LAS VEGAS: I’m LOVING SLS Las Vegas for $74/night

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LAS VEGAS | Best hotel under $100? SLS Las Vegas might very well be my new favorite hotel on the Strip. It’s modern, hip, and most of all—FUN! Youthful. Whimsical. Delightful. These words kept popping up in my mind from the videos of birds and abstract art behind the registration desk to the monkey-theme throughout the hotel.  Monkey art is everywhere! In the lobby bar, on the ironing board covers, even  your in-room coasters—they’re a classic mascot.

We booked our room via Priceline just a few days before we arrived and they had deals starting at $74/night. (We took the 2 Double Non Smoking Superior World rooms for $79.51/night). Priceline rates the SLS  a 7.6 out of 10 with 169 guest reviews and the hotel only opened in August. The deal comes with $40 food credit and free Wi-Fi. For those of you that have been coming to Las Vegas for decades, SLS is what the Sahara turned into. Keep your eye on the carpets for great vintage Vegas scenes.

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DEAL | I already thought the Priceline rates were a great deal, but once I became an SLS Las Vegas fan I found a 30% off deal on the SLS Facebook page (Promo code PLC04).  I checked Nov. 30- Dec. 2 rates on this promo were only $62.30/night for a World Superior King. Of course there’s still the $25/night resort fee which is common with Vegas hotels. And of course, don’t forget to check Vegas.com. I found rates as low as $60/night Thanksgiving week.

TESTED | You know you have to take a last-minute Vegas trip in you! I chose to test the Vegas.com rates for three nights Nov. 24-27. Vegas.com had rooms with a king bed starting at $59.63 which came to $275.36 for the whole stay *including* taxes and the resort fee. I call that a deal for such a cool new hotel!

Cora at Griddle Cafe SLS Las Vegas

Cora shocked at how big the pancakes are at The Griddle Cafe, SLS Las Vegas

 

TIPS | If you or your kids love pancakes—don’t miss the GARGANTUAN pancakes at The Griddle Cafe. They’re epic. One order was more than enough to feed our whole family of three with plenty left over. We also had fun taking pics by the giant duck at the pool and having an afternoon gelato at PERQ, the hotel coffee bar.

Jen Leo and Cora at PERQ, SLS Las Vegas

Jen Leo and Cora at PERQ, SLS Las Vegas

Want to get in on ever more deals? Sign up for the SLS loyalty program called The Code. I saw 40% off deals for members (membership is free).

If you make it out to Las Vegas, have a great time at the SLS Las Vegas!

LAS VEGAS: 6 Sugar Shops & Bakeries

smore cupcake closeWhile bars are a dime a dozen, those wanting a non-alcoholic treat have to search a little harder to find satisfaction. Whether you want a cronut, éclair, decadant chocolate or old-fashioned apple pie, we think you should try one of the following Sin City establishments and score some “sweet” treats.

Sweet Ruby Jane Confections
Named after Grandma Ruby, this candy store offers “handcrafted candy with a retro flair.” That includes brittles and barks, cookies and clusters, popcorn and pretzels, you name it, they make it. Try one of their popular cookie pops, s’mores, or cinnamon caramels. You will not be disappointed. 9550 S. Eastern Avenue, Las Vegas

Gimme Some Sugar Bake Shoppe
Kristen LoVullo and Ashley Mastowski started making elaborately designed cakes for special events and have now opened their own shop. The décor features their whimsical and sophisticated themed cakes along the walls, while the bakery cases spotlight their artful  macarons, mini-cakes, pastries and cookies.  Try their Dirt & Worms (chocolate mousse, Oreo cookies, whipped cream and gummy worm), the decadent Opera Cake (Kahlua-soaked jaconde filled with coffee buttercream and covered in dark chocolate ganache) or their maple-bacon macaron. Mmmmmmm. 19 S. Stephanie Street, Henderson

Bambu Desserts & Drinks
Located over in Chinatown, Bambu Desserts & Drinks has almost 100 offerings, most of which include unusual Asian ingredients (lychee, longan, lotus, pandan jelly, taro). These exotic treats all come in a cup, whether it is a grass jelly or tapioca-based desserts or one of their milk teas, smoothies, or traditional hot drinks. This is a great place to try something new and be a bit more adventurous. (You are in Las Vegas, after all.) 4810 Spring Mountain Road, Suite B, Las Vegas

Sugar Factory
There Sugar Factory operates two restaurants as well as 4 stand-alone stores in Las Vegas. The Paris Las Vegas Hotel contains a full-serve brasserie, Sugar Café and Chocolate Lounge (open 24 hours/day) and there is a 7,000 square-foot brasserie at Town Square. Both offer their cool line of signature cocktails (Cotton Candy Cosmo, Blow Pop Martini, Cherrie Tootsie Pop to name a few), an extensive menu (with a lot of comfort food), as well as yummy desserts and fondues. For desserts only, you can find their stand-alone stores at the Paris, MGM Grand, Planet Hollywood and The Mirage. They have a full line of candies, cupcakes, desserts and are most well known for their couture pops (your girl will flip for the Britney Spears jeweled lolly pop) and Hello Kitty line of sweet treats.  Town Square: 6605 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Suite 145, Las Vegas/Paris Las Vegas Hotel: 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas

Sprinkles
This Southern California company is setting up shop inside The Linq complex mid-strip and scheduled to open—fingers crossed—in February. In this new prototype store, you’ll not only find an assortment of their 50 types of cupcakes (love those salted caramel cupcakes!) and rich and creamy ice cream flavors, but a new line of gourmet cookies as well. As a bonus, they will be installing a cupcake ATM. Yep, a vending machine that dispenses fresh cupcakes, baked that day in-store. (See video here.) And for those of you out for a stroll with Fido, you can purchase doggie cupcakes, too! The Linq, 3475 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas

Kuma Snow Cream
Opened late last spring over in Chinatown, this dessert palace was created by Jet Tila (formerly of Wazuzu at Encore). Snow cream is a cross between shaved ice and ice cream, featuring only a quarter of the fat found in a typical scoop. Kuma offers 5 base flavors to start (currently kuma snow, mango, strawberry, taro and green tea), to which you can add from a selection of 24 dry or 5 liquid toppings. And to stay true to its Sin City location, Tila may eventually add an alcohol component to these sweet treats. 3735 Spring Mountain, Las Vegas

And don’t forget, Cake Boss Buddy Valastro will be opening a Carlo’s Bake Shop in the Venetian in early 2014. The 2,200 square-foot space will serve up his famous cannolis, biscotti, and Italian sponge cakes, as well as the elaborately decorated cakes he is famous for.

LAS VEGAS: Mother’s Day Weekend at Vegas Uncork’d

New-Years-Eve_uncorkedWant to treat your mother (or your children’s mother) to a tasty getaway? Head to Vegas May 8-11th for the annual Vegas Uncork’d celebration and enjoy wine and food from some of the best vintners and chefs.

This year’s Vegas Uncork’d, sponsored by Bon Appetit magazine, takes place at various locations on the Strip. You have your choice of 23 events held at Aria, Bellagio, Caesars Palace, MGM Grand and the Venetian with celebrity chefs Joel Robuchon, Guy Savoy, Nobu Matsuhisa, Francois Payard, Bobby Flay and others tantalizing your tongue with delectable delights.

One of the big draws is the Master Series dinners, with a focus on a particular type of food. There are five of these, all being held on Thursday May 8th at Caesars Palace. They include Dinnertime Decadence with Guy Savoy, French Elegance with Francois Payard, Rao’s Italian Feast with the Pellegrino Family, The Great American Steakhouse at the Old Homestead, and Global Gourmand with Nobu Matsuhisa. Prices range from $175 to $315 per person.

Want something a bit less structure or alcohol-centered? No problem. There is a Mix Master showcase at the Lobby Bar at Aria, where you can watch master bartenders whip up some wicked cocktails, and then you get to step in and compete to create a drink to be featured on their menu. Price $100. (Friday May 9th, 1 pm) There is also The Perfect Pairing: Art and Wine at Picasso at the Bellagio, where you will be able to go wine tasting amongst the famous works of art. $80 per person. (Friday May 9th, 2:30 – 4 pm). Or maybe you’d like to go to Sommalier Feud: Guys vs Gals, where the action is based on the TV game show Family Feud, in which you will be in on the action providing the “survey says” answers and enjoying passed cocktails, appetizers, and a blind tasting of a mystery wine along with the contestants. $85 per person. (Saturday May 10th, 2:30-4 pm)

Another fun experience will be the Night Market and Grill Challenge at the Doge’s Palace in the Venetian. You will get to experience the taste treats of an Asian night market and then watch as studens of Las Vegas’ Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts pair up with famous chefs in a culinary showdown that will reward them with tuition money. (Thursday May 8th, 8-11 pm)

The crème de la crème of Vegas Uncork’d just might be the When in France: Joel Robuchon Dinner. Described as a “one-of-a-kind, six-course menu and wine pairing hosted by Chef Joël Robuchon and the restaurant’s Master Sommeliers,” you will not only enjoy great food by one of the world’s leading chefs, but will take home signed menus, Joël Robuchon’s book, and some special treats, all for the price of $775/person. (Saturday May 10th, 6-10pm)

A full listing of all events can be found here.

Vegas Uncork’d
When:
May 8 – 11th
Where:
Various Strip hotels
Cost: 
Varies, tickets available here

LAS VEGAS: Family Adventure Awaits at Cowabunga Bay

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Keeping the kids entertained in Las Vegas just got a whole lot easier with the announcement that the ‘60s-themed Cowabunga Bay will soon be open in nearby Henderson. Cowabunga Bay is a 23-acre water park that offers a variety of water slides, massive sand beach (with cabana rentals), endless lazy river, 33,000-foot wave pool, as well as food, drinks, and children’s play area.

Visitors can drop down a 73-foot enclosed tube that circles its way to the bottom and dumps riders through a trap door into a pool of water or take a raft down a 55-foot slide into the world’s largest man-made wave. If you are at all competitive, try the Surfin USA slide where your skills will be tested against 5 other riders as you make your way to the finish. Not adventurous? No problem. You can splash in the wave pool, cruise the Cowabunga River on an inner tube or float around one of the many pools. There is something for kids of all ages, so get on over there and check out the water!

Cowabunga Bay
Where: 900 Galleria Drive, Henderson (off the 515)
When: May 24, 2014 through Labor Day, weekends in September
Cost: General admission $35.99, under 4 feet $27.99, 3-hour evening rates $19.99 (includes free inner tubes and life jackets)

Las Vegas: Professional Bull Riders Last Man Standing Tournament

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Time to dust off those cowboy boots and make plans for the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Last Man Standing competition. Coming to the Mandalay Bay Events Center on May 9th and 10th, this signature event pits man against beast for $200,000 in prize money. Each of 35 of the best PBR riders will get 8 seconds to ride and prove his mettle in a progressive-elimination tournament format. Riders who last those 8 seconds move on to the next round until a winner is crowned.

This ever-popular event draws big crowds to see the world’s toughest cowboys ride some of the meanest bulls in the nation. Professional bull riding is considered to be one of the fastest growing sports in the world, but it is also the most dangerous. Tickets are almost sold out for day 1 of this competition, so if you are interested in going, you’ll need to jump on those tickets soon.

Professional Bull Riders Last Man Standing
Where
: Mandalay Bay Events Center
When: May 9th (8pm) and May 10th (6pm)
Cost: $20/$40/$60/$80/$125
Tickets: Call (800) 745-3000 or via Tickemaster

LAS VEGAS: March Madness Events

 	Rob Holland (flickr user bobbyuggles)Basketball fans always find adventure in Vegas during March Madness. Spanning from March 18th (first round play) until April 7th (championship game), you can do a lot more than watch college hoops on a gigantic screen while knocking back a cold one with your buddies. Here are a few of the more “special” events taking place:

Carmine’s, The Forum Shops, Caesars
Carmine’s, located inside Caesars Forum Shops, is offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity during the second and third rounds of March Madness. Turning one of their private dining rooms into the “ultimate man cave” for your group of 25, you can relax all day in recliners, watch all the games on big screens, play video games, beer pong, eat some kick-ass Italian food (including their famous 45-ounce Porterhouse) and enjoy an open bar (yep, unlimited brewskis and anything else your heart desires). If the games leave you tense, a massage therapist is available or maybe you’d like to partake in the free throw contest and win $1,000? After the games are over, the Hangover Heaven Bus will give you a tune-up to put you in shape to finish your evening with a VIP experience at PURE Nightclub. The cost to book one of the 8 available days is $50,000, which may sound excessive, but for a group of 25 that shakes out to be $2,000/person for an all-day and all-night extravaganza that you will brag about for years. Reservations can be made by calling 702.473.9700.

Hoops & Hops, The Chelsea, The Cosmopolitan
The Cosmopolitan if offering a more reasonably priced MM package at The Chelsea. The event, dubbed “Hoops and Hops,” will offer an exclusive sports lounge setting where you can watch the action, take advantage of multiple betting stations, access to a basketball court, video and arcade games, as well as pool tables. Running from March 20-22nd, there are four package options to choose from.
Main: open seating and 2 free drinks ($45/day or $112.50 for 3-day pass)
Gallery: Prime viewing assigned seating, select open bar and free snacks ($150/$275)
Floor Sofa: Prime viewing assigned seating for groups of 2-10, plus 2 free drinks (call for prices)
Gallery Box: Prime viewing assigned seating for groups of 10-16, select open bar and free snacks (call for prices)
Main and Gallery tickets available here. Group tickets available by calling 702.698.7120.

Rhumbar, The Mirage
Eat and drink to your heart’s content at Rhumbar at The Mirage. From March 20-23, you can watch all the action while chowing down on an all-you-can-eat buffet and enjoying an open bar. Taking place from March 20-23rd, you can buy a one-day pass for $100 or splurge on a 4-day pass for a mere $250. Packages are available by calling 702.735.8322.

For those of you preferring to watch basketball courtside, consider heading to Las Vegas during conference tournament play, March 6-15th. Here is the schedule:
West Coast Conference tournament – The Orleans Arena March 6-11.
Pac 12 Conference tournament – MGM Grand March 12-15.
Mountain West Conference tournament – Thomas & Mack Center March 12-15.
Western Athletic Conference tournament – The Orleans Arena March 13-15.

LAS VEGAS: French Master Chefs Coming to the Venetian

© Wolfgang StaudtAlways wanted to hobnob with the best chefs in France? Well, you can do just that without even leaving the United States, The Association of Maitres Cuisiners de France will be holding their annual general assembly in Las Vegas in early March, bringing to town 150 of the world’s best master chefs.

The Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino will play host to this event, which will run March 5th to 9th. This elite culinary group is making history by holding the event outside Europe for the first time, largely due to the efforts of Palazzo executive chef Olivier Dubreull, who is a member and lobbied for his adopted home to host the event.

The Association of Maîtres Cuisiniers de France serves to preserve and spread the French culinary arts, encourage training in cuisine and assist in professional development. Members advance and perpetuate the tradition of great French cuisine and actively promote French products of top quality, such as the Red Labels and “Appellations d’Origine Contrôlée” or European signs of quality, such as the IGP, AOP and STG. In addition, they are involved in culinary education in Europe and employ nearly 10,000 qualified iindividuals.

While most of the events are by invitation only, the public is invited to a special open house event: the Master Tour de France. Twelve chefs, as well as twelve wineries and spirit makers, will be showcasing their specialties from the various regions in France. For a mere $50, you can sample food from some of the best the culinary world has to offer, and you wash it all down with some lovely French wine.

Note: There is an age restriction. All attendees must be over the age of 21.

Master Tour de France: 12 Chefs/12 Wineries
Where:  Doge’s Palace, The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino
When: March 8th, 6-10 pm
Cost: $50 (tickets available here)

VALENTINE’S DAY: Last-Minute Rooms in Las Vegas $100 or Less

cora_vegas_2013_720I love spontaneous trips to Vegas so much that I would not object if my husband wanted to zip over there this weekend for Valentine’s Day without prior plans. On the off chance that he might want to, I looked at hotel prices. Ouch! Before you jump to bunk in at some of the best-loved casino resorts in town like Cosmopolitan, Caesars, Bellagio. Be prepared to open your wallets to the tune of almost $300/night or more. Even the cheaper Las Vegas hotels are either double what they normally are, or in some cases, sold out. So, I did some digging and found a few options under $150/night plus some helpful tips to keep the costs down.Heck, I got lucky and found some rooms that I’d stay at for $100 or less!

VALENTINE’S DAY VEGAS TRAVEL TIPS

1. It’ll be easier for you to book a room if you only stay Friday night, February 14. I tried looking for rates for both Friday and Saturday night and some of the hotels had availability for Friday but not Saturday. Or in some cases, Saturday night was near double the cost of Friday night. If you can, take off work and stay Thursday & Friday instead of Friday & Saturday nights.

2. Before you buy a ticket via a typical online travel site, check the hotel’s direct website and compare rates. I checked Vegas.com and rooms at the much-loved Cosmopolitan were an average of $532/night for the two nights. Pricing Friday at $325. But when I checked the Cosmopolitan’s website, they only had availability for Friday night. The price was $250.

3. Split the cost with some friends. Yeah, yeah, it’s Valentine’s Day. A night for love, indeed, but  single people celebrate Valentine’s Day, too. College girls, guys and grads—hello, I’m talking to you. Save money by piling in together.

4. Don’t forget about taxes and fees. If you’re not used to staying in Vegas and are on a strict budget—don’t forget about resort fees. If you see an advertised room rate, make sure you follow the steps to see what the true cost would be after factoring in taxes and resorts fees. It can jack the price up considerably.

5. Remember to ask if they have AAA, Military and Senior rates. It’s an easy way to knock off a few more buckaroos. Sometimes they’ll display in online booking but most times they won’t. Pick up the phone and ask.

FEBRUARY 14 VALENTINE’S DAY ROOMS $150-ish and UNDER

(in order of rooms that I’d want to stay in)

Treasure Island | TI is one of my go-to hotels for decent, mid-priced rooms with a great location. I found rooms on their website available for $101.72 on Friday night. The total cost after taxes and fees was $141.93. If I wanted to stay both Saturday and Sunday the price went up to $294.18 or $385.49 after taxes and fees.

Monte Carlo | I found a Deluxe Room with two queen beds available Feb. 14 for $117.80 before tax and the $22 resort fee. The total came to $154.34.

Tuscany Suites | If you need a little bit more space, try the off-strip Tuscany Suites. I haven’t stayed here yet but my husband and other friends have. The suites are 650 square feet, have kitchenettes, living room space and a dining room table. Room start off at $120 for Feb. 14 before taxes and the $17 resort fee.

Hard Rock Hotel | This party palace is not my ideal Vegas hotel, but on a busy weekend like Valentine’s Day weekend the price is right. I found rooms on the hotel’s website starting at $101.65. After taxes and fees it was $138.49.

FEBRUARY 14 VALENTINE’S DAY ROOMS $100 OR LESS

LVH – The Las Vegas Hotel has a lot of history and quite often a fair deal. It’s close to the Convention Center and monorail. I haven’t stayed here before but it gets decent reviews for a cheap hotel. I found AAA rates starting at $59.96  or $87.32 after taxes and fees. Have a look at the website. If you want to be a baller your dollars can upgrade you into big suites fast.

The Palms – Now that I know about RoomerTravel.com I check there too! It’s a shop where people resell their rooms when they can’t used them anymore. I found a room at The Palms on Feb. 14 for $72.20 or $80.86 after tax. Note: This does not include the resort fee which will be collected at the hotel. Note, I linked to Roomer in this graph, not The Palms.

If you’re willing to use Priceline or Hotwire you can find more rooms under $100/night. Check with BetterBidding.com if you want a community of support. In order to get those rates you’ll need to venture off the Strip and even delve into three-star hotels. But the deals are there.

 

Let us know if you find a brag-worthy deal for a Last-Min trip to Las Vegas. And most of all—HAVE FUN!

LAS VEGAS: The Golden Gate and D Las Vegas Now Accepting Bitcoin

bitcoins1The newest craze in Las Vegas is the bitcoin. While you cannot yet gamble with this internet-based currency, you can pay for your hotel stay at two Sin City establishments. Both the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino and the D Las Vegas Casino Hotel, located downtown, have added Bitcoin to its approved methods of payment. Five locations around the casinos will accept bitcoin payment: the front desks, the gift shop at the D, and restaurants Andiamo Steakhouse and American Coney Island.

Bitcoin is a growing international monetary system utilizing digital currency to pay for goods and services. Using a virtual wallet and encrypted software, bitcoins can be spent worldwide and transactions appear in a matter of minutes, with no regular delays like a traditional bank. Gaining popularity, there are concerns about the lack of consumer protection and bitcoin use for illegal activity but the lower fees charged for their use is below that of a credit card or currency conversion fee, making it a win for merchants.

Given that Bitcoin just held an international conference in Las Vegas in December, it’s no surprise that merchants are jumping on this bandwagon. It’s the kind of currency that lures e-geeks and forward-thinking entrepreneurs into their establishments, bringing with them the traditional cash that keeps them afloat.

For more information on restaurants in the Las Vegas area that accept bitcoins, check out Bitcoins in Vegas blog.

LAS VEGAS: Artsy Inspire Theater to Open Downtown

InspireTheatre_720

The revitalization of downtown continues with the opening of the Inspire Theater scheduled for the month of January. The new year will bring this hip event center in the fray with a variety of art events, as well as the opening of a newsstand café, bar, and rooftop lounge. The 150-seat theater will be host to book readings, spoken word presentations, lectures, as well as musical events.

In addition to the theater, the ground floor will be occupied by the Inspire News Café, which will operate both an international news stand and a café. The news stand will carry 300+ newspapers and magazines from around the world, a boon for international travelers and those wanting something more global than the latest issue of Newsweek or the Wall Street Journal. Rumor has it there will also be a print-on-demand press for patrons to order and have a book printed and bound while they wait. Way cool.  The café portion will serve the regular arsenal of coffee and tea beverages, as well as simple and fresh food items. The bohemian atmosphere will offer a variety of seating options, wi-fi, and even an outdoor patio.

The second floor will be home to the mid-mod Wayfarer Bar overlooking the theater that will serve up craft cocktails with a retro feel. The bar scene continues to the roof, where the aptly named “The Roof” lounge will operate. This climate-controlled outdoor lounge will allow patrons to watch the activities along Fremont Street while indulging in “communal” service, meaning large pitchers of alcoholic beverages to share table-side.