His ears perked up with curiosity. He pranced upon our arms, hopping from one wrist, towards the next, greeting each new friend. His striped tail flying through the air.
To celebrate my friend Esther’s birthday, I flew down to Las Vegas last year and joined her for her weekend festivities. Through their blog, Local Adventurer, Esther and her husband Jacob explore and encourage others to seek adventure within their own city. Whereas most people associate Las Vegas with casinos and clubs, they introduced me to a totally different side of Vegas.
But first… burgers.
On Saturday afternoon, we prepared to go to Roo’s n More, a zoo outside of Vegas where they let you meet and play with the animals, up close and personal. But… we weren’t just going to the zoo. We were going to party like animals, dressed like animals… for real.
Busy in our intense face painting animal transformation, Jacob and Josh (aka the FU) grabbed us In-N-Out for lunch.
It was my first time eating In-N-Out, initiating an intense debate: who makes better burgers?
In-N-Out vs. Five Guys vs. Shake Shack? (What do y’all think?)
At the zoo, we played with camels, zebras, monkeys, lemurs, kangaroos, and more. I had never held a lemur nor a monkey before; it felt awkward. Hsiao on the other hand, used to own a pet monkey growing up in Taiwan. She giddily reunited with childhood friends.
Sitting at communal tables in a giant dining hall, and with Bavarian live music, we gathered for Esther’s birthday dinner, enjoying bratwurst and pretzels at Hofbräuhaus Las Vegas.
After dinner, we scoped out the laid back night scene of Downtown Vegas, where the locals go to play larger than life board games and relax beside outdoor fire pits.
One of their friends staying at the Cosmopolitan invited us to check out their awesome balcony view. The Bellagio water fountains shot high up into the sky with crazy amounts of energy, bursting forth with light, like a comet speeding into the earth’s atmosphere.
We woke up early and headed to the gym on Sunday morning. But not just any gym… an acrobat’s gym! Taught by Cirque du Soleil performers, we learned how to suspend and levitate from the air on silk ropes. Hanging upside down like a monkey felt exhilarating. Our feet were free in the air, without the ground holding us down. We swung to and fro, arms and legs secured in silk ropes, our smiles stretching from ear to ear.
Our acrobatic exercises worked up our appetites, and we washed up for Afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental.
Last year, Esther’s birthday happened to fall on the same week of Lunar New Year. Typically, the holiday is spent going to visit your eldest relatives and enjoying a lavish meal together. At the Mandarin Oriental, they served a Chinese New Year menu, blending the best of both cultures: Chinese teas, paired with a splash of milk, British scones, and other exquisite pastries.
Vegas offered more than I had expected. Beyond the glitzy lights and the clamor of casinos, I glimpsed it’s unique and eclectic personality by exploring off the beaten path.
It was a wonderful way to wrap up the weekend, ringing in the new year with old traditions, in modern ways, together with my sweet friends.