Ah, the annual family vacation. For most normal people, this once-a-year trek is a time to reconnect in a stress-free environment with your loved ones. Perhaps you go to Florida and sit by the pool like I hear non-dysfunctional people do. Or maybe you’re one of those uber-privileged people who charters a plane to Europe for ten days of budget-free fun. You’re most likely accompanied by your entire extended family of sane cousins who don’t post extreme political rants on Facebook. (By the way, if you’re part of that family, I hate you.)
My family might be the only one in America that jumped from Disney World (c. 1993) to Vegas in one year. And I vaguely remember my mom asking the concierge at our Disney hotel if there was a casino on-site.
My entire life my mom, dad, sister and I have enjoyed this pilgrimage. Vegas is literally the one thing we can agree on. Gambling? GOOD. Drinking? GOOD. Charge everything to the room? GOOD. Discuss if that woman is a hooker? GOOD.
The hooker conversation started, by the way, when my parents “deposited” us into the safety of our own Vegas hotel room at 13 (me) and 11 (Anna) years old. We walked around the Luxor with $12 chocolate milkshakes at 2am discussing which “lady’s” skirt was the skankiest, and could we see the menu at Brandy Beavers’ Shadow Bar?
“We’re just eating, not drinking,” I assured the horrified hostess.
Fast forward to 2015. This year’s trip was of particular significance because it was the first time Anna and I would be in Sin City during swimsuit weather since we’d turned 21.
“You go to Vegas every year?” You’re thinking. “But you’re 26 and Anna is 24. How is this possible this was the first time you’d been able to swim?”
Well, the last time we were there it was to celebrate Christmas. And you can’t swim in December in Vegas. Jee-zussss.
Anyway, we’re both of legal drinking age, we’re staying at the Wynn (thanks to my mom’s slot tournament prowess, The Fedick’s get dealz on dealz)…this only means one thing: Encore Beach Club.
I’d heard about this mythical place many-a-time, but as “pool parties” are still a relatively new concept in Vegas (a new one seems to pop up every time Avicii drops a shitty new beat), I hadn’t been to one. My understanding was that it was basically just like the regular pool, but with a DJ. I thought it was one of those things hotel guests “showed up” for, like water aerobics. Actually, I could see one of the pools – some pool – from my hotel room. I thought the “festivities” must be going on when I was…I don’t know…not looking out of the window?
As I was about to find out, I was so very, very wrong.
Let’s start at the beginning here: you have to buy tickets for Encore Beach Club.
“Talk to the concierge, he’ll sort you out.” my casino host told me (I drop mad $10 bills at the Wynn/Encore, so obvi I have a casino host.)
This perplexed me, but then I attempted a rare logical thought: it did seem odd so many people had been to EBC. Maybe you don’t have to stay in the hotel to go?
I was right. You do not have to stay in the hotel. Which means any Tom, Dick, Harry or Vinny can walk in. And trust me, every “Vinny” did walk in. If you’re looking for tribal tattoo inspiration, skip the tattoo shop book. Go to Encore Beach Club.
Anyway, Anna and I approached the concierge desk with the confidence of two people whose parents are paying for their entire luxury vacation.
“Hi,” I said. “Are there any tickets left for Encore Beach Club?”
The two male concierges looked at each other, then back at us, as if they knew something we didn’t.
“Oh, there’s a few left,” said C1. He was clearly trying to make us sweat. “You guys been before?”
“Nope, I said. “How much are they?” I was genuinely expecting a $770 price tag, because at the Wynn, a parsley garnish has the ability to ruin your credit score.
“Two girls…$35,” C2 said.
I stood back in astonishment. Did he mean $35, or $3,500? Surely the former could not be true.
“Wait,” I said. “$35? For two girls? Are the prices different for guys?”
C1 and C2 laughed like loons. Obviously the price was different for guys. I didn’t enquire further about the difference, but their reaction made me think Donald Trump might have a hard time scraping together the change for a “guy ticket.”
Instead we took our tickets and pumped ourselves up for our impending day by walking back and forth in the hotel past signs advertising the various DJs that play at EBC:
I was about to become as confused as Kaskade looks.
The next morning we arose from our slumber fully prepped for the day ahead. Anna and I quickly changed into our suits, then packed our beach bag with the essentials: phones, wallets, headphones, cover-ups, US Weekly’s stolen from the nail salon and gym…and…
“Ugh! We don’t have sunscreen!” I screeched. Despite wanting a nice golden bronze, even I knew the Vegas sun in the middle of summer had the ability to burn me to an Irish-Ukrainian crisp.
Being the responsible girls we are, we trekked to the Wynn drugstore and “purchased” (ie, charged to the room) an $18 bottle of suntan lotion. If I recall, the bottle advertised it as being “infused with Steve Wynn’s own sweat, mixed with Patchouli oil and sandalwood notes.”
The Wynn really knows how to take care of its customers.
Armed and ready, we followed the signs through the casino to EBC. I was still under the delusion that the regular pool somehow turned into the Beach Club, but as we snaked past Craps tables and people who definitely work in commercial real estate in Phoenix, I realized I was wrong. We were going to an unknown, far-off land.
“Tickets! You guys have tickets?”
We’d pushed through a set of doors and suddenly found ourselves in what can only be described as an outdoor airport security line mixed with Mars. I’m not really sure how else to describe it. Everything was red. And hot.
“Tickets, you girls got ‘em?” Another attendant asked. In my confusion I pulled them from my bag and held them out lamely.
“Tickets! Why are you waiting in this line! Step right on up!”
This guy – who, by the way, was wearing the best lifeguard outfit ever (khaki shorts, red polo, mid-calf socks and sneaks) ushered to a checkpoint, where they took our tickets and stamped our hands.
Yes, a checkpoint. For a pool.
“And the bag check is right there,” he said, pointing to the right.
“Oh, we’re just going to keep our stuff with us,” I said. I thought about our unused $18 dollar sunscreen.
“But you can’t. No bags allowed.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “This is a pool. We’re just going to leave it on the chair.”
“There’s no chairs here!” He said. I looked past him, towards the water, which was starting to fill up with people who obviously had stock in flash tattoos and self-tanner. But he was right. No chairs in sight!
“Wait…so…what do we do with our stuff?”
“You check it. $25.”
“But I need stuff in here!” I cried desperately. It felt like Sophie’s Choice. It was either EBC…or the bag.
“You can go back and forth. But only the person with the wristband.”
Anna cut in.
“Wait,” she said, apparently still confused by the lack-of-chairs situation. “So, I don’t get it. You just stand in the water all day?”
David Hasselhoff guffawed.
“That’s mayyyybe the worst description I’ve heard of this place ever, but yeah, basically.”
Anna and I looked at each other. Fine. No chair. No problem. This would be a test of our strength as vacationers. Could we make it sans headphones and beach cover-ups? Maybe, but there was no way I was parting with my phone. Half the reason I wanted to be at this electronic douche carnival was so I could Snapchat it and make people jealous of my life.
“Okay,” I said, hoisting my bag up. “Fine. You can take my bag. But this,” I said, cradling my iPhone like the child it is to me, “is staying avec moi. What can you offer in the way of waterproof phone protection?”
“Oh, we’ve got you covered!” Ms. Bag Check said from inside her Booth of Power. She held up what appeared to be one of those workout armbands. This one, however, was sponsored by Stoli, which in my opinion is a really great sponsor for anything.
“Waterproof!” She sang out.
Birds sang. The heavens opened. I could now safely transport my iPhone 6 into the water, where I would force Anna to take “candid” pictures of me. Six weeks later I would upload them to Instagram, after I’d airbrushed out any zits and/or love handles.
Anna and I had to go to the bathroom, so after dropping off our stuff (I felt like a person on the Trail of Tears, having just given up all my possessions), we pushed past a girl in a gold thong to get to the toilets and turned a corner. That’s when I realized Encore Beach Club was. Not. F-ing. Around.
Okay. You know in nightclubs how there’s a bathroom attendant with every off-brand perfume, deodorant, hairspray, comb, lotion, mouthwash and candy under the sun?
Yeah, imagine that, but if your nightclub needs occurred during the day.
Suntan lotion. Oils. Freeze pops. Deodorant. Lip balm. Oil blotting sheets. Body glitter (yassss). Mountains of it, overflowing from the sink area like the best Caboodle contents you never had as a 14 year old.
I took the opportunity to let the attendant lather me up with something that made me look like a bodybuilding contestant, minus any muscle definition what-so-ever.
And then I realized I couldn’t tip her. Because I didn’t have my f-ing bag.
“I’m the worst person ever,” I said to Anna as we skulked out of the bathroom, ashamed at my non-tippage. This woman had just put tanning oil all over my back and butt and I had no way to compensate her. Where is the justice in the world?
Not at Encore Beach Club, that’s for sure.
As I was about to find out though, this was just the beginning. Stay tuned for Part 2 – or sign up to get the rest of this lazy, Zedd-fueled afternoon in your inbox.