VMworld in Las Vegas

Ever since I was young, I’ve always been a computer geek. As an adult, I’ve been lucky enough to make a career out of that passion. This year, I had the opportunity to attend VMworld in Las Vegas. I also figured I’d have some time to explore the city, so I invited my mom along as well.

For six days, I got to explore the world of VMware and learn about some fascinating virtualization and storage technology. Every evening, we got the chance to explore Las Vegas and take in the sights and some new shows, and finally on our last day, we got the chance to head out of town and explore some of the sights.

Norfolk to Las Vegas

We arrived at the airport for our mid-morning flight with ample time to spare. After a moderate wait to check our bags, we quickly made our way through TSA PreCheck and grabbed a seat at the gate to wait for our plane to arrive.

United 498
ORF [Norfolk] to ORD [Chicago]
August 26, 2017
Depart: 10:10 AM
Arrive: 11:28 AM
Duration: 2hr18min
Aircraft: 737-800
Seat: 10F

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Our bird arriving that will take us to Chicago

Boarding commenced on time and we made our way to our seats. With my Premier Silver status, we were able to select seats in the Economy+ section of the plane, allowing me to get some much needed legroom.

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737 Economy+ seating

After an on-time departure and a smooth takeoff, the drink service began. Much to the pleasure of me and my fellow passengers, the credit card processing system happened to be down, so all the drinks were free during the flight.

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Free drinks

We arrived in Chicago with enough time to grab some breakfast and make our way to the gate for our next leg of the journey.

United 825
ORD [Chicago] to LAS [Las Vegas]
August 26, 2017
Depart: 12:36 PM
Arrive: 2:34 PM
Duration: 3hr58min
Aircraft: 737-900
Seat: 11F

Our next flight departed in a timely manner, and once we got to altitude, the meal service began. I decided to try the buy-on-board option for the first time and ordered the hamburger. It was surprisingly good. Probably at the same level as a decent chain restaurant. The fries were interesting. They were prepared similar to potato chips, which allowed them to still remain crunchy, even after sitting in the cart for multiple hours.

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Hamburger

Overall, the flight was great. My only complaint being that once I signed in and paid for my wifi, it quit working for the remainder of the flight. Fortunately, after a quick email, I received a timely refund the following day.

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We have arrived!

Once on the ground, we headed to claim our luggage and grabbed an Uber to take us to the hotel.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Las Vegas South

I booked us a room at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Las Vegas South, which would put me right down the road from the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The hotel had a free shuttle with stops at Mandalay Bay, the southern half of the Vegas Strip, and also to the airport.

The rooms were clean and spacious, just a little dated. The manager mentioned that the hotel would be refurbished very soon, but overall, the property was in good repair.

I don’t have any photos, but just like other Fairfields, the hotel also had a hot breakfast every morning as well.

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The living room of our suite
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Our suite’s bedroom

 

VMworld

After getting a good night’s sleep, I was off to VMworld.

Registration took place in the VMvillage area, the central hub at VMworld were you’ll find refreshments, lounge space, and activities to keep you occupied between sessions.

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The entrance to VMvillage
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The sea of beanbag chairs
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VMworld lego creations

The solutions exchange had some great vendors, lots of t-shirt giveaways, and few great photo-ops, such as this one over at Eaton’s booth.

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The king is displeased with your lack of bandwidth

After taking in the VMvillage, I headed downstairs to complete a few hands-on labs to become acquainted with some of VMware’s new software.

I won’t delve into all the hardcore geek stuff I experienced and learned about, as most people don’t understand the field, but let’s just say that it was pretty freaking cool.

As the lab session came to a close, I grabbed a cold beverage and made my way back to the shuttle to take me to the hotel.

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Every server room should have a fridge like this

 

Stratosphere Tower

One of my favorite experiences during my time in Vegas was the SkyJump at the Stratosphere Tower. Although I visited back in 2016, I didn’t have to guts do do the jump until now.

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Preparing to jump off the Stratosphere
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Amazing still shot I pulled from the video

If you’re in Vegas, I highly recommend the SkyJump. Although I was scared out of my mind beforehand, it was one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done. The jump retails for $119.99 and the jump with the video package goes for $152.47, but I found a great deal on Groupon and got it all for $119, plus I snagged an extra 3 miles per dollar through MileagePlus Shopping.

Once you complete the jump, they give you a voucher for a free drink at the AirBar, which I gladly redeemed one evening after dark.

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Drinking at the highest bar in Vegas

Definitely make your way up to the observation deck for a daytime or nighttime view of the city. It’s breathtaking.

 

Blue Man Group

My mother and I planned to take in a few shows while in town, and first up was Blue Man Group. I had seen them at Astor Place a few years back and their show is always an incredible sensory experience.

In Vegas, they’re based at the Luxor Hotel, which is just a quick monorail ride away from Mandalay Bay.

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Entrance to the Luxor hotel

I won’t ruin the show by telling you everything that happens, but I will say that it’s heavily based on percussion and definitely appeals to young and old alike. Also, there are almost no bad seats in the theater, so don’t be discouraged if you happen to only be able to find seats near the back.

After the show, you have the chance to pose for a photo with one of the Blue Men.

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Met one of the Blue Men after the show

 

Blink-182

Towards the end of the conference, VMworld holds a customer appreciation event where they typically have a popular band come and play for the attendees. For 2017, that band was Blink-182. As a huge fan of the group (they pretty much my favorite band), I was ecstatic to hear the announcement that they would be playing.

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Blink-182 with a bunch of wild Canadians
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She was probably one of the only other huge fans in attendance

The concert was an absolute hit! We all filed down onto the floor and grabbed a spot right next to the stage. As excited as I was, the pit at this show was interesting, as it was filled with mostly people who weren’t diehard fans like myself, so the energy down here was much more subdued compared to most of the concerts I’ve attended.

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Confetti at the end of the show

 

Cirque Du Soleil and the Bellagio

On our final evening, we checked out Cirque Du Soleil’s O show at the Bellagio. Just like all the other big Cirque shows, it was absolutely mesmerizing to watch. Overall, it was one of the best live experiences I’ve ever had. I’d put it right behind KÀ on my list of my favorite live shows ever.

Before heading out, we made sure to take in a couple of the water shows out front. The shows occur every fifteen minutes during the evening and feature an orchestrated water show to one of twenty-five different songs. But if you’re feeling choosy, you can pick the song and have access to the button that triggers the show if you purchase the $250,000 package at Hyde.

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Checking out the water show
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View of the Paris hotel from across the water

 

702 Helicopters

I came upon an awesome deal on Groupon for a helicopter flight with 702 Helicopters during the week, so I scheduled a flight for my mom and me on our last day in Vegas. We booked the Vegas Strip Tour, which takes us for a flyover of all the hotels along the strip. As luck would have it though, one of the other passengers had booked the Red Rock Canyon tour in addition to the strip, so instead of sending out two helicopters, they upgraded our trip to include the canyon tour.

I had never flown on a helicopter before, so the ride was an experience in itself. The chopper was very small and only featured four seats, so everyone got a good view.

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High above the city
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View from the southern end of the Vegas Strip
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Eye level with the top of the Stratosphere Tower

The ride turned out to be absolutely amazing. If you ever have a free moment in Vegas, I highly recommend the tour. Even my mother, who was extremely nervous going in, quickly overcame her fears after the first few minutes.

 

United Club, Las Vegas

We were finally at the airport to catch the redeye back to the east coast. Since we had a few hours to wait, we cashed in two of the United Club passes that came with the Chase United Explorer card.

The United Club in Concourse D was a welcome reprieve from the hustle and bustle in the terminal. Most clubs can be somewhat busy, but this one was among the quieter United Clubs I’ve been to.

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Entrance to the Las Vegas United Club

We headed on in and grabbed a seat next to the window to do some plane spotting while we waited. I also grabbed a menu and showed my mother what there was to drink.

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Main seating area of the LAS United Club
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Buffet of light snacks
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Bar area of the LAS United Club
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United Club drink menu

We had a few drinks and sampled the available snacks while we waited for our Chicago-bound flight to board.

While it’s certainly no Air New Zealand or Polaris lounge, it was certainly a great place to  kick back and relax for a few hours.

 

Las Vegas to Norfolk

United 884
LAS [Las Vegas] to ORD [Chicago]
September 1, 2017
Depart: 11:45 PM
Arrive: 5:13 AM
Duration: 3hr28min
Aircraft: A320
Seat: 21A

Our flight boarded on time and we headed to our roomy exit row seats in row 21.

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A320 exit row seats

The flight was a bit bumpy going over the mountains, but the drink service began as soon as we got into some clear air. After getting about halfway to Chicago, I finally was able to get some sleep.

I was fortunate enough to score an upgrade for the next flight, so that one was even more comfortable. Only one upgrade cleared, so I offered the seat to my mother, but she declined, as her exit row seat was spacious enough and she didn’t want to drink.

United 1952
ORD [Chicago] to ORF [Norfolk]
September 2, 2017
Depart: 6:00 AM
Arrive: 9:18 AM
Duration: 2hr18min
Aircraft: 737-800
Seat: 3B

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First class seating on the 737-800

I indulged in a pre-departure alcoholic beverage and we made good time taxing to the runway. Once airborne, warm scones were served and the flight attendant came around with another round of drinks. I managed to then get a little more sleep before our arrival in Norfolk.

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Warm scone in first class

After our timely early morning arrival, we made our way to the far end of the airport to pick up our bags and then I headed on home to catch up on some much needed sleep.

Hope you liked the trip report.

Happy travels,

Matt

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