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Sight-Seeing

Bellagio gardens dazzle in summer finery

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

A visit to the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Garden is always near the top of our list of best free things to do in Las Vegas and last week’s stop didn’t disappoint.  This summer’s display is filled with whimsical creatures, psychedelic mushrooms, over-sized garden tools and a collection of bonsai-styled olive trees — a setting that would make Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter feel right at home.

If you are heading to Las Vegas this summer be sure to check out this fabulous free display.  If possible, be there once the sun goes down as the gardens become even more beautiful when decked out in a custom lighting display that off-sets the night sky above.

Tip:  No stop at the Bellagio is complete without a visit to Jean-Philippe Patisserie for a perfect Napoleon, raspberry tart or fondant-adorned mini-carrot cake.

Enjoy these photos from this summer’s display at the Bellagio gardens.

Bellagio gardens summer display

Crazy mushrooms at Bellagio garden display VegasFloral display at Bellagio gardens

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Fall is the perfect season for Las Vegas visitors

Thursday, September 10th, 2009
Take a tour of Hoover Dam and you'll also get to see the new bypass bridge currently under construction.

Take a tour of Hoover Dam and you'll also get to see the new bypass bridge currently under construction.

We love Las Vegas ANY time of year but particularly in the fall.  There just seems to be something special about the warm sunny days and temperate evenings.  Visit in October and you can expect daytime temps ranging from the 80’s to high-70’s with evenings in the 50’s and 60’s — that’s sweater weather for desert dewellers like us. With weather like that, it’s a perfect time to put down the dice, back away from the buffet and visit some of the top things to do in Vegas that don’t involve the Strip or the gaming tables.

Hoover Dam — This marvel of engineering is located just thirty minutes from the Strip and offers visitors an amazing example of engineering wizardry.  In an article entitled “The Grand Dam” by Julian Rhinehart, the author says “Few structures in America display the diversity of design and craftsmanship that you see at Hoover Dam. It is a showcase of seldom-seen skills of artists and artisans–beautifully presented terrazzo tiles, sculpture, metalwork, and even military emplacements.”

A visit to this “don’t-miss” Las Vegas attraction is  further enhanced  by the opportunity to view the construction of the massive new Hoover Dam Bypass bridge that will route traffic over and away from the dam.  A mind-boggling assortment of pulleys, tracks, winches and cranes is in place and in use for workers building this newest engineering masterpiece.  When completed next year, this signature bridge will span the Black Canyon (about 1,600 feet south of the Hoover Dam), connecting the Arizona and Nevada Approach highways nearly 900-feet above the Colorado River.

Lake Mead/Hoover Dam Cruise — Living in Phoenix, we drive to Las Vegas almost every trip and we still marvel passing by at how beautifully blue the waters are at Lake Mead!  You can cruise Lake Mead, the largest man-made lake in the United States, aboard the “Desert Princess” paddle wheeler.  While on the lake, you’ll pass by such sights as the colorful Arizona Paint Pots, Fortification Hill, and Boulder Island. Take this all-day trip and you’ll also visit Hoover Dam, make a stop at Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Botanical Gardens.

Red Rock Canyon — The stunningly beautiful Red Rock Canyon park, located just 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip on Charleston Boulevard/State Route 159, was designated as Nevada’s first National Conservation Area.  The area is 195,819 acres and is visited by more than one million people each year and offers visitors access to a 13-mile scenic drive, more than 30 miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, plus a visitor center with exhibit rooms and book store.  One of the favorite ways to take in Red Rock’s beauty is through a “Pink Jeep” tour of the area.  (Take your camera for some memorable shots of the colorful Calico Hills that surround the park.)

Take advantage of these fall deals from Expedia.com and save on activities, hotel rooms and airfare packages for your visit to Vegas.

+ Book Las Vegas Activities and save on Expedia.com! Expires 9/30/09

+ Book Early & Save on October Trips: Air + 3 Night Vacations from $187! Expires 10/15/09

+ Fall “Free Nights” Hotel Sale: Stay 3, 4 or 5 nights & Get your last night FREE! Expires 10/15/09

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Nighttime is the right time to see the Bellagio’s divine garden display

Friday, August 7th, 2009
Simply magical.  The Bellagio gardens shine after the sun goes down.  (Photo & all content property of www.royallyflushed.com)

Simply magical. The Bellagio gardens shine after the sun goes down. (Photos & all content property of www.royallyflushed.com)

No matter how busy we are during our trips to Las Vegas, we still never miss the chance to see what gorgeous seasonal display the Bellagio has in store for visitors to their remarkable Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. We definitely consider it to be one of the top free things to do on the Las Vegas Strip.

For some reason, we always seem to be at the Bellagio during the day but because we spent two fabulous nights there this trip, we were able to visit the famed Bellagio garden at night and see it in all its evening finery. If you have never seen the garden at night, you really should make a point of going because it truly is a different experience once the sun goes down.  You can see from the photos how the ambiance changes day to night.

This summer the display features some popular design elements used in the past including colorful hot air balloons floating overhead and a pair of father and son bears made entirely from greenery. New this year: a brilliantly-lit Ferris wheel with cars brimming with sunflowers; a glass “green house” with aviaries featuring flocks of rainbow-colored birds like lorikeets and parakeets; and whimsical over-sized tin cans pouring forth glowing cascades of water.

The current display will be on view until September 14 when the theme changes to one featuring autumn leaves and harvest time colors.

Daytime reveals colorful balloons and a green house filled with exotic birds.

Daytime reveals colorful balloons and a green house filled with exotic birds.

Dancing waters accented with LED lights put on a show at night at the Bellagio gardens.

Dancing waters accented with LED lights put on a show at night at the Bellagio gardens.

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Las Vegas Deals So Good You Can’t Stay Home This Spring

Thursday, February 26th, 2009
Book a stay at Caesars Palace in Vegas for just $90 a night this spring.

Book a stay at Caesars Palace in Vegas for just $90 a night this spring.

We’re back….  After a driving trip across the country’s mid-section (and, sadly, no time for stopping at the numerous casinos along the way) we came home to a mailbox full of outstanding Las Vegas deals.

Las Vegas really does represent one of– if not the — best travel values available in the country right now.  Take a look at these rates for the best in Spring getaways:
Enjoy Caesars Palace from $90 a night or
Las Vegas on Sale: Trump Hotel from $89 a night.
and, remarkably,
The luxury of the 5-Star Wynn Las Vegas from just $129 a night!

You can also get great values on things to do while you’re in town by booking your shows and more online at Expedia.  Pick up tickets for less to shows like the highly-recommended KA at MGM Grand (plan on dinner at Nob Hill Tavern before or after) or the fast and funny “V – The Variety Show” at Planet Hollywood.  (While at Planet “Ho,” have a drink at the casino’s Heart Bar or play a couple of hands of blackjack with their “Pleasure Pit” dealers.)

You can also book trips to visit nearby Hoover Dam or explore the breath-taking scenery of the Red Rock Canyon area while on a Pink Jeep Tour. For all the coolest activities at terrific prices check out: Best of Vegas at Expedia.com

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Visiting New Orleans, Part II — What to See, What to Do

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

The Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France in New Orleans is the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States.

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

Apart from dining, drinking, gaming and shopping there is a wealth of things to do and see in the area.  You don’t have to be a history buff to be seduced by the unique architecture and centuries of colorful stories and characters that inhabit the streets.  The past lives cozily right alongside the present.

Sure, you can spend a bunch, but the budget conscious will appreciate that New Orleans prices are a relative bargain and there are plenty of free and low cost things to do. (more…)

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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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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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