Sep 04

V Variety Show, Las Vegas

For my last and final post about Contiki’s Northern Adventure, I’ve decided that V for Variety is the way to go.  If you want an overview of what I thought of the tour, here are my thoughts from last year.

Vlogo

But on with the show…  Oh Geez, thinking about this show is making my puny.  I apologize.

Ok, so the show is V – The Ultimate Variety Show at Planet Hollywood. It’s well, a variety show, as in lots of different acts.  There were skaters, jugglers, magicians, drummer dudes, and aerialists.  I’ve seen similar types of shows, and with the exception of one or two acts they all had a great balance of entertainment for the amount of time they lasted. There was a good pace to the show, so no sagging eyelids.

I thought for the price and with the type of entertainment, this was a great show for the family.

Of course, you might not want to use this entrance:

Aug 28

Your Dream Elvis Wedding

One of the occasional rights of passage on a Contiki tour is the Elvis Chapel Wedding. I’d heard the rumors, but never saw it, until we pulled up in Las Vegas all dressed up for a night on the town.  It’s a surprise for those on the Contiki bus, I had heard about it before, but will admit I was a little slow on the pick up on this one.  I ended up being almost surprised.

So here we are at the Graceland Wedding Chapel, all lined up waiting for something.  Our local Weeding officiant started telling us about the chapel and after a few minutes introduced ELVIS.  He rocked, played a bunch of songs, it was fun.

Then he pulled up two of our tour mates and married them with some funny vows.  Ok, the vows were kinda traditional, but were funny when both parties are laughing. Of course being blessed to the song, Hound Dog, does make it extra special.

For me the fun was that several years ago we joked about my sister and husband renewing their vows in an Elvis Chapel with their kids in attendance.  Well my sister didn’t do it, but I finally got a bit of the experience.  I highly recommend getting your already married friends to renew, just for the fun of it!

 

Aug 21

Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour

Many years ago (or in 2003) on a family trip to Las Vegas, My Mom, Dad, sister and I took a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon. That trip was from McCarren Airport, flew us by the Hoover Damn and down to the Grand Canyon, I believe the north rim.  We flew around inside the canyon a bit and then headed back.  On the trip back we did a nice sweep of the strip.  I think that trip was an hour and a half in the air.  It was absolutely fabulous.

When I returned to Las Vegas last year I had the option of taking another helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon, this one even included lunch (or brunch in our case) in the canyon.  I decided that after 9 years, and a different experience it was worth it.

This tour was quite a bit different though.  First we went from Boulder Airport, which meant two things: we had a longer driver to the airport and we were not going to see the strip on this trip.  Not seeing the strip was a bummer and something I would tell others to seriously consider this when picking a helicopter tour.

But, we had a shorter flight to the Grand Canyon. At the airport everyone was weighted and asked if there was anyone they had/wanted to fly with, then everyone was assigned to a helicopter and pilot. And then we waited, our group had 6-8 helicopters so it did take a little while to call all the groups and load them up.  My helicopter was one of the last to depart.

We flew into the canyon, flew for a bit and landed. Our landing area reminded me a bit of a scene from M*A*S*H.  Our lunch/bunch consisted of sandwiches, chips, soda, water, and champagne.  Lunch felt a little bit rushed being the last helicopter, it might have been in my head, but I felt like the earlier groups might have had a big more time.  Either way we had enough time to eat and take photos, about a half hour.


 Then we boarded up and flew back home, the good thing about being the last helicopter was that we were able to watch all the other helicopters take off from inside the Grand Canyon, made for some great photos.

Overall this was a great tour, and I highly recommend a helicopter tour to anyone who is visiting Vegas and wants to see the Grand Canyon with limited hassle.  The question is did I prefer a tour where I saw The Strip instead of the lunch?  Well, they’re both very different things and both were cool. If you’re more of a nature person, then lunch in the Grand Canyon might be better.  If you like the bright lights and big city, or just the overhead view of a city – then the fly over the The Strip is the way to go.

Aug 14

Clubbing In Las Vegas

Clubbing isn’t really my thing, I’m more of a bar with some music in the background kinda gal.  I like to be able to chat with people.  But when I was in Las Vegas on a Contiki tour I decided, when in Rome, do as the Roman’s do. Also, it’s one of the few “Las Vegas” things I haven’t done, so it was time to do it so I would have a legit excuse to not do it in the future.  Being onthe Contiki tour we had a club promotor and for like $15 or $25 he got us into 3 clubs (I only went to 2) with some free drinks so, why not?

 Rain at the Palm – This is one of the big clubs I’ve actually heard of.  It was big, loud and had lots of dancing. The drinks were also REALLY strong, as in, I could barely drink it because it was so strong. The reason you mix a drink is so you don’t have to drink straight vodka. This club actually seemed like a good club, if you like clubs.  There were lots of people dancing and drinking, what more do you want? Of all the clubs we went to this might have been the best. The music was even better than I expected.

Lux at Luxor was kinda lame.  The club was small and the music wasn’t so hot. I think this club would have been better as a swanky lounge than as a “club.” And maybe that’s what it was and nobody told us, but something wasn’t quite right here. We left after an appropriate amount of time and went to:

Carnivale at Harrah’s is an outdoor club with a more relaxed vibe to it.  If you’re looking for something more casual then this might be a better option then Rain.

I should warn you though what I know about the clubs in Vegas.  Granted, I only know this from my brother-in-law, but he prides himself in knowing everything about Vegas so I’m inclined to think this is at least partly true.  When you’re hired to work at a club, you may only work 2 or 3 nights at your home club.  The other nights you’re going to other clubs to “party.” Basically, you’re getting paid to help fill other clubs and make them appear to be popular.  Basically, the clubs are all in with each other, assigning each their “night” and helping to make the clubs seem popular by sending employees from other clubs there.

If this is true, the good news is that the local employee is less likely to put something in your drink, but he’s also either giving you a fake number or an STD from the girl/guy the night before.Clubbing

Nov 25

Guest Post: Las Vegas, NV

This is a guest post from a Shane at NationalRVParks.com about affordable Las Vegas!


 A trip to Las Vegas can be a great travel bargain.  It is a city where one can get a lot for a little as my recent trip with my family can attest.  This city is a favorite destination of ours because it is easy to travel upscale for wholesale.  Affordable opulence is how I refer to these visits to our desert mecca.
Aria at Night



In September of 2011, my family of four left Providence and flew non-stop to Las Vegas on Southwest Airlines for the price of one ticket which was less than $300.  Three tickets were gratis because of frequent flyer points garnered from a easy to accumulate Southwest credit card rewards program. Our hotel of choice for this trip was Aria Resort and Casino a property of the MGMMirage corporation.  This hotel is only 2 years old and it is centrally located on the famous Las Vegas Strip.  The cost of each room was a paltry $79 per night.  This price was secured by an internet offer received when I joined their player’s club.

The Aria hotel houses over three thousand rooms and suites.  It is a visually stunning property. It looms majestically over the south strip.  It is part of a collection of properties called City Center. City Center includes the Cosmopolitan Hotel, The Vdara Hotel, and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, along with private condos and an upscale shopping district called Crystals.  Our room was furnished with an over sized King bed with a view overlooking the strip.  The room also included two televisions,  draperies, central lighting, all controlled by an easy to use remote controlled room unit. We just pressed a button and the television tuned in to one of a hundred channels, the lights rose and dimmed, and the draperies opened and closed all at will.  All for $79 per night.  This is why we love Vegas
The pools, yes there are four pools on this property, are spacious and are meticulously maintained by an attentive staff.  The Las Vegas sun is extremely hot so, needless to say, a lot of sunscreen was applied.  We continually waded into the crystal clear water which provided ample relief from the sweltering sun.  There is also a fitness center which we visited daily. It had all the latest workout equipment and a personal trainer at your disposal.

Our daily routine consisted of a sumptuous breakfast at Aria’s sterling buffet.  This is a buffet where for $13 one can dive into a true gourmet experience. It included a cook-to-order omelet station, home made pastries, every breakfast meat you can imagine, even rib-eye steaks along with too many other items to describe adequately. Every choice was fresh and plentiful.  Our servers were attentive and prompt.  Coffee, espresso, latte, and juices were always delivered with a smile.

After waddling out of the buffet, it was pool time. It was best to get there early to ensure a prime spot near our favorite pool’s edge.  It was easier to take a dip when it got too hot.  The morning was better for us because of the crowd and the heat. 

Next, we were off to the fitness center to burn off a few of the morning’s massive caloric intake. Did I mention that the fitness center supplied headphones, fluffy towels, an array of fruit, and the most refreshing lemon infused ice-cold water I’ve ever tasted! Remember this was for $79 per night :).

After an afternoon shower in a bathroom that was spa-like, it was off to explore the various hotels on the strip which are a show in themselves. Every hotel is a different sensory experience.  The Bellagio has its fountains, the Mirage has its volcano, the MGM its lions, Treasure Island has its pirate show.  We also visited the Venetian Hotel and Casino complex.  This is the largest hotel in the world with over 7000 rooms and suites. Nothing in Vegas is understated or subtle, but that is its allure for us. 

Each evening was occupied by trying to decide in which gourmet chef’s restaurant to dine. Emeril Lagasse, Thomas Keller, Mario Batali, Kerry Simon, Bobby Flay, Marc LoRusso, just to name a few, own and operate restaurants in this city which has become a foodie’s paradise.  We  particularly enjoyed  a restaurant called Botero located in Steve Wynn’s property, Encore.  We came to know Chef Marc LoRusso because of our frequent visits and he always takes care of us. Let me mention that this chef is a James Beard award winner and his dishes are inventive and delectable . We dined there for a combination of my wife’s birthday and  our anniversary.  The frozen chocolate ganache candy bar and marshmallow filled doughnuts for dessert were absolutely “life altering”. 



A lounge show at the Palms on a Monday night at 10:30 is always a must for us. Tickets for a group of world class musicians  called Santa Fe and the Fat City Horns, a group voted the “best band in Las Vegas” numerous times, are only $7.  Another great Las Vegas bargain.  These guys jam every Monday night. They get together to play tunes that speak to them, because most of them are musicians for headline strip entertainers like Celine Dion, Barry Manilow, Tom Jones, Bette Midler, and others.  Monday nights are their time to kick back and do their own thing.. The result is musical magic. 
My family always has a great time in Las Vegas and you can too. Just be flexible with your travel dates, and join the player’s club at the different properties.  You can go upscale for wholesale too!

Bio: My name is Shane McCormick. I am the owner of NationalRVParks.com. I’m in my late 20’s and I enjoy travel. I write about my various travel experiences.  I offer tips and hints about my travel destinations. 
     
Shane recently interviewed me for his own blog, if you want to find out more about me:http://nationalrvparks.com/interview-with-christine-maier-of-the-traveling-giraffe/