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Visiting New Orleans — Take a Gamble On Mardi Gras

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Mardi Gras revelers will soon be jamming Royal Street in New Orlean's famed French Quarter.

Beginning this weekend, thousands of revelers will descend upon New Orleans to take in all that the City has to offer for its famous (some would say infamous!) Mardi Gras celebration.  For those of us who enjoy casino gaming, Harrah’s in New Orleans will be high on the list of places to both see and spend some time at during Carnival Week.  If you haven’t made your reservations, there are still lots of hotel rooms available and lots of fun to look forward to in “The Big Easy.”  Book now & save up to 50% on Hotels in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Book by 2/23 for travel from 2/13 to 2/28/09.

If you are planning a trip to New Orleans either for the big party or any time at all, here’s a terrific piece on the current state of the town — plus tips on what to do and where to eat — written by one of our most experienced food and travel contributors. (Look for Part II tomorrow!)

It would be difficult to describe to someone who’d never been there, just what New Orleans was like before Hurricane Katrina.  Historically, culturally, geographically, socio-economically, the city was unlike any other in the United States.

Indolently rooted in the past, but always enthusiastically reveling in the pleasures of the present, New Orleans richly deserves its nickname “The Big Easy”. Hear the words Bourbon Street or French Quarter and the mind conjures up jazz, cocktails, great food and good times. (Although the ostensibly well-named Bourbon Street is an homage to the French ruling dynasty not the American liquor.)

It’s the home of Mardi Gras, the greatest party ever thrown (despite the fact the public cannot gain entrance to the balls and soirees given by the insular carnival Krewes).

But who needs private parties when the streets teem with non-stop action; conventioneers, college kids, tourists and every imaginable kind of pleasure-seeker elbowing convivially through the old quarter.  From Preservation Hall to Pat O’Brien’s, happily clutching to-go cups, they looked for and found excitement, adventure and blinding hangovers.  Retail bustled, casinos were packed, and restaurants like K-Paul’s and Emeril’s only took reservations months in advance.

But Katrina and what happened in the aftermath, or more to the point didn’t happen, changed everything. (more…)

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Truly, Madly, Cheaply — A Valentine’s Day Celebration for Less

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009
Better than a box of chocolates -- a stop at Payard Patisserie at Caesars Palace on Valentine's Day.

Better than a box of chocolates? A stop at Payard Patisserie at Caesars Palace on Valentine's Day.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we were going to run a list of our favorite romantic (read expensive) restaurants in Las Vegas.  However, with all the talk about how Las Vegas has become such a great “frugal” destination for travelers (it is!) plus considering the state of the economy — not to mention our wallets — we’ve decided that in lieu of that list, we’ve come up with this list: Seven inexpensive yet fun and romantic things you and your sweetie can do this coming weekend.  (Lots of these ideas can be used in places other than Las Vegas so take a look even if you won’t be traveling for V-Day.)

1.  One of our favorite stores is Bijoux Terner, otherwise known as the “$10 boutique.”  Everything (and we really mean everything) from purses to watches to bold and brassy necklaces and earrings is just $10.  Why not treat your sweetie to a week’s worth of colorful watches or five new handbags in spring’s brightest shades.  No, not “designer” pieces but who wants to spend a ton on a bright orange watch or a psychedelic pink purse anyways?

2.  Try a “celebrity chef” for less.  Case in point; Tom Colicchio, famous head judge on Bravo TV’s smash-hit “Top Chef” is the brains (and toque) behind ‘wichcraft at MGM Grand.  His fabulous meatloaf sandwich is just $10 and almost as good as the beefy entrees at his high-priced Craftsteak restaurant just down the corridor.  Oh, and make sure you save room for the decadent “Whoopie Pie” — chocolate cake layers filled with vanilla pudding. (more…)

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Venetian, Palazzo in Las Vegas Offer Sweet Suite Deals in February

Thursday, February 5th, 2009
Treat your Valentine to a gondola ride at The Venetian Las Vegas.

Treat your Valentine to a gondola ride at The Venetian Las Vegas.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day comes this super offer from both The Venetian and sister property, The Palazzo — one of the top picks on our recent list of “most romantic hotels in Las Vegas.”

Available on select dates and starting at $149 per night at The Palazzo or $129 per night at the neighboring Venetian, both resorts are offering the “Romantic Getaway” package which includes a Luxury Suite plus –

Get $25 off when you book the hotel’s “Elite Romance Package” which includes:
Private gondola ride for 2
– Gondolier performance
– Champagne and strawberries
– One souvenir photo

2-for-1 drinks at Double Helix Wine Bar
Complimentary Internet Access
$50 Slot Credit per stay

You must book by February 16.  Use offer code EPNFEB for The Palazzo or EVNFEB when booking The Venetian.

Be sure to check out our recommended restaurants in Las Vegas list here.

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A Very Vegas Valentine’s Day Weekend

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009
A pre-dinner cocktail in this red and gold jewelbox of a lounge at Wynn Encore will start your Valentine's Day off right.

A pre-dinner cocktail in this red and gold jewelbox of a lounge at Wynn Encore is perfect for Valentine's Day.

Romance, NBA basketball —  “Love & Basketball,” anyone? — Friday the 13th and President’s Day all wrapped into one spectacular three-day weekend.  And you, you’re still waiting for a reason to go to Las Vegas?  I don’t even know where to start to tell you about all the cool things you can plan for a Valentine’s Day weekend trip to Las Vegas.

Okay, I lied; I do know where to start. Let’s begin with some romance, Las Vegas-style, and where you might think about staying for this Valentine’s Day with your honey.  (Hey, guys, you had your Super Bowl Sunday so now it’s time to grab your best girl and head back to Vegas for a different kind of fun!)

Top Romantic Hotels in Las Vegas

Wynn Las Vegas
and/or Wynn Encore – We’re putty in Steve Wynn’s hands when it comes to all that glitz and glamour plus all the RED used throughout the new Encore will make you think you’ve landed inside a giant scarlet satin heart.  (If you can walk through that place and not think about romance and Valentine’s Day, we’ll need to check your pulse on the way out.)  Add in some of the best, most indulgent restaurants on the Strip – Alex, Botero, SW, Bartolotta –  luxurious spas, and the hottest new “ultra-club” in town, XS, and you’ve got the makings of a memorable weekend without ever leaving the two adjoining properties.

Bellagio
–  Elegance personified not only in the rooms but throughout the entire hotel.  Yards of jewel-toned silk swags in the casino; an indoor garden that just begs to be strolled while hand-in-hand with your SO; a virtual chocoholic’s wonderland at Jean-Philippe Patisserie plus a shopping gallery full of baubles and bangles perfectly poised for gift-giving  (be sure to check out the heart-shaped charms at Tiffany’s) all contribute to a sophisticated yet utterly romantic atmosphere.

The Palazzo – All brocades and crystal, marble columns and burnished gilt — this younger sister to the flashier Venetian is like the Little Black Dress of Vegas resorts.  Understated, timeless and yet fashionable with enough pizzazz – LAVO Bar and Restaurant, Jersey Boys in the showroom, a Canyon Ranch Spa and Barneys New York in the shopping arcade – to never be boring.  (If your sweetie loves shoes – duh! – let her shop the displays at Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin for a guaranteed winner of a Valentine’s Day gift.)

Paris Las Vegas
–  Huh?  Are we kidding?  Au contraire, mon ami.  We’re suckers for that whole French vibe, fake as it may be.  (Uh, this is Vegas, remember?  Fake is this town’s middle name.)  Give us  steaks at Les Artistes, the Forest Fruits berries and cream concoction at Le Creperie, dinner or simply drinks at the Eiffel Tower restaurant with its magnificent view of the City and, our favorite three-hour lunch spot, Mon Ami Gabi  just off the front entrance, and we are saying merci and beau coup with the best of them.  (And, let’s face it, we’re Harrah’s Total Rewards Club® members and get great deals here!)

Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa
– Nope, not on the Strip, but with its own very hip, very romantic vibe, a “get-away-from-it-all” feeling, and a great selection of restaurants:  the T-Bones Chophouse is a favorite of locals while Cabo Mexican Restaurant offers stunning views of the surrounding red rock landscape.  And bars, particularly the Hollywood- chic Cherry nightclub, one of the most popular clubs in Vegas even without a Strip address.  (Plus, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t call a cab, spend a night enjoying the Strip and then head back to “the Rock” for your own very private celebration.)

Next post, we’ll give you some romantic spots for dinner a deux while you’re in town.

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Ride the ACES Train to Atlantic City Fun

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Out of the “Why didn’t they think of this sooner file?” comes word that the new ACES train will begin shuttling weekend passengers from New York’s Penn Station to the casino resorts of Atlantic City beginning February 6.  The train will also make a stop for passengers in Newark.

ACES stands for Atlantic City Express Service and is a joint venture with partners Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City and The Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa.  Upon arrival in AC, shuttles will ferry riders from the depot to any one of the three casinos.

Train service will be offered on eight multi-level rail cars designed with upgraded leather seating, a private lounge, custom-designed food and beverage kiosks and both first and coach class travel experiences.

Introductory ticket prices — on sale now — will start at $50 for one-way coach seat and $75 for one-way first class seat.  Get additional ticket pricing and purchase information at the well-designed www.acestrain.com website. Visitors to the website will be able to reserve their seats and book hotel stays at Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City and Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa.

Search Here for Hotels.com Best Hotel Deals!

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New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas — Lots of Last-Minute Room Deals Still Available

Sunday, December 28th, 2008
Celebrate New Year's Eve on the Strip with a fireworks show.

Fireworks will light up the sky on New Year's Eve in Las Vegas.

There’s still plenty of time to pack a suitcase and head to Las Vegas for a memorable New Year’s Eve celebration.  Las Vegas hotels — both on and off The Strip — are more affordable than ever this year with many offering dining and show ticket discounts as well as last-minute hotel deals.  (Really, if I hadn’t offered to host this year’s party for friends, I would so be loading up the car RIGHT NOW.) (more…)

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Phoenix Casino Guide for Valley Bowl Game Visitors

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

Check out our new “sister” site:  AZCasinoTravel.com for all your Phoenix and Arizona casino news, information and more!

Among all the visitors coming into Phoenix for the upcoming Insight and Fiesta bowls happening here in Arizona next week, there are bound to be a lot of casino gaming fans.  For those who like to play, here is a list of our Phoenix and Scottsdale area casinos along with casino-related info on dining, lounges, shows, golf opportunities and more.

Harrah's Ak-Chin is one of several Phoenix-area casinos.

Harrah's Ak-Chin is one of several Phoenix area casinos visitors can choose from to play slots, poker and more.

Casino Arizona:  Two locations, both of which are just off the Loop 101 freeway making them very accessible to all the major hotels and resorts.  Free limo service available by calling 480-850-7790. (more…)

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Mirage Volcano Re-Opens With a Hunka, Hunka Burning Lava

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

The iconic Mirage Volcano made it’s newly-renovated debut on The Strip in Las Vegas last night.  Under construction since February of this year, the $25 million face-lift caps a recent $110 million room and suite redesign to The Mirage’s 2,765 Deluxe and Tower Deluxe accommodations.

The new volcano show features a musical score by Mickey Hart of Grateful Dead fame and Indian impresario Zakir Hussain and comes from the acclaimed design firm WET, creators of The Bellagio lake show.  Fireballs and the aptyly-named Fireshooters explode into the air and send fiery waves of burning lava across the Strip-front lagoon during the four-and-a-half-minute blazing spectacle.

See it for yourself with this terrific video of the opening night’s show from KLAS television.  Mirage Volcano Video.

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Bellagio Glass Artist Dale Chihuly’s Work on Exhibit in Phoenix

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008
Dale Chihuly's exquisite glass art adorns the ceiling at The Bellagio.

Dale Chihuly's exquisite art glass adorns the ceiling at The Bellagio in Las Vegas. (Click on the photo to show detail.)

I have been a huge Dale Chihuly fan for years.  Even before seeing his masterful installation at The Bellagio in Las Vegas, I had admired his bold work at exhibitions in Washington, D.C. and in New York.  I even have a beautiful peach and gold  “Chihuly” rose bush in my garden — which is about as close as I’ll ever come to owning anything with his name on it.

So you can imagine how excited I was to see that his fanciful glass works are now being shown here in Phoenix at our beloved Desert Botanical Gardens.  Whether you are visiting the area or a resident, fans of his Bellagio work will definitely want to plan a visit to the gardens to see “Chihuly: The Nature of Glass.”  It should be especially interesting to see his intricate works of art set against a backdrop of our stark native plants. 

The show will be here until May 31, 2009, so there’s plenty of time to plan a trip to the gardens.  Advance tickets are mandatory so visit the garden’s website for more information and to see some gorgeous pictures of just a few of the wildly colorful pieces included in this exhibit.

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15 Reasons to Go to Las Vegas in December

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008
Stunning glassware from Wynn LVNV makes a great holiday gift for someone on your list.

Stunning glassware from Wynn LVNV makes a great holiday gift for someone on your list.

I can’t think of any reasons not to go to Las Vegas this December but I sure can think of a lot of reasons why I should go.  You should go, too.

1.  Christmas decorations at all the casinos.  Just like everything else in Vegas, the lights are brighter, the trees are taller, the decor more over-the-top.

2.  The Bellagio’s Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.  The designers seem to outdo themselves year-after-year with animated characters, fields of red and white poinsettias, sparkling trees and more.  I can’t wait to see this year’s display and then check out the holiday goodies at Jean-Philippe Patisserie.

3.  Holiday shopping made easy in just a couple of blocks.  The Forum Shops at Caesars, Miracle Mile stores at Planet Hollywood, the Fashion Show Mall and my fav store for beautiful glassware and gifts that will win raves — Wynn LVNV at the hotel’s Esplanade.  (Pictured above.) (more…)

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Weekend Events Around Phoenix Casinos

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Lots of fun things to do this weekend in and around Phoenix casinos.  Enjoy these events and a stop to play your favorite games including live poker and blackjack, lucky slots and more in the Valley of the Sun.

At Fort McDowell, enjoy the Orme Dam Victory Days celebration including a powwow and the All-Indian Rodeo with bull riding, calf roping and more.  East of Fountain Hills off Arizona 87 east of Fort McDowell Road (follow the signs). The carnival starts tonight at 5 p.m. and events continue through Nov. 16.  Complete calendar here. (more…)

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Casino Arizona Construction Update

Saturday, October 18th, 2008
Construction on the new resort hotel at Casino Arizona Indian Bend

Casino Arizona at Indian Bend - construction has progressed rapidly since this photo was taken in early September.

Casino Arizona is moving right along with construction of its new resort and spa at Indian Bend and the Loop 101.  Members of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community are betting that this new 15-story resort featuring almost 500 rooms and a huge, 13,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art spa along with the location’s already-operating Talking Stick Golf Club will appeal to Scottsdale visitors looking for an activity and amenity-packed resort experience.

The centerpiece of the new resort near will be the casino with its 240,000 square-foot gaming floor featuring 800 slot machines, 50 poker tables, a Vegas-style off-track betting lounge, and a high-limit slots area.  When it comes time to dine or just relax with a cocktail, guests will be able to choose from among eight restaurants and 10 lounges.  Also, a new 750-seat showroom will bring live entertainment year-round to the venue. 

In addition to Scottsdale/Phoenix locals and vacationers, the new Casino Arizona Resort & Spa will also be courting the business and convention community by offering over 50,000 square-feet of meeting and expo space. 

Slated to open in December 2009, the new hotel will be privately operated by the community.  A “topping-off” ceremony was held earlier this week when members and invited guests gathered to celebrate the placement of the final beam onto the structure.  (The photo above was taken in late-summer.)

In addition to the Indian Bend location, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community also operates Casino Arizona at McKellips Road and the Loop 101 and hosts more than 7 million visits yearly at its two properties.

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