Monthly Archive: November 2014

Tuesday

25

November 2014

0

COMMENTS

Las Vegas: The Fremont Street Experience

Written by , Posted in Travel

This year’s trip marked my third visit to Las Vegas and Mike’s ninth. Last year we ventured out for some amazing Thai cuisine at Lotus of Siam but that is about as far as either of us has strayed from the comforts of the strip. This year we decided to stretch the boundaries a bit further and see exactly what Fremont Street (aka Old Vegas) was all about. What I didn’t realize until we arrived was that Fremont Street isn’t just some street with old casinos, it is The Fremont Street Experience. As I said in my previous post, if it’s anything, it’s definitely an Experience.

Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas

Our taxi pulled up outside the Golden Nugget and as we walked through the casino the first thing that caught our eye was their pool called The Tank. Not only is there a giant swim-up fish tank filled with sharks, there’s a see-through water slide running through the middle of the tank. If you’ve ever wanted to safely swim with sharks, here’s your chance!

Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas

We found our way out of the Golden Nugget and stepped into a world of crazy. The people watching along this 5 block stretch is very entertaining, to say the least. Although it was the day before Halloween, I have a feeling things would look quite a bit similar here year-round.

Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas

Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas The pedestrian mall is covered by the world’s largest video screen and when you look up you’ll likely catch a ziplinner or two flying by. There are bars lining the street so you can grab a drink as you take in all the bright lights and colorful scenery. We had dinner at a steakhouse inside the Golden Nugget called Vic & Anthony’s – really great food with an old school vibe. The dining room is very dimly lit and intimate, so I only snapped a picture of our steak tartare starter, but Mike and I each ordered filets accompanied by some delicious seasonal chanterelle mushrooms and duck fat potatoes and we were more than happy with our choices.

Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Fremont Street Experience

Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas

Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas

Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas

If you’ve been to Vegas but have never checked out Fremont Street, it’s definitely worth a visit. I know that the next time we return it’ll be hard to stay away!

Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas

Wednesday

19

November 2014

4

COMMENTS

Vegas, Baby

Written by , Posted in Travel

Ah, Vegas! For the past few years Mike has had a yearly conference at the MGM Grand and for the last couple of years I have joined him at the end of the week for quick getaway. Three days is the perfect amount of time in Las Vegas – just enough time for a show, a couple great dinners, a few spins at the roulette table, and a bit of relaxation. This year our trip happened to fall on Halloween so we got an extra special dose of freak as well.

I flew in on Thursday morning and as soon as I met up with Mike our first order of business was a stop at In-N-Out for a Double Double, Animal Style. That night we decided to explore a part of Vegas we had yet to visit – Fremont Street. The Fremont Street Experience was an EXPERIENCE, let me tell ya, so I’m saving all of that awesomeness for a post all to itself. The next morning we headed over to our digs for the next two nights at the Wynn. Last year we checked the Mandarin Oriental off our list, so this year we had to see what all the fuss was about down at at the other end of the Strip.  Las Vegas, In-N-Out, Double Double Animal Style

Las Vegas, Wynn

The Wynn was as gorgeous as expected and we would definitely stay there again. After Mike and I checked out The Buffet I headed down to the pool to squeeze in a few drops of sunshine because I knew it would probably be the last time I’d see a pool and the sun for at least 6 months. It was the perfect day in Vegas – sunny and hot enough where a dip in the pool was refreshing, but not required every five minutes because of the blazing heat. Vegas in October is the way to go.

Las Vegas, Wynn, Pool

That night was Halloween and Mike and I wanted to keep it on the low-key side so we decided to skip the clubs and go to a show. We’ve seen several Cirque shows so we decided to switch it up and check out Absinthe at Caesars Palace. This show was FANTASTIC! As long as you can handle inappropriate, crude, racist, sexist, and politically incorrect humor, you HAVE to see this show. It was hilarious and the acts were all incredible. The venue is a tent in front of Caesars so it’s a very small, intimate space that completes the package. We had VIP seats with a small table for the two of us, definitely a plus as we had much more space than everyone else and somewhere to put our splits of champagne that were included in the ticket price. The venue is so small, though, that there really wasn’t a bad seat in the house.

Las Vegas, Absinthe

Las Vegas, Absinthe

After the show we stayed out to catch a glimpse of all the Halloween crazies and grabbed a couple seats at a poker table in The Cromwell. The Cromwell is located in the old Wild Bill’s location, which makes me a little salty because I loved Wild Bill’s, but I ended up really liking The Cromwell so I’m willing to forget and forgive. We had prime seats right near the entrance to The Cromwell’s nightclub, Drai’s, so it was Halloween people watching at it’s finest all night long. If you’ve never been to Vegas on Halloween, it’s definitely an experience worth planning for.

A late night out led to a late start the next day. Hangovers needed to be nursed, so we walked over to The Palazzo for pizza at Grimaldi’s followed by a long walk down the Strip. I’m always in awe of the Las Vegas Strip. No matter how many times I visit, the lights, the buildings and the enormity of this desert oasis will always create a jolt of electricity that runs through me. I don’t even like to gamble but I still love it there because just when you think they can’t make it any bigger and better, they do. Case in point – The LINQ.

The LINQ is the new open-air retail, dining, and entertainment district created by Caesars Entertainment. It’s located right across the street from Caesars and at the far end it boasts the World’s Tallest Observation Wheel (aka ferris wheel). But this is no normal ferris wheel. The High Roller is 550 feet tall, each “cabin” holds up to 40 people, and you can rent them out complete with your own personal bartender. Hey, it’s Vegas baby!

Las Vegas, Grimaldi's Pizza

Las Vegas, High Roller Ferris Wheel

We didn’t get a chance to take a spin on the High Roller, but it seems like it would be a pretty cool experience. Instead, we stopped for a mid-afternoon sugar rush at Sprinkles. We have a Sprinkles in Chicago, so I’ve had my fair share of their cupcakes, but what Sprinkles Chicago doesn’t yet offer is ice cream and cookies. I indulged in a Red Velvet waffle cone with Red Velvet ice cream and Mike had an ice cream cookie sandwich made with Snickerdoodle and Chocolate Chip cookies and Vanilla Bean ice cream. Um yea, pretty ridiculous.

Las Vegas, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Cookies

Las Vegas, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Ice Cream

Las Vegas, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Red Velvet Ice Cream Cone

Las Vegas, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich

We continued with our eating spree into the evening and met up with my friend Laura and her fiancé for dinner at Scarpetta. Scarpetta is an Italian restaurant in the Cosmopolitan and we all absolutely loved it. The modern, sophisticated decor with views overlooking the Bellagio fountains might have been enough to sway us, but the delicious homemade pastas and seasonally-inspired dishes sealed the deal. With all the amazing restaurants in Vegas it can be hard to narrow down your choices, but I can definitely give Scarpetta two thumbs up!

Las Vegas, Scarpetta, Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Scarpetta, Las Vegas

After dinner and several drinks around the Cosmopolitan, Mike and I stopped by the Bellagio fountains and then headed off to catch the Greensky Bluegrass concert at Brooklyn Bowl, a bowling alley and concert venue in the LINQ district. Cool venue and great band, but we arrived over an hour into the concert and the crowd was, hmmm, how do I say this, very deep into their dance with Mary Jane. We stayed for awhile and then called it a night, a fitting ending for a crazy Vegas Halloween weekend.

Las Vegas, Bellagio Fountains

Las Vegas, Greensky Bluegrass

We woke up early the next morning for our flight back to Chicago, the Strip in a rare state of Sunday morning peacefulness. I’m already looking forward to next year’s trip and would love to keep the happy Vegas feelings going – what are your favorite Vegas experiences? Let me know in the comments below!

Las Vegas, Wynn, Room View

Tuesday

11

November 2014

6

COMMENTS

Fall In The Finger Lakes

Written by , Posted in Travel

My brother is a Cornell grad and Big Red football alum. Since he graduated, my mom has kept her tailgating tradition alive and returned for homecoming every year along with my brother. This year I was able to join and we extended the trip into a mini girls’ getaway in the Finger Lakes region. This part of the country is gorgeous (gorges?) year-round (as long as you don’t mind the snow), but I think Fall is the season when it really shines. We made the drive from Chicago to Ithaca and once you’re out of Ohio and start driving through the hills of Pennsylvania and western New York, it seems that there’s a more picturesque view around every turn.

New York, Fall Leaves

Perched high on the hill overlooking the cool and quirky town of Ithaca, Cornell has a panorama that is hard to beat; the hills, the trees, and the buildings that scream ‘college campus’ all make it hard to visit and not fall in love. I didn’t even attend Cornell (I’m a Boilermaker for those that don’t know), but those views always leave me a bit nostalgic. Oh, the college days! The team didn’t fare so well this year, but let’s be honest, I’m mainly in it for the company and the surroundings anyway!

 

Cornell Homecoming

On Sunday we packed up and headed north along Cayuga Lake to visit a few wineries with my brother and his girlfriend before they headed back to D.C. Our first stop was at Americana Vineyards followed by stops at Thirsty Owl, Cayuga Ridge, Toro Run, and Sheldrake Point. We had tastings at each and by the end of the afternoon we had accumulated over a case of wine in the back seat, I’d consider that a successful day! We also made a stop at Taughannock Falls for some great photo ops – we really had the perfect weekend because all the leaves were so bright and beautiful!

Americana Vineyards, New York

Cayuga Ridge Winery

Taughannock Falls, New York, Fall

After saying our goodbyes my mom and I continued on to the next leg of our trip which involved more wine, more beautiful fall scenery and a whole lot of relaxation at Mountain Horse Farm. Mountain Horse Farm was the perfect spot for a girls’ getaway, and it would be great for couples as well. It is a small B&B and spa located in Naples, New York, on the southwest side of Canandaigua Lake, just a short drive from Cayuga Lake. The B&B is owned by Suzanne and Rudi, a couple originally from the Netherlands, and it has 7 guest rooms, a ton of land complete with walking trails, and, as you might guess, several horses.

My mom and I stayed in the only two rooms in The Lodge, the log home where Suzanne and Rudi also live in a sectioned off area of the house. The rooms were rustic and newly remodeled and the room that my mom stayed in on the second floor was HUGE! They also have a large common room with couches for lounging, a coffee maker, and a long dining table – the perfect spot to convene in the morning or after a long day out an about. It was pretty cool that we had this whole area to ourselves – if you’re going to be booking two rooms, The Lodge is perfect. The Carriage House is the other building on the property and it is a newly built barn home that houses 5 guest rooms as well as the spa and the breakfast area. Suzanne cooked us breakfast here every morning and it was fantastic!

Mountain Horse Farm, Naples, New York

Mountain Horse Farm, Naples, New York

Mountain Horse Farm, Naples, New York

Mountain Horse Farm, Naples, New York

Once we were settled in and finished oohing and aahing, we headed out for dinner that night at the nearby Brown Hound Bistro. This was such a charming little spot with wonderful seasonal dishes; we started with fresh salads followed by Beef Wellington for my mom and maple-brined Pork Tenderloin for me. We finished the meal with a couple great desserts and then headed back to Mountain Horse Farm to rest up for a busy day of wine tasting ahead.

Brown Hound Bistro, New York

Brown Hound Bistro New York

Lion + Maven | Fall In The Finger Lakes

Mountain Horse Farm, Naples, New York

The next morning I woke up just in time for sunrise and then met up with my mom for a brisk walk before breakfast. Their property was so quiet and peaceful – it was the perfect place to soak in all the beauty of fall….

Mountain Horse Farm, Naples, New York

Mountain Horse Farm, Naples, New York

Mountain Horse Farm, Naples, New York

Mountain Horse Farm, Naples, New York

Mountain Horse Farm, Naples, New York

Fall leaves, Bean Boots

After breakfast it was time to set out for our wine tour. Suzanne arranged the private tour for us ahead of time; we basically had a personal chauffeur who drove us around to the wineries of our choice for six hours. We decided to stay close and check out some of the wineries on Keuka Lake, a smaller lake to the east of Mountain Horse Farm. We made stops at Dr. Frank’s, Heron Hill, Bully Hill, Ravines, and McGregor. Dr. Frank’s had very knowledgeable and friendly servers, Heron Hill had great views from the tasting room but a not-so-friendly server, Bully Hill had a two-story gift shop and a lively tasting room, and Ravines had fantastic chocolate and cheese pairings with their tasting. Ravines was hands down our pick for favorite winery of the day and McGregor took the title of least favorite. Stingy on the pours and a server that offered no insight on the wines we tasted, McGregor’s was the only winery we visited where I didn’t buy at least one bottle of their wine.

Finger Lakes, Vineyard

Bully Hill, Keuka Lake, New York

Ravines, Finger Lakes, Keuka Lake

After a full day of wine tasting we kept it low-key with dinner at Roots Cafe in downtown Naples, followed by a whole lot of lounging back at the B&B. The next day we each had a relaxing 90-minute massage before driving back into town to do a little shopping. Artizanns is a great shop in Naples that sells all kinds of local gifts including jewelry, pottery, paintings, and other unique artwork. We attempted to find more cute shops about 30 minutes north in the town of Canandaigua, but none of their shops seemed to compare to Artizanns. A cold rain started to get the best of us, so we settled for a late lunch at Simply Crêpes and headed back to the B&B to enjoy our last night in New York.

Artizanns Naples, New York, Finger Lakes

Naples, New York

The next morning we woke up before sunrise to start the drive back to Chicago, and just as quickly as it had arrived, our mini vacation was over. I wish we lived closer to Mountain Horse Farm because I would love to make a stay here an annual event. If you’re looking for a relaxing vacation with beautiful scenery and a bit of wine, check out the Finger Lakes, you won’t be disappointed!


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