WEST COAST EXPLORATIONS Pt. 1

WELCOME to the West Coast (08/09/15 – 08/22/15) . This journey will take you through the sights of Las Vegas Nevada, Lake Tahoe Nevada, Los Angeles California, and Seattle Washington. Part one will cover Vegas and Lake Tahoe.

Let me begin by explaining the financial details of this trip. This was one of the most inexpensive trips (considering the locations) I have been on. First was booking the flights. Originally, the plan was to go to Seattle only and the flights at the time were  within the $400 range. My sister made the suggestion we go to Vegas because she had never been. Well thats when the whole plan changed. I realized that if we went to Vegas we would only be about  4 hours from LA. It just so happens that we would be on the West Coast the same weekend as the release of the movie Straight Out Of Compton. My first thought was how cool it would be to go to Compton (or at least the area), during a time when a movie, that documented the release of one of the most notorious rap groups (N.W.A) came out. So, Los Angeles it was.

In effort to make the flow of travel as easy as possible I used Orbitz.com. The multi-city option is where I found the best price for the flights. For the three flights (PHL to LAS, LAX to SEA, and SEA to PHL) the total per person was $475.19, which was already in the same range as the one flight to Seattle. The flight from LAS to LAX (one way) was separated from the others because it was cheaper that way, and was only an additional $50 per person. That brings the total to $525.19 per person for 4 flights. I’ve paid more for a lot less so I was happy.

When my sister and I decided to make it 2 weeks of fun we had no idea what the agenda would look like. For this trip I didn’t create an itinerary, I just wrote down all the places I’ve seen in a movie, read in a book, and well known landmarks. We were able to randomly pick from the list throughout the day. I had previously been to 3 out of the 4 locations (everywhere except Lake Tahoe) but not to do any and everything I wanted. This time was different and I loved every minute of it. My sister is pretty easy going so she didn’t object to any of the ideas I had, which made planning even easier.

FIRST STOP  –  LAS VEGAS, a.k.a SIN CITY

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I first went to Las Vegas when I was 24 to celebrate my best friend’s birthday. It was a quick trip for the weekend so it didn’t include much sightseeing. This time my trip was nothing but views and taking in  Nevada as a whole. First thing on our agenda after landing was car rental, which was perfect for our schedule. Now here is the beauty of going to a city designed for those willing to test their luck at gambling. Many times there are hotel casinos that are partners with each other from state to state. It just so happens that my family enjoys hitting the slots from time to time lol.

If you know anything about hotel casinos, then you know that hotels like to give comps (give free rooms or discounted rooms, food vouchers, etc) to individuals who play a certain amount throughout the year. Well like I said, we dabble, and just enough that when we were looking to book a hotel, we were able to do so using the comps being offered through the casino where we lived. The comps being provided in this case, allowed us the to stay at the partner hotel Harrahs Las Vegas for FREE (5 nights) and we only paid the taxes and fees for the room. Talk about hitting the JACKPOT!

Now is time for the sights. First thing we did there was explore the Vegas strip. Warning, Vegas is scorching hot in August so have water with you as you walk from one end to the other. Also, even though you can walk the strip with open liquor, DRINK WATER! No need to start the trip dehydrated and sick.

I enjoy the out doors, so anything with nature I will try (beach, hiking, zip lining). Being in the dessert provided the opportunity to enjoy the many landscapes we don’t have on the East Coast. The first was Red Rock Canyon which is a conservation area that displays red rock formations. The way the sun hits the rocks brings about beautiful color variations of red, yellow, and orange. The trails designed within the park are no more than a 5-6 (10 being the hardest) in difficulty. The best item to purchase when planning to hike is a hydration backpack for water and snacks/ lunch depending on how long you’ll be away enjoying the views. The backpack I used was by Ozark Trail, and I bought it from Walmart.

Next was a visit to the Hoover Dam. We booked a tour using one of the pamphlets we got at the hotel. The tour bus pick us up and transported us to the site while reviewing some of the history of Nevada. Upon arrival we were greeted by our tour guide who split us up into two groups and gave us instructions to follow. There were portions of the tour when photos were not allowed but it was great to see how the Dam operated and its overall use. The structure of this famous landmark was amazing to see. I spent much of the tour taking in the way in which the different areas of the Dam were designed and how they all connected to the function of the Dam. The scenes on the bridge were beautiful. Standing there and seeing the water pour through is a sight to remember. If you’re ever in the area take time to visit.

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Now Vegas is show city. Just about every hotel has a featured show for the visitors enjoyment. Some well known artist also take on a residency at hotels in which you can plan your trip to include a concert. For us we went to see the famous Blue Man Group inside of the Luxor Hotel. The tickets were between ($50-$150). The show was everything I expected it to be. The creativity of the group keeps the audience entertained and wanting more. If you aren’t able to catch them in Vegas they also have shows in Chicago, Boston, NYC, Orlando, and Berlin. Plan a date night or a girls night and enjoy.

Next was the Vegas nightlife. Since we had to remain within our budget we didn’t hit the slots much because gambling is hit or miss so be smart. For us we did things to get more bang for our buck. We went to the night club VOODOO at the top of the Rio Hotel. This club offers an amazing panoramic view of the strip. The club is both indoors and outdoors and offers different music selections. The only thing about this hotel is the location. Since it’s not on the strip you would have to drive, take a cab, or walk about 10min across a bridge depending on where you’re coming from. For us we weren’t really into the club scene so after about 2 hours we were ready to go, but only after some pics of the skyline.

If the club isn’t your scene or you just want another way to have fun Vegas has plenty to do besides that, and places where you can get a combination of both. That brings me to the LINQ Hotel High Roller Ferris Wheel. The ride gives you a 360° gorgeous view of the strip. In addition, if you select the happy hour option your 30 min ride will include open bar. Drink responsibly!

If you want to have a nice sit down dinner and then enjoy a two step consider checking out Tao inside the Venetian Hotel. First off let me say that the Venetian Hotel is beautiful inside and out. Although I never got the chance to, I recommend trying to take the gondola ride offered at the hotel. As for Tao, the restaurant is nicely lit and offers a variety of Asian cuisine. After a nice meal you have free admission into the night club that is located right above the restaurant. Save money on a separate club admission and dance the night away.

SECOND STOP – LAKE TAHOE (CARSON CITY, NEVADA)

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Now this visit was short and sweet. The first time I read a description of Lake Tahoe was in a novel by Brenda Jackson. In her book she described the beautiful sunset off the lake and I was sold. My first experience there wasn’t as romantic but it was enough that I will return there to get the full enjoyment of the atmosphere. The closet portion of the lake is in Carson City which is about an 8 hour drive from Vegas. In my mind, I was like “oh that’s easy” and overall it was. However, it was a journey through the dessert. Just envision the movie where there is nothing but open road and dirt for hundreds of miles. There are no gas stations, street lights, and rest stops, just NOTHING!!! That’s exactly what this was.

Now I have journeyed through many backroads of the south but this was something completely different. I recommend if you seek to go to Lake Tahoe, do all day driving or fly. Upon arrival, we checked into our hotel. Once again we used the lovely deal of comps and connecting with a partner hotel. This time we stayed at Harveys Lake Tahoe and again the room was free and we only paid the taxes and fees. in effort to get the most out the day we went straight to the local beach and then took in the views of the lake at one of the scenic stop areas. The next morning we went back to Vegas.

Note: Lake Tahoe is a family friendly area. I don’t recommend going there if you are looking to party. The atmosphere seemed more for enjoying the scenes and relaxation.

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If you enjoyed Part 1 of West Coast Explorations make sure you follow the blog by clicking the follow button to the right. Also submit your email to get notifications on when Part 2 has been posted.

Thanks for reading!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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