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Make a Mt. Lemmon Day Trip

Posted by on Apr 7, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Mount Lemmon wildlowers

You start in the Tucson heat surrounded by saguaros. An hour (or so) and a few thousand feet in elevation later, you can be sitting among spruce trees in air cool enough to not melt the chocolate chips of the oversized cookie in front of you.

Summerhaven tables

Welcome to Mount Lemmon, a 9000-foot peak in the Santa Catalina Mountain Range.

Mount Lemmon view

Drive the Sky Island Scenic Byway (also called the Mt. Lemmon Highway, the Catalina Highway, and – officially – the General Hitchcock Highway) through beautiful landscape and six (6!) different climate zones.

Mt. Lemmon

Mt Lemmon

Then you can hike or picnic or ride the year-round ski lift. (Yes, it gets cold and snowy enough in the winter for skiing up there!)

Mt Lemmon trail

When Phillip and I and my parents went, we stopped at a picnic area (Box Elder, I think-?) before driving to the parking lot at end of the road and taking a little hike from there.

Mt. Lemmon

Along the way is the town of Summerhaven, a one-and-a half mile high city that caters to visitors seeking shelter from sweltering Tucson summers.

Cookie Cabin

It’s also home to the giant cookies of Cookie Cabin. Four of us split one sampler cookie. There was literally a line out the door but plenty of nice outdoor seating.

Mount Lemmon cookie

I taught my dad how to use the Hyperlapse app, so we could take timelapse videos of the drive up. You can see the dramatic changes of scenery compressed into two minutes.


Mount lemmon

– More Mt. Lemmon info –

  • Be prepared to pack out your own trash.
  • Ski lift – The “sky ride” to the summit lasts about half an hour. Off-season (summer) adult tickets are $12/ride. Winter lift tickets are $45/day. Details at skithelemmon.com.
  • Keep the high altitude in mind when you’re planning hiking or other activities.
  • We were there in mid-August, right at the end of the summer wildflower season.

image

Scenic Drive:

Mt. Lemmon - Ski Valley

Fees:

  • Many places you can park on Mount Lemmon require a pass, including the visitor center, picnic areas, etc.
  • You can purchase a Coronado Recreation Pass on the mountain at the Palisades Visitor Center or buy one before you go.
  • Passes are available at several locations, including the Coronado National Forest Supervisor’s Office at 300 W. Congress near Downtown Tucson.
  • Day passes are $5 per vehicle. ($10 for a weekly pass.)
  • Instead of worrying about which specific places require it, consider just getting a day pass in town before you make the drive. It’s only 5 bucks and helps to support the forest.

Mount Lemmon

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Good Times at Monticello (part 2)

Posted by on Mar 30, 2017 in Travel | 2 comments

Monticello

Let’s say you read last week’s post on Monticello, and now you’re ready to plan a trip.

On the positive side, there’s so much good info on their site. On the challenging side, there’s so. much. info.

So here’s the breakdown on admission and tour options and when to be where – the stuff that confused me when I was first planning to visit Monticello.

Monticello visitor center display

Getting In: How Much Is Admission?

Unlike a museum with optional tours, there’s not a general admission that lets you just wander around Monticello. Instead, you purchase a timed tour ticket that also acts as your day pass.

Tours vary based on what they cover and cost. The most basic, most popular one is the Monticello Day Pass and House Tour ($20-28, see below).

 

Monticello house model

Which Tour to Choose?

All Monticello Day Passes/Tour Tickets include:

image

You’ll want to find a tour that fits your interests, schedule, mobility, and the time of year you’re visiting, so here are summaries to help you sort it all out.

Tours Offered Year-round:

Monticello Day Pass and House Tour – This is the main tour, and it takes you through the first (ground) floor of Monticello.

  • 30-40 minutes
  • Wheelchair accessible. (Small strollers are also allowed.)
  • Adults: $20-28, Children (ages 5-11): $9

Behind the Scenes House Tour and Day Pass – Tour of the first, second and third floors, including the Dome Room.

  • The upper floors are not wheelchair accessible.
  • Not recommended for children under 7.
  • $48-60.

Monticello Neighborhood Pass – Combination ticket that includes Monticello Day Pass and House Tour, Ash-Lawn Highland admission and tour (home of fifth U.S. President James Monroe), and the Michie Tavern ca. 1784 Tour.

  • Save up to $6 on adult passes, if you visit all 3 sites.
  • If you only plan to visit 2 of the sites, buying tickets individually is a better deal.
  • I was not able to confirm whether you have to visit all 3 sites in one day.
  • Adults: $34-43, Children (ages 5-11): $19

Touch Tours for blind / seeing impaired individuals or groups are available by advance appointment.

Monticello Private Guide – Tour for 1-8 people, which includes the Dome Room and the gardens and grounds or museum galleries. Tailored to your interests.

  • Call (434) 984-9884 at least two weeks before your visit to schedule your tour. Subject to availability.
  • 3 hours
  • 1-4 people: $600, 5-8 people: $750-1200

Monticello garden sprouts

Tours Offered Seasonally or on Select 2017 Dates:

Hemings Family Tour – Interactive tour of the House and Mulberry Row that centers around stories of seven members of the Hemings Family.

  • February – November, Friday through Sunday
  • 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Not wheelchair accessible.
  • Not recommended for children under 12.
  • $27-30

Family Friendly Tour – House Tour with hands-on activities geared toward children ages 5-11.

  • April 3 – 23, June 10 – September 4, October 7 – 9, December 26 – 30
  • 40 minutes
  • Wheelchair accessible.
  • Adults: $20-28, Children (ages 5-11): $9

Walk-Through Tours – Alternative to Monticello House Tour with guides stationed in each room.

  • April 14 – 15, May 27 – 28, June 3 – 4, July 1 – 2, September 9, October 7 – 8, November 26
  • Wheelchair accessible.
  • Adults: $20-25, Children (ages 5-11): $9
  • Add 30-minute Upper Floors Tour on these dates: +$25

Hamilton Tour Takeover – Interactive House tour that contrasts the ideas of Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, followed by a moderated discussion.

  • April 7, 28-29; May 6, 12 – 13, 19; September 15 – 16, 22 – 23, 29 – 30
  • 1 hour
  • $40

Jefferson

How to buy passes?

  • In-person at the Dominion Welcome Pavilion, subject to availability. Plan to wait in line.
  • Online and print out yourself – This gives you more choices of tour times, plus you can skip the lines when you arrive. Under delivery options, select “print at home” at checkout. As far as I know, only paper tickets are accepted.
  • Online and pick them up at Will Call – If you don’t have access to a printer or don’t want to worry about losing/forgetting tickets, you can select “Will Call” under delivery options at checkout. You may have a small wait for Will Call, but otherwise you get the same benefits as above.

Regardless of whether you print or pick up, purchasing online saves you about 10% on adult passes. You can buy tickets online from maybe 3 months in advance up until midnight the day before you visit.

Monticello

Other Event Tickets:

Tickets for other events at Monticello may not include a House Tour/Day Pass. To attend a Harvest Tasting Tour (offered weekends May – October), for example, you’d need to purchase one of the Day Passes above plus a ticket for the tasting tour itself ($15). There are also a la carte workshops (which we sometimes feature on our Happenings List) like Get to Know Your Trails on April 1 ($18) or Toddler Time, the third Saturday of each month ($10).

Monticello

When Should I Arrive?

Even if you’ve already purchased and printed your pass, you can’t just roll up to the parking lot at tour time. It takes time to get up to the House. Here’s the “Last-Minute Monticello” list of the minimum time Monticello recommends you allow each step of the way.

Last-minute Monticello:

  • Arrival – At least 30 minutes before tour time (1 hour if you plan to watch the introductory film)
  • Shuttle – Board at least 15 minutes before tour time. (Shuttles arrive every 5-10 minutes.)
  • In front of the House (East Walk) – 5 minutes before tour time.

Allow additional time during peak travel times (weekends, holidays, etc.).

If you are pressed for time, you can check out the visitor center exhibits after your tour.  (This is what we did, because we were really tight on time.) However, arriving at least an hour before your tour allows you to get some context before going up to the House.

The Monticello Mellow itinerary is my suggestion for a less rushed way to take it all in.

 

Monticello

 


Monticello Mellow

A mid-morning tour time would allow you to explore the visitor center and get up to the mountaintop before the most crowded part of the day (11am – 3pm).

  • Arrival – 1-2 hours before tour time. Park, pick up tickets (if needed), see the introductory film, and visit exhibits.
  • Shuttle/walk – 30-40 minutes before tour time be at the shuttle stop or walk (.5 mile) up to the mountaintop.
  • If you get to the mountaintop with time to spare before your tour, check out the dependencies, cellar, fish pond, or hang out on the West Lawn. You may want to set an alarm so you dont get so engrossed that you miss your tour!
  • At the East Walk of the House – 5-10 minutes before your tour, find your way to the staging area for your ticket group. Check with a guide to make sure you’re at the right spot.
  • House Tour lasts approximately 30 minutes.
  • Afterwards, explore the rooms below the House and Mulberry Row.
  • From April to October, there are additional tours offered that are included with admission, no reservation required. If time allows, check out the Garden and Grounds and/or Slavery Tours.
  • When you’re ready to head back down the mountain, you can check out the Monticello graveyard (the shuttle stops there on the way back) and/or any exhibits you missed at the visitor center.
  • Have lunch at the cafe, drive over to Michie Tavern, or pack a picnic.

Monticello fog

You could probably spend most/all of the day at Monticello if you wanted to. Or, spend a few hours there then take a hike, tour another historic site (both Ash-Lawn Highland and the tour at Michie Tavern are included in the Monticello Neighborhood Pass), visit at vineyard, or just chill in Charlottesville.


We were guests of Monticello.

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Our Time at Monticello (part 1)

Posted by on Mar 23, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Monticello

The fog had started rolling in as we wound through the woods on the way to Monticello and had thickened by the time we were standing outside the House itself. It obscured the view, swallowing up all but the nearest trees. We stood on the side of the House away from the waning crowds, and, for a few moments, it was as quiet as if we were the only ones in the world. As if we had traveled back in time. As if, at any moment, we would hear approaching hoof beats and see Thomas Jefferson emerging through the white-gray veil.

Monticello

Even in his day, visitors to the House would not have been unusual. In fact, Monticello had already become a tourist attraction during the former president’s lifetime [audio].

People touring the U.S. or who wanted to learn more about Jefferson stopped at his Charlottesville, Virginia home frequently enough that they strained the resources of both the residence and the residents.

Monticello

Today, people continue to stop there for many of the same reasons as those early admirers – although a visit no longer comes with free wine or overnight lodging.

The House and plantation buildings continue to perch atop their hill (a.k.a. the “mountaintop”) with orchards, vineyards, and gardens stretching out across the landscape.

Nearly 100 years ago, a foundation was set up to maintain the House and the grounds, continue research, and manage the steady flow of visitors. In keeping with Jefferson’s ardor for order, the whole place still runs like clockwork.

Thomas Jefferson at Monticello

Places you can visit at Monticello:

Monticello visitor center

1. Visitors Center

The entry point for contemporary visitors is a complex of buildings at the bottom of the hill. The Rubenstein Visitor Center, Smith Education Center, Milstein Theater, Smith Gallery, gift shop, and cafe all form kind of a square around a central courtyard.

Visitor center exhibits take a variety of forms: models of Monticello, a projection of key Jeffersonian ideas, hands-on activities for kids, explanations of Monticello’s architecture, and interactive LCD screens about liberty.

Monticello

At the far end of the square, there’s a shuttle stop with a covered waiting area. Shuttles arrive every 5-10 minutes to take you to the mountaintop, parking you directly in front of the East Walk to the House. You can also walk the half mile (25 minutes) to the top. Either way, make sure you have your ticket first.

If you haven’t already purchased and printed out your pass, you pick it up at the Dominion Welcome Pavilion on your way in from the parking lot.

Monticello house

2. The House

When the shuttle dropped us off for our House Tour, there were still crowds of people around the East Portico, waiting for their tour time.

You need a timed ticket to go inside Monticello.

Monticello

While we waited for our tour, we saw how the guides work in sync to keep groups staggered just the right distance apart. Once a tour headed inside, the next one began right there on the front-porch-like portico, while the following one was gathered off to the side.

We saw two different guides’ introductions. They each had their own style but were very knowledgeable and passionate about the place and its history.

The main house tour is wheelchair accessible, but you need to be in a chair that meets a certain size requirement. If not, you can borrow one of theirs. Even though some of the spaces are tight, the guides know exactly how to navigate through and are very helpful, making sure everyone on the tour is taken care of.

Monticello bookshelf

A few objects that stood out:

  • The Great Clock has faces inside and outside and a system of balancing weights that also show the day of the week. The days were listed down the wall and, due to a miscalculation, had to extend down through the floor into the cellar. It is still wound weekly [video].
  • Books – Jefferson’s entire collection went to help re-establish the Library of Congress after it was burned down during the War of 1812. The original volumes are still in D.C. on exhibit at the Library of Congress (Southwest Pavilion, 2nd Floor, Thomas Jefferson Building). So Monticello curators have stocked the Book Room’s shelves with other copies of the titles he owned that were published around the same time.
  • Jefferson’s bed was wedged into an alcove between two of his private rooms, as a space saving measure, and he would sleep sitting up. (I’m not convninced it actually saved space, but Jefferson was really into putting beds into alcoves.)
  • Polygraph – clever writing implement used to make copies.
  • Wine dumb waiter – contraption to bring bottles straight up from the wine cellar into the dining room (and the fixture in the House I may be most jealous of).

Monticello
To visit the second and third floors, you would need to purchase a Behind the Scenes Tour (or Upper Floors Tour) ticket ahead of time and be able to navigate a steep staircase.

Monticello

3. The Plantation Community and Grounds

Before or after your tour, you can check out the self-guided areas of the mountaintop.

Monticello

Walk through either the North or South Cellar Passage to go under the House. You can see food preparation and storage areas and wander into the wine cellar to find where the dumb waiter lands.

Monticello wine cellar

I should note that present-day Monticello does not shy away from – but certainly doesn’t condone – the fact that many of Jefferson’s workers were enslaved people. The introductory film even addresses the paradox that such an advocate for freedom also denied it to people on his own estate.

Monticello

In recent years, Monticello has moved to provide more information about the entire community who lived there along with Jefferson, highlighting the skills of the craftspeople, adding exhibits about enslaved individuals, and creating a Slavery at Monticello app. There’s also a House Tour option that focuses on the Hemings family, and all Day Passes include the option of an additional Slavery at Monticello tour.

Monticello kitchen

We did not venture into the grayness to find Mulberry Row or get off the shuttle at the Monticello Graveyard stop that already-dark evening, opting instead to head back to the warmth of the visitors center.

Monticello tree

As much as we enjoyed the romance of our fog-cloaked winter visit, condensation droplets hanging on bare branches like tiny glass ornaments, we hope to visit again on a clearer day, when leaves are back on the trees, and we have the luxury of a little more time.

Monticello

 




More info

  • Monticello is open 364 days a year (closed Christmas Day)
  • Parking is free.
  • Monticello is a short drive from Charlottesville, and there are a variety of lodging options there, incuding the Omni where we stayed and the Oakhurst Inn near UVA.
  • Your tour/day pass is your admission ticket. Adult passes start at $20.
  • Monticello is not a National Park. The House and 2500 acres (of the original 5000) are owned and maintained by a non-profit organization without federal or state funding.

Photos

No photos are allowed inside the house, due to certain items being on loan from other institutions or individuals.

You can also get a glimpse of what the tour is like and a close-up of some of Monticello’s objects and features in videos by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. There are also 360 views of rooms on the first floor, as well as an image gallery on Monticello.org.

Planning

If your schedule allows it, I’d recommend planning on at least half a day there. Visit Charlottesville suggested visiting Monticello in the morning, having lunch at Michie Tavern, and then visit another historical site (like Ash-Lawn Highland) in the afternoon.

I’ll have more itinerary recommendations for you next week, plus tips for picking your tour and planning your time.

Monticello


We were guests of Monticello.

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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.] 

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