Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Monte Carlo Las Vegas Resort & Casino!

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     The Monte Carlo Las Vegas Resort & Casino!
     The Monte Carlo Casino Resort is one of many MGM properties on the Las Vegas Strip.  The Monte Carlo has always been a favorite of visitors and the locals.  Classic casual elegance is a good description of the Monte Carlo Resort theme.
     This casino touts impressive European architecture, beautiful gardens and many classic sculptures.  The design of this resort makes full use of sunlight and shadow throughout the day.  The contrast of sunlight combines with the architectural design to create a dramatic effect that spells romance.  As one can tell, the Monte Carlo is where many brides and grooms choose to tie the knot in the wedding capitol of the world, Las Vegas!    
     The $8.5 billion dollar City Center resort and casino complex by MGM Grand opened next to the Monte Carlo during the onset of the Great Recession.  I flew from my job in Chicago back home to Las Vegas for a short vacation and I attended the grand opening week of the Aria Casino Resort in City Center.  At that moment, looking at the Monte Carlo next door, I wondered how the impact of City Center would affect the Monte Carlo.  
     During visits home to Las Vegas during the following year, I noticed a new developing trend.  Many visitors of Las Vegas were choosing to stay at the comfortable classic Monte Carlo Casino Resort and then visit, gamble and shop at the modern new City Center next door.  The modest accommodation prices offered by the Monte Carlo during the economic recession presented value at that time.  
     This new found source of income benefited the Monte Carlo.  The Monte Carlo managed its own resources in a positive way and the resort did not fall into the trap of becoming a relic of the past.  New clubs, retail shops and cutting edge trendy restaurants opened on the Monte Carlo property.  Updating and upscaling the entertainment, shopping and dining venue was a smart business move that kept this resort at the top of many visitor's Las Vegas destination list.
     Well, a few years have passed since the years of the Great Recession.  I recently read an article in the Las Vegas newspaper that mention how plans are underway for more changes at the Monte Carlo.  According to the local newspaper rumor mill, apparently MGM considers the Monte Carlo to be an underutilized property.  Rumor has it that rebranding might be one of the options, but local news media statements like this usually have to be taken with a grain of salt.  Regardless, the Monte Carlo still is one of the greatest destinations on the Las Vegas Strip.  
     I have gambled, dined and shopped at the Monte Carlo a few times over the years.  The Monte Carlo hosts one of the most exciting restaurants in Las Vegas.  This restaurant is literally located on the Las Vegas Strip.  All a pedestrian on the sidewalk has to do is sidestep an unlucky black cat that crosses the path, while tripping over their own shoelaces and they will fall sideways right through the doors.  Welcome to Diablo's Cantina!
     Diablo's Cantina is an old time classic Pacific Coast style bar & grill that definitely has a Sin City theme!  One look at Diablo's in the daylight or at night is all it takes to figure out that this place is a haven for sinful indulgence.  Just do what the trident wielding horned She-Devil on top of the building says!  Give in and indulge on great Mexican food and tequila!  
     Diablo's Cantina has a great happy hour.  As one can imagine, there is a great selection of excellent signature tequila cocktails at Diablo's.  One of the best bargains during happy hour is the House Margarita, which is made with a top shelf tequila.
     My favorite signature cocktail at Diablo's is called the Chupacabra!  Everybody from Mexico knows about the demonic evil chupacabra monster.  A chupacabra is a wild blood sucking beast that feeds on goats and terrorizes humans.  This creature usually attacks in the middle of the night.  Rumor has it that the Chupacabra stalks small children too.  Many Chupacabra have been sighted in Mexico and the southwest, but none have ever been captured.  This mythical beast has a reputation of extreme terror.
     Chupacrabra is the perfect name fore a fiery signature tequila cocktail.  A Chupacabra Cocktail is a modified Margarita that is served in a hot chile pepper salt rimmed glass.  If you are a tequila fan and a fan of fiery hot chile peppers, the Chupacabra cocktail at Diablo's is a must try!
     The atmosphere at Diablo's Cantina is lively.  As the evening hours roll into the Las Vegas party zone, Diablo's takes on a night club atmosphere.  There is plenty of seating in this two story cantina.  Indoor dining is available on the first floor.  There is a patio with tables at ground level too, so you can drink and dine right on the Las Vegas Strip.  Upstairs on the second level, outdoor dining is the theme.  There is a band stage on the second floor with live musical entertainment.
     Some of the best Mexican food in Las Vegas is served at Diablo's Cantina.  I tried the Pork Chile Verde Enchiladas while I was there.  The pork was slow cooked and shredded.  The flavor was perfect!  The entrée presentation was modern too. 
     Two other Diablo's Cantina menu items worth mentioning are the Nachos and Diablo's Death Wing Challenge.  The Nacho Platter at Diablo's Cantina is absolutely gigantic!  The nacho platter is big enough to be shared by a few guests at a table.  The nachos at Diablo's is one of the best that I have ever seen in recent years.
     The Death Wing Challenge is an ultra spicy hot chicken wing eating challenge.  If you finish an order Death Wings within the time limit, prizes and fame are the reward.  The only thing is that the deck is stacked in favor of Diablo's, because Ghost Pepper Extract is used to flavor the Death Wings!  "Aye chihuahua!  Muy caliente!"
     Recommend Diablo's Cantina at the Monte Carlo is easy to do.  Las Vegas locals like the food at Diablo's and tourists simply cannot get enough of the party atmosphere!    
     The Monte Carlo has a shopping mall on the premises that hosts many trendy fashion stores, jewelers and shops that cater to every need while on vacation.  There are a few unique shops that are not commonly seen at an average mall too, like Lick-What Color Is Your Tongue?  One stop at this exotic candy store and somebody will surely ask "What color is your tongue?!!!"
     Lick-What Color Is Your Tongue? markets their wares to shoppers that seek fun exotic candy.  This shop stocks every bizarre candy creation that there is.  Every risqué adult candy in the book lines the store shelves and more!  Even stoner candies and zombie candies can be found at Lick!  Collectible classic candies can be found at Lick too!
     Without a doubt, the weirdest candy in the world is stocked at this shop in the Monte Carlo.  Some of my favorites are Bacon Mints, Stoner Mints the Bacon Strip Gummies.  Yes, they stock Boob Gummies and Penis Gummies at this store too.  Adult candies are the rage in Vegas and Lick What Color Is Your Tongue? offers a nice selection.
     Judging by the dining and shopping venue mentioned in today's travel article, it is easy to see why the Monte Carlo continues to be a prime attraction on the Las Vegas Strip.  The Monte Carlo is an exciting classic Vegas destination!  

Monday, June 29, 2015

Station Casinos, Henderson and Las Vegas!

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     Station Casinos, Henderson and Las Vegas!
     The Station Casino are a chain of hotel resorts that are located off of the Las Vegas Strip.  The Station Casinos are what is known as "Local's Casinos."  The Station Casinos primarily are marketed to the local working class and retirees.  This casino chain also markets the Station brand name to visitors of Las Vegas that have no desire to book a hotel room on the busy Las Vegas Strip or downtown.
     The Station Casinos offer full hotel resort amenities that include a buffet, several restaurants, night clubs, live entertainment, cinemas, bowling alleys and convention halls.  The casino floors are large, yet they are fairly easy to navigate.
     There are several Station Casino locations around the valley in both Henderson and Las Vegas.  The Henderson locations include the Sunset Station, Henderson Fiesta Casino and the Green Valley Ranch.  The Green Valley Ranch it touted as a luxury resort.
     Las Vegas locations include the Boulder Station, Fiesta, Palace Station, Red Rock Casino, Santa Fe Station and the Texas Station.  Out of this bunch, the Red Rock Casino in the Summerlin neighborhood is the premier luxury resort.
     There are also a few Wildfire Casinos that the Station Casino Corporation operates in the Las Vegas Valley.  These mini casinos offer no hotel amenities, but they do have good diner style restaurants.
    Every Station Casino has a Feast Buffet.  The food quality is okay.  The Feast Buffets basically offer a venue of low price working class food.  When the budget is tight, my place to go for a low bucks belly full of food is the Station Casino in my neighborhood.  Dining value is why the Feast Buffets are so popular.
     Name brand restaurants in the Station Casinos that I frequent are Fatburger, Cabo (Modern Mexican Cuisine), Villa Pizza and Tropical Smoothie Café.  I seem to do Fatburger more often than not, especially after playing cards for a few hours.  I have dined at Cabo and this restaurant offers good Mexican food that has some stylish flair.
     Every Station Casino has a formal steakhouse restaurant that offers a traditional menu.  A Grand Café is located in each of these casinos too.  The Grand Cafés are kind of like an old fashioned diner restaurant and they are open 24 hours.  The late night specials at the Grand Café are a pretty good deal.
     It would not be a Vegas style casino, unless there is a nightclub on the premises.  The casino nightclub business is highly competitive in this city and many of the nightclubs go to costly extremes to be number one in the world.  The Station Casinos chose a different marketing path.  The nightclubs in the Station Casinos each have their own theme and each Station Casino nightclub targets the working class market.
     For example, nearly everybody has a pickup truck in their driveway in Northwest Las Vegas where the Santa Fe Station is located, so it just makes sense to host a good country western style nightclub.  The Revolver Nightclub at the Santa Fe Station is one of the most happening country western hot spots in the valley.    
     The relaxed atmosphere of the casino floor is why so many locals and visitors play at the Station Casinos.  The Station Casinos offer a good player reward system that the locals like.
     Most table games start at a $5 minimum and this attracts plenty of locals that do not gamble on a high roller budget.  The sports and race books are filled each day with local players, because the sports book rewards system is better than many of the other casinos.  The poker rooms are spacious and there is plenty of action.
     As one can see, the Las Vegas Strip is not the only place where the action is.  Like the old saying goes, "When in Rome, do what the Romans do!"  Visitors of Las Vegas that want spend a few days relaxing in casual comfort can find what they seek at the locals casinos that are off of the Vegas Strip.  The Station Casinos are one of the top picks of the local crowd!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sunday Summer Concerts at The Resort On Mt Charleston!

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     A Cool Fresh Mountain Air Breeze Would Be Nice Right Now!
     There is a place to find relief from the summer heat in Las Vegas.  Head for the mountains!  Chow down on some BBQ, sip on an ice cold beer and groove to some mellow music in the cool mountain air at the Resort On Mt Charleston! 
      I published an article about the Resort On Mt Charleston some time ago.  It was snowing on the mountain that day in November.  The theme of the article was about the ski season and hearty comfort food by a warm fireplace in the resort dining room.  Photos of the interior of the resort were attached to that old article.  Basically the story was about staying warm in a cozy inside this western style mountain resort during harsh blizzard conditions.
     Summertime on Mt Charleston is the opposite extreme.  The temperatures are about 20ºF cooler than the Las Vegas Valley.  Everything is relative as far as adjusting to the extreme heat of the desert goes.  When it is 110ºF in Las Vegas, 90ºf temperatures on the mountain feel like comfortably cool springtime weather.  
     Back when I worked in Death Valley the daily temperatures exceeded 125ºF each day.  When I drove home to 90ºF weather in Las Vegas, I felt so chilly that I actually put a jacket on.  Standing around shivering with a jacket on when the temperature is 90ºF sure does look odd, but everything is relative.  All I had to do was mention that I worked in Death Valley to somebody that made smart aleck comment and they kind of understood.  
     Mountain temperatures that are 20º lower than the valley is refreshing out here in the arid desert.  A difference in 35º really shocks the senses, even in the summertime!   
     Anyway, when the winter snow skiing season is over, it is like the tourists completely overlook Mt Charleston and only the locals make their way up the big hill.  In a way this is a good thing, because the locals can find some relief from the constant high volume tourism industry down in the valley.  Elbow room is a rare commodity on a busy holiday weekend in Las Vegas, but on the mountain, peace and quiet is fairly easy to find.     
     Not everybody feels like the have the gumption for hiking steep mountain trails on Mt Charleston after working hard all week long.  Working class stiffs would rather just find a nice place to do a picnic and relax in the sun.  This is kind of what the Sunday Summer Concerts at The Resort On Mt Charleston are all about.  Lay back, cool off in the shade and breathe in the cool fresh mountain air!  This sure sounds appealing when the summer heat and dust storms plague the Vegas Valley.  This is all I can say for the sake of sanity.  Go for it!   
     For those who are cooped up in dest jobs all week, doing some physical activity in the cool mountain air on the weekend is mighty appealing.  There are plenty of hiking trails on the mountain that range from 0.3 miles to over 20 miles.  There are scenic overlooks, waterfalls and plenty of wildlife for photographers to capture.  
     During the summer season, the Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort changes its venue from winter sports to Frisbee Golf and scenic rides on the ski lift.  As one can see, there is plenty of healthy outdoor activities going on up on the mountain this time of year.
    For those who seek outdoor adventures on the mountain, the Resort On Mount Charleston can cater to your needs.  The resort offers box lunches to-go for hikers that blaze the trails.
     On the day that I attended the Sunday Concert event, a Hawaiian band was playing some mellow island music.  Las Vegas is known as the 9th island of Hawaii, because so many Hawaiians flock to this city on vacation.  Hawaiian music is primo BBQ munching music, especially when enjoying a lazy summer afternoon chill out session in the crisp clean mountain air!  
     On a side note, when I attended the Summer Concert the resort hosted a BBQ Buffet.  The food venue has since changed from a buffet to an a la carte menu of picnic food and barbecue.       
     The Resort On Mt Charleston is located at 2755 Kyle Canyon Road, just about halfway up the mountain.  There is plenty of parking spaces available in the paved lot.  The entire site is clean and well maintained.  The resort does offer good off season summer lodging rates that appeal to weekenders that just need to get away from it all.                    
     Checking out the Sunday Summer Concerts at The Resort On Mt Charleston is definitely worthwhile.  A 45 minute drive to this resort from Las Vegas, offers a cool refreshing escape to a completely different world!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mule Deer Fawns on the Mary Jane Falls Trail! ~ Mt Charleston Lodge

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     Mule Deer Fawns on the Mary Jane Falls Trail! ~ Mt Charleston Lodge
     This is a good time of the year for outdoor ventures in the Spring Mountains.  While the Las Vegas Valley is in triple digit temperatures, the air is about 20º cooler on Mt Charleston.  A drive up the mountain spells relief from the heat.
     Mt Charleston is only about a 45 minute drive away from Las Vegas and it is like being in a different world.  Starting at about 6,000 feet above sea level, the desert landscape changes to lush Ponderosa Pine forests.  Cool mountain air and clouds that drape the summit peaks bring rain to this area far more often than down in the desert valley.
     Where there is water, there is life.  Mountain springs and patches of grassy meadows supports the local wildlife on Mt Charleston.  The desert wildlife starts showing itself during spring snow melt when nutritious plants start to grow.  Mule deer, bighorn sheep, wild burros and wild horses all start moving up and down the mountain in search of feed.
      Deer and most large mammals have their foaling season in spring.  Nevada Mule Deer with fawns are fairly easy to spot at sunset in mountain meadows during late spring and early summer.  The fawns and little bucks are grown up enough to start getting some confidence when coming out of hiding this time of year.  The mama deer hide the smaller fawns in grassy meadows, till the fawns become agile enough to dart away from the local mountain lions.
     Mountain lions follow mule deer, so where mule deer are, it is just a matter of time before a big wildcat shows up.  This is something that parents of small children and pet owners should keep in mind.  It is not wise to let little kids or pets wander off alone in the mountains.  When hungry, mountain lions can be opportunists.
    The Mary Jane Falls Trail is located near the top of the mountain by the village of Mt Charleston.  There are patches of meadow grass pasture along this trail that weaves through the Ponderosa Pine forest.  The hiking trails on Mt Charleston are well marked and they are easy to navigate.  Since this area is on the east side of the mountain, the shadows start covering the landscape at dusk.  The high altitude glare of the sun fades away and this makes it easier to spot wildlife.
     A couple of hikers walking down the trail saw me taking pictures with my big camera.  The hikers said that a herd of mule deer were feeding in the meadows just a little way up the trail.  After saying thanks, I moved up the trail and spotted the mule deer herd.
     I left my 300x telephoto lens for the camera back home, so I kind of had to approach the mule deer peacefully in order to get close enough to get some good pictures.  The mule deer were busy feeding and they were in no hurry to move off and hide in the woods.  As it turned out, the mule deer were not exactly camera shy.  I ended up with plenty of good pictures!
     After a full day of four wheeling on dirt roads in canyons, photographing wildlife and hiking on mountain trails, hunger set in a big way.  It is easy to work up a big appetite on the mountain, because the altitude is almost 2 miles high.  My first thought for a hearty meal was the Mt Charleston Lodge, because this place serves up some good mountain size portions of food.  Big hearty plates of food is what mountain people like!
     I ordered the Mountain Chili with Onions for dinner.  Mountain Chili is good name for this entrée and it also is an accurate description of the food presentation.  The all beef chili was piled a mile high  I took one look and said "Wow!"  I was hungry, but the size of the Mountain Chili was intimidating.  Conquering that huge bowl of chili was a monumental task.  The Mountain Chili at the Mt Charleston Lodge was the best ground beef chili that I had in a long time!
     Grazers will b happy to know that the salads at the Mt Charleston Lodge are mountain size too.  The specialty salads are piled a mile high.  The plain old traditional Caesar Salad at the lodge is plenty satisfying.
     I highly recommend taking a break from the summertime heat wand heading on up to Mt Charleston to do some hiking.  Observing wildlife at sunset is a fun thing to do.  When hunger strikes, The Mt Charleston Lodge is nearby and the mountain views from the dining room are spectacular!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Treasure Island, Las Vegas!

     Treasure Island Hotel & Casino!
     The Treasure Island Hotel & Casino opened their doors on the Las Vegas Strip back in 1993.  This casino was first promoted as a luxury resort.  Phil Ruffin purchased Treasure Island a few years ago and he loosened up the reigns a bit.  Treasure Island was rebranded as Ti and the hotel concept took on a casual elegance theme.  Customer friendly restaurants and bars were opened and the new venue created the excitement that visitors expect while in Las Vegas.
     Phil Ruffin previously owned the New Frontier Casino and Gilley's was the marquis saloon in that old resort.  After the New Frontier closed, Gilley's Saloon was missed by many dedicated customers.
     Shortly after taking over Treasure Island, Gilley's reopened next to the Sirens of Ti lagoon.  Gilley's is an old time wild west saloon that is famous for great western style food, ice cold beer, good country music, bikini bull riding and mud wrestling!
     Saloons like Gilley's were the main reason that many folks traveled to Vegas many years ago.  Gilley's is one of the last wild west saloons in the Las Vegas Valley.  Nearly every casino in this city has separated itself from the roots of Las Vegas, which just happened to be the old west.
    Oddly enough I recently took a vacation up to Virginia City, Ely, Tonopah and Carson City.  Nearly every casino that I visited in northern Nevada still has a wild west saloon kind of theme and the old west theme is going strong.  Tourists want to experience the old west and Gilley's is about as wild west as it gets in Vegas nowadays.
     Gilley's definitely has an old west charm and atmosphere.  There is a band stage and a large dance floor.  Horse saddles are used as bar stools at the long bar!  The walls are decorated with old west memorabilia.  Antique standing cowboy one arm bandit slot machines are by the entrance and they are a part of Las Vegas history that must be seen!
     Gilley's menu offers steaks, many regional styles of BBQ, trendy snacks, Mexican food, salads and burgers.  Three kinds of chili are on the menu.  Gilley's chili is an old west style chili with all the toppings.  A vegetarian chili is on the menu and that is a wise item to offer, because many vegetarians like spicy southwestern cuisine.
     I tried a bowl of CT's Award Winning Pork Green Chili.  This chili took first place in a regional chili cook off contest.  CT's Pork Green Chili is made with chunks of pork, slow simmered with poblano chiles.  The pork green chili sure was good with an ice cold beer!
     Señor Frog's also is located in the Ti Casino Resort.  If you are looking for a fun Mexican Baja Beach Bar style party atmosphere, then Señor Frog's is the place to go!  The atmosphere is like being at a spring break party destination in Mexico.  There are several bars and dining areas inside Señor Frog's.  On my visit, a huge karaoke party with a DJ was going on in the main bar.  The crowd was wild, loud and fun!
     Some of the bar and dining areas in Señor Frog's overlook the Ti Lagoon.  The food at Señor Frog's is as fun as the atmosphere.  Plates are sauced with modern designs and the food presentations are exciting.  This is modern fun Mexican food at its best!
     Traditional Mexican food is offered on the menu.  Sandwiches, burger, sliders, seafood and steaks are also offered.  Wings, appetizers and finger food is really what the party crowd goes for at Señor Frog's.  Señor Frog's has a well rounded fun menu.
     I had already eaten lunch at Gilley's in the Treasure Island Resort earlier, so having a dessert at Señor Frog's sounded like a good idea.  Señor Frog's had an item on their dessert menu that I have not seen too often in Vegas, ever since I left Florida.  Key Lime Pie!  The other dessert menu items were tempting.  The Molten Brownie was what I originally intended to get on my visit, but the Key Lime Pie bell was ringing loud!
      The bar that I sat in at Señor Frog's had one of the most interesting ceilings that I have ever seen!  The view was like being a frog under water looking up at people floating on inner tubes.  Swim suit bottoms, feet and inner tubes are the view when looking up at the ceiling in this bar!
     Sadly enough, The Sirens of Ti show was permanently canceled about a year ago.  I know this will make many readers sick to their stomach, but the show was cancelled because the space for the show was turned into a drug store.  Thousands of Siren of Ti fans were really let down by this decision.  Many more folks complained that Vegas is just destined to look like any other city that has a drug store on every corner.  Canceling the show certainly has affected business on that corner of the Las Vegas Strip and that new drug store sits empty most of the time.  Ce est la vie.
     The Sirens of Ti was one of longest running shows in Las Vegas.  The award winning choreographer constantly improved the show and the dance routines were marvelous to see.  The battle between the Sirens and the marauding ship full of pirates is what really thrilled the crowd each night!  Canons booming, explosions, fire and men jumping overboard was all part of the show.  It was like being at a Hollywood action movie set while the cameras were rolling!
     Those who have fond memories of the Sirens of Ti will be happy to know that I loaded a bunch of good photos into the slide show for this article.
     Well, the show must go on!  The Ti casino floor is easy to navigate.  This resort is a little more cozy than the modern mega-resorts.  The lagoon and pirate ships are still there.  The Ti Hotel & Casino is still a spectacular sight to see and experience in Las Vegas!