Travel by cinema: 5 iconic movies featuring Las Vegas

Las Vegas in the Movies, Movies

 

If you’re like me, then you probably like to plan a few destinations and photo – ops on your trip to scenes or popular movies. This is a great way to spice up the vacation and make that Instagram post just a little more quirky. I do this on all my vacations and not once has it failed to disappoint, creative directors really know best!
Everyone knows the ever famous Oceans 11, a high stakes adventure and the most memorable casino heist in cinematic history.  Most of the movie was shot at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. The best place to get a picture would be at the Bellagio Fountains at sunset, referring to the scene after Danny ( George Clooney) and the thieves rob the vault and stood together admiring the fountain show on Las Vegas Boulevard.


For you Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas fans who want a genuine experience, you’ll want to cruise the Red Rock Canyon in an older car preferably a ‘71 Cadillac convertible but anything with the top down will do. Red Rock is where many of the movie’s driving scenes took place. But you won’t need to be under the influence to enjoy the bright colors, jagged cliffs, sandy hills, charming local animals and wind in your hair.
If you are a more family-friendly moviegoer, the 90’s classic Vegas Vacation was filmed at The Mirage Resort. There are several attractions at The Mirage in this movie, perfect for a photo op. I recommend Seigfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat for the scene where Eddie embarrasses Clark by “swimming with the dolphins”. Most shots were filmed on the casino floor where Clark Griswald (Chevy Chase) spent all of his time….and money!


If you are big on classic James Bond movies, you’ll know this next one, Diamonds are Forever. Arguably the movie that promoted Las Vegas into fame. Though many Casinos highlighted in the movie have since closed, it’s the deserts of the movie we’re interested in. In the movie, Bond steals a “moon buggy” from Whyte laboratories and embarks on a high-speed chase across the Nevada desert. The Mojave Desert and Black Rock desert are both in the movie as well. The Black Rock Desert is Actually now known as the site of burning man, a week-long event in which people voluntarily camp in the desert to create a temporary city based on principles of community.
Of course, no movie list is ever complete without The Godfather. The Tropicana was the main filming site for the Las Vegas portion of the movie. This was the site of Michael Corleone’s (Al Pacino) casino business. The Tropicana is also referred to briefly in The Godfather II, but as “Tropigala” to skirt around copyright issues. Extra points if you get a picture by the Tropicana sign in your best suit.

Experience the Wild Side of the West

Things to do off of the Strip

 

When thinking of a fun afternoon in Vegas what comes to your mind first? Is it the bars? The attractions on the strip? All these things seem great… If you want everyone else’s Vegas. If you want genuine, wild Las Vegas, you are going to have to go to the desert to have a real adventure. A great place to hike, with a few trails and 1.6 million acres, Desert National Wildlife Refuge is the largest, outside Alaska. There is such a diversity of wildlife here it will amaze you that you’re still in the desert. The sun shining on the carved rocks and twisting bristlecone pines, you’ll find yourself gazing at bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, collared lizards and looking for tracks of the elusive mountain lion. A little-known fact about the Nevada desert is that we have over 500 plant species and 320 bird species- so grab a pair of binoculars too!

Of course, if You aren’t interested in hiking in the heat- there is another desert adventure in Vegas. Desert Off Road Adventures offers group tours to accommodate your party in Polaris Razor 1000 xp UTV’s across the famed Mint 400 course in the Nellis dunes. This guided tour will let you experience the beauty of the Nevada desert while having your own driving experience. This is definitely an activity the kids won’t complain about (and yes mom, it’s completely decked out with seat belts and roll cages!)! If you’re worried about heat- don’t be, these guys come with air-cooled helmets at the ready! And ladies, don’t be afraid to take turns driving because we usually do better when we are behind the wheel anyway.

Desert Dangers; Protecting Yourself From Sandstorms

Safety

 

For the most part, the desert life is a quiet life, we don’t have tornadoes or hurricanes or many natural disasters. In those regards we are fortunate. Actually these are the reasons I always tell my family I could never live anywhere else, (and that there are no mosquitos!) But not everything is peachy keen in Las Vegas, surviving the midday heat may only be the least of your problems. On occasion sandstorms can occur, and it is important whether you’re visiting or native, to know how to handle them.

If you are walking around the city it’s imperative that you cover your eyes with sunglasses. While driving you should pull over and put your hazards on to avoid an accident as most storms can be blinding. If you are out riding doing any sort of dirt sports, make sure your eyes are protected with goggles, and cover your mouth with a bandanna or cloth. If you have any spare water wet the cloth. If the storm blocks the light, get to higher ground. Sandstorms pass quickly but you don’t want sand in your mouth or eyes. Remember to stay safe and stay informed on your next trip to Vegas!

Herb Chicken Tin Foil Dinner

Food

 

Grill, meet hot dog and hamburger. Hot dog and hamburger, meet grill. A timeless classic and yet a boring cliché we can’t seem to shake. If you’ve never heard of tin foil dinners, surely you’re missing out. The creative and so ingeniously simple solution to the rut of everyday grilling, this recipe will catapult your barbecues and camping cuisines into culinary history.

What you need

6-8 boneless skinless chicken thighs OR 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon dried dill
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons oil
1-1½ pound potatoes thinly sliced (about 2 cups potato slices)
2 cups sliced mushrooms

Firstly, you’ll want to mix all the seasoning together and set the aside. Next, take the chicken, mushrooms, and potatoes and place them in a large bowl, tossing them with the oil, making sure they are well coated. Lay out four 12x 20 sheets of nonstick foil, and divide the chicken, potatoes and mushrooms between the four sheets. If you are using the chicken breasts, there should be one breast per sheet. If using thighs, there should be one or two thighs per sheet. Top your dinners with seasoning mixture that you’ve set aside. Scrunch the ends of the foil together to close off the foil pack. If you aren’t cooking the dinners immediately, and plan on going camping, you can pack them in a cooler. I recommended you do eat them the day they are made. For those of us that can’t wait, place foil packs on the grill cooking 10-15 minutes then flip and cook for 5-7 or until cooked all the way through. And that’s all you need to shake up your barbecue night!

 

Art In the Desert; Amazing Outdoor Installations

Things to do off of the Strip

 

The way I see it, you can visit an indoor museum anytime, and have countless pieces together in a room spending not enough time on each. Or, you could experience these amazing artists who chose the Nevada desert as their canvas. Thunder Mountain Monument is a shining example of such outdoor art. Created by Frank Van Zant, a former World War II vet, and Police Officer. Frank moved to the desert outside Imlay, Nevada and called himself “chief rolling Thunder” then began building with materials such as sand, scrap metal, and cement. By 1969, he had built a house, a three-story hostel, and a sculpture park. The monument itself truly has a whimsical and woodsy look to it and is worth poking around. If you’re really committed to art and adventure, you might be willing to take the drive to the Goldwell Open Air Museum in the middle of nowhere (Beatty, Nevada). There you will find Albert Szukalski’s Last Supper, a sculpture much like the Da Vinci painting only far more ghostly in appearance. there are no Christ and no apostles, not even a supper. Only the shrouds remain. Erected in 1981, and predicted only to last two years, it still stands tall and haunting.
Of course, no outdoor desert installation is more talked about than Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains. These thirty-foot neon totems are Located ten miles outside of Las Vegas in a remote dusty strip (Ivanpah Valley) the location is supposed to be the physical representation of being between the natural and artificial. And in case you are wondering, yes, the boulders are locally sourced.

Skillet Peach Breakfast Bake

Food

There’s nothing better than being able to make a proper breakfast whether you’re camping, riding, or on the go with friends-except finding a recipe that makes it easy, that is! The best part of this dish is the implied “make-ahead” part that will have everyone wondering how this pancake turned out so good in a flash. Have skillet, will travel!

Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
2 peaches peeled, sliced
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 ½ cups Original Bisquick mix
⅔ cup heavy whipping cream
4 eggs

First, you’ll want to start by heating your 12-inch skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the butter, making sure it’s melted. Add the sliced peaches, sprinkling the brown sugar; and cook for 3 minutes. Stir the peaches and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until caramelized. Make sure not to burn. Remove from heat and add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Set the peaches aside and grease the skillet with a remaining tablespoon of butter, the skillet should still be warm. In a bowl, add Bisquick mix, whipping cream, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. After mixing, fold in the caramelized peaches. Pour the batter into the buttered skillet. At this point, you can either refrigerate it for your adventures later, or bake immediately if you’re impatient.

If you’re baking it in an oven, you’ll want to bake at 450°F for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350°F, and continue baking 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly golden on top. If you’re baking over an open flame, you’ll want to hold over the fire for 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean in the center.

The Super-Bloom

Things to do off of the Strip

 

Every once in a while, we have the rare opportunity to be a part of spectacles in nature that make life vibrant. Death Valley, an arid dry land, hosts a spectacular and colorful display that has to be seen to be believed. Every few years when the conditions are optimal, a Super-Bloom occurs, in which several different flora and fauna in Death Valley burst into bloom in a magnificent scene of orange, gold, violet and pale white. This heavily depends on rain patterns and although the bloom was big last year, we can’t expect it to be big this spring.

However, this spring and summer you can catch a glimpse of the blooming wildflowers on one of Nevada’s desert adventure tours, Desert Off Road Adventures. Here, you can see wildflowers in bloom, including Indian Paintbrushes, and my personal favorite, the pink blooms on the cacti! It’s springtime in the desert, and the weather is absolutely gorgeous over here on the west coast, perfect for these little beauties to flourish and blossom. Just make sure you step outside so you don’t miss it!

Ski 60 Minutes From the Strip

Things to do off of the Strip

Many out-of-town friends find this hard to believe, but there is snow, not thirty minutes away from Las Vegas. I’m talking of course, about Mt. Charleston. There is typically snow here from November to April, so locals (myself included) love to take the drive up to the Mt. Charleston Lodge Restaurant for a hot chocolate and a pretzel. During extremely cold days, the crackling fireplace in the dining room is especially aromatic. But you didn’t come for just chocolate and pretzels!

Lee Canyon Lodge has just begun it’s 47th annual ski season this year with eight inches of snow which is impressive keeping in mind we are in the desert. Mt. Charleston has two lifts. Both lifts at the lodge will take skiers and snowboarders 9,300 feet up the mountain. The longest run is 3,000 feet with an 860-foot drop-wow! If this kind of adventure isn’t for you, don’t worry, Lee Canyon Lodge suggests a range of wintertime activities like sledding and wildlife watching. Most simply take in the cool breeze and enjoy the 20-degree difference at Mt. Charleston. You didn’t expect this from the desert, did you?

History of The Mint: How the Great American Off-Road Race Got its Start

Off Road Racing

As the Mint 400’s fiftieth anniversary quickly approaches I can’t help but reminisce about how as a kid, one of my favorite memories was camping out in the pits and watching the Great American Desert Race. We always barbecued, camped next to our friends, and carried portable radios so we could update each other on the race.

If you grew up in Vegas, or if you just love dirt sports, chances are, you’ve heard of the Mint  400 too.  But, what you may not know, is that it started as a publicity stunt to promote The Mint Hotel’s Annual deer hunt.  The brainchild of Norm Johnson in 1967, this PR stunt became the beginning of an off-road legend.  Johnson’s original race did not consist of multiple classes competing against one another like today’s Mint, but rather two identical cars using a punch in/out time clock to track their time across the desert over the 600 miles from Las Vegas to Lake Tahoe.  The second year it ran, famed racers Mel Larson and Parnelli Jones entered, and with celebrities drawing attention to the race, many more names entered in years to come.  The race really came into its own by year three, when the course was moved to launch from the Mint’s “Gun Club” north of Las Vegas.

Speaking of names, ever heard of Lynda Carter, a.k.a Wonder Woman? Or Wheel of Fortune’s Vanna White? Both were very famous Miss Mints.  The race took a twenty-year hiatus from 1988 to 2008 following the sale of the Mint Hotel.  It was revived in 2008 and has become a staple in off-road racing with newer racing technology, and safer equipment.  Here’s to 50 more years of fun, excitement and great memories from The Mint!