July 24, 2014

10 Things You Must Do in Las Vegas (Travel Review)

10 Things you must do in Las Vegas

Here’s a list of 10 things you must do when traveling to Las Vegas.

We have absolutely loved living in Las Vegas for the past year. Although we are a little tired of the Strip now (may have more to do with being pregnant) we loved taking guests there throughout the year. We are not club people, so I do not have any reviews on clubs, but we have gambled, seen shows and ate at lots of good restaurants.  Here are my must-do’s when you visit Las Vegas.

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1)   Go See Vegas! The Show.  This is one of the first things we did here and I enjoyed it more than any other show we’ve seen.  The show takes you through a little bit of Vegas history and features the famous singers that have come through this iconic city.  It takes you through the Rat Pack, Elvis and up to Elton John.  It’s just fabulous.  By the way, shows at Planet Hollywood have a military discount.

2)   Eat with view of the Bellagio Fountains. Our favorite restaurants with a fountain view are Mon Ami Gabi at the Paris and Olives at the Bellagio. Both are great and reasonable for the strip. The outdoor fountain view is first come first serve, so be prepared to wait. If you have a reservation, or if you go early, you’re more likely to cut down your wait time. At Mon Ami, if you have a reservation you can request a window seat, which is just as good.  If you go to Olives, make a stop inside the Bellagio’s lobby.  They have an over-the-top garden display that changes seasonally.

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Outdoor Seating at Olives with view of the Bellagio Fountains
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View of Bellagio Fountains from Olives
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Mon Ami Gabi window table with view of Bellagio Fountains

3)   Get drinks at the Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan.  So, it’s a three-story bar…inside a chandelier!  Oh, how I love the Cosmopolitan.  I will miss it.  Just being there makes you feel fancy. Sure, the drinks are expensive, but they are everywhere (unless you’re gambling, then they’re free, just tip!).  When we’ve gone to the Chandelier on the weekends, they’ve also had live music.  Sip and stay a while, it’s worth it.

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Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan Hotel
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Chandelier Bar at Cosmopolitan Hotel

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4)   Gamble at Paris.  Paris is by far our favorite place to gamble on the strip.  We’re not huge gamblers, and that’s why we love it.  The dealers are super nice and laid back.  And they actually have some lower table limits compared to the other places on the strip.

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5)   Have Drinks at The Wynn’s Lake of Dreams.  This place is so neat.  It’s an outdoor bar with a cooky light show.  You feel like you are in another land, far away from the strip.  If you go to Vegas any time other than Summer, it’s SO nice to sit outside.

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The Lake of Dreams at the Wynn
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Inside the Wynn Hotel

6)  Go see a Cirque show.  There are so many to choose from.  We loved “O” at the Bellagio. I’ve also heard that the Michael Jackson one at Mandalay Bay and Love (Beatles) at the Mirage are great.  I’ve been told to avoid Ka.

7)  Fremont Street (downtown) area.  Okay, Fremont is a freak show.  Literally.  But it’s a fun change from the strip.  Some things to do in the area: gamble (of course) the Mob Museum, the Neon Museum and eat at Park…great restaurant with out-door seating!

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Fremont Street Light Show
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The Mob Museum in Downtown Las Vegas

8)  Walk Around the Venetian.  The Venetian is probably my favorite overall hotel/casino on the Strip.  It’s so impressive.  It’s a great place to gamble, the mall area is so cute and they have a very impressive square in the mall where you can sometimes listen to live music and get gelato.

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Inside the Venetian mall area with Gondola

9)  Eat at the Aria. We haven’t been disappointed by any of the restaurants we’ve been to in the Aria hotel.  If you’re looking for something upscale, Sage, is probably the best meal we had on the strip.  Lemongrass and Javier’s were also great non-expensive restaurants.

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Inside the Aria Hotel
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Inside the Aria Hotel

10)  Go experience Red Rock Canyon or Valley of Fire. Both of these parks are wonderful.  If you just want to see some cool stuff but don’t want to hike, I’d suggest Red Rock. It has a 13 mile loop you can drive around on. Red Rock also has restaurants and shops near by.  Valley of Fire is more remote, but I think the views are more spectacular. Mouse Tank is a very easy hike (more like a stroll). Out of all of the hiking we’ve done this year (read about it here, and here ) I think the White Domes trail has been our favorite.

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Red Rock Canyon
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Red Rock Canyon
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Red Rock Canyon
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Valley of Fire, Mouse Tank Trail
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Valley of Fire, White Domes Trail
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White Domes Trail, Valley of Fire

There are so many things to do in Vegas. I didn’t include any excursions, but this Trip Advisor list is a great resource for that. My brother took his family to do the dune buggy tour, they absolutely loved it.  Something we haven’t been able to do, is go to a buffet. The locals have told us that Ceasars’ and the Cosmopolitan have the best buffets on the strip. I’m happy to say that I was so wrong about Vegas (read about it here) there really is something for every one here!

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What’s your favorite thing to do in Vegas?  Let me know in the comment section!

May 6, 2014

Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell Travel Review (Glen Canyon National Recreation Area)

Antelope Canyon Travel www.jillianbenfield.com

Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell Arizona Travel Reviews…How we did it all in 24 hours with a baby

I have never had more people ask my about one of our adventures this year than I did after I posted Antelope Canyon Pictures on Facebook.  It’s clear as to why people were so curious…the pictures (even shot on my point and shoot camera and my iPhone) are amazing.  It is without a doubt the most stunning scenery I’ve ever seen. We were really surprised when we were some of the only Americans both at the resort we stayed at and on the Antelope Canyon tour…so I figured the word needs to get out!  It is a 4.5 hour drive from Las Vegas, about the same from Phoenix, 2 hour and 45 minute drive from Sedona and less than 2 hours from the Grand Canyon.  My point is, if you are doing an Arizona vacation, make time to go see this.   I’m going to break down everything we did in 24 hours.

Lake Powell Travel Review www.jillianbenfield.com

1) Stay at the Lake Powell Resort.  I would suggest doing this instead of staying in the town of Page, Arizona.  Here’s why: it’s beautiful, very peaceful and you can have time to explore the lake.  Antelope Canyon is tour based, so it makes more sense to stay at the lake and enjoy the views and then go on your Antelope Canyon tour the following day.  If you have more time than we did…look into renting a house boat with friends.  They looked amazing!  This is in the Glen Canyon National Recreation area, so you do have to pay a fee to enter the resort area.

2) Eat lunch at the Driftwood Lounge.  The food was great here.  Andy had a short rib sandwich that was definitely drool worthy.  They also had a full bar, complete with some local beers on tap.

3) Go on the Nature Walk.  There’s a long paved path outside the Resort, go for a short stroll.

3) Take a Boat Tour.  We did the shortest tour since we had our 1-year-old with us.  You meet for the tour in Lake Powell Resort’s Lobby…just another reason to stay there.  The tour was $45 dollars each and we got a slight discount with Triple A.  The boat was crowded and therefore not my favorite part of the trip, but it is pretty much the only way to see the lake.  If you have your heart set on going at a specific time, I would suggest calling before you get to resort to make a reservation.

4) Pack some wine and snacks.  We had a fridge in our room so we made sure to pack some appetizers for us and food for our 1-year-old.  It was lovely having a glass of wine on our lake front balcony before dinner.

5) Eat at the Rainbow Room.  We brought the stroller and the iPad to entertain Vi and were able to enjoy dinner here.  Both of our meals were lovely.

6) Balcony. End the day with a glass of wine on the balcony while the little one sleeps OR if you don’t have any kids with you, go down to one of the pools and enjoy the fire pits!

7) Coffee.  Alright, here is my only complaint about the resort, they had one barista working the coffee shop.  We probably waited in line for 30 minutes to get a breakfast pastry and coffee. Here’s what I would do instead: bring breakfast items to put in your fridge.  The room has a Keurig, which was great, but we didn’t think about packing breakfast food. Disclaimer to this: There is nothing near the resort.  Unless you drive into Page, you are in the middle of no where.  We were able to bring food because it was a 4.5 hour drive and we brought a cooler.

Here are some pictures from Lake Powell:

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Antelope Canyon 

1) Drive to Antelope Canyon.  After you’ve had your morning coffee, make the 20 minute drive to Antelope Canyon.  MAKE SURE YOU BRING CASH!  Antelope Canyon is on a Navajo land and they do not take credit cards.  I don’t remember how much it cost, I think it was in the 30 dollar range per person, but they only take cash.  If you forget you have to drive 2 miles to a gas station for an ATM…which we did.

2) Lower Antelope Canyon.  We read and heard from people at the Resort that Lower Antelope Canyon was less crowded, so we chose to do the lower canyon tour.  We loved it.  We did the 9:15 tour and the lighting inside the canyon was great.  Our tour guide was amazing, too.  He knew all of the spots to take pictures and we really appreciated his help.  The tour lasts a little over a hour.  Bring a baby carrier if you have little ones.  Disclaimer:  You have to go up and down tiny little stairs inside the canyon, so you do have to be extra careful if you have kids with you.  Enough Talking, here’s the pictures you want to see.IMG_2785IMG_4214 IMG_4211 IMG_4203IMG_2787 IMG_2783  IMG_2776 IMG_2773 IMG_2771 IMG_2770 IMG_2769 IMG_2763 IMG_2762IMG_2760 IMG_2759IMG_4181IMG_4182IMG_4183IMG_4184IMG_4190IMG_4191IMG_4196IMG_4197IMG_4198IMG_4199IMG_4201IMG_4203IMG_4205IMG_4206IMG_4207IMG_4208IMG_4209

Want more Travel Reviews?   Read how we did the Grand Canyon in 24 hours with a Baby

March 27, 2014

How To Do the Grand Canyon in a Day…With a Baby-Travel Tips and Review

How to do a Grand Canyon in a Day with a Baby News Anchor To Homemaker

We had the best New Years Eve ever this past December, we went to Grand Canyon National Park for 24 hours.  It was just as stunning as I thought it would be. Pictures can’t do it justice, but I’ll try with a couple.

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These pictures were taken on New Years Eve. In the Winter the North Rim is closed, only the South Rim is open.  All of these pictures were taken from the South Rim.   I have a lot of experience traveling with our little one, we’ve gone cross-country road trip, a long weekend trip to California, a cross-country plane trip and much more that I haven’t written about just yet.  This trip was very easy…here’s how we did it!

How to Do the Grand Canyon in 24 Hours with a Baby

Stay at a Hotel inside the Park.  This made everything much simpler.  We could walk out of our room and BAM, Grand Canyon.  We wanted to stay at El Tovar, but it was booked. BOOK EARLY.  We stayed at the Kachina Lodge, which is right next door.  The rooms are fine, not fantastic, but they are fine.

Do the Trail of Time.  It’s right outside the El Tovar and Kachina.  Since we were staying for such a short time, we just wanted to soak in the sights… we weren’t concerned with doing serious hiking.  The Trail of Time is PAVED.  My husband used his super hiking baby carrier because he had just gotten it for Christmas, but we could have used a stroller.

Take the Bus Back to the Hotel.  Chances are the baby is tired by now.  There’s a bus system in the park…it’s very easy to follow.  Just hop on and you’ll be back in 10 minutes.

Watch the Sunset.  We did this from outside Kachina, but this was not the best view.  If you have time, hop on the bus and go to the Western part of the South Rim.  The concierge desk at El Tovar is very helpful.  They can give you the best location to get off at.  Don’t forget to bring a bottle of bubbly like we did…everyone was jealous!

 

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Eat Dinner at the El Tovar Dining Room- Make a reservation!  If you are not staying at El Tovar, you can only book a MONTH out.  Yes, you read that right, a month.  The restaurant is very good.  And it’s worth it.  It’s not the type of restaurant you would normally bring a baby to, but because you’re at a National Park…it’s just fine.  It’s not a super quiet restaurant and Vi (who was 8 months old at the time) did great.

Here are our pictures from the next day.

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Watch the Sunrise- Let’s face it, if you have a baby…you’re up anyways.  If your baby gets up really early, catch a bus to one of the best spots.  Again, ask the concierge at El Tovar for a suggestion.  Violet is not a super early riser, so we just watched it from outside Kachina.  It may not have been the best spot, but it was still lovely.

Eat Breakfast at El Tovar- Yes, you just ate there there the night before, but the breakfast there is also really good!  Be bolder than we were and ask for a window seat.  Gorgeous view.

Go To the West Part of the South Rim- So parking really stinks inside the park, but this is worth taking your car to…especially if you’re leaving after.  There are a lot of stops along the rim trail.  We drove to the end and got out and walked a bit.  My favorite spots were Powell Point and Pima Point. Powell has a very cool monument and amazing views.  You can see (and hear) the river from Pima Point.

This is how we did it in 24 hours.  We had a great time!  I would only change one thing about our trip…I wish we would have scouted out the best views for sunrise/sunset.  Other than that, it was quite perfect.  Don’t forget if you are military (like we are) you get into the park for free!

Where have you taken your little ones lately? Let me know in the comments section.

Want more travel advice?  Check out How to Drive Cross Country with a Baby and a Dog and How to Fly Alone with a Baby