Viva Las Vegas! The 'Vintage' Vegas

Las Vegas has got to be one of the most interesting places to me. It's a city that is a complete anomaly from everyday 'normal' life. The glitz, the glam, the lights, the clothes (omg the clothing!).... Vegas is an Experience like no other.  I went last month as part of the IMEX America conference and had a really great time.

We stayed at the Palazzo which is an extension of the Venetian Hotel on the north end of the strip. Holy cow it was SO nice and I absolutely love love LOVE this hotel!!!!!! (Is that enough !!! to express how much I liked it?!) The Palazzo is absolutely beautiful. Now, we've stayed in the Venetian side as well (in the Venezia tower), but I really liked the Palazzo side better, at least for me. The rooms really are pretty much the same on both, but I just loved the layout of the hotel on the Palazzo side.  I plan to do another post just on the hotel, so I'll leave my hotel comments for that post.  So stay tuned.  But you can take my word for it that both the Venetian and the Palazzo are beautiful and I don't think you could go wrong with a room at either. And I'll be back in Vegas in a couple weeks (staying at Mandalay Bay this time though) but I plan to visit the Venetian for their Winter in Venice Holiday celebration. I've got to do the ice skating and try one of those eggnog cupcakes. Yum.

So one thing that I wanted to point out is that Vegas is more than just the strip. Yes, the strip is amazing and for sure what people think of or imagine when they think of Las Vegas. Besides Elvis. The strip definitely has a vibe all it's own, one that is quintessential Vegas. It's definitely changed from the days I remember some 25 years ago when I went as a kid and stayed at the old Sahara. Ick! In fact, the strip that we think of today didn't even exist back then. But you can still get a taste of that old Vintage Vegas if you visit the Fremont Street Experience in the downtown area, just a couple miles north of the main strip.

This place is really cool! Totally weird and different and the first time I went I was like "Whaaaa??? It's all enclosed?" Ok. So it took a little getting used to (again remember I was here as a kid, cruising the 'old strip' with my parents, consisting of the Golden Nugget, Binion's, the Pioneer Cowboy etc... Remember those places?). So if you remember the old days then it may seem a little strange to see it all enclosed, but if not then I guess it will just seem cool! ;) So it's really awesome and by comparison to the 'new' strip, it's a complete blast to the past of the old Vegas. Why, you ask? Well, here's just a few reasons --

 For one thing it's way casual and super laid back. No dressing up in heels and fancy clothes if you don't want to. Of course you can, but sometimes you just wanna be casual and if so you will have no dress code worries here. Another plus is that things are CHEAPER! Table games are cheaper (we played $10 blackjack at Binions... we couldn't find any $5 tables anywhere), you'll find more penny or nickel slots, and food is cheaper. Drinks aren't really an issue because you don't pay for those, you just tip your waitress.

But even the waitresses are more laid back here too (jeans and t-shirts vs the skimpy outfits for the waitresses on the strip). Parking is also cheap if you need to park, like 25 cents/ hour. Seriously?? And another on the plus side is that everything is so close by. Once you're in the dome, it's just a short walk to anywhere you want to get to. Unlike the New Strip where you have to literally walk miles from one hotel/ casino to the next, on Fremont St everything is close by and a short walk away. There's also tons of excitement from live music, street performers, dancers;  there's even a short zipline you can do right under the dome! And I almost forgot! Duh! One of the main attractions is the laser light show (Viva Vision) that is shown on the dome ceiling.


And it's also fun to go to the some of the Vintage spots like Binion's or Golden Nugget for the casino or buffets.

And yes, there is even transportation from the New Strip to the Downtown/ Fremont St area so you can get there fairly easily. Just take the Deuce on the Strip bus and it will take you right there! So simple :) May take a bit longer, but cheaper than a cab.

So the next time you're in Vegas, consider visiting the Fremont St Experience for something old, new, and different! You can stay on the strip and head up to Fremont St for the night, or stay in the downtown area and venture to the New Strip for an evening. It's great that there is so much to do and so many options for your next trip to Vegas. If you need any help or suggestions, I am happy to help.

ALSO, Big News >>>>> Starting next month I will have Vegas Advantage Cards available for sale. Cheaper than what you can find online. More details on that coming soon.

Welcome South Sudan!



Today marks a very momentous day as the new nation of South Sudan becomes official!  You may have heard about the struggles and issues facing Sudan... Wars, genocide, and serious civil unrest and major political and religious conflicts between the north and south.   For more than 50 years there has been fighting and conflict. As a result many Sudanese boys were forced to leave their homes and families to avoid being forced into fighting a war that they did not believe in.  So they walked thousands of miles in search of safe food, water, shelter, and safety.  They became known as the 'Lost Boys of Sudan' and they did eventually reach safety at refuge camps in Kenya and other neighboring countries.  Through a US program, many Lost Boys were brought to the US to help them receive medical care, education, and a new life without the threat of war.  I have been fortunate enough to know and mentor a Lost Boy here in Chicago, Mr Deng Magai.  He's a wonderful young man and has made a very successful life for himself here in Chicago.  He has gone to school and earned a college degree, and also works full time.  He has faced many challenges even here in the US, but he has managed to stay positive and strong.  He has not seen his family back in Sudan in more than 10 years which to me is so sad, and I really could not even imagine how hard that would be. I'm heading downtown in just a little bit to attend the rally and celebration for South Sudan!  I'm excited and look forward to participating in this amazing moment in history!

If you are in Chicago and want to learn more about Lost Boys in Chicago, you can click here: http://www.lostboyschicago.com/

Or if you'd like to find out more ways to help or donate, click here: http://www.allianceforthelostboys.com/home.html

I'm a Skydeck Ambassador!

Sounds so official doesn't it? I was actually selected to be one of Four Fabulous Ambassadors for the Skydeck at the Willis Tower this summer. Woohoo! So that means that I will get to share with you not only some of the great events going on at the Skydeck this summer, but I get to do a few giveaways as well! I have some ideas in mind and am still working out details so just stay tuned and I'll post more on that as soon as I can!

So as I said, I'm one of four fabulous Chicago ladies (with Melisa, Lisa, and Jen) who were selected to represent the Skydeck as Ambassadors this summer. I'm really honored to be among these ladies who are each very successful, talented, well-connected women who love Chicago and know this city inside and out! We'll each be bringing you some great info, probably all slightly different and from different perspectives, so I would certainly recommend checking out all of us for updates!

Now, you may be wondering Why are we doing all this and what's in it for us? Well, it's actually going to be a friendly little contest amongst the 4 of us, so that makes it even more interesting, right?! By encouraging people to visit the Skydeck this summer via social networking means (I'll give the links in a bit), and actual visitor counts, we will be accumulating points that when tallied at the end of August whoever has the most points wins a Par-tay at the Skydeck (and gets to bring a whole bunch of friends too!). Whoa! So I love Chicago, I love the Skydeck, and I love parties, so I thought it would be a super fun way to add a little extra excitement to the summer! And since I'm a travel specialist anyway, I love to encourage as much travel and 'getting away' time as possible, and Chicago is a fantastic destination.

My first visit to the Skydeck was at least 15 years ago because I went shortly after I moved here. I remember the elevator ride to the top and that the view was absolutely amazing, but other than that, nothing else really stood out.  The view was the attraction, you took some pics, and then you went back down. Well, that now has definitely changed. My most recent visit to the Skydeck was just a couple weeks ago and Holy Cow it was really exciting! Going to the Willis Tower Skydeck definitely feels more like an 'experience' now, rather than just a photo op. With the addition of some great new exhibits and features, and not to mention the famous Ledge that will test even the strongest of wills, you've got to keep the Skydeck in your next city plans.

The below picture was taken from my recent visit. After getting over a few nerves I didn't have too much trouble stepping out onto the Ledge. Mostly I have an issue with looking like a chicken, so I had to pretend like I wasn't nervous. But I'm really glad I stepped out there because it was very cool. And I am an 'afraid of heights' person, and it was still really cool! The building directly below my feet that I'm sort of standing on is the building I used to work at! Memories... :) I was at the Skydeck on a cloudy-ish day and the view was still amazing and it was so fun looking at and naming all the buildings and landmarks.



OH! So I almost forgot that I need to post some links. I will try to get a little button thingy to make it easier, but for now I need some Likes on my Ambassador profile on the Skydeck Chicago Facebook page. This is where I really need your help!! Just click on my picture and click the 'Like' button. Even if you don't live in Chicago or don't think you'll be able to go to the Skydeck this summer, that's Ok because it all adds up and counts towards my points to win the Party! And please forward to your friends as well. I really really appreciate it! 

And if you're on Twitter, I'll also be tweeting using #christyskydeck so please include this on any Chicago tweets or retweets.  

If you have any questions about visiting the Skydeck or visiting Chicago in general, please ask here via comment section or contact me by email!

Thanks for reading and have a great day! =D

Norwegian Cruise Lines - Last Minute Cruise Deals!

Just released cruise deals for last minute cruises. Staterooms are moving quickly and ships sail soon, so reserve your spot now!
Hawaii
 7-Day from Honolulu

Sail Date

PreviousBalcony Rate
Just Reduced
Rate

Savings
7/6/11

$1,999
$1,499

$500
7/9/11

$1,999
$1,499

$500
7/23/11

$2,029
$1,549

$480


Alaska
 7-Day from Seattle

Sail Date

PreviousBalcony Rate
Just Reduced
Rate

Savings
9/3/11

$1,349
$1,299

$50


Sail Date

PreviousOutside Rate
Just Reduced
Rate

Savings
9/4/11

$1,029
$829

$200
9/11/11

$979
$829

$150



Blue Man Group - A Must See Show!

Blue Man Group, what can I say, going to see this show is such an experience.  And I was SO excited to get to go here in Chicago this past weekend!  This was actually my 5th time seeing the show -- I saw them twice in 1998 (a pretty long time ago), one time last year on our cruise (NCL Epic; which was an amazing show for being on a cruise ship!), and one other time this past March for a Press Preview Event (but that was a shortened, more condensed show)... so I was really, really looking forward to seeing it again! And this is a *New* show with a few changes and some different elements.  So even though I've been a few times, it's just one of those shows that is always interesting and extremely entertaining!

After a delicious Tapas dinner at Cafe Ba Ba Reba, we headed up to Briar Street Theatre a bit early. We were anticipating some traffic given that the Pride Parade was earlier that day, but in fact there was actually less traffic, so we got to the theatre in no time at all! We were the third car in the parking lot so got rockstar parking right near the exit. And can you believe it only cost $14 to park! Wow... truly, I was amazed. Parking in Chicago @ a Theatre for only $14??? Seriously? I guess street parking could be a possibility in that area, but I'd never risk a potential parking ticket or worse a tow if parking was only $14. That's a great price for Chicago if you ask me.

So when you get inside the theatre, you see all these weird tubes and hoses and funky artwork... it's just really cool. It's a pretty small theatre, but it's only used for the Blue Man show, so they are able to set it up how they like. But I loved the small intimate feel to the entire theatre.  Just FYI, they do sell some alcoholic/ non-alcoholic beverages and a few snacks, mostly candy, and you can bring your drink into the theatre with you, which is cool (I don't think all theatres do). And my daughter loved the 'bathroom song' that they play inside obviously the bathroom. When you see the show, you'll just have to go in there to hear what I'm talking about! ;o

The show is just so amazing; it's really hard to actually explain what the show is, but it's fun, energizing, exciting, hilarious, and the music is just awesome!!! As I said they have added some new elements to the show, and changed some things, but some of the favorite audience participation aspects are still in. It's great that they do so much to get the audience involved and entertained throughout.

You can see this show in several cities (Las Vegas, Orlando, New York, Boston, AND they are currently touring as well) but as I mentioned you can also see it sailing on a cruise ship! Um, Yeah! On Norwegian Cruise Line's newest ship the Epic, they have the Blue Man Group show playing every night for their guests.... And that's of course included with the cruise fare, so if you have a cruise in mind, and want to see some great entertainment, NCL Epic would be a good choice! I sailed on the ship last fall and it was wonderful, saw some great shows, and my family had a wonderful time! ;)

Here's a picture of me with one of those handsome blue guys after the show. It's great they do this because pictures are not allowed during the show so don't even try it. Just wait till after and get a good one with YOU in the pic with a blue man... even better!

I can arrange tickets and hotel packages so if you are considering a visit to the Windy City, what are you waiting for?!  Contact me so I can set you up!


Segway your way around Chicago with this great tour!

My parents visited Chicago last month, so I took it as an opportunity to bring them on a tour that I've been dying to take!  I do know alot about Chicago, but it's funny how when you live somewhere, you rarely do the touristy things that your city offers.  I did alot when I first moved here 16 years ago, but it was time to try something new.  My parents are great guinea pigs because they are generally down to try just about anything and I wanted to find something different they would really enjoy.

I did a guest post for Got Saga last month in which I highlighted some ideas for off beat things to do around Chicago.  One activity I included was City Segway Tours in Chicago.  I've done a Segway tour at Walt Disney World, but that was ages ago, so when I found out there was a company in Chicago that did tours, I really wanted to try them out.  As I learned, there are actually about 8 companies in Chicago that do Segway tours, but because they all operate differently, I wanted to pick the company that I personally view as the 'Best' so that is why I went with City Segway Tours.  Yes, this is strictly my opinion based on what I like, and what I think other people would like and appreciate as well... safety, small group sizes, knowledgable and fun guides, and a great tour route ~ (All important considerations!).

So it was a gorgeous early May morning, and off we went on the train to head downtown for a 10 am, 3 hour tour.  City Segway Tours is located at 400 E Randolph, just a bit past Millenium Park.  Because there are other Segway outfitters around the city, just make sure that you are heading to the correct place.    After meeting our fun and caffeinated guide Kelsey I could already tell we'd be in for a great day!  We had 7 happy and adventurous people in our group, and we were all super excited to set out for our tour!

After a brief introduction and safety demo, Kelsey helped each of us step onto the Segway for the first time so we could begin to get a feel for it.  It was very easy to learn and in less than 15 minutes, we were all off and on our way riding down the sidewalk.  Because this tour does take place right downtown, you do have to navigate around the pedestrians and other city obstacles, but the Segway is extremely easy to maneuver so it was not difficult at all.

We rode by Millenium Park, Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park, and then down to the Museum Campus which consists of Soldier Field, Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, and the Adler Planetarium.  We had several photo stops along the way and learned alot from Kelsey about Chicago history and facts about the city.  I got lots of Foursquare check-ins that day as well, and earned my 'photogenic' badge by checking into so many touristy photo spots! =)
And just a tip ~ To get a 10% discount off your Segway tour, just check into City Segway Tours Chicago on Foursquare and mention the Foursquare discount when you get to the office. =)

Another great little highlight of our tour that I was not expecting, was a stop at Kim & Carlo's Chicago Style hot dog stand near the Field Museum.  Wow, what a treat!!  And perfect timing too because I was getting hungry!  If you haven't had a Chicago style hot dog before, you have to try one when you are here.  It actually took me a few years that I lived here before I tried one, but like deep-dish pizza, it's a Chicago staple and local fave!

So all in all, City Segway Tours offered a fabulous tour here in my great city of Chicago and we had a most awesome time.  I was very happy to learn that they have locations in lots of other cities as well - Atlanta, Washington DC, San Francisco, Paris, Berlin, Budapest, and Vienna.  It really is a great way to see the city and enjoy an educational tour that is both fun and adventurous, but not too exhausting either! =)  After the tour, we still had enough energy to spend the afternoon walking around Millenium Park, and then went to Navy Pier.  Since we did this tour in early May, my parents liked it so much they are looking to do ANOTHER tour, perhaps during their visit to San Francisco this week!  So yes it is fun!  And something I definitely recommend, if you are a tourist or a local, everyone likes to learn some city history and one of the best ways is to do it riding a Segway!


If you would like to learn more about tours or accommodation in Chicago, please feel free to contact me.  I would love to set you up!

Japan

Prayers going out to all those in Japan and neighboring countries affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami.  The pictures and videos are terrifying and I can't even imagine what everyone there is going through.  God bless.

Airfare: Price vs Convenience - how do you choose?

Are you watching the show 'Amazing Race'?  I love this show!  Well, last night the teams had to get from Australia to Tokyo, and had to decide whether to take a non-stop flight or a connecting flight.  The flight with the connection was scheduled to get into Tokyo 15 minutes sooner than the non-stop.  Hmmmm... what to do? 

Many travelers face this question all the time, but usually not in the context of a race, but rather in the context of price.  Though not always, non-stop flights tend to be a bit more expensive than connecting flights so many travelers find themselves trying to decide between price vs convenience.  "I'm trying to stay within a budget, so do I take the less expensive connecting flight? But I'm going to the Caribbean and I really want to hit the beach ASAP so maybe I take the more expensive non-stop which gets me there sooner."

It can be really tough sometimes to think it all through and make a good decision.  Using a Travel Agent or Specialist can certainly help you to weigh the options and make a good decision.  Of course it depends on different scenarios, where you are traveling, time of year, etc. but in general I always think it's best to fly non-stop whenever possible.... even if it's a bit more expensive.  Connecting flights = the unknown.  Even if your first flight gets off on-time, and things seem to be running on schedule, you never know what challenges may be awaiting you at your connecting airport - weather delays, equipment delays, staffing issues, etc... (Remember the snowstorm in Europe that shut down many airports this past winter?  Yes, I had clients affected by that mess!)  Not to mention your bags (if checked) have to make that connection as well.  It can make for a very stressful beginning to a vacation if all those factors don't align correctly, and you don't want to have your trip start off that way, right?

Of course, that's not to say that a non-stop flight is without issues, but again, that's where it's important to weigh your different options.  Some people don't like to be on a flight for longer than 4 hours if at all possible, so they prefer connections so that they can get off the plane, stretch their legs and move around, get some food besides peanuts, email, maybe do some shopping.  For some people, that alone is worth it to have a connecting flight.  And there are alot of really nice airports these days with some pretty amazing services, so it's getting much easier to kill time in the airports.  I was in Atlanta Hartsfield airport recently and it's beautiful!  You can get a massage and visit the spa right in the terminal! Wow! So you can certainly make the most of a connecting flight, but for me I always try to go non-stop whenever possible.  I once took a 17 hour flight from Johannesburg to New York, the longest flight of my life, but it was worth it not having to stop over.  My bag got lost on the way from NY to Chicago, but at least I knew it made it back to the States and wasn't stuck in Europe or Africa somewhere.  I like ease when traveling and I like to minimize things that are beyond my control so for me, I go for non-stop flights whenever possible.

Oh, and the Amazing Race teams that took the connecting flight actually got into Tokyo an hour and a half LATER than the teams with the non-stop flight, and I'm sure the team that ended up in last is wishing they had chosen differently!

Fiesta Americana Grand: $600 in Resort Credit Experiences


Enjoy a majestic experience that will change the way of living your holidays this winter season.

A stay in Fiesta Americana resorts is always grand, but now that they're offering you $600 in special resort extras, a stay in either Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach CancĂșn Resort & Spa or Fiesta Americana Grand Los Cabos Golf & Spa is even more special, more unforgettable and more luxury-packed.

EXPERIENCES SUCH AS:

· RELAXING MASSAGE more info
· EXCLUSIVE WINE TASTING more info
· BEACH CABANA more info
· ROMANTIC CANDLELIGHT SETTING more info
· FITNESS CENTER more info
· WELCOME IN-ROOM AMENITY more info
· OTHER DAILY SPECIAL AMENITIES more info

Cancun Room rates starting from $229** l Los Cabos $205**


Offer valid for new reservations made between now and April 30, 2011, and for stays between now and April 30, 2011. With a minimum stay of three nights, guests will receive US$600 in Resort Credit Experiences. Fiesta Americana Grand Los Cabos Golf & Spa includes a Chardonnay relaxing massage at Somma Wine Spa; Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Cancun Resort & Spa includes a relaxing massage at Gem Spa. Both resorts include wine tasting experience for two, romantic candlelight setting, welcome amenity including wine and hors d'oeuvres, private beach cabana for one day, wireless Internet, daily in-room coffee service and fitness center. Offer does not include incidental charges, transportation, laundry and dry cleaning, outside tours, excursions or gratuities for outstanding service. Resort Credit Experiences cannot be applied toward the following items: beauty salon services, spa products, telephone charges, gift shop purchases. All hotel reservations are subject to availability and must be made in advance. Offer is not valid for groups/conventions, and may not be combined with other promotional offers. Some of these services can be provided on site with additional extra charge. Rate based on double or single occupancy. Subject to availability at time of reservation. Offer not valid for groups or agreement rate. Other restrictions may apply.

Travel & Adventure Show in Chicago

My family and I went to the show today and we had such a great time! There were so many different vendors represented, so I was pleasantly surprised to see such a great variety. Everything from local (MidWest area) hotels and resorts, to Mexico, Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Asia, Alaska, hotels, resorts, tour companies... wow, so many wonderful things to do and places to see.
I also got to meet alot of wonderful representatives, which, for me, is always the most enjoyable part of going to these shows. It can get really exhausting walking around, carrying heavy bags of brochures, weaving your way through crowds, etc... but meeting the reps and learning about some new places, is always very fun and worthwhile to me. We were able to ride on a camel, my daughter got her face painted and a balloon twisted into an animal (she chose a snake, which to me seemed like an awfully easy choice for a balloon animal....anyway...), we petted strange and exotic creatures at the 'wild encounters' table, we watched some cultural shows, and really had a great time!

One great side benefit (if you like to walk, of course) is it is amazing how much exercise you can get! I told my daughter, of course on the way out, that we should have worn a pedometer to see how much we walked. Just from the parking garage to the show hall alone felt like AT LEAST 5 miles. I'm sure it was probably only about 1 mile, but still, it's quite a trek! My goodness, just walking through that loooooooooong, heavily heated people tube TO the convention center, is a workout in and of itself. So between walking to/ from the parking, and all around the show, you get in a decent amount of exercise. Oh! and just a word of advice, try to park on the nearside of where the walkway is (Level 2 preferably), and leave your coats in the car. You will be hot immediately once you step foot in that walkway, and then you'll just be lugging your coat around. There is a coat check for a fee, so that is an option, but I'm glad we just left our coats in the car.

The show will still be going on Sunday, Jan 30th so if you have nothing to do today, you should go and check it out! Hours Sunday are 11-4 at Donald E Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.

Bears or Packers... who's your pick?

So I'm not the biggest of Football fans, but who doesn't love a good playoff game, right? This Sunday Chicago will host long time rivals, the Green Bay Packers, in a fight to the finish play off game to see who will go to the Super Bowl against either the Pittsburgh Steelers or.... um, the Jets right? =) Even though I'm not an 'official' born and raised Chicagoan, I have lived here the longest of anywhere in my life (my 16th year in this great city!) so I consider myself an adopted Chicagoan and hence able to root wholeheartedly for the Bears. You can definitely feel the tension and the rivalry spirit in the local community, though! Even though the game will be played at home in Soldier Field, many are predicting that the Packers will shine and win this Epic game. I certainly hope not because I'd love to see the Bears in the SuperBowl! My family and I will most likely be watching from home and the comfort of our warm comfy couch, but I know there are some big parties and events planned for this BIG game! Everyone be safe out there this weekend, and GO BEARS!

Happy 2011!

Although we are now into week 3 of 2011, I wanted to wish everyone a happy and prosperous year! Better late than never, right?! I have lots of ideas and changes coming soon to my business and also my blog, so stay tuned. I won't bore everyone with my list of goals and aspirations for the year, but I am happy that this is the first year that I've actually put this down on paper. In years past I've made mental lists, but I've found that that may not always be the best way to go about goal setting. Although I did in fact achieve some goals that I mentally set for myself for 2010, I want to quantify this a bit more, so at least I've started the year off right with my written list. I am also working on my travel 'bucket list'.... again, something I've done mentally in the past, but writing it down will be so much easier to keep track of goals that I've reached or not reached. I think I will try just a general bucket list, and then at the end of each year, I can see how much I completed and crossed off the list! Sounds good, yes? =) Are there any travel destinations on your bucket list this year that you'd like to share?

Thanks again for reading and stay tuned for more updates and changes.

Sending thoughts and prayers to the people in the beautiful Bahama Islands, and all those in the path of Hurricane  Dorian along the east...