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|TRAVEL DEALS, NEWS, TIPS & STORIES|
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|WEBSITE OF THE WEEK|
Since we're in Las Vegas, and the city celebrates its 100th birthday on May 15, why not kick off this historic occasion by checking out their centennial website of the week? It has something (Helldorado Days, concerts, events, exhibits ... ) for everyone.
BONUS WEBSITE(S) OF THE WEEK:
If Vegas is not your style, how about websites featuring state-of-the-art new planes? One is Airbus' new A380 jumbo jet. It seats over 800 passengers, and has been all over the news this past week after its successful test launch. The other is Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner. This plane will be eco- and people-friendly, efficient and revolutionary. Check them both out, because for sure they'll both enhance air travel.
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CHICAGO TV & KENTUCKY
Before we get started, I want to alert our Chicago readers that I will be on WTTW Channel 11 (PBS) tonight (May 4) at 7 p.m. And for those in Kentucky: On Friday night, the day before the big horse race, my buddy Joe Lewis is throwing a fun event called Black Tie and Blue Jeans. If you want to join me and a bunch of my friends and family, get a ticket before they sell out. (Click here for more info).
TEEN CHOICE AWARDS
Last week we left off from San Diego. After the 2-hour drive to L.A., my sister and her family hung out with me for a couple of days before going back to Florida. Unfortunately, they left too soon. A few days later a friend called and asked if the little ones were still in town, because he scored VIP tickets to the Kids’ Choice Awards at UCLA. Aaargh! They would have loved to have gone -- they couldn’t stop talking about the awards the entire week they were here. I called to get them to come back out, but my sister quickly shot down that stupid idea. So I went by myself to take lots of pictures, tell them behind-the-scene stories and get gift bags for them from the after-party. I’m glad I went, even though I probably looked strange all alone. I had no idea this is the second toughest ticket to get in town (after the Oscars). But that makes sense: Every kid in L.A. – not to mention the world -- wants to go, because all the top teenybopper and Hollywood A list stars attend. My favorite part of the evening was the dessert bar – the fixins for make your own sundae were outrageous!
Another bummer that Johnny and Amanda left town is because they missed their little cousin Gavin’s 3rd birthday. I went to help out and see some of my friends (Gavin’s friends’ parents). It was pretty funny going to this party, which was catered not only for 3-year-olds but adults as well -- in more ways than one. Standing by the food table (where else would I hang?), I felt like I was in a scene from “Desperate Housewives” when I heard one mother say to another, “How do my boobs look?” She pushed them together, and I almost choked on my cupcake. It turns out the “Balloon Guy” was in the house -- I mean, the park --and all the women went gaga over him. It was classic watching some of these women swarm the dude as he made balloon animals for kids.
At the party we had a surprise guest: Amber Airplane. If you’re new to Johnny Jet, Amber is my ex-girlfriend (it’s a long story, but you can read the past stories here: October 2003, May 2004, June 2004, July 2004). Amber Airplane and I still talk every once in a while, to catch up. She now has a boyfriend in her hometown of Cleveland, so it was only a matter of time before she came to break the news I knew was inevitable. She was there to say goodbye for good, because she’s moving back home. Even though we broke up almost a year ago, it still felt like a blow to the gut. Part of me wanted to stand in front of her moving van with a bouquet of flowers, while the other half just whispered “smile and wish her the best.” That’s what I did. Although I am personally sad, I’m also happy for her, her family and the entire state of Ohio. I know she’ll bring that place even more sunshine than it already has.
A good way to get someone out of your mind is to go to Vegas. I went for a night with my cousin Dennis. I flew Ted (United’s low-cost airline), while Dennis took American (he’s a mileage freak). Both flights took a quick 47 minutes, but it was good they did not depart at the same time. That gave Dennis enough time to rent a car and pick me up. But I have no idea why he rented a car. We were only going to the Strip, so that was a total waste of money.
We checked into “THE hotel” at Mandalay Bay. This was my first time at what is advertised as “the hotel inside a hotel.” It’s really not though, because both hotels are in separate buildings. THE hotel is in the smaller of the two buildings at Mandalay Bay. THE hotel has 43 floors and 1,120 rooms. Both hotels (THE hotel and Mandalay Bay) are connected by underground walkways. They also have separate entrances and front desks.
I like Mandalay Bay’s entrance better, because guests don’t have to go into a dark underground parking lot to get to their lobby. The whole arrival process at THE hotel made me feel like I was in a Batman movie, maybe because the parking lot looks like a cave. I guess the whole Gotham feel sets the cool mood. The hotel definitely attracts guys who are cool, or at least think they are – that’s why Dennis booked us rooms there. Actually, once you get by all the phony baloney vibes, the place is pretty cool.
Just walking inside the high-ceilinged lobby with its manly minimalist design, you can tell the place is designed with men in mind. Don’t get me wrong, though: A lot of women stay here, and love it. Check-in was quick, the elevator slow. The best part about THE hotel is that all the rooms are large 750 square feet suites. There is a living room with a couch, coffee table, wet bar and desk (with high-speed internet hookup, $11.99 for 24 hours), and a separate bedroom. The two marble and granite bathrooms are good sizes, and have a separate tub and shower. Sleek Bathe products are neatly stored nearby. Each room has two plasma TV’s, with the living room sporting a 42-incher. Now if hotels in cities where nothing goes on had these, that would be great. In Vegas it’s a waste, because most guests don’t spend a lot of time in their rooms. Rates start at $169, though availability is limited (we paid a lot more). THE hotel at Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas; tel.: 877-632-7800.
ADVERTISEMENT: CLICK HERE TO COMPARE RATES AND AVAILABILITY FOR SAVINGS ON VEGAS HOTELS
THE hotel doesn’t have a lot to offer in general -- just one 24-hour café and a coffee bar – so it’s a good thing it’s connected to Mandalay Bay. There, guests have access to 16 world-class restaurants, plenty of nightclubs and bars, a mammoth casino, and plenty of swimming pools. In fact, the Travel Channel says Mandalay has the best pool/beach in Vegas. That’s right – beach. There are 11 acres of manmade tropical oasis including a sandy beach, a lazy river ride and three pools. The newest pool, called Moorea Beach Club, is for adults only (21 and up). I didn’t swim because the air was too cold, so I missed out on the 140 plush lounge chairs, chilled towel service, complimentary selection of sun care products and pool side cabanas, as well as its best feature: It’s bikini top-optional. Sounds good to me, except for the charge: Mondays through Thursdays, men pay $20 and women $10. From Friday through Sunday it’s $30 for men, but still only $10 for women. Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas; tel.: 877-632-7800.
We were in Vegas for a few reasons but one was because I was trying out Vegas.com's new Show Packages. My cousin and I received two tickets to a show, plus a prix fixe dinner (appetizer, dinner entrée and dessert) at Spago. We chose Spago because it was right next door to the show, and my boy Wolfgang is the chef. As expected, the food was really good and the service was excellent. My favorite was of course the desserts – ummm! Unfortunately the main entertainer of our show was sick, so the perfomance was canceled. That was just as well though, because I didn't feel like seeing Celine Dion with my cousin. I’ll use that credit the next time I’m in Vega$. Here’s a safe bet: I won't be with Dennis.
We roamed around the shops and ran into two friends, one from Connecticut and the other from California. Small world, huh? We thought that would make us lucky in the casino, but the opposite happened. We were lucky to make it back to THE hotel with our clothes still on. Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas; te;.: 877-427-7243
The one good thing about cousin Dennis renting a car is that I learned Hertz and other companies try to stick customers with high fees for just an extra hour. So be sure to return your car on time, and examine your receipt closely. Dennis wasn’t the only one complaining. On the shuttle bus to the airport another dude swore just like Dennis: “I can’t believe those ****ers tried to charge me an hour for $44!”
Next week we’re off to another fun destination. Stay tuned!
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Big Sur delivers dramatic views on a small budget
It might be the most dramatic drive in the Lower 48. It stretches across 90 miles of jagged cliffs and scenic vistas, and it reveals more twists and turns than the latest Dan Brown bestseller. "It" is Big Sur, California's rugged "Big South," and the famous white-knuckle drive along Highway 1 is only part of the story. Click Here To Read Article
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