Sunday, March 29, 2015

AAOS in Las Vegas

I spent the past five days in Las Vegas at the AAOS Annual Meeting.  It's a massive orthopaedic meeting, with nearly 15,000 US and International attendees.  In addition, there are hundreds of different vendors, ranging from electronic medical records to implants for hip and knee arthroplasty to injectables.  Each day is packed full of courses, research, and case presentations.

I stayed at the Trump International Hotel, located just off the strip.  If you're planning a trip to Las Vegas, I can't recommend this hotel enough.  It's smoke-free, casino-less, and perfect for those who want an escape from the wild and crazy of the Vegas strip.  The rooms are spacious, bathrooms are massive, and the beds are the most comfortable I've ever slept in.  

Thursday's breakfast was from Bouchon Bakery - a place I discovered in NYC when I was there in January.  In addition to a soy latte, I had my first almond croissant and it is definitely my new favorite breakfast pastry.  

The conference was held in the Sands Expo within the Venetian.  The Venetian and Palazzo Hotels are connected by an upscale shopping mall that is filled with celebrity chef restaurants as well as gondolas navigating the Grand Canal.  The murals on the ceilings appear surprisingly real.

The weather was absolutely perfect for our stay - sunny, a light breeze, cloudless skies, and highs in the 80s.  The walk from the Trump to the conference center was about 15 minutes and I soaked up every sunny moment.  I was impressed at how immaculate the sidewalks and grounds were maintained.

Thursday night we dined at Mon Ami Gabi, and it was the best meal of the trip.  The restaurant was positioned directly across the street from The Bellagio and their famous fountains.  Despite not having reservations, we scored the perfect table for eight on the patio.  The fountains were easily visible from our table and we were able to enjoy the display of water, lights, and music every fifteen minutes for nearly three hours.  My dinner of french onion soup and mustard crusted salmon with butternut puree and brussel sprouts was perfectly executed.

After a long winter and seemingly endless travel in ice and snow, the bright sunshine was a welcome sight.  Each morning's walk into the sunshine was one of my favorites of the day.

No conference is complete without a bit of time for rest and relaxation, and in Las Vegas, that meant time by the pool.  The sun felt so amazing!

The poolside restaurant, H2 Eau, was impressive both in food options as well as price.  The Farm Salad included baby kale, quinoa, sunflower seeds, and cranberries, and was served with a hearty portion of waffle fries.

Each night after dinner we found ourselves at a different casino to try our luck at gambling.  Despite previous gambling successes in the Caribbean, my attempts at the penny slots left me $30 poorer than I had arrived.  Eventually the rowdy crowds and heavy cigarette smoke became too much and we returned to the Trump.

So, what's my verdict on Vegas?  I won't be back.  It's an odd combination of sights, sounds, and entertainment that is similar to an adult Disney World on steroids.  There are essentially two groups - college kids/young couples that are sloppy drunk and running wild without any restraint and older smokers in wheelchairs on oxygen and smoking at the slots.  It's a bizarre scene!  Restaurants are ridiculously expensive and food is underwhelming.  Nightly entertainment is limited to shows (tickets $150+), gambling, or strip clubs.  Drunken fools line the streets both morning and night and people try to shove strip club advertisements in your face everywhere you walk.  Sound enticing?

After five days of Las Vegas adventures, I was never more thankful to return home to Charlotte.

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