As someone with a background in green buildings and sustainability, I love seeing new life breathed into old buildings. In San Antonio’s Pearl neighborhood, a fabulous shopping and dining district has risen from the ashes of the former Pearl Brewery. Imagine a place where kids play in a water feature while parents sit nearby and sip coffee. Shoppers peruse 13 unique stores, and guests marvel at the brewery-turned-luxe Hotel Emma. On a recent summertime visit, my best friend Holly and I had a double date with our mothers. We enjoyed mimosas at the lobby bar at Hotel Emma before cobb salads for four at Southerleigh. The moms–kindred spirits who were cheerfully in awe of the transformation of old to new–and daughters alike were inspired by the story behind the restaurant Cured (story here). An leisurely afternoon at the Pearl should be on the list of any visitor to the Texas Hill Country!
Shall I post a snapshot of Old Town Dubai, after talking about trip with a friend this weekend? Or do I go old school and pay homage to my first visit Down Under, which happened seven years ago? Nope. September’s travel POTM is a recent image I captured last week on a tour of the U.S. Capitol.
About a month prior to visiting, I emailed my senator, who just so happened to be Harry Reid and currently the Senate Minority Leader. For those that know me, I am not the most political of people, yet I was thrilled when my visit coincided with a breakfast meeting with Senator Reid. We met in the LBJ room–fitting for a Texan-turned Nevadan–and our host was charming and personable.
After spending 30 minutes or so with our small group, Sen. Reid jetted to the Senate floor to give a speech about Donald Trump. Since I’d been eagerly been awaiting a tour of the Capitol for many years, I can’t tell you what he said in that speech. I can wax eloquently about the dome–featured in the picture of the month, as well as giggle about the “sassy chicken” that traipsed across the floor of the crypt during construction. (Her footprints were fun to find, in addition to statues from each state in the union.)
Our POTM highlights the center of the dome, with a painting called “Apotheosis of Washington”. It clearly shows George Washington–whom I learned so much more during jaunts to Annapolis and Dover!–being the baller leader that he was, rising to the heavens. It was a gorgeous, patriotic experience, and I must express my gratitude to Senator Reid and his staff for hosting a lovely meet-and-greet and tour of our nation’s capitol. While the first presidential debate tonight rages in the background, I am proud to be an American…and a Nevadan!
A dear friend who has visited me in Vegas multiple times is visiting this week, and I attempted the impossible: show her part of my beloved city that she has not yet experienced. She has already done many of my Las Vegas like a Local recommendations, including the Mob Museum, laughing our way through A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder at the Smith Center, and multiple activities on the Strip. We did take in Rock of Ages this weekend—which has recently moved to the Rio—and we nostalgically belted out ‘80s anthems at the top of our lungs…another must-see if you’re so inclined.
Alas, there is not much else that my friend Brandi hasn’t experienced in Las Vegas, even though I am constantly proclaiming each visit her “best trip ever.” With that in mind, I decided that it was time for a road trip: on to explore nature-y sites in neighboring Utah and Arizona. If you’re looking for a fast-paced (read: crazy) excursion to accompany any time in Vegas, then this is your itinerary.
Day One: Zion National Park and Horseshoe Bend
We started out around 9am from Vegas and drove approximately 2.5 hours on I15 to Zion National Park—and what an interesting drive it was! The road instantly started to climb when we crossed first into Arizona; then later in Utah, the topography became even more stunning. When we arrived in Springdale, Utah, we cruised through the quaint town, ignoring the many shuttle stops. After paying to enter the park and driving around mistakenly trying to find a spot, we turned around and parked in town and hopped a shuttle. The two shuttle lines were a very convenient to get around the park; we chose stop 5 to hit the Emerald Pools trail, and the online trail descriptions were most helpful in determining the right trail for two inexperienced hikers. We spent about 2 hours total in the park from start to finish, and while it is possible to spend—and enjoy!—so much more time in stunning Zion, we had to hit a very curvy mountain road to head to our next stop.
And that mountain road required some very active driving through canyons and a dark tunnel; approximately another 2.5 hours, and we made it into Page, Arizona, where we booked into the Best Western Plus. It was clean and adequate, plus had a nice hot breakfast. (Note: try to stay on top floor to avoid thunderous upstairs neighbors.) Not two girls to rest, we headed immediately to our next adventure: hiking about 20 minutes to see Horseshoe Bend. This is a magical place where the Colorado River has carved its way around a canyon—a spectacular view! Brandi and I caught the splendor and took photos before making the trek back to our car—mainly because we were worried that idiot tourists who were too close to the ledge would fall to an untimely death. Plus we were starved for dinner. Not much to feast on in Page though—the “Texas” BBQ place is most likely your best bet.
Day Two: Antelope Canyon and Valley of Fire
Our second day started off bright and early with the aforementioned hotel breakfast before checking out and making the 10 minute drive to the Lower Antelope Canyon. Our tour was operated by Dixie Ellis, and I highly recommend the photo tour. Picture this (pun intended): a quick walk in a small group, private canyon views, plenty of time to set up tripod and DSLR camera, and two hours of exquisite shooting in a place sacred to the Navajo. Pictures from another friend’s tour were the literal inspiration of this trip, and Antelope Canyon did not disappoint. Book the photo tour, bring your tripod, and plan to hit the canyons first thing in the morning. The Upper Canyon is famous for light beams, but we were more than happy with the imagery we collected. (One can tell the difference between the below tripod photos on the tour versus the others taken via iPhone.)
Page is a small community, but it was big enough to have a Sonic, which we hit before driving on the Glen Canyon Dam across Lake Powell (stunning and Hoover Dam-like!). Then, we hightailed it back to Nevada, crisscrossing across Arizona and Utah stateliness several times. It took us roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes to get to Hurricane, Utah for a quick break, then another similar time period before we pulled into the Battleborn State’s first state park: the Valley of Fire. One can understand why several movies (Star Trek, Total Recall) filmed their alien scenes here against the stunning red rock scenery. Nevada residents save $2 on entry at the information center, and a 6 mile one-way drive takes one through quite a bit of the park’s landmarks. It was too hot to hike at 113° F, yet it was a lovely drive and well-worth some incredible photos.
Another 45 minutes’ drive, and we were back to the City of Sin! Keep in mind that cell phone reception is often spotty at best in this part of the country. For this trip, I recommend exactly two tanks of gas, plenty of water and sunscreen, very comfortable clothes (and close-toed shoes…can’t convince myself to buy hiking shoes), a great camera with tripod, an excellent playlist, and an incredible friend with whom to enjoy the journey!
The very thought of the Hamptons brings up images of sipping rosé, pristine homes (or compounds!), and tidy seaside towns where the Manhattanites summer. My husband and I were invited by friends to visit their lovely home there last month, and visions of white parties started to dance in my mind. And the villages were charming! We learned the reputations of each of the Hamptons (quaint Sag Harbor! laid back Shelter Island!), and we got to experience the Monday evening drums on Sagg Main Beach in Sagaponak. June’s travel POTM™ is a photo I took while leaving the beach, walking to the beat of the drums.
I arrived to a sunny, gorgeous Portland several summers ago—after a flight that was chock-full of huge arena football players! In the city for a conference, I got fantastic local recommendations for activities and dining from a former local. My colleague and I really enjoyed some fabulous meals—turkey at Huber’s (the oldest restaurant in the city that has every turkey dish one could ever conjure up) and a stellar view and dinner at Portland City Grill—as we spent three days in this great walking city.
Downtown was easy to navigate on foot, and a streetcar system covers much of it and the trendy Pearl District. I caught a festival of sandcastles whilst there and enjoyed the casual Pacific Northwest vibe of the city. The weather was fabulous and the sights (including the gigantic Portlandia statue and the famous Powell’s books) were great…I highly recommend a visit to the City of Roses!
Baby, it’s cold outside…especially in Las Vegas! Some people don’t think it gets cold in Sin City, but the desert weather gets pretty chilly in the winter. Right now, it’s 46º degrees…brrr! When the wintry weather arrives, there is no place like Las Vegas Blvd. to get into the Christmas spirit!
Our perennial favorite is the Bellagio, home of the Bellagio Conservatory and our favorite bar–the Petrossian. My fiance’ actually chose this spot to propose, as we come here at least five times a year to see the ever-changing seasons spotlighted at the Conservatory. I’ve even blogged about it before, and the best time of the year to stroll through the gorgeous atrium is holiday time! This year didn’t disappoint–imagine penguins, polar bears constructed of flowers, and a giant Christmas tree!
Another favorite thing to do in Vegas in the winter is ice skating! Several of the casinos, including the stylish Cosmopolitan and the Venetian, have outdoor ice rinks. We’ve enjoyed the one at the Cosmopolitan the last couple of years, as the rooftop pool converted to a rink makes this girl feel as though she is skating down the Strip! And even if you hate to skate, there are glorious fire pits and cold weather cocktails available.
Need some other December ideas for the Strip? There is the world record-breaking Great Santa Run each year in Downtown Las Vegas, lovely holiday shopping at Fashion Show Mall, and the Magical Forest at nearby Opportunity Village.