Tagged Las Vegas

Downtown Las Vegas: Where to stay and play

Downtown Vegas
Get off the Strip and check out all that Downtown Vegas has to offer.

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

Las Vegas and I have a solid understanding: We’re good with seeing each other only once every few years. From the squashed streets, gambling that I never knew how much I loved and “inventive” ways to spend my time and money, I thought I reached max Vegas capacity in my late 20s. However, after a recent visit to Downtown Las Vegas, my interest in Sin City has since blossomed into a full blown love affair.

The pool at Oasis in Downtown Las Vegas.
The pool at Oasis in Downtown Las Vegas. Photo credit: Emily Wilson

My last trip to Vegas was more than three or four years ago and I was craving the desert heat since moving to San Francisco. I knew that I wanted a weekend in Vegas with excitement, bright lights, music and a young crowd so Downtown won me over. The Oasis at Gold Spike , Downtown’s newest boutique hotel, graciously invited me to check out their digs. Read more

RiSE Festival 2014

RiSE Lantern Festival 2014 Lifts Spirits in the Mojave Desert

August has greeted us, and we are wrapping up all of our summer plans and looking forward to our end of the year excitement. Before we jump into the holidays, why not have a once in a lifetime experience? You can join thousands in the beautiful Mojave Desert for the inaugural RiSE Lantern Festival 2014 on October 18.

RiSE Lantern Festival 2014
RiSE Lantern Festival 2014

At dusk on October 18, thousands will flock to the desert to reflect on dreams, hopes, and aspirations, releasing them to the skies in the shape of lanterns. The simple beauty of each lantern represents a hope, a dream, a new leaf, or a forgotten wish coming together to form something beautiful.

Together, 10,000 attendees will launch 20,000 lanterns into the Mojave Desert sky, just outside Las Vegas at Jean Dry Lakebed. Shuttles will pick up guests from the Las Vegas Strip, as well as the Gold Strike Casino and the gravel lot.

With the purchase of a ticket, attendees will receive an individual bamboo ground mat, two sky lanterns and one ground lantern.  During the first hour, guests have the chance to write personalized messages on each lantern while listening to live music, relaxing and enjoying some great food and wine available for purchase. An hour after sunset, RiSE culminates as everyone lights and releases their lanterns in unison, giving a collective voice to dreams, leaving each spectator with one unforgettable evening.

RiSE Festival 2014
RiSE Festival 2014

Even if you choose to partake on this adventure alone, you’re bound to make friends. Each lantern will take 2 to 3 people to launch, so you’ll be able to share your hopes and prayers with others who have come to celebrate.

RiSE becomes more meaningful when you make your lanterns personal, so guests are encouraged to personalize each lantern with something special. Inscribe them with a message, prayer, or resolution. Guests will also be given the right type of markers to make sure lanterns aren’t damaged in the process.

“Each person’s lantern means something unique to them, but one thing we all share is a love for the planet,” said representative Jenna Rose. “That’s why it’s RiSE’s responsibility to leave no trace, and it’s a responsibility they take seriously. The wide-open nature of the event area makes conservation possible.  Because they’re able to retrieve between 98-100% of the lanterns, and because each lantern is 100% biodegradable, sustainability is something they achieve with every event.”

Additionally, RiSE purchases carbon offsets for every vehicle they use in the setup and cleanup of the festival, and they encourage participants to purchase carbon offsets for their travel to and from the festival.

Tickets for RiSE Lantern Festival 2014 are available for purchase at www.risefestival.com. There will be another taking place in Bali in November, but it’s invite only – will open to the public in 2015.

If you are looking for a supernatural adventure, get a chance to illuminate the sky with RiSE Festival this fall.

For more information, go to the RiSE Festival website, or visit their Facebook page and Instagram feed.

An Inside Peek into Sin City’s newest Nobu Hotel

Inside the Nobu Hotel, Las Vegas
Inside the Nobu Hotel, Las Vegas

Written by Nadia Ibanez, Photos courtesy of Nobu Hotel

Two-thirds of the Wander team is heading to Las Vegas this weekend to celebrate Karina’s last few weeks of singledom. Why not toast to a fantastic Bachelorette party with a sneak peek into Sin City’s newest additions set for this October.

Nobu Hospitality’s partners Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro and Meir Teper have teamed with Caesars Palace to open Nobu Hotel. The first of its kind under the Nobu brand, the new hotel will offer hip luxury with its 180 rooms and make way for the largest Nobu Restaurant and Lounge in the world with more than 11,000 square feet of dining space.

Once the hotel opens later this year, guests can expect design elements like wood tiles; smart touch-screen elevators that use algorithms to get visitors to their destination quicker; carpets that resemble cherry blossoms and Zen gardens; in-room custom calligraphy; and origami-inspired fixtures. The natural and elegant designs within the Nobu aesthetic are promised to blend seamlessly against the Vegas backdrop.

The Bathrooms are Inspired by Japanese Bath Houses
The Bathrooms are Inspired by Japanese Bath Houses

The suites and bathrooms have caused our ears to perk up a bit once we got a peek into what to expect inside. We’re counting down the weeks until we can reserve our own room and take advantage of oversized walk-in showers, luxury bathroom amenities designed specifically for the hotel, bedside essential oils, and a minibar with blood orange chili juice and chocolate-dipped Pocky pretzels.

It's the Little Details that Matter
It’s the Little Details that Matter

One of the other great perks of staying at Nobu Hotel is priority seating and 24-hour access to the Nobu restaurant, along with the first-ever in-room dining menu. We already have our eye on the High Roller bento box, which features lobster wasabi, Wagyu steak, spicy garlic shrimp and an assortment of nigiri and special sushi rolls.

The hotel is slated to open this October. For more information, visit NobuHotelCaesarsPalace.com.

Forget Gambling, We Go to Vegas for the Restaurants

Vegas by Night
Vegas by Night

By Nadia Ibanez

‘Tis the season for bachelor/bachelorette parties, poolside getaways, and other festivities that require bikinis and vegging out in the hot summer heat. Sin City has always been, and will always be, a favorite summer destination for the young and beautiful – and even the not so young. With the sparkling lights, cheap booze, gambling, and nightlife galore, Las Vegas seems to always peek its lovely head out when we’re looking for an adventurous destination a few hours outside of southern California.

We can’t say enough about some of the gorgeous hotels out there and the amazing shows that we love. But, my favorite part of going to Vegas is the food. Where else can you dine at restaurants manned by the likes of Jose Andrés, Bobby Flay, Tom Collichio, Michel Richard, Todd English, Hubert Keller, Bradley Odgen, Michael Mina, Emeril Lagasse, and Wolfgang Puck all within a couple miles of each other?

Yes, I know that spending a few days in Vegas is quite the production. From day drinking, bar hopping, and keeping track of everyone in your party, there’s very little time to sit down for an amazing four-course meal. And it’s just so much easier to find a fast food joint to curve your hunger pains. (I guarantee we’ve all hit up the bright and shiny McDonald’s at 3am on the strip after a night of insanity.)

If you’re on the strip and looking for an amazing meal, check out our picks for the best restaurants in Vegas.

FOR A LITTLE CLASS WITH YOUR BURGER AND MILKSHAKE

We can’t get enough of Holstein’s, located inside The Cosmopolitan. We visited for lunch after a weekend of drinking in vodka vaults and helicoptering over the Grand Canyon and their burgers and accoutrements were the best way to bid adieu to the fine city.

Start off with a can of PBR or Tecate in a custom cuzie, of course, or sink into a Savory Bloody Mary with beef brisket-infused vodka and a filet garnish. Their Bam-Boozled Shakes are to die for and are a great, sugary hair of the dog to get you through the morning. The Frozen Grasshopper is delish and has peppermint, chocolate, crème de mente and Van Gogh chocolate vodka. Or go for the Campfire Smores with marshmallow vodka, chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker crumbles.

Holstein's, Las Vegas
Holstein’s, Las Vegas

Seriously, everything on the menu is amazing. We tried the Fried Pickles for starters, which pairs perfectly with a nice craft beer. Other appetizers we were eyeing were the Cheese Curds and the Truffle Lobster Mac and Cheese. You can also opt to try a few sliders if you can’t choose one burger off the menu. Go for the Crispy Pork Belly Bun or the Maine Lobster Roll. Or save your belly and order a full-sized burger.

The Gold Standard Burger was one of the best I’ve ever had with its dry aged sirloin patty topped with smoked bacon, aged goat cheddar, tomato confit, baby arugula and garlic-chive aioli. Or, go for the Billionaire Burger with kobe beef, foie gras, onion marmalade, friseé and truffle mayo. Holstein’s is open until 2am on some nights so make sure to drop in for lunch, dinner or a late night snack.

Gotta love the pink cow inside Holstein's Las Vegas
Gotta Love the Pink Cow Inside Holstein’s Las Vegas

FOR A TASTE OF ESPAÑA

If you’ve been lucky enough to try the real stuff on the streets of Madrid and Barcelona, or just have your own favorites at your local tapas bar, Jaleo by Jose Andrés in The Cosmopolitan is a must. Come hungry, bring friends, and order everything. The Pan de Cristal con Tomate is delish and simple. Brushed with fresh tomato, these bites can be topped with ham, manchego cheese or anchovies.

The Pan de Cristal con Tomate Topped with Manego Cheese and a Glass of Sangria
The Pan de Cristal con Tomate Topped with Manego Cheese and a Glass of Sangria

The menu consists of pages of tapas and they’re all perfectly paired with a carafe of sangria. Try the Tortilla Menorquina, a Spanish omelet with sobrasada sausage, onion and Mahón cheese, or the Chorizo Palacios, seasoned with pimento and garlic. Or, go for the Coliflor Salteada, a dish of sautéed cauliflower with dates and olives. Save room for the Croquetas de Pollo and the Gambas con gabardine, which are fried shrimp with caper mayo.

Gambas at Jaleo, Las Vegas
Gambas at Jaleo, Las Vegas

Salads, soups, vegetarian options and cheese plates are all to die for. If you have some time to spare, opt for paella, which takes 30 minutes for cooking and to allow for all of the flavors to mix and mingle. Jaleo offers paella of all types, ranging from Mediterranean flavors, traditional styles, and even Arroz Negro, served with black rice, porcinis, calamari and squid ink.

FOR A NOT-SO STANDARD ICE CREAM SOCIAL

Nothing beats the heat better than a big bowl full of ice cream – apart from an extra-large margarita. Serendipity 3 is world-famous and its location at Caesar’s Palace brings in anyone looking for a sugar buzz. Our party consisted of four lovely ladies and somehow we ended up with six different desserts.

Frrrozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity 3
Frrrozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity 3

If it’s your first time, you HAVE to order the signature Frrrozen Hot Chocolate. The drink is created with more than a dozen different types of chocolate and will cool your body with every slurp. The Peanut Butter version is equally amazing, or go for an oversized sundae to share with friends or enjoy by yourself. I recommend the Strawberry Fields Sundae with cheesecake, strawberry ice cream, strawberry sauce and whipped cream. The Red Velvet Sundae was another favorite among the table with chocolate ice cream, red velvet cake, hot fudge, whipped cream and sprinkles.

FOR THE HIGH ROLLERS AND THE RUSSIANS

If you’re in the mood for an extraordinary dinner and you have the extra cash to spare, Red Square in Mandalay Bay is where you want to be. With a whole menu just dedicated to caviar, you know you’re among high rollers and big players. For starters, go for the Siberian Nachos, wonton chips topped with smoked salmon, wasabi cream, chives and Tobiko. The Seared Foie Gras, Baked Apples and French Toast is another popular item and is topped with apple butter, smoked bacon and a berry gastrique.

Black Truffle and Lobster Fettuccine at Red Square
Black Truffle and Lobster Fettuccine at Red Square

You must order the Black Truffle and Lobster Fettuccine, which is topped with shaved black truffles and truffle oil. It’s one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had and was surprisingly light despite its uber-rich ingredients. We ordered a Roquefort Filet Mignon for the table too, which was served with a potato puree, roasted garlic and a drizzle of red wine sauce.

Inside the Vodka Vault at Red Square, Mandalay Bay
Inside the Vodka Vault at Red Square, Mandalay Bay

You cannot leave Red Square without a stop in the Vodka Vault. Attached to the restaurant is a giant freezer with 100+ imported vodkas. Your Vodka Goddess will greet you at your table, before handing you a faux mink coat and hat and escorting you inside the ice locker, which is 10 degrees below zero. Whatever your preference, you’ll be paired up with a few smooth vodka tastings. If you can’t stand the freezing temperatures, the restaurant also has a bar made of ice to keep your vodka cocktails frosty.

While you may think that Chicago, San Francisco, New York City and Los Angeles are the hubs for amazing cuisine, Las Vegas is quickly trailing behind as one of the nation’s best places to not only play, but also treat yourself to some fantastic restaurants. What are you favorite places to dine in Sin City?