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No Sin in this City

Clay and Jay "Chief Taco Officer" Busselle caught the Las Vegas sign on an early morning walk.

No Sin in this City

Clay standing in front of the PPAI Expo sign in Mandalay Bay.
A rare shot of an almost empty floor going into the PPAI Expo.

I attended the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Expo in Las Vegas earlier this month. Because we’re still digital nomads and don’t have a house in the U.S., Jackie opted to come with me rather than stay with friends or pick up another house-sitting gig.

The Expo is the largest and longest-running trade show in the promotional products industry and relocated to Las Vegas in 2000 after many years in Dallas, TX. The 2024 edition attracted roughly 16,000 industry pros to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center

We had a terrific time catching up with colleagues and making new connections while we were there. My coworker Shay Dennis attended the Expo, and it was fun seeing the show from her perspective as a first-time attendee. We agreed she may have put too much “dip on her chip” on Day 1 while attending back-to-back education sessions and presentations from industry luminaries.

The fine folks from AIM Smarter and Edwards Garment invited Jackie and me to dinner at Andiamo Steakhouse inside the D Hotel. Andiamo is your place if you’re looking for an authentic Italian Detroit-style steakhouse. The food was excellent, and the service was impeccable.

The following day, I joined the Branded Merch Network group and walked from Mandalay Bay to the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. It was a terrific group of distributors and suppliers from around the country who got up early for the 7:00 AM departure.

Vegas Fun with Friends

Paige and Jackie taking a selfie at a hockey game.
Jackie used her first-timer luck to help the Golden Knights win 4-1.
View from the Rivea with Shay.

Our long-time friend Paige recently moved to Las Vegas, so Jackie took the opportunity to catch up with her. And catch up they did at a Golden Knights hockey game! It was Jackie’s first hockey game, and I think we might have a new fan in the family. In addition to some great gameplay, which led to them winning 4-1, the theatrics and fandom were almost overwhelming. And Jackie saw more families there than she ever has in our sister city to the south. It is, of course, what you would expect from Las Vegas, and we highly recommend this experience if you make it out west. 

That night, Jackie, Shay and I dined at Rivea on the 64th floor of the Delano Hotel. The views are breathtaking, and the Las Vegas Strip sparkles more than usual from that vantage point. Chef Alain Ducasse has curated a terrific menu with French and Italian-inspired dishes (it’s one of my favorite places to dine in Vegas).

Fine and Frightening Dining

Clay, EM, Brenda and Jackie posing in front of a Welcome to Hell sign at the Nightmare Cafe.
We caught up with friends Brenda and E.M. in Hell AKA the Nightmare Cafe.

That said, my favorite Spanish Tapas restaurant in the country is Firefly. John Simmons, the chef and creator of Firefly, has compiled a fantastic menu and paired it with great ambiance and stellar service at both locations. We enjoyed meeting new friends Sav and Riley there, where we got to talk about Sav’s movie, Chasing Chasing Amy as well as Jackie and Riley’s shared love of cheesey shark movies (including Ghost Shark). Firefly is a can’t-miss if you’re in Las Vegas and looking for a memorable dining experience.

There are more than 2,000 creatures living their best lives at the Shark Reef Aquarium inside Mandalay Bay.

On our last night in Vegas, we decided to see Jackie’s niece, Sahara, a server at the Nightmare Cafe in the Las Vegas Arts District. If you want a unique horror film-inspired dining experience, make sure you stop by (unless you’re too scared). You can’t go wrong with everything, from the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes appetizer to the Blair Waffle Project entree, and that’s all combined with horror movies playing in the background.

Sharks and Jellyfish

We also had a chance to walk through the Shark Reef Aquarium, located next to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The variety of sea life, including many sharks, was impressive for a smaller aquarium. While we both loved seeing sharks, the highlight was the jellyfish tank. Watching them effortlessly floating in their habitat was mesmerizing. Jackie’s been searching for a jellyfish screen saver since then.

After four nights in Las Vegas, we were ready to return to Reno. We’re looking forward to our next trip (hopefully, our visas show up soon). Until then, we’ll keep you posted on our whereabouts and the status of our visas.

Clay has worked with advertisers and marketers to find unique solutions to their business challenges. His insight informs clients’ choices across several mediums, including direct mail, print, branded merchandise and digital advertising.

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