March 4, 2017

Vegas Baby!

Our first day in Vegas wasn't our best. Panic set in when the RV park we booked over a month prior had recent reviews that detailed countless thefts of bikes, motorcycles and even a break in to an RV. Panic subsided when 10 phone calls later and 3 RV spots later we found a suitable location for our family but only after we fought off gawking 50-something year old men and at one point could touch barb wire from our front door. Vegas and I quite obviously didn't start off on the right foot.

It was New Year's Eve: We drove the strip and saw the lights before the mass of people came to see fireworks and then headed back to the RV where the boys made us dinner and dessert: (bacon burgers and a cream cheese/fruit dip with baked cinnamon sugar tortilla wedges). We watched the movie RV and most of us passed out. N stayed up til 11:50 and then I laid in bed listening to the fireworks and peeked out the window to see if I could see and that I did. A few huge bursts of color over the palm trees, evidence of the wild time happening on the strip. I was relieved at the idea of us being tucked into our cozy home even if it was our 3rd spot of the day.

I hope you'll stick with me through these next few posts as I catch up to present day on our adventure. I plan to do smaller more frequent posts about our experiences as this is just getting to be too much (for me and you!) to edit and read. Hope you'll take a deep breath, sit back and enjoy this long but picture-heavy post. As always, be sure to read the captions!

I won't say we did everything in Vegas, but we did do as much of the free things I could find. Here are my Top 5-ish:

1. Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire State Park- These were my favorite because it required us to get OUTTA Vegas. Nature is always my cure for everything. My kids will likely say when they are grown up that my most used saying was "Go outside!" (that and "you are exhausting!" haha!) and I'm proud of that.
Red Rock Canyon: see above (it was freezing that day so there wasn't much hiking going on)l. Valley of Fire: see below.
We met up with an old friend from VA who was in Vegas for the weekend and took her to Valley of Fire State Park.
 Look at how big my boys look?! CRAZY!

Out-takes are always good, too.

I absolutely LOVE this picture. Everyone is looking (sort-of) and smiling.

He can run all over these boulders all day. He is incredibly brave! 
The only person I know that can get away with hiking in a tutu and pink boots. 
On their way to the top!

2. Free shows and pretty lobbies in the CASINOS. A lot of  the hotels/casinos on and off The Strip have free shows or performances that are super family-friendly while others have an incredible lobby full of gorgeous decor and flowers. We spent days walking the casinos, exploring their in and outs and just having fun. Our favorite shows were the mermaids and stingray feedings at the Silverton, the performers at Circus Circus (short and sweet) and the Nathan Burton Comedy Magic Show we found on Groupon. Our favorite hotels/casino lobbies were The Wynn, The Bellagio, Aria and Venetian. I have so many pictures of the shows/lobbies but can't possibly include them all here and didn't want to bore you. I chose to select a few (mostly with us in them) that tell our story.

The boys were so curious about gambling. During our trip E showed them a quarter slot machine and then taught them how to play blackjack (in our RV, of course). 

There is a store called Stupidiotic that has a ton of funky gadgets and gifts and this huge hand made Little Miss do her scream/giggle so we had to take a picture. She was so excited when we went in and they had one just her size, too. 

Rooftop at The Cosmopolitan impatiently waiting for mama. Mama heard about the drinks they had at the Ice Rink. See below. 
The Griswold: YUM! 
The kids got a frozen hot chocolate from Serendipity

There was a ZOLTAR machine (the one from the movie Big) and it started talking and Little Miss ran so fast over to Daddy. 

We were at Circus Circus and spent $20 for all three kids to share. Reno's machine didn't give him any tickets and when the lady came to "fix" it this happened: A TON OF TICKETS flew out and Reno was SO EXCITED!

Her first mermaid encounter. She was mesmerized (and so was I). This is the mermaid blowing her kisses.

The boys got to ride the rollercoaster at NewYork NewYork so Little Miss got to play a couple video games. She wanted her brothers to play with her
We splurged on one buffet at The Wynn. Talk about YUM!

The Wynn was probably my favorite. I love flowers! The lobby was full of them, too! 
This is me attempting to get a pic before running onto the tram at Luxor.

This is right before the bear tried to eat her head. She was happy with the whole thing. 

We hit up all the chocolate stores, too-- Hershey's and M&M's. 

Gelato @ Caesar's Palace-- DELISH! 

Bowling at Sam's Town-- our funny kids. It was a programmable experience. The kids got to pick themes and take pictures. It was so fun for them!

Her 2nd encounter with a mermaid. This time she tried to hug her through the glass. 

** One piece of advice: Be sure to wear your gas mask when walking through the smoke-filled casinos OR perfect your breath-holding techniques before you arrive in Vegas (the latter is probably your best bet bc smoking is everywhere).

3. The Playgrounds:
  • We are total fans of the Downtown Container Park. We love every bit of it and went there probably 3 or 4 times. There is a huge fire-breathing mantis out front, an awesome hot dog place, a great playground, toy store and beers to-go.

  • Siegfried and Roy Park was huge and another place we hit up regularly for some outdoor fun. 

  • Exploration Park is in an area just outside of Vegas (but still technically Vegas from what I understand) called Mountain's Edge and we loved it. The kids made friends instantly and didn't want to leave as they climbed and jumped all around the boulders in the park. The park has a huge green space for drone-flying and pet walking, as well as a water park for summer fun and an excavation area. Just awesome!

  • Town Square Park: A nice shopping area with a playground with a maze. My kids spent 98% of the time in the maze and were a sweaty mess when they got out from so much running. 

4. The Drive-in. This is on my list because it was our kids first drive in and it was a hit. I'd also suggest looking up discount movie Tuesdays, too while in Vegas. I realize movies are something anyone can do in their hometown but I thought this was list-worthy because it worked out so well for us. We caught up on all the movies we hadn't seen since being on the road. We lucked out in Vegas in the movie department and the kids were thrilled so much so that it became a weekly event. The double feature at the drive in cost us under $15 and discount Tuesdays at regular theaters ran us $10-$15 (depending on if it was a 3D movie).

5. Think outside the box. We found a couple things that were worth mentioning.
  • Anderson Dairy Tour- My kids wanted to go back every day for this tour. They got to watch videos, tour the factory, look at pictures of Vegas from long ago and enjoy some yummy ice cream! Oh and did I mention it was FREE?!

  • Ethel M Chocolate Factory- FREE piece of chocolate? OK! It was random, but it was something to get us out of the house when Daddy had a work phone call and the kids couldn't keep quiet. I threw them in the car and off we headed to sugar them up (not so sure that was a bright idea, but oh well!). It was cool to see the chocolate-making process, but it was a quick walk through so I was glad they had an outdoor path we could walk on to extend our time at the factory. I would've also preferred a more exciting piece of free chocolate but I should be thankful that they at least gave me a choice between milk and dark chocolate, right?
  • Marjorie Barrick Museum: Another freebie I read about and figured it was worth checking out. We went and although there weren't any exhibitions they did have an Art Bar. We got messy, creative and had art class that day. 

  • The Hoover Dam: Not necessarily thinking outside the box but it isn't Vegas so I'm adding it to the list. The coolest part? We had one kid in Nevada and another in Arizona at one point. Other than that, the Hoover Dam is just something we had to check off the list. 

To sum it all up-- E came here for a bachelor party years ago and had always mentioned he'd like for all of us to go. He actually thought it'd be fun for all of us or even just for a weekend trip for us as a couple. I never saw the appeal. This time around I figured let's do it! Obviously, Vegas and I got off to a rocky start. After the bitterness of the first day subsided I felt better about it but every once in a while-- namely while passing a prostitute on the street while driving to our weekly storytime at the library (on the other side of town)  I'd cringe. The streets were lined with homeless people, but that is every big city. This one just seemed to have SO many more.

If you know me, you know I don't need everything to be all picture-perfect but what we regularly saw was just plain bothersome. The strip is a bubble. There aren't nearly as many homeless people lining the street (mainly peddlers dressed in costume looking for a few bucks). Everywhere right around the strip is a constant reminder of the hardships and ill-fated dreams of the men and women now living on the streets of Vegas. One can only assume that some of them came to Vegas with high hopes of winning it big, only to lose everything. These people need help. The further you got away from the center of Vegas the better it got-- as in Summerlin and Henderson were lovely and E actually liked Vegas because of those areas. I just couldn't look past what I saw. It was too much for me. All the money that sits on the strip and this is how people are living?! I admire the organizations that are taking action and helping. Be sure to check out Project 150.

After a month in Vegas I was ready to GET OUT! As we drove off E said "See you next time Vegas!" What did I say you might ask?! "See you NEVER AGAIN Vegas!!!!" Been there done that in my book.

Take me to nature, take me outside where I can breath fresh air. We were on to Joshua Tree National Park... just what the doctor ordered!


  1. I love this post! I enjoy seeing this kind of detail about what you're doing. So much more than I get on the phone...

  2. I ❤️ This post!!!

    It was as if I was taking a trip down memory lane!
    Brought back some memories of my two different stays in Vegas! I literally was "visiting" some of these places with you as I was reading!

    Awesome pics!!

    I love reading about the community work and all the giving back that you and the family do while on your adventures! I'm so proud of you and you are so encouraging!