Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Comprehensive Guide to NYE 2016 in Vegas

New Year’s Eve is far and away Vegas’ busiest, most electric weekend of the year. More than 300,000 tourists gathered on the Las Vegas Strip to ring in 2016. The world-famous 4-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard is shut down to all traffic so revelers can party in the streets below the nation’s largest fireworks display. The casinos and nightclubs will play host to record numbers again this year, offering open bars, celebrity appearances and performances from some of the most acclaimed disc jockeys. To help you prepare for the madness that is New Year’s Eve on the Strip, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide.

There are a few things to consider when planning a trip to Vegas for the new year. Hotel rooms for the week of NYE sell out quickly, and rates typically rise during the holidays in response to high demand, which means book your room early to ensure you get the best price and a bed. The Strip is closed to all traffic at 6 p.m. Guests would do well to arrive at their hotel well before then. The Las Vegas Monorail will be the only form of public transportation in operation on the Strip and will run until 3 a.m. Jan. 1. It is also a good idea to bring warm clothing. The temperature could dip into the 30s by the stroke of midnight.

The party at Stratosphere’s 107 SkyLounge is always a top choice among NYE festivities. At 107 stories above the Strip, partygoers will have one of the best views of the city’s impressively coordinated fireworks display. The world’s tallest observation wheel, High Roller, is another obvious choice for the “ball drop.” Take in the massive block party from 550 feet in the air. Priority boarding includes an open bar, appetizers, DJs and views of the fireworks from the top half of the wheel. Aria, MGM Grand, Planet Hollywood, Caesars Palace, Treasure Island, The Venetian and Stratosphere are the casinos slated to shoot off the fireworks, so any ground-level vantage points near these will also be prime real estate.

Fremont Street Experience is another favorite spot for NYE parties. In lieu of fireworks, the massive video screen canopy above Fremont Street will display a countdown and digital fireworks. The city’s original thoroughfare will be just as crowded as the Strip. This party is limited to Vegas visitors 21 or older. Tickets are required to attend and start at just $35. For both Strip and Downtown events, plan on arriving early and staying late.

For tourists more interested in the evening’s entertainment, just about every casino will have a big name headliner. Pop sensation Bruno Mars is slated to perform at the shiny, new Park Theater, part of the recently opened MGM property, The Park. Funk royalty George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic are set to boogie down at Brooklyn Bowl at The LINQ. Everyone’s favorite Canadian rapper, Drake, will take the stage at Hakkasan inside MGM Grand. Join the one and only Sting at The Cosmopolitan’s Chelsea Ballroom or living legend Elton John at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace for your NYE countdown.

The most important thing to remember about NYE on the Strip is that those parties rage on into the morning hours, so pace yourself. There is always a heavy police force on Las Vegas Boulevard, but the tried and true buddy system ensures everyone stays safe. For more Vegas travel advice, fun facts and recommendations, follow VegasDaze on Facebook and share your NYE photos. We love hearing from you!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ski Trips Near Las Vegas

Ski trips may not be the first thing associated with the desert, but Las Vegas actually makes the perfect base camp for exploring the Southwest’s best ski resorts. The resorts on this list range from one to four hours away by car and make for reasonable day trips. All are open unless otherwise noted, and all offer equipment rentals and lessons from quality instructors. Arriving in time for the first chair will have you back in Vegas for last call! Editor’s note: There is no such thing as last call in Vegas.

Southern Nevada
Lee Canyon
Less than an hour from the Las Vegas Strip, the friendly confines of Lee Canyon offer a wintry reprieve from the hot slots. The resort features nearly 3,000 feet of total vertical drop. Three chair lifts deliver skiers to more than two dozen runs. Opening day for the 2016/2017 season is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 9. Every year during the first week of January, Lee Canyon celebrates Elvis’ birthday by offering $20 lift tickets for skiers dressed in Elvis costumes. The day will feature live music and culminate in a costume contest where one lucky skier will be crowned “King of the Mountain.”

Southern California
Big Bear Mountain Resort
Two different ski areas, Big Bear and Snow Summit, make up this massive Southern California resort. Those who make the nearly-four-hour drive to the San Bernardino National Forest are rewarded with 26 lifts spread out over approximately 35 miles of skiable terrain. Bundle up for night sessions on Snow Summit during select dates. Visitors can enjoy $51 lift tickets as well as food and beverage specials Feb. 5 in honor of Super Bowl 51.

Mount Baldy
A slightly less crowded option, Mount Baldy boasts 800 acres of slopes. The resort is home to the largest and steepest slopes in Southern California. Nearly 30 runs in total span three peaks. There is something for every type of skier with traditional runs, open bowls and powdery chutes. Opening day on Mount Baldy is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 17. While there, be sure to enjoy a locally brewed beer or two at The Notch, the resort’s bar and restaurant at 7,800 feet that commonly hosts beer festivals, wine tasting events and live music.

Southern Utah
Brian Head Resort
Set just north of Zion National Park, one of the country’s most beautiful swathes of land, Brian Head Resort is perfect for a day-long ski trip from Las Vegas at a little more than a three-hour drive away. Its eight chairlifts service more than 70 runs. The base elevation of 9,600 feet is the highest in Utah. The annual New Year’s Eve party kicks off with a torchlight parade down the mountain after sunset followed by a fireworks display not to be missed.

Eagle Point Resort
As the resort’s webpage succinctly states, Eagle Point Resort requires “a little more driving” for “a lot more value.” About an hour further north in Beaver, Utah, this five-lift resort features approximately 1,500 feet of vertical. If you like to venture beyond the boundaries, the resort has partnered with the National Forest Service to offer some of the country’s best backcountry terrain. There are several gates around the resort that allow access to the slopes of Fishlake National Forest. Eagle Point Resort is slated to open Dec. 17.

Northern Arizona
Elk Ridge
This quaint “ski and recreation area” in Williams, Ariz., is like the Cheers of ski resorts. By the time you’ve explored the handful of cleverly designed runs, which will be sometime just before lunch, everyone will know your name. One lift takes skiers to an elevation of about 8,100 feet. After the 18th time of navigating Laura Falls, you’ll be more than ready to throw down a few cold ones with the locals at White Stag Cafe. It’s at the bottom of the hill. You literally cannot miss it.

Arizona Snowbowl
Located on the western slope of Mount Humphreys, the tallest point in the state and the most recognizable point on the San Francisco Peaks, Arizona Snowbowl is one of the few places to ski in the state. Six aerial lifts and two surface conveyors deliver eager skiers to 40 runs, nearly half of which are rated as intermediate. The longest run on the mountain clocks in at a whopping 2 miles. Three different terrain parks will challenge even the most advanced skiers and riders.

Las Vegas may sit in a desert, but there is plenty of skiing to be done not too far away. For more fun facts and travel advice, follow VegasDaze on Facebook!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Happy Holidays from the Grand Canyon

Visiting the Grand Canyon during winter offers travelers willing to brave the cold weather many benefits. The park is much less crowded than during summer months. There’s something special about seeing this natural wonder with a light dusting of snow. But most importantly, there are plenty of holiday events in and around Grand Canyon National Park the whole family will enjoy.

On select dates and times beginning Nov. 11 through Jan. 6, Grand Canyon Railway, the historic railroad line that has ferried passengers to and from the park since 1901, is transformed into the Polar Express, bringing to life the classic children’s story. Families will delight at the enchanted nighttime jaunt from Williams, Ariz., through northern Arizona’s forest of snowy pines, all the way to the North Pole, where Santa Clause and his companions await with keepsakes for the children. Tickets for this approximately 90-minute journey start at just $25 for children.

On Nov. 26 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., the town of Williams, Ariz., will celebrate the holiday season with its annual Parade of Lights and Tree Lighting Ceremony. This timeless tradition takes place in the center of town. The parade begins at 6:30 p.m. at Ninth Street and will meander along historic Route 66. Join carolers, arts and crafts vendors, and Santa Clause himself as the town rings in the Christmas season with an official tree lighting ceremony. If you miss the ceremony, the town’s Christmas tree will be on display through the end of the year.

While not overtly Christmasy, Hermit’s Rest, the small outpost at the western terminus of Hermit Road, boasts a magical view of the Grand Canyon. Marvel over the snow-covered canyon walls. Then head inside for seasonal treats such as hot cocoa and freshly baked cookies. The two-story-tall alcove stone fireplace provides a quaint spot to relax in a rocking chair and warm your extremities. Don’t forget to steal a kiss beneath the mistletoe. Hermit Road is open to all vehicles during the winter months, though freezing conditions can present problems for motorists. Always check ahead.

If the 15-foot Christmas tree in the lobby of El Tovar doesn’t put you in the spirit of the season, the Santa hats atop the mounted animals throughout the historic hotel just might. The massive fireplace in El Tovar’s commons area is one of the most popular spots on property this time of year. Snuggle up fireside with your significant other on one of the plush couches. Sip some decadent hot cocoa and watch through the floor-to-ceiling windows as a winter storm passes over the Grand Canyon. The Swiss chalet-inspired hotel, built in 1905, is a peaceful, quiet place to spend the holidays. Guests can also enjoy special dinners on Christmas and New Year’s days.

Take to the skies for unparalleled views of the Grand Canyon. Aboard a luxury touring helicopter, you’ll be afforded sweeping panoramas of this natural wonder’s iconic features dusted in light layer of pristine snow. Marvel at the power of the mighty Colorado River as you navigate your way through the Dragon Corridor. You’ll want to bring your camera to capture the stunning images of Kaibab National Forest. It’s lovely weather for a helicopter ride together!

During select dates from Dec. 8 to 18, Sedona’s Emerson Theater Collaborative will be performing a radio drama version of the timeless tale “A Christmas Carol” complete with live music and sound effects. The performances will take place at The Collective Sedona’s Vista Hall. Actors in minimal costuming will read from scripts, assuming the voices of different characters. Be a part of this magical tradition as Dickens’ beloved story comes to life.

Red Rock Fantasy, a month-long celebration of the holiday season, returns to Sedona’s one-of-a-kind arts and crafts village, Tlaquepaque. The replica Mexican village takes on the spirit of the holidays during the month of December. In partnership with the town’s parks and recreation department and Sedona Chamber of Commerce, Red Rock Fantasy offers visitors the chance to ice skate and enjoy special screenings of favorite holiday movies. Those in town on Dec. 10 will be treated to a special treat as Tlaquepaque hosts the annual Lighting of the Luminarias. More than 6,000 paper luminarias are scattered throughout the courtyard, making for a truly splendid setting sure to put you in a festive mood.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

His and Hers: Vegas Bucket List

Las Vegas offers a multitude of entertainment options for both men and women.  We decided to consult with our favorite duo of Vegas gurus, one a man and the other a woman, in order to get their takes on the essential Vegas bucket list items. You will find links to all of the items below. Share your Vegas bucket list items on the VegasDaze Facebook page!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hawaii for the Holidays

Snow is overrated. Who really wants to spend all day in the kitchen? In-laws can be a headache. Who has time to deal with a cat stuck in the Christmas tree? Why not spend the holidays in 70-degree weather spotting humpback whales, snorkeling around reefs and hiking extinct volcanoes. That’s right, it’s the holiday season in Maui. Mele Kalikimaka!

Of course, the Hawaiian Islands have incorporated many mainland holiday traditions into its culture with a little bit of aloha. The Santa Clause of the islands is more inclined to wear an aloha shirt than a fur coat. Forget the sleigh, Hawaiian Santa paddles an outrigger canoe. Instead of a large turkey, holidays feasts prominently feature roast pigs. Traditional fir trees are replaced with locally grown Norfolk pines.

Most of those traditions were imported to the island by Christian missionaries. But long before the 17th century, ancient Hawaiians celebrated a similar festival. Known as Makahiki, the roughly five-month celebration, from October to March, of their bountiful lands was in honor of the Hawaiian god of fertility and agriculture, Lono. All war was forbidden during Makahiki for, among many reasons, assurance that nothing would adversely affect the new crops. Festivities included wrestling, javelin throwing, surfing, canoe racing, singing and feasting. The message of peace and goodwill toward all, typically associated with the modern holiday season, also applied to Makahiki.

Families spending their holidays on the island of Maui have a plethora of festive activities to choose from. Getting into the holiday spirit is easy on the Valley Isle. A must-attend event, occurring yearly in the hip town of Lahaina, is the annual lighting of the town’s historic banyan tree, which was planted in 1873. The massive, multi-trunked tree spreads across nearly an acre and will be covered with thousands of lights, which will come to life during a community ceremony taking place the first weekend of December. A sunset helicopter tour over the island provides another option for a magical evening. Nothing says happy holidays like flying 150 mph aboard one of our preferred vendor’s sleighs.

If your family decides to build sand castles instead of snowmen this holiday season, be sure to share your vacation photos with VegasDaze, the authority on all things Vegas and Maui vacations. Follow us on Twitter for more fun facts, travel advice and recommendations for your Maui vacation.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

What We Didn't Know Then

Vacationing in Las Vegas isn’t difficult. Throw around a little money on the tables, see a show or two, and maybe spend an evening at one of the nightclubs. But we’re here to offer some unsolicited advice to help you get the most out of your stay in Vegas. The following are some things we wish we’d known about Las Vegas before our first visits. In the immortal words of Faces, “I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger!”

The Airport Is Close to the Strip
Despite what the cabbies and ride-share drivers might tell you, transportation from the airport to the Strip does not require a highway. The passenger pickup area at McCarran International Airport leads directly to Paradise Road. It’s less than 5 miles and under 20 minutes to Stratosphere via this thoroughfare. You’ll know you’re being long-hauled if the driver takes you from the airport through the tunnel that passes under the runways and onto the interstate. Stick to the surface streets.

Downtown Is Cool
Sure the Strip has gorgeous fountains and huge theatrical productions, but Downtown isn’t far behind. The biggest selling point is the cheaper prices … on everything. Las Vegas visitors staying Downtown can gamble, drink, eat and sleep for much cheaper. Thanks to hefty revitalization efforts, Fremont Entertainment District has flourished over the last half decade. We’re not simply talking about the area under the canopy. Now known as Fremont East, the six-block stretch of Fremont Street east of the canopy boasts hip new restaurants, locally owned retailers and exciting nightlife. It’s Downtown Las Vegas where you’ll find hidden gems such as The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and The Mob Museum. As an added benefit, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada recently set up a bicycle rental program, allowing tourists to explore all this vibrant neighborhood has to offer.

Off-Strip Resorts Are Family Friendly
There are plenty of family friendly attractions in Las Vegas, but it’s the resorts off the Strip that cater more to younger tourists. Silverton, just off Interstate 15 south of the Strip, boasts a fish tank complete with a living mermaid. However, her hours were recently cut back and she now only makes brief appearances during the weekends. Red Rock Casino, at the western edge of town, houses a massive arcade that will keep children busy for hours. It’s also a stone’s throw from Red Rock Canyon, a scenic conservation area popular for its hiking and rock climbing. Nearly all the casinos outside of the Strip have onsite movie theaters and/or bowling alleys the entire family can enjoy. You’ll also reap the added benefit of not paying Strip prices for everything.

Walking Shoes Are a Necessity
If you are staying on the Strip during your Las Vegas vacation, be ready to walk. The distance between Mandalay Bay and Circus Circus is roughly 4 miles, and as an example, Bellagio’s property in total spans approximately 4.8 million square feet. Unless you plan on Segway-ing around the city or racking up a substantial Uber bill, you’ll be hoofing it.

Grand Canyon Is Closer Than You Think
A four-hour drive to the Grand Canyon might be out of the question during a Vegas vacation, but a 45-minute helicopter flight is more than feasible. It’s also more affordable than you might think. A helicopter tour to Grand Canyon includes a flight over Hoover Dam and the Strip. Some options also include a landing within the canyon, during which guests can enjoy a champagne toast and intimate views of this natural wonder. Our preferred vendor offers complimentary transportation within 5 miles of the Strip to and from its plush Las Vegas Boulevard terminal. A late morning trip will have you back in time for your dinner reservations.

Now you’re a Vegas veteran. For more useful Vegas travel advice, fun facts and recommendations, follow VegasDaze on Twitter.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Las Vegas Holiday Happenings '16

The mercury is dropping, the cacti are changing color, Starbucks’ holiday cups are here and that shopping list is growing. Yep, it’s the holiday season in Las Vegas. We’ve put together a pretty-close-to-comprehensive list of all the holiday happenings in Las Vegas guaranteed to put smiles on the faces of your family.

Ethel M Chocolates Factory Light Display
The more than 300 species of cacti in the factory’s botanical garden will be blanketed by more than half a million holiday lights from Nov. 15 through Jan. 1. The Las Vegas holiday tradition, now in its 23rd year, is free to the public and open daily from sundown to 10 p.m.

Ice Rink at The Cosmopolitan
The Cosmo’s Boulevard Pool, overlooking the heart of the Strip, is converted into an ice skating rink from November 25 through January 1. Rent a private fire pit with hot chocolate, all the fixings for s’mores and bottle service, and snuggle up with someone special.

The Nutcracker
The Nevada Ballet Theatre company is set to perform its always beautiful rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” this December at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. The extravagant sets, accompanying orchestra and talented dancers will leave you breathless this holiday season.

Magical Forest at Opportunity Village
Opportunity Village is a beloved Las Vegas charity that helps members of our community with intellectual disabilities better integrate into society through vocational training, and its annual Magical Forest celebration is an important fundraiser. From Nov. 19 through Jan. 1, the campus will be transformed into a winter wonderland complete with train rides, an enchanted carousel, photo ops with Santa and the Magical Forest itself, which boasts hundreds of beautiful trees and displays decorated in the holiday fashion.

The world-renowned resort’s fountains and botanical garden will take on a holiday air following Thanksgiving. Stop by to stroll through the conservatory converted into a holiday garden befitting of the North Pole. Then, head out to Las Vegas Boulevard to watch Bellagio’s famous fountains dance to sounds of classic holiday songs. Not many locations on the Las Vegas Strip will have you feeling as festive as Bellagio.

The Las Vegas Great Santa Run
Another Opportunity Village event, The Great Santa Run is a 5k marathon through Downtown Las Vegas that, last year, hosted more than 9,000 runners dressed as Ol’ Kris Kringle. The Blitzen Bar Crawl, featuring some of Downtown’s most popular bars, is scheduled to take place immediately following the race.

Cowboy Christmas
If you’re in need of some last-minute gifts for the cowfolk in your life, be sure to stop by Cowboy Christmas, the massive Western-themed shopping experience at the Las Vegas Convention Center, between Dec. 1 and 10. As part of the National Finals Rodeo festivities, this annual event attracted more than 60,000 shoppers last year.

Glittering Lights at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Billed as “Nevada’s largest holiday drive-thru light show,” Glittering Lights is a 2.5-mile drive through millions of holiday lights at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Bring a thermos of hot chocolate and your favorite holiday playlist Nov. 11 through Jan. 7.

Winter PARQ at The LINQ
The Promenade at the LINQ gets gussied up for the holidays every year. With cool attractions like hourly snowfall, holiday street performers and a snowy tubing hill, the whole family will enjoy Winter PARQ. Ring in the holiday season under the bright lights of the world's tallest observation wheel, The High Roller. Across the street at parent property Caesars Palace, you can do some ice skating at Caesars Chalet.

Downtown Countdown on Fremont Street
If you’ve ever taken a walk under the canopy of Fremont Street Experience, you know it can get a little rowdy. The Downtown Countdown New Year’s Eve event is no different. This year’s iteration will feature live music on three separate stages, NYE-themed light shows and countdown on the world’s largest television screen, and some fancy pyrotechnics under the canopy.

If you'll be in Vegas for the holidays, share your experience with VegasDaze on Facebook. Happy holidays from your friends at VegasDaze!


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