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30+ Ways to Travel Without Leaving Town

Posted by on May 11, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Sometimes you need to stay close to home. Maybe family or work responsibilities are keeping you grounded. Maybe it’s health or money issues.

There are still ways to see new things, experience other cultures, feel transported.

Norton Simon cafe

Recently, National Geographic featured a “travel photographer” who finds and composes interesting shots within Google Street View.

Navigating through the Street View of an area does give you a better sense of a place. So we’ll start there.

world-map-2

1. Use Google Street View to explore an area you’d like to visit or re-visit somewhere you’ve gone in the past.

Flamenco

2. Go to a local cultural center, performance, or festival.

3. Be a tourist in your own town.

  • See the cheesy stuff you’d normally skip and take photos.
  • Pick out postcards.
  • Visit the tourist information office or visitor bureau and find out what visitors are seeing or doing that you might’ve overlooked.

fremont-postcards-front

4. Watch some foreign films.

5. Try out any travel apps you’re interested in. See how well they work while you’re still at home.

papago-park-lake

6. Have you visited all the parks in your area?

travelexpo-dtphx

7. Take a different route home.

  • Skip the freeway.
  • Walk or ride your bike.
  • Try public transit or take a different line.
  • If you’re in Phoenix, have you ridden the light rail yet? End to end?

8. Get lost in a library.

cartel-mocha-art

9. Try a new restaurant, coffee shop, or bar.

10. Watch movies about travel.

  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty comes to mind.
  • So does Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, which I reviewed last year and is now on Netflix.
  • Phillip reminded me of The Motorcycle Diaries. So good. Definitely feels like you’ve been on a long journey through South America by the end.

Backyard

11. Set up a tent in your backyard or inside the house.

12. Sign up to host an international student.

p-drive

13. Go to another part of town and explore a neighborhood that’s usually not on your radar.

14. Get out photos and relive memories. Put them in albums or scrapbooks if you haven’t already.

Norton Simon museum

15. Visit a museum. Find out when they have voluntary admission days or other special events.

Pressed wildflowers.

16. Read a book set in a place you’d like to visit or that takes you on a journey. A few ideas:

  • Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.
  • In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson.
  • Riders of the Purple Sage, the Zane Grey novel that we recently saw an opera based on, really puts you inside the canyons and valleys of its setting.
  • Phillip loved Mitchner’s Iberia and said it made him feel like he’s been to Spain.

Mesa community garden

17. Ask friends for their favorite spots around town (to do, see, eat etc.) and try out their recommendations.

18. Wander around an international market. Buy something you’ve never seen before.

Patio

19. Bring a little of the places you love to visit into your regular life. Splurge on extra soft towels or have coffee on your patio.

20. Buy music from a place you’d like to travel. (Or borrow it – Phillip has found some great stuff at our local library.)

21. Make a friend from another country.

  • Volunteer with an international students’ group.
  • Adopt a refugee family.

star-over-desert

22. Explore the stars at a local planetarium or with a regular telescope.

23. Have you seen all the public art on display where you live?

Bag at sunset

24. Test out your travel gear. Make sure everything works, is comfortable to wear, etc. My dad used to fill his pack with encyclopedias and walk around the block to get ready for future backpacking trips.

25. Take photos of places or things you see every day. Use it as an opportunity to really look at what’s around you and maybe see it in a new light.

26. Watch travel shows or documentaries.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

27. Book a staycation at nearby hotel or resort. They probably offer discounted rates in the off-season.

28. Switch things up in your house.

  • Have dinner outside or spread out a blanket and “picnic” on the living room floor.
  • Build a fort.
  • Rearrange the furniture.

Riverside, CA

29. Go for a drive and see where you end up.

Tacos from Tacos Atoyac in Phoenix

30. Eat food from another culture. Go to a restaurant or try making it yourself with the help of a friend, cookbook, or a food blog….

31. Find the nearest places to camp.

Setting up camp at Lakeside

32. Learn another language. There are apps, podcasts, and resources at many libraries to help you with this.

  • MindSnacks has several free language learning apps. Their Learn Chinese app was great when I was attempting to do that, and the games were really fun.
  • There are lots of language learning podcasts if you just search on iTunes. I’ve been working on italiano on and off with Learn Italian from Italianpod101.com.

33. Plan your next trip or in-town adventure.

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Maynards Market + Kitchen Garden

Posted by on May 3, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Maynards historic

Cities + Railroads

The history of many western U.S. cities is tied to the railroads. Their stories run parallel, like two lengths of track. Sometimes railroad stops were built for cities and sometimes cities were built for railroad stops.

Tucson is an example of the former. By the time its depot was built in 1909, Tucson was the Southwest’s big city.

Good Roads map

The Arizona Good Roads book described it this way in 1913:

“Tucson is the metropolis of Arizona and New Mexico, and has a population according to the United States Census of 1910 of over 2000 more than any other city in either state. […] The modern Tucson is a growing city of some 22,000 inhabitants. Her rapid growth in the last few years may be attributed to her advantageous position as a distributing point for Southern Arizona and northern Mexico, and to the rich mining, agricultural and grazing country surrounding the city…”

Trains kept bringing passengers, and Tucson kept growing, buildings sprouting up throughout the downtown.

Maynards and hotel congress

By 1919, what you’d see as you exited the depot was Hotel Congress, one of the earliest Arizona hotels that’s still in operation. You can still stay there (we did!) and hear the train from your room.

As time passed, people continued arriving in Tucson but more came by car. The trains carried fewer passengers and more freight. Since freight doesn’t need a train station, part of the building was converted into restaurant space.

Maynards Patio

Market + Kitchen

In 2008, the owners of Hotel Congress opened Maynards Market + Kitchen inside the station building.

Maynards Market

Maynards Agave

The Market part of that equation is open all day with lots of patio seating and a take-out counter for items like coffee, sandwiches, and baked goods. They also sell wine and local gourmet food products. (If you’re from the Phoenix area, think Liberty Market or La Grande Orange, and you’re on the right track.)

Maynards Market wine

Next to it is the Kitchen, a sit-down restaurant open only for dinner, happy hour, and Sunday brunch. It is unfussy and elegant with salvaged train and rail parts repurposed seamlessly into the decor as subtle nods to the building’s history.

Maynards door

Brunch goes until 2pm, which is nice, especially since Hotel Congress is popping until the wee hours of the morning. Non-morning-person-ness aside, it gave us time to check out of the hotel and catch a film screening (The Arizona International Film Festival happened to be going on that weeekend, as well.)

Maynards

From our table, we could see the window-level garden planted just outside and watch little white butterflies dance around the flowers.

I ordered the braised greens/lump crab/crème fraîche omelet – and enjoyed every bite. To really taste the flavors of the garden, I also had the (very, very lightly) dressed greens. Oh, and a delicious coffee from neighboring Caffe Luce Coffee Roasting Co.

Maynards Kitchen

Phillip ordered a macchiato (which he liked), baked eggs (which were good but not what he expected) and bacon (which was crazy crispy).

Maynards Coffee

The signature baked egg dish from sister restaurant Cup Cafe comes in a small cast iron skillet. Perhaps because the menu said “broiled,” Phillip thought they’d be more like fried eggs, but they are cooked solid all the way through. The eggs, spinach, mushrooms, and leeks are buried under a layer of cream, wine, and gruyère. He was surprised by it but liked it and said the flavors blended well.

Maynards Baked Eggs

As for the bacon, I don’t know if they always cook it to that level of crispness, but Phillip regretted not specifying how he liked it and ended up just crumbling it on top of his eggs.

Maynards Salad

Both of our dishes came with downright addictive breakfast potatoes, fruit, housemade English muffins, and this incredible orange-rhubarb jam.

Maynards Garden

Garden + Grove

The garden out the window is where Maynards Kitchen sources herbs, seasonal vegetables, edible flowers, and citrus. It’s hard to get more locally grown than that!

Maynards garden

Maynards Garden

Chef Brian Smith was kind enough to take us out to the garden and point out the citrus trees, cornstalks, three varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and colorful, diamond-shaped plantings of lettuces, kale, violas, nasturtiums, pansies, parsley, chives, basil, peppers, and probably other herbs and greens I’m forgetting.

Chef Brian

The garden is new, planted in an unused plot of ground earlier this year. And they are still experimenting, finding what works best where they are, incorporating what’s in season into their dishes in new ways. (Orange blossom dressing, anyone?)

image

Like Tucson, the garden is flourishing, and whether you get there by road or by rail, Maynards Market + Kitchen is worth a stop.

Maynards


Next Agave Heritage Festival events in Downtown Tucson:

  • May 4, 6pm: Tucson City of Gastronomy Seminar at Maynards Market & Kitchen Drawing Room. $15
  • May 4, 7pm: Mezcal and Chocolate Pairing Seminar at Maynards Market & Kitchen Drawing Room. $15
  • May 4, 7pm: Mezcrawl at participating bars in Downtown Tucson. $25-40



We were guests of Hotel Congress and Maynards Market + Kitchen.

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Banh Mi

Posted by on Apr 3, 2017 in Craft, Travel | 6 comments

When we moved, we found ourselves near a place with great banh mi, which are Vietnamese sandwiches on French bread with these marinated vegetables and thinly sliced meats. It’s a beautiful blending of cultures.

Banh mi vietnamese sandwich

My brother Ian says the many banh mi places in Seattle all seem to charge exactly $3.98 for a sandwich. As with many things, they’re even cheaper here in Phoenix. It’s a lotta deliciousness for your buck.

Have you tried banh mi? Do you have a favorite spot near you?




Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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Bartlett Lake Marina

Posted by on Mar 9, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Bartlett Lake

Don’t believe the rumors. The road to Bartlett Lake Marina is definitely paved.

Bartlett Lake Road

I couldn’t help laughing when I learned that some guidebooks still list it as being rough and “unimproved,” like you’re blazing a trail through the wilderness. We had just made the drive – it’s an actual road, just like the highway we turned off to get there. You don’t need to machete your way through the undergrowth. You don’t even need 4-wheel drive.

Bartlett Lake

Reservoir

This perfectly good road takes you all the way to the marina parking lot, winding through beautiful desert hills until you finally spot blue water in the distance.

Bartlett Lake marina

Like many Arizona lakes, Bartlett is technically a reservoir, formed by damming part of the Verde River. Besides watersports, there’s hiking, camping, and wildflower viewing in the area, which is about an hour outside of Phoenix (half an hour from Cave Creek).

Bartlett Lake Marina Restaurant

The reservoir is part of Tonto National Forest, but the marina, general store, and restaurant are owned and operated by one entrepreneurial extended family.

Sarah Church at Bartlett Lake Marina

“We built every single thing you see,” Sarah Church, the self-proclaimed Matriarch of the Marina, told me, motioning from the restaurant patio to covered boat storage.
Bartlett Lake Marina
Phillip and I were part of a group invited to check out the new restaurant, The Last Stop, and take a ride on a rental boat. (Mr. Cheeseface stowed away too.)

Bartlett Lake Marina Restaurant

Restaurant

At lunch, we sampled cheeseburger sliders, grilled chicken sandwiches, pulled pork, regular and sweet potato fries, onion rings, and mac-and-cheese bites.

Bartlett Lake Marina Food

The clear favorites at our table were the pulled pork and the onion rings, followed by the sliders and fries.

Bartlett lake Beer

They offer a list of Arizona beers. Phillip liked the Scorpion Amber Ale by Lake Havasu-based Mudshark Brewery.

Bartlett Lake Marina Mousse

The winner, however, was dessert. Daily specials vary, but we got to try the mocha mousse, which was light and caramely and delicious. We’ve considered making the drive just for dessert (and a lake view, of course).

Bartlett lake Boat

Rentals

Afterwards, we all headed down a long pier and boarded a couple boats.

Bartlett lake Boat

Phillip and I joined the group on the 45-foot Party Yacht. It can carry up to 20 people, has seating on 2 decks, a bar, barbecue, speakers, and a water slide.

Bartlett lake Boat slide

Wouldn’t be fun to have a cookout in the middle of a lake?!

Bartlett Lake Marina Boat waterslide

The boat felt very sturdy and just rocked gently when the occasional waves rolled under it. We were there on a weekday, so everything was pretty quiet. It was neat to take in the view of the rocky hills that line the lake from the marina to the dam.

Party Yacht speakers

Besides the Party Yacht, you can rent pontoon boats, speed boats, or jet skis. There aren’t boat tours at Barlett Lake, unless you make your own.

Bartlett Lake Marina Boat

We enjoyed our time at Bartlett Lake and headed back down the (definitely paved) road contented.

Bartlett Lake

– More Bartlett Lake info –

  • The Last Stop Restaurant is open Friday through Sunday, 11am to 5pm or later.
  • Boat rentals: Party Yacht (full day) $1295. Pontoon Boat (half or full day) $295-425. Jet Ski (by the hour or day) $95-280.
  • Directions: Make sure you’re headed to Bartlett Lake Marina or Bartlett Lake Boat Club. Owner Bryan Church said GPS has lead some people to the wrong location and recommends calling if you need directions (602.316.3378).



Thank you to Bartlett Lake Marina for hosting us and RSVP & Associates for the invitation.

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7 Vegas Things to Do Off the Strip

Posted by on Dec 30, 2016 in Craft, Travel | 0 comments

UNLV

When we took our road trip to Las Vegas, our brief Bellagio Fountains visit was the most time we spent on the (in)famous Strip, where the supersized casino-resort properties (and, yep, lots of places for weddings) are clustered.

Sangria at firefly

Instead, we played retro arcade games, found some art, explored the desert, and ate some really good food.

Seven magic mountains

So, if ginormous casinos aren’t your thing, read on for awesome places to go in Downtown, near UNLV, and outside of the city altogether.

Bin 702

Downtown Las Vegas

Just north of The Strip is Downtown Las Vegas, which was built first, with casinos along its historic Fremont Street in the wild west days before Nevada was even a state.

Today Downtown includes the area between Washington Avenue and Sahara Avenue, Valley View Boulevard and Eastern Avenue. There is an effort underway to make it more welcoming and walkable, as well as focused on arts and small businesses.

You can still find casinos downtown too. Several of them are linked by the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian walkway, such as Binion’s (home to a free-pull slot machine) and Golden Nugget (home to a waterslide that goes through a shark tank).

Downtown Las Vegas

Downtown Parking

There are several paid parking lots in the Downtown area.

If you’re parking or staying on The Strip, you can take the Deuce bus from there to Downtown. ($8 fare for unlimited rides during a 24-hour period.)

Downtown Las Vegas - Container Park

1. Stroll through Downtown Container Park.

What it is: Three storeys of shipping containers repurposed into locally-owned stores and restaurants surrounding a central plaza and Treehouse playground.

Where: 707 Fremont Street, Las Vegas

Parking: Llama Lot and Fremont Street Experience parking garage (mentioned above) are each about .25 mile away, and you’ll save a few bucks over the Container Park’s own lot ($3/hour). Less money parking means more for things like cheese boards and bath bombs.

Hours:

Shopping Center –

Monday – Thursday: 11am to 9pm
Friday – Saturday: 10am to 10pm
Sunday: 10am to 8pm

Restaurants + Bars –

Monday – Thursday: 11am to 11pm
Friday – Saturday: 10am to 1am
Sunday: 10am to 11pm

Downtown Las Vegas - Natural Earth Cosmetics
We liked…

  • Art Box for jewelry and artwork from 35 local artists.
  • Natural Earth Cosmetics has handmade natural bath products and cosmetics, knit wash mitts, and other unique gift items – most of it handmade by the owner Michaela.
  • Bin 702 for delicious and adorable montaditos (mini-sandwiches).

Downtown Las Vegas Container Park
Tips:

  • Phillip wanted me to remind you not to miss the second and third floors. There is more food, more jewelry, clothing, and a cool pet store with reptiles, fish, and seahorses.
  • On the second floor next to The Perch, there’s what looks like a gallery container with a few places to sit, some local artwork, and a view overlooking the courtyard and stage. It may actually be the smoking section and not a gallery. However, when we were there, people were hanging out, eating, and watching the costume contest happening on stage, but I don’t remember seeing anyone actually smoking.
  • The Fire Mantis sculpture in front of the entrance periodically lights up, plays music, and shoots flames from its antennae.
  • Kappa Toys has their own custom pogs and slammers.

Downtown Las Vegas Container Park

2. Find restored historic signs in Downtown’s outdoor Urban Gallery.

What it is: As far as I can tell, this is not a single spot but several outdoor installations.

Nine of the Neon Museum’s vintage signs have been restored to working order and installed around Downtown, including at the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian walkway. Since they’re outside on public streets, you can visit them anytime. Just download a map of their locations and go on a self-guided tour.

Along the way, you’ll probably spot other public art like Bordalo II’s Meerkat mural on the side of an old bus or the world’s largest working fire hydrant in front of a doggy daycare center.

Downtown Las Vegas

Where: Downtown Las Vegas, especially around Las Vegas Boulevard (See PDF map.)

Parking: Fremont Street Experience parking garage or any of the Downtown Parking options above.

Hours: Always open.

Cost: Free.

Xeriscape

Around UNLV

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) is east of The Strip and directly north of McCarran International Airport. One of the items below is actually on campus, while the other two are nearby.

Barrick Museum UNLV

3. Visit the Marjorie Barrick Museum at UNLV.

What it is: Small art museum with rotating exhibits inside a former gymnasium.

Where: 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas

Parking (PDF map):

  • Lot I (metered, $1/hour, right outside Musuem)
  • Visitor Lot V (metered, $1/hour)
  • Lot S (free, about 0.7 mile from Museum)

Hours:

Monday – Friday: 9am to 5pm (Thursdays until 8pm)
Saturday: 12 to 5pm
Closed Sundays

Cost: Free. Suggested contribution: $5.

UNLV

We liked…

Current exhibitions –

  • In Transition: Ceramic figurines of women in different stages of life from pre-columbian Mesoamerica, South America, and Central America. September 6 – March 30, 2017.
  • Edward Burtynsky: Oil: Photo series on the effects of oil extraction and consumption around the world. September 23 – January 14, 2017.

The ArtBar, where you can create your own art in response to the work on display.

A xeriscape entry garden wraps around the outside of the building with pathways through desert plants.

 

Pinball Hall of Fame

4. Play games at the Pinball Hall of Fame.

What it is: Not-for-profit, volunteer-run arcade of working (mostly) vintage pinball machines and games like Pac-man, Tetris, and Star Wars.

Where: 1610 E. Tropicana, Las Vegas (North side of Tropicana between Maryland Parkway and Eastern Avenue, about 1.5 mi from The Strip.)

Parking: Free lot on-site.

Hours:

Sunday – Thursday: 11am to 11pm
Friday – Saturday: 11am to 12am

Cost: Free entrance. Games are 25 cents to $1.

Pinball

We liked…

  • Playing pinball! We enjoyed the analog machines, as well as the newer movie- and t.v.-themed ones (The Lord of the Rings, Gilligan’s Island, etc.).
  • Indulging our nostalgia for video games we grew up with.
  • Phillip found some quirky old mechanical games, including one where you fly this little metal spaceship and one with a dancing clown that creeped me out.

Vintage arcade game

Tips:

  • Machines are old and finicky and may eat your quarters. Let the attendant behind the counter know which game it is right away, and they’ll attempt to fix it or refund you.
  • There are change machines near the back.
  • Contrary to rumors that they’re about to close, the Pinball Hall of Fame is actually in the process of expanding into a bigger facility down the street.

Firefly tapas

5. Enjoy small plates at FiREFLY* Tapas Kitchen & Bar

Where: 3824 Paradise Road, Las Vegas

Parking: Free lot on-site.

Hours:

Monday – Thursday: 11:30am to 1am (Happy hour 3pm – 6pm, 11pm – 1am)
Friday – Saturday: 11:30am to 2am
Sunday: 10am to 1am (Brunch 10am – 2pm)

Firefly tapas

We liked…

  • Sangria, croquettes, bacon-wrapped dates, merguez – everything was so good and reminded me of the flavors of Spain!
  • We ordered a few (5ish) tapas to share. The small plates were great for sampling a variety of things and made a great lunch.

Outside of Town

Red Rock Las Vegas

6. Explore Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Where: 3205 State Route 159, Las Vegas

Parking: Free lot on-site.

Hours:

Visitors center –
Daily 8am to 4:30pm

Scenic drive –
Daily 6am to 5pm

Cost: $7/vehicle for entry to Visitors Center and scenic drive. Red Rock Scenic Overlook is outside of the fee area, so I believe it’s free to stop there.

Red Rock

We liked…

  • 45-minute scenic drive loop with plenty of places to stop, check out the view, hike, or picnic (see below).
  • Visitors Center with a great picture window and extensive exhibits outside.

Tips:

  • There’s a desert tortoise habitat outside the Visitors Center, when it’s not too cold for them.
  • We had no cell service out there.
  • While the scenic drive was beautiful at every turn, if you were suuuper pressed for time, you could at least stop at Red Rock Scenic Overlook. You won’t get to see everything, but it would be better than missing out altogether.

We had hoped to squeeze in a quick hike and/or picnic, so I picked out a few options, and then didn’t have time to do either. Anyway, here’s what I found.

Red Rock, Nevada

Easy hikes (and trail map numbers)

  • Overlook Trail (22): Paved, wheelchair-accessible path leading to the top of a small hill with a view of Red Rock Canyon. 0.25 mi.
  • Lost Creek Children’s Discovery Trail (8): Goes from the Lost Creek parking area to a seasonal waterfall. 0.7 mi.
  • Moenkopi Loop (1): Loop from the visitor center with fossils and panoramic views of the Wilson Cliffs. 2 mi.

Red rock

Picnic areas:

There are 4, and all have tables, trash cans, and nearby restrooms.

  • Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center Picnic Area: West of the Visitors Center parking area (with access to Moenkopi and Calico Hills trails).
  • Willow Springs Picnic Area: About halfway around the Scenic Drive (with access to Lost Creek and other trails).
  • Red Rock Scenic Overlook Picnic Area: On State Route 159 with access to Red Rock Scenic Overlook Trail. Some covered tables.
  • The Red Spring Picnic Area: On State Route 159 on Calico Basin Road, two miles east of the Visitors Center. Covered tables.

Seven magic mountains vegas

7. Drive out to Seven Magic Mountains.

30-foot-tall stacks of neon-painted boulders in the desert, a large-scale art installation by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone on display through May 2018.

Where: 10 miles (about 30 minutes) south of Las Vegas off I-15 near Jean Dry Lake.

  • Take Exit 25 at Sloan Rd.
  • It’s on the way to Los Angeles.
  • If you’re headed to Phoenix or just about anywhere else, it’s not on the way, but we thought it was worth the detour!

Parking: Free lot on-site.

Hours: Daily, sunrise to sunset (recommended).

Cost: Free.

Seven Magic Mountains Las Vegas

We liked…

  • Seeing the vibrant colors against the muted landscape.
  • Experiencing art large enough to crush us.

Seven magic mountains

Tips:

  • You can get some background information from either the signage near the parking lot or by calling (702) 381-5182 (English or Spanish).
  • There are no restrooms, water, tables, benches, shelters/shade covers, or anything else on the site. Just you, the art, and the elements in the open desert.
  • The closest public restrooms are 5 miles away in the town of Jean.
  • It was very windy the day we were there. A woman showed up with a yoga mat but didn’t stay long because it was so dusty. Plan for the weather. Don’t plan on doing yoga.

French pastry

Bonus

A few more Off-Strip eatery options:

  • Delices Gourmands French Bakery (3620 W. Sahara Avenue, Las Vegas) – Stopped here for a pastry and coffee.
  • The Sparklings (8310 S. Rainbow Boulevard, Ste. 100, Las Vegas) – This is where our friend’s wedding was, so we didn’t visit during normal restaurant hours, but it seemed like a neat place.
  • KJ Kitchen (5960 Spring Mountain Road, Chinatown, Las Vegas) – Our Las Vegas friends’ pick for “real Chinese food.”

There are also lots of places to stay that aren’t on The Strip. We opted for a great little Airbnb casita rental near Red Rock. [UPDATE: You can get $35 off your first Airbnb stay and help us keep traveling by signing up via my referral page.] 

image


What are your Off-Strip tips?

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