Thursday, October 22, 2015

Halloween ~ Las Vegas!

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     Halloween ~ Las Vegas!
     During Halloween week, people fly to Vegas with only one thing in mind and that is to party hearty in Sin City till they can party no more!  Las Vegas certainly does have the reputation of being the number one Halloween party destination in the world and all it takes to agree is one look at the citywide Halloween event venue.  One great Halloween event after another takes place during the entire month of October!
     Many Halloween partiers literally wear only their costume on the flight to Las Vegas and they pack no baggage.  These same folks go from one Halloween event to the next for several days, then board the plane wearing the same costume on the fight back home.
     Many agree that the "fly in costume with no bags" travel method is the best way to get the most out of doing Halloween in Sin City, but the straight laced fellow passengers on the plane may disagree.  The aroma of a costume soaked with several days of sweat, burger stains and spilled drinks combined with green face paint is enough to horrify fellow passengers in adjacent seats, especially when the green face turns out to be real and the barf bags that are supposed to be in the airliner seat pockets were not restocked.  "Oh the horror ... the horror of it all!" 
     Fortunately, not everybody that travels to Vegas for Halloween has a "party till they puke" agenda, especially those who have intentions of winning a costume contest.  Honestly, there is a lot of money at stake, because the cumulative prize money for every Vegas Halloween costume contest that takes place in the valley is nearly enough to wipe out the national debt.  Prizes range from complimentary bar tabs, brand new cars, all expense paid vacations, hundreds of thousands of dollars and of course monumental fame!
     Imagine flying back home to Tulsa, Oklahoma and being able to brag about being the 1st prize costume contest winner at the Fetish & Fantasy Ball.  Now that is a prize worth bragging about, especially when the entire costume can fit into an empty box of breath mints!  Yes, there is a sexy side to Halloween in Vegas and many uninhibited bombshells cherish the thought of letting it all hang out on stage once a year.
     This city offers many Halloween theme exhibits that can be experienced for a reasonable price or for free.  Madame Tussauds Wax Museum at the Venetian Casino Resort is always a great place to start.  The Fremont Street Experience definitely is Halloween party zone central, with live bands rockin' the night away under the canopy.  The multi million dollar Halloween exhibit at the Bellagio Casino Resort Conservatory Atrium offers visions of everything from scarecrows to talking trees.
     Las Vegas Halloween haunted house attractions are frightening beyond belief and the haunted house tour is the only thing that keeps many visitors returning year after year.  Venturing off of the Las Vegas Strip to experience the diverse variety of scary haunted house attractions is a good way to get the best bang for the buck during Halloween week.
     Some of the local people have a favorite haunted house that they return to year after year.  The haunted houses production companies realize that customer loyalty is a key to their success, so they continually improve their horror filled offerings.  There really is no such thing as the same old haunted house, because something new is added or an entirely new theme is adopted for Halloween each year.
     The Asylum of Terror and Hotel Fear are run by the same haunted house production company.  Both of these fright destinations receive extraordinary reviews year after year.  Another one of the greatest horror production companies on earth is the Freakling Brothers.  The Freakling Brothers operate the world's only "R" Rated house of horrors and the entrance fee is a bit pricy.  As the old saying goes, "you get what you pay for" and if getting scared to death is what you desire, then you certainly will not live long enough to be disappointed.
     One haunted attraction that never changes location is the Fright Dome at the Circus Circus Casino on the Vegas Strip.  Okay, just forget about this place if you are scared of clowns, because you will never make it past the front door.  Circus Circus is clown city, baby!  By far, the Fright Dome is over and above the most hardcore scary Halloween experience in the city and quite possibly the entire universe.  Just be sure to pack some clean underwear to change into after the show! 
     "But where can the real Las Vegas ghost be found?"  The local paranormal investigators have the answer to this question!  There are paranormal tour companies in Las Vegas that specialize in this area of expertise.  There also is the Bonnie Springs Ranch Ghost Adventure.  The Bonnie Springs paranormal venture actually involves stirring up ghosts of the old west.   
     Each year the specialized haunted house attractions do change location, because these macabre realms of terror are actually temporary portable buildings that vanish like ghosts after Halloween is over.  As far as finding the many Halloween haunted house attractions goes, all I can say is try typing the key words "Las Vegas-Halloween-Haunted House" in a search engine and wait for the results.  Soon, many websites will appear that list the haunted house destinations.
     No matter whether you celebrate Halloween to party, win a sexy costume contest or just to plain old get scared out of your wits, Sin City is the place to be in October.  Every bar, tavern, casino and nightclub in Las Vegas offers plenty of fun filled Halloween parties all night long!    

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Bonnie Springs Ranch ~ Blue Diamond, Nevada!

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     The Bonnie Springs Ranch ~ Blue Diamond, Nevada!
     Bonnie Springs is a Spring Mountain Range desert oasis that has been around for a long time.  The Spring Mountains did not get their name for no reason at all.  The Spring Mountains have several natural springs located in canyons below the peaks.  Everybody knows that a reliable source of water in a desert is more precious than gold.  This is why Bonnie Springs played such an important part in Southern Nevada history.
     Prior to the Spanish gold seekers and pioneers, the water resources at Bonnie Springs irrigated Paiute tribal farms in Red Rock Canyon.  The Spanish explorers eventually connected the dots from one tribal community to the next in the west by means of the old saying, "where there is life, there is water."  The Spanish were more interested in absconding gold than anything else and fortunately without sufficient manpower, they simply overlooked many rich natural deposits in Southern Nevada.  Regardless, the Spanish Trail was mapped and passed along to European pioneers.
     Eventually the Spanish Trail became known as a western pathway that offered reliable life sustaining resources.  In the 1840's, the Spanish Trail in Southern Nevada became a main thoroughfare for pioneers and cattle ranchers.  Because of the reliable water resources, cattle ranching became a mainstay.   The local Paiute farmers continued to work the land near the mountain springs for many years and trade with ranchers was established, but when the pioneer immigrants showed up in droves, the local Paiute tribes were forced off of their land and much heritage was taken away.
     The availability of food, water and cattle along the Spring Mountains laid the foundation for upcoming events in the mid 1800's.  The 1849 Gold Rush and the American Civil War opened the gates for natural resource exploration in Southern Nevada.  Gold from the nearby Eldorado Canyon funded the Confederacy back in those days.  The gold brought an outlaw element to the Southern Nevada Spanish Trail.  Western expansion occurred so quickly that civilization took time to catch up.  General Fremont's Army can be likened to a band of post Spanish American War mercenaries that the U.S Government relied upon to settle regions of the wild west.  Fremont had the intent of taking charge of the new territories and once again, the old Spanish Trail was his pathway to conquest.
     The importance of the Spanish Trail influence in the early history of Las Vegas cannot be understated.  The mountain springs at ranches in Red Reck Canyon turned into major stopovers for wagon trains headed west to California.  After General Fremont rolled through, many more armies followed and the wild west was tamed.  The water and food resources along the trail through Red Rock Canyon eventually led to sustainable immigrant settlements starting up in what is now known as the Las Vegas Valley.  After the wild west dust settled, ranchers and Mormons basically established the start of the community of Las Vegas and the rest is history.
     Even though reliance on raw local resources has faded away in modern times, the natural mountain springs in Red Rock Canyon still exist.  When visiting modern Las Vegas, all it takes to step back in time to the old pioneer days is to venture uphill on the west side of the valley to Bonnie Springs in Red Rock Canyon.  The water still burbles up from underground, there is green growth and wild animals are drawn to this desert oasis.
     Because of the old Spanish Trail history and cattle ranching, the natural springs in Red Rock Canyon were famous, but the one that is now called Bonnie Springs never really had a name.  It was simply a water resource out in the middle of nowhere.  After the advent of the age of the automobile, the importance of the springs in Red Rock Canyon faded away.
     Bonnie McGaugh purchased many acres of Red Rock Canyon land in 1952 and the old historic Spanish Trail springs were located on the property.  Bonnie McGaugh was a champion olympic style swimmer and her father did stunt work in classic Hollywood western films.  Bonnie fell in love with the peaceful beauty of Red Rock Canyon and she set out to turn the old ranch into a successful tourist destination.
     Over the years, Bonnie and her husband Al Levinson built the "Old Nevada Town" tourist attraction and an old west style saloon restaurant on the springs property.  A western style resort hotel was also built on the ranch.
     Old Nevada Town at the ranch has plenty of fun activities going on.   Staged "good guy vs outlaw"  gunfights happen everyday.  Tourists that watch the gunfights also have to participate in the show as jurors and witnesses during the trial in the jail house.
     The gunfight show is one of the prime attractions at Bonnie Springs, but there is more!  Old Nevada Town has a wax museum and guided ghost tours too.  Fans of paranormal tourism seem to be enthralled with ghosts of the old west these days.
     There is a petting zoo and pony rides for children at the ranch.  There are stables for horses and plenty to see.  Guided horseback tours of Red Rock Canyon and horse rentals are available at Bonnie Springs Ranch.  There is nothing quite so gratifying as seeing the beautiful landscape of Red Rock Canyon on horseback!
     The ranch has a hotel that was built with an old western architectural style frontage.  The hotel looks like the old west!  There is a miniature train that carries people from Old Nevada Town to the remote parking lots via the scenic route.
     I spent the afternoon at National Park taking pictures and seeing the sights at Red Rock Canyon National Park.  Bonnie Springs Ranch is just a short distance away on State Road 159.  State Road 159 connects with Blue Diamond Road and Charleston Road in Red Rock Canyon on the west side of the Las Vegas Valley.  Bonnie Springs officially is in the town Blue Diamond.
     Many people who visit Las Vegas never realize that there is a beautiful canyon on the west side of Las Vegas that runs along the edge of the Spring Mountains.  Red Rock Canyon is nearly hidden from the Las Vegas Strip vantage point.  From Red Rock Canyon looking down at the valley, the Vegas Strip seems like it is a million miles away, especially after spending the day at Bonnie Springs Ranch.
     After having a fun day in the Red Rock National Park, I went to Bonnie Springs Ranch to take pictures and get something to eat.  Of course I was greeted by wild burros when I parked my car.  The wild burros are docile, but it is important to remind folks that the burros truly are wild animals.  Wild burros do bite and kick!  It is against the law to feed wild burros and horses, so keep that in mind when they start begging for a handout.  Just the crinkling sound of a tortilla chip bag will draw burros from a hundred yards away!
     The original saloon bar has been at the ranch for a much longer time than when Bonnie bought the property and renamed the ranch in 1952.  The Bonnie Springs Bar actually is the oldest bar in the Las Vegas area.  This old west bar was a local rancher's and hunter's watering hole for many decades.
     After dusting off the shoes, I stepped into the Bonnie Springs Bar and Restaurant for a late lunch.  Of course I chose a seat at the old historic western bar in the restaurant and immediately ordered an ice cold beer, because I worked up quite a thirst in the cool dry desert winter air.
     After a few sips, I took the time to take in the scenery.  This place has a comfortable old west charm.  The decor is authentic and there is an open hearth fireplace between the bar and dining room.  The restaurant was very busy and the smell of chili and barbecue was thick in the air.  The Bonnie Springs Ranch restaurant definitely appeals to old west nostalgia buffs, like myself!
     The barmaid was very nice and friendly.  She had the right kind of character for working behind old west tourist destination bar.  I ordered a bar-b-que beef sandwich for lunch.  I played video poker at my bar stool seat while I waited.  I noticed that hundreds of dollar bills with signatures were tacked to the rafters of the bar.  Autographing a dollar bill and tacking it to the ceiling is an old western tradition.
     Antiques, antlers and western memorabilia decorated the restaurant and bar.  There was a wall full of pictures of Bonnie and the ranch.  I had a window directly in front of me across the bar and I wondered how many people have gazed out that window over the years.  The view was inspirational to say the least!
     The menu offered chili and everyone knows that good chili is perfect on a cold day.  Elk and buffalo burgers were also on the menu.  Steaks, BBQ, salads, soups, fish, sandwiches, chicken and pork dishes were offered too.  The Bonnie Springs Ranch Restaurant has a very appealing western style menu and they are open for breakfast.
     My sandwich was served on an old western style tin plate.  Tin plates were used in mining camps, ranches and on chuck wagons in the old west, because they are durable.  This added a nice touch.  The bar-b-que beef sandwich was tasty and the flavor of the BBQ sauce was not sweet.  The sauce was tangy and spicy, just how I like it.  The sliced beef was tender, fresh and delicious.  Some really good beer batter onion rings topped off the whole deal.  After filling up on a beer and bar-b-que at the Bonnie Springs Ranch, I was absolutely full, refreshed and satisfied!  I really liked the dining experience at the Bonnie Springs Bar and Restaurant.  Everything was to my liking!
     When in Las Vegas, visiting the Bonnie Springs Ranch at Red Rock Canyon is simply a must to do!  Bonnie Springs is a great destination for tourists, children and locals.  While there, book a horse at the ranch and take a peaceful ride through the scenic Red Rock Canyon.  After the ride, park your horse at the saloon and get a heaping big plate of ranch style food.  This is how scenic old Nevada is meant to be enjoyed!   

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Mandalay Bay Las Vegas ~ Shark Reef Aquarium!

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     Mandalay Bay Las Vegas ~ Shark Reef Aquarium!
     The Mandalay Bay Hotel Casino has been around since the mid 1990's.  Mandalay Bay is a huge mega-resort casino that literally covers a few square miles.  It is almost necessary to have a map to find one's way to the various sights on this property!
     The rooms in the Mandalay Bay Resort towers offer all modern amenities and luxury suites are available.  Those who prefer exclusivity will find luxury beyond belief at the Delano.  The Delano was previously named THEHotel.  The exclusive Four Seasons Hotel is also part of the Mandalay Bay property.  Presidential suites suitable for dignitaries are offered at The Four Seasons.
     This luxury resort has been constantly upgraded through the years.  The state of the art Mandalay Bay Convention Center is currently being expanded once again and this facility has an attendance capacity that is larger than many small cities.
     The vast casino floor at Mandalay Bay is posh beyond belief.  The decor and atmosphere reflects upon Southeast Asian casual elegance.  There are many restaurants, nightclubs and lounges to choose from on the casino floor level.  The service staff professionalism is high and this adds to the overall guest experience.
     The main casino floor is connected to the neighboring Luxor and Excalibur casinos by a huge corridor consisting of several escalators and people movers.  This long hallway actually is an entertainment corridor where many performing arts theaters and top chef signature restaurants can be found.  The Chris Angel Magic Theater, RM Seafood and the unique Mix Lounge can be found in this area.  There also is a unique shopping mall in Mandalay Bay and the House Of Blues is located nearby.  Many famous musicians have headlined on stage here over the years.
     On the opposite side of the vast casino floor is where the convention center corridor begins.  One section of this corridor is devoted to fine dining restaurants and cafés.  The name of one famous chef after another can be seen on the signs.  Restaurants in this area showcase everything from a freezing cold Russian vodka bar made of ice to a wine tower that is over three stories tall.  Plate prices can range from less than $20 at the casual fine dining restaurants to $5,000 for the world's most expensive gourmet hamburger at Fleur.
     Speaking of Fleur by Hubert Keller, I gave this restaurant a try for lunch before experiencing the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay.  The Gazpacho Shooters and Chicken Croquettes was a nice combination for a Vegas style light lunch!
     After lunch at Fleur, I was energized and ready to explore more of Mandalay Bay.  I had never been to the Shark Reef Aquarium in Mandalay Bay before, so I decided to spend a relaxing afternoon wandering through the ancient jungle scenery.
     Shark Reef is a very large indoor aquarium that offers unique experience.  The Asian jungle temple decor of the Shark Reef grounds quickly separates visitors from the outside world.  It is easy to forget about the hustle and bustle of life in this place!
     What makes the Shark Reef Aquarium so unique is the spectator passageway deign.  Visitors walk through glass tube tunnels that are surrounded by water, fish and sharks.  Inside the glass tube walkways, spectators get an amazing 360º view of the sea life!
     The Shark Reef Aquarium is recommended for visitors of all ages.  Shark Reef offers narrated guided tours for groups and events can be scheduled.  There is even a shallow water petting zoo for children.  
     Exploring all that Mandalay Bay has to offer can take a few days time.  This is what a good modern mega-resort theme is all about.  Mandalay offers so many things to do and experience that boredom never sets in.  It is very easy to forget that the outside world exists while wandering around in Mandalay Bay, especially after spending a few hours in the Shark Reef Aquarium!