Lake Las Vegas Getaway!

 

It was 80 degrees out and we had that itch – that desire to see something new. So we rolled the bikes out, revved into the weekend traffic and arrived at the picturesque village just in time to catch the sunset.

Despite feeling like a little oasis, Lake Las Vegas is only about 40 minutes from anywhere in town. Making it a perfect getaway for those tourists who are tired of the crowded strip! This place is loaded with hotel rooms that all seem to have a view of the lake through the room window. There’s also a little shopping center that has multiple restaurants ranging from Italian to Mexican food, as well as a market with surprisingly low prices on their items!

We went on a Friday afternoon and were surprised with how quiet the town was, but it actually worked in our favor and helped the whole place feel very serene and peaceful. There’s a variety of dramatic backdrops here, which makes Lake Las Vegas a favorite for photographers and romantics.

For those seeking a more adventurous approach, the Lake Las Vegas website offers equipment rentals for several different water sports and activities. We saw one guy doing flips over the water on one of those pressure jetpacks and it looked pretty damn cool!

Also, if you’re debating whether to check out Lake Las Vegas during the winter season, definitely do! They set up an ice rink over a part of the lake during the winter.

-Sam

Lantern Festival – What To Bring!

Lantern Festivals are becoming more popular and easier to attend thanks to social media! Lantern Festivals originated in China to mark the last day of the traditional Chinese New Years celebrations. Now, lantern festivals are being hosted around the world in efforts to bring communities together to write down their hopes/wishes and watch them rise into the night sky. In the United States, two large companies that host these events include LIGHTS FEST & LANTERN FEST.

#1 Purchase Your Ticket Months In Advance

These events usually take place on the outskirts of cities, at night time usually during spring, summer, and fall to ensure safety since the lanterns are lit with fire. We attended The Lights Fest in Mesquite, LV. These companies mainly do one event in each city once a year, and keep moving to the next city. So make sure you purchase your tickets month/s in advance & also to get in on the cheaper ticket prices.

Your ticket price will include your personal lantern, a sharpie so you can write/draw on your lantern, and usually a goodie bag with a little free gift depending on what company you go through! Parking fee is separate! So ensure you look for the separate link to purchase a parking slot!

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Quick Tip:

To avoid traffic, I would definitely arrive at least an hour or two prior to festivities beginning.

#2: Bring Activities To Stay Entertained

Since the lanterns are lit up with fire, I can image all lantern festivals are surrounded by what ours was, dirt. The actual lantern part is about 20 minutes long, and happens at the very end of the event. So food, drinks, and games would be great to bring along with you to ensure it’s a fun afternoon all the way through. (You can also purchase sparklers for some extra fun!)

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#3 Bring A Camera

When those lanterns are let go, there is something about that sight that just makes you tear up no matter how manly you think you are! Now camera’s aren’t going to capture the full beauty, but we definitely cherish our videos/photos. So make sure you bring a camera/smart phone to capture your experience!

-Sam

Cliff Jumping in Las Vegas!

There’s not a lot of this in Vegas – waves crashing over pebble shores, breezy winds, gentle sunshine, you get it – so when we found it at the end of a two lane street in the middle of the desert (and on my birthday, no less) it felt about as close to paradise as I could ask for. Welcome to Nelson’s Landing.

We came here for my birthday to do the only things it’s known for: cliff jumping and getting weird sunburns.

Of course, Nelson’s Landing isn’t actually in the middle of nowhere –  it’s as simple as following the US-93 south before the NV-165 exit. This means you could be paddling away from the summer heat just an hour after you get off work and that makes Nelson’s Landing a ton more attractive. I mean, if the bare desert cliffs don’t do it for you already.

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Sam and I took the Bonneville out there and jumped off a couple of short cliffs before daring the 20-foot tall one. There are no signs for the heights or anything, we just estimated it based off the butterflies in our stomachs!

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To get there, we parked at a large dirt lot at the end of the road and walked until we hit the water. From here you can follow a trail to the right that leads you along the edges of the cliffs until you find a height you’re comfortable with. Before you jump, remember to test your spot to avoid getting KO’d by shallow or otherwise dangerous water.

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Nelson’s Landing isn’t the picturesque kind of experience you imagine when you think of cliff jumping, but that doesn’t take away from the thrill and for as close to the city as it is, it’s the perfect summer getaway. Just don’t forget to pack water, sunscreen, and food!

-Zach

Calico Tanks Trail – What A Beaut!

When you think Vegas your first thought might not be stunning mountains and diverse wildlife – well, some sort of wildlife, maybe – but just a few minutes out of the city you’ll find just that in Red Rock Canyon.

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I’ve been in Vegas for over a decade (on a side note, get me out) and have had lots of time to explore the hikes and sights of Red Rock. I just revisited one of my favorites and it reminded me why it’s always my go-to when introducing visitors to the canyon: Calico Tanks Trail.

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I like hikes with a big pay-off, and Calico Tanks delivers with amazing views of the Las Vegas Strip and a little swamp-like “tank” full of frogs and birds and dragonflies and bees and wasps and – well, the list gets less pleasant as it goes on but from a distance it’s a remarkable sight in the otherwise dry desert.

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The hike itself is classified as Moderate but honestly it’s very accessible thanks to the stone stairways that have been constructed throughout the trail. It’s about 2.5 miles there and back but it feels shorter because the scenery changes frequently.

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Go early in the morning and you’ll catch a lot of animals hopping about. I became a wildlife photographer with zero talent because literally anywhere I pointed the lens something was either flying or scuffling into my view.

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Here’s a picture of a mountain pigeon.
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Couldn’t get a clear picture of the smallest frog alive, but I sure got a ton of blurry ones!
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Dragonflies look uglier the closer you get.
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This one is my favorite. The bright blue contrasted so well against the red rocks. National Geographic you getting this?

At the very end of the hike you can see the Strip in the distance. It was a bit smoggy the morning I came here but I can imagine on clearer days you’d get the type of views you use for your laptop screensaver.

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All in all, Calico Tanks is an enjoyable and diverse hike. It’s a little different from any other Red Rock hike and that makes it perfect for newbies and veterans alike who want to see all the beautiful secrets the desert has to offer.

That last line was cheesy but really it’s a good hike.

-Zach

Chasing Waterfalls in Death Valley

If you thought all there was to Death Valley was sand and sand, think again.

Darwin Falls is modest – it’s not a thundering waterfall from Oregon or a tropical one from Hawaii, but it is a special one because it sits in the middle of Death Valley’s dry desert landscape. Because I’m obsessed with waterfalls (and there really aren’t that many in the desert) I spent the day on a 2-lane highway looking for it.

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If you’ve never been to Death Valley, there are plenty of stops you can make here. Lots of beautiful and historic sights along the way; from vast salt flats in the Badwater Basin to stunning views of bronze colored hills at Zabriskie Point. The drive through Death Valley feels like a journey through the desert’s greatest hits.

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Alternatively, if you’re like me and have been knees deep in desert for the past 10 years, well, then there’s more of that here.

How to get there

The exit for the Darwin Falls trail is unmarked, so finding this gem is a bit of a challenge. If you’re coming out of Vegas, follow the CA-90 west until you hit the Panama Springs Resort. Once you pass the resort (“resort” is a kind term) the road is going to curve to the right, and afterwards an unmarked gravel road is going to present itself on the left side.

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You can drive this gravel road (my bike wasn’t happy about it but the street tires pulled through just fine) for about 2.5 miles until you get to the trailhead. From here, it’s a very short and enjoyable walk to the falls as things start to get greener and water begins streaming along the trail.

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There was nobody there when I came, so bring some food and bring a book and enjoy the tranquility. Darwin Falls is a spectacular sight in contrast to its surroundings and I highly recommend it to anybody visiting Death Valley. If you can find the exit, the trail only takes about 15 minutes so it’s perfect sightseeing material!

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Pit stop

If you’re hungry on your way to Death Valley, there’s a charming little hotel/café/opera house (you read that right!) at the 190 and the 127 freeway junction called the Amargosa Opera House.

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I came too early for the opera house to be open but the food was fancy (and pricey) and the coffee was good, and ultimately as long as there is good coffee I’m happy.

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-Zach

Boston: Our 5 Favorite Food Joints!

Zach and I visited Boston in 2016 for the first time. We traveled by foot everywhere, and followed the crowd to help choose just which food establishments to give a shot! After trying 33 different establishments over our two-week stay, I’ve chosen our top 5. All of which are great in pricing, taste, and ambiance!

#5 PRET A MANGER

Perfect for consumers looking for fresh, healthy, light food options during their stroll through the city. Pret A Manger has freshly made sandwiches, soups, salads, and coffee! The location on State Street goes along side the Freedom Trail, which makes it a perfect rest stop for tourists!

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(We don’t have a photo of the establishment! But if you’re following this trail, you’ll pass Pret A Manger!)

#4 BOLOCO

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The specific location that we loved was located on Boylston & Charles Street; right across from the peaceful & beautiful Public Garden. Boloco specializes in burritos & also has great vegetarian options as well! & check out the Public Garden after you eat at Boloco!

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(Public Garden)

#3 AU BON PAIN

Au Bon Pain is Boston’s equivalence to Einstein Bagels, but pastry based. They have fridges filled with fresh sandwiches, yogurt parfaits, salads, and beverages. They also have an area where you can order hot breakfast and lunch sandwiches, as well as a huge self-serve pastry case. The one on Boylston St is a great location where you’ll get to see locals walking to work, teens skateboarding, and close to Charles River. Just take Boylston St down to Charles St, make a left on Charles, and up to Boston’s Public Dock on the Esplanade.

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(We also don’t have a photo of Au Bon Pain! But This is the Public Dock on the Esplanade. Gorgeous right!)

#2 GLOBE

While we were staying in Boston, we couldn’t resist going to a Red Sox game! Game night we felt like finding a cool bar establishment to grab some wings and beers prior. While walking down Boylston St, we found Globe. They’re a tiny restaurant with fabulous food and reasonable prices. But they have great seating that just can’t be beat! You can either sit inside to escape the heat, or they have outside seating that’s close to Boston’s Public Library. A great area to just watch the locals go about their days, and take in the amazing sunset while eating dinner.

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#1 DELUX CAFÉ

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One night when we were walking through the city on our way back to our hostel, we heard loud chattering coming from around the corner that we thought were just residential. However, it was actually coming from this little establishment called Delux Café! It’s one of those hidden treasures that are always busy due to their amazing ambiance, food, and friendly staff! We stayed here one night for over an hour, just talking to one of the bartenders about what it’s like to live in Boston. Definitely check them out!!

-Sam

Zion – Emerald Pools Trail

Zion is one of the most spectacular national parks in North America, and the fact that you can find it tucked between miles of sepia-toned desert creates a contrast that helps you truly appreciate its sweeping vistas and narrow, river-carved canyons.

I’ve been to Zion several times over the last few years in desperate attempts to escape Vegas, and each time the canyon reveals more secrets worth sharing. This time, Sam led the expedition to the Emerald Pools.

The Emerald Pools

There are three parts to the pools: Lower, Middle, and Upper. The hike is very manageable for all ages and capabilities – the lower pools are only a .6 mile hike from the trailhead and the upper pools are an additional mile up.

My favorite by far were the lower Emerald Pools, where the trail leads you under the lip of a canyon and a curtain of water rains alongside you.

Lower Emerald Pools

The Middle Pools run down the edge of a cliff so the park has chained the area off for safety. Still, this small resting spot on the way to the Upper Pools provide some good picture opportunities.

Middle Emerald Pools

The trail ends at the Upper Emerald Pools. This is a perfect picnic hub – a pool of water surrounded by tall cliffs and plenty of flat rocks to sit on. Even when the place gets crowded, there is a satisfying sense of serenity here.

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If you’re looking for a good entry-level hike into Zion, the Emerald Pools give you just that: easy enough for any experience level but rewarding enough to ignite that sense of adventure.

Looking for more?

If you’re antsy for more than a 1.5 mile hike, there is a split in the trail that leads you to the Grotto. Although there is no real destination here besides the bus stop, the hike itself leads you along some amazing views of the mountains and is a definite bonus for photographs.

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Once you get to the Grotto, you can also find the trailhead for Angel’s Landing, one of Zion’s toughest hikes but also one of its most rewarding.

-Zach