Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What to do in Vegas in between IVF appointments

I just spent 9 days (2 + 7) in Las Vegas while undergoing IVF 5.1. I'll be back in August for 5.2, and October for 5.3. Previously, I'd only been to Vegas to go to the Strip, and had never explored the city or the area.

Since I'm not the only person who goes to Las Vegas for IVF treatment, I thought I'd document some of the fun things I found to fill up my days while I was there. After all, a wandy appointment only takes about 30-45 minutes including bloodwork, so there's a lot of time to fill...

I also want to call out a few tweeps and bloggers who helped me with recommendations and meetups and even meds! Ana kindly drove in and met me at my hotel for coffee and great conversation. Stephanie shared some meds she no longer needs. Asano gave me tips on hikes, while I'll investigate when I'm there in October -- it's just too hot in June/August for that sort of exercise!


Primm Fashion Outlets -- There are two outlet malls in Las Vegas, but I'd skip them in favor of a daytrip down to Primm, which is right on the border with California. It's about a 30 minute drive from the Strip. The mall itself is kinda scuzzy, but there are great outlets, including a Williams-Sonoma outlet and a Neiman Marcus outlet! (Very dangerous...) The outlets in Las Vegas proper have good stores, too, but not the two I listed. Of the two, the one at the north end of the Strip seems to have a better store selection.

Hoover Dam -- I'd never been, so I figured it would be a good excursion for one of the days with no appointments (since you want to get there early to beat the crowds and the heat). I showed up around 10am and was able to get the last ticket for the 11am long tour (one of the benefits of being solo!) It's an interesting tour, and I found the trip to be worthwhile. It is extremely hot, so plan accordingly. Only takes about 40 minutes to drive there from the Strip.


Burger Bar @ Mandalay Bay (actually Mandalay Place) -- Great burgers, and accommodated my no-bun request (however, they aren't sophisticated enough about gluten-free to offer lettuce-wrapping as an alternative). There was a long wait for a table when I arrived around 1:30, but I was able to sit immediately the bar (another advantage to being solo). I had the Kobe burger and it was very tasty.

Lotus of Siam -- This Thai restaurant is reputed to be the best in the country, and it was amazingly good. We ordered all unfamiliar dishes (apart from mango with sticky rice) and enjoyed them all. It's in a little strip mall (heck, most of Vegas off the Strip is in a little strip mall), northeast of the Strip.

Julian Serrano @ Aria -- I loved this tapas restaurant. They have a special menu that lists which allergens are in which dishes, very helpful for avoiding gluten (though I was very surprised at some of the dishes they claimed had gluten - roasted marcona almonds?), and very very tasty food. This was another restaurant that couldn't seat me at a table but I was able to sit at the bar and order immediately (ended up ordering with two ladies who sat down at the same time, which worked out great as we could try more dishes!) The Huevos Estrellados were my favorite dish - very simple and very tasty. THe sauteed padron peppers were also great. I will definitely go back here next visit.

Lazy Joe's Fish & Chips -- Not in the same league as the others, but I want to call it out because it's the first fish & chips place that's also gluten-free! I was even able to order onion rings safely. It's good food, but since everything is fried, it's pretty heavy. Fun as an indulgence - I'll likely go back for fried chicken since I haven't had that in 3 years. It's not far from Dr. Sh.er's office.

Sammy's Wood-fired Pizza -- Another restaurant I visited specifically because of their gluten-free options; in this case, gluten-free pizza. I like their (new) gluten-free crust, but they seem to have trouble sufficiently cooking/heating the toppings without overcooking the crust. My crust was great, but the toppings were a little cool (I like my pizza cheese browned). The entire staff at the restaurant was very interested to hear how I liked their crust (I guess they changed providers recently, and the new crust is very different from their old crust) - I appreciated their interest and their friendliness. I went to the location in Henderson, before I went to Hobby Lobby (see below), but there are a bunch of locations in Vegas.

Other food-related places to visit:

Top Notch BBQ -- Reputed to be the best BBQ in Las Vegas, Top Notch operates out of a food truck parked at Plant World on W Charleston. Check twitter for the latest, but I believe they are there every afternoon from 12-6 except for Sundays. I picked up a ribs and pulled pork combo dinner that came with two sides and a slice of Texas Toast (which I skipped), and it was enough for two meals. And super yummy!

SnowONO Shave Ice -- My favorite thing about going to Hawaii is getting a shave ice every day (or more than once a day...) Oddly, I haven't had any luck finding shave ice in the Bay Area, so I delighted to find the SnowONO Shave Ice truck in Vegas. Check twitter for schedule and locations - I ended up visiting them at the fresh52 farmers' market.

Farmers' Markets:

Saturday and Sunday mornings are the fresh52 markets (different location each day). I went to the Sunday morning market (to get my shave ice from SnowONO) and bought some product and a yummy, wheat-free oatmeal/peanut butter/chocolate cookie from The Land of Sweets.

Tuesday and Wednesday late afternoons are the Las Vegas Farmers' Markets, also different location each of those days.

The markets all tend to be on the outskirts of town, so you'll have to figure out which is most convenient for you. I didn't mind driving around, since I wasn't really on a schedule for most of the visit.

Specialty shopping:

Scrappin' Time -- this is a scrapbooking store. I don't actually scrapbook, but I do various crafty things and often enjoy browsing. This one is extremely focused on scrapbooking, so if that's your thing, you'll love it.

Hobby Lobby -- it's a giant store in the vein of Michaels or Joanne Fabrics. They have a large scrapbooking/card making area and I found a ton of really cool crafty stuff.


I'd recommend buying groceries after you see your hotel room, so you have an idea of what sorts of things will be easy to prepare. (e.g. do you have a pot big enough to be a pasta pot? how about a skillet to fry eggs?)

We went to the Whole Foods at Town Square after arriving in Las Vegas. I can't recommend it - it's the worst Whole Foods I've ever visited. Looks picked over, and the produce is poor quality. The only good thing is that it's close to the airport and the Strip. Next time I think I'll drive to the one in Henderson.

fresh&easy is now in Las Vegas, and would be a good complement to Whole Foods for the basics.

Places to stay:

The two places I've tried so far are the Wyndham Grand Desert and the Signature at MGM Grand. I much preferred the latter, although it's slightly more expensive.

The Wyndham is a timeshare condo hotel. The kitchen in the 1 bedroom condo I stayed in was totally adequate, and reasonably stocked with pots/pans/dishes. The condo itself was adequate - nothing special. Not particularly inspiring for a week's stay. If you call down to the front desk you can get the wifi access password, but the service is pretty spotty. DVD player in the room and HBO. There are multiple pools on the property, some are adult-only, which is nice. It's all self-parking, and on weekends it can be very difficult to find a spot in the evenings - I think the place gets overbooked for the number of parking spots. It's two long blocks off the Strip, and there's also a shuttle that takes you to the Strip (I never used it).

The Signature at MGM Grand is much more stylish. The mini-kitchen in the junior suite isn't quite as functional as at the Wyndham, but it's still fine for cooking simple meals. It's also not as well stocked with pots and pans and stuff. (Although I will note that I booked through a third-party instead of through the hotel, so it's possible the "official" rooms differ.) Parking is all valet (unless you want to park way over at the MGM Grand's self-parking, which I wouldn't recommend). Free, but I tipped $2 every time I picked up my car - usually took 5 minutes to get my car. The pool's (one per tower) are small, and aren't open every day, which is weird. But you can use the MGM Grand's pool if you're into that more social/party pool scene. And Wet Republic is right behind Tower 1 (with associated loud music until 7pm on the nights it's open). There's a resort fee which gives you wireless access - I found the service to be good, although not super speedy. Certainly adequate for checking email and stuff like that. There's an indoor hallway that takes you to the MGM Grand where you can get out to the Strip. It's maybe a 10 minute walk from Tower 1 to the Strip through the hotel.

I booked both using vrbo.com, saving a bunch of money off list price.

I'll continue to edit this post after my next visits.


  1. Thanks for the mention. I had a great time hanging out.

  2. This is a really great post. I was just talking to my husband about Vegas; he's been, I haven't. He doesn't really want to go back either - he's had his fill of The Strip. Now that you've put together such a compelling post about everything awesome BEYOND The Strip, I might have some more ammunition to perhaps plan a long weekend vacation out there... Great post. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Oh My Gosh! You have gone to so many places and sound like you have absolutely fun & eventful times here in vegas in between IVF related app! And oh! thank you for mentioning me!! I feel honored :D !! I've been to MGM Signature. Our old friend used to have that time share and showed me inside. Yup! That place is so nice, it definitely makes a comfortable stay! Where are you staying next time!? And ur ER sounds it went great didn't it? Good luck on next ER in OCT!!

  4. Wow you have done good staying busy! I used to live in OC CA and we would make weekend road trips to LV, but like you, spent most of our visits on the strip at Casinons. I think I stayed ar the Wyndham condo before, or if not something similar. Sounds the same. Glad your staying busy and finding things to do. If you have the cash and want to splurge, maybe go spend the day at the Green Valley ranch and get some spa treatments! Fun!

  5. Thanks for this! I agree 100% on Burger Bar - I also had the Kobe burger and it was amazing! I'll definitely refer to this on our trip to Vegas in September! :D

  6. Thanks for posting! Can't wait to try the Burger Bar next time I make it to vegas. Hope you are doing well.

  7. I have to say I completely agree on the places you stayed...we stayed at the same two! I am torn about not having known WS outlet was so close! I would have loved it, but C is probably glad I didn't realize how close it was :)

  8. Great list! I have really wanted to go check out the Burlesque Hall Of Fame - http://burlesquehall.com and the Neon Museum - http://neonmuseum.org/ two Vegas things that are off the strip. We always end up eating and drinking out time away though...

  9. What a great post! I'm your newest follower! I'm another endo girl and have my first consult with Dr. Sher today, hopefully headed to vegas for IVF 1.5 in August.