Las Vegas Eats: El Burro Borracho

If you’re a fan of Diners, Dives and Drive-Ins and you’re in Las Vegas, you’re going to want to try El Burro Borracho. Located inside the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas (there’s an additional location in Laughlin if you’re out that way), this Mexican cantina-inspired restaurant promises a fun time with rich, flavorful food and artisan margaritas and cocktails.

This new addition to the Rio is conveniently located near the convention center and the hotel’s pool area on the first floor. You won’t get authentic Mexican cuisine at El Burro Borracho, but you don’t go to a Guy Fieri joint for authenticity. Fieri’s specialty is fried and flavor, and in that respect El Burro Borracho scores major points. Trash-can nachos, fajitas, and carne asada burritos are popular menu items, but I opted for the roasted chicken tortilla soup. It was the perfect portion size for me, and it went well with my margarita of choice.  

 

Speaking of…you can’t go to El Burro Borracho and not order a margarita. Maybe you can if it’s early and it’s during the week but….no, even then you should order a margarita. I opted for the strawberry margarita with a dollop of whipped cream, and I could have easily ordered three more. The menu also offers “tequila flights”, if you’re not sure what type of tequila would suit you best.

Happy #NationalTequilaDay!

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As far as prices go, El Burro Borracho is moderately priced compared to other nearby restaurants. Cocktails average between 10 and 15 dollars each, and the food dishes can range between 11 and 30 dollars per person. This is also on par with Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen at the LINQ.

 

El Burro Borracho is a great place to go with friends, or on a date. It’s also a great place to go after spending the day at the Voodoo Beach Pool, if you’re in town during the summer.

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Five Hiking Trails to Try Around Las Vegas

 

Las Vegas is known for its casinos and nightclubs, but if you venture past the Strip, you’ll find expansive mountains and trails to hike and explore. Here are just a handful of the interesting, colorful, and varied trails you’ll find around Las Vegas.

Mary Jane Falls

#31daysofhalloween #day19: I went up to Mount Charleston yesterday to see the last of the fall colors. I had heard that Lee Canyon was pretty much done but Kyle Canyon still had some trees with leaves left, so I struck out on the South Loop Trail for a little while until I decided it was time to turn around and head home. Some spots of yellow here and there but the trees are mostly bare now, but at one point I did turn around on the trail to see this spectacular view of Mummy Mountain behind me with the sun shining just so, perfectly highlighting the “sarcophagus“ of Mummy Mountain from the Forehead (right) all the way to the Toe (left). Plus it was overcast with a nice fall chill in the air, and I ran across some deer near the trail. All that seemed pretty Halloweeny to me! 🎃👻🕷🕸🦇💀😈🖤🤡🎈🍂🦌#hiking #hikinglasvegas #vegashikers #vegasoutdoors #myvegas #optoutside #halloveen #halloweenish #fall #fallhiking #fallcolors #fallinvegas #halloweeninvegas #vegashalloween #averyvegashalloween #southlooptrail #mountcharleston #springmountains #kylecanyon #mummymountain #vegas #lasvegas #vegaslife #vegaslocal #chasingfallweather

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Mary Jane Falls is a popular trail for locals, especially in the summer. The 2.5 mile moderate hike is located on Mount Charleston, and features a waterfall at the end of the trail. The temperatures in Mount Charleston average at least fifteen degrees cooler than Las Vegas itself, so it’s a nice refuge away from the summer heat. This trail is also open to dogs, but they must be leashed at all times.

This hike starts off harder than you might anticipate, but the view at the end is worth it. For a truly spectacular view of the waterfall, spring is the best time to visit.

 

Ice Box Canyon

Ice Box Canyon is a moderate-to-difficult trail located inside Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The red rocks and jagged landscapes inside this national park sets it apart from its counterparts, Mount Charleston and Lake Mead.  Since the climate is more arid than Mount Charleston, it’s a nicer park to visit in the cooler months. This 2.5 mile trail is one of the cooler (temperature-wise) hikes inside Red Rock, and is popular in the winter and early spring.

Liberty Bell Arch

Liberty Bell Arch is another great hiking option inside Lake Mead. Due to high temperatures, this trail is not accessible during the summer, but if you visit in the spring and fall, it’s an ideal way to spend time outdoors. The trail goes up and over canyons, and passes by a World War II magnesium mine before reaching the end of the Arch.   

 

Cleopatra Wash

Cleopatra is one of the more difficult washes to hike, but its beauty makes the time spent traversing this trail well worth it. From beginning to end, elevation changes approximately 900 feet from the top of the Wash, through the Black Mountains and down to Lake Mead. Due to dropping lake levels, many hikers will opt to bypass the cliffs that have been created to reach the water.

Black Velvet Peak

Happy to be in the desert again

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The Black Velvet Peak Trail is another popular trail inside Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. This trail is a little harder to get to compared to more popular hikes like Ice Box Canyon, but it’s worth the extra work. The black rocks that give the area its name set it apart from the rest of Red Rock, and the 2,000-foot high walls make it ideal for wall climbing.

Viva Las Vegas.

I don’t know how I feel after October 1st.

 

I wasn’t at the festival, and the people I’m acquainted with that were came home okay. I don’t feel entitled, really, to feel sad, because of that. But in the days since then, I can’t help but feel like someone poked a hole in all of my balloons.  

 

My city always felt safe. That’s not to say there wasn’t violence that went on here before, but it was to such a small degree that it was easy for most parts of the city to forget about. It’s a city where I felt comfortable walking around at five in the morning, or midnight even as young teenager. Las Vegas has never been at the top of any “dangerous city” list; our crime rate even decreased between 2015 and 2016. You might lose your money here, but your life, especially as a tourist, was always a safe bet.

 

I worked at Mandalay Bay as a teenager. My first job was inside the Shark Reef gift shop, stacking stuffed animals and selling shark tooth necklaces. While no one in my immediate circle was at the festival that year, I’ve had family attend in years prior. Being in such close proximity to an act of terror is sobering, and confusing in a way I haven’t yet experienced. Knowing that these things can continue to happen, is even more grievous to me.

 

When I read about the victims, hoping that the number stays where it is and no one else succumbs to injuries, I can’t help but notice how many of the deceased weren’t from here. I think, and I might be wrong about this, that fact makes it feel different for the rest of the country. This shooting affects more than just one city. The victims were from all over the country, here simply to have a good time. If you can’t relax and be free on vacation, when can you be?

 

The other main thing I can’t get my head around is – why here? Las Vegas is a popular tourist destination, but it’s not a pivotal place in terms of politics. We’re not an import/export hub, we’re not even the state capital. Las Vegas is a desert getaway, a place to come when you want to let your hair down and forget about real life for a while. You’re suppose to be safe here. Thankfully, to the quick response of our local SWAT and other law enforcement officers, as well as the security team at Mandalay Bay, the damage stopped after minutes. Hundreds were hurt, and many died, but without their quick action it could have been much, much worse.   

 

If you’ve never been here before, I hope you decide to visit one day. If you have been, I hope you come back. With your help, we can be the infamous party city we’ve always been. While this dark cloud looms over our heads now, eventually, the neon will shine through once more.  

 

To those who lost family and friends, I’m so sorry. To the police and the firefighters and the medics that confronted the shooter and got people help, thank you. To the everyday Joes who risked their own safety to get people out, I applaud you. I hope all of you, one day, will feel safe again, and find some peace.

Valley of Fire Dos and Don’ts

If you ever visit Valley of Fire, be sure to bring enough water. And make sure you’ve got plenty of gas.


Valley of Fire State Park | Ken Lund/Flickr
Valley of Fire State Park | Ken Lund/Flickr

I’ve been away from this blog for quite a while, and I thought it was time to check back in. As of June, I became the Las Vegas contributor to The Culture Trip, a travel and culture website. Keeping up with that, and my regular job/life has been a little bit of a learning curve. But it’s been fun, and I’m so happy to finally expand my horizons.

I decided to go to Valley of Fire on the fly a couple weekends ago. I’ve kicked the idea around in my head for a while, but could never muster the energy to make the drive out there.  These are the types of things one normally plans out well in advance, with supplies and water and…a plan. But not I, dear reader, not I.

I packed my dogs in the car that morning, initially intent on going to one of the few dog parks near my apartment. As I came upon the freeway entrance, I made a last minute decision (not a last minute turn, I’m not that warped) to jump on the freeway and see the park I haven’t been to since I was a child.

Do leave early

This will be subjective, but I’d recommend seeing Valley of Fire early in the day if you’re visiting in the summer. If you’re staying in Las Vegas, it takes about an hour to drive out to the park, and by 8 a.m., it’s already hot. By the time my dogs and I got out there, we were panting. All of us.

Fill Up Your Tank

This is a no-brainer, but there aren’t many gas stations on the way to Valley of Fire from Las Vegas. As stated earlier, most people do their due diligence and plan for this in advance, but for the fly-by-night, seat-of-your-pants people like me (if there are any), it bears repeating.

Take Your Time

Valley of Fire is a slap in the face of anyone who thinks the desert can’t be beautiful. Whether it’s the Beehives, White Dome, The Cabins or Elephant Rock, Valley of Fire is like an outer space oasis in the middle of the desert.

Bring Extra Water

If you’ve decided to be rebellious and visit the Valley in the middle of the day, take extra water with you, especially if you’ve got pets with you. I wouldn’t recommend taking pets with you to the Valley (mine and I only lasted about 45 minutes in the park total) in the summer, but in cooler weather it shouldn’t be an issue.

 

Let me know if you’ve ever been to Valley of Fire, and what you thought about it.

Happy travels!

Five Things to Do Outdoors in Las Vegas

Paris Hotel & Casino / © Ken Lund/Flickr
Paris Hotel & Casino / © Ken Lund/Flickr

When people come to Las Vegas, drinking and partying are generally at the top of the list. Whether it’s in a nightclub or by the pool, people come to relax and have fun. During the summer, sometimes it’s too hot to do anything else. If you’re looking to venture beyond the Strip, here are ten places and things to do that will let you see a different side of Las Vegas:

Visit Red Rock Canyon National Park

If you’re a camper, a hiker, or a rock climber, you will fall in love with Red Rock Canyon. Just a thirty-minute drive from the Las Vegas Strip, Red Rock offers a different kind of Las Vegas experience. There are 19 trails for hikers, and 6 climbing areas available for permits. Red Rock Canyon Campground is the only developed camping area, which is closed during the summer months because of the high temperatures. If you just want to take in the scenery, you can drive or bike along the 13 mile-loop that cuts through the park.

Go Paddle Boarding

Las Vegas doesn’t seem like the place for water sports, but you’d be surprised. Located off the 95 South in Henderson, Lake Las Vegas offers its guests a wide range of amenities and activities both on and off the water.

You won’t see many speedboats on Lake Las Vegas or find many surfers, but you can do a number of other things on Lake Las Vegas. Introductory paddleboard lessons are available, as well as yoga on the paddleboads, wake boarding and flyboarding. You can also rent a Duffy boat to take in the in views of the lake, or go kayaking.

Visit The Neon Museum

The Neon Museum, or the Neon Graveyard, is one of the more unique museums to visit in Las Vegas. The Neon Museum pays homage to the signage and hotels of Las Vegas’ past. You’ll find signs from old businesses offering “free aspirin and tender sympathies”, and original signage from hotels that are still standing today.

Because the museum is located outdoors, it’s important to keep the weather in mind when you go. If you go in the summer months, be sure to bring plenty of water; temperatures can be as much as 10 degrees higher inside the museum.

Guided tours are the only option available to see the museum, so be sure to book your tickets in advance.

Take a helicopter tour

If you’re really interested in seeing a different view of Las Vegas, the best view is from the air. Helicopter and balloon rides are very popular in Las Vegas for both locals and tourists. You can take a tour of just the Las Vegas Strip, or venture into the desert toward Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon.

Viator offers a number of tour options at affordable prices, some of which include champagne and dining options. Sundance Helicopters is another popular tour company, which also will include limousine pickup.

Go to a beach concert

You might not think of “beaches” when you think of Las Vegas, but Mandalay Bay has that covered. The Mandalay Beach has become a tourist favorite since its opening; from its topless beach club to its wave pool, Mandalay Beach offers entertainment for all ages. The concerts on the Beach are an added bonus.

The Beach Concert series takes place throughout the summer months, with acts ranging from Ringo Starr to Keith Urban. This year’s acts include UB40, Dirty Heads and Salt N Pepa. You can bring blankets to sit on in the sand, but you’ll have to leave the coolers and the glass containers back in your room; no outside food or drink is allowed.

 

 

 

 

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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Sights in the Southwest – 7 Magic Mountains

If you find yourself driving into Las Vegas from Interstate 15, you might have seen signs for Seven Magic Mountains. The name doesn’t make the landmark easily identifiable; at first blush it sounds more like an amusement park attraction than any tourist destination. However, the totemic rock installation, described as “symbolically midway between the natural and the artificial” welcomes travelers with pops of color among7MM-3-web.jpg a brown and barren landscape.

When I first heard about Seven Magic Mountains, I wasn’t aware of exactly what it was or its significance. Mentions of the exhibit kept popping up throughout my social media feeds, and even made an appearance once or twice in my Google News Feed. There were stories of the project getting vandalized and praise for its creative ingenuity. I decided to visit the installation on my way to Joshua Tree National park a couple months ago.

When I got out of my car and made my way to the imposing artwork, I realized that there was literally nothing around it. Unlike similar land art installations of the past, Seven Magic Mountains was designed to stand out amongst its landscape. And once you pass the town of Jean, there’s little in the way of human population until State Line. There wasn’t a large crowd when I went, which made finding a parking spot and getting close to the display much easier.

Getting to the exhibit is fairly easy, but the turnoff can be easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. You’ll have to park in the dirt since there’s no paved parking lot or parking structure. I recommend going either in the morning or the early afternoon, especially if you’ll be visiting in the summer. The only nearby shade are the rock totems themselves, so I’d also recommend taking sunglasses and plenty of water. Security patrols the display on a regular basis, but there is no easy access to food or water in the immediate area. Since the display is in the middle of a dry lake bed, I would also advise keeping an eye out for your average “desert life”, including snakes and scorpions.

The exhibit opened in the spring of 2016, and will be on view until 2018.

Las Vegas Night Clubs – Why I Hate Them

lv-nightclub

 

If you ask people why they come to Las Vegas, generally the answer has something to do with partying. They come for the nightclubs, the DJs, the yard-long margaritas, and the freedom to take the walk of shame in bare feet across a casino.

I don’t get it.

I know people like to party. I know people who can do it all night, every weekend, and maybe even during the week. I don’t have an issue with partying. My issue is with nightclubs. Granted, I haven’t spent a lot of time in them in other cities so I can’t say how they compare. Still, when I’m walking through a casino late on weekend, and see girl after girl that can’t walk in her heels because she’s too drunk, I have to wonder: what is the point?

Here are just a few of my grievances with nightclubs in Las Vegas:

The drink prices

 

Drinks are expensive on the Strip, no two ways about it. Here and there you can find a place that won’t stick a knife in your wallet, but when you drink inside a nightclub you can easily spend 20 dollars on a cocktail (and that’s not even a good cocktail). If you want a bottle, you’re looking at hundreds of dollars that, under normal circumstances, would cost you one third of the price. Personally, I’d rather get drunk at one of the many open bars you can find on any casino floor and get hammered there. But that’s just me.

Getting In

 

I don’t get why entering a nightclub has to feel like being in a rat maze. If you’re VIP, you stand in one line. If you’re general admission, you stand in another. If you’ve got a “host”, you have to get in one line until he or she texts you and then they make you go into a different line. This is all before you get in the final line, to actually go in and get your hand stamped. It’s too much work.

The music

 

Most of the music inside nightclubs is…not my favorite. There’s nothing wrong with it; there’s just not a lot of variety. If you’re a big fan of EDM and current hip hop this probably won’t bother you, or if you don’t mind shouting at the person next to you to have a conversation.

Nowhere to Sit

Unless you pay for a table, good luck trying to find somewhere to sit. If you’re lucky, you might be able to flirt your way into someone’s else group (and by extension, seating privileges). If not, you’re pretty much on your own. The idea is that at some point, you get too drunk to care about sitting. I’m never that drunk. Even when I’m four shots of Jameson and a margarita in I still looking for the first clean, flat surface to rest on. Maybe I’m just a lazy drunk, who knows.

The Dress Codes

 

This is actually the main reason I stay away from nightclubs. Dress codes vary from hotel to hotel, and club to club. The dress code goes for both men and women, but sometimes I can’t help but think that maybe they are a little stricter when it comes to the females. Sometimes there’s a very relaxed dress code, other times not so much. Now, for a person who mainly likes to wear jeans and shorts, this can cause a little discomfort. I absolutely hate wearing high heels, especially when I know I won’t be able to sit down on a regular basis. This doesn’t leave me many options in the way of nightclub attire.

 

 

Las Vegas Eats – La Comida

La Comida is one of my favorite places to eat downtown. It’s one of the many themed bars in the downtown area, but the Latino/Catholic décor does more than act as a gimmick to draw customers in. La Comida is a little piece of Mexico off the Strip, and it’s a place I highly recommend anyone go to if they are in that part of town.

comida_slider1

La Comida can be hard to find at first, but once you get your first glimpse of the neon pink monkey hanging from the side of its building you’ll know you’ve found the right place. A statue of the Virgin Mary Greets you as you walk in, with colorful stringed lights lighting your path inside. The bar is dimly-lit inside, and has an open space outside for dining as well. The bar area is spacious, and has a swing on the very end. I’ve never had an issue getting a seat at the bar, except for on holidays.

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La Comida’s signature is their margaritas. The drinks are reasonably priced; the most expensive drink on the tequila menu is 17.00 and there’s a wide selection of margaritas to choose from. The drinks come in mason jars, so don’t expect any yard-long drinks there. The food menu is admittedly limited, but the choices that are on the menu are satisfying. My favorite appetizer is the nachos; it looks like a small dish but I promise you won’t be able to finish them alone. The food is reasonably priced for being downtown, but

La Comida may not be the best bar in the downtown area, but it’s definitely one of the coolest. It’s a nice place to stop in for food if you’re bar hopping, or after seeing the Fremont Street Experience. It’s within walking distance of the Commonwealth, Downtown Cocktail Bar, The Griffin, Beauty Bar Las Vegas and the world famous Heart Attack Grill.

Things to Do in Vegas: Go to Fright Dome

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Photo via http://frightdome.com/attractions/

And here I was, thinking American Dad made Krampus up this entire time…

Halloween is coming close upon us, and it means that haunted houses are popping up all over town. Haunted houses in general can be a hit or miss, but Fright Dome is always a homerun. I’m not just saying that because I love scary movies, haunted houses, dressing up and all that – I’m saying this because it’s awesome. If you’re going to be in Vegas this Halloween and need something to do, I highly recommend checking out the Fright Dome.

Fright Dome is consistently rated as one of the top haunted house attractions in the country, and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that it is never the same. Every year there are new attractions, new houses, and new shows to see. General admission starts around 36.95, and the VIP prices start at 99.95. You can find 5$ off coupons for Fright Dome online, or in certain retail and food establishments (like Albertson’s or Del Taco) but that is only helpful if you buy the tickets in person. Otherwise, I think the ticket prices are pretty fair for the amount of stuff you get to see and the houses you walk through.

If you’re going on a weekend, keep in mind that Fright Dome is in a…less than savory…part of town. Fright Dome takes place inside Circus Circus, which is located at the Northern end of the Strip. I haven’t had any bad experiences there, but I still advise general safety precautions: park in a well-lit area, be aware of your surroundings, and don’t walk around with your mask on.