Five Popular Shows on the Las Vegas Strip

Bally's Las Vegas/ © Ken Lund [Flickr]
Bally’s Las Vegas/ © Ken Lund [Flickr]
Long known as “The Entertainment Capital of the World”, Las Vegas has been home to some of the most popular stage shows in history. At one time, Las Vegas was home to Elvis and The Rat Pack; today it’s the home of Cirque du Soleil, Britney Spears and Celine Dion. It’s still the home of more “adult” entertainment acts, including Chippendales and Zombie Burlesque. If you want to see a show and don’t know where to start, check out some of the following recommendations:

Mystere

Mystere is one of the longest-running shows on the Strip, and with good reason. Gracing the stage inside Treasure Island since 1993, Mystere is the longest-running Cirque du Soleil show in the company’s history. Brian Le Petit, Mystere’s resident clown, opens the show with his mischevious antics, from throwing popcorn at guests to stealing their wallets. From his debut, the show takes its guests on a journey throughout the “mystery” that is life itself.

Purple Reign

Purple Reign is a show for anyone that loves the 80s, Prince or both. The Prince tribute show, led by musician Jason Tenner, has wowed audiences in Las Vegas for nearly ten years. Located inside the WestGate Resort & Casino, Purple Reign pays tribute to The Artist (Formerly Known as Prince). With beautiful dancers befitting The Revolution, Jason Tenner brings back the spirit of the beloved singer.  If you go on a Friday night and purchase a VIP ticket, you can attend the after party, Purple Reign After Dark, with the performers.

Beatles LOVE

If you like the Beatles or breakdancing, you will love LOVE. The award-winning production explores the history of the Beatles, from their early beginnings in Liverpool, all the way to their final rooftop concert. There’s more dancing than acrobatics compared to its sister shows, and acts like the Russian swing and skaters give the show its distinctive style. If you decide to see the show and worry about getting a good seat, rest assured; there isn’t a bad seat in the entire LOVE Theater.

Beatles LOVE performs Thursday – Monday.

Tournament of Kings

You won’t find many dinner theater shows on the Las Vegas Strip, which is why Tournament of Kings is so special. The tale of King Arthur comes to life six nights a week inside the Excalibur, complete with pyrotechnics, jousting, and sword fighting. It’s one of the few kid-friendly shows left on the Las Vegas Strip, and allows children under 3 to attend for free.

JabbaWockeeZ

The Jabbawockeez are one of the newer acts to grace the Strip, and perhaps one of the most recognizable. The all-male dance crew first rose to prominence as the winners of America’s Best Dance Crew, and now perform five nights a week inside the MGM Grand. Their track suits and white masks have become their trademarks, as well as their commitment to pushing boundaries with their choreography and special effects.

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Five Things to Do in Santa Monica

venice-beachLos Angeles is one of my favorite places for a weekend getaway. If you’ve been there before, I don’t need to tell you it is practically perfect in every way (except for the traffic, of course). One of my favorite things about it is – you can go to the greater Los Angeles area a hundred times and still not see everything they have to offer. This list just scratches the surface of all that Santa Monica has to offer; I encourage you to venture off this path and find your own adventures as well.

Santa Monica Pier

You can spend an entire afternoon on the Santa Monica Pier. From riding the Ferris wheel, paddleboard competitions, to lunch or dinner at Bubba Gump’s, Santa Monica Pier is one of the top spots to visit in the greater Los Angeles area. The pier originally opened in 1909, and has seen become an iconic

Parking can be a pain at the pier, just as it is at any beach. You can plan in advance and reserve a parking spot for a discounted price, which might be useful if you’ll be in the area for multiple days.

Stop at the Camera Obscura

If you’re into anything vintage or offbeat, you’ll want to visit the Camera Obscura. The Camera Obscura allows its patrons to see Santa Monica through the lense of the past. Located near Palisades Park inside the former Senior Recreation Center, visitors can look through one of the oldest optical inventions known to man at the surrounding city. Another perk to visiting the Camera Obscura is –it’s free.

Visit California Heritage Museum

The California Heritage Museum celebrates the diverse aspects of California culture and history through its engaging exhibits and commitment to community preservation. Located inside the home of Santa Monica’s founding grandson, Roy Jones, The California Heritage Museum is a quaint little gallery right by the beach. Past exhibits include “Mexican Calendar Girls”, “Every Tattoo Tells a Tale” and “Awkward Family Photos”.

Take a Bike Tour

Bike tours are incredibly popular in Los Angeles, especially during the summertime. Biking is an ideal way to explore not only the beaches, but the surrounding neighborhoods and shops also. There are a number of tour companies to book through, but Santa Monica Bike Center and Pedal or Not come highly recommended.

Take a Stroll along the Boardwalk

From Santa Monica, you can take the boardwalk along the beach and over to Venice Beach. The boardwalk has multitude of sights along the way, including: artists, musicians, performers, food stands, and artisans selling anything from hula hoops to flower crowns.  Along the bike path you’ll find Muscle Beach and its

Tips on Taking Dogs to the Beach

20150418_174354Puppies Looking Out Window

It was always my dream to take my dogs to the beach and watch them play on the shore. I wanted them to sit beside me after hours of running through the sand, while we took in the sunset and the sound of gently crashing waves. My first trip to the beach did not go this way at all.

I took my dogs to San Diego with me when I decided to visit the Whaley House. I had learned that San Diego had many dog friendly beaches, unlike my experiences further north in Venice/Santa Monica. I settled on taking them to the Original Dog Beach, since it was the closest to my hotel. We arrived at the beach just at sunset, and I thought everything was going to be cool. It wasn’t. That’s not to say it was terrible experience; it was just more stressful than it needed to be. If I had planned better, it would have been more enjoyable for me and my dogs.

Relax.

Taking a dog anywhere can be a lot like taking a child anywhere. Both can be difficult to get in the car, and both can be difficult to manage once in the car. In both instances, you have a better chance of success if you don’t freak out. Not only that, dogs can pick up on our emotions and respond accordingly. If you keep your wits about you, you have a better chance at directing your dog. Before you leave, keep in mind that you’re going somewhere calm and fun. There’s no set time when you have to arrive or when you have to leave, so take your time and remember to take a deep breath.

Take them to the car first.

Dogs can get excitable when they know they’re going somewhere. If your dog gets wild right before you go on a car ride, get them in the car first. I tried to leave with them and my bags all at once, and I ended up forgetting the bag with their treats in it. To make up for it, we had to make an impromptu stop at Walgreens. If you take your dogs to the car first, that will allow you the few extra seconds to ensure you have what you need.

Make sure they poop before you leave.

If you don’t, you run the risk of them pooping as soon as you arrive. This isn’t quite as bad if you are with another person, and you didn’t forget your dog bag. That said, it is difficult enough to walk through sand by yourself, back and forth to get tissue and to pick it up, then proceed to your spot on the sand.

Introduce them to the water slowly.

The waves can be rather intimidating to a dog, especially the smaller ones.  Mine were curious initially with the wet sand and algae, but once the tide rolled in they ran off in a hurry.

Be mindful of leash laws.

The Original Dog Beach was the first leash-free beach, but some beaches do have leash requirements so keep that in mind before you travel. Some beaches have certain areas where dogs are allowed off-leash as well.

Have fun.

Let them explore along the shoreline, play with them, let them run and kick up sand. Bringing your dog to the beach is meant to be fun for both of you; if you focus on that and not on what you forgot or what’s gone wrong, everything else will fall into place.

Sometimes, taking just one dog to the beach can be stressful. Taking multiple dogs to the beach can be especially stressful.  But, if you plan ahead and take your time, it can be a lot of fun for the entire family.

 

My Experience at Venice Beach

 

Venice Beach was one of those places I just had to go to. But every time I went out to Los Angeles, I Googled how long it would take to drive to Venice and it always seemed to be a little too far for the amount of time I had available. Like San Francisco and Seattle, it seemed to call out to me from a very young age. It was a city full of hippies and creative types, according to my parents and everyone I knew that had been there. Two summers ago, I was finally ended up on the famous Venice Boardwalk for the first time. And it was magical.

venice-beach

Go to Venice early in the morning or late in the afternoon

 

Venice Beach is next door to another iconic California tourist spot – the Santa Monica pier. If you’re walking along the boardwalk, you can see the famous ferris wheel in the distance. My friend and I decided to kill two birds with one stone, and stop at both before we hit the road for home. Because we went later in the day, parking wasn’t an issue. If you decided to visit Venice in the summer (or any beach, really) I recommend going either first thing in the morning or close to sunset. I employed this tactic in Venice and San Diego, and it worked like a charm.

Pets Aren’t Allowed on Venice Beach

 

We tried to walk on the sand with my dogs, but we were quickly guided back to the boardwalk by lifeguards on duty. Venice Beach does not allow dogs on the sand, but Santa Monica does. You can, however, walk with your pets along the shore on Santa Monica Beach. While we were on the Venice side, we strolled up and down the boardwalk, past the (actual) freakshow, marijuana tents, dancers, artists and characters that make Venice so famous. We even got to witness a few beach goers try their hands at the rings, poles and ropes that make up the infamous Muscle Beach.

Tips aren’t required but appreciated

 

If you decide to venture down the boardwalk, keep plenty of cash on you. You never know what treasures you’ll find, and it’s the easiest way to do business with the artists. Plus, you’ll want to have tip money if you find a character or performer you’d like to take photos with. During our visit, I met a man who, for a penny, handed me a sticker with the words “Who is John Scott?” printed on the front. I was so curious, I went and Googled him. He’s also known as “L.A.’s Oldest Vandal”.

Venice Beach is a must-see if you’re in the Los Angeles Area. If you’re looking for a unique beach experience, Venice is guaranteed to give that to you. You never know what may happen on Venice Beach, but you know that whatever it is, it’s going to be interesting.

Advice For Your First Time…In A Hostel

Just as a side note – I think I like this title as part of a series. What do you think?

Staying in a hostel is a unique experience in traveling. They aren’t as common in the United States as other lodging but they are, in general, a safe and budget-friendly alternative. That said, staying in a hostel requires more preparation than staying in a hotel. If you’re considering staying in a hostel for the first time, there are things you need to know, do and bring before arrive, including:

  1. Know what kind of accommodations you have. The type of room you will be in will determine what you need to pack. If you’re in a dorm room, you’ll want to bring a padlock to keep your belongings safe. If you have a private room but shared bathroom facilities, you’ll want to bring a bath robe and your own soap. You’ll also want to know what kind of breakfast they offer and if they provide any toiletries.
  2. Have zero expectations. Hostels can be quite a culture shock to newbie travelers. You are sharing a space with complete strangers, some of whom won’t share your hygiene habits. Your living quarters won’t always be clean. Your roommates will not always keep track of their towels and a clean bathroom is not a guarantee. It’s even less likely your bathroom will have toilet paper, soap and shampoo. These are some truths that you will have to accept if you’re going to embrace the hostel life.
  3. Don’t forget your flip flops. Even though hostels are like a home away from home that doesn’t mean you should walk around barefoot. You’ll want to wear shoes at all times while you’re staying in a hostel, but especially while in the shower. Foot fungi can spread like wildfire even among the most sanitary people. Despite a hostel’s best efforts to be germ-free you don’t want to take a chance on it.
  4. Location is key. You’ll want to stay in a hostel that is (a) in a decent part of town and (b) close to the things you want to do. A hostel’s website may do it more justice than it deserves, so once you’ve decided on a few possibilities I would suggest checking reviews. Reviews aren’t always 100% accurate but if you find common complaints among multiple reviews, it will give you an idea of things to look out for.

Staying in a hostel is a rite of passage for travelers, but it can become problematic if you don’t plan ahead. If do your homework, pack your flip flops, keep an eye on your towel and disregard your expectations, you’ll be just fine.

 

Travel as Medicine No. 1 – How Traveling Alone Builds Confidence

Since I was a small child, I have this strange fear of getting left behind or forgotten about. I think it’s largely due to the fact my mother forgot to get me from school a number of times, but I digress. It’s been one of the fears that has crippled me throughout my entire life, and it’s been one of the most difficult idiosyncrasies for me to work through. One big thing that’s helped me combat this fear is traveling alone. It may seem strange to combat a fear of solitude with actual solitude, but it works.

The first time I traveled alone was to San Francisco. I couldn’t find anyone who was able to go with me, and I was in desperate need of a vacation. My traveler friend advised me to simply go by myself; she has been on a number of adventures without a traveling companion and she told me it was one of the best ways to see a new city. You don’t have to be bothered with the wants and needs of the person with you, so you can plan your time as you see fit. You can see the monuments you want, shop where you want, and stay out as late as you want without inconveniencing another person. I figured if she’s been able to navigate her way through Europe and the Middle East without trouble, I could manage a city in California.

The primary thing I was concerned about was getting from point A to B. I am not a fan of public transportation in my own city (I blame my OCD for this), and I’ve never been in a cab alone. I consulted a number of my other travel-minded friends, and they assured me that transportation in San Francisco is very easy. I asked them over and over how BART worked, certain that I was missing something and I would be lost the moment I got off the plane. But I didn’t.

BART was so easy to use, I thought I was missing something. It wasn’t nearly as packed as I thought it would be (I had visions of New York subways on my mind before I landed), and the color codes for each line made it easy to ensure I got on the right train. When I got off the train, and found myself in front of the entrance to China Town, every single fear and anxious thought I’d had just disappeared. In the following days when I strolled around downtown and took buses back and forth to Haight Street, I felt a swell of pride that I was unfamiliar with. I was getting around a completely new place, with no one I knew, and I was able to get back and forth to the things I wanted to do and see without problems. I felt like I could take on the world.

Traveling with friends and family is great. You get to leave real life behind for a little while, sharing new experiences with people you know and love. Traveling alone can be just as great; you get to design your vacation to your own liking while still reaping the soul food benefits that traveling provides. Traveling has helped me grow as a person, expanding my horizons and helping me conquer my fears. Let me know if it’s done the same for you.

Hasta la vista!

Lauryn

 

 

Dogs and Car Rides: Tips to Make Traveling with Pets Easier

 

The only downside to traveling for me is the fact that I have to leave my dogs behind. I’ve got three little ones, and every time I leave their little faces behind it breaks my heart. Of course, if I had all the money I would take them with me wherever I went whether by, plane, train or automobile. Until that time comes, they have to stay home unless I am driving. Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks to making traveling more fun for all of us:

Take them out on a lot of short rides ahead of time. I take my dogs to the park on almost a daily basis, so they are used to getting in and out of the car without problems. Sometimes, I’ll take them on short errands with me, like going to In N Out or to visit family (but they’re never left in the car alone). Now they insist on coming with me any time I grab my keys. When you make getting in the car fun for them, you have already won half the battle.

Bring the food they are used to. It’s not a good idea to abruptly change a dog’s food under normal circumstances, and it is especially not a good idea to do while you’re on vacation. A change in food can upset a dog’s digestive system, and the stress of new surroundings can compound that.

Take frequent breaks. I try to stop at least once an hour or every two hours to let my dogs out. We stop long enough to take a short walk, have a potty break, and drink water. It does significantly slow down your travel time, but it is good for both you and your pet. Sometimes I catch myself just wanting to rush through the drive and get to my destination, but when you force yourself to slow down and take breaks, you end up enjoying the journey itself a lot more.

Don’t leave them in the heat. This is absolutely essential. In the desert the temperatures can reach well above 100 degrees in the summertime, making the insides of a car reach 10 to 50 degrees hotter on any given day or time. This is an easy rule to follow; the only time it can get a little tricky is if you are on the road and alone. You can’t bring your pet into every gas station you pass by, especially if you need to use the restroom. The times that I find myself needing a bathroom break on the road, I leave out cold water and keep the air conditioning on. I also time myself; I’m never gone for more than five minutes.

Bring plenty of water. This is pretty self-explanatory. I usually bring a gallon for the dogs and some of the 24 oz. Aquafina bottles for myself. This is an important tip to keep in mind all year, but it is even more important in the warmer months.

Secure them in the vehicle. They make seat belts and crates for dogs that are specially designed for car rides, but I’ve always used their regular crates on trips. Keeping your pets crated during a trip not only ensures their safety, but yours by extension. Whether you get a ticket for having your pet in your lap, or your furry friend distracts you while driving and causes an accident, having a loose pet in the car can cause a number of headaches.

Go on a walk before you leave. Taking them on a walk before you embark on a road trip will help burn off excess energy, and allow them to use the bathroom. Even if it’s just a quick trip outside, it will be enough to get their brains working and prepare them for the long drive ahead.

Bring something from home. Whether it’s toys, blankets or pillows, items from home will give them the sense of comfort they are missing out on the road. It will also help them to stay calm if they need to be in the hotel room by themselves for a little while.

 

Travel Tip No. 2 – When In Doubt, Bring Extra Socks

A few weeks ago, I found myself in the Windy City for the first time. I was very excited for my trip; it was the first time I’d been that far away from home alone, and I had so many things I wanted to do in my time there. Yes, I am one of those travelers. Don’t judge me. Anyway, you know that even when you plan things down to a T, it just wouldn’t be a trip if Life didn’t throw you a little curveball here and there. That’s how I came to truly appreciate the lesson of today’s Travel Tip No. 2- when in doubt, bring extra socks.

I had no idea what “rain” meant in Chicago. I know what rain is, of course; we see a little bit of the stuff throughout the summer. And I’ve been to Seattle. But to me, “raining” meant light sprinkles here and there throughout a day, maybe decorated with some lightning and thunder on a good day. It hardly required more than a light jacket. I was no in way prepared for the way the sky could erupt into a waterfall with little to no warning. I had no idea it could rain furiously for twenty to thirty minutes at a time. As a result, I was not prepared for the mad dash I would make through puddles, because the wind would murder umbrellas left and right without a moment’s notice. I had a friend tell me to pack more clothes than I thought were necessary, because I’d sweat more than I’d anticipate. I did that, but I skimped on the socks.

So when in doubt, bring extra socks. Always.

Five Tips to Avoid Heat Exhaustion

Flagstaff, Arizona, is probably one of a handful of desert destinations that is green.  Every other place I’ve been to in Arizona, from Sedona to Tombstone is dry and hot like the desert I’ve always known. It’s easy to remember the basic principles of being in the heat when the sun is beating down on you and there’s no shade for miles, but in a place like Flagstaff, it’s easy to forget that the rules of the desert still apply.

The last time I drove through Flagstaff I found myself pulling over into a random apartment complex, and throwing up in the parking lot. I’ve never had major issues with heat illness so it was a scary moment for me. I had a four hour drive home alone to make, and no one around near by to help me.

Heat exhaustion can take a big toll on you, whether you’re getting ready to enjoy the night at hand or you’re getting ready to hit the road. In some cases, it can even put you in the hospital. Here are a few tips to make sure that you avoid the same situation:

  1. Water. Water is by far the most important thing that will keep you from passing out or going to the hospital. It’s generally recommended to try and drink your weight in ounces under normal circumstances, so you’ll want to aim even higher. This feels unreasonable to most people, but if it’s hot enough, you’ll chug through it like nothing. Just be sure to keep plenty available, and you will avoid dehydration.
  2. Loose fitting clothes. Only crazy people and firemen wear heavy thick layers in the desert heat. Keep it simple, and mostly cotton. Make sure your skin can breathe, and you’ll cut down on any extraneous sweating.
  3. If you’re going to be mostly outdoors, take plenty of breaks. If you’re hiking or camping, find places with plenty of shade to cool down. Taking the time to relax and catch your breath will not only help you avoid overexertion, but will also force you to stop and enjoy the scenery.
  4. Keep snacks on hand. Fruit, protein bars and trail mix will ensure that you do not succumb to a dip in blood sugar in your time in the heat. Finding yourself without sufficient food and water can lead to dehydration, which is also one of the first signs of heat exhaustion. If you keep plenty of each on hand will ensure this doesn’t happen to you.
  5. Plan your time outside right. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, and sometimes you want to be out in the heat of the day. If you don’t though, try to organize your activities to either the early morning or late afternoon hours. You’ll avoid the hottest temperatures of the day and still have plenty of sunlight to enjoy the day.

Have you ever experienced heat exhaustion? What happened?

Tips for Getting Around Las Vegas – A Series

Hello again! I decided that I want to do a little mini-series of posts on tips for getting around my hometown. These will be things from easiest travel routes, places to eat, things to avoid, etc. There’s a lot of free/cheap things to do around the city that a lot of people might not know about, or places I think that are interesting that don’t necessarily make it to people’s “top” things to do in Las Vegas.

The first post is dedicated to driving down on the Strip. I hate driving on the Strip; it’s always busy, pedestrians don’t adhere to the traffic signals, people don’t know where they are going so they drive erratically and it’s impossible to pull into a casino’s entrance unless you want to valet your vehicle.  Instead, I used backstreets – Koval Lane, to be exact.

koval Map

Koval Lane runs the same direction as Las Vegas Boulevard, and is located on the eastern side of the Strip. It was once famous for being the street where Tupac got shot on, and it’s not one I would normally recommend walking up and down at night by yourself. But if you’re driving and looking for a way to get to hotels like MGM, the Venetian, the LINQ, Mandalay Bay, the Flamingo – Koval will be your best friend. The lights are slow on Koval, and the speed limit is 35 miles an hour, but it’s so much faster than relying on the stop and go flow of the Strip.

Till next time!

Lauryn