From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, National Harbor

Experience the MGM Grand for Under a $100!

By Lani Gering

Experience the MGM Grand for Under a $100!

Well, it may be apparent that I was grasping at straws for some subject matter for this column this month. After having received nothing from the marketing and PR gurus for the Harbor regarding February happenings, I decided on taking a solo trip to the MGM. Having limited funds after the spending spree for the holidays, I wanted to see how much fun I could have on a $100.

Turns out that I had a really fun time without spending my whole budget. Let’s start with the Conservatory…probably my favorite part of the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino here in the Harbor. The displays are always over the top. Since it’s opening in December 2016 their winter display takes on the annual Chinese New Year theme. This January is one of the best so far with the “Year of the Rat” as the subject matter. It is so hard to convey the enormity of these displays and photos definitely don’t do them justice but I tried with the ones you see here. Keep in mind that these displays fill a 2 story plus space. This year there is a water feature and an animated bird that moves its head back and forth. One can sit in and around this space for an extended period of time and just chill. And….it’s FREE!

I was a bit hungry and since I was on my budget, I decided to forego Ginger and TAP and head to the National Market aka the Food Court for a burger and beer at the Shake Shack. The beauty of this dining section is that it has reasonably priced good eats and is usually pretty fast when it comes to service. The afternoon I was there it was not crowded in any shape or form so I was enjoying my Shack Burger single with krinkle fries and a 16 ounce Shack Ale in under 5 minutes. All for under $18.00.

After soaking in the coolness of the conservatory and grabbing some eats, I headed to the casino. Once again keeping my budget in mind that I had $40 that I was willing to forego in the quest to win thousands. Well…..we all know that didn’t happen but I did put $20 in my favorite Buffalo Gold 25 cent slot and won some and lost some and donated all but 50 cents of that $20 but I played for about 45 minutes to an hour. I decided I would check out another of my favorite spots on the main floor, the Cherry Blossom Lounge. I really like to play video poker (I think there are better odds with winning at these machines since you at least have to know how to play the game as opposed to just hitting a “spin” button on a slot machine), and they have them at the bar at the Blossom. I invested another $20 while I had a vodka drink to the tune of $13 plus a $2 tip. I did make out way better here – only ended up losing $5. And….to be clear, I played the minimum of $1 per hand and was there for at least 45 minutes. I would have stayed for another beverage but the bartender on duty was pretty much of a dud so I decided to move on.

Since I was half way to meeting my allowance cap, I decided to leave the casino and hit up the Lobby Bar on the second level across from the check-in area of the Hotel portion of the MGM. They have Happy Hour there from 4-6! I chose a good old vodka martini shaken and up to the tune of $11.99 plus my $7 tip.  A pleasant surprise was the bartender, Allen (2 L’s and and e). Hence the $7 tip. He is an engaging and knowledgeable guy and I will definitely take pals back there for cocktails. I found out that they also have live piano music on a regular basis (during event nights and on the weekends) in this lounge. That will be worth frequenting again.

I decided it was time to head back home since it was still Happy Hour at some of my favorite establishments in the Harbor and I had only spent $77 of my $100. I parked my vehicle in my spot at One National and headed to McCormick & Schmick for a vodka and fresh squeezed grapefruit juice (do you see a theme here?). This is one of the best Happy Hours in the Harbor by the way and it is hard to get a seat most of the time unless you get there early. Anyway, I found a place at the crowded bar at 6:30 pm and ordered. I didn’t order any food since I was still pretty full from the burger and fries (something I don’t often eat BTW) but they have good happy hour offerings. My tab came to a whopping $15 but I always tip on what the actual price of the cocktails would be at regular prices so add another $7 to that. All total, I spent $99 and had a fabulous afternoon.

This all being said, I am actually amazed that I stuck to my plan but I am so glad I did. I proved something to myself and I guess it did help that I was on deadline and had to stick to a timeline so I could bang this column out and get it to our layout and design guru under the wire. Guess there is a lesson here somewhere.

Celebrate President’s Day and Valentine’s Day doing things you respect and love and make a plan for that extra day we have the end of the month this year. Just “Leap” into it!

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