Archives for December 2011

“See” Vegas in a Whole New Way

Las Vegas: a trip to this desert oasis is a once-in-a-lifetime dream for people around the world. Las Vegas offers as many activities as it does slot machines leaving most tourists with far too much to do and too little time in which to do it. Among the most important of these choices, however is simply seeing Vegas. The history of this town, blended with its ever-changing hot spots is a lesson in American opulence throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Both by day and by night and from many different vantage points, Vegas allows visitors the ability to “see” it warts and all. Each of these perspectives will shed new light onto the wonders, dangers, and sin of this famous city.

“See” Vegas from on High: The Stratosphere Observation Deck

On April 30, 1996 the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower opened and still stands as the 5th tallest building in all of the United States. It is one of the most anticipated destinations on any Vegas tour, and for good reason.

Standing a towering 1,149 feet above the ground, Stratosphere is the tallest freestanding observation tower in the US. Stratosphere represents one of the most daring and awesome views of Las Vegas day and night. Admission to the tower is $16 for adults and $10 for children, but it is also included in many tour passes such as the Vegas Power Pass. It offers panoramic windows for a 360° view of the City of Lights, as well as some of the most thrilling rides in town, including the world’s tallest controlled free fall in Sky Jump Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Stratosphere

“See” Vegas as a Bird”: Nighttime Helicopter Tours

Another great aerial view of Las Vegas will gives a far different perspective on the majesty of the city’s lights by allowing tourists to take a bird’s eye tour of Sin City via helicopter. Nighttime helicopter tours of Las Vegas are not always cheap, but the 15-20 minute ride aboard these luxury aircraft is far worth the splurge. Many people who have taken them call these tours the highlight of their trip, offering a view of Vegas straight out of CSI.

There are several reputable helicopter companies who offer varying tours from the Vegas strip and surrounding areas. HeliUSA Airways offers discounted tickets to Power Pass holders and several other tour companies hold specials online and in Vegas. Since helicopter tours rely on good weather, plan ahead if this element of your trip is a priority. However, last minute seats are usually sold at a discount as well.

“See” Vegas as a Gangster: The Mob Museum

Located at 300 Stewart Ave, the Las Vegas Mob Museum is formally called The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement. Overseen by the City of Las Vegas, the museum is dedicated to telling the story of both organized crime as well as law enforcement officials who fought them throughout Las Vegas and the world. Its exhibits include a timeline of Las Vegas and its intricate relationship with organized crime, profiles of famous mobsters such as Al Capone, John Gotti, and Bugsy Siegel, as well as descriptions and recounts of the law enforcement officers who worked to bring these mobsters down.

For fans of the Godfather and the Sopranos alike, taking a look at Sin City’s original sins can be enlightening and entertaining. Admission to the museum is $18 for adults and $12 for children and students; it is open 7 days a week at 10 am.

“See” Vegas Naked: The Erotic Heritage Museum

If the Mob Museum isn’t sin enough, the Erotic Heritage Museum, located at 3275 Industrial Road, will fill in the rest of the gaps. Open only to those 18 years and older, the 24,000 square foot space was formerly known as the Déjà vu Love Boutique. Through the museum’s more than 300,000 pieces of art and memorabilia, the concept of sex is explored not as that of sin and debauchery, but as art and an important cornerstone to all socio-cultural experiences across time. Though not for the prudish at heart, the Erotic Heritage Museum is sure to offer information and intrigue to all who are interested.

The museum is closed on Mondays. General admission is $15, with 1 discount given to seniors and military personnel.

Wintertime in Chicago: Three Great Ways to Celebrate the Cold in the Windy City

December is a magical month no matter where you travel, but for those who plan on visiting the iconic Windy City of Chicago, IL this Christmas season, there are many fabulous opportunities waiting. Whether you are there with your kids or just a kid at heart, consider these great options to get you in the holiday spirit.

Snow in Chicago

Winter WonderFest at the Navy Pier

Each year, Chicago’s Navy Pier is transformed into an indoor world of wonder for children and adults alike. Navy Pier is located on the banks of Lake Michigan and includes 50 acres of parks, gardens, walking paths, shops and Chicago attractions.

Winter WonderFest seeks to bring the magic of the holiday season to tourists and Chicago natives alike by offering indoor entertainment, rides, and activities. It runs from December 2, 2011- January 8, 2012 and includes an extensive list of rides, attractions and activities. Since the festivities are indoors, no matter the weather (which is always unpredictable in Chicago) you are sure to have a good time. In addition, admission to Navy Pier is included on the Go Chicago Card as well as ride passes for the carousel, Ferris wheel and Adventure Golf, meaning it can serve as one element of the total Chicago tourist package.

Ice Skating

What is more iconic than ice skating in winter? In Chicago, there are several venues that offer ice skating during the cold months. One option can actually be combined with Winter WonderFest, and that is at Black Hawks Indoor ice rink inside the Navy Pier; including ice skating with your admission to WinterFest is an additional $3, but includes the price of skate rental. Since the rink is indoors, this is an excellent option any time.

Those willing to brave the elements also have the option of going to Millennium Park’s McCormack Tribune Ice Rink located at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street. Millennium Park is the venue made famous by President Barak Obama’s acceptance speech in the 2008 election and is home to many additional activities, concerts and events all year long. Skating at Millennium Park is free and lasts through March. Skate rental is available onsite for $10.

German Shopping at Christkindlmarket

Each December, Chicago’s Daley Plaza is transformed into a traditional German holiday marketplace. With roots in 16th century Nuremburg, Germany, Christkindlmarket is a one-of-a-kind open air experience in the heart of Chicago. The market offers both the traditional European-style open air feeling and exhibitions with distinct American flare.

At Christkindlmarket, food vendors straight from Germany offer traditional beer and wine, sausages and wursts, and even traditional baked goods such as Stollen. There are also several crafts vendors from Germany and the US alike offering everything from blown glass to wooden toys and handmade ornaments perfect for holiday giving. Throughout the month of December (the market closes on Christmas Eve) there are also performances from local school choirs, German folk singers and other professional musicians.

Chicago in December

Of course, there are many great activities, museums, tours and sights to visit in this amazing city year-round, but clearly, spending time in Chicago in December provides tourists with a wealth of unique opportunities. This year, taking a trip to the Midwest may be the highlight of your holiday experience.