Friday, March 13, 2015

Fabulous Las Vegas: A Jewel in the Desert (Fabulous Las Vegas Series 12)

Fabulous Las Vegas
A Jewel in the Desert. 
(Fabulous Las Vegas Series 12) 

That first time I visited Las Vegas was about 19 years ago.
I was with high school friends. I returned a year later, with 
my parents and  some relatives, shortly before I got married.

After almost two decades I am returning to Las Vegas with
 a family of my own, all  traveling for the first time to the sin city.

Day 1 

After five days in Anaheim, we took a more than 
four hours scenic bus ride by LuxBus America,

…that had a lunch stopover at Barstow,

…and a final stop in Harrah’s Hotel in Las Vegas.

We took a taxi to the beautiful Tropicana Hotel,

…which became our home for
the next five days in Las Vegas. 

Tropicana Hotel Doubletree by Hilton 
is a comfortable but very affordable hotel,
very ideal for people traveling on a budget.

We were starving as we did not have any major
meals during our trip, so we took a taxi to Rio,

…where we had a heavy and sumptuous dinner
at the extremely popular World Carnival Buffet.

The buffet had a mind boggling more than
300 selections of freshly cooked food, served
in a buffet area the size of a football field,

…with stations separated by cuisine
from different countries of the world.

It’s like experiencing the world without
stepping a foot out of the buffet area.

We took the Rio Hotel’s free shuttle to Harrah’s, 
where we had a chance to have a photo- op with
the Hotel’s iconic flamboyant gambling couple,

…and was our starting point to explore the
mid portion of the famous Las Vegas Strip.

The temperature got too cold for comfort later in
the night and my young son was tired and sleepy,

…so we took a taxi back to Tropicana to rest.

While my wife and son decided to sleep,
my teen- age daughter and myself returned
to the strip for a more night time exploration,

…we marveled and the dazzling
display of vibrant neon lights,

… took photos in between,

…and concluded the night by watching t
amazing dancing fountains at the Belaggio.

We walked back to the hotel and retired for the night
after an  awesome first day at the Las Vegas Strip.

Day 2 

We all woke up late on our second day in Vegas.

We took a taxi took a taxi to Hofbrahaus, where we
intend to have a brunch before exploring the city.

Luckily, we had a Filipino taxi driver who took
us for a daytime mini- tour on the Las Vegas strip. 

Hofbrahaus, or the Bavarian Restaurant 
is an exact replica of a 400 year old original
legendary restaurant in Munich, Germany-

…that offers an authentic German dining experience,
similar to the original Hofbrahaus in Bavaria. 

The food was great, and I believe this is one of
the best restaurants we ever dined in our lives.

We also enjoyed shopping on
the restaurant’s souvenir shop.

After lunch we then walked our way
to the nearby Hard Rock Hotel, 

…took a taxi to the Venetian Hotel,

…and enjoyed a leisurely gondola ride while being
serenaded with Italian love songs by the gondolier.

We also watched the volcanic eruption at the 
Mirage Hotel on the other side of the road
while there was a ongoing marathon on the strip.

We then explored the strip
and dropped by the Linque, 

…where we tried the High Roller Experience 
that gave us a brightly shimmering splendor bird’s
eye view of the strip and the suburbs at 550 feet.

The highest observation wheel in the world gave
us an unforgettable and breathtaking experience.

We later took the monorail to MGM,

…crossed the elevated pedestrian pathway,
back to the Tropicana Hotel to rest and sleep.

Day 3 

We woke up early in the morning on our third day
in Vegas as we were picked up in our hotel  at
7 AM for our Grand Canyon tour to Arizona.

We hopped in a huge tourist bus that had
massive panoramic windows and gave us
awesome views of both sides of the road.

We passed by the rustic Boulder City
 located at the peripheries of Nevada, 

…got a good view of Lake Mead,

…and had a photo stop in Hoover Dam.  

Hoover Dam, located at the Nevada and Arizona 
borders, and being one of the man made structures
visible in outer space, would have been a great
destination but we didn’t have enough time.

It’s a good thing that the tour we booked
included it as one of its brief stopovers.

We then cruised the great Arizonian desert until
we arrived at the idyllic Kingman, Arizona,

...where we stopped to rest at 
 the rustic Castle Rock Diner   

Kingman, Arizona was known to be where
the hit film ‘Independence Day’ was shot.

Our lunch was at the Grand Depo Café,
a beautiful and historic structure of the
old Williams’ Grand Train Depot Station,

…converted to a beautiful buffet restaurant.

The restaurant lies on the famous Route 66, 
America’s iconic and most historical highway,

…and appears like an outdoor museum, as it is a
repository of some of the oldest trains in America.

From Williams, it was only a short drive
to the Grand Canyon National Parks,

…where we walked our way
to the Mather Point's overlook.

The Grand Canyon is probably one of the most beautiful,
and one of the most spectacular sights in the whole world.

The awesome display of different linear hues of natural earth colors,
each representing billions of years of the earth’s archeological history,
drawn along the earthen cliffs by the receding mighty Colorado River.

From the Mathers’ Point we drove
to Bright Angel Lodge view deck,

…for a different view of the
breathtaking Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon, wherever and whichever angle
you view is a majestic sight and as its breathtaking.

When it got too chilly as the temperature
dropped to 1 degree centigrade, we feasted
on hot coffee, freshly baked pretzels to keep
us warm while the kids sodas for hydration.

We left the Bright Angel Lodge at dusk,
and had a dinner in Carl’s Jr in Kingman,

…and later the bus drove us back
to the glittering city of Las Vegas.

This whole day excursion to Arizona 
is the most memorable part of our
three- week US autumn vacation so far.

Day 4 

It was our the penultimate day in Las Vegas 
and we set aside this day to explore the strip.

We walked our way to Excalibur Hotel which
was located just in front of Tropicana Hotel,

...and took a tram to Mandalay Bay, as we would
be visiting the hotel’s Shark Reef Aquarium.

The kids had a blast of good time on the
Oriental temple ruins themed aquarium,


…and we later had our lunch at the
beautiful Mandalay Bay food court,

I cannot help but get nostalgic as this is exactly the same
site where the former Hacienda Resort and Casino was
located, and it was where I stayed on my second visit here
in Vegas in the late ‘90’s shortly before I got married.

We later took the tram again to Luxur, 

…where we bought tickets for the Bodies Exhibiton,

...and the Titanic Artifact Exhibition. Both exhibits
were awesome as they were very educational but
unfortunately, both did not allow guests to take photos.

Anyway, that was okay as the Luxur Hotel 
was very beautiful as it was photogenic, in and out

It was already late in the afternoon when we returned to  
Tropicana to rest for a while as we booked an evening 
Las Vegas Strip Tour, that would start at seven PM.

We returned to Excalibur early in the evening
for the tour pick up and it was very chilly as the
temperature dropped  to one degree centigrade.

Thankfully there was a Starbucks nearby 
so we kept warm by sipping piping hot coffee, 

…until we were picked up by the tour bus. 

A visit to Las Vegas is never complete without 
an evening tour at  the  glittering strip, 

…where is would take tourists from one end of the 
strip near the iconic ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign, 

…and on the massive and resort hotels and casino that 
also doubles as entrainment centers and theme parks. 

Because of the numerous themed hotels, 

…a strip tour would take tourists to different parts 
of the world without stepping out of the tour bus. 

The tour also took  the old,  historic Las Vegas Downtown- 

…for the wonderful Freemont Street Experience. 

Freemont Street restoration did the unthinkable 
that could probably raise eyebrows of some traditional 
historians had it happen in a more conservative society, 

…by reinventing the old laid back Las Vegas 
downtown with a gaudy twist of modernity. 

…the old buildings were restored renovated and refurbished,

…and a LED display canopy was installed, supported
by massive  steel columns, with nearly 2.1 million
Incandescent lights and illuminated by more than
12 million LED lamps and was called Viva Vision.

The Freemont Street was closed to vehicular
traffic, and was turned to a Pedestrian Mall. 
Music is played throughout the mall.

Free nightly entertainment are also provided on
the three stages throughout the Pedestrian Mall.

The Freemont Street Experience also
offers the two- level SlotZilla Zip Line. 

Not to be missed at the Freemont Street Experience 
is the Light and Sound Show that begin at dusk
presented on the Viva Vision video screen canopy.

The bright street side neon lights and signs are turned off, 
the concerts are stopped, and the Viva Vision lights up in an 
awesome play of multi- colored dynamic abstract shapes and 
images, entrancing the tourists in a state of visual euphoria.

Everything comes to a stand still until during
the show and the tourists seem to be in trance
 or on a state of eerie suspended animation,

…all looking up held on a virtual mass hypnosis
by the psychedelic light and sound show that seem
to be the only one dynamically moving at that time.

We returned to Tropicana after the Freemont Street’s
Light and Sound Show and had a sumptuous dinner
by ordering a room service before retiring to bed.

This is so far one of our most exhilarating
day in this  wonderful and vibrant city. 

Day 5 

This was our last day in Las Vegas and we woke- up
early as we had a 9 AM Greyhound bus to catch.

We took a taxi to the Greyhound Terminal 
located in the old Las Vegas Downtown.

We arrived early, checked in,

…and took our seats at the middle part of the bus.

The bus was pretty new, had comfortable seats,
tidy toilets, good wi- fi and panoramic windows,

…it took us to Los Angeles for and unbelievable
bargain of 2 dollars each that I booked thru the net.

We had a stop at Barstow where we feasted on
several variations of Dunkin Donuts for lunch,

…then brief stops at Victorville, 

….San Bernardino, 


and El Monte, 

We arrived at LA after about 5 ½ of travel,

…took a taxi from the Greyhound Terminal, 

…to Hilton Hotel at Universal City,

… our home for  a week on the last
phase of our US autumn vacation.

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