Posted in: Campground Review, Exploring Nevada, YouTube Video Link

Thousand Trails: Las Vegas, Campground Review

We had not stayed at a Thousand Trails campground yet. It had been a long process to get our pass. There also were not TT campgrounds near the middle of the country.

We were looking forward to making use of our pretty pricey membership. We got to the campground and picked our spot from the ones that were still available. (With Thousand Trails you reserve a spot, but not a specific site.) The 50 amp sites were an extra $3/day. I would say roughly 3/4 of the sites were 30/50 amp and 50 amp sites. It was conveniently located to the highway and there were plenty of stores within 10-20 minutes. The Strip was about a 20 minute drive from the campground.

The other plus was that the staff was always present and seemed polite and nice whenever we interacted with them. There were three sets of bathhouses/laundry facilities. You could also get mail delivered there and they held it in the office for you. They had a pool which the kids really enjoyed. It even had the lift chair to get into the pool, a bathroom, and outdoor showers. They had an ice machine for $3/bag. There were two horseshoe pits and a activity room. (Link to the boys’ Campground Tour video.)

Now, onto the not so great stuff.

WiFi costs extra. We had our hotspot and phones, so we were ok. I’m not sure if that is all TT or just this location.

The spots were tight and harder to get into. I am glad we had an end spot or it would have been really difficult. It seemed run down. Bushes and trees were trimmed and there were sprinklers for areas of grass, but there was just a general run down feeling. Our site had cigarette buts and even a rusty screw laying around on the ground.

The garbage bins were often overflowing. There were lots of long term residents with run down or broken cars and RV’s.

The spa (hot tub) was off limits, but there was still water in it and it was just poorly roped off.

It was between two busy roads. The wall near our spot had barbed wire on top. There was a lot of airplane and road noise. About 2-3 in the morning it sounded like people were drag racing. Almost every day.

Checking into our spot: Electric box, hose hook up

The area is not one where I would walk to anything. There were several things nearby (a donut shop, Boulder Station casino, etc) that were less than a mile from the campground, but I definitely did not feel safe walking in the area. I didn’t even walk around the campground by myself. The campground is walled in and has a gate at the front, but it is a gate that is easily walked around. There were also several homeless camps nearby. We saw someone arrested on the street in front of the campground entrance.

If we were in Las Vegas again, I would look further north of the city where the nicer areas are for a different campground. The staff seemed nice, but the area was not. Some of the things like road and airplane noise are out of their control, it’s based the location and maybe at one time it was better. But some things could be improved around the grounds.

SUMMARY OF CAMPGROUND:

Our rating: 2 out of 5 hitches

Cell Phone Reception: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile

Laundry: Yes

Bathrooms/Showers: Yes

RV Sites: Pull Through, Back-in

Pop Up Tents/Gazebos/Outdoor Rugs On-Site: No, not enough room

Amenities: picnic table, dog area, horseshoe pits

Cabins: No

Tent Camping: No

Full Hook-ups: Yes

Pool: Yes

WiFi: Not free, could pay for WiFi

Accepts Mail: Yes, no charge when we were there

Food On-Site: No

Camp Store: No

Fishing: No

Posted in: Exploring Nevada, Food, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Cereal Killerz Kitchen

Ben and Nick found some crazy things in Las Vegas, including Cereal Killerz Kitchen. It is a store in the mall that offers only cereal, shakes with cereal in them, waffles, and some coffee drinks. They had a cereal eating challenge, but you had to schedule it in advance and it didn’t work out on the days we were there. It consisted of a gallon of milk and huge bowl (more like a tub) of cereal.

It looked like there had been gaming stations set up near the entrance, but they had been removed for COVID. They had so many cereal options, many of which I had never heard of or seen before.

Nick was so excited about eating cereal, even though he couldn’t do the challenge. They did sell different sized bowl options. He got a small bowl, which meant that he could pick 3 cereals. He picked Fillows, Peeps, and Frankenberry. It was quite the colorful bowl. He seemed to like it though. (Cereal Killerz Kitchen Video)

Ben got me a peanut butter chocolate shake from Cereal Killerz. It was a nice thick shake, although I didn’t really eat the cereal on top.

The rest of us got dinner from the food court in the mall.

Posted in: Exploring Nevada, Food, Museums & Tours, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Ethel M Chocolates and Cactus Garden, Las Vegas

Our stay in Las Vegas was almost over and there were a few things I wanted to do still. One of which was the Ethel M Chocolates factory tour. It was only about 20 minutes from the campground. It was a (free) self guided tour. There were glass windows with informational text, along with a few TV screens with a slide show video. (Video: We walked through the Ethel M Chocolates Self Guided Tour.)

We didn’t see any of the chocolate being made when we were there, but it was still an interesting tour. (They are part of the Mars family.) We received a dark chocolate square sample when we walked in the door and a truffle sample when we were browsing the shop. There were so many different chocolates to choose from! Ethel M is a higher end chocolateir, so it was a little more expensive (for example, it was $2.50/truffle, or $35 for a 12 piece build your own box). I bought a chocolate covered apple for us all to share and a 12 piece box. I’ve been limiting myself to one a day. They are delicious! (And so pretty!)

You know it’s a nice chocolate store when you get a cooler bag when you spend $5 and they pack it with an ice pack!
Time to eat!

If you are in the Las Vegas area (and love chocolate), I would definitely recommend stopping in!

Outside the store was a cactus garden, which was part of the Ethel M grounds. They had a lot of variety and interesting informational signs. They were in the process of putting up the Christmas lights in the garden while we were walking through. (Video: Ethel M Cactus Garden Walk Through)

Posted in: Exploring Nevada, Hotel, School, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Cabana and Pool Time, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

The boys and I still woke up early so that they could attend their “live” classes. We snacked on the donuts that we picked up yesterday from pinkbox. Everyone’s favorite was the DoughCro (a croissant/donut). Ben had taken a vacation day, so he finally got to sleep in.

Pretty good donuts. The pink one is funny, but it really is just a lot of icing piped on top of a regular donut with a glaze/shell over the whole thing.

Today was pool day! We were all excited to go swimming. The pool opened at 9:00 am and was operating at 50% capacity due to COVID restrictions. Once capacity was reached, there was a waiting line to get in. If you leave the pool area and it is at capacity, you would need to wait in the line to get back in. However, if you book a cabana, then you can come and go all day long. Masks were also required in the pool area unless in the pool, eating/drinking, or going directly into/out of the pool. There were staff members at exits with disposable masks for people as well. I did see a few stop people who were just walking around or sitting on chairs and give them masks to wear.

We had reserved a cabana for the day on the Mandalay Bay Beach lazy river. Ben had always wanted to try a cabana and it definitely helped with social distancing. The boys also still had school so it gave them a place to do their school work in the morning. Although we had prepaid, you still had to check into the cabana by 11:00am or give them a call to let them know you were going to be later. We packed up, checked out of the hotel room, and headed down to the pool area a little before 9:00. We brought the boys’ computers and the hotspot so they could continue with their classes.

We chose a cabana on the end to help with even more social distancing. The cabana had a loveseat, a table and two chairs, TV, towels, 2 inner tubes, a mini fridge with included Pepsi/Diet Pepsi/water/bucket of ice, 2 lounge chairs under an umbrella, and a safe. Food and beverage service was available for an extra charge.

Tipping and charges were a little different than what I was expecting. There was the cabana charge and the cabana host tipping option (they were the ones in the blue shirts). We didn’t really interact with them much. One person showed us to our cabana and another replaced the waters in the fridge towards the end of the day. The people in red were the food and beverage servers and were a separate charge and tip. We saw our server multiple times during the day, as she checked in on us quite frequently. She was very friendly. We ordered a frozen drink (Miami Vice 22 oz, souvenir plastic cup, $28) and an order of chips and guacamole ($11, way over priced for the amount we actually got). The drink was very tasty! The guacamole was good, a little spicy, but the chips seemed a little stale.

The main pool area had a walk up food/drink service as well, but it looked like the same menu.

There were a few restrooms around the different areas, but not specifically changing rooms that I could see. There was an outdoor shower area to rinse off the sand from the beach. The entry walkway also had a beach shop, but it had very limited gear. I had not not been paying attention when I packed my swimsuit and accidentally grabbed two bottoms. I stopped in the beach shop to see if they had any bathing suit tops. It only had tiny bikini tops and small one-piece suits, no larger swim tops/shirts. (Seriously, I tried on a top and there was no way I could swim and stay in it. I ended up just using my swim skirt bottoms with my bra and top.) Video: Walking Around The Mandalay Bay Beach pool area.

The lazy river was also operating at 50% capacity. When we got there in the morning, there wasn’t a line to get in, but towards the afternoon it got crowded and you did have to wait in line. There were times it was just a sea of people floating past us, so we took a dip in the Wave Pool to avoid any crowds. NOTE: You can also bring your own inner tubes for the lazy river as long as they are round, no rafts. There is a fill up station near the lazy river entrance. Video: Traveling Along The Mandalay Bay Beach Lazy River.

The lazy river was a decent temperature. It was a little cool when you first got in, but I quickly adjusted so it wasn’t bad at all. The Wave Pool was freezing. It would have been really funny to watch everyone’s faces as they got in the water, but I’m pretty sure I had the same “Holy Cow, this is cold” look on my face.

NOTE: The walkways are very slippery if they are wet or even just walking with wet feet! Go slow. The Wave Pool also goes off every 90 seconds, I believe.

Posted in: Exploring Nevada, Hotel, Sightseeing

Mandalay Bay Hotel, Las Vegas

We have been living in our 400 square foot RV since June. It’s been quite the adjustment from the much larger house we had and learning to live together in a small space has had its challenging days. Sometimes all you need is some space! During our stay in Las Vegas, Ben wanted to treat everyone and stay in a hotel for the night.

Prices for hotel rooms were pretty cheap when we were there. After checking to see what hotels were open and also had pools, we choose the Mandalay Bay because it had a lazy river. What can beat a lazy river?! I looked at the hotel’s website for booking, but found a cheaper rate online. The hotel claimed they matched third party pricing, so I called the hotel directly to book and they did match the other price. Yay!

You could check in online (I believe it was an app), or they had check-in available at the hotel front desk. We chose to check-in at the hotel. There was an EMT taking temperatures at the check-in line and masks were required.

You did need an active hotel keycard to access the guest floors from the elevator. I had gone to check-in while Ben parked the truck, so I waited until the boys came in to go up to the room. When we arrived outside our hotel room, I noticed a seal sticker on the door to show that it had been cleaned and not gone into again. There was also a little cover over the TV remote to show it had been cleaned as well.

Our room was a standard 2 queen room and was 550 square feet. It seemed so spacious! I guess if we didn’t have the kitchen area, the RV would too. 😂 The bathroom though…man…it was definitely one of my favorite parts. There was a walk-in shower and a separate bathtub. Guys, I took a shower without worrying about running out of hot water, someone flushing the toilet and having no water, or the grey tank getting full and backing up into the shower! It was amazing!

Our room overlooked the pool area, had two queen beds, a work desk and chair, and a small table with two chairs. There was a mini-fridge, but it was for pre-stocked items only. There were sensors, so if you moved something to put your own supplies in the fridge, you were charged a fee.

The desk had a complimentary kit that contained 2 reusable masks and a hand sanitizer. The letter with it also said it had a stylus, although ours did not. Ben did say it was the most comfortable mask he’s worn (other than his gaiter). I thought that was a really nice touch. Masks are required in Nevada and most casinos have the disposable masks available near the entries, but these were nice reusable ones.

We relaxed for a little bit in the room and then drove to Henderson to explore and grab some food. There were several food places open in the hotel (the buffet and a few of the nicer sit down places were closed), but we felt like going out. We grabbed some burgers for dinner and donuts for breakfast.

Coming back to the hotel, we had an easy relaxing night of reading and some TV.

The bed was nice, a little softer than I like but Ben loved it. The pillows were soft, although not as bad as feather pillows. It was so nice to have a real queen sized bed where our toes were not in danger of hanging off if we scooted down a little. (A regular queen mattress is 60×80, but the RV Short Queen is 60×75,) It was also really nice to not have the room move every time someone moved around in their bed!

Posted in: Exploring Nevada, Food, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

High Roller Wheel, LINQ, Las Vegas

We wanted to take a ride in the High Roller (a huge ferris wheel at the LINQ casino/hotel in Las Vegas). You can buy your tickets online to save some money (I think it was about half the cost when we did it this way). Thanks Nancy for the encouragement!

When I called to get details I was told that for social distancing purposes, right now they are only letting 10 people on per car, instead of the 30 people each pod normally holds. We lucked out and only had 7 people in our car. It is hard to imagine 30 people fitting in there. They were not doing the souvenir photographs when we were there.

Normally there is a bar service, but it is closed due to COVID. You can, however, now bring on your own drinks and snacks. We took advantage of this and went a little early to grab some snacks from the LINQ Promenade. Ben found a donut shop (Sweet Sin) while I grabbed a shake and a sundae from Ghirardelli. This was a great treat/breakfast.

The ride itself flew by. Officially, it lasted 30 minutes. It brought us 550 feet in the air at its highest point. It was constantly moving (albeit slowly), so you stepped on and off while it was in motion. There was air conditioning, music, and informational narration throughout the ride. The ride was super smooth and had great views. We had really great timing on our pod and got to see the Bellagio fountains go off. (I made a condensed video of our ride: Riding in the LINQ High Roller wheel video.)

Like any ride, you exited down a ramp that lead to a gift shop. After we left the building, we walked down the LINQ Promenade and down to the Bellagio to see the fountain show again. (Walking the LINQ Promenade video) There were only a few people out, even for a Sunday afternoon.

The High Roller was a wonderful way to see the city! I highly recommend taking the time and spending the money for this experience.

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Nevada, Hiking, Injuries, National Parks, Sightseeing

Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas

We were getting tired of exploring the Strip and wanted an activity that didn’t have quite so many people. After an quick Google search for the top things to do in Las Vegas, we settled on going to Red Rock Canyon. Red Rock Canyon is part of BLM (Bureau of Land Management), so you either need the National Park Service annual pass or pay the daily rate ($15/car) if you pick a trail past the entrance gate. The Visitor Center was closed (COVID restrictions), but the Gift Shop was open.

We picked the Potato Knoll Loop from the All Trails app. This trail is outside of the Scenic Loop of Red Rock Canyon, so you do not need a pass. There are a few other trails outside of the entrance where you do not need to show your pass as well.

The trail was supposed to be 4.7 mile hike, but it ended up being 5.8 miles after we got turned around. The trails are not marked and have several spots where they cross over other trails, so I would definitely use an app. We started around 8:00 am and brought several water bottles.

The first part of the trail was pretty boring. The scenery was pretty, but it was very flat and not a lot of change. It was about the same view as you could see from the parking lot. After the first mile, it got more interesting! There were several types of cacti and plants. We saw small lizards, a couple of bunnies, antelope ground squirrels, and a few birds. Some of the plants we saw were: cholla cactus, ephedra, Joshua trees, prickly pear cacti, yucca, hedgehog cactus, and barrel cactus. Lots and lots of cacti, but they were really neat to see!

We found several spots of shade to take water breaks along the trail, which really helped. There were also not a lot of people on the trail. We came across a handful of other hikers. We did get passed up by a group on horseback though! According to the All Trails app, the trailhead parking lot is also called the horse parking lot.

We did ok with hiking until the end where we somehow got off our trail and ended up going away from the truck. Luckily, we were only a 1/2 mile off track, so we headed back and got on the right trail. I ended up following the horseshoe prints back to the truck. However, everyone was beat at this point. Ben ended up getting some cactus needles in his finger. Nick got some on his leg. Luckily they were easily removed.

We were pretty darn tired when we got back to the truck. We all got more water out of the cooler. The last mile or so we had run out of water and were very thirsty when we were done. No one felt like making dinner, so we picked up Raising Cane on the way home.

The boys were able to connect with their friends back home as well, which is always nice.

Posted in: Exploring Nevada, Food, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Breakfast and a Bass Pro

The morning started with breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi in the Paris Casino. We made our reservations online, and once we were there we requested a patio seat. We wanted to sit outside for the view and also for social distancing. We ordered a few items to share: berry crepe, French toast (with blueberries/syrup), a baguette with butter and raspberry jam, crispy bacon (date glazed). The bacon had a great flavor, but was maybe more chewy than crispy. The French toast was delicious. The baguette was nicely baked and the butter and jam really made it tasty. The crepe was…crunchy. I think it was overdone, especially compared to other crepes I’ve had. Everything but the middle was very hard and crunchy. It was hard to eat and not that enjoyable. It was still a nice breakfast and had a great location. (Video walking through Mon Ami Gabi restaurant.)

We then went on a search to find me a new hat. My current one had a wide stretch of mesh and it was getting my forehead a little too much sun.

After not having a lot of luck with Target and Wal-Mart, we thought we would try an outdoors store. We found a Bass Pro close by. It was attached to the Silverton Casino, so it was a little strange to see slot machines at the end of of the store.

This was the biggest Bass Pro we have ever seen. In the fishing area, the ceiling was painted blue and had bottoms of boats attached with sharks and fish hanging from the ceiling in schools. It looks like you are under the water looking up. It was so neat! (Video of walking around the fishing reels area.)

I’m not into fishing, but I loved this ceiling! I think this was the most time I had ever spent in the fishing area of a store.

They had a taxidermy giraffe, lions, and bears. In addition to the “required” aquarium, they also had two water features, an indoor archery and rifle/pistol range.

Real fish and ducks swimming around!

It was fun just walking around and seeing what this store had. I did end up finding a fuzzy sweatshirt and a hat. I also introduced the kids to the joys of circus peanuts.

Posted in: Exploring Nevada, Museums & Tours, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Las Vegas: Rail Cars

I had been so excited to do the rail cars through the redwood trees in California, but when COVID caused us to reroute and replan, we had to skip this. Ben knew I was disappointed and found me rail cars in Las Vegas!

The rail cars were located in Boulder City, which was about a 25 minute drive from our campground. You can rent a 2 or 4 seat rail car.

We left early to explore the town a little bit before our tour. We found the turbine in the park for Hoover Dam. Unfortunately, the Hoover Dam tours and walkway were closed (for COVID). Ben was really bummed about that, as he wanted to show the boys and take the tour.

We checked in for our tour and walked around the outdoor train museum while we waited. We read about mail trains and nuclear rocket trains. It was some interesting stuff.

After a brief safety speech (video link), we were assigned our rail cars. These are only powered by peddling (like a bike), but they glided really easily over the tracks.

Talk about social distancing! They spaced out the rail cars so that there was plenty of room between each group. We didn’t see anyone before or after us for most of the ride.

The track down to the halfway/stopping point was 4 miles, but it flew by. (Click here for the video!) I really wish the experience on the rail cars was longer (one of the employees told us that they do have plans to eventually extend it). Once you reach the halfway point, there were several chairs (and lights for the night time trips) for you to relax in while you waited for the train to pick you up. We had brought water and snacks, so we sat back and snacked.

The train was a fun way to get back to the museum/parking lot. The train cars consisted of mostly open-aired cars and they really spaced out the rail car riders between several different cars for social distancing. It was a great ride back.

We were one of the last ones off and one of the conductors asked if the boys wanted to see the caboose. We got pictures on the back deck and he let them blow the horn. It was really loud! They were ecstatic that they got to blow the horn, even Ben. 🙂 The inside of the caboose was really neat with built in metal stairs to a high seat on either side of the walkway.

The rail car company offered a Rambler (4:00pm), Sunset (6:00pm), and Lantern (8:00pm) tour. We booked the 4:00 trip since the evening ones were full. However, at 4:00pm it was still a little warm to say the least. There wasn’t a lot of shade along the trail, and the rail cars did not have tops. The rail cars were really neat and easy to move along the tracks, but the scenery wasn’t the best. It ran along the road for most of the trip (which makes sense since that is where most railroad tracks run). The train ride back and blowing the train horn I think were the most memorable parts for the kids. It was still a really neat experience!

Posted in: Exploring Nevada, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Las Vegas: Hershey’s and The Strip

We headed back to The Strip and parked at New York New York. We didn’t get down to this part of the Strip yesterday. We were pretty tired and the monorail is not running at the moment (COVID). As we walked in, the roller coaster was running and we could hear screams (hopefully of delight).

Our destination wasn’t really the casino, but the Hershey store. The store was so much fun. Almost anything you could think of was for sale with the candy logos: toy cars, baking accessories, extra large candy, clothes, scented candles, etc. It made me wish I had a bigger place, because I would have bought the kids some gear, a few chocolate candy scented candles for me, and the Twizzlers scarf for Ben. I did a walk through video as well that’s up on YouTube. The chocolate Statue of Liberty and Twizzlers Statue of Liberty were pretty neat to see.

We headed down to the Excalibur. The shows, several food/drinks stores, and the arcade are closed right now (COVID). It was pretty empty of things to do other than gamble.

Next, we walked through the Luxor and looked at the different statues. Just like the rest of Vegas, the shows are closed at least until November. We were hoping to see the Blue Man group because I think the boys would have gotten a kick out of it.

Our final stop for this part of the Strip was Mandalay Bay. They had some really neat fountains.

COVID NOTES:

Excalibur: Shows, many food/drink places, and the arcade are closed. Hand sanitizer stations around the casino.

Luxor: Hand sanitizer stations, shows closed.

New York New York: Hand sanitizer stations. New York’s arcade and some rides were open.

Mandalay Bay: Buffet closed, but many other food places open. Hand sanitizer stations available.

Pools: At one time you could rent cabanas and beach chairs to the various hotel pools. However, now you have to be a guest of the hotel to enjoy the pools.

Monorail is closed.