Monday, November 30, 2015

Great Sleeps: Downtown Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada


Downtown Grand  206 North 3rd St., 2 blks. from Fremont St., Downtown Las Vegas, (702) 719-5100.  Restaurants, bar.  Pool; fitness room.  Situated within a repurposed factory space, the casino here has an industrial chic vibe while the hotel manages to feel boutiquey and provides stylish rooms.  Well located, the hotel is two blocks from the spectacular Fremont Street Experience and just across the street from The Mob Museum.  Unfortunately, a mandatory resort fee is charged, which covers valet parking and wifi whether you need it or not.  A cool heated infinity pool is on the third-floor roof of the casino, with plenty of lounge chairs, semi-private cabanas, and a bar.

exterior of Downtown Grand Casino Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada


interior of Downtown Grand Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada

lobby of Downtown Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada

guest room in Downtown Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada

    The hotel is in cahoots with many restaurants immediately adjacent, including Pizza Rock, which is an offshoot of the riotously popular Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco.


exterior of Pizza Rock in Downtown Las Vegas, Nevada

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Things to Do: Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas, Nevada


Fremont Street Experience  Along Fremont St., five blocks between Main St. & 4th St., Downtown Las Vegas.  Now closed to cars, this section of Fremont is covered by an immense mesh canopy that is lit at night with more than 2.1 million lights.  A free light-and-laser show with a 54,000-watt stereo system entertains impromptu audiences between free live music shows, which are scheduled four times each night.  This lively five-block-long promenade is lined with shops, cafes, and casinos and is where U2 shot their video for "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."  Both the 77-foot-high and 850-foot-long Slotzilla zip line and a higher zoom line that launches riders in a horizontal Superman position provide screaming participants that add to the excitement.  There is a lot going on here.  Read this article and you won’t miss a thing. 



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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Things to Do: Downtown Container Park, Las Vegas, Nevada


Downtown Container Park  707 Fremont St./7th St., Downtown Las Vegas.  No pets.  Built from re-purposed shipping containers as well as locally manufactured modular metal cubes, this small open-air shopping center opened in 2013.  A giant fire-breathing praying mantis by its entrance lets you know you are in the right place.  The center is home to boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, and offices, and a barbershop operates within a retired boxcar and caboose.  In the park’s center, a children’s play area features a giant treehouse, where adults can join their kids exploring a 33-foot-tall slide, a NEOS play system, and over-sized foam building blocks.  

wedding couple at entrance to Downtown Container Park in Las Vegas, Nevada

praying mantis at entrance to Downtown Container Park in Las Vegas, Nevada

children's playground at Downtown Container Park in Las Vegas, Nevada

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Things to Do: Las Vegas Natural History Museum, Las Vegas, Nevada


Las Vegas Natural History Museum  900 Las Vegas Blvd N., (702) 384-3466.  Daily 9am-4pm.  $10, seniors $8, 3-11 $5.  This satisfyingly old-fashioned museum is also entertaining and educational, with an assortment of don’t-miss galleries.  The International Wildlife Gallery and Grand Hall holds exotic taxidermy animals that include a 16-foot giraffe, a family of bison, and some grizzly bears, while the Wild Nevada Gallery is dedicated to native Nevada animals and plants.  The Prehistoric Life Gallery holds a variety of life-size dinosaurs, some of which move and make sounds.  My favorite is the smallish Deinonychus “Terrible Claw,” which is covered in real feathers.
Deinonychus "Terrible Claw" dinosaur at Las Vegas Natural History Museum

The African galleries depict Early Man and feature a model of Australopithecus which walked upright and was known as Lucy, and an African Savanna exhibit with more taxidermy animals--some centered around a watering hole and others in a depiction of lions attacking a zebra.
African watering hole exhibit at Las Vegas Natural History Museum

The Marine Life Gallery presents re-creations of sharks and whales hanging from the ceiling as if they are swimming through the hall, as well as some living exhibits that staff from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino helps maintain.
shark exhibit at Las Vegas Natural History Museum

Treasures of Egypt, which was a windfall that came from a remodel of the Luxor Hotel & Casino, displays a recreation of King Tutankhamun’s famous tomb (there are only two sanctioned reproductions of Tut’s tomb and this is one of them).  Among the treasures are the coffins of Tut’s children, who sadly were stillborn.  
coffins of King Tut's children exhibit at Las Vegas Natural History Museum

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 
 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Sights to See: Oatman, Arizona


Situated at elevation 2,700 feet and on the 38th parallel, the old Gold Rush town of Oatman in Arizona is on the original, now defunct, Route 66.  Started in 1906 as a tent camp, its mines had produced 1.8 million ounces (worth about $60 million) of gold by 1931.  The boom was over by the mid-1930s, and in 1942 the few remaining mines closed after being declared nonessential to the war effort. 
sign for Sidewalk Egg Fry in Gold Rush town of Oatman, Artizona


Now this historic mining town is a sort of "living ghost town," with about 100 permanent residents.  A mine shaft opening can be entered at no cost, and shootouts on main street are scheduled daily.
mine shaft in Gold Rush town of Oatman, Artizona

shootout in front of Oatman Hotel in Gold Rush town of Oatman, Artizona

But most people come here to see the burros.  
adult burro in Gold Rush town of Oatman, Artizona

Though it is wise to keep a safe distance from them because they are wild and will sometimes bite and kick, that is almost impossible to do.  Especially the babies, which are too, too cute and just beg to be petted.  You can buy inexpensive feed for the adult burros—just watch that they don’t come after you for more and take a nip out of your shirt or purse by mistake—but you’re reminded by a note attached to their foreheads not to feed the babies.  They are still nursing and regular food is detrimental to their health.
baby burro with do not feed note on forehead in Gold Rush town of Oatman, Artizona


Burros were brought to the area by early prospectors. They were used inside mines for hauling rock and ore, and outside for hauling water and supplies.  Eventually, when the mines closed, they were released into the surrounding hills.

Oatman Hotel  181 Main St., (928) 768-4408.  Hollywood movie stars Clark Gable and Carole Lombard famously honeymooned here in 1939.  You can view their upstairs honeymoon suite for a small fee.  The hotel dates back to 1902.  It survived a bad fire in 1920 and is now the oldest two-story building in Arizona's Mohave County and is on the Registrar of National Historic Places. The hotel looks pretty much like it did when the miners were here and is rumored to be haunted by Oatie the ghost.  Downstairs is a bar and cafe that are memorable for the dollar bills tacked like three-dimensional wallpaper to the wall, a tradition that started with the miners back when 5 cents bought a beer.  They would write their name on a dollar bill and tack it to the wall to start a tab.  Ask to borrow a staple gun and add your own signed dollar.  The menu is simple American food.  But the $6 cocktail menu offers temptingly named drinks:  Oatman Punch, Blushing Burro, Pink Lizard, Snake Bite, and Donkey Pee, which is made with Parrot Bay coconut rum, sour mix, and club soda, and many swear is quite tasty. 


restaurant at Oatman Hotel in Gold Rush town of Oatman, Artizona



Oatman, Arizona, is 28 miles southeast of Laughlin, Nevada.  Getting there takes you along Route 66 through the scenic Black Mountains.  They are dotted with cholla plants and tumbleweeds, some of which bear the wind-blown remnants of decorations bestowed upon them by schoolchildren at Christmases past. 
More information about Oatman, Arizona.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Things to Do: The Mob Museum, Las Vegas, Nevada


The Mob Museum  300 Stewart Ave., Downtown Las Vegas, (702) 229-2734.  Daily 10am-7pm.  $21.95, 65+ $17.95, 11-17 $13.95.  Guided tours daily; $10.  Located within the actual courthouse that once was used to try famous mobsters, this macabre museum displays both the actual wall from the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and the barber chair in which sat gangster Albert Anastasia when he was murdered.  Artifacts include weapons, and you can sit in an electric chair and take a selfie.  Start your self-guided tour at the top, on the third floor, and work your way down, exiting through an enticing array of souvenirs in the gift shop.  Interactive exhibits and video presentations provide insight.  Beer and snacks are available, and you are welcome to beat the heat sipping a cold one as you walk through the museum.  

exterior of The Mob Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada

weapon display at The Mob Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada

the electric chair at The Mob Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 


Monday, November 2, 2015

Sights to See: Laughlin, Nevada


Folks come to Laughlin because it is lower-key and less expensive than Vegas.  They are often on their way from L.A. to the Grand Canyon (it is a two-hour drive from here to one rim, three to the other).  The town has a population 7,500, but no grocery stores, doctors, or dentists.  Getting around is easy.  You can easily walk between the river-front casinos, or better yet, take a water taxi. 

My favorite time to be here is for the annual Laughlin Laugh Fest comedy festival in October.  For three happy days, headliners appear as well as tryouts.  This year I got some good chuckles watching Gabriel Iglesias at the Edgewater and Frank Caliendo at Harrah’s. 

Located riverside in the heart of the Laughlin Riverwalk hotel district, the Aquarius Casino Resort  (1900 S. Casino Dr., (702) 298-5111.  1,907 rooms; 2 18-story towers.  Pool; fitness room.) offers many guest rooms with a view of the Colorado River.
Aquarius Casino Resort at night in Laughlin, Nevada

Rooms are furnished attractively and equipped with cherry wood vanities, Serta mattresses, and designer linens, and bathrooms have granite counters.
guest room at Aquarius Casino Resort at night in Laughlin, Nevada

view from guest room at Aquarius Casino Resort at night in Laughlin, Nevada

While here, I saw one woman excitedly jumping up and down beside her clanging buffalo stampede slot machine in the casino, and I chatted with a quiet group of three in the elevator who told me, “We made our deposit.  We’re going home.”  Restaurants include a McDonald’s, the Windows on the River Buffet (I loved the donuts included in the big breakfast buffet, but was disappointed that I ate there in the morning because it was too early for me to partake of the always-complimentary margaritas), and the more upscale Vineyard Ristorante.  Additionally, The Celebration, a simulated paddlewheel riverboat, schedules dinner cruises March through October.
dinner on The Celebration paddlewheel riverboat in Laughlin, Nevada
check out that wine pour!
For dinner one night, I ambled down to Bumbleberry Flats in the western-themed Pioneer Hotel & Gambling Hall and indulged in their menu of made-from-scratch American comfort food with a southern twist.  The fried dill pickle chips with chipotle ranch dip are a don’t-miss appetizer—fried deviled eggs are also quite tempting—
fried dill pickle chip at Bumbleberry Flats at Pioneer Gambling Hall in Laughlin, Nevada

 and the tropical mixed drinks liven thing up (I loved my mai tai-like Cowboy Cooler).  
fried dill pickle chip at Bumbleberry Flats at Pioneer Gambling Hall in Laughlin, Nevada

The Wreckless Sunday Brunch bloody mary is a complete meal in a glass—it comes topped with a piece of fried chicken and a waffle, a fried green tomato-bacon slider, a pickle spear, a jumbo shrimp, a hard-boiled egg, and some olives, not to mention a beer on the side!  Next time I plan to order that.
Wreckless Sunday Brunch bloody mary at Bumbleberry Flats at Pioneer Gambling Hall in Laughlin, Nevada

This time, I really enjoyed my crispy Southern fried chicken, served with mashed potatoes that are pressed on the griddle for a bit and then topped with gravy.
Southern fried chicken at Bumbleberry Flats at Pioneer Gambling Hall in Laughlin, Nevada

The menu is extensive, with plenty more southern items and a large breakfast selection that is served all day.  Some booths even have a meter and tap that allows you to serve yourself tap-fresh beer.

Bumbleberry Flats Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

More information on Laughlin, Nevada.  

Visit the burros in nearby Oatman, Arizona.

Things to do in nearby Las Vegas.

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers