Hoover Dam

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30 miles from the heart of Las Vegas lies the Hoover Dam. It is situated on Lake Mead, the largest reservoir (per volume) in the United States. When the Reservoir is full, at it’s deepest it can reach up to 1,200 feet deep which is just astonishing! I was surprised to see advertisements for scuba diving lessons on the drive to Hoover Dam but apparently it is a common activity, you can expect to spend $50-$100 for an introductory course at Lake Mead.

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The Hoover dam lies on the border of Arizona and Nevada so it was kind of interesting to see two giant clocks on either side of the dam representing the different time zones. The dam itself was so beautiful. It is incredible to think about how man was able to build something so big and so strong (even in the crazy heat! It was at least 105F when we visited!).

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Lake Mead

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726 feet up!!

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The Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (AKA the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge)

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This was before we were dripping in sweat. (TMI? It was July. In the desert.)

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Love this monument! There was a big beautiful American flag at the top

We decided to do the Power Plant Tour which was $11 per person. It is not recommended for people which claustrophobia, which I never thought I had…until I took a 70 second elevator ride 530 feet into a big dam. I (being the doom and gloom person my husband knows I can be) thought of all the worst scenarios that could happen. I was waiting for someones pacemaker to stop working (not recommended for the tour), an earthquake to happen or the electricity to suddenly stop (are there even stairs?!). I became really anxious about half way through the tour and was pretty excited when it was over. All in all, it was a nice reprieve from the heat inside the air conditioned building (except deep down where it was fairly warm) and it was interesting to learn the history of the Hoover Dam. It is definitely a must visit if you are in the area.

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Not what I expected the inside of the dam to look like!

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My Advice:

1. Try to get there early, especially in summer. It is SO HOT!

2. Park on the side with the visitors center. It is a long walk across the dam, especially when done in the middle of the day. Our one water bottle was hot water by the time we got to the other side.

3. You can’t get to Arizona from the Arizona side of the bridge. If there are no parking spots by the visitor center you have to drive across the dam to the Arizona side but to leave you must go back and drive over the Bypass bridge. Learned that the hard way!

4. Bring enough water. 1 is not enough for 2 people. We ended up splurging on $2 12oz water bottles in the store because we did not plan very well.

Las Vegas, Part II

It’s been awhile since I last blogged. Honestly, I had some post-trip blues. Every time I did something part of my of my daily life I would get this achy feeling in my soul, thinking, “I would rather be traveling.”  After the post-trip blues resolved I discovered that my PC with all my pictures on it from the trip had crashed. We finally got around to having it fixed, so here I am!

Las Vegas, Part II. I feel like I have nothing revolutionary to say. After 2 days in Vegas we hardly scratched the surface. But by reading this post I hope you can get some ideas at least of what to maybe not do in Vegas! 😉

What not to do:

1. Bring quarters with you to Vegas. I feel like I did research on Vegas but I felt silly when we got there with $40 in quarters to realize that all of the machines do not take change. They can take dollar bills but to “cash out” your earnings (*cough cough* or the money remaining after your losses) they give you a receipt to bring to a machine and that will give you the money. Maybe this is a no-brainer but it sure fooled us! So unless you are planning on visiting Freemont Street and some of the older casinos I would leave your change in your piggy bank.

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By only playing the penny machines and betting $0.03 per bet I left the slot machines with more money in my pocket 😉

2. Buy tickets ahead of time. Unless you expect that the show may sell out (i.e. it’s a special show or a weekend) I would wait until you are in Vegas to buy tickets. When I priced tickets to Blue Man’s group I was astonished to see that they would be more than $100 per ticket for decent seats. We ended up scoring 2 tickets for $40 (they came with a price though!—> see #3).

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Blue Man Group at Monte Carlo

3. Don’t see a timeshare for cheap Blue Man group tickets and a free dinner at the Venetian…unless you have a lot of time to spare and TONS of patience! More on this later!

4. Do not walk from one end of the Las Vegas strip to the other wearing “cute” sandals. You may end up with blisters on your feet. Just sayin’. Your hotel may look like it’s close…BUT IT IS NOT. Especially when some street crossings require you to go inside of one casino, walk a bit, take an escalator, walk some more, take another escalator and 5 minutes later you are on the other side of the street. I have to say, walking the strip was one of my favorite parts- being able to visit all the different casinos and see the different decor. However, my feet hurt SO bad by the time we got to the hotel and I was exhausted and dehydrated I’m sure for walking in the heat and humidity for an hour and half during the hottest part of the day.

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The beautiful Eiffel Tower at Paris

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From the bridge between the Venetian and Treasure Island

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Fresh and ready at the start of the day!

5. Try not to take a taxi, unless you can split the fare. A taxi ride at 11pm would have cost us $25 from the Bellagio to Treasure Island, but we were able to split the fare with 4 other riders in a van and spent $10. Next time we go to Vegas we are going to better take advantage of the free or low cost trams that go from casino to casino. We only took it once but it was quick and efficient.

So, on to our second day. We had a quick and expensive breakfast of Starbucks and then waited for our “2 hour” timeshare presentation. The promoters had found us at the Sirens of TI show the night before and convinced us to see a 2 hours timeshare presentation and we would get 2 tickets to Blue Mans group and dinner at the Venetian. They targeted us because we were married and stated that we owned a home. These promoters are easy to spot, as they will find you anywhere that there is a crowd on the strip. Note though–> It didn’t appear that they were very interested in non-married people because they aren’t their prime target for timeshares. There were multiple packages to choose from (such as free Mystere tickets + $40 cash back) but that is the one we liked.  We had to pay $50 up front and would get our gifts and $10 cash back at the end of the presentation. The van picked us up at 10:20, 2o minutes after they were suppose to. We ended up at a new timeshare resort at the end (or beginning?) of the Las Vegas Strip. We sat for about half an hour waiting for our names to be called before a kind couple asked us if we had filled out the form. Uh, no? Half an hour later we finally got started on the presentation part. This apparently was where the “2 hours” started. The first hour we wasted meant nothing. The presentation was convincing and made us feel like we wanted to buy one until we heard the price and started asking questions. Our representative was nice enough (a woman from Bulgaria) and with her words she said she didn’t want to pressure us, but she most certainly did with her actions when she invited her boss over to talk with us. I honestly have never felt so angry at a person I had just met. We told him we weren’t interested at this time due to finances, etc. and really just wanted the tickets. He continued to offer us lower offers though and basically said that we lacked common sense to pass up this “phenomenal deal.” Oh, but wait! “what if we lowered the price to this? Or this? Still no? Do you not understand what an amazing financial decision this is? If you pass it up it would be a terrible decision for your future,” etc., etc. Jake saw how angry I was getting with my red face and clenched fists and eventually said, “you’re pushing too hard, buddy.” He eventually stopped but not after making us feel like complete imbeciles and completely disgusted with their company. We were sure to give him a less than favorable review. 😉

All in all we sent about 4 hours on the whole timeshare deal. Granted, they fed us yummy “free” sandwiches and lemonade and we left with a better knowledge about what a timeshare means (still not convinced it’s a great deal). When it’s all said and done though I’m still not sure if it was all worth it. We got to see a phenomenal show (never actually made it to dinner at the Venetian) for $40 which is something that we could never have done otherwise-but we ended up having to spend half of our day listening to a boring presentation to do it. I think for us it probably worked out okay this trip, in the future though we will not spend our valuable time listening to boring presentations or being harassed by over-zealous salesman.

We got some pretty stellar seats- we were sitting in row D, seats that currently go for $135 A PIECE if you book online. The show was so worth it in the end. It was honestly one of the funnest hour and a half (ish) of my life! The blue men were SO talented! Both musically and comedically. They didn’t say a word the entire show but they conveyed so much with their facial expressions and gestures. If you don’t know what it is about here is a cool video (make sure you watch it at least until 2:15 in-that’s when it gets REALLY fun!!!)

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After the show we walked down to the Bellagio to watch the show, it was the only thing on our Vegas “to do list” that we actually did! It was so beautiful and definitely a must do when in Vegas! So here is a few lovely photos and video to end this post! Next time I will talk about our tour of the Hoover Dam in Nevada!

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Las Vegas- Part I

I had never been the type of girl who dreamt about going to Las Vegas. In fact, we decided to go to Vegas, more or less, because it was on our route anyways. I noticed though that as we got closer the excitement grew. After sleeping in cheap hotels, on a cot in a church and dorm-style bunkbeds I was looking forward to a little luxury (i.e. a real bathroom in the same room as the bedroom). We spent a night recharging in Barstow, California after leaving LA. We had to do one last touristy thing before we left LA though.

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Hollywood Walk of Fame

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These are our “excited” faces because we were Vegas bound!

The drive from Barstow to Las Vegas was about 2 hours long and went by quickly. It was pretty neat driving past the Mojave Desert and it made for a pretty picture.

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Mojave Desert, California

We stayed at Treasure Island after it was recommended by a couple friends. We got a screamer deal too, a king size bed with a view of the Las Vegas strip for less then $100 per night!

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18 floors up at Treasure Island Resort and Casino

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Not a bad view 🙂

Once we got settled into our room it was time to find some food. We didn’t have to venture far to find some stellar food at the Treasure Island Buffet. It would have been $35 per person but we scored a “buy one get one free” deal when we booked out hotel. I opted to try a little bit of everything: southern food, Greek (a first), Sushi (eww, another first) and some amazing desserts. Jake had more of a…focused palate. Meat. And potatoes and mac. And more meat.

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Jake and his steaks (honestly, he must have had at least 5 of them)

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About to try real sushi…it was gross. A fishy tasting California roll and some eel sushi!

We decided to walk around the strip for a little while to kill some time until our Cirque Du Soleil show, Mystère started. We happened to arrive before the Sirens of TI show started. The first half of the show I was not impressed. The dancers were super sexual and scantly clad- I understand it is Vegas but probably a quarter of the audience were children. The show got better though when the two ships began to “fire” at one another and it ended with a spectacular sinking of a ship and fireworks.

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Sinking of the ship

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Awesome fireworks post show

We were very excited to watch our first Cirque Du Soleil show. With out hotel package we also got 2 for 1 tickets to Mystère. Honestly, I watched the show and I’m not entirely certain what it was about. I think the theme is like “French carnival.” As we were looking for our seats in the first balcony area we were offered to be moved to the front row! The seats and view were incredible. As soon as the lights dimmed it was as if we were transported to another world. The only word I can think of to describe it was magical. There were various acts including acrobats, aerialists, two brothers that have a “strong man” hand to hand act (incredible!), aerial tissu (dancing on a piece of fabric hanging from the ceiling and doing various tricks) and a giant baby that kept showing up throughout the show which was surprisingly funny!

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No photos allowed inside 😦

The show let out after 11pm and we decided to be party poopers and head to bed, completely exhausted but overwhelmingly happy. Stay tuned to hear how we spent our second day in Vegas!

-Valerie