Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Wynn & Encore ~ Las Vegas!



































     The Wynn & Encore!
     The Wynn and Encore are two of my favorite places in Las Vegas.  The Wynn was constructed about a decade ago and the Encore was completed a couple years later.  These twin casino resort towers have since become a landmark and symbol of Las Vegas excellence.  The Wynn Resort Complex is one of the 10 largest resorts and it has won more Forbes 5 Star Awards than any other casino resort in the world.  
     The Wynn and Encore look alike from the outside, but that is where many of the similarities end.  Both towers are luxury resorts on a grand scale, but the Encore Resort's decor and entertainment venue is slightly more eccentric than what is found inside The Wynn.  I do say "slightly" more eccentric, because initially The Wynn Resort set an all time high standard for eclectic design themes when this resort was unveiled!
     As everybody knows, Steve Wynn is not your average conservative minded billionaire.  Steve Wynn is a great casino developer and he takes great pride in incorporating artistic elements when designing a casino facility.  Shocking elegance to an extreme is how some folks describe The Wynn Casino design work, but the truth is that this man's groundbreaking vision is just a little bit ahead of the present time.  The interior design of the Wynn Resort Complex can be compared to a modern work of art and rightly so!

     Las Vegas style sophisticated elegance is what this luxury resort is all about.  The Wynn and Encore offer every luxury amenity that one could possibly dream of.  A luxurious spa, first rate shopping and some of the best world class restaurants are just a start.  The Wynn has an elegant wedding chapel for those who want to tie the knot with refined luxury.  The Wynn also offers a challenging golf course, a superb sports book and excellent gaming in the casino that makes any guest feel like a high roller.
     The Wynn and Encore have two very different pool settings.  The Wynn pool offers relaxed sheer elegance, while the Encore Beach Club is as wild as a pool party can get!  Top DJ's headline the pool parties at the Encore Beach Club all summer long.
     Several top musical performers headline at The Wynn each year.  The Wynn also boasts two great show productions, Le Rêve and Showstoppers.  I saw Le Rêve shortly after The Wynn opened its doors.  All I can say is that Le Rêve is a breathtaking acrobatic water dance show production that is like no other!

     My first visit to the Wynn was interesting to say the least.  The Wynn granted an all expense paid promotional package to the Las Vegas taxi & limo drivers, in order to promote the resort shortly after it opened.  The promo package included a luxury hotel room for 1 night, tickets for Le Rêve, a private dinner party at Tryst Night Club and a Brunch Buffet.
     I was driving taxi in Vegas back then and The Wynn grand opening promo was like a dream come true!  The view of the Las Vegas Strip from a room in The Wynn that is over 35 floors up is breathtaking in its own right, but the Le Rêve show was the icing on the cake.  Since I started my driving shift at 3:00AM, doing the free brunch buffet was not possible, so I soaked up the private dinner party opportunity at Tryst.
     Tryst is a modern Las Vegas nightclub that has to be experienced to be believed.  Tryst is located on a lagoon next to a waterfall.  Music fills the air inside the club and one step onto the veranda overlooking the lagoon provides starlit serenity from the sound of water and crickets chirping.  This classy nightclub is perfect for casually socializing with a cocktail in hand.  All I can say is that us transportation workers were thoroughly impressed with the Tryst experience.                  

     Dining options at The Wynn range from casual to world class fine dining.  Steve and Andrea Wynn are devoted vegetarians, so modern elegant vegetarian cuisine is featured at many of the restaurants in this resort.
     The Buffet at The Wynn was recently remodeled.  I have dined at The Buffet several times and the food has always been superb.  I usually pick The Buffet as my own top choice for a holiday season dinner and this year was no exception.  I recently spent a couple of days doing the Cowboy Christmas event and the Las Vegas National Finals Rodeo.  I was not sure whether I would get anymore time off from my job in Arizona, so I decided to do Christmas dinner at The Wynn about 2 weeks early.  Yes, I use any good excuse that I can think of to indulge at The Buffet!
     The garden setting of the old Wynn Buffet offered some awkward seating.  The tables used to be bunched together and the dining experience was not exactly intimate.  The recent remodeling job changed all that for the better and the all new The Buffet at The Wynn exceeds all expectations.  The dining room is now more spacious and there is an air of formal elegance.
     One thing that has not changed at The Buffet is the high food quality.  Classic international cuisine with modern presentations is par for the course at this fine gourmet buffet.  The carving station is managed like a fine dining steakhouse.  Racks of lamb and maple pork belly roast on the grill and the prime rib is fresh from the oven.  Rack of Lamb and great Prime Rib on a buffet?  That is practically unheard of in this modern age!  At The Wynn it is a reality!
     It is well worth the wait and the price to dine at The Buffet in The Wynn Casino Resort.  Just think of the Wynn Buffet as being a master chef's tasting menu event, because this is how great the food is.  By the way, the fine desserts are nothing less than angelic!

     Living it up like a high roller in Las Vegas is something that one must experience at least once in a lifetime.  If modern elegance beyond your wildest dreams is what you desire, then The Wynn & Encore Casino Resort is the place to be!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Excalibur ~ Las Vegas!

























     Excalibur!
     A gigantic romantic Medieval castle, damsels in distress and knights in shining armor!  The legend of King Arthur and his fabled sword Excalibur lives on at this Las Vegas casino resort!  
     The Excalibur has been open since 1990 and it has been one of the most popular Las Vegas vacation destinations ever since.  The Excalibur was originally designed to appeal to visitors of all ages, because back in the 1990's Las Vegas took on a family friendly theme.  The idea was to provide hotel casino facilities that were children friendly.
     The Excalibur successfully accomplished the family friendly task by providing plenty of fun entertainment for those who are not adult age.  The Fun Dungeon is a vast carnival style arcade area that is geared for children of all ages.  The latest greatest video arcade games and carnival style tests of skill can keep children entertained in the Fun Dungeon all day long.
     The Excalibur boasts a shopping mall and food court area that is children friendly too.  There is a Kids Of The Kingdom store that offers a great selection of toys.  A toned down Lick Candy Store is located in the second floor mall and the Dragons Lair is stocked full of Medieval memorabilia that appeals to people of all ages.  The food court offers plenty of select fast food options and most offer good children's menus.  
     The ultimate Excalibur experience for both children and adults takes place in The Tournament Of Kings Dinner Show.  I bought a ticket for this great Medieval production a few years back and the entertainment value was worth every penny spent.  The Tournament Of Kings is nonstop Medieval action at its best!
     The Tournament Of Kings relives the golden age of knights in shining armor battling it out on horseback.  The three course dinner is served just like how food was consumed back in the dark ages.  Dinner guests are expected to eat with their hands.  Tearing off pieces of roasted chicken and sinking the teeth in while watching a sword fight is Medieval fine dining at its best!
     Jousting and sword fights take place in the courtyard of King Arthur's Castle as the knights compete for the hand of a fair maiden.  The battles are definitely realistic and intense enough to keep spectators glued to the edge of their seat.  The good guy does not always win in this show and that adds to the Medieval style realism.  The Tournament Of Kings is Vegas style entertainment at its best!

     There is a resort corridor by the second floor mall that leads to the neighboring MGM resorts.  An express people mover beltway runs through the mile long corridor to The Luxor and Mandalay Bay.  A monorail also runs from the Excalibur to Mandalay Bay too.  The Excalibur monorail can be found near the Las Vegas Strip entrance at Excalibur.  These three resorts offer enough entertainment, shopping and dining options for a week long vacation.
     Dining in the castle is a good experience.  The Buffet at Excalibur was recently remodeled and the food quality was raised by a few notches. The atmosphere at The Buffet has a comfortable modern cafeteria kind of look and pace.  The dining area offers plenty of old fashioned booth seating and there are large family tables.  Some really good Roast Sirloin was on the menu during my brunch visit and the deserts were superb!
     One of the most famous entertaining dining experiences can be found at Dick's Last Resort in the Excalibur.  To describe what goes on at Dick's Last Resort would ruin all the fun for the uninitiated.  All I can say is be ready for some crude language, awful service and plenty of disrespect!  Employees at this bar & grill are paid to be verbally abusive funny dick heads!
     Honestly, not only the atmosphere is great at Dick's Las Resort.  The food is top notch too.  I sat at the bar and soaked up some beer with a few professional cowboys during the recent Las Vegas National Finals Rodeo.  I was hungry as could be and ordered the 14 ounce Ribeye Steak for lunch.  The cowboys and myself could not help but to stare at the awesome looking steak when it was served.  All I can say is that Dick's serves up some seriously good grub!
     If being totally embarrassed in front of dinner guests is your cup of tea, then Dick's Last Resort is the place to go!  The menu prices are moderate and the verbal abuse from the waitstaff is on the house!

     Now for the adult oriented end of the scale!  The gaming area at the Excalibur Hotel Casino is spacious beyond belief.  As far as mega-resorts are concerned, navigating the Excalibur casino floor is easy to do because the signage shows the way to all points of interest.    
     The Excalibur theme prevails on the casino floor and the decor is definitely Medieval.  There are many little lounges on the casino floor and some have band stages.  Great longtime headliner shows include the Australian Bee Gees and the famous Thunder From Down Under all male review for the ladies.  The Excalibur offers a spa, a poolside lounge and wedding chapel services for those who want to tie the knot Medieval style.
     The Excalibur offers budget minded rooms for folks that are on the go.  The luxury rooms on the top floors offer great views of The Strip and the Las Vegas Valley.  Money goes a long way, even when booking a luxury suite at this casino resort.
     The Excalibur has all the best new high tech slot machines, a large table gaming area and a cozy modern sports book.  I had some good luck playing slots and video poker during my recent visit and I actually won enough money to cover the cost of the 2 day trip!  All I can say is that the myth about tighter slot machine payouts on The Vegas Strip is not exactly true.  Where there is a high volume of gamblers, the payouts prevail and The Excalibur is always a busy casino!

     As one can see, leaving the kids at home when visiting Sin City is not necessary when booking a family oriented stay at the Excalibur Castle.  Single adults and couples that are simply looking for Medieval style wild night on the Vegas Strip like this modern resort too.  The Excalibur certainly appeals to a wide range of guests that seek good value on the Las Vegas Strip!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Grand Canyon South Rim ~ Tusayan Ruins Museum & Desert View Watchtower!



























     Grand Canyon South Rim ~ Tusayan Ruins Museum & Desert View Watchtower!
     During the morning hours till mid afternoon, the highest percentage of tourists tend to congregate near the Grand Canyon Visitors Center and Grand Canyon Village.  The parking lots are full and it can seemingly take forever to gain access to the panoramic views along the Rim Trail.  An alternative to playing the waiting game is to head elsewhere in this National Park, where the crowds of tourists have not made their way to yet.
     The Desert View Drive runs from near the Visitors Center to the East Grand Canyon National Park Gate.  The roads that lead to the East Gate on Desert View Drive run south from Glenn Canyon, Utah and the Navaho Reservation.  These roads are less traveled, so for the most part, the Grand Canyon Scenic Overlooks along Desert View Drive are less crowded and parking spots are easy to find, especially in the late afternoon.

     The Desert View Watchtower acts as a visitors center in this end of the Grand Canyon, which happens to be about 20 miles east of Grand Canyon Village.  The Desert View Watchtower was designed as a concession structure in the 1930's that offered premium views of the Grand Canyon.  The architectural design mimics towers that the Native Pueblo People built long before Europeans made their way to the west.
     Murals and Native American artifacts adorn the interior of this tower.  Taking a tour through the tower is an educational experience.  Plenty of good information about the Pueblo People and the Grand Canyon environment can be found in this historic site.
     The grounds surrounding the Desert View Watchtower have been redesigned many times through the years in an effort to provide amenities for visitors and campers.  A General Store and Gift Shop is located in this area.  Many unique Southwestern food items, Grand Canyon mementos and Native American goods can be found on the store shelves.  A full line of Prickly Pear Cactus products is stocked at the gift shop and these items are difficult to find anywhere else.
     A casual snack bar restaurant is open near the Desert View Watchtower too.  After a long day of hiking and taking in the scenery, grabbing a bite to eat sure does cure tired feet.  Yes, I simply cannot pass up classic American junk food on a tourist trap menu and I can attest to the fact that the Chili Dog at the snack bar was nothing less than awesome!
   
     Close to the Watchtower area on Desert View Drive is where the Tusayan Museum & Ruins can be found.  The Pueblo People occupied this region many centuries ago.  Surviving in this environment was not easy, because the poor soil and arid climate made farming difficult, yet the Pueblo People created unique farming techniques that allowed their civilization to flourish.
     Evidence of a Grand Canyon Puebloan community can be experienced by following the Tusayan Ruins Trail.  Remnants of stone wall food storage areas, living quarters and a Wapiti can be seen.  This is a great place to get in touch with living naturally in the Grand Canyon.  Children and adults of all ages can certainly learn a little something about the Puebloan Grand Canyon lifestyle while strolling down the Tusayan Ruins Trail.

     With all the grandeur of the vast panoramic views of the Grand Canyon National Park, it is easy to forget that this place is also a wilderness area.  There are plenty of lizards and snakes to avoid, but these little critters tend to hide off the beaten path.  Desert Ravens always let their presence be known and many other bird species put on a show while hiking in the Grand Canyon.  Even the squirrels and chipmunks run up to say hello.
     What few folks expect is to see is large wild animals while visiting the Grand Canyon.  When one least expects it, nature has a way of throwing in an occasional surprise.  While exiting through the East Grand Canyon Gates, a few young Elk decided to mosey along on the road.  Needless to say, every car came to a stop and cameras were hanging out the windows.  Capturing a good image of a wild Elk after a great day in the Grand Canyon was like putting icing on a cake!

     Autumn, winter and spring are the best seasons for sightseeing in the Desert Southwest.  This is the time of year to pack the old station wagon with camping gear and go on a Grand Canyon travel venture.  Station Wagon?  I guess that in this modern age a Sport Utility Vehicle is as close as it gets!