GBTA 2013 Convention in San Diego! (Global Business Travel Association)

GBTA 2013 Convention in San Diego! (Global Business Travel Association)

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NOTE: For ThrowbackThursday and FlashbackFriday we found this Blog draft. We laid out all the type and captions back in 2013 and never added the pics or details. So we went to the files for collateral from the convention, found old travel picture files on our other laptop for pictures that were never seen and also went hunting for the pics that we had already downloaded or posted, then we filled in all the details we could remember and constructed this Blog! And even though the event happened in 2013 we still hope you will enjoy this Blog for TravelTuesday in 2017!

We were invited to attend the GBTA 2013 Convention as a “Hosted Buyer”, but we had prior commitments and could only attend the first and second day of the event. So we made a one-night hotel reservation and arranged to attend the “preview day” on Sunday and the first day on Monday.

GBTA 2013 Convention Schedule for Sunday and Monday:
(Vendor Parties not shown) CLICK to SEE A LARGER PIC!

Road Trip to San Diego! – Ride along with me!

It was a foggy Sunday morning when we woke up very early and hit the road to San Diego. We left the San Fernando Valley at 7am to avoid traffic and drove south on the 405 and 5 freeways for about three hours. We were successful and drove fast (we also took pictures as we went) but other drivers were driving really fast! We were really amazed at the speed of some of the cars passing us at very high speeds like we were parked.

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GBTA 2013! – On The Road to San Diego (405 freeway south to 5 freeway south)

Ride along with me to San Diego, just click on the pics below:

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GBTA 2013! – Downtown San Diego

Embassy Suites Hotel Downtown San Diego (A Hilton Hotel)

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GBTA 2013! – Embassy Suites Hotel Downtown San Diego

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GBTA 2013! – Embassy Suites Hotel Downtown San Diego Atrium & Skylight

We arrived in San Diego and found our hotel, the Embassy Suites Downtown, sometime after 9am. We found metered street parking two blocks away from the hotel which was FREE and available because it was Sunday. We walked over to the hotel, had breakfast at the complimentary buffet and got an early check in.

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GBTA 2013! – Breakfast Buffet at the Embassy Suites Hotel Downtown San Diego

We went up to the room, checked it out and dropped our luggage. We set up the laptop, hooked into the hotel’s wi-fi and did our morning business via the internet and cell phone.

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After a short time in the room, we walked over to the Hyatt Regency and caught the Free Shuttle to the Convention Center.

Sunday was a “preview” day, so it was not very crowded, just busy. There were a lot of people checking in and the vendors and staff were making preparations for the week ahead. The Exhibition Hall didn’t open until Monday, but we were invited to the “First-Timers” lunch and the Welcome Party at the Hilton on Sunday evening.

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GBTA 2013! Global Business Travel Association Convention in San Diego

We rode the shuttle to the Convention Center, walked to Check-In, checked in and got our credentials, and then we walked to the “first timers” lunch in an adjacent meeting hall.

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GBTA 2013! – San Diego Convention Center

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GBTA 2013! – “First Timers” Lunch, Orientation and Welcome

On The Menu: Turkey sandwich with mozzarella cheese balls, lettuce & tomato and a slice of apple pie with iced tea, water and coffee

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After lunch, we attended the “Going Global” session, walked around the Convention Center and then we walked to the shuttle pickup point, rode the shuttle back to the Hyatt and then walked back to our hotel. We cleaned up and enjoyed a free cocktail and complimentary appetizers at the Embassy Suites’ afternoon Happy Hour downstairs.

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GBTA 2013 Welcome Reception Party Buffet at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront

After the Happy Hour we drove over to the Hilton Bayfront Hotel and paid $15 to park for the Welcome Reception and Party on the Great Lawn which runs along the Marina.  An outdoor evening buffet for 7000 people or so, with beer/wine and magaritas at the bar.

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GBTA 2013! – Hilton Bayfront Hotel in San Diego

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GBTA 2013! – Hilton Bayfront Hotel in San Diego

NOTE: It was a huge convention! Every hotel in San Diego remotely close to the Convention Center was at capacity and filled with Travel Agents, Vendors, Travel Writers and other attendees from all over the United States and other parts of the world. We commented on the size of the crowd to a staff person at the Convention Center and they just laughed because Comic-Con had been in town the week before and the size of GBTA convention wasn’t even close to the overflow crowd for Comic-Con.

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GBTA 2013 Welcome Reception Party on the Great Lawn – the Hilton Bayfront Hotel in San Diego

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GBTA 2103 Welcome Reception Party on the Great Lawn – the Hilton Bayfront Hotel in San Diego

On The Menu at the Welcome Reception Party Buffet at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront:
Buffalo chicken meatballs, lamb meatballs in a tomato sauce, pasta in lobster sauce, pita chips and a bunch of types of hummus, prime rib sliders with cheese, chicken potstickers, veggie potstickers, pork potstickers, other stuff too, and then on to the dessert table! Nice truffle selection, chocolate covered strawberries, candy lollipops in a bunch of weird flavors and mini-pastries…

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GBTA 2013! – Sunset Over A Sea of Travel Industry at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel in San Diego

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We walked to over to Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Restaurant for the next party. It was a long “Las Vegas” walk just after dark along the Marina and Bayfront to get to Roy’s, but it was worth it! We immediately regretted eating at the Welcome Party Buffet, because there was an amazing assortment of incredible food at Roy’s!

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GBTA 2013! – The Kitchen at Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Restaurant in San Diego

There were all kinds of sushi and cut rolls, egg rolls, chicken and beef satay skewers, Hawaiian style ribs, other tasty appetizers and finger foods, fresh fruit and a lot of fancy desserts. We ate and drank and networked until it got too crowded inside the large restaurant and we didn’t take any pictures (except the one of the kitchen above). We left the party early and took a little food “to go” for later at the hotel. We didn’t want to do anymore walking or make the long dark walk back to the Hilton parking structure, so we negotiated with a pedal cab guy and survived a really fast and wild nighttime ride back to the hotel along the Bayfront for $10+tip.

We walked to our car and drove back to the Embassy Suites. We valet parked our car at the hotel and retired to our hotel room. We did some work, ate the “to go” food (ribs, sushi and little chocolate balls) after midnight and went to bed.

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Monday morning, we were up early and we enjoyed the Embassy Suites’ breakfast buffet again. We took the food up to the room, ate and did some more work, and then packed up our stuff, went downstairs and had a second breakfast. After eating again we got our stuff and checked out of the hotel. We picked up the car from the valet, drove to over the Convention Center and paid to park there. Parking was $15 for all day until midnight.

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GBTA 2013! – Embassy Suites Hotel Breakfast Buffet (in the room)

We arrived in time and got a pretty good seat for the Keynote Address and Lunch for 6000 people with a presentation and performance by singer/songwriter Jewel. All of the front area tables were “Reserved” so we took a seat at a forward table in the first section behind the front area. The hall at the Convention Center was massive! Lunch for 6000 is not an easy task!

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GBTA 2013 Keynote Lunch with Jewel at the San Diego Convention Center

Monday’s GBTA 2013 Keynote Speaker Jewel performs
“Who Will Save Your Soul” live at the San Diego Convention Center

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https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=703198789706690&set=vb.337421319696080&type=2&theater (facebook video)

On The Menu: iceberg lettuce salad, bread & butter, stuffed chicken breast with pesto sauce, vegetables, a fruit tart dessert and iced tea.

After lunch they opened the massive Exposition Hall which ran the entire length of the Convention Center and was filled with Vendors and Suppliers. There were also Vendor meetings scheduled for the afternoon. We walked a portion of the Exhibition Hall, collected brochures/information/swag and received invitations to events later on that evening and later in the week. It would have been impossible to cover the whole Exhibition Hall in one day, so we didn’t try. Instead we did what we could between 3-6pm and dropped all the promotional material in our car before beginning the evening activities.

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GBTA 2013! – The Gaslamp District Sign in San Diego

The Gaslamp District!
The Historic Heart of San Diego is located across the street and train tracks from the Convention Center. Bars, clubs, restaurants, hotels and plenty of gift shops are within easy walking distance (unless you’ve already walked all day).

Let’s get this party started!
We were invited to eight different parties happening at different locations around the Gaslamp District and the Bayfront near the Convention Center.

Monday Party # 1 – Sunset cocktails and dinner at the Altitude Lounge

Our first invitation was for a party at the Altitude Lounge on top of the Marriott Gaslamp Hotel. We walked over to the Marriott Hotel next door to the Convention Center, but it was the wrong Marriott. So then we walked over to the Gaslamp District and found the right hotel. We ate and drank and watched the sunset from the rooftop patio.

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Excellent view of San Diego and Mission Bay from the outdoor patio!

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GBTA 2013! View from the Altitude Lounge in San Diego

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GBTA 2013! – View of Petco Park from the Altitude Lounge in San Diego

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GBTA 2013! – Sunset in San Diego from the Altitude Lounge

On The Menu: tray passed appetizers and a buffet with eggrolls, beef on toast, beef and chicken satay, tuna on wonton crisp, crab on cracker, pita bread and hummus and more… catered by Flemings Steakhouse!

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Monday Party #2 –
We crashed The Parking Spot Party at Lou & Mickey’s at the Gaslamp

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GBTA 2013! – The Parking Spot Party at Lou & Mickey’s at the Gaslamp

We left the party and walked across the street and crashed The Parking Spot’s party at Lou & Mickey’s restaurant. We ate and drank and met the nice folks from The Parking Spot and told them we crashed their party. They didn’t mind. Their party ended early, and the place emptied as the crowd left for other parties that were just getting started.

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Monday Party #3 – GBTA 2013 “AMPED” Party at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego!

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GBTA 2013! – Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Guitar at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego

We walked over to our next event: the AMPED party at the Hard Rock Hotel! We ate and drank and met a bunch of really nice people. It started slow but soon the crowd at the main bar was five people deep, the music was rockin’ and it got pretty hopping.

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This party was on a very large rooftop patio, with several permanent bars, a couch area with fire pits and portable heaters, several floating bars and a bunch of buffet stations with a great selection of food. There was good music, of course, and a stage was set up for performance, but it didn’t get used until later. There was even a photo booth for taking pictures with silly wigs, hats and props.

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GBTA 2013! – Buffet Station at the AMPED Party at the Hard Rock Hotel

We asked permission before taking these pics of one of the Go-Go Dancers on a raised pedestal (there were several). She said “Go ahead, I don’t see why not” and posed for the first one. And she was a fantastic dancer too!

Monday Party #4 – Level Skye Club at the Andaz Hotel in San Diego!

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GBTA 2013! – The Bar at Level Skye Club at the Andaz Hotel in San Diego

We had one more party to check out or we would have just stayed at the Hard Rock, instead we left the hotel and walked over to Level Skye Club at the Andaz Hotel. We walked a lot and we were wearing our dress shoes, so by the end of the night our feet were really hurting. We were also tired from a long day at the convention and a long night of partying.
When we got to the club the upstairs was deceptively quiet because downstairs in the basement it was raging! The party at Level Skye was really “off-the-hook” with funky dance music and lots of light and a lot of drunk travel agents. Travel industry people love to party! Thanks American Express!

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GBTA 2013! – Big Party at Level Skye Club in the Andaz Hotel Basement in San Diego

We didn’t eat or drink anything alcoholic because we still had to walk back to the car and drive home to Los Angeles. So, Monday late night we walked back to the car on sore feet before they closed the Convention Center Garage for the night (at midnight).

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GBTA 2013! – San Diego Convention Center Parking ($15 all day – closes at midnight)

We drove back to Los Angeles on the 5 freeway north after midnight and hit a impossible “Stop-and-Go” traffic jam along the way because of construction at 2am in the morning.

When we finally made it home after 3am, we unloaded the car and crashed hard. We had a really good time, did a lot of business and networking, saw Jewel play live music, enjoyed our “budget” stay at the Embassy Suites, and ate and drank and danced and partied in San Diego for two days.

NOTE: We did a lot of walking, a whole lot of walking in our dress shoes, so next time we bring and wear more comfortable walking shoes.

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GBTA 2013! – San Diego Convention Center Stairs at Night

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GBTA 2013! – We did not attend GBTA 2014 in Los Angeles

FINAL NOTE: We finished this Blog and hit “PUBLISH” and it did not. WordPress lost the Blog and the draft(s) totally disappeared! We had to use Google Cache to rescue it and then we had to start over and rebuild the original Blog again. Total waste of time. There is a flaw (BUG) in the wordpress program, because when we went looking for help we found that this has happened to other people as well. So, please ENJOY THIS BLOG, a lot of time went into it.



 

UPDATED Wednesday March 29, 2017 – We posted this Blog yesterday!

We collected a bunch of FREE stuff in the short time we were there, two bags full of stuff actually! Most was promotional “paper”: sell sheets, pamphlets, maps and brochures. But there was some fun giveaway stuff and cool “incentives” for visiting certain booths.

We were given a “Swag” bag at check-in provided/sponsored by Delta and the padded bag was very nice. We recently found it in Storage (see our previous Blog about Storage) and we are now using it as a laptop bag.

UPDATED April 5, 2017 – TRAVEL TIP!
We found these “hospitality cards” (restaurant and bar coupons, freebies, come-ons, etc.) from the San Diego trip. We had so much FREE food and drink and were only in town for one night, so we didn’t use any of them. They can be found at the Concierge Desk at the San Diego Convention Center (and these are just a few of the ones available).

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Hospitality Cards (Restaurant and Bar Coupons, Freebies, Come-Ons, etc.)

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“Chinese Fast Food” Dinner at Good China Express in North Hollywood!

Good China Express! 

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Good China Express “Chinese Fast Food” in North Hollywood

“Chinese Fast Food” in NoHo on a Thursday night!

Hungry for dinner and driving around North Hollywood, the drive-thru line was too long at the In-N-Out Burger as usual, so we decided on Good China Express “Chinese Fast Food”.  The restaurant is located in the corner mini-mall, next to a check cashing place, across the street from the Sears at Laurel Canyon and Victory.

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Good China Express “Chinese Fast Food” in North Hollywood

We’ve eaten here before, but not in a long time. It’s very clean and has an “A” rating. It’s a Chinese hot table buffet restaurant like Panda Express and they have a nice selection of dishes to choose from. Menu choices are combination plates served with fried rice, chow mien, assorted side items and beverages. Quick and relatively inexpensive, you get a lot of food for the money. We took our food “to go”, put it on a plate and popped it in the microwave to heat it up when we reached our destination, and enjoyed a big, hot and tasty dinner.

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Good China Express “Chinese Fast Food” in North Hollywood

 

On The Menu: “Combo B” Two items: orange chicken, beef with broccoli and all fried rice (no chow mien) to go for $7.00 and a can of club soda to drink.

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Good China Express – “Combo B” 2 items with all fried rice (no chow mien)

Good China Express –  12102 1/2 Victory (at Laurel Canyon) in North Hollywood

All photos copyright 2016 JoshWillTravel

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Party at the Culver Hotel in Culver City

Graduation and Dinner Party at the Culver Hotel in Culver City on Sunday night!

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The Culver Hotel in Culver City, California

A beautiful Sunday evening in Los Angeles and an invitation to a Graduation and Dinner Party at the historic Culver Hotel in Culver City, California.

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The Culver Hotel and The Lion’s Fountain in Culver City

The party was called for 6pm, so we left the San Fernando Valley a little after 5 o’clock, and drove the 405 freeway to the Venice Blvd exit and into Culver City. We decided not to valet park or park in the public parking structures, so we drove around for a little while and finally nabbed street parking at a metered space. The meters don’t run on Sunday, so we took a short walk and arrived at our destination right on time.

The 405 Freeway south (through a dirty windshield):

Downtown Culver City (founded 1917)

The intersection of Washington Blvd and Culver Blvd in downtown Culver City.

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View of Washington Blvd & Culver Blvd in Culver City from Harry Culver’s Office

Parking Sucks! There is metered street parking and there are public parking structures in Downtown Culver City (first hour free, then $1.00 every 30 minutes) in case you don’t want to valet park. However, you don’t have to pay to park at the meters on Sunday, so if you can find a space on the street, you’re golden. Be sure to check the signs carefully, because there are many restrictions and some other strange valet parking rules.

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Walk With Me: Sunday Evening in Downtown Culver City!

 

The Historic Culver Hotel 1924 Six Story Flatiron Brick Building

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The Culver Hotel in Culver City, California

National Registry of Historic Places 1997

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The Culver Hotel in Culver City, California

 

 

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Built by Harry Culver, the founder of Culver City. Originally named the Hotel Hunt and later known as the Culver City Hotel. Culver had offices on the second floor of the hotel.

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Harry Culver’s Office (Then)

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Harry Culver’s Office (Now)

Culver City became a movie-making mecca in the 1920s and was the home of MGM Studios. Many legendary Hollywood stars maintained private residences and cast members from classic films like Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz  (including the 124 actors who played the Munchkins) were guests of the hotel.

The hotel was later owned by Charlie Chaplin. Legend has it Chaplin lost the property in a poker game to John Wayne, who owned the hotel for several years and eventually donated it to the YMCA.  The property fell into disrepair, was boarded up for a time and almost demolished in the 1980s.

Dwight D. Eisenhower had a Presidential campaign office in the hotel in 1952.

The Culver Hotel was restored and reopened by Lou Catlett in the mid 90’s and was then purchased by Abraham Hu who ran it for several years until 2007, when he sold it to the Mallick family. Since 2007, the entire plumbing and electrical systems have been upgraded and the guestrooms and the public spaces have been redone, all 140 handmade windows in the guest rooms have been replaced while maintaining the property’s history and architectural integrity.

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ICP Graduation 2016 and Dinner Party on the 2nd Floor

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Diplomas were awarded and Speeches were made before Dinner

6pm Reception, Cocktail Hour & Hors d’oeuvres
7pm Welcome, Introduction, Graduation Speaker & Graduation
8pm Dinner & 9pm Dessert (with a brief award presentation in between)

On The Menu: Tray passed appetizers: mac’n’cheese, tuna poke with wasabi cream cheese and bruschetta with cream cheese & tomato; red wine, Buffet: chicken, salmon, pasta in red sauce, roasted cauliflower/broccolini/root vegetables and a coke; Dessert: mini cannoli and macaroons….didn’t stay for coffee.

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Party at the Culver Hotel in Culver City

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The Ground Floor Lobby and Bar are used for special events. There was a wedding in progress and we took a couple pictures on our way out.

Culver Hotel9400 Culver Blvd Culver City, CA 90232

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A couple of my travel answers about South Lake Tahoe

A couple of travel answers about South Lake Tahoe:

Q: Nice hotels in South Lake Tahoe? I will be traveling to Reno/ Lake Tahoe in the beginning of December and I’m having a tough time figuring out where to stay. I would like to stay between 100-150.00 a night. Any suggestions? I have looked at the Hyatt and Harrahs but wanted to try something maybe a little less corporate. Not much of a skier so I’m trying to stay away from big ski lodges. ~Stacey B., Denver

Aston Lakeland Village (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Aston Lakeland Village (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

A: Aston Lakeland Village Resort in South Lake Tahoe is a pretty good value. The lodge rooms are nice (and some have full kitchenettes if you like to cook on your own to save money). The property is right on the lake so you can walk down to the beach and watch the sunset. There are tennis courts and 2 swimming pools, a jacuzzi spa, laundry room and free coffee too. The property is a 10-15 minute drive from state line and the casinos: Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, Harveys Lake Tahoe, MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa and the new Hard Rock Cafe Lake Tahoe. It’s definitely not corporate and there are lots of walking paths and tall pine trees on site. For less expensive accommodation options try the motels along Hwy 50 Lake Tahoe Blvd. (Watch out for the Police and Don’t Speed!)

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Q: Best bars and restaurants in South Lake / near Heavenly? In a few weeks I’ll be spending a weekend snowboarding at Heavenly Mountain in South Lake Tahoe (and will be staying at the new Hard Rock Hotel). What are some of best places to eat in the area? I’m specifically interested in good breakfast spots and must-visit places for dinner (from $-$$$$ I’m open to all suggestions). Also, if there are any great bars (especially those with a great beer selection) I’d love to know. Thanks! ~Trevor M., Los Angeles

A: The Forrest Buffet at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe in South Lake Tahoe is pretty good. It’s on the 18th floor and has a great view of the lake and mountains. If you time it right you can watch the sunset while you dine. “All You Can Eat”, there’s a lot of good stuff on the dinner and Saturday/Sunday brunch (sorry no breakfast or lunch) menus and it’s a pretty good value for the price in my opinion. (and you can usually find a coupon for a few dollars off per person)

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Lake Tahoe Sunset (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Lake Tahoe Sunset (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

 

A couple more travel answers about Las Vegas

A couple more travel answers about Las Vegas:

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Q: Best Buffet for the money in Vegas? I’m heading to Vegas and naturally looking for the best all you can eat buffets that will put all other buffets to shame. What are your favorites and why? ~ Cameron W., Los Angeles

A: Best Buffet in Las Vegas?

The Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace, The Buffet at Bellagio, and The Buffet at Wynn are three of the best ($$$). I also like the Flavors Buffet at Harrah’s which is less expensive and has a huge variety of good things on the menu (and you can usually find coupons for Flavors and save $5 per person on the regular $18-$30 price)

NOTE: I ate at the MGM Grand buffet last year and it was TERRIBLE! It was the worst buffet I’ve ever eaten at in Vegas. The food looked good but literally everything was cold and tasteless…. I would also advise avoiding the buffet at Circus Circus.

—————————————————————————————————

Q: Which hotel would you choose?

Having some difficulty choosing my hotel for my next trip to Vegas.  I actually have a reservation at the newer SLS hotel but am hesitant about it. Hesitant simply because it’s on the North side of the strip which I don’t usually stay. Everything I want to do/see is on the South end. So do I try out the newer hotel with a really nice room or go with something else location wise? Which would you choose and why? ~Karen H., Maryland

SLS –  Lux Deluxe King – Corner High Floor With extra wind – got a great Cyber Monday deal on the room at 1/2 off the regular price.  Price $122 per night

Tropicana –  either a 1 KING BALCONY W/POOL VIEW – BUNGALOW or 1 KING 2 ROOM SUITE – CLUB TOWER Suite.  price either $88 or $100 per night

Treasure Island –  Petite Suite or Tower Suite at $98 per night or $115 per night.

A: SLS Las Vegas Hotel, Tropicana Las Vegas, or Treasure Island?

Tropicana Hotel - Las Vegas, Nevada (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Tropicana Hotel – Las Vegas, Nevada (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

The Tropicana has the advantage of being across the street from the MGM Grand Las Vegas (lots of great restaurants just don’t eat at the buffet) and monorail adjacent (which will save you time and money). Spend the extra money on the Suite and ask them to waive the resort fee. Get a monorail pass and you have transit access to Bally’s & Paris, the Flamingo & Caesar’s, Harrah’s & the Linq, and the other “center Strip” hotels: Mirage, Bellagio, Monte Carlo, the Venetian, etc. And also off-strip to the Westgate (Las Vegas Hilton) and SLS (the Sahara) at the north end.

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Dinner at Taj Mahal Cuisine of India in Encino

Dinner at Taj Mahal Cuisine of India in Encino 

Dinner at Taj Mahal (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Taj Mahal (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Upstairs in one of the weirdest “strip malls” in the San Fernando valley, is the Taj Mahal Cuisine of India restaurant. Climb the stairs (or ride the elevator) to this fantastic dining establishment and enjoy a wonderful culinary experience!

There’s usually street parking (metered 8am-8pm) available on Ventura Blvd. There are a few spaces in the small parking area in front, and many spaces in a very large underground garage below the mall…and it’s FREE. No valet parking surcharge!

The restaurant is a “mom and pop operation”: mom manages the restaurant and pop runs the deliveries and catering. The space has a sterile, modern design with big windows and lots of light during the day and it is always clean. When you enter, you’ll be greeted by the wonderful aromas of fragrant and exotic food cooking in the kitchen. They also have an outside patio dining area with a nice view of Ventura Boulevard and the Ralph’s parking lot across the street. (yes, it’s the valley)

Dinner at Taj Mahal (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Taj Mahal – Dine In, Take Out or Call for Delivery! (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Amazing Indian Food!

Dinner at Taj Mahal (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Taj Mahal – Menu and a Mango Lassi smoothie (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

ON THE MENU: Crispy flatbread crackers served with spicy sauces, Chicken Coconut Curry, Chicken Tikka (Tandoori style), Bangin Bharta (eggplant), Basmati Rice, Peshwari Naan (warm flatbread with fruit and nuts), Raita (yogurt), Mango Chutney, and a Mango Lassi (smoothie).

Dinner at Taj Mahal (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Taj Mahal – crispy flatbread cracker w/spicy sauces (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

For starters, there’s a crispy flatbread cracker served with spicy sauces and pickled root veggies. We like to order their mango chutney, which is sweet, tangy and delicious.

Dinner at Taj Mahal (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Taj Mahal – Mango Chutney (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Taj Mahal (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Taj Mahal – Starter (“bread”) plate (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

They have a wonderful selection of fresh baked naans and kulchas (seasoned breads) served warm out of the oven. I really like the garlic naan and onion kulcha, and they have a fantastic Peshwari naan with fruit and nuts baked in. Have it as an appetizer or with dinner.

Dinner at Taj Mahal (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Taj Mahal – Peshwari Naan, flatbread w/fruit & nuts (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Taj Mahal - Onion Kulcha and Mango Chutney (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Taj Mahal – Onion Kulcha and Mango Chutney (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

They have terrific appetizers. I like the Samosas.

Dinner at Taj Mahal - Samosa Appetizer (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Taj Mahal – Samosa Appetizer (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

They have a great menu! There’s a good variety of chicken, lamb, fish and vegetarian dishes (no beef, of course). In addition to the tasty appetizers, they have wonderful soups and a unique dessert list.

Each flavorful entree is served with tasty basmati rice and raita (seasoned yogurt). My favorite dish is the chicken coconut curry, which can also be done with lamb. The Tandoori chicken is also a good choice, and is served sizzling on a skillet with grilled onions. Have it on the bone or served without bones as chicken tikka.

All of the food is constructed with a mix of spices that delivers a real taste of Indian home cooking. I’ve tried some of their other dishes on previous visits and without exception they have all been excellent. They use a wide range of ingredients and there’s something on the menu for every taste. The cooking is traditional Indian style, but the taste is extraordinary!

Dinner at Taj Mahal (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Taj Mahal – Bangin Bharta (Eggplant), Chicken Coconut Curry, and Chicken Tikka Tandoori Style (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

The Bangin Bharta is a spicy vegetarian dish made with eggplant and peas, and like all the main dishes you can request it “mild, medium, or hot”.

Dinner at Taj Mahal (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Taj Mahal – Raita, seasoned yogurt (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Taj Mahal (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Taj Mahal – Chicken Coconut Curry, Chicken Tikka (Tandoori style), Bangin Bharta (eggplant), Raita and Basmati Rice  (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

I love this restaurant and we come here often for dinner and sometimes have it delivered. They’ve also catered several large parties for us at our home. The food was excellent and it’s easy to serve buffet style (they’ll even provide the chafing dishes).

They also have the classic “all you can eat” lunch buffet and a champagne Sunday brunch at a great price! They advertise in local “coupon mailers” and offer discounts on the buffet and brunch as well as 2-for-1 entrees ($10 off) when you dine in with coupon. There’s also a nice selection of beer and wine available, again at very reasonable prices!

NOTE: the only thing that I’ve found to be annoying at Taj Mahal is the service. My advice is to request anything you need or want when there is someone at your table. If you ASK for ice, extra napkins, additional beverages, water refill, and the check, rather than waiting for service or someone to ask, you will have a much better experience!

There’s also one more thing I don’t like (this is my own personal opinion) and that’s that they’ll plate your food at the table for you, as part of the service. Some people enjoy being served this way, but I prefer to serve myself and determine my own portions and placement of food on the plate. So, I usually tell them “thanks, I’ll just serve myself.”

Dinner at Taj Mahal (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Taj Mahal – Cooking in the Kitchen! (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

 Taj Mahal Cuisine of India17815 Ventura Blvd, Ste 201, Encino, California 91316 818-345-2244 http://www.tajmahaldining.com

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Dinner at Taj Mahal - Mango Lassi, pickled veggies & crispy flatbread cracker (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at Taj Mahal – Mango Lassi, pickled root veggies, spicy sauces & crispy flatbread cracker (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)


UPDATE December 17, 2016:
We enjoyed “take out” from Taj Mahal last night and it was great!
This is, in my opinion, the best Indian food in the San Fernando Valley!

On the Menu: chicken coconut curry, chicken tikka masala, banging bharta (eggplant puree with peas), basmati rice, raita (yogurt with cucumber and dill), mango chutney and Peshwari naan (flatbread with dried fruit & nuts).

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UPDATED Friday April 7, 2017

We enjoyed another fantastic dinner at Taj Mahal Cuisine of India tonight!

On The Menu: Chicken coconut curry, boneless tandoori chicken, banging bharta (eggplant dish), basmati rice, onion kulcha (flatbread), mango chutney, raita (yogurt), crispy cracker bread with spicy sauces and a mango lassi

“Buy Tuscany” Event at the Italian Cultural Institute in Westwood, CA

Earlier tonight I attended the “Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute in Westwood, CA.  After a quiet January, it’s time to get out and network again!

It was overcast and foggy, with intermitten rain, in the San Fernando Valley today.  So after a nice drive over Mulholland Drive, Sepulveda Boulevard and then on the 405 to Wilshire…

First, a few pics from the drive over the hill through the billion dollar clusterf*ck that is the construction on the 405 freeway through the Sepulveda Pass:

New Mulholland Bridge over the 405 (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

New Mulholland Bridge over the 405 (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Remember “Carmaggeddon”?  Well here is the finished Mulholland Bridge that was widened and retrofitted! NOTE HOW TWO LANES BECOME ONE LANE BEFORE THE BRIDGE AND THEN WIDEN TO TWO LANES AGAIN ON THE BRIDGE…it totally defeats the purpose of widening the bridge, and you can’t turn right on a red light at the light.

Sepulveda Blvd (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Sepulveda Blvd south (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Sepulveda Boulevard at 2:30pm on a Thursday, once you get past the closed right lane at the top of the hill (where two lanes turn left and then have to merge into one lane again) and the new freeway onramp (where the cars in the right lane have to get in the left turn lane) is still a great drive.  Note the huge retaining walls along the freeway….will they hold?

Sepulveda Blvd (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Sepulveda Blvd (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Traffic Tip: Get on the 405 south at Getty Center, because you never know what traffic will be like on Sepulveda at Moraga, Church and Montana! Again note the retaining wall….

Getty Center 405 Freeway Onramp (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Getty Center 405 Freeway Onramp (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

405 Freeway (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

405 Freeway and the Getty Center (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Thursday 2:40pm on the 405 Freeway south approaching Sunset, just wait until rush hour.  Note the massive Getty Center on the top of the hill.

405 Freeway and the Getty Center (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

405 Freeway and the Getty Center (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Exit the 405 at Wilshire on the brand new ramp that is exactly the same as the old ramp, only longer and now one lane again.  NOTE THAT THEY DIDN’T CHANGE THE EXIT AT WILSHIRE SO TRAFFIC STILL BACKS UP ONTO THE FREEWAY AT PEAK HOURS.

405 Freeway New Wilshire Blvd Offramp (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

405 Freeway New Wilshire Blvd Offramp (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

AND THEY DIDN’T FIX THE INTERSECTION AT SEPULVEDA AND WILSHIRE (the busiest intersection in the western United States) and the construction continues….

Under the 405 on Wilshire east at Sepulveda (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Under the 405 on Wilshire Blvd east at Sepulveda (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

So, I made it to Westwood in good time and arrived early enough to navigate traffic on Wilshire and in Westwood.  I parked in the parking structure next to the Italian Cultural Institute for FREE! The parking guys let me park my own car because I told them I didn’t want to leave the key (I also didn’t want anyone “stack” parking or moving my car). Parking was complimentary for a limited number of guests, so thank you Tourism Italia!

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

It began to drizzle a little after 3pm, so I checked in and sat inside on the red ultra moderne designer couch with a few other early arrivees in the reception area until they opened the Trade Show at 3:30pm.  Note the beautiful Italian marble patio!  It’s a great event space, but unfortunately it rained just enough to make it wet and slippery and they had to change the setup at the last minute.

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

The first order of business was the Trade Show.  Meeting with Vendors and Suppliers from Tuscany, the format was sort of a “one-on-one” format for more than one person.  Most of the Vendors were represented by two people and even early on, it was more than two people on my side of the table.  I paired up with one of my co-workers for the presentations at the beginning, but eventually had to go it alone, because of the format. There was a lot of room noise and some of the suppliers had thick Italian accents, so it was very hard to hear the presentations.  I managed to meet everyone, see what they had to offer, exchange business cards and collected a big bag of collateral material from the hotels, tour operators, wineries and other exhibitors.

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Finished with the circle tour of the trade show, I had some coffee, dropped the bag of information in my car, and found a chair in the library to sit in while I waited for cocktail hour to begin.  There was limited seating to begin with, and because of the weather everyone who finished also was waiting inside, so having a seat was “groovy”.

Cocktail hour at last! Prosecco, Tuscan red wine and tray passed appetizers: shrimp, rare beef on toast, and tomato pomodoro soup in little square plastic cups.  I did some networking, drank some Prosecco and ate some hor d’ourves.

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Cocktail hour in the Library

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

The next order of business was a very nice presentation in the theatre.  There were introductions, informative speeches, videos of beautiful Tuscany, expressions of thanks and gratitude, a musical performance and a drawing for some very nice prizes.

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Then the Dinner Buffet was served.  On the menu: sausage and peppers, polenta with mushrooms and cheese, pasta with red sauce, fava, bruschetta, toasted bread and breadsticks.  More Prosecco and Tuscan wine was served, but instead I had still bottled water with my food.

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

And following the food, there was coffee and mini tiramisu for dessert (not pictured)

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

It was a long event 3:30-8:30pm (5 hours plus travel time), but it was well managed (even with the weather adjustments) and informative.  The food was good and the presentation was entertaining.  Overall, it was a pretty nice event and now I want to visit Tuscany!

I thanked my hosts, said goodbye to my friends and co-workers, and drove my car out of the parking lot back to the 405.  There was traffic on Wilshire, traffic getting on the 405 at Wilshire, traffic on the 405 freeway and the Skirball exit was closed.  Nevertheless, I made back to the valley in about a half hour, posted on facebook, and wrote this blog.  Hope you enjoyed my afternoon and evening.  Thanks for reading!!!  Grazie!  Tutte bene!

 

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Signature Sales Meeting and Trade Show at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas!

The Signature Sales Meeting and Trade Show 2013 at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. (See other peoples posts and pictures at #Signaturesales2013 on facebook)

NOTE: This Blog post is currently UNDER CONSTRUCTION!  I want to put it up now, but please come back and check it out again when I finish it!  You can get updates if you “LIKE” my facebook travel page: http://www.facebook.com/joshwilltravel

Wednesday 1pm:  Road Trip!  Off to Las Vegas, Nevada for the annual Signature Sales Meeting and Trade Show! Finished my last minute work and ran a few errands, packed up the car and hit the highway. 101 south to the 134 east to the 210 east to the 10 east to the 215 east to the 15 north.  Other people from my office chose to fly but I prefer to drive.

Road Trip to Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

The Right Time to Road Trip to Las Vegas! (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Going east to Nevada, with the setting sun in the mirror (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Going east to Nevada, setting sun in the mirror (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Stopped in Barstow for gas and a Double-Double burger at In-N-Out.

In-N-Out Burger, Barstow, CA (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

In-N-Out Burger, Barstow, CA (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Road Trip to Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Road Trip to Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Road Trip to Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Road Trip to Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Weird rainbow and purple desert skies at sunset and the approaching lights of Stateline:

Sunset! Road Trip to Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Sunset Behind Us! Road Trip to Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Road Trip to Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Road Trip to Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Stateline - Primm, Nevada (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Stateline – Primm, Nevada (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

“Vegas Baby, Vegas!”

MGM Grand, Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand, Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

New York-New York and the MGM Grand Hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

The first thing you notice about the MGM Grand is it’s money green color.  The second thing you notice is that it’s HUGE!  You’ll notice this as you drive around the self parking structure and as you try to navigate your way to the registration desk, and as you stand in the long line to check in.  You’ll be reminded during your stay of how huge it is just trying to get from point A to point B, in particular the distance from your room to the Conference Center where your sales meeting and trade show is being held.

It truly is a “mega-resort” and has something for just about everyone.  It also has the two biggest problem of a “mega-resort” operation: nobody is directly in charge and the important details get missed and/or overlooked!

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lobby of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Wednesday 6pm: Standing for 30 minutes in line at Check In until an “on the ball” Manager came and helped speed things up.  You can see your tweets on the big screen while you wait…

The line at Check In at the MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

The line at Check In at the MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

There was a good Group Rate offered to our convention with substantial savings on the Friday and Saturday rate, but the Casino Rate was better for Wednesday and Thursday night. Be sure to get your “M Life” Players Card to take full advantage if you’re a gambler!

Lobby at the MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lobby at the MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

After finally checking in, I checked out my Grand King room (with a view) on the 24th floor. It was down a very long mega-hallway.  I had requested a refrigerator with my reservation, which was promptly delivered, as were the extra towels and pillows when I called down to Housekeeping.  The room was very clean and comfortable, but the bathroom was a little small.  I was also comparing it to my recent stay at the Venetian in an Executive King in September for LTX (the Luxury Travel Exchange) which was great.  See the Blog!

I want to compliment everyone at the MGM Grand.  Everyone I talked to in person or on the phone was friendly, courteous and professional.  When I complained about a problem they were quick to apologize, tried to correct it or offered a F&B Credit.  Eventually, my F&B was comped by my “M-Life” Casino VIP Card, so I made the request and they comped one night of my stay instead.

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Hallway at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand, Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

I went to get my luggage and when I got back to the room, a Welcome Amenity was waiting!  Snacks and bottled water from the “on the ball” Manager at Check In, very well done!

MGM Grand Welcome Amenity (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand Welcome Amenity (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

I had a $50 Food and Beverage Credit so I decided to try the MGM Grand Buffet $30 plus tip paid in advance. I was left wondering who oversees the food quality.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: BAD FOOD ALERT!!!)

The worst buffet ever!  Everything was overcooked and under seasoned!  I really didn’t eat that much, but I tried to taste most of the food and ended up feeling sick to my stomach for all three days I was there.  When I say everything was bad, I mean EVERYTHING WAS BAD except the fried chicken.  Here are pics, the food looks okay but it had little to no taste and wasn’t prepared well (mostly overcooked or cold).  How do you ruin crab legs?

MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Sushi and Crab Legs at MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Mexican chicken and rice, pepperoni pizza, pineapple, and a roll at the MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Baby back ribs, macaroni and cheese, oriental chicken, corn on the cob, and mashed potato at the MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Steak w/peppercorn sauce, chicken potstickers, and one crab leg at the MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Fried chicken, mashed potato with brown gravy, turkey with gravy, and mashed potato at the MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Desserts: various types of flavored plastic cup desserts, baked goods (brownies, cupcakes, muffins all overbaked, hard and tasteless), shortcake, and ice cream.

MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Quite a selection, and I love dessert, but I tried a lot of different things and was amazed that even the deserts were mediocre to just plain bad.  As I told my friends, there are great buffets in Las Vegas, this isn’t one of them.

MGM Grand Buffet (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Leaving the MGM Grand Buffet! (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

After dinner I explored the hotel and casino, went across the street to the Tropicana and eventually ended up “working” back in my room.

Tropicana Hotel - Las Vegas, Nevada (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Tropicana Hotel – Las Vegas, Nevada (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

New York-New York Hotel (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

New York-New York Hotel (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Yes, I did a little gambling. Played some video poker and had some fun winning:

ACES! Video Poker at the MGM Grand Hotel (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

ACES! Video Poker at the MGM Grand Hotel (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Working in the Room at the MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

NOTE: The pillow stuck in the bedframe!  I banged my shin on the sharp corner twice, the second time drawing blood!  So, I was forced to improvise and used the pillow to prevent further injury.  When the room service waiter came she laughed when she saw it…because she and everyone she works with have banged their shins too.

Must Prevent Further Injury! (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

DANGER! Sharp Corner! Must Prevent Further Injury! (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Day One – Thursday – Signature Sales Meeting and Networking Session #1

Woke up to find out the TV and WiFi wasn’t working hotel wide.  No internet makes my work as a travel agent very difficult.  I got ready for the first day and walked the mile to the Conference Center and arrived at Registration at 8am.  There was a continental breakfast buffet and coffee service for attendees.

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Breakfast was hosted by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and offered muffins, danish, fruit, and fruit juice served on carts in the event lobby. Coffee and tea was also available all day long.

Thursday 8:30am: Workshop #1 – The Inside Track on Signature’s 2014 Hotels and Resorts Program.  Industry trends, recent hotel additions to our consortium, updates regarding to our hotel programs, and special offers and amenities for our clients were the topic of the seminar. After the first session there was a break with refreshments hosted by Hertz (baked goods, soft drinks, bottled water, and coffee/tea service).

Thursday 9:45am: Workshop #2 – Mexico: Grow Your Business with Destination Expertise presented by the Mexico Tourism Board.  More Americans travel to Mexico than any other destination! After the session there was another break with refreshments hosted by Hertz.

Thursday 11am: General Session (welcome) and Lunch hosted by Classic Vacations.  There was a general update, a tribute to Michelle Morgan the past President who recently died from cancer, and a keynote address by Shawn Achor “The Happiness Advantage: Linking Positive Brains to Performance”.   

Lunch: Cheddar cheese, ham, swiss cheese, and turkey slices; bread and butter, lettuce, a quarter hard boiled egg and tiny tomatoes with an iced tea. Red velvet cheesecake (made with cheesecake flavored whipped topping not cream cheese).

Lunch at MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lunch at MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lunch at MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lunch at MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Networking Session

Thursday 1:45pm: Networking Session #1 with our Vendor suppliers.  I was assigned Blue Table 172 and was seated with three other agents.  We stayed seated and the vendors moved from table to table and gave a short 8 minute presentation and then answered questions before moving on.  At 4:15pm the session ended and there was another break.

Thursday 4:30pm: Workshop #3 – Selling Travel to the Millennial Generation.  A panel discussion moderated by Paul Wiseman the President of Trafalgar

MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Sunset View from my room at the MGM Grand – the mesh is the colored green screen over the window (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Welcome Reception on Thursday night hosted by Mexico Tourism:

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Open Bar!

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Mexican Food Buffet!

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Mexican Dancing and Live Musical Entertainment!

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Day Two – Friday – Sales Meeting and Networking Session #2

Breakfast, Sales Seminars,

Lunch

Lunch at MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lunch at MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lunch at MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lunch at MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lunch at MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lunch at MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Networking Session

Cocktail Party hosted by Tauck and Switzerland Tourism

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Cocktails and Appetizers for invited guests.  Cheese, crackers, crudite’ (carrots, celery and dip) and an open bar. Networking, short host company presentations and someone won a trip to Switzerland, but it wasn’t me.

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

They took all the chairs out of the room, so it was a standing event after a long day and lots of walking.  There were two food tables and two bar stations, but the lines for food and drink got long very fast as the guests arrived.  It quickly became a lot of people in too small a space.

There was a guy blowing a Swiss horn for entertainment and he let a couple agents try to play it.

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Swiss Horn at the Party hosted by Tauck and Switzerland Tourism at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas  (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner hosted by Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara Cruises

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Presentations by the Host Companies and Dinner

Dinner at MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Two offensive cruise comedians and the BeatleManiacs entertained us!  The travel agents went wild, rushed the stage, and danced to the (almost) Beatles!  The guys were good musicians and the tunes were catchy, but their resemblance to the actual Beatles was questionable.  Great wigs and costumes!  Go ahead sing along, they know you want to.

BeatleManiacs! at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

BeatleManiacs! at the MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Room Service!

Bacon Cheeseburger and fries for breakfast! $18 plus tax and $4 room service fee and a $5 tip = $29 Craving for good food at 5:30am.

Room Service Cheeseburger and Fries at the MGM Grand (copyright 203 JoshWillTravel)

Room Service Cheeseburger and Fries at the MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Day Three – Saturday – Sales Meeting and Trade Show

7:30am Breakfast Session

Breakfast Seminars at the MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Breakfast Seminars at the MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Breakfast Seminar at the MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Breakfast Seminar with Lindblad Expeditions at the MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Trade Show

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lunch

Late Check Out at 2pm done by telephone with Guest Services, long walk back to the car and so looking forward to Saturday night in Las Vegas!

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

MGM Grand in Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Off to the Rio! COMING SOON: the next blog – the Rio All-Suites Hotel Saturday night and Sunday afternoon adventures in Las Vegas.

Business Cards, Collateral and SWAG from the Signature 2013 Sales Meeting and Trade Show (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Business Cards, Collateral and SWAG from the Signature 2013 Sales Meeting and Trade Show (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

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The 90th Party at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles

Party Time Roaring 20’s Style to Celebrate the 90th Birthday of the beautiful and historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles.

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

The Millennium Biltmore Hotel (originally named the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel) is a luxury hotel located on Pershing Square in Downtown Los Angeles. At its grand opening in 1923, the Los Angeles Biltmore was the largest hotel west of Chicago.  In 1969 the Biltmore Hotel was designated a Historic-Cultural Monument by the City of Los Angeles.  Since 2009, it has operated as the Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles.

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lobby and Reception:

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

The Bar:

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Fine Detail and Original Restoration:

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Grand Corridor:

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

 

The Party Theme was Roaring 20’s and guests were instructed to dress the period or wear black and white.  After checking in we were greeted by a 1927 Automobile (have your picture taken!) and waitstaff with trays of champagne and sparkling water.

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

 

I arrived a little early, the ballroom was beautiful and the Dean Morro Orchestra was the evening’s entertainment.

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Artifacts and Biltmore History were displayed for guests:

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Let the festivities begin!

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Two costumed couples were hired to dance and provide “atmosphere”.

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

There was Singing! (and some truly great music!)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

There was Dancing! (Everybody Charleston!)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

And there was lots of Great Food, Champagne and an Open Bar!

Tray passed appetizers: California crab cakes on slider buns and Prime rib on sourdough with horseradish. Then buffet stations! Asian food: veggie springrolls, duck pancakes, and seafood lo mein; Seafood: Salmon-sour cream-caviar on potato pancakes and LOBSTER in martini glasses; New England Clam Chowder in a hollowed out bread roll, Beef short rib with polenta, leg of lamb with risotto; And The Dessert Table: chocolate cake, lemon cake, cake pops, petit fours, (tray passed by the executive chef a chocolate cigar filled with ganache), sugared donuts, coffee, champagne and an open bar. I tried a little bit of every food dish, but skipped dessert and only a had half a donut, one bite of the cigar and only two Grey Goose and 7up.

Salmon with sour cream and caviar on a potato pancake:

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lobster in a Martini Glass with a slice of lemon

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Asian Food: veggie springrolls and crispy duck (seafood lo mein not pictured)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Beef Short Rib with Polenta and shaved black truffle

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Leg of Lamb with risotto and mint jelly

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

The Dessert Table

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Root Beer Float!

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Donuts and Coffee

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

The Rendezvous Court (once it was the original hotel lobby):

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Meanwhile back at the Bar:

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Millennium Biltmore506 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA

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Trade Show Time! SoCal Hotel and Lodging Conference at the Palm Pacific Hotel Resort

Here’s a blog that never got posted! The conference was at the end of May.

I traveled to the City of Industry to the Palm Pacific Hotel Resort  and Spa for the Southern California Hotel and Lodging Conference.  It was a fun event in beautiful hotel with lots of good people to meet, vendor booths to visits, and free swag (“stuff we all get”) to collect.

605 south

605 south

Yes, that’s right, there is a beautiful resort and conference center in the City of Industry.  It even has it’s own 18 hold championship golf course and driving range.

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Conference Check in – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort Lobby (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

AM Coffee Service! – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Front Desk – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort Lobby from the mezzanine (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Ornate skylight – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Mezzanine Level View – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

The Program!

The Program! (and coffee)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Session #1 – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Session #1 Audience – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Session #2 – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Session #3 – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Hallway Action! – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lunch!  Hot or Cold? – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Hot Buffet AAHOA Lunch- Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

AAHOA speaker – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lunch on the Terrace – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Box Lunch on the Terrace – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lunch Speaker and Panel – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lunch Panel – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

The Expo!

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

The Expo! Vendor Ballroom – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Vendor Tables in the Lobby – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

I also got a quick tour from the Manager of RED Restaurant

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

The Patio at RED Restaurant – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

The Patio at RED Restaurant – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

The Bar at RED Restaurant – Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Plenty of Free Parking!

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

18 Hole Golf Course!

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Driving Range!

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pacific Palm Hotel Resort (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)