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Author Archives: Sarah V.

Shipwrecks Beach and Re-Entering the Real World

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We just returned from a trip to Kauai and Oahu. It’s safe to say I’m having a little trouble re-entering reality now that I’m home. A pile of dirty dishes has already accumulated by the sink, and I keep daydreaming about blue skies and even bluer water.

And then there’s the wonky sleep schedules. Getting my daughter (and me) back on a normal schedule will be a challenge. The time difference between Las Vegas and Hawaii is only three hours, yet somehow this is really throwing us out of whack.

But all of this is a very small price to pay for a week in paradise. As I uploaded my Hawaii photos yesterday, I was particularly struck by the beautiful memory of Shipwreck Beach (or Shipwrecks plural…I’ve seen it written both ways), located behind the Grand Hyatt on Kauai.

Shipwreck Beach, Kauai

Shipwreck Beach, Kauai

Of the beaches we visited during our trip, this one is probably my favorite. I love the picturesque cliff and the groups of dark rocks that contrast with the light-colored sand.

Stay tuned for more on our trip to Kauai and Oahu. I’ll be writing about food on Kauai, Waimea Canyon, and the Honolulu Zoo. That is, if I can get some sleep…

Free and Fun in Las Vegas: Flamingo Habitat

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The Flamingo Habitat hadn’t been high on my list of priorities compared to other attractions on the Strip. However, on a smoldering Saturday afternoon, we decided to give this free and kid-friendly attraction a try.

Flamingo Habitat

The garden area is located near the pool, which means that it isn’t exactly tranquil. But there were several interesting things to see: an employee had several colorful birds that we could feed. A meandering stream held ducks, fish, and a few turtles. And of course, there were several flamingos, which have to be among the weirdest looking birds on the planet with their odd habit of standing on one spindly leg.

Should you drop what you’re doing and run out to the Flamingo Habitat today? Probably not. However, it’s worth a visit if you happen to be at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino or if your kid is particularly fond of birds. Plus, it would pair well with the other two animal-themed attractions on the Strip: the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay and the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage.

Flamingo Habitat

More birds await indoors

Flamingo HabitatFlamingo Habitat

The Flamingo Hotel and Casino is located at:
3555 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Time to “Focus on Nevada”

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Focus on Nevada at Alios Gallery

Take a look at this month’s issue of Desert Companion, and you’ll see the winners and finalists of the Focus on Nevada photo contest. The photos represent diverse views of Nevada, from the Strip to rural areas like Rhyolite and Echo Canyon. If there is one common theme among the photographs, it is that Nevada really is beautiful.

You can use this link to view the photos or you can pick up the June 2013 issue of Desert Companion when you’re out and about in Southern Nevada.

Two of my photos were chosen as honorable mentions in the smartphone category. (You can find them on page 67 of the digital version, but you really should take the time to peruse the professional and semi-professional categories first.) It was pretty cool seeing my photos in the magazine and on the gallery wall at Alios Gallery for the Focus on Nevada event. I’ve been inspired to re-install the Instagram app on my iPhone.

Don’t Forget the Nevada State Museum

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Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas

We’ve been to Springs Preserve several times. Our routine is the same every time: head to the playground first, then take a stroll through the gardens, and once we can’t stand another minute in the blazing sun, we head into the Origen Museum to cool off, and then outdoors again to visit the desert animals exhibit before heading home.

However, before our last visit, I decided that we would start someplace else: the next-door Nevada State Museum.

Tickets to the museum are included in the general admission price for Springs Preserve. If my own experience is any indication, the museum is, unfortunately, an afterthought for most visitors to Springs Preserve. This is a shame because it really is a fascinating museum, and it managed to keep my six-year-old daughter and her two friends entertained for almost two hours.

As you enter the exhibit hall, the first thing you will notice is the gigantic woolly mammoth. Although this display is made of fiberglass and plaster, it’s an impressive demonstration of the size of these prehistoric animals. Visitors will also find all kinds of taxidermied and preserved desert animals, from pumas to bats to butterflies.

But the Nevada State Museum isn’t all about the animal kingdom. The museum also takes visitors on a journey through Nevada history, from the early pioneer days to modern life on the Las Vegas Strip. A glittering display of showgirl costumes is arranged on the back wall, a strange juxtaposition to the desert creatures who roamed closer to the museum’s entrance.

While the museum’s collection seems a bit disjointed in terms of continuity, it does an excellent job of engaging both children and adults. This is not a “children’s museum,” yet the displays are designed in a way that makes them accessible to kids.

Another plus is the friendly staff at the museum. Rather than lecturing us on behaving in the gallery, a staff member at the front desk greeted us with a smile. My daughter is well-versed in museum etiquette, so I’m always taken off guard when museum employees seem horrified at the prospect of my daughter wandering through their collection. However, we felt welcome at the Nevada State Museum, which helps put everyone at ease.

A visit to the Nevada State Museum is a great option for the almost-unbearable Vegas summers. And if you think you can handle the heat, perhaps stop by Springs Preserve after you’ve explored the museum.

Photo Friday: a bridge

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The Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge overlooks Hoover Dam and crosses the state line between Arizona and Nevada. The bridge honors two men: Mike O’Callaghan, who served as Governor of Nevada from 1971-1979, and Pat Tillman, an NFL player who joined the Army and was killed in Afghanistan in 2004.

View of Memorial Bridge from Hoover Dam.

The Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

Hoover Dam as seen from the Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

The bridge provides a stunning view of Hoover Dam

These photos don’t do the bridge justice. Looking at it from Hoover Dam, the bridge soars to an impressive height of 880 feet above the river and 280 feet above the dam. It is beautiful in form, function, and significance.

No matter what your plans are this Memorial Day weekend, I hope you will take a few moments to think about those who have served our country.

To see photos from other travel bloggers, stop by Photo Friday.

Photo Friday: pretty yellow flowers at the Henderson Bird Preserve

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Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve. Henderson, Nevada

I’m sure that there are people out there who absolutely love the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve. They probably wake up early, arriving at the park before the desert heat sets in. Armed with their field guides and binoculars, they are able to see and identify a vast array of feathered wonders.

However, we did not have such a successful trip to the preserve.

We went in the heat of the afternoon, despite the fact that the preserve opens quite early. That was our first mistake. We hadn’t walked far before our daughter started complaining about being hot and tired. And to be quite honest, we don’t know much about birds. But hey, we wanted to give it a try and explore someplace new. It might not have been our most exciting outing in Las Vegas, but I’m glad we went even for a short time.

My favorite part of the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve was the collection of beautiful trees draped in yellow flowers that met us at the entrance.

To see photos from other travelers, stop by the family travel blog Delicious Baby and check out Photo Friday.

Travel and fear

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Open Road, West Texas

Our summer travel plans are starting to come together. We’ll be going to not one but two islands we’ve never visited before, and we’ll be making a return trip to one of our favorite cities on the planet.

These destinations are firmly planted on the “beaten path.” They will be incredible, but we aren’t exactly exploring new territory. Don’t get me wrong: I’m so thankful that I’ll have the chance to spend time with my husband and daughter, and I think we’ll have a wonderful time. However, there’s something about heading off into the middle of nowhere, leaving the well-trodden trail, that is particularly rewarding. And it’s something I’m hoping to do again soon.

A couple of years ago, my daughter and I went with another mother/daughter pair into the vast West Texas wilderness. It was certainly an adventure as we dodged tumbleweeds and wondered when we’d see a gas station and convinced ourselves we may or may not be abducted by aliens. The middle of nowhere, unfamiliar surroundings, no cell phone service…my daughter and I were out of our comfort zone, and it was one of the more memorable trips we’ve taken.

So, as summer approaches and I try to make plans to fill my daughter’s school-free time, I find myself daydreaming about girls-only adventures with my daughter in the rural expanses of Nevada, Utah, eastern California, and northern Arizona.

There are so many places I’d love to explore: Cathedral Gorge State Park near Pioche, Nevada. Snow Canyon State Park near St. George, Utah. The ghost town of Chloride in Arizona. The historic, possibly-haunted Mitzpah Hotel in Tonopah, Nevada (about halfway between Vegas and Lake Tahoe). I could go on. These are the kinds of places that I love. I like the fact that these are not “typical” tourist destinations. And I love the thought of driving down an open road, without another car in sight.

But something makes me hesitant to embark on these adventures alone with my daughter: fear.

I can’t help but imagine everything that could go wrong. These trips don’t involve hopping on a plane and heading to some help-is-always-nearby, highly-populated area. Most of these destinations mean driving through areas with little or no cell phone service and hikes in lesser-known parks. For some reason, that makes me nervous.

And then there is the fear of the unknown. It is always easier to visit a place you’ve been before, to know what is coming around the next bend in the road. However, it’s the trips to the places we haven’t been before that become the most memorable.

Nothing good in life is without risk. I’m trying to remember that as I plan a girls-only trip for me and my daughter. I will be smart and well-prepared, and I will trust that everything will turn out just fine. After all, The Hills Have Eyes is just a movie, right?


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