Family fun in Las Vegas Part 1

Whew! I realize it’s been a while since I been on here and I apologize.  I recently found out my sister-in-law and her husband are coming up to their 10th wedding anniversary and they want to celebrate it in….Las Vegas!!  They won’t be able to do the stuff they were able to do 10 years ago, now that they have 3 boys ages 6 and 3 (twins).  So I would imagine the fine dining, clubbing, gambling etc. is probably going to be a lot less than when they were first married.

Twenty years ago, Las Vegas tried to re-brand itself as a family vacation destination which ushered in the amusement parks, strip shows such as the Pirates at Treasure Island, lions in a glass cage at MGM,  it worked to the point that families were drawn to Las Vegas and they were spending, but not in the casinos.  The gaming was not doing as well as projected because families were not hanging around casinos because they had children who weren’t allowed into gaming areas.

I won’t be able to list every thing on this entry or even this site, but there are MANY things to do that are family friendly and don’t involve gambling, drinking and staying out all night.

I will begin by looking at the Strip.  If you walk up and down the Strip, (which can be sometimes faster than driving it), you could stop to watch the volcano eruption at the Mirage or the dancing waters in front of the Bellagio.  On Monday-Thursday the volcano only erupts at 8:00pm and 9:00pm but on Friday-Sunday, there is a 10:00pm eruption.

The fountains at Bellagio are a little bit more complicated so I posted them here:

Monday – Friday  3:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.  show every 1/2 hour

8:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. show every 15 minutes

Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays  12:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.   every half  hour

8:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.   show every 15 minutes

*Schedule may vary

**Shows are subject to cancellation due to high winds

 

Events in Las Vegas

The activity and action from the Strip seems to be really heating up lately, in a good way.  With the addition of the new T-Mobile Arena behind New York New York Hotel and Casino, it seems like everyone and everything is being booked there.  Just looking at the upcoming schedule of concerts alone are; Barbara Streisand, Drake, Gwen Stefani, George Strait, Slipknot.

Some of the sporting events listed are; USA Basketball, UFC 202, LA Kings vs Colorado Avalance, and Los Angeles Lakers!

If you go to the T-Mobile Arena site, it is very user friendly and lists events, directions and parking, how to book the arena, seating configurations and even a link for a newsletter.

Not too far in the future should be a pretty spectacular domed stadium for the soon to be Las Vegas Raiders.  I read that Tom Hanks is a die hard Raiders fan and he stated that he can’t imagine the Raiders playing in a domed stadium, in the desert, on artificial turf, not far from a Roman palace, Egyptian pyramid and the Eiffel Tower!!  Some things are going take getting used to.

Omiyage or gifts to bring back home

When visiting Las Vegas, those of us from the 50th State always seems like we have to bring something back for others; neighbors who watched your house while your gone, co-workers who had to put up with you being gone…again, friends and relatives just because.

One of the most popular items to be brought back from Las Vegas is beef jerky.  Yes the flavorful snack that was originated to keep meat from spoiling and has evolved to 100’s of flavors.  My favorite to bring back is one that is soft and sweet, like teriyaki.  Everyone has their favorite; spicy, mild, natural, hot, hard etc.

If your staying Downtown Las Vegas, there are at least four businesses to shop at within walking distance of each other.  The most convenient one is 808 Vegas located in the California Hotel which has the beef jerky and other snacks, one of my other favorites is the cinnamon bagel chips!  If shopping here, check to see if they will deliver to your room.  I heard they deliver to the California Hotel, Main Street, and Fremont.  Not sure about the other downtown hotels.

Just off of Fremont Street on 3rd Street, close to the Four Queens and the D is The Beef Jerky Store .  Same location for over 20 years and probably the one with the largest selection.  The walls are lined with beef jerky selections and other snacks!  Iso peanuts, arare, lemon peel, dried scallops, li hing worms, too many to mention and it bore you to death.  Their webpage even allows for online shopping in case you don’t see a trip coming up in the near future and no one you know is headed that way.

The next most popular location seems to be Las Vegas Jerkys, located on the third floor of the Plaza Hotel and Casino at the top of Fremont Street.  Their shop is pretty low key, nothing fancy but a wide selection.

If you wander further east on Fremont Street into Neonopolis, you will find Beef Jerky Neonopolis, on the ground floor, right next door to Ultimate Sportscards and Memorabilia .  This is the shop Jeremy, the sports memorabilia expert featured on History Channel‘s Pawn Stars owns.  The selection in this store is very expansive too, but super similar products to the Beef Jerky Store.  One of the lady’s that works at Beef Jerky Neonopolis used to be at the Beef Jerky Store, but when you ask them, it seems like she tries to down play it.

One of my friend’s commented to her about the Beef Jerky Store having expanding into this location and he was immediately shut down with “No, we opened this place.  We are not an expansion of them”.  Looks like family dramas.

Didn’t stop me from buying many bags of flavorful beef jerky, candies, nuts and other treats to take home back for the family, neighbors and co-workers.

Reality TV in Sin City 2017

I guess it’s no secret that I like to watch reality TV shows.  From the History Channel shows like Pawn Stars, Counting Cars,  A&E Channel Flipping Vegas as well as HGTV’s Fixer-Upper and Flip or Flop.

By now, there’s all sorts of chatter/rumors/talk about the future of “Flip or Flop” and it’s stars Tarek and Christina.  I’m not here to judge or to give my opinion as to what happened and what should happen.  While watching re-run of “Flip or Flop“, I see a commercial for a new show on HGTV called “Flip or Flop Vegas“.  I don’t know much at this time, but I would imagine that the costs for these homes would be lower than the Los Angeles/Orange County area, but I’m pretty sure that there won’t be too much put into landscaping as the Las Vegas Water District is always encouraging residents and businesses to go with low maintenance and drought resistant landscaping.

I know is going to happen is that I will start watching this new show and I’m going to want to jump on the next Hawaiian Airlines flight to Las Vegas!

Top Golf at the MGM; First time golf experience

On my last trip to Las Vegas, my friend Brian wanted to check out the Top Golf at the Mgm Grand.  I remember seeing it on my trip in October, but I never got around to checking out, most likely because I don’t golf.

Best way to enter, drive north on Koval Lane from Tropicana Boulevard and you will see the towering building on the left.  They have an open parking lot, valet parking and shuttle buses from the area hotels that drop off right in front.  We made the mistake of parking in the MGM Grand parking garage and walking!.  It is over a mile walk through the parking garage, through the hotel lobby, through the casino and past the shops.  Then, you exit out to a couple of pools, past the convention center then you will find it.

Once we got in, I was surprised to find that it was inexpensive to play.  There was a five dollar initial charge for a membership and $45 an hour, no matter how large the party.  We given a bay that had three couches, a coffee table, and table service for food or drinks.  The hostess explained to us how the system works;  you enter in the type of program you want, ie just practice hitting, competition, etc.  Enter in the names of the participants and the screen will guide you when to begin.

You wave your club in front of a sensor and the golf ball is spit out at you.  Each ball is microchipped so when you hit it, the distance and spot where it lands are all recorded.  Comes in real handy when someone’s competitive nature kicks in.

Overall, it is a fun experience, especially for someone like me who has never hit a golf ball in their life.   Will definitely be back again and I was told by the employees there that there are plans for a Top Golf here in Hawaii!

Super Bowl Sunday in Las Vegas

I recently got to visit Las Vegas from Feb. 5 to Feb. 10.  I flew from Honolulu direct to Las Vegas with my friends Brian, Bert and Darrin. Friends since we weren’t even old enough to drive.  We didn’t plan it, but we ended up flying out on Super Bowl Sunday.  We landed right at kick off and made it to the California Hotel by half time.  On our way there, you could tell that the game was in progress because the freeways and main roads had no traffic and very little cars on them!

We checked into the California Hotel in time for the second half, which I found out I couldn’t place many prop bets at that time. The sports book at the California is more comfortable than when it was upstairs and there was a lot of seats and viewing areas for people to watch the game.

TVs were on all over the casino; near the table games, the upstairs and downstairs bars and even in the Keno room!  There was even a special, by invitation only function going on in the Ohana Room on the second floor.

I took a quick walk down to Fremont Street and could see that it was pretty much a ghost town but I could hear the cheers coming from every casino bar, as most of them are near the entrance off of Fremont Street. While most of the places had some sort of drink special, party special or food special, most of the places were a bunch of football fans sitting together to watch the biggest game of the year. If your a Patriots fan, probably one of the best games ever.

 

 

Just in case; a medical anxiety when visiting Las Vegas

My biggest fear of traveling to Las Vegas is needing medical attention. If you have a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan such as HMSA, your good but I have Kaiser Permanente and believe it or not, Kaiser Permanente has no facilities in the State of Nevada! I always thought that Las Vegas has everything, but I later found out that Kaiser Permanente is not one of them. Several years ago, co-worker told me that her brother had Kaiser Permanente, but when he was visiting Las Vegas, a situation came up where he had to see a doctor and the closest facility to Las Vegas was in California. He had to make a two hour drive, one way, to see a doctor! Just that story alone made me worried every trip I took to the 9th Island.

I know that it were an emergency that would be taken care just like any other person would be taken care of. What I was dreading was getting sick or injured, but not bad enough for an emergency room visit. The drawbacks to an emergency room visit are:

  • It can be depressing because every sort of illness and injury comes in
  • If it’s busy and your not that bad off, every severe case that comes in pushes you to the back of the line to be seen
  • You could be there for hours because even if the doctor has seen you, the rest of the emergency room staff is busy with other patients and they will get to you when they get to you
  • Lastly, it is very expensive compared to a regular doctor visit

My anxiety would soon change. Here’s what I found out by accident: I had to go for a doctor’s visit the other day and while waiting in the examining room, I see a flyer with the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, (which will always catch my eye). I opened it up to find out that Kaiser Permanente has now contracted with Concentra Urgent Care and Walgreens Healthcare to treat their patients when traveling.

I started to read the flyer and found that Concentra Urgent Care might be the best bet. There only four locations and three of them are open Monday-Friday 8:00 am to 5 or 6:00 pm. The fourth location at 5850 Polaris Avenue near McCarren International is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Concentra Urgent Care is staffed by board certified physicians and clinicians. Most of the centers also have X-ray and lab facilties.

Walgreens Healthcare has 13 locations with two right on the Strip, one near the Venetian and the other near MGM Grand. They are staffed by either a board certified nurse practitioner or physician assistant, but all locations have a pharmacy.

Hopefully you or me will never need to use these facilities, but it’s nice knowing that there are options.

Merry Christmas!!

Now that Christmas is here, I look back and realize that Las Vegas can be a fun place to spend the Christmas season.  Believe it or not, the crowds are not that bad until after Christmas Day.  If you check the hotel sites and other travel sites, the room rates are really good leading up to December 25th but will spike the closer you get to December 31st, but we all know that it’s a big party on that date.

Up till today, I would get e-mails almost daily inviting me to stay somewhere for anywhere from $39 to $299 a night.  I’m sure the Aria at $299 a night can be a bargain versus New Year’s Eve or Superbowl Sunday.

Let’s not forget about dining.  Because most of the occupancy is low for the weeks leading up to Christmas, you can get a table at almost any restaurant in town and we know some of them can be excellent and beyond excellent!  The best part, someone else does the cooking and cleaning up!

Christmas is all about spending time with family and I have met many families from Hawaii that have spent Christmas many times in Las Vegas.  While it may exclude the family members that can’t make the trip, it makes for great memories later.

Tis the season; Black Friday and Cyber Monday Vegas Style

Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Two names or phrases that are not that old and conjure up images of frenzied shopping with cash and credit cards leaving wallets after than Usain Bolt in the 100 meter sprint.  As this Thanksgiving holiday approached, we all saw ads on TV, Newspaper, websites, e-mails etc. for specials for both days.  Most of your “brick and mortar” stores) ie Macy’s, Kohl’s etc) those in a mall for example, were more to push the “Black Friday” concept while on line portals such as Ebay, Amazon, eBags etc were more toward the “Cyber Monday”.

I noticed that even Las Vegas got in on this craze and I’m not just talking about shopping the outlet malls, the  Forum Shops or Miracle Mile.  You could check a hotel casino’s webpage and get themed specials.  Most of these specials will be  emphasized on hotel rooms, meals and shows.  One the lesser known but big benefits are the multi point rewards on certain days.  Some casinos were  offering as high as 15x the points on “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday”. This could have been your chance to really rake in the rewards just off of your gaming.

 

My experience on the campaign trail

img_3919a

Now that the elections are behind us, I will not bore or agitate the readers with how I feel about the results. That issue is left to be discussed, debated and fought over on other sites and forums. I do want to share my closest call I had to both candidates this past October 2016. I was in Las Vegas and scheduled to fly back to Hawaii on October 19 at 6:20 pm from McCarren International on Hawaiian Airlines.

I knew enough ahead of time that the Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was to be held at UNLV on the same date at around the same time. From experience, I know that the area around McCarren International and UNLV will be swarming with Secret Service and police. When the candidates land and start moving, all roads and air traffic surrounding WILL be shut down, no movement at all. With that in mind, I planned to be at the McCarren Rental Car Center by 4:30, which would give me almost two hours before my flight.

As I was driving to the center, I saw that Paradise Road and the intersection of Tropicana Blvd were lined with mostly Donald Trump supporters. Many “Make America Great Again” banners and other signs of support as well as negative messages directed toward Clinton. I have to assume that the Clinton supporters were closer to the UNLV campus? Considering the City of Las Vegas overwhelmingly voted for her, they had to be visible somewhere. The officers of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department were out in large numbers at each intersection. Up to this point, I was grateful that I was ahead of the motorcades and that I would be at the gate with about an hour to spare.

After dropping off the car at 4:40pm , I went out to the shuttle and found that the Secret Service had just given the order to “lock it down” meaning all affected roads and air space are stopped. There were about five shuttle buses full of people just sitting at the rent a car center, idling. We ended up sitting there until almost 5:50!! Luckily, there were other Hawaii people on my shuttle, hoping to make the same flight so I know that I was safe because there must have been 20 or 30 of us that still needed to make it. A lot of other passengers for other airlines were getting nervous too. One man asked if it would be faster if he and his wife walked to the airport!! And his flight wasn’t until 8:00 pm!!!

When the all clear was given we made it to the gate and to walk very briskly to gate 35. As soon as we boarded, the doors were closed and we off! Right on schedule!!

When I had booked my flight back in August, if I had known about all this, I would have arranged to leave either the night before or the next day.

What I was hoping for was would bump me out and I would HAVE to stay another night in Las Vegas!