Sunday, May 29, 2016

Family-friendly Vegas (cont.)

On the way to Red Rock Canyon!
On our third day in Vegas, we breakfasted at La Creperie at the Paris Las Vegas. (I got a HUGE berry crepe with tons of whipped cream and a coffee. It was more like dessert, but I wasn't complaining!)

Then, we picked up our rental car (There's a Hertz rental desk at the Paris, for the most convenient option.) and navigated our way to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. It's about a 30 minute drive from the Strip, but you'll feel like you're in a different world!

We started at the on-site visitors center, where we learned all about the Mojave Desert and the plants and animals that call it home. Then, we picked up a map and had a discussion with one of the friendly rangers about which trails might be best for us. Armed with this information, we set off in the car along the 13-mile scenic loop around the park, pulling over at key trails for short hikes to slot canyons (at Sandstone Quarry), petroglyphs and water falls (near the Willow Springs picnic area).

This was a FUN day! It was great to get out of the city for a bit and see the desert. We admired panoramic views and overlooks, had a really fun time hiking a children's trail out and back (about a mile of fairly easy going, with a waterfall at the end), and just enjoying nature.

Exploring slot canyons at Red Rock
By the time we left, we were very hungry. We stopped at Marche Bacchus, a French bistro and wine shop, on the way back for a big, late lunch. It was soooo good!! I got a crab Benedict with a Casesar salad, and hubs had the lobster croissant. They were both amazing, and the pinot gris didn't hurt, either. (I almost stole the croissant. It was crazy good.) Clay happily munched gourmet chicken fingers. Feeling sated, we headed back to the hotel for a rest before our evening adventures.

We had tickets to The Beatles: Love at the Mirage, and I was stoked! Due to our late (large) lunch, we opted for snacks at the theatre instead of a big dinner, buying drinks and a large popcorn before settling into our seats. The show has been re-worked within the past year, upping the multimedia elements, and we couldn't have been more pleased with the production. Incredibly visual, incredibly emotional. I laughed and cried at times, and I wasn't even sure why. It's just a marvel of light and color and sound. It's hard to describe its impact. Even Clay was transfixed, and he has little idea who the Beatles are. A rich, sensory experience.

The next morning, we took our time getting up. We had a big, lovely brunch at Hexx Kitchen and Bar. I chose the veggie omelet. Delicious, but huge!! Then, hubs wanted to laze around some more, so Clay and I decided to do some sightseeing on the Strip. We hung a left facing the Bellagio and started walking. We poked through New York, rode a tram or two, and ended up at the Luxor. Clay wanted to ride the sideways elevators, so I obliged. Then, curious, we decided to pop into the Bodies exhibit. (We had a coupon, after all.)
The sun setting on Vegas, from the High Roller

It was completely fascinating. I was mesmerized. First of all, it's larger that I thought it would be. There are quite a few rooms, and it can take a couple of hours to do it all justice. The exhibit is organized in layers, and you start with the skeleton. Real human bones help tell the story of how our skeletons support our body, grow, and heal.

After that, you move into rooms that detail the human body's muscular structure. You learn (and see) how muscles work together to help our bodies perform complex tasks like throwing a ball. Then, it's on to the circulatory system. We identified (and saw) the four chambers of the human heart and marveled at the delicate, lacy circulatory structure that carries blood and oxygen throughout the body. (These exhibits were truly beautiful.) Then, we had the opportunity to compare healthy organs with sick ones. (Think diseased vs. healthy lungs, a normal human brain vs. one afflicted with Alzheimer's, etc.) This part of the exhibit went a LONG way toward convincing us to take good care of our organs and our bodies.

Note: There's a room here that focuses on fetal development, but I thought that a bit much for an 8-year-old, so we routed around that room. We ended up at the final full body in the exhibit - the one that has various prosthesis. My mother has had two knee replacements and a hip replacement. In this part of the exhibit, I was able to show my son exactly what grandma's knees look like under her skin. Just incredibly eye-opening and interesting. Fascinating, and so educational. I've never seen anything like it, and I will never forget it. Highly, highly recommended.

We had the High Roller pod completely to ourselves!
We met up with hubs that evening for dinner at Giada, namesake restaurant of celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis. This was a bit of a splurge for us, but the food was so good that it was hard to care. Clay had a pizzette, and hubs and I got a mix of small plates and pastas. Oh, I was in heaven! I love Italian food, and small plates are one of my favorite things to eat. I love the variety and adventure of it! We probably spent $100+ for dinner for all three of us (including drinks for hubs and I), but it was completely worth it. I'd go back again anytime.

After dinner, I had one last surprise for my little crew - tickets for the High Roller. This giant Ferris wheel hadn't even been built the last time I was in Vegas, so I was eager to give it a try. We boarded just before sunset. Because crowds were light (and, I imagine, because we were riding in the non-alcoholic pod), we had the pod all to ourselves! Over the next half hour, we watched the sun sink as all the lights of Vegas came on. We danced to the music they piped into the pod, took in the sweeping views, and just generally thanked God we were alive and able to experience such a thing. I can see myself doing this every time I'm in Vegas. A breathtaking ride.

Then, it was back to the hotel room to pack up hubs and Clay for the return trip home. My conference started in the morning, so I was spoken for during the daytime from then on. I did, however, meet up with a colleague at the Wynn for a delicious dinner at Sinatra. The dining room is beautifully appointed, and both the food and the company were delightful!

If you love Old Broadway, you'll love this show!
Before I left town, I also caught a rousing, old-Broadway performance of ShowStoppers. If you love Broadway, you'll love this show! A core group of 5 really strong singers anchors the production, complemented by an energetic (and pretty large) cast of singer/dancers and a live orchestra. These talented performers present some of Broadway's biggest "showstopper" numbers from all of your favorite musicals. My particular favorites included "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" from Guys and Dolls (tons of bright costumes and a really strong lead singer in Randal Keith), "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" from Hello, Dolly! (such cute staging!), "Razzle Dazzle" from Chicago (a song so perfect for Vegas that I cheered!), and "One" from A Chorus Line (and a beautiful chorus line, at that). The theatre is fairly small, so I can't imagine that there are many bad seats int he whole house. Rachel Tyler, one of the lead singers, has such an amazing belt voice and emotional presence that she carries all of her numbers with ease.

I so enjoyed my most recent trip to Vegas. Though I agree that Sin City is geared toward adults, we found so many fun, family-friendly things to do that I wouldn't hesitate to bring my son here again!

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