Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Ethel M Chocolate Factory & Cactus Garden ~ Henderson, Nevada!

     The Ethel M Chocolate Factory & Cactus Garden! 
     Forrest Mars started the Ethel M chocolate factory in 1981.  Forrest Mars' mother, Ethel, was a highly skilled chocolatier back in the early 1900's.  Apparently Forrest Mars learned the fine art of gourmet chocolate making while spending time in the kitchen with Ethel and he put this knowledge to use shortly after retiring from a job in an unrelated industry.  Forrest Mars ended up establishing the legendary Mars Candy empire, which includes the world famous M&M brand of chocolate candies.  

     The Ethel M Chocolate Factory produces fine gourmet chocolates that are rated as the best in the world.  Ethel M Chocolates are also famous for being the official chocolates of many Hollywood awards ceremonies.  Ethel M chocolates are the chocolates of the stars!
     Ethel M takes pride in being a family owned and operated business.  Ethel M Chocolates contain absolutely no preservatives.  This company only does small batch production runs, in order to maintain high quality standards.  The chocolate factory has an extensive quality control system that involves regular tasting to ensure that every chocolate creation is absolutely flawless.  These high standards are the reason why Ethel M is number one!

     The Ethel M Chocolate factory has an M&M retail store on site.  Everything and anything M&M can be found there and sometimes there are unique M&M gifts on the shelf that can be found nowhere else.  
     The Ethel M Chocolate Factory has a retail store that is filled with gourmet chocolate creations.  Modern creative chocolate creations and classic chocolates fill the display cases.  Liquor chocolates, satin cream chocolates, turtles and truffles tend to be my favorites.  Every chocolate variety from white chocolate to bitter dark chocolate is available.  Every style of chocolate is on display.  
     The Ethel M Pecan Brittle is world famous and the Peppermint Bark is a crowd pleaser too.  Artistic looking Giant Chocolate Caramel Coated Apples are offered and these items make great gifts for kids of all ages.  Ethel M also offers an extensive line of sugar free chocolates and Kosher chocolate too. 
     Boxed collections of Ethel M gourmet chocolates are a nice choice.  The box presentations are well thought out and the packaging is elegant.  New Years Eve, Christmas, Easter, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and Valentines Day are the biggest chocolate days of the year.  Ethel M creates fancy boxed special chocolate collections for these occasions and more.
     Customers can select their own choice of chocolates for customized box collections.  I have selected chocolates for boxed collection gifts many times, both in person and via the Ethel M web site.  
     Ethel M employs the highest standards of packaging chocolates for shipping.  Because no preservatives are used to make Ethel M chocolates, the chocolates have to be handled and packaged like perishable items.  Ethel M uses insulated packaging with cooling packs to ensure that their chocolates arrive at the destination in perfect condition. 
     Tours of the Ethel M Chocolate Factory and the extensive Ethel M Cactus Garden are free of charge.  Complimentary chocolate and pecan brittle tastings are offered with each tour, so the experience is a sweet one!  

     Over the years, I have often sent Ethel M chocolates to friends and family members as gifts.  Every time that I got a thank you response for the chocolates, the first comment was always, "Those were the best chocolates that I have ever had!"  
     A few years ago, I gave a box of Ethel M Chocolates to the purchasing agent of a company that I worked for in Chicago after returning from a weekend in Las Vegas.  I suggested that she share the Ethel M Chocolates with the other executives at the office.  The purchasing agent actually hid the Ethel M Chocolates in a desk drawer and she said, "These chocolates are just too good to share!"  It is funny what good chocolate can do to people!    

     The Ethel M Chocolate Factory is located on Cactus Drive near the intersection of Sunset Road.  This intersection can be a little bit tricky to spot while passing by, because several roads meet in this area.   The Ethel M Chocolate Factory is a few miles away from the Las Vegas Strip and Fremont Street, but this destination is definitely worth the short hop.  
     Ethel M does have a few retail store locations in the Las Vegas Valley and one is conveniently located at McCarran international airport.  The airport shop is a nice convenience for travelers, conventioneers and visitors of Las Vegas.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Devil's Cornfield ~ Death Valley!

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     The Devil's Cornfield!  
     Death Valley National Park covers a vast amount of land in the Mojave Desert along the eastern California border.  Death Valley is the largest National Park in the lower 48 states.  
     The Death Valley terrain offers a wide variety of extremes that are difficult to fathom.  The tallest mountain and the lowest basin in the lower 48 states are both located in this National Park.  Death Valley is the hottest place on earth, yet during the winter months it can be freezing cold.  Water is scarce and the wildlife hides from view because of the extreme heat.  There are towering cliffs, steep canyons, salt flats, badlands and old volcanic cinder cones.  There is rarely a drop of rain, yet flash floods that can move gigantic boulders are always a threat.   
     The Death Valley region is so inhospitable, that the pioneers of the old west cursed this section of Mojave Desert as being only suitable for the Devil himself.  It is no coincidence that the Devil's name  describes nearly every feature of this harsh landscape.  The Funeral Mountains, Badwater Basin, The Devil's Golf Course, The Devil's Race Track, Dante's View, Hells Gate, Red Cathedral and Furnace Creek are the names of just a few such places in this evil expanse.  
     Of course, Death Valley also hosts one of the most devilishly deceptive illusions on earth.  This place is called The Devil's Cornfield.  The Devil's Cornfield covers a vast area adjacent to Mesquite Dunes and Stovepipe Wells.  
     A devilish illusion in Death Valley?  Imagine being a weary, hungry and thirsty pioneer crossing Death Valley in the days of the old west.  The sun bears down and the summertime temperature is over 125ºF.  The ground heat index is over 165ºF and when one looks in the distance, the heat waves distort the view.  Mirages can be seen everywhere.  All of a sudden, the sight of bundled shocks of corn appear on the horizon.  All is saved, because where there are shocks of corn, there surely must be food and water.  
     So, onward to the corn shocks on the horizon the pioneers go.  After finally getting to the promising cornfield in the middle of Death Valley, disappointment quickly sets in.  The illusion of corn shocks actually turns out to be nothing more than gigantic Arroweed clumps that stand high above the ground due to erosive forces.  It is easy to imagine a pioneers exclaiming that this deception surely must be the work of the Devil himself.  This is how the Devil's Corn Field got its name!  
     One look at the photos above and it is easy to see why many pioneers were fooled by the Devil's Cornfield when making the perilous journey through Death Valley.  From a distance, the Arroweed does look like bundled corn shocks during daylight hours.  During a moonlit night the Devil's Cornfield is even more ominous, because the clumps of Arrowweed seem to come alive and move around on their own.  Corn shocks are tied vertical bundles of corn stalks that are associated with Halloween and spooky happenings, therefore the Devil's name does come into play. 
     The Devil's Cornfield is a fun place to wander around and take pictures.  There are a few small roadside parking areas and these access points should be used, so the vegetation is not damaged.  Winter is the best time to visit this point of interest because there is no excessive heat.  Even so, be sure to pack plenty of water, because Death Valley did not get its name for no reason at all!     

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Primm, Nevada!

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     Primm Valley ... A.K.A. State Line!
     Primm, Nevada is located about 45 minutes south of Las Vegas on I-15.  Primm is the last place to get cheap gas before crossing the California State Line.  As the sign says, Primm also happens to be the last chance for gamblers to "Get Even, Before Leaving!"  
     Primm, Nevada sure does have an interesting history.  This community began during the first stages of the age of the automobile, way back in the early 1920's.  Back then, Prim was just a solitary gas station.  The owner of the gas station was not making much money, so he resorted to moonshining as a primary means of income.  Prohibition guaranteed that his bootleg whiskey making business would be a success and indeed it was.  The owner of the state line gas station soon became famous for his moonshine and thereafter he was known as "Whiskey Pete."  
     Back in Whiskey Pete's heyday, nobody ever dreamed that the little gas station on the state line would ever become a dot on a map.  After Whiskey Pete passed away in the 1930's it was just a matter of time before Las Vegas became a major tourist destination and the town of State Line would come into existence.
     As traffic increased from Los Angeles to Vegas, a few entrepreneurs jumped on the golden opportunity.  The first entrepreneur that bought State Line, opened a full scale gas station, along with a restaurant and slot machine parlor.  The business project was done in conjunction with the anticipation of the Interstate 15 road project.  An offramp was built and the rest is history.  A developer named Ernest Jay Primm had the foresight to plan the community of State Line, which ended up being a haven for casino resorts.  
     The history of State Line, Nevada got complicated at about the same time that I-15 was built.  Apparently a construction crew accidentally dug up the body of Whiskey Pete.  The dearly departed Whiskey Pete was reburied somewhere in a cave in the hills where he brewed up his moonshine.  This was a fitting tribute to this famous bootlegger.  
     A second source of complication came from the name of the town itself.  Apparently there was a town in Northern Nevada that had the same name.  At some time in the 1990's, the town of State Line was officially was officially renamed as Primm, after the original developer of the community.  Primm, Nevada is also called Primm Valley by many people and some old timers still refer to this place by its original name.
     Community?  Honestly, Primm is more of a business community than a civic community.  Basically, the only people that claim residency in Primm are casino employees and hospitality industry workers.  Considering the size of the major casino resort operations in Primm, the local workforce numbers amount to the population of a fair size town, so Primm is in fact a small city of its own making.  
     Primm is not only famous for being a last chance to gamble before leaving the State Of Nevada.  This town has become a prime shopping destination.  Primm hosts one of the largest Fashion Outlet Malls in the entire Southwest region.  The Fashion Outlet primarily targets weekenders traveling back and forth from Southern California to Las Vegas.  Complimentary excursion buses also pickup tourists on the Las Vegas Strip and cart them directly to the Primm Fashion Outlet.  From what I have heard, the bargain prices are well worth the trip!
     Primm is also famous locally for being the closest place to purchase lottery tickets.  The California State Line literally runs through the southern end of Primm and a Lottery Store is located a few feet across the border.  As everybody knows, the lottery is banned in Nevada, because it would compete with the casino industry.  Folks in Vegas that want to get in on a potential huge Super Ball Jackpot, usually make the trip to Primm to get a handful of California Lottery tickets.  

     All in all, Primm is definitely worth checking out when driving on I-15.  Primm offers good food, bargain shopping and plenty of entertainment.  Primm is the last chance to recoup gambling losses on the way out of Nevada, even if this goal is accomplished by doing some crafty bargain shopping to save some hard earned cash! 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Town Square, Las Vegas!

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     Town Square!
     Town Square is located on the Las Vegas Strip near Sunset and the I-215 Beltway.  This destination is no ordinary shopping mall!  Town Square is a modern open air outdoor mall.  The classic gas lamp style architectural design creates a relaxed atmosphere that is like being in a well kept shopping village.
     Once a visitor starts wandering around and window shopping at Town Square, it becomes easy to forget that the rest of the city exists.  The trials and tribulations of the daily grind simply fade away after the first few steps on the sidewalk in this unique shopping village.  The open air architectural design is so complete, that it is like being in a shopper's fantasyland!
     There are several parks, children's playgrounds, scenic landscaping, entertainment venues and carnival style food vendors in the open air common ground areas.  There are fountains, ponds and romantic looking gas lamp lit bridges that lead from one common ground area to the next.  The landscaping is lush and this creates a paradise effect.  Spanish colonial architecture combines with modern looking storefronts and this creates the impression that this outdoor mall has been around for many decades.  The timeless classic design elements of Town Square is what makes the experience so complete!
     Town Square hosts the latest and greatest trendy fashion shops and signature restaurants.  Shoppers can literally wine and dine the day away, while shopping for fashion accessories!  Technology shops, salons and art galleries dot the open air landscape too.  Overall, Town Square offers a quality oriented modern shopping experience.
     When considering how pleasant the temperatures are in sunny Las Vegas during the winter season, there really is no reason to spend the day cooped up indoors when doing the holiday season gift shopping.  This especially holds true for Black Friday.  Strolling from shop to shop outdoors with rays of sunlight streaming down, listening to birds chirping and breathing fresh air is a much better experience than dealing with the push and shove stampede atmosphere of an overcrowded indoor mall the day after Thanksgiving!  
     As one can see, the Las Vegas shopping destination articles this month are designed to let visitors and locals know that there are pleasant holiday season shopping alternatives in the valley.  Just forget about the anxiety attacks that indoor malls are famous for and take a step in the other direction.  Enjoy the cool breeze, sunshine, palm trees and the relaxed pace that open air malls like Town Square have to offer!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Downtown Summerlin ~ Las Vegas!

     Downtown Summerlin ~ An Open Air Mall For The Shopping Season!
     There are people that can spend all day wandering around inside an old fashioned indoor mall.  In the morning, senior citizens choose the mall for their walkathon exercise routing.  Shortly after, serious shoppers seek bargains before they fly off the shelf.  After school lets out, teens choose the mall food court for their hangout.  An indoor mall attracts patrons that seek a secure casual shopping atmosphere that has a few dining options.  When the weather is foul, an indoor mall offers a shopping atmosphere that has all the comforts of home.  Indoor shopping malls certainly have carved a niche in the infrastructure of society, but not all is as rosy as it seems.
     There are also people that avoid indoor shopping malls like the plague.  This biggest complaint is overcrowding and long checkout lines, especially during the holiday shopping season.  Product prices tend to be higher than average because of the high real estate costs.  Bargains and sales at an indoor mall often only present value to those who only shop at the mall and nowhere else.  The wide variety of dining options actually turns out to be the same old mediocre quality corporate chain restaurants.  Of course, the junk food court takes on a high school cafeteria atmosphere.  The parking lot is so big that it takes a GPS to find the car after the day is done.  During the holiday season, the comfortable atmosphere of an indoor mall turns into a nerve wracking push and shove shopping experience.  
     Are indoor malls destined for extinction in the long run?  Many indoor malls have been boarded up in recent years.  Much of this is due to the changing demographics of the marketing sector.  The sour economy during the recent Great Recession sent many indoor malls into the brink of oblivion.  When the economy is slow and there is no disposable money, stores inside a mall are resigned to only reaping profits during the holiday season.  Intense pressure from the internet shopping competition has rendered many indoor mall specialty shops as relics of the past.  
     Oddly enough, there is a fair percentage of nostalgic mall shoppers that cling to good old memories of the days when indoor malls were the top of the food chain.  These "mall-encholiacs" seem to visit their old favorite local mall once per year, as if they are obligated to visit an old historic site from a bygone era.  The indoor mall shopping psyche sure has sunk to an all time low in recent years and there must be a better option. 

     Indoors or outdoors?  That is the modern mall question!  Shopping plaza and mall developers with foresight definitely noticed changes in consumer demographics in the last 10 years.  Consumers finally became weary of the indoor mall scene, especially in areas of the country where the weather is beautiful.  Where the sun shines nearly everyday and the outdoor temperatures are comfortable, open air outdoor malls are now the number one shopping destination.  

     Open air outdoor malls have sprung up all over the Las Vegas Valley in recent years.  Some folks say outdoor malls in Las Vegas are a crazy idea, because of the triple digit desert temperatures.  Obviously when the weather is hot, fewer people frequent outdoor malls and this is music to the ears for shoppers that prefer some elbow room and no waiting lines.
     Fortunately, the peak summertime heat wave usually only runs from June till September.  Las Vegas certainly has plenty of mild weather from October till May, which happens to be the prime mall shopping season.  The average winter temperatures are in the 70's and it rarely rains.  Environmentally speaking, the future of Las Vegas mall shopping lies in the great outdoors.
     Ah!  The pleasure of shopping at an open air mall.  Instead of the push and shove atmosphere at an indoor mall on Black Friday, one can casually stroll around at an open air outdoor mall while enjoying the bright sunshine, a cool breeze, birds chirping and colorful flowers blooming.  When compared to the indoor mall atmosphere, shopping at an outdoor mall on Black Friday sounds like paradise. 

     Downtown Summerlin is the latest and greatest open air outdoor mall in the Las Vegas Valley.  The Howard Hughes Corporation developed Downtown Summerlin in an effort to suit the needs of modern shopper demographics.  
     Many other outdoor mall developers in Las Vegas have followed the same formula for success.  The goal is to create an all inclusive shopping environment that is like a small town independent from the rest of the city.  The architecture and atmosphere of a good outdoor mall is designed to be like a world of its own that easily captivates shoppers.  The idea is to make the overall experience so appealing, that shoppers feel like they are in paradise! 
     Most open air outdoor mall design themes have an old fashioned downtown gas lamp district kind of architectural design.  For example, the streets are paved with brick, there are fountains, bridges, lush greenery, wrought iron and gas lamps throughout the common grounds.  
    Downtown Summerlin is a departure from the gas lamp shopping district style.  Downtown Summerlin has a modern futuristic architectural design theme.  The look is one of chrome, steel, finished red limestone and glass.  There are plenty of airy lush green areas, fountains, modern sculptures and surreal hidden shaded courtyards to explore.  

     To say the least, Downtown Summerlin is an interesting modern outdoor mall shopping experience.  There are plenty of premium department stores and a huge cinema, just like at the old fashioned indoor malls.  The difference is the marketing sector that is targeted.  The shops at Downtown Summerlin appeal to a clientele that needs to be part of the latest modern trends in fashion, technology and of course food.  
     Unlike an indoor mall, there is no food court at Downtown Summerlin.  There are gourmet snack shops, bakeries, casual cafés and trendy restaurants located throughout the entire premises.  It seems like the locations of the dining options are coordinated with the shopper traffic flow.  Where there are nightclub fashion stores, there are trendy modern restaurants nearby.  Where there are toy shops and premium department stores, shoppers will see fancy cupcake and gourmet ice cream sandwich snack shops.  Where a few electronic technology shops are located, fusion food, sushi and cutting edge cuisine is the bill of fare.  

     Yes, there are distances to cover at any outdoor mall and Downtown Summerlin is no exception.  However, there are plenty of street side parking spaces and parking garages, so hopping from one store to the next in a car is an option.   
     For those who prefer strolling about, there are interactive touch screen navigation consoles located at pedestrian traffic intersections.  All one has to do is scroll over the map or choose the name of the store, then after one touch the directions will appear.  Menus, special sales and store information can be accessed on the user friendly touch screen consoles too. 

     For those who seek a new and better mall experience during the holiday shopping season, Downtown Summerlin is the place to go!  Downtown Summerlin is located next to the Red Rock Casino, near the intersection of the I-215 Beltway and Charleston.  
     Open air shopping malls, like Downtown Summerlin, are the future of the mall development industry.  There is nothing better than enjoying fresh air and sunshine, while you shop till you drop!