The Cultural Side of Las Vegas

A Cultural Side of Las Vegas? Really, is there one?!  Just kidding...and you don't have to look far to find enlighten your hearts & minds instead of just your wallet.  Well, that's 'lighten' but it's close ;) - let's check it out!

While it may be an attraction of sorts, the 180-acre Springs Preserve offers tons of educational fun for the whole family to enjoy.  Cited to be the birthplace of Las Vegas, Springs Preserve boasts a botanical garden, library, bicycling trails & rentals, special interactive exhibits, Thursday Farmers Market and more!  Just minutes away from The Strip at 333 South Valley View Boulevard, Springs Preserve is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; tickets are $18.95 per adult and $10.95 for kids ages 5-17.

With exhibits from twenty-three artist studios and galleries, The Arts Factory Las Vegas is a revamped warehouse displaying a variety of media and styles.  The 'First Friday' of every month is one of the most popular times to visit The Arts Factory Las Vegas where visitors can enjoy art walks and gallery openings from 6-10:00 p.m.  Guests can enjoy a glass of wine or a delicious meal from the Bistro, take in a concert or performance, or sign up to rent a gallery space of their own.  Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., The Arts Factory Las Vegas is located downtown at 107 East Charleston Boulevard.

No matter what time of year you visit, the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens is sure to provide you with a calming and beautiful experience.  The classical music provides a welcome escape from the distracting sounds of the casino and regularly changes according to the season.  The Bellagio's Gallery of Fine Art is currently featuring an exhibit of works by renowned French artist, Claude Monet, entitled 'Impressions of Light'.  Offering free admission, the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens is open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.  The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art is open 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily; admission is $15 per adult, $10 per student while kids ages 12 and under are free.

There are also exhibits of fine art to be found throughout the Red Rock Resort & the Hotel at Mandalay Bay.

Image: Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens Registered & Protected

Norwegian Cruise Lines: Free Shore Excursions for Children!

If your considering taking a family cruise in 2012, now is the time to book!!

Norwegian Cruise Lines has just announced their new spring promotion geared towards family cruise travel where Children Ages 12 & Under will receive FREE shore excursions during their cruise while Teens will receive 50% off!

'Little Norwegians Explore for FREE(how cute is that?!) is a fantastic deal for any family considering a cruise - imagine enjoying a dolphin encounter in the Caribbean, sled dogging in Alaska, snorkelling trip in Mexico, or a catamaran sailing in the Bahamas (and so much more to choose from) - all absolutely free!  

Wow. You can pick any 2012 cruise to any destination and this special offer applies in all ports for all shore excursions.  Just think of the savings!  Don't miss out - this amazing Free Shore Excursions Offer for Kids (50% off for Teens) is only available until May 13, 2012.

Bon Voyage!! Registered & Protected

Learn to Scuba Dive in the Galapagos Islands

If you've never been scuba diving before, you're truly missing out on one of the most amazing experiences our world can offer.  Imagine brightly colored corals, beautiful tropical fish, underwater wildlife and warm waters- oh, the serenity of it all!  Add to this the spectacular Galapagos Islands and you've got the vacation of a lifetime!  

Red Mangrove Galapagos Dive Center and Ecuador Lodges have come together to offer guests the opportunity to achieve their Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Open Water Certification through their 5-night/6-day Darwin's Land & Sea Adventure.
Including eight magnificent dives, Darwin's Land & Sea Adventure is situated in and around Santa Cruz, Isabela, and and Baltra, Ecuador.  Tour highlights include visits to the Charles Darwin Research Station, Galapagos National Park, pristine beaches, and of course, world-class scuba diving with the chance to see manta rays, sharks, seahorses, octopus, eel, turtles and more!
If you're still not sure about scuba diving, Red Mangrove Galapagos Dive Center also offers a one-day PADI Discover Scuba Experience including instruction, rental equipment, and one open water dive with rates starting at $250 per person.
Darwin's Land & Sea Adventure packages start at $2,641 including diving and rental equipment.  For more information or to make your reservation, visit Red Mangrove Galapagos Dive Center. Registered & Protected

Discover Belgium!

Belgium is one of those countries visitors can't get enough of.  Maybe it's because Belgium offers a multi-cultural experience or maybe it's those famous Belgian waffles, either way, Belgium has much to offer so let's take a look!

Only the size of Maryland, the Kingdom of Belgium (it's official name) is comfortably tucked between Holland and France.  Although it's small in size, Belgium is big on European culture - visitors can experience influences from Spain, France, Holland and Austria through Belgium's architecture and wealth of museums.

While the capital city of Brussels is located nearly in the middle of Belgium, the country is divided into three distinct areas offering unique landscape and attractions.  Low Belgium in the north offers beautiful sandy beaches and rolling hills while Middle Belgium tends to have more valleys that turn into the low mountain ranges found in Southern Belgium.

To say Belgium is a cosmopolitan country is an understatement, with three official languages - Dutch, German & French (or four if you count English!) - Belgium is also on the cutting edge of Europe's nouveau cuisine trend.  Throughout the country you'll find restaurants open 24/7 offering all types of amazing cuisine; must-try foods in Belgium include Belgium fries, gourmet sausage, mussels, deep-fried specialty eateries known as friteries, liver pate, and of course, delicious Belgian chocolate and local beers. 

If you're never had the chance to visit beautiful Brussels, plan your trip around the amazing Flower Carpet on view from August 16-19, 2012, at the Grand Palace. This stunning display only takes place every 2 years and encompasses blooms from various flowers to create a well-planned pattern that's assembled in only one day, just imagine!

Some of the top year round attractions in Brussels include the unique architecture of Bozar and Atomium (including Mini-Europe), Magritte Museum and BELvue Museum, and family fun at Oceade water park.

For more information, Visit Belgium. Registered & Protected

New Orleans Best Balcony Bars

Gotta love this - Bourbon Street is one of the most popular tourist attractions in New Orleans.  Many visitors spend hours wandering along looking up at the beautiful wrought iron balconies filled with people enjoying good old New Orleans fun.  And many wonder, how did they get there?

Well, it's as simple as being in the know.  Check out these party venues with balconies the next time you're in New Orleans courtesy of the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau:
  • Bourbon Cowboy - ride the mechanical bull at this saloon-style bar fit for cowboys and cowgirls alike - it's a popular place for parties including bachelor & bachelorette
  • Bourbon Heat - with a traditional New Orleans feel with a carriageway and courtyard, this is venue is anything but - this high energy bar offers live DJ's and dancing until the wee hours of the night
  • The Bourbon Pub & Parade - this gay bar is open 24/7 and comes complete with karaoke, drag shows and sexy go-go dancers
  • Krazy Korner - a much quieter scene for those seeking live blues & jazz - be sure to visit during their 3-for-1 happy hour, or not ;)
  • Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville - well, even thought it's a restaurant/bar chain, they've got decent food, live music and balcony views
Don't forget to check out Travel Writer's Spring Music Festivals in New Orleans!  For more information, visit the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau. Image: Bourbon Street, New Orleans by burnstar Registered & Protected

Rome in Pictures

These amazing photographs by Moyan_Brenn appear on Registered & Protected

WestJet KargoKids Child-Free Flights

Okay, this is a few days late but still worth watching as Canada's WestJet airline introduces their new KargoKids Child-Free flights...and remember, that's with a 'K' ;) Registered & Protected

Friendly Planet Travel: Japan Panorama Tour

Japan is one of those exotic and culturally rich destinations I've always wanted to visit but the closest I've managed to get is spending a night at the Hong Kong airport.  With only the East China Sea separating us, I was almost there ;)

But I do know enough about Japan to understand that for first time visitors, a tour is the optimal way to explore the country.  Offered by Friendly Planet Travel, the 10-day Japan Panorama Tour takes visitors to Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. 

What I like about this tour is the contrast it provides with a glimpse into Japan's past through visiting the ancient city of Kyoto;  the present, found in the modern capital of Tokyo; plus the spiritual side of Japan that exists in Osaka.  Highlights of the Japan Panorama Tour include:
  • Tokyo Tower
  • Imperial Palace
  • Asakusa Kannon Temple
  • shopping along Nakamise Street
  • a ride onboard the fast Shinkansen (bullet train)
  • Mount Fuji
  • Nijo Castle
  • Golden Pavilion
  • Handicraft Center
  • Kiyomizu Temple
  • Geisha dance & Tea ceremony
  • optional day tour to Hiroshima
  • Todaiji Temple
  • Osaka Castle
And's what even better?!  The price for this tour includes return airfare from the U.S. with award-winning Singapore Airlines and all applicable taxes.  Offered by Friendly Planet Travel of Jenkintown, PA, prices for the Japan Panorama Tour start at only $3,798 per person based on double occupancy.  Current available departure dates during the 2012 Japan tourist season include June 21, August 2, September 13 and November 1, 2012.

For more information or to book your reservation, contact Friendly Planet Travel.

Images: Friendly Planet Travel Registered & Protected