Thursday, October 27, 2016

Visiting the Grand Canyon During Winter

Wintertime at the Grand Canyon affords visitors to this iconic American landmark some of the most dynamic vistas. As an added bonus, the colder temperatures and shorter days result in fewer hikers on the trails and less traffic on the scenic drives. You can also take advantage of lower hotel rates during the off-season. Those willing to brave the cold will be rewarded with a unique experience at the Grand Canyon.

According to the National Park Service, “winter conditions at the South Rim can be extreme; Expect snow, icy roads and possible road closures. Temperatures are low, and with the wind-chill factor can at times drop below zero degrees. Canyon views may be temporarily obscured during winter storms; in such cases, entrance fees are not refundable. The North Rim is closed in winter.”

With that in mind, you’ll want to take special precautions when visiting Grand Canyon in winter. You may not need tire chains, but they’re good to have with you while you drive in and around the park. Other useful items to store in the car include a small shovel, ice scraper and road salt. As far as clothing goes, layers are key. Why not throw some gloves, knit hats and scarves in the backpack? Like momma always said, “It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.” If you’ll be hiking while at the canyon, boots with aggressive treads and walking sticks are imperative. Always wear a good pair of sunglasses while exploring the park. This is especially true when the ground is covered in snow, which reflects the sunlight, magnifying your eyes’ exposure to harmful UV rays.

One alternative to driving on potentially snowy roads is to park your vehicle in the town of Williams, about 60 miles outside the park, and take the historic Grand Canyon Railway. Passengers will be dropped off at the picturesque log depot at the South Rim. Families looking to capture the holiday spirit will love Grand Canyon Railway’s Polar Express. The classic children’s book, The Polar Express, comes to life starting annually in November and ending in early January.

Hiking the rim is a must. It’s less common for rim trails to get snowed in. They’re also much less strenuous than other trails such as Grandview Trail, which is north facing and tends to turn around unprepared hikers due to the combination of narrow sections of trail, exposure and ice. If a winter storm obscures your view of the canyon, which happens occasionally, take the family for some hot chocolate at El Tovar. This historic hotel, built in 1905, affords visitors a chance to warm their extremities by the roaring fireplace in the lobby. Winter storms tend to pass through the canyon quickly. Once you finish your hot chocolate and can feel your toes again, the storm should have passed.

If you’ll be taking on any extended hikes, be sure to check in with the Backcountry Information Center. Check out our introductory guide to hiking the Grand Canyon backcountry for more helpful information. So don that heavy coat and make your way out to the Grand Canyon this winter. You might just have this stunning panorama all to yourself. Be sure to like the VegasDaze Facebook page for more Grand Canyon travel advice and recommendations.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Plan Your Maui Whale Watching Adventure

Not much can compare to witnessing a pod of humpback whales completing its migration to the warm, tropical waters of the Hawaiian Islands. The sheer majesty of these creatures is unparalleled in nature, and Maui offers some of the most intimate views of humpback whales in the wild. Read on for tips on how to plan your whale watching trip in Maui.

Every winter anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 North Pacific humpback whales make the long migration from Alaskan to Hawaiian waters to breed. Pods begin arriving at the islands in November. The final whales depart for Alaska in May. Populations are at their peak between the months of January and March. Any whale watching in Maui should start at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary in the town of Kihei. Visitors can interact with exhibits that examine topics such as whale conservation, maritime heritage, weather and climate change. Its scenic beachfront location also offers a great place to do some whale watching.

The interisland waters between Maui, Molokai and Lanai are a hot spot for frolicking whales. You can head to some of West Maui’s beaches for the best shoreline vantage points. Spots such as Black Rock on Ka’anapali Beach or Pu’unoa Beach are perfect for setting up an afternoon picnic to enjoy while whale watching. Pu’unoa boasts calm ocean conditions thanks to protection provided by the exposed reef, meaning less surfers and other water sport enthusiasts to spoil the view. Be sure to come prepared with ample sun protection, some snacks, binoculars and a camera. A light jacket for the evening hours is also a good idea.

For a more unique vantage point, consider taking a tour. Many local businesses offer tours catering to whale watchers. Touring the waters around Maui in a sailboat is an eco-friendly way of spotting whales. For an even more up close and personal experience, take a stand-up paddle board whale watching tour, complete with a knowledgeable guide. If you’re really looking to make some lasting memories, a helicopter tour over the Pailolo Channel offers spectacular views of the Maui, Molokai and Lanai coastlines as well as pods of humpback whales.

For would be shutterbugs looking to capture that perfect whale breach, consider the following tips. A telephoto lens, something in the neighborhood of 200 millimeters, will help you create those breathtaking exposures. It’s especially important to utilize a longer lens if you’ll be whale watching from the shore. If your excursion takes place during the day, use a low ISO setting to counteract the high amount of light. An ISO setting around 100 should work well. To really freeze the action of a breaching whale and create a crisp, clear image, lower the camera’s shutter speed to somewhere around 1/1,000 of a second. You’ll return home with beautiful, stunning images of whales suitable for framing.

Whale watching has become an exceedingly popular hobby, and there’s no better place for it than the island of Maui. For more fun Maui travel tips and recommendations, follow VegasDaze on Twitter. Share your Maui whale watching experience! We’d love to hear from you.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Best Ways to Visit Hoover Dam

For more than 80 years, the engineering marvel that is Hoover Dam has stood in the Nevada desert as a symbol of American exceptionalism. More than a million visitors a year make a pilgrimage to the art deco masterpiece, but the dam is commonly overlooked as a sight-seeing option by Las Vegas tourists. We’re on a mission to change this! Check out these three fun and affordable ways to explore Hoover Dam.

Hoover Dam Express Tour
Created with the time-starved traveler in mind, the Hoover Dam Express Tour spends approximately two hours at the dam. Guests of major resorts on the Strip and Downtown can take advantage of complimentary pickup and drop off to and from the tour center. A luxury motor coach will take you on a round trip to Hoover Dam. Once there, you can visit the museum, take a tour of the dam, and pick up some souvenirs at the dam gift shop.

Neon Dream
This surprisingly affordable helicopter tour of Hoover Dam and the Las Vegas Strip at sunset really is a dream. This is another option that includes complimentary shuttle transportation, a big plus as most tourists prefer not to rent a car. The helicopter flight departs from the vendor’s plush Las Vegas Boulevard terminal just before dusk and heads straight to the dam. You’ll have unparalleled views of Hoover Dam and the almost equally impressive Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. By the time the sun begins to set, you’ll be flying above picturesque Downtown Las Vegas and the stunning mega-resorts of the Strip. The tour company, which boasts the highest safety rating of any aviation tourism business, also offers a DVD recording of your excursion.

Hoover Dam Hummer Tour
If you’re more of a boots-on-the-ground kind of traveler, a four-hour trip to Hoover Dam in a comfortable, air-conditioned Hummer might be just what you’re looking for. This small-group experience includes a tour of the generator room deep within the heart of the dam as well as access to the visitors center and dam museum. Two tours are offered per day. The morning tour departs at 7:40 a.m. and returns at 11:45 a.m. The afternoon tour departs at noon and returns at 4 p.m.

Contrary to popular belief, you can explore this American icon without spending a fortune or sacrificing an entire day of your Vegas vacation. Even renting a car and making the 40-minute drive out to Hoover Dam is a more viable option than people realize. You won’t regret the trip. Have you ever toured Hoover Dam? Share your experience with us on our Facebook page.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

His and Hers: Halloween in Vegas

Men and women typically agree on how a successful Halloween should go. Must-haves include sexy costumes, plenty of Halloween-themed cocktails, theatrical smoke and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” But the devil is in the details. It’s the little differences that set men and women’s spooky celebrations apart. We asked two of our Vegas gurus of opposite sexes what makes the perfect Vegas Halloween celebration. Editor’s note: We’ve rated each of the Halloween festivities out of five pumpkins. One pumpkin denotes a low-key, family-friendly Halloween party. A five-pumpkin rating denotes a monster mash of epic proportions.

One Pumpkin

She says: Sharks and Halloween—two totally bad-ass things! Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay dons spooky decorations for the season, and it's incredibly fun! On Friday, Oct. 28 the wonderful staff members will be handing candy out to aquarium visitors dressed in costume. Children in costume receive free admission into Shark Reef before 4 p.m. The reef will be decorated all weekend but the cool trick-or-treating is only on Friday. Dress up the kiddos and head over to see the sharks, rays, jellyfish and more!

Two Pumpkins

He says: A relatively new tradition in the city, the sixth annual Las Vegas Halloween Parade returns to Fremont East Entertainment District the last weekend of October. Funding issues last year resulted in the celebration’s cancellation, setting the stage for an epic return. This year’s parade features a handful of extracurricular activities surrounding the event, including a hearse car show, a panel discussion with the Nevada Paranormal Task Force and a rowdy after party at the intersection of Seventh and Fremont Street. The parade will travel west along Fremont Street from Maryland Parkway to Seventh Street beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday. You won’t want to miss the crazy costumes and Burning Man-inspired parade floats.

Three Pumpkins

She says: I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve dabbled in ghost hunting. I’ve participated in the Haunted Encounters upon the Queen Mary and hiked around Bonnie Springs during their once-a-month ghost hunt. Yes, I’ve used EVP, audio recorders and radio frequency technology (all that stuff you see on Ghost Adventures) to prove to myself that ghosts are real. Some people aren’t into the mumbo jumbo, but for those that are, I recommend the Goodsprings Ghost Hunt. You go from pizza party to walking the haunted streets of Goodsprings with a group of fellow hunters and some “hunting equipment”—zero to a hundred real quick. Goodsprings was an old mining town, and it can get pretty terrifying at night. Bring your friends and embrace the Halloween spirit.

Four Pumpkins

He says: Nothing says Halloween in Vegas like topless zombies. Equal parts classic Vegas topless revue and B-movie horror, Zombie Burlesque at Planet Hollywood is the perfect addition to any adult Halloween in Vegas. The show is set in 1950s Las Vegas and features comedy routines, variety acts, a live band and an award-winning cast of characters. Ladies, you won’t regret taking your guy to this hilarious show. Boobs aside, it’s a good time. See the show nightly except Sundays at 8:30 playing in the V Theater inside Planet Hollywood.

Five Pumpkins

She says: This one is for the people who don’t have much responsibility on Halloween, or those who found a sitter charging triple for the holiday weekend. Wynnderland at the nightclubs of Wynn Las Vegas is a Halloween celebration in the style of Alice in Wonderland! All weekend, they’ll have performers at Surrender, XS and Intrigue. Book early for the chance to see Skrillex, Marshmello, Alesso or Diplo! Spend the holiday with friends at the club getting your groove on in that cute costume you got at Leg Avenue, or the one you made from that Pinterest post from a few months ago. Either way, party your face off this Halloween!

He says: If you’re really looking to turn up this Halloween, throw on your hottest costume and head to Mandalay Bay’s Light nightclub for its annual Forbidden Ball. This year’s spooky blowout features a DJ set from electronic music stalwart Disclosure on Halloween night beginning at 10:30. Tickets for the event start at just $20 for women and $30 for men. All parties at this innovative nightclub feature cutting edge video and lighting affects to compliment the world-class musical acts. Guys, if you’re looking for a Sin City Halloween party that’s sure to leave a lasting impression regardless of the amount of alcohol consumed, this is the one.

Whether you’d like to participate in some of Las Vegas’ Halloween-themed community events or throw down at a wild costume ball, there’s a Halloween party in Las Vegas for everyone. Follow VegasDaze, the preeminent voice on all things Vegas travel, on Facebook and join in the conversation! Let us know your favorite Las Vegas destination for Halloween festivities.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Old School Vegas Is Alive and Swingin'

Ask any Las Vegas old timer and they’ll tell you life in the valley was better when the mob ran the town. Ever since Howard Hughes ushered in the era of corporate Las Vegas, things have certainly changed. Whether it was for the better or not is up for debate. Old school Vegas is far from dead though. For a taste of the good ol’ days in Vegas, be sure to check out these Sin City attractions dripping with old school cool.

Sure, the player’s cards and slot vouchers are convenient, but nothing beats the adrenaline of letting the entire casino floor know you just hit a jackpot with the sounds of thousands of coins clacking against the tray. At The D Las Vegas, that feeling is alive and well. This well-appointed casino in Downtown Las Vegas has an entire second floor devoted to vintage gaming, meaning only coin-in-coin-out machines. You’ll make more friends screaming at the little mechanical horses of the Sigma Derby machine than just about anywhere else in Vegas. Grab yourself a souvenir coin cup and saddle up, partner!

Nothing says old school Vegas like the longest continually operating casino in the valley, El Cortez. When the Downtown Las Vegas mainstay first opened in 1941, most establishments in the general vicinity still had saw dust on the floors and horses corralled in the “parking lots.” This 59-room resort of Spanish colonial design changed the game. In 1945, none other than Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel purchased El Cortez on behalf of infamous gangster Meyer Lansky. You can still reserve a handful of the hotel’s original rooms located a floor above the casino. The other amenities on the property continue the old Vegas theme, such as The Parlour, a slick lounge that hearkens back to the mob days of old. Snag a few $5 flutes of French Champagne here every Thursday.

The variety show was king on the Vegas Strip of yesteryear. Showgirls, singers, musicians, jugglers – nothing was out of bounds. Vegas! The Show takes audiences back to the golden age of Vegas entertainment. The show delves into the rich history that made the city of Las Vegas a hot destination for entertainers from around the world. The concluding video montage serves as an ode to the Rat Pack’s Vegas. C’mon! Everyone loves a good kick line!

Any Cirque du Soleil show is always a good choice for entertainment on the Strip, but this French Canadian import isn’t what Vegas is really about. What those craving old school Vegas really need is a good old fashioned magic show. Penn & Teller have astounded Las Vegas audiences for nearly a quarter of a century! When you watch the two catch bullets in their teeth, you’ll understand why they’re the champions of Vegas magic.

Love him or hate him, Las Vegas’ boisterous former mayor Oscar Goodman is a Sin City icon. The Former mob mouthpiece made a cameo appearance in the movie Casino for goodness sake! One of the best gifts Goodman left the city is his steakhouse, charmingly named Oscar’s Beef, Booze & Broads. The upscale restaurant boasts a premier location inside the almost equally iconic dome of the Plaza Hotel and Casino in Downtown Las Vegas. It offers a thrilling view down Fremont Street and top-notch steaks. It’s the vintage cocktail menu that will have you clamoring for more though. Sip some delicate concoctions, including the legendary martinis, the former mayor’s signature drink.

A true standout steakhouse in a town known for its steakhouses, Golden Steer has been serving up some of Glitter Gulch’s finest cuts to the likes of Frank Sinatra and Joe DiMaggio since 1958. Its old Victorian ambiance reminiscent of the Gold Rush-era of San Francisco sets the mood for a night of cold drinks and spicy conversation. Turn off your electronic devices and enjoy this world-class meal the way it was meant to be enjoyed: in the company of good people. If you’re celebrating a special occasion while in Las Vegas, this is where you do it.

Old school Las Vegas is still kicking! You just have to know where to look. For more Vegas travel advice, history and trivia, follow VegasDaze on Facebook!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Vegas Loves October Baseball

Las Vegas has Major League Baseball Postseason fever! We detail some of the best spots in Las Vegas for hardball fans to catch all the action this October.

For gamblers in Las Vegas looking to place some wagers on postseason play, any of the resorts’ sports books have you covered, but not all sports books are created equal. Lagasse’s Stadium inside The Palazzo boasts more the 100 high-definition screens, one of which measures 9 feet tall and 16 feet across. Couches, bar seats, theater-style seating and luxury sky boxes are all ready to support your hind quarters during the baseball marathon. There’s a back porch with a full bar and a view of the Strip. The highlight of your time at Lagasse’s will of course be the food menu courtesy of the sports book’s namesake, Emeril Lagasse.

If the gambling is your only concern, head over to Westgate SuperBook. It’s more than 25,000 square feet of sports viewing pleasure. You’ll be in broadcast heaven with a wall of high-definition screens measuring 240 feet wide and 20 feet tall. It is the world's largest indoor LED video wall and the highest resolution screens in Las Vegas. The SuperBook also offers an extensive wagering menu, including the most proposition bets of any casino.

For folks vacationing on the Las Vegas Strip who just want to watch some October baseball and enjoy a cold one, you’ve got plenty of options. Baseball fans staying near MGM Grand would do well to stroll over to the massive resort’s sports bar, TAP. With 60 well-placed televisions and around 70 different beer selections, TAP is a sports fan’s paradise. You’ll also find an impressive selection of sports memorabilia. It’s practically a museum… a raucous, beer-filled museum.

Another popular watering hole on the Strip, Blondie’s inside Planet Hollywood is ready to host all the MLB action this October. If the obligatory model waitresses dressed as cheerleaders and all day beer pong aren’t enough to get you in the doors, the $20 all-you-can-drink wells and domestic drafts special from 3 to 6 p.m. just might.

Easily one of the most exciting places to watch any big game, Topgolf Las Vegas is one of the coolest new attractions on the Strip. More of a bowling alley than straight forward driving range, guests can try their hand at hitting RFID-equipped golf balls into the various targets. At the end of the range, four large screens broadcast the night’s biggest sporting events. There are multiple bars and restaurants as well as a sports book. Who could ask for more?

Just about any hang out on the Las Vegas Strip with televisions is a good place to watch MLB Postseason games. But these are some of the best. You can find a full schedule of all the October baseball on the MLB website. What are your favorite places to watch sports in Las Vegas? Join the conversation on Facebook!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Places to Stay Around the Grand Canyon

A day trip to the Grand Canyon is more than feasible, but with so much canyon to explore, many visitors to the natural wonder elect to spend a night or two nearby. From campsites to resorts, there are lodging options to suit every need. We round up some favorite places to stay around the Grand Canyon that we know you’ll just love.

South Rim
Visitors to the Grand Canyon will find plenty of accommodations at the area’s most popular destination, South Rim. The park’s visitor center, many of the tour companies and a slew of historic sites are found atop South Rim. It is the top choice for most Grand Canyon goers.

Only 3 miles from Mather Point, Thunderbird Lodge opened in the 1960s and has provided guests with comfortable rooms, friendly service and easy canyon access ever since. Its location in the heart of South Rim’s historic district makes this straightforward hotel a popular choice.

For a more rustic feel, book a stay at El Tovar Hotel. Completed in 1905, the Swiss chalet inspired hotel was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987. It has hosted such luminaries as Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Western author Zane Grey, former president Bill Clinton, Sir Paul McCartney and countless others. Located on the canyon rim, you’ll find plenty of dining options, souvenir shops and hiking trails just steps from your room.

Just outside the park in the town of Tusayan, The Grand Hotel is a modern option full of luxurious amenities, such as the pool, hot tub, gift shop and business center. The hotel’s Canyon Star Steakhouse and Saloon serves up delicious food, cold beers and live music. The property is only a mile from the park entrance, but you can still take advantage of the free park shuttle service.

For those travelers who prefer less brick and mortar between them and nature, lush campsites are available for rent year round at Mather Campground, operated by the National Park Service. The famous Mather Point, a popular lookout at South Rim, is less than a mile away from the aptly named campsite. The park’s free shuttle service also connects Mather Campground to the visitor center, restaurants and shops.

North Rim
The North Rim is a whole other world. With no airport or major interstates nearby, there are far fewer visitors here. Its higher elevation means this area of the Grand Canyon is open only between May 15 and October 15. It typically takes a little more planning to visit North Rim, but cooler temperatures and small crowds make this a desirable destination.

Kaibab Lodge is in the heart of North Kaibab National Forest just 5 miles from the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park's North Rim. Built between 1926 and 1927, the lodge once served as a cattle ranch. A truly unique aspect of this property, there are no phones or televisions in the rooms. You also won’t have any cellphone service. Short of carrier pigeon, there is no way work can get to you. Nearby hiking trails include Point Imperial, Cape Royal and Roosevelt Point.

West Rim
A popular access point to the canyon due to its proximity to Las Vegas, West Rim welcomes around 700,000 visitors a year. There is also a handful of must-see lookouts and attractions in the area, including Guano Point, Eagle Point, horseback riding and Skywalk, a cantilevered, glass-bottom bridge suspended above the canyon floor. This portion of the park is open every day of the year, including all major holidays.

Hualapai Ranch is far and away the best lodging option at West Rim. The entire family will love the Wild West feel of the ranch. You can take part in horseback riding, roasting s’mores over the open fire, as well as roping and quick draw lessons from genuine cowpokes. The Western hospitality, cowboy entertainment and wagon rides will have you planning next summer’s family vacation at West Rim.

Canyon Floor
While the canyon floor can reach staggering temperatures in the summer, the novelty of sleeping below the rim is enough to shrug off the heat. Nestled along the northern bank of the mighty Colorado River, Phantom Ranch is the only lodging available below the rim. The property’s timeless cabins constructed using native stone and wood afford canyon dwellers a rustic retreat from the bustling South Rim and throngs of rim hikers. The unique accommodations can only be reached on foot, mule or by rafting the river. It’s a true Southwest adventure!

So tell us, where are your favorite places to stay around the Grand Canyon? Are there any on this list you're excited to check out?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Vegas Pools Open Year-Round

With temperatures cooling down, you may think being poolside in Las Vegas is only a dream. Fortunately, hanging by the water is a possibility with these four Vegas pools open year-round.

1. ARIA Resort & Casino
The 215,000-square-foot, tropical-inspired pool deck at Aria is heated to a balmy 84 degrees year-round. The resplendent setting offers a lovely reprieve from the casino floor. The resort also offers seasonal items for pool guests like hot chocolate and blankets. There’s just something special about lounging poolside surrounded by the architectural grandeur of City Center. The made-to-order cocktails and tapas are an added bonus.

2. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Welcome to the thunder-dome! Marquee Dayclub, one of Vegas’ hottest pool parties, doesn’t slow down when the temperatures drop. Instead, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas installs a climate-controlled dome to allow the pool to stay ope year-round. The festival atmosphere and pulsating DJ sets will make you forget it’s not summer. With EDM acts such as Cash Cash, Eric Prydz and Vice, this is one party you won’t want to miss. As a bonus, the resort's main pool, The Boulevard Pool, will be converted into an ice skating rink on Nov. 25. Visitors to The Cosmo can enjoy seasonal food and beverage offerings, like fire-roasted s'mores, and 4,200 square feet of actual ice until Jan. 1.

3. Mandalay Bay
Moorea Beach Club at Mandalay Bay is a European-style pool, (read “toptional”) during the summer months. However, the smaller of the resort’s pools is transformed into a heated winter oasis in October. The all-ages winter version of Moorea comes with all the same plush amenities, such as ultra-comfortable lounge chairs and a swanky full-service bar.

So what are you waiting for? With these Vegas pools open year-round, pack your swimsuit and come enjoy all Sin City has to offer. For more fun Vegas travel advice, follow VegasDaze on Twitter.


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