Shopping for Trader Joe’s; a Must Stop when traveling

When people from Hawaii travel to Las Vegas, a must (absolute must) stop is Trader Joe’s! You know that you have to bring something back from this market to the gang at the office, the neighbor that watched your house while you were on the trip, the babysitter, and other people who are close to you.

The most frequented branch is located on 2101 South Decatur Blvd. , north of West Sahara Avenue. I remember a few years ago, walking into this location and right in front, taped onto a support pole was a list titled: “Most popular items for our shoppers from Hawaii”. Which tells you how many of us shop at this certain location because it really close to Downtown Las Vegas.

There are other branches within Las Vegas but not frequented as much as the Decatur Blvd. According to the Trader Joe’s web page, there are two locations in Summerlin and two locations in Henderson.

I can’t confirm this but because the other locations are as frequented by Hawaii people, the stock of Cookie Butter is left on the shelf, not behind the customer service counter like it is at the Decatur Blvd. branch. If you were to vacation elsewhere and come across a Trader Joe’s anywhere else in the country, the Cookie Butter is also left on the shelf or on an end display.

Whenever I shop there, my favorites have been dried figs, trail mix, energy bars, cranberry dunkers, blueberry bars, pumpkin bars etc. I can’t help but envy (sometimes) the locals who can shop there and take home some of the frozen or refrigerated specialty items I see on display; marinated lamb rack, various cheeses, marinated fish and chicken and so many it makes almost anyone look like a gourmet chef.


Kahuku vs Bishop Gorman; Las Vegas and Hawaii game of the year

What has happened this weekend in Las Vegas has got to be something out of the ordinary. I’m not talking about Megabucks hitting twice in day but a huge football game. It’s not a professional game or even a NCAA FBS game but a high school football game between Kahuku High School and the number one team in the country, Bishop Gorman. The pride of the North Shore, Kahuku High School is ranked number 18 out of 20 according to the USA Today . It is really awesome considering that it is a public school which has to work with the student body that number barely over 1400 students.

Bishop Gorman also has a student body about the same size, but they don’t have community boundaries to operate within. It also helps that they have a long list of distinguished alumni with money.

On my Facebook page are a couple of videos of the Kahuku football team on Fremont Street attending a pep rally, which was huge! Located between the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino , Binion’s Gambling Hall and Hotel, The Fremont Hotel and Casino, and the Four Queens Hotel and Casino, a stage was set up and all I could see was red all the way down the Fremont Street Experience.

I was told informally that the game sold out within hours and Kahuku High School depleted their allotment of 2000 tickets, which goes to show the support the people of Hawaii can have for the home team. I know a few people from Hawaii made the trip (like it is hard to convince people from Hawaii to travel to Las Vegas) and thousands living on the mainland, I imagine the crowd will not be one sided in cheering.

I know this is early, but I wish the players from the North Shore the best of luck and to play hard, play with pride, and stay safe.

Container Park; Different Experience but so close to the action

While vacationing in Las Vegas last year, my friend Marc told me about a new attraction, so close to Downtown Las Vegas called “Container Park“.  He assured me that it was just across Las Vegas Boulevard from the Fremont Street Experience and that it would be worth checking out.

So one late afternoon I took a walk east on Fremont Street, crossed Las Vegas Boulevard and a couple of blocks later, I was walking up to gigantic metal praying mantis.  It is made of recycled metal parts and can move up and down. Also just outside of Container Park is large metal heart shaped sculpture with wire mesh covering it.  There are dozens, if not over a hundred padlocks attached to this heart.  This is a take off from the social media concept of couples locking a padlock onto a fence near a scenic point and throwing the key away as a symbolism to their loved having a lock on their heart.

There was a group of about 20 young children sitting a half circle near this metal giant, waiting anxiously.  I stood there long enough to see that they were about to start drum lessons from a instructor who appeared to be very relaxed in his teaching.

Walking into Container Park, you find that it laid out in a large circle, two and three stories high of recycled shipping containers that have been converted to shops, restaurants, art galleries and offices. My favorite has become the the BluMarble which is unique in that it takes used alcohol bottles and transforms them into serving trays, shot glasses, drinking glasses and other useful items that have the product labeling on it.

The restaurants appear to be very popular as I observed four members of the North Las Vegas Police Department stopping in for a bite to eat and it is no secret that cops know the good places to eat!

I make it a point to always stop by this attraction whenever I’m staying in Las Vegas because the business have changed out a couple of times already and there might be something new or just something I missed.

How to get value out your trip to Las Vegas

We all want to have the value filled vacation. It can be hard to determine if you should go cheap or splurge. I don’t have the right or wrong answer for that one because each traveler is different, but I can share with you some tips I found out while vacationing in the 9th Island.   Here is another way I have found to stretch your budget.

When you visit a casino, sign up for their rewards program. It doesn’t cost you anything to signup and sometimes you have the “newbie” specials like $10 free play or 10 percent off a meal if you present the card at the casino restaurant the day you sign up.    I have signed up for many casino rewards programs even if I only pass through. I start to get e-mails for specials such as discounted rooms and shows, VIP invites to events and invitations to participate in a slot, blackjack, craps or bingo tournament. They tend to have a “buy in” but when you think about how much is the buy in to play for almost an hour a day versus how much you could lose in an hour on the gaming floor? These tournaments tend to offer great deals on multi night stays at the properties.

I once got an offer and signed up for a blackjack tournament at Gold Coast Hotel and Casino which included tournament entry fee and three nights for $99. Hard to beat that one. Since then, I have gotten promotions from them all year long, sometimes for complimentary two and three night stays. The irony is, I’m not a high roller. When you hear someone tell you that have comps at a certain hotel whenever they want, most of the time it’s because they have lost a lot of money at that casino. For example: Spend $80 a night for a hotel room for four nights or lose $2000.00 in a night gambling? Economics will easily explain that one.

There are visitors who will gladly tell you about their winnings and comps but they won’t tell you about how much they lost.

I have met people who tell me they only stay at a certain casino, which is fine but a decent, clean and safe room can be found in many of the properties.