the hotel, we returned to the Venetian for a casual dinner at the Grand Lux Café (fettuccine alfredo and Hershey cheesecake...yum! Oh, and Diet Coke. Sorry to disappoint.) We also took a stroll through the gorgeous promenade area along the indoor "canal", where you can easily be fooled into believing that you're taking a leisurely outdoor walk in Venice (you can even pay for the gondola rides).
Okay. Soul2Soul time. Now I have to attempt to put the concert into words. I'd like to think I'm a fairly cool customer when it comes to stars. I've done many celebrity interviews, and haven't yet turned into a giggling idiot. Nor am I any sort of crazy Tim and Faith fan - I have a couple of their old CDs, and our wedding dance was to Faith's "Breathe", but whatever. They're talented, they're attractive, no big deal.
Yeah, this show was a big deal. The Venetian Theatre is an intimate setting to begin with, seating 1815 visitors (similar to the capacity of the Encore Theatre at the Wynn, where my husband and I saw Garth Brooks perform two years ago).
The opening was amazing: the singers entered from the sides of the theatre and crossed in the aisle right in front of our seats, shaking hands and saying hello while they sang their first song, before proceeding up the side aisles to the stage.
The thing is, when Tim McGraw shakes your hand in the middle of a performance, one can forget for a moment that one is a 36 year old professional woman and a married mother of two. (Over dinner, one SIL had remarked "Tim is really talented and everything, but I've never found him that attractive." An hour later, when asked if she stood by that opinion, her story changed significantly. I would tell you what she said, but it wouldn't be appropriate in print.)
"Intimate" is definitely the word for the show, not only because of the sparks between the husband and wife, but also the contact and interaction with the crowd. It was the best concert atmosphere I've ever seen (and Garth has held that title for the past two years).
I didn't think things could get any better than the opening act, but I loved almost everything about the show. The music was fantastic: each artist performed some of their solo hits (classics and more recent tunes) and of course most of their duets. While "It's Your Love" is a great song (I always loved the video for that one, starring a very pregnant Faith), my favourite was "Like We Never Loved At All."
The venue makes it clear that taking pictures is prohibited (and I totally get that there should be no videos of a show like this) but when Tim came right out and said "This bow tie is driving me crazy, so take all the pictures you want now, because this shit's coming off soon!" my camera was out and ready. (I wished I hadn't been such a rule-follower and had it ready at the start of the show. I know the girls behind us were taking pictures then, so if anyone out there has shots of us shaking the performers' hands, please let me know!)
(Side note: Tim said he wore the tux to emulate George Clooney and impress Faith, who responded appropriately that he's even better looking than George.)
The second time Tim made the rounds of the theatre, I managed to get these shots, again right in front of where we were sitting (the centre section of row AA is the best spot, if you're thinking of buying tickets):
The couple did some off-the-cuff (or rehearsed but appearing to be off-the-cuff) chatting while on stage, and in fact, I would have liked for them to have talked a bit more (that's the only thing I would say I preferred about Garth's) as I am genuinely interested in getting to know the performers better and hearing the stories behind the songs and even their lives in general. (Though I'm sure there are some music fans out there who just want to hear songs, so I realize it's a delicate balance.)
After the show, my adrenaline was high, and it took a while to come back down... but of course my bedtime beckoned again (darn time zone difference)!
We were off to a terrific start in Vegas...stay tuned for Part II!