Archive for the ‘Getaways’ Category

It seems like fall is the time to go to Las Vegas. Everyone I know has a trip planned there soon. Heck, I considered it myself before I finally admitted that I shouldn’t vacation someplace with blackjack tables when I’m trying to be…uh, frugal.

Still, the cool desert breeze calls to me. Temperatures average 50-80 degrees in October–nice enough for shorts during the day, but cool enough to sleep at night…or at least put your stuff so nobody steals it.

If you plan on visiting Vegas soon, allow me to share a few hotel recommendations (and warnings) based on personal experience.

  • Monte Carlo – My husband and I stayed here on our honeymoon. It was brand new back then, very nice for the price. We loved the Italian restaurant (enough to visit it on subsequent trips) and the hotel has a brewpub. We also enjoyed Lance Burton’s show. The only drawback was the long walk to get from the strip to the elevators–typically a hike in most Vegas hotels but for some reason it seemed really long here.
  • Circus Circus – I stayed here with the hubby while he was on business. We were in one of the annex buildings, not the main hotel. In the middle of the night, we were awoken by the fire alarm and had to evacuate the building. It seems the wiring had caught fire in someone’s room. After 45 minutes of standing around in the parking lot, they let us go back in. We didn’t actually catch fire, so I guess that’s a selling point.
  • Imperial Palace – We stayed here with our bowling league several years ago. I remember being less than impressed (but it was really cheap). And they had a fabulous Asian restaurant in the basement with great food and amazing service.
  • TI (aka, Treasure Island) – Back when TI was about pirates, and not babes in boots and bottle service in the bars, it was a great place to stay. And the original free show in front of the hotel was worth standing around elbow to elbow for 30 minutes or more. Alas, TI has traded pirates for pretentiousness (not an upgrade, IMHO). However, if you come across a good deal, the rooms are large and comfy. Plus, if you can get one that overlooks the show, you can enjoy watching stuff blow up without having to listen to the crappy soundtrack.
  • Bally’s – The rooms at Bally’s are large and clean, a great deal for the price. Plus, it’s connected to the Paris Hotel so you don’t even have to go outside to enjoy a stroll or a bite to eat in “France.” Ask for a room on the Paris side and enjoy the Eiffel tower lit up at night.
  • Flamingo – My husband stayed here once on a business trip. He recalls a strange smell in the room and the furniture was a bit worn. That was some time ago, so perhaps they’ve redecorated since then. Still, for the going rate of $80 a night, I think you can do better. If you’re really hankering for a slice of old Vegas, try the Four Queens downtown. The rates are extremely reasonable considering the good reviews it gets online from people who have stayed there.
  • Rio Suites – Flying standby out of Vegas (not a good idea, btw), we got stuck in town when we couldn’t get on a flight. We chose the Rio because the rates were decent and the rooms are all suites. The accommodations weren’t huge, but they were nicely appointed. The hotel restaurant was tasty, too. But the best part was the rooftop bar with an amazing view of Vegas. I would stay here again, but even if I didn’t I would go back for that view!

Where’s your favorite (or least favorite) place to stay in Vegas? Add a comment and let me know!


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Got Gas?

The cost of oil is finally starting to come down, yet the pain at the pump hasn’t subsided; I’m still passing the $60 mark every time I fill my car’s tank. Most major airlines have increased their fuel surcharges as of late, and just announced that they don’t plan to lessen the surcharges to reflect the lower price of oil.

If the high prices have threatened to put the kaibosh on your vacation plans this fall, check out TripAdvisor’s “Affordable Getaways” feature. Simply enter your hometown and choose how far you want to go (a full tank, half tank or quarter). Bing-bam-boom, you’re presented with five destinations within the desired range, along with the distance from your town and the estimated cost of gas to get there.

You can get this far on the site without logging in. If you click on the “Get Your Guide” button for a particular destination you’ll be asked to login or setup a TripAdvisor account. They only require email, so it’s a quick and easy setup. (My experience is that they don’t send an excessive amount of email unless you sign up for a bunch of alerts.) Once you’ve accessed the online guide for your chosen locale, you can see the top 10 hotels, restaurants, and things to do as rated by TripAdvisor’s users.

Although the coverage isn’t exhaustive, it’s a well-designed service that will undoubtably give you some ideas for getaways closer to home.

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If you’re 9-5’ers like us, you live for the weekends. Even so, it’s hard to get out of town in only two days. That’s why there’s nothing better than a long, relaxing three-day respite from reality (especially when it doesn’t decrement your PTO balance!). We took advantage of Memorial Day weekend to visit an old haunt – Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Just a scenic 2.5 hours from Denver, Glenwood features the world’s largest natural hot springs pool, in addition to a bevy of accessible hiking trails, a 16-mile long bike path that runs along the Colorado river, a family-oriented ski resort, and a cozy downtown area that you could just snuggle up with!

Although we used to visit Glenwood a couple times a year, it had been awhile since we’d made the trip. We usually stay at the Best Western Antlers, but this time we decided to take our two boxers, so the first task was to find a place where they would be welcome. Although there are quite a few motels, hotels, cabins and campgrounds that accept pets in Glenwood, we chose the Red Mountain Inn, in part because of their affordable rates (accommodations are a bit more pricey during the summer season in Glenwood). As it turned out, our room was clean and spacious enough for two large dogs and two good-sized people. It even had a mini-fridge and a microwave – bonus!

During our stay, we discovered that Glenwood had grown a bit since our last visit. A brand new shopping area, Glenwood Meadows, now graces the foothills of the stunning red mountain that overlooks town. In addition to stores the locals must be loving (Lowe’s, Target, PetCo, Pier One, and more),  the two-block “market shops” area features a pedestrian-like mall with smaller local and chain establishments.

We also discovered several new restaurants on this trip. Typically, we make sure to visit Pepponino’s for home-cooked Italian meals, Juicy Lucy’s for mouth-watering steaks, The Bayou for “food so good you’ll slap yo mama,” and the Daily Bread cafe for breakfast that’s worth the wait. This time, we were eager to try a few new places.

As luck would have it, our motel was right next door to the Charcoalburger Drive-in. Imagine our surprise (and delight) when we discovered buffalo burgers on the menu (our favorite!), in addition to single and double hamburgers and even elk burgers. We actually ate there twice it was so good. A word of warning, though – if you order the chili cheese fries, bring a friend, or three, to help you with the huge portion!

We also had a fantastic dinner at Fin’s Grille. The food and service were comparable to experiences we’ve had in Denver and Boulder. The bread came with a whole roasted garlic – heaven! The assorted cheeses with jalapeno jelly appetizer was an experience in itself, and big enough to share. The trout was wonderful, but we accidentally ordered the angel hair pasta with “fritti misto” (fried seafood), which was a bit bland and heavy on the palate. When we shared our lack of enthusiam with our attentive server, she happily replaced it with a lighter dish at no charge. It’s too bad we didn’t save room for dessert, but we’ll definitely pace ourselves better next time!

One other honorable mention is the Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse that allows dogs both inside and on their sidewalk patio. They even offer complimentary dog biscuits! For two-legged clients, they have a wide selection of bagel sandwiches, pastries, smoothies, and, of course, great coffee.

Just so you know, we did do more than eat (although I’m pretty sure I gained a couple of pounds!). We also had some great adventures with our pups, but I’ll save that for another post.

If you’ve been to Glenwood, leave a comment and let us know your favorite spots to stay or eat. If you’ve never been, check out the new Glenwood Chamber website and see if it’s for you!

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