Las Vegas, Nevada! “Vegas Baby! Vegas!”

Las Vegas, Nevada!
“Vegas Baby! Vegas!”

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Back from Las Vegas.
A fun trip to “Sin City”
Happy to be Home!

JOSHWILLTRAVEL! And travel to Las Vegas last week is what we did.*

*well, it wasn’t last week…. more like last month. Tempus fugit!

We were invited (very last minute) to our friend Frank’s 65th Birthday Adventure:
(via a series of text messages)
– Come to Vegas if you want we have extra rooms
– We arrive Wed and lots of different rooms. Party on Saturday
– The party at Topgolf should be good even if you dont golf. Has a private pool for us
– Then we got a big cabana by our pool Friday Saturday and Sunday

So, let me think about it….. and Road Trip to Vegas!
Left the beautiful San Fernando Valley at 1:30am on Thursday morning.
Highways to Las Vegas: 101north-134west-210west-10west-15north
We drove a rental truck, a no-frills silver Nissan Frontier, with unlimited miles.
No traffic! Driving 285 miles at night with the truckers on I-15 north.

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“World’s Tallest Thermometer” in Baker, California

Stopped along the way in Baker, California, for gas and to see the “World’s Tallest Thermometer” once again lighting the side of the 15 freeway. It was “non-operational” for many years, but has been repaired and now it is again a beacon at night on the desert highway.
NOTE: Gas prices were “too f*ckin’ high” in Baker! 

Stateline! No stopping until we get to town.

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Stateline! Primm, Nevada

Arrived at South Point Hotel and Casino before 6am on Thursday.

We have always heard good things about the SouthPoint. People regularly recommend their buffet as being very good. They were also recently featured in the Showtime series “Action” about legal sports gambling, so as we rolled into town we decided to stop there.

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SouthPoint Hotel and Casino – Las Vegas, Nevada

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Self Parking at SouthPoint is FREE. We parked outside, instead of in the structure, and it was only a short walk to the Casino entrance. We had to go to the High Limit Slots counter to get a Player’s Card because the Club Desk doesn’t open until 7am. We played some blackjack and a little video poker and won a little money.

We also earned 300 club points which entitled us to “spin the wheel” and we won 5000 points (so we cashed them out for $15.00), wandered around the casino, and then headed for their Breakfast Buffet.

NOTE: Get the SouthPoint Player’s Card and the Breakfast Buffet is only $9.95 + tax
(Really nice breakfast buffet for ~$11.00 + $5.00 tip for our server/waitperson)

Breakfast Buffet Time! The Las Vegas “Buffet Experience”! And we were hungry…..

On The Menu: Everything. It was a Good Buffet!

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After breakfast we headed out and drove to the Wyndham Grand Desert Resort near the MGM Grand and across the street from TopGolf at the south end of the strip.
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Wyndham Grand Desert Resort

Parked near Tower 3, walked to registration at Tower 2 and Checked In.
Our friends had the rooms reserved and a quick phone call was made, our ID was checked, and we were handed a keycard and welcome instructions. We walked back to Tower 3 and met one of our friends in the lobby. She gave us the “nickel tour” of the resort property and showed us the adult pool and the cabana they had reserved for our party weekend. We walked back to Tower 3 and grabbed our luggage and weekend supplies out of the truck and rode the elevator upstairs.

The SMELL in the hall.
Okay, something died. rotting trash beyond rotting. it was terrible. really terrible.
FOR THE WHOLE TIME! It was disgusting. It reeked. It stank.
Yes, we complained. And they tried to mitigate the smell with deodorizers and sprays, but they should have called for sanitary cleanup immediately. They were really good about apologizing and they gave our hosts credit for the inconvenience.

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“It’s Kubrickian!”

The Sweet Suite!
Tower 3, Room 392 at the Wyndham Grand Desert Resort:

Happily, the smell was only in the hallway. Once inside the room, a “lock-out” connecting room, adjacent to the first room our hosts stayed in…. they moved to the Presidential Suite, and her brother moved into their room. More on that later.

Each room had a nice kitchen area, living room space and private bedroom and bath. Mine was a little smaller than the room next door which also had a bar and bar seating in the living room space. I was very happy with the accommodations and also the fact that it was FREE! My hosts were treated to drinks, gifts and other forms of thanks all week long in appreciation for the invitation.

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After the little tour of the resort the it was nappy time. Then once we were awake and active again, we joined our friends for a quick visit to the TopGolf mega-entertainment center across the street. We met our friends in the inside bar and had a cocktail while they finished their food (we were still full from the morning buffet).

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Our friend’s birthday party was scheduled for Saturday afternoon in the Chairman’s Suite, complete with private pool and lunch buffet, so they went to check it out.  More on that party later……
We wandered around and toured the massive four deck facility. There were lots of bar and seating areas, and a public pool area with lounges, private cabanas and a “swim-up” bar. There were televisions and monitors everywhere, and really big multi-screens by the pool and in the gathering and game areas. And there were a ton of people having fun at midday on Thursday! The Golf Area has private driving areas for rent, with computer monitoring, that tracks your ball and gives you distance, replay, and other fun golf info. And of course there is plenty of food and beverage service available everywhere.
Just mind the warning signs and watch for errant golf balls and clubs!
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And then back across the street to the resort.
Our friends moved their stuff to the Presidential Suite with a Private Veranda and we hung out there and waited for them to get settled in.
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We made a run to the local market and picked up provision for the week. And then later we went back across the street to TopGolf for a late dinner.

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TopGolf Photo Op!

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On The Menu: More cocktails
and Boneless BBQ Wings w/veggies & ranch dressing at one of the bars.
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FRIDAY at the Wyndham

Good morning! Cabana Time!
Our Large Private Party Cabana in the shade for Friday, Saturday and Sunday!

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Large Private Party Cabana in the shade for Friday, Saturday and Sunday!

Friday, Saturday and Sunday began the same way each day: Tiki drinks for brunch! And some kind of food from the resort kitchen, along with snacks we brought from the room.

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The cabana was equipped with a nice television and a noisy ceiling fan, and the public smoking area was right next door and there was a public cabana in that area. Most of the pool cabanas were positioned in the sun, and must have been really hot inside, while our cabana was on the other side and in the shade set back but facing the adult pool area.

 

Dinner time on Friday, and we had a meeting in the Presidential Suite to decide where to go to eat. There are many choices, so the group reviewed them, and eventually decided to go to Burger Bar (inside the Luxor Hotel, which we didn’t know at the time).

NOTE: Everything we did took a long time to get it together and actually do it. It wasn’t a problem, and we resolved to just ride along and see what happens (most of the time).

And then it started raining. A real Desert Storm! And a wet Friday night.
One of our new friends was the non-drinking designated driver, and he was a cool dude. But his driving was not cool. And it was dark and wet and it took a long time to get there. And then we toured the parking lot, for a long time, before finally parking.

We made our way into the Luxor and found the Burger Bar. Basically a $20 hamburger without anything else, so we decided to go spend our money at The Peppermill instead.

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MGM Grand Hotel and Casino on a Rainy Night in Las Vegas, Nevada

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And so, after another wild ride in the rain around Las Vegas, we arrived for Dinner and Drinks at The Peppermill Restaurant and Lounge!

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We had dinner and tiki drinks in the restaurant and then went into the lounge and had more drinks. The rain was really coming down and we were in no hurry to leave, so we rode out the storm in the lounge and met some fun new people.
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On The Menu: Tiki Cocktails!
A Lava Flow and a nice Beef Dip Sandwich with fries and extra au jus

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A good time was had by all! We enjoyed our dinner and drinks at The Peppermill. Frank had a big Scorpion drink (in a glass, not a bowl) and the rest of us had a few different drinks from their cocktail menu too.

One more drive around Vegas in the rain and back to the resort. We survived! We returned to the Presidential Suite and then back to our suite in the other tower. We decided to take a hot bath and then sleep in the next day.

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“Wanna take a bath?”

SATURDAY at the Wyndham and TopGolf

Cabana Time! Basically the same routine as Friday: tiki drinks, food, people hanging out and new friends stopping by until it was time to get it together and head over to TopGolf for the big shindig!

Frank’s 65th Birthday Party in the Chairman’s Suite at TopGolf – Saturday 2-5pm
Golf, balls, a buffet, more drinks and a private swimming pool just for us.

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Party at TopGolf in Las Vegas, Nevada!

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The Guest of Honor in the Private Pool in the Chairman’s Suite

On The Menu: Tacos (chicken, steak and pork), Sliders (cheeseburgers, battered fish and pulled pork), chips with salsa and guacamole, salads, and of course more tiki cocktails!

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The party was a lot of fun, we got out drink on, and there was too much food! We ended up taking a lot of it back to the resort afterwards. There was golfing (unlimited balls, or something like that) and swimming too. The pictures are just a sample before it got crazy wild.

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A beautiful day at TopGolf Las Vegas!

Saturday Night in Vegas!

And so we returned to the resort and hung out until it got dark. We decided our next destination would be (more) Tropical Cocktails at Frankie’s Tiki Room! 

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Saturday Night on the Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada

After the wild road trip on Friday night, we decided we would drive to Frankie’s and meet the crew there. We cruised past The Strip and downtown to the bar.

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More cocktails! Famous tiki drinks! And it was really dark inside.
Here are some pics:

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We enjoyed a Mai Tai and then there was a lot of conversation and more drinks. We moved around from our table in the cabana to a seat at the bar. Lots of kitsch and weird decor to see, even in the dark. Eventually, they decided to return to the resort and we decided to go back to The Strip and have some Las Vegas fun.

We drove to The Wynn, Las Vegas Hotel and Casino – FREE SELF PARKING!
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The Wynn is a beautiful property! And it was crowded, which was nice. We played a little and wandered around taking in the different areas of the casino and environs. We had some luck and cashed out and drove back to the resort and went to bed.

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SUNDAY (Mother’s Day) morning after waking up and getting ready, we walked over to the Presidential Suite for Breakfast/Brunch and more Cabana Time! It was a leisurely day of drinking and hanging out. There may have been an afternoon nap involved.

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So we were volunteered to cook and we grilled some steaks for dinner at 9:30pm on Sunday at the community BBQ Grills. There’s a curfew for cooking at 10pm, so we had to be quick! We took them upstairs and enjoyed a great meal on the private veranda (and of course, there were more cocktails).

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Then we went on a mission to The “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” Sign!
It was designed by Nevada-born graphic designer Betty Willis (1923-2015) in 1959.
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“The rounded diamond shape of the sign was inspired by the Goodyear logo and the idea for the starburst came from the one in Disneyland’s emblem, which to her meant a happy destination. The seven silver dollars were a symbol of good luck for visitors entering the world’s gambling capital. (Betty) Willis’s design was never trademarked.”

The sign was built by a small local company Western Electric Displays Inc, aka Western Neon. Western Neon was bought by YESCO (Young Electric Sign Company) and they have maintained the sign ever since. The original sign has been rebuilt, restored, and recognized as a cultural and historic landmark for the City of Las Vegas over the years.

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Safe and legal public access to the sign was finally made possible in 2008, when parking spaces and a pedestrian walkway were finally constructed. Clark County and the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office had the sign listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.

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NOTE: It was “Helldorado Days” a big holiday in the State of Nevada. There was a parade on Saturday and the Rodeo and other events were happening all weekend in downtown Las Vegas and on Fremont Street. So, we didn’t go there.

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Old Vegas! Glitter Gulch!

We returned to the resort and stayed up until MONDAY morning!
“It’s HOT in the Hot Tub!” 
And sometime before dawn we hit the Jacuzzi and Pool! (the pool and jacuzzi at Tower 3 are open 24 hours) It was very Early AM, at Tower 3, after it was cleaned, before the crowd and we were almost alone.

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We had stayed up all night and after our adventures we finally decided to try out the 24 hour pool and jacuzzi in our Tower. The pool area was empty except for one couple, so we waited until they were out of the water and then we moved in. We spent about a half hour enjoying the warm, bubbly spa, and swam in the cool pool until the calm was interrupted by two small children and their mother….. as we left the pool area at 6am the mother was screaming at the children in the shallow end of the pool, “Get over here dammit, you pulled this sh*t all yesterday, I’m not gonna have it today!” 

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Went up to the room and took a hot shower, ate some leftover tacos, and went to bed.
Requested and was given a late checkout time of 12 noon via the telephone.

And then,
Housekeeping knocked on my door three different times between 9:30 and 11am!
AND THERE WAS A “DO NOT DISTURB” SIGN HANGING ON THE DOOR HANDLE!
They also started cleaning the other half of the “lockout suite” and made noise like they were doing construction next door, making it impossible to sleep.

NOTE: We complained and Dan, the resort manager, gave us a $50 credit to use at our choice of restaurants “off-property” at a Caesars Hotel (there was a list of restaurants to choose from at each hotel) for our inconvenience and also took care of our friends who invited us. That’s real good hospitality!

Checked out of the Wyndham and drove back over to the Wynn. FREE Self Parking again.

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We walked to the Palazzo and Venetian, then went outside, crossed Las Vegas Blvd and went over to the Mirage. It was a beautiful day, but it was too hot of course.

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We visited the MLife desk, and asked about a MyVegas room rate. They offered us a Monday night room for $63.00 + taxes and the ridiculous resort fee, so we passed.

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We walked through the Forum Shops to Caesars Palace and enjoyed the weirdness!

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Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino was once the best place to stay and play in Las Vegas. Then they turned it into “Disneyland”, and they threw away all the class and quality that made it great. And then they added RESORT FEES and PAID PARKING.

We went to Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill and got a seat a the bar, but when we looked at the menu there was nothing that we wanted to order…. so we thanked them and left. We wandered around Caesars enjoying the sights while trying to decide where to eat.

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The Bar and Sportsbook at Caesars Palace Las Vegas

Then we decided on dinner at Rao’s Italian Kitchen, Las Vegas at Caesars Palace!
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On The Menu: Good bread, an excellent Caesar salad and their tasty meat lasagna.
We ate the salad and half of the lasagna and bread, and had the other half packed “to go”.
No drinks or wine because we were driving later, so only ice water with dinner.

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It was getting dark after dinner, so we started walking back, watched the sunset behind Caesars Palace across the street, and then stopped at Harrah’s and the old Casino Royale on The Strip.

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Casino Royale!

 

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And then we walked back to the Wynn. We enjoyed our after dinner walk at night and took in the sights along The Strip on our way back. We returned to our car and hit the road. Destination: Los Angeles.

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LEAVING LAS VEGAS around 9:30pm on Monday.
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Stopped at the new Mega-Gas Station Terrible’s Road House on the way back to California and filled up the gas tank and emptied mine. They have 100 pumps for “rush hour”, but the place was almost empty when we stopped in around 10pm on Monday night.

It was a quick stop, with lots of light and easy highway access. After getting gas, we took some pics and then got back in the rental truck and made a non-stop, no traffic, night drive back to Los Angeles. Home again before 2am. Had a really fun trip!

SouthPoint Hotel and Casino

Wyndham Grand Desert Resort

TopGolf

Peppermill Restaurant and Lounge

Frankie’s Tiki Room

The Wynn Hotel & Casino Las Vegas

 

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Quadrophenia! LIVE at the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park on Saturday Night!

Pete Townshend’s “Classic Quadrophenia!”

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LIVE at the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park on Saturday Night!

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Saturday night’s alright for “Quadrophenia”!

NOTE: Still working on the “Road Trip” and “Burning Man” Blogs, but we decided to spend the money and see a LIVE show at the Greek Theatre on Saturday night.

Parking SUCKS at the Greek Theatre (and it always has). We tried to park at the “Offsite Parking Lot” for $10 and wanted to take the shuttle, but were greeted with “Unfortunately……”

It was explained by a lackey in orange vest that unless you paid online, they weren’t letting people pay cash and park because they didn’t have enough parking.
Because Griffith Park is TOO F*CKING SMALL AND DOESN’T HAVE ENOUGH SPACE TO PARK EVERYONE WHO WANTS TO PARK OFFSITE!
JUST ANOTHER City of Los Angeles FAIL.
(just count on the City to FAIL everytime)

So we drove around and then up the hill to the Greek Theatre, with traffic on Los Feliz and Vermont, and paid $25 to park on the grass on a hillside above the theatre. At least they had rows of cars instead of just “stack parking” and packing them in like the old days.

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It cost us an extra $15. We didn’t have to offsite park or take the shuttle and then we walked over to WillCall and picked up our $100 ticket ($79.50 + $18.80 fees). We bought a $5 bottled water so the price tag for the evening was ~$130 + gas (and another $10 for a cocktail + tip later on the way home).

The Greek Theatre in Griffith Park is a very nice venue once you get past the parking.

 

Here’s a handy seating chart and aerial view of the Greek Theatre (not my pics):

 

Our $100 ticket was for Sec B, Row U, Seat 13 – an okay seat on the $$$ price scale. For another $25 we could have been more center, and for a couple hundred dollars more we could have been in Sec A or front of Terrace (Loge seats), but WHY?

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Quadrophenia!

With Pete Townshend, Alfie Boe, Billy Idol, an orchestra and a choir!

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It wasn’t a rock concert. We knew that going in. It was a classical performance piece with full orchestra and a large choir. They performed the entire double album’s music beautifully and it rocked, but it wasn’t a rock concert and some people didn’t get it.

We really enjoyed the music, it’s one of our favorite WHO albums, and it was great to see it performed live with the orchestra and choir. The sound was really good at the Greek, and with the exception of the audience, it was a very good show.

EXIT (Stage Left): So, we waited for the Greek to empty out and there still was a line to get out of the GATED AREA. It is a VERY DANGEROUS EXIT because if there were an emergency, people would get crushed trying to escape. They didn’t have the large gates open, so everyone had to funnel into and out through the entrance point.

Drive through Griffith Park at night!

We walked back to our car and waited for the parking lot to empty, and the line at the restrooms to clear, then instead of driving down the hill back to Los Feliz, we drove through the park and then down to Western Avenue. There are great views of the city and Downtown Los Angeles from the road through the park, but the only pictures we took were in the tunnel because of the traffic and people walking to their cars.

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Tunnel Vision! Drive Through Griffith Park!

Saturday Night! We drove through Ferndell to Los Feliz and down Western to Hollywood Blvd. We got on the 101 freeway and headed back to the valley, and decided to stop for a post-show drink at the Chimneysweep Lounge in Sherman Oaks on the way home. It used to be a real “hole-in-the-wall” dive bar, but then it was taken over by hipsters…

We got a seat at the bar and enjoyed a Stoli rocks with a lime (our first and only drink of the evening). We people watched for a bit but they weren’t interesting people, decided we didn’t want to hang, so we headed home and ate some food before going to bed. It was a pretty fun night and we certainly enjoyed the music.

 

GREEK THEATRE in Griffith Park – 2700 N. Vermont Ave, Los Angeles 90027 http://www.lagreektheatre.com

Chimneysweep Lounge4354 Woodman Ave (at Moorpark), Sherman Oaks 91423

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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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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.)

Throwback Thursday! Four Seasons Westlake Village!

Throwback Thursday! Four Seasons Westlake Village!

Handmade chocolate truffles after lunch. Love the Four Seasons!

Four Seasons Westlake Village (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village, CA (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

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Four Seasons Westlake Village (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village, CA (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)



Travel Answers: Las Vegas!

Travel Answers: Las Vegas!

NOTE: These answers were originally posted on another site, and some may have been posted in previous blogs. I am posting them again here for easy access for my readers.

Welcome to Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Welcome to Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Free Stuff to do in Vegas?

Q: Are there free things to do in Vegas?

A: Lots of Free Things to do in Las Vegas!

Walk the The Strip and the Fremont Street Experience downtown. Lots of “Only in Las Vegas” things to see day or night!

Visit Circus Circus Hotel & Casino (great for kids).

Watch the Fountains of Bellagio (and visit the Bellagio Gardens) and catch the Volcano eruption at The Mirage. Walk around the The Venetian, the MGM Grand Las Vegas, The Cosmopolitan or any of the other large resorts.

Most of the Casino lounges still have live entertainment. The Carnaval Court at Harrah’s is happening. The Rio Hotel & Casino has live music in the Masquerade Bar on Friday and Saturdays.

Art and architecture at City Center, the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign, Wildlife habitat (flamingos) at the Flamingo Las Vegas, Auto collection at The Quad Resort & Casino (get free tickets on the website), the Downtown Container Park giant treehouse, and visit the Ethel M Chocolate Factory & Cactus Garden.

Window shop at Forum Shops at Caesars, The Grand Canal Shoppes or the Fashion Show mall.

Visit the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, Red Rock Canyon or The Valley of Fire.


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

4 ACES! Video Poker Win! (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Best tips and casinos for first time gambler?

Q: First trip to Vegas, and I have some money set aside to gamble. I’m fairly new to gambling, so what’s a good overall strategy for a first timer? Best casino’s and games to play? Any tips to help my luck? Thanks!

A: Most of the Casinos in Las Vegas have programs where they will teach you how to play the table games and basic strategy. Just ask at the “Player’s Card” desk and always get a Player’s Card at the casino to earn “Comps” and other freebies while gambling.

Read a few good books, watch a DVD or two, go online and learn from the pros via youtube, etc. before you go!

Craps!

Craps!

Best games to play: Blackjack, Craps and Baccarat have the best odds for the player with basic strategy. Keno, Slots and Video Poker will give you the longest play for your money. Again read a book or watch a tutorial to learn about finding the best odds on the games!

Worst games to play: Roulette, Spin the Wheel/Wheel of Fortune and all the other weird table games. And any game where you don’t know the rules, basic strategy and the odds against you.

Best advice for the first time gambler: set a budget for how much you are willing and can afford to lose! Leave your ATM card at home and win or lose just have fun. (Losing sucks)

NOTE: The Big Las Vegas Strip casinos require larger minimum bets for table games, and the table minimum will increase depending on time/day/crowd/event. Find lower table minimums Downtown on Fremont Street and at the smaller “off-strip” casinos. Your money and your play time will last longer!

The Race & Sports Book at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas

The Race & Sports Book at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas

GOOD LUCK!


Las Vegas Blvd "The Strip" at night

Las Vegas Blvd “The Strip” at night

Birthday weekend in Vegas- where to stay?

Q: My friends and I going to Vegas for my birthday over Labor Day weekend! We need a place to stay that isn’t outrageously expensive, but has a lot going on. We’d like to stay in a hotel that has daytime pool parties. There are 5 of us and we’re open to getting two rooms or a suite, if it’s worth it. Any suggestions?

A: Las Vegas on Labor Day Weekend?

Try The Cromwell, the newest boutique hotel on the strip. It used to be Wild Bill’s and before that it was the Barbary Coast. Located center strip at Flamingo and Las Vegas Blvd. Drai’s is located in the hotel, so you get your choice of pool party, club night or after-hours. Hotel guests get VIP line access.

Just fully renovated! Everything is fresh and new.

Las Vegas Blvd "The Strip" at night

Las Vegas Blvd “The Strip” at night

You’re across Las Vegas Blvd from Caesars Palace Hotel & Casino and The Mirage Hotel & Casino and the volcano. Next door to Harrah’s Las Vegas, Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, The Venetian Resort Hotel & Casino, The Quad Resort & Casino soon to be renamed The LINQ after the giant ferris wheel. Across Flamingo is Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, Paris Hotel And Casino, Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, the Bellagio Hotel and fountain, and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

There’s lots to see and do within “walking distance”, which will save you on cab fare and waiting. Great restaurants, spas, clubs, shows and other diversions at any of the above resorts. you can also access the monorail at Bally’s or the Flamingo.

Las Vegas Blvd "The Strip" at night - The Flamingo

Las Vegas Blvd “The Strip” at night – The Flamingo

Make reservations in advance (and do it by telephone rather than online and always get the name of the person you talk to!) because everything will be crowded!

NOTE: Bring sneakers for walking and then switch to heels when you arrive at your destination. Use a Big purse and plastic bag.

Avoid the MGM, it’s too big and the service is only ok.


Dinner at Carnevino at the Palazzo Hotel on Friday night

The Bar at Carnevino at the Palazzo Hotel on Friday night

Bachelor party venues

Q: One of my best buddies is getting married next year and as a groomsman, I’ve been tasked being one of the organizers for his bachelor party.  Here’s the thing: none of us groomsman are really party animals, so we really have no idea where to start, but we just know that we want our buddy to have a good time and that we want to go to Vegas, just for the experience. Any ideas on which venues to start looking at and/or bachelor party-type activities?

A: Bachelor Party in Las Vegas! Do you want the full blown “Hangover, part 4” or just a good time?

First, how many people will be attending? Do you have hotel reservations? Do you want to have dinner, go clubbing, go drinking, go strip clubbing, hit an ultra-lounge or three, see a show, do some gambling, ride a roller coaster, or maybe shoot automatic weapons?

Or do you want to really get wild?

You can get a nice package deal with the hotels if you have a large group (sometimes, all you need is a block of five rooms). Hotel rooms, dinner, and entertainment can all be arranged, contact the group sales manager.

Rent a limo or party bus if you want to travel around, beyond walking distance. There are companies that can arrange the whole evening, just know that they are probably getting “kickbacks” from the party venues. NOTE: Be sure to shop around, negotiate for the best deal and extras, and always check safety and consumer reports before booking with any company!

You are on your own for strippers, escorts & hookers.

Good luck and be safe.


Las Vegas Blvd "The Strip" at night

Las Vegas Blvd “The Strip” at night

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Las Vegas Blvd "The Strip" at night

“Vegas Baby! Vegas!” Las Vegas Blvd “The Strip” at night

 

 

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon (Upstairs in the old Alex’s restaurant space)

Change is necessary and inevitable. And for restaurants and bars in Ashland, change is a common occurrence. And so it goes, say goodbye to Alex’s and hello to the Brickroom!

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon – Upstairs!

Exposed red brick walls give this place it’s name, the wood floor and furniture with the granite bar and a lot of lights, give this place a clean and comfortable decor.

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon – A stage for performances in the corner

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon – full coffee service

I wandered in around 9:30pm on a Tuesday evening. Things were pretty quiet and there was a small crowd at the bar. The end of the Dodgers’ game was on television and the Dodgers were winning (oh, the irony).

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The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon – full bar with “top shelf” liquors

I ordered a “Stoli rocks with a couple splashes of pineapple juice” and then ordered a small basket of fries to soak up the alcohol.

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon – cocktail $6.50

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon – Fries $2.50

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon – bowl of fresh fruit on the bar added “a touch of class”

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon – fresh fruit on the bar

The small crowd was lively but not unruly and everyone was having a good time.

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon – a nice and friendly Ashland crowd at the bar

I enjoyed being able to walk in and find a seat at the end of the bar. I’m told they have live music, and that the place gets crowded on the weekend or when they have a good band.

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon – more seating/dining in a quiet corner past the bar

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon – red brick walls, lounge space and a cozy fireplace

I stayed long enough (about an hour) to sip my drink, eat the fries and check out the new joint on the Plaza. It’s a nice place, not a dive bar, and it has a friendly vibe. The food and drink are reasonably priced, they have a good menu and non-alcoholic drink options. The drink was potent, the fries were terrific and the service was good.

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon – Cocktail point-of-view

There is also an outside patio upstairs on the backside of the building on Guanajuato Lane, a pedestrian walkway along Ashland Creek. It has awnings for shade and a nice view of the water and green landscape of Ashland Creek Park.

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon – Upstairs to the Back Patio!

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon

The Brickroom in Ashland Oregon – Upstairs Back Patio on Guanajuato Lane & Ashland Creek

Guanajuato Lane on Ashland Creek in Ashland Oregon

The Brickroom upstairs patio on Guanajuato Lane on Ashland Creek in Ashland Oregon

A very nice addition to the drinking, dining and entertainment options on the Plaza!

All photos copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel.

Brickroom – 35 N. Main Street, Ashland, OR 97520 – (541)708-6030 http://www.brickroomashland.com

NOTE: OPEN FOR BRICKFAST! 8am-2pm daily, LUNCH 11am-4pm & DINNER!

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Lots of Free Things to do in Las Vegas!

Lots of Free Things to do in Las Vegas!

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Walk the The Strip and the Fremont Street Experience downtown. Lots of “Only in Las Vegas” things to see day or night!

Visit Circus Circus Hotel & Casino (great for kids).

Watch the Fountains of Bellagio (and visit the Bellagio Gardens) and catch the Volcano eruption at The Mirage. Walk around the The Venetian, the MGM Grand Las Vegas, The Cosmopolitan or any of the other large resorts.

Most of the Casino lounges still have live entertainment. The Carnaval Court at Harrah’s is happening. The Rio Hotel & Casino has live music in the Masquerade Bar on Friday and Saturdays.

Art and architecture at City Center, the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign, Wildlife habitat (flamingos) at the Flamingo Las Vegas, Auto collection at The Quad Resort & Casino (get free tickets on the website), the Downtown Container Park giant treehouse, and visit the Ethel M Chocolate Factory & Cactus Garden.

Window shop at Forum Shops at Caesars, The Grand Canal Shoppes or the Fashion Show mall.

Visit the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, Red Rock Canyon or The Valley of Fire.

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9039 Sunset Blvd on the Strip

9039 Sunset Blvd on the Strip – A Brief Photographic History:

If those walls could talk! This address was the home of Cafe LaMaze in the 30’s (with a lounge called the Key Club), Sherry’s in the 40’s (where Mickey Cohen was shot), the Plymouth House in the 50’s, Gazzarri’s in the 60’s-80’s, Billboard Live and the Key Club in the 90s until last December 2013 when it became 1 Oak Nightclub.

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9039 Sunset Blvd – Cafe LaMaze 1930’s

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9039 Sunset Blvd – Sherry’s 1940’s (Mickey Cohen was shot here!)

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9039 Sunset Blvd – The Plymouth House 1958

9039 Sunset - Gazzarri's Supper Club 1960's

9039 Sunset – Gazzarri’s Supper Club 1960’s

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9039 Sunset Blvd – Gazzari’s 1970’s

9039 Sunset Blvd

9039 Sunset Blvd – Gazzarri’s 1980’s  Bill Gazzarri “See Ya Pal”

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9039 Sunset Blvd – Billboard Live and then the KeyClub 1990’s- 2013 RIP

I used to promote club nights as Joshua 13 with Stephen Aquarius and Luis Q NightKing Productions at the KeyClub! “Cloud 9” on Wednesday and Friday nights, “The Indepen-Dance 1998”, “Midsummers Night Dream 1998”, “Saturday Nights in the Plush Room” and “The Resolution!” on New Years Eve 1998-1999.

MidSummers Night Dream Party at the KeyClub 1998

MidSummers Night Dream Party at the KeyClub 1998

Saturday Nights in the Plush Room at the KeyClub

Saturday Nights in the Plush Room at the KeyClub

"The Resolution" New Years Eve 1998-1999! at the KeyClub

“The Resolution” New Years Eve 1998-1999! at the KeyClub

 Now it’s the new 1 Oak Nightclub. (but for how long?)

9039 Sunset Blvd - 1 Oak Nightclub 2014

9039 Sunset Blvd – 1 Oak Nightclub 2014

UPDATE: Not too long after this Blog was posted, rap mogul/convicted felon Suge Knight was shot “six times” at a pre-VMA party at 1Oak nightclub. Lucky mo-fo will survive the shooting. Weird parallel to the Mickey Cohen shooting in the 40’s!

“And it’s all just a little bit of History repeating!”

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