Vegas 101 (The Basics)

First trip to Las Vegas?  Or, has it been awhile since your last visit?  Here are a few tips and basic suggestions to help ensure your visit is enjoyable and FUN!Las Vegas (101)

Determine what kind of vacation you are looking for before you book your trip.  If you are looking for a wild time to party and are willing to pay top dollar, then New Year’s Eve, any week in March for Spring Break, Fourth of July, Memorial day weekend, and Labor day weekend are the best.  The long-weekend exception is Thanksgiving, since most people want to eat turkey at home with the family, Vegas is less expensive, less crowded, fewer families, and super fun.  If you are like me, and you would rather a better value for your accommodations & prefer to avoid the crowds and lines, then I suggest weekday visits, off-season (when kids are in school, both college kids and younger kids since some families insist on bringing children to the city of SIN).  Double-check for large conventions in town during your visit.  It is probably better to avoid the Vegas Porn convention if you do want to bring your children, or parents for that matter!

Continue reading “Vegas 101 (The Basics)”

Barrachina in San Juan

The entire city of San Juan was a pleasant surprise.  It is not quite modern America, but a blend between downtown Tucson and a historic town that time really does not closely pay attention to.  At 18 degrees north of the equator, the weather is fantastic and warm year round on the beautiful little island.

We arrived at the port in San Juan and explored the old part of town on foot in a few hours.  In old San Juan there are narrow cobblestone streets, historic forts, and gorgeous views of the water.  All of that walking made us hungry, and thirsty.  As a US territory, my smartphone had excellent coverage and thanks to Open Table we found Barrachina for dinner.

Barrachina courtyard

Famous for the origin of the Pina Colada, it was the best Pina Colada that I have ever tasted!  The food was amazing and fresh.  Barrachina is reasonably priced, providing great service, and amazing food.

We started with Grouper Fritters that were fresh, perfectly prepared (not too greasy for breaded & fried fish), and delicious.  Due to all of our walking before dinner, these yummy appetizers did not last long enough for a picture.

Mofongo beef, chicken, and shrimp is a fried green plantain dish, that can only be described as a flavor explosion.  My mouth waters just remembering how good it tasted.  The spices reminded me of Spanish cuisine, complex and mild that would not count as “spicy” compared to any Mexican dish.

Red Snapper dish
Red Snapper dish

 

The ultimate treat was the local caught, grilled whole red snapper fish with shrimp and putanesca sauce.    Yes, it is a 24 ounce entire fish with scales, eyes, tail, and face.  Admittedly, I skipped the eyes and tail.  The fish alone could easily serve 4, then they added shrimp, rice, veggies, beans, and hearty tomato putanesca sauce.  Two of us barely put a dent in this wonderful dish.

Sunset in old San Juan

With so much to see just in San Juan, we did not explored much of Puerto Rico and now I have another must-explore list to my future travel plans.  We will definitely dine at Barrachina on our next visit to Puerto Rico, which I hope will be soon!

Desert Botanical Garden

There is so much beauty in the desert.  Some of it is hidden away, just out of sight.  The Desert Botanical Garden is one of those hidden gems.  Located in the very heart of metro Phoenix.  This tranquil garden showcasing the desert beauty.  In addition to daily tours (recommended for October through May), there are evening events for enjoyment year round.

Papago Park overlooking Desert Botanical Garden
Papago Park overlooking Desert Botanical Garden

I was asked to plan a work event on a small budget.  After narrowing the selection down to my top 3 selections, the team voted on dinner and concert at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.  Since our group was larger than 10 people we were given the group discount for the concert.  I worked with one of the super accommodating group planners to order dinner and reserve a private patio.

The garden is just beautiful!  Walking along the paved path there are so much beautiful plants with amazing colors.  We watched the sunset over the mountains in the garden during our cocktail service before dinner.  It is easy to forget that the garden is located in the middle of Phoenix.  The garden is full of delightful smells and visual treats.

The entire dinner was prepared well and seemed far more elegant in the garden setting.  Many people in attendance described the event & location as “classy”.

 

This is a fantastic location for wedding ceremony, reception, special night out, the list goes on and on.  I am already planning my next trip, maybe just a simple tour and romantic picnic lunch.