When I set out to write this column, I knew that I'd encounter a whole lot of fatphobia, I just wasn't prepared for how fast it all happened. My first destination was the glittering lights of Las Vegas. A city — one that's filled with tourists of every size and background — teaming with life, noisy as hell, and yet somehow, thrilling
I've flown many times in my life, without too much of a headache. Sure, I needed a seatbelt extender, and was pretty squished, but it was a bearable torture to get to see the world. I did have one really horrible experience flying from Germany to Iceland, but that's a story for another day.
I was flying out from Chicago, on a direct flight to Las Vegas on United. Somehow I got upgraded into some bulkhead seats in economy plus, and didn't realize until I was on the plane. It wasn't just uncomfortable, I simply couldn't fit into it. Usually, this wouldn't be a problem. I'd ask the flight attendant to switch with another passenger, and all would be fine. Not this time.
The flight attendant simply wouldn't help me.
I shared my experience on Twitter.
"[The flight attendant] refused, telling me that I had to get off the plane to ask the agent at the gate if there was anything they could do," I wrote. "I asked again, 'So, you aren't able to ask someone to switch with me.' She said she can't help me."
I continued: "I turned around and asked the gentleman behind me if he wouldn't mind swapping places, which he graciously did. Moments later, the flight attendant walked by my seat, caressed my arm, and apologized in advance for how many times they would hit me while they walked down the aisle, preparing me for the fate she's somehow already determined for me."
United called me to apologize, outlining that they will get a statement from the flight attended, and if they determine necessary, retraining and a mark on their record. That's it. I guess that's better than being ignored.
But enough about that — Morgan and I ultimately had a fantastic time, so let's talk about Vegas, baby!
Writer Chaya Milchtein embarking on her trip (Photo courtesy of Jodyann Morgan)
Where to Lay Your Head
As you may know, Vegas has a lot of hotels. Truly, tons of them. In fact, some of the hotels have other hotels inside of them. If you're traveling on a budget, it might be worth booking a room on Priceline, using the "Express Deals" feature. You can get a simple room on the strip for a relatively low price. Last time I went to Vegas, I landed a room at the MGM for a steal. The catch is that you don't know what the hotel is until you've actually finished the booking — and then it's non refundable.
On the other end of the spectrum, for luxury accommodations in the middle of all the action, Nobu in Caesars Palace is the hotel for you. Vegas casinos are notorious for long lines in their lobbies to check in. In addition to all the other reasons to stay at Nobu, the fact that they have their own little check-in area away from the lobby madness is a huge perk. The room had an understated luxury to it, but was quite simple.
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Since the hotel is located in the middle of Caesars Palace, you get to enjoy all of the amenities a Las Vegas resort has to offer. Gamblings, celebrity restaurants, shows, music and more.
The Nobu Japanese restaurant is located just steps away from the entrance to the hotel, serving premium sushi and sashimi, in addition to a relatively extensive Japanese menu. The restaurant was really busy when we visited and pretty loud, but it was a Friday night, and we were seated next to a few bachelorette parties, but the food definitely made up for it and we were told it's not usually that loud. If you'd like to try a little of everything, get the Omakase menu, where the chef serves you the best that's available that day. Nobu's Omakase menu includes sushi, sashimi, as well as a tempura course, a steak course, and the signature miso and mirin-marinated black cod. The meal finishes with a dessert tasting — where the Japanese whisky-cappuccino creme brulee ends the night off with a bang.
Miso-marinated Cod at Nobu (Photo courtesy of Jodyann Morgan)
If a little peace and quiet after a long day is more your jam, then you're definitely going to want to consider the Four Seasons. A luxury hotel, The Four Seasons is located on the strip, and attached to the Mandalay Bay, but it's completely separate with its own restaurants, spa and lobby. That means you don't have to trek through a busy casino, or get lost 20 times, to get on with your day.
Jodyann Morgan in front of the Four Seasons (Photo courtesy of Jodyann Morgan)The service at the Four Seasons is top notch, with staff that go above and beyond to make sure you have a wonderful experience. The rooms at the Four Seasons, which are located on the highest floors in the resort, are next-level, with views to match the standard that's set from the moment you walk through the door and the cheese board they brought to welcome us was delicious!. Bonus: I loved the pillows (I have a hard time finding pillows I love).
You'll definitely want to grab a cocktail at the Press bar in the Four Seasons lobby, and if you're a coffee lover, the mocha was the perfect balance of sweet and bitter. I didn't love the morning breakfast, and the price didn't match the quality, so I would skip that if I were you.
Fill Your Belly
I've eaten at four different high-end sushi restaurants in my two visits to Las Vegas, and Mizumi was hands down my favorite one. From the moment you walk into the restaurant you're transported into a world of melt-in-your-mouth food, incredible cocktails, and even better service. We were seated at a table that overlooked a stunning garden, koi pond and a 90-foot waterfall.
Dumplings with Shaved Black Truffle at Mizumi (Photo courtesy of Jodyann Morgan)Under the helm of Chef Min Kim, the restaurant serves sushi, sashimi and other Japanese specialties.
There is a great cocktail menu, too, in addition to the full bar. I'm not a big drinker, but I have a weak spot for lychee martinis and Mizumi's were strong and perfectly balanced.
If hand-pulled noodles or dumplings are on your must-eat list, stop by The Noodle Den, a relaxed restaurant in the Sahara resort. Trained in Beijing, Chef Guoming "Sam" Xin expertly prepares dishes ranging from many variations of hand-pulled noodles and dumplings to duck and other Northern Chinese specialties. The Noodle Den is perfect for a quick bite, a full dinner, or to satisfy late night cravings. Don't forget to get some tea to complement your meal.
Braised Pork Belly and String Bean Hand Pulled Noodles (Photo courtesy of Jodyann Morgan)
Are you a doughnut fan? My favorite donut in the world is a maple bacon-donut, the perfect balance of sweet and salty. Or so I thought, until I tried Pinkbox Doughnuts "Porky Face DoughCro" which is a maple-bacon croissant donut! To be honest, there wasn't a single donut from Pinkbox Doughnuts that I tried that I didn't like. Head to one of their four locations (they have a food truck,too) in the Las Vegas area at any time, day or night, to get yourself a memorable doughnut.
Crispy chicken skins at Carson's Kitchen (Photo courtesy of Jodyann Morgan)
Crispy, seasoned chicken skins, anyone? They are hands down the very best thing in Carson's Kitchen, a relaxed, Southern-inspired restaurant in downtown Las Vegas. The menu offers sharing plates, flatbreads and handheld sandwiches, as well as your more traditional main courses. The star of the show is the massive outdoor patios and bar serving cocktails, beers and wine.
Squish Factor: Many of the chairs have armrests, but I was able to easily swap one out for a chair without arms. If you aren't comfortable swapping it yourself, let them know when you are making your reservation.
My sister and I took the Lip Smacking Foodie Tours the last time I visited Vegas, so I just knew I had to take my wife on a tour this time around. With multiple different tours sampling restaurants on the strip and downtown, the Lip Smacking Foodie Tour offers a comprehensive way to try the very best restaurants that Las Vegas has to offer in style. And folks, they don't skimp on the food! Like seriously, you can expect a full meal at every single restaurant you visit. I enjoyed the Savors of the Strip Tour more than the lunchtime tour, but that's truly personal preference.
Squish Factor: Unlike most food tours, the Lip Smacking foodie tours are able to cover a lot of restaurants with minimal walking because of the saturation in Vegas. There was a restaurant where we had to take the stairs, but I discovered an elevator after the fact, so ask your guide.
Are you a cannabis devotee? Then you'll love the Green Tours Las Vegas cannabis tour. (Fair warning, the description of the tour was clearly written by a stoner, because it's miles away from what actually happens on the tour, but I loved the tour anyway!) Your first stop is Nuwu, an indigenous-owned dispensary where, if you're lucky, you'll get private access to Nevada's only consumption lounge to date, located on the premises. The infused watermelon margarita was fantastic, which is just one of the many different ways you can indulge on the premises.
Then we hopped back in the van, and headed to Planet 13, which is the largest cannabis superstore, including a grow operation and a manufacturing facility for infused goodies. We got a quick run-down about how infused chocolate, candy and soda is made before heading to yet another dispensary. The Exhale dispensary is where we were recommended to actually purchase cannabis, with deals like ten pre-rolls for $45 and half a gram for $80. Finally, just in time to satisfy your munchies, the last stop is Wing King. If you preorder your wings, they will be hot and ready for you when you get there.
Squish factor: Stoner Rob (one of the owners of Green Tours) made a few passing remarks about munchies, with regards to weight gain which may be a trigger for you. The ten of us were transported in a 15 passenger van. It's a bit of a squeeze, but our fellow guests let us have our own bench, making the trip comfy.
If you can, get out to the beauty of Red Rock Canyon. I took the Pink Jeep Tours open air jeep out there. The Jeep picks you up at your hotel, and brings you out to the visitor center before taking you on the four-wheeling adventure. At the visitor center you can go outside and if you're lucky, spot a tortoise or two.
Squish Factor: I ended the experience early as soon as we got to the Red Rock Canyon visitor center. The seatbelt didn't fit and I was squished against the low metal rail. It was the only thing stopping me from flying out of the Jeep at 55 miles per hour. I wouldn't take this if you wear over a size 22.
If you're staying at the Four Seasons, get yourself a pedicure. Vegas does a number on your feet and the spa at the Four Seasons is top notch.
Squish Factor: The massage chairs are comfy, although a tad snug. The armrests don't go up like in some Salons.
You'll also want to book the Four Seasons Bartender's Table experience. It's a curated deep-dive into your choice of alcoholic beverage, and ends with a custom cocktail custom created to your specific preferences. The mixologist prepared four different vodkas for me, and four different whiskies for Morgan, including rye and bourbon.
As they educated us on the variations in how the liquor is made and the intricacies of the flavor, they brought out a food tasting to enjoy. Finally, after listening to our preferences throughout the experience, we caped it off with custom cocktails developed to our specific tastes. I'm very picky, and don't drink often, but the cocktail was perfect. I'd go back just to have it again.
Squish Factor: You'll be seated on bar stools at the bar. They are a bit more comfortable than typically bar stools, but it's still a high top chair.
With three locations in Las Vegas, the minus5 ICEBAR lets you get your drink on in a unique — and chilly — location. Be sure to make a reservation, the bar was packed! When you get there, you'll be given gloves and a regular insulated jacket or a white fur coat (and fury earmuffs, too!) depending on the package you select. Inside the ICEBAR, you're surrounded by everything made of ice. Sculptures, seating and even the cups you drink out are made of ice. Definitely a vibe! I'd avoid the Linq Promenade location, as we got super lost going in, and again leaving…
Squish Factor: Both the largest size regular jacket and fur coat were both relatively small on me and couldn't close. If you wear larger than a size 26 on top, bring your own jacket or you might freeze.
A night tour on a GetYourGuide double decker bus is certainly the most budget-conscious, and fabulous, way to see the glitz and glamor of the strip, and visit Fremont street. Get to the meet location early! There was a wicked long line 20 minutes before the tour started. However, once the buses arrived (and there were quite a few of them), the line moved quickly, and we were on our way. These buses used to all have live guides, but now the live guides are rarely seen. The night tour in Las Vegas has a live guide, which is a special treat!
Squish factor: While I can get away with just one seat, that's mostly because I squish with my wife, and it's comfortable. If you're traveling alone, or would rather not squishing with your travel buddy, and wear a size 24 or larger, it might be worth getting two seats.
I'd heard so much about Meow Wolf's Omega Mart, so I want you to know about it even though I didn't make it there this trip. Haley Plotkin, the plus size travel blogger behind Ready Set Jet Set, did visit, and had a fabulous experience! "When you enter, you start in the mart. Everything is for sale in the mart, including the empty boxes of fake products, which is so fun," Plotkin told me. "Then, you start finding the portals into the multiverse. There's a storyline you can follow, but it took me 6 hours to complete it. It involves running back and forth all over to different stations to watch videos and complete tasks."
Squish factor: While there is an elevator in the building, Plotkin tells me that it's hard to get to, and the amount of stairs you have to climb are exhausting. "The main thing I was disappointed with was the slides. They are narrow and twisty," she says. Plotkin doesn't recommend the slides.