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Just because gambling, boozing and late nights (come early mornings) isn’t your scene doesn’t mean that you should discount visiting Las Vegas on your next trip to the US of A – and here are some reasons why…
Highroller Ferries Wheel at the LINQ
Situated in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, the High Roller is the main feature of a $550 million open-air entertainment district, The LINQ Promenade. The High Roller in Las Vegas isn’t your average Ferris wheel, it’s actually an observation wheel – currently the biggest in the world a staggering 550-feet-tall. It still holds the Guinness World Record for largest observation wheel.
Grand Canyon by Plane or Helicopter
Definitely a must-do. Take off from Las Vegas Airport on a breathtaking helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon. Approximately a 45-minute helicopter flight each way. For something special land deep in the canyon for champagne picnic, and fly low over the famous Las Vegas Strip on your return.
Lightshow at Fremont Street – Neighbourhood Block Party
Downtown Las Vegas is famous for The Fremont Street Experience, it has been described as a project that blends vintage Las Vegas with high-tech wonder, live entertainment and more to create an attraction that rivals the famed Vegas Strip. It provides an intimate party atmosphere with a laid-back feel. The street experience also features a Viva Vision canopy and light show, zip lining, food trucks and live music. It’s hosted monthly on every second Saturday.
OMG, the shopping outlets in Vegas are cray cray, depending where on the strip you are staying outlets are approximately a 15min cab ride or there are regular shuttles/buses that depart from various points on the strip. My favourite is Las Vegas North Premium Outlet which has over a 115 store, with the likes of Burberry, Calvin Klein, Diane Von Furstenberg, Kate Spade New York and many more.
Sahra Spa and Hammam, The Cosmopolitan
After you have completed exploring the LINQ Promenade, had your picnic in the Grand Canyon, partied hard at the neighbourhood block party and pretty much maxed out your credit card at the shopping outlets, there is only one last thing to do; experience the luxurious spas The Strip has to offer. My favourite is The Cosmopolitan Sahra Spa and Hammam, one of the newest hotels on The Strip. The hotel itself is understated luxury with a very funky twist, it’s also home to Marquee nightclub. The Sahra Spa and Hamman is a 43,000 square-foot oasis inspired by desert cultures from around the world. With over 25 treatment rooms, luxurious penthouse spa suite and an authentic Turasis of indulgence and rejuvenation. You must try the body wrap!
The menu is inspired by regional flavours of Spain and France where Pablo Picasso spent much of his like. Highly recommend the White Alba Truffle Menu, the Ravioli of Butternut Squash is to die for, plus the restaurant boost over 1500 of the world’s best European wine. Definitely a treat!
Hotspot: Hakkasan at the MGM Grand
Not only is Hakkasan one of the greatest nightclubs on the Strip, attracting all my main men Steve Aoki,Calvin Harris and Tiësto but it also has the finest authentic Cantonese cuisine. Their description: “To enter Hakkasan is to enter a different world, a mysterious realm of the senses that exists beyond a hidden passageway. The Hakkasan DNA is all about a relaxed mood with a sensual vibe. The interior design exudes a sultry Shanghai-Chinois chic” – and I would have to agree!
Signature dishes include Stir-fry black pepper beef ribeye with merlot and Roasted silver cod with Champagne and Chinese honey.
And if you are just looking for that 2:30am burger and fries, I would highly recommend a visit to Grand Lux Café at the Venetian (the same inventors of The Cheesecake Factory). Their Avocado-Chipotle Cheeseburger definitely hits the spot, (the burger has avocado it’s still healthy)!
By Lisha Singh
Images via kuriositas.com, Google images, Legacy of Taste UK
It is no surprise that the ‘Borough of Nations’ (Queens) is home to Astoria, a culturally diverse community known as both a creative neighbourhood full of praiseworthy cultural institutions and a food destination popular for everything from Greek, Italian or Brazilian cuisine.
Faster than you can say Opa! Astoria is easily reached by subway from Midtown Manhattan and is the ideal neighbourhood to sample some of the best Greek food this side of Athens. A quintessential melting pot, Astoria is home to world-class ethnic restaurants, impressive cultural institutions and green space in Astoria Park.
Must-See Astoria Highlights
- Socrates Sculpture Park exhibits large-scale sculptures and multimedia installations in its unique outdoor environment, and the park offers family activities, a place to picnic or jog along the East River and panoramic skyline views.
- Established in 1988, the Museum of the Moving Image offers visitors an understanding and appreciation of the art, technique and history of film, television and digital media. In 2015, the Museum will debut a new Jim Henson gallery that will include nearly 400 puppets, props and costumes donated by The Jim Henson Company and Henson’s family.
- Founded and designed by the internationally renowned Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi, The Noguchi Museum complex is an open-air sculpture garden tucked away inside a converted industrial building that houses a collection of the artist’s life work.
- Extending from south of the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (formerly the Triborough) to north of the Hell Gate Bridge, Astoria Park offers visitors panoramic views of Midtown Manhattan. The 60-acre park is equipped with playgrounds, tennis courts, athletic fields, baseball diamonds, pedestrian trails and the largest swimming pool in NYC.
- Home to a prominent Greek culture, Astoria offers visitors a wealth of Greek cuisine that can be found at Ovelia, Taverna Kyclades, Telly’s Taverna, BZ Grill, MP Taverna and Artopolis Bakery.
- Astoria’s restaurant scene offers foodies the opportunity to savour international cuisine from around the world. Stop by Malagueta for a taste of Brazil, Mombar for traditional Egyptian fare, Le Gamin Astoria for French delicacies, Piccola Venezia or Trattoria L’Incontro for Italian specialties or Arepas Cafe to tap into the lively atmosphere and delicious treats of Venezuela.
- At the heart of Astoria’s social scene, microbreweries and beer gardens welcome everyone to taste the City’s best tap selections and enjoy live bands in an open-air casual environment. Whether you are looking for a bit of history (try the 100-year-old Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden), seeking out a brand-new watering hole (The Garden at Studio Square is a good choice) or just looking for the biggest space to fit all your friends (check out SingleCut Beersmiths), you can find a good time year-round in Astoria.
- Boutique designers offer hard-to-find vintage clothing. Shop jewellery, bags and boots or collections like Pierre Cardin duffels and Diane Von Furstenberg at LoveDay31.
Visitors looking to experience more of Queens can extend their stay at one of the borough’s hotels—from Long Island City, Flushing or the airport areas of LaGuardia and JFK.
Astoria is the third feature in a three-part Neighbourhood x Neighbourhood documentary series. The videos feature a local’s guide to the neighbourhood, focusing on the shops, restaurants, attractions and history, that make every NYC neighbourhood distinct and provide further reasons to get out and explore beyond the well trodden paths. To view the video of Astoria, visit nycgo.com/nxn.
Take yourself on a journey thorugh a land of mystery and magic, a place where us mere muggles can enjoy the wonders of being a witch or wizard for a day, I’m talking about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida. The theme park attached to Universal’s Islands of Adventure has just opened its new extension on August 8, taking us deep into the world of Harry Potter.
At this surreal amusement park you can come face to face with ‘an aggressive Chinese Fireball or a Hungarian Horntail’ on a fast, looped roller-coaster and live to tell the tale! You can even head into the Forbidden Forest…but watch out for Arogog’s children, remember they are only kind to Hagrid not friends of Hagrid’s.
Among these thrill rides there is also places to sit down and enjoy some quiet time in Hogsmead with a pint of Pumpkin Juice at Hogs Head, or even taste cup of butterbeer at The Three Broomsticks, which offers not only tasty beverages but a magic inspired menu for lunch or dinner. If you are one with a sweet tooth, why not pop into Honeydukes for a Cauldron Cake, pack of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans, and one of those famous chocolate frogs?
There is even a chance to buy all your wizarding supplies, Ollivanders is the place to go if you are in search of a wand, and don’t forget the wand choses the Wizard! Plus you can use the Owl Post to send a letter back home to your muggle friends or family with a real Hogsmead stamp.
What are you waiting for? Book your seat on the Hogwarts Express, hop on board and explore an unreal world filled with excitement and enchantment.
By Amy Miller
Image via blog.virgin-atlantic.com
When the reports come in of a school shooting in the US, as an Australian I would wonder how a gun ever got into the hands of a teenager? How that teenager could drive themselves to a school and press the trigger down on a semi-automatic weapon and spray bullets at children? Too many levels of unfathomable to take in. A teenager with a gun. Who drove himself to high school. Who wants to kill children. It becomes something that happens in the US and we file it away under Crazy Shit Americans Do.
When I visited my sister who lives in California, the first thing she said was, “Let’s do something you want to do and then something I want to do”. I really wanted to visit Berkeley campus and see where Alan Ginsberg first read ‘Howl’ aloud. It was still an unfinished poem and in the recording, you can hear the audience murmur and shout back with all the unsaid things, heard for the first time. My sister replied, “Whatever. Then we’ll go to a shooting range.” An indoor range is terrifying for the noise and the strange collection of people who are taking it seriously. I shot a single bullet. My hands trembled and then I was done. In the cubicle next to me, a boy of ten or eleven blasted away at a rifle. I wanted to leave as soon as I got there.
When I finally moved to the US, I had a cup of tea with a lovely yoga devotee, the first date I’d been on – an American date with an American man! Whilst we sat cross legged on his couch drinking herbal tea, I asked him what the vault across the room was for? “My gun safe,” he said and looked sheepish. How many guns were in there, I asked. “Six or seven,” he lied. It turned out to be ten rifles and ten handguns. Glocks, Berettas, M1A, and my personal favourite for its sheer butchness, a fancy sawn off shot-gun called The Alaskan. He had enough ammo to supply a militia and that’s where I learned something about the second amendment and the American psyche. They are woven together in a way that’s hard to understand, looking in.
The second amendment gives every American the right to bear arms and form a militia. The sentiment with so many Americans is that government is a group of people elected to perform an impossible task: managing three hundred million people with two porous borders. Americans often feel it can’t be done to good effect and that they are alone. They watched the images from Hurricane Katrina, people stranded for days on the top of their house, waving listlessly at the helicopters. It confirmed their fears: you will not be rescued in your time of need. In most of the houses I’ve been welcomed into in America, there are emergency provisions; enough canned food to last three or four days, torches and water. It’s tucked away in the garage without much fanfare. Other houses have full on bug-out bags stocked with enough gear to last three or four months if they have to scurry into the hills. Hell, Mormons are required to stock enough food and water to last two years and outlive the rapture. As an Australian, if you’ve ever wondered what would happen in a drought/flood/fire that left you stranded, I would like to think we’d co-operating with our neighbours, at least before the chaos set in. In America, it’s game on. No one is coming to get you and if they do, it might be for the water in your swimming pool and they’ll kill you if they have to. That’s when you’ll need a gun.
You can’t really hold a handgun or a shotgun in your hands without considering the circumstances of when you would use it. You don’t fasten on a pair of skis and never consider the snow. What you weigh in your mind, as you hold that gun in your hand, is whether or not you could pull the trigger on another human being. Going to the gun range, you’ll find the elderly Vietnamese man, the young tough guy, the Persian, the father and son combos. I don’t know how they feel about killing a person, but the idea has been squared away because of so many handguns on display, and you don’t shoot a deer with one of those.
I think I’d rather die than live knowing I killed a person, but that’s what the Americans call a Victim Mentality and so I tried getting into the spirit of things. If I was robbed by someone with a gun? Nope, I probably wouldn’t. What if my beloved was about to get shot? Okay, maybe then. To hold a gun is to feel out your moral boundary and see where the lines are drawn. For a lot of the men at the range, it’s to play out the hero scenarios on high rotation, at least it was for the guy I was dating. Is it the culture that’s emasculated them or the gun that plants the idea?
Americans are perceived as being disingenuous; both friendly and cunning is the cultural identity. International politics and multinational interests, the NSA, the Iraq/Afghanistan war, the aggressive free-trade agreement with Australia, that’s a lot of cunning. But as an Australian living in the US, I understand why Americans are this way with each other. They have nothing to fall back on and they are alone. It’s a very thin social fabric here, the taxes are low but the roads are poor, the food is cheap but public school are funded by local council rates on their homes; wealthy area = wealthy school, poor area = poor school. Wouldn’t you make nice-nice and take care of your own interests under these circumstances? The other day, my GPS took me through Skid Row in Los Angeles’ downtown area and I got to see what happens when you fall through the cracks. This isn’t just a row, it goes on for blocks and blocks and it’s the stuff of horror films. You can’t have a Skid Row in the middle of downtown and not feel it echo through the rest of the city. The sky really is limitless in the US, but the fall is Wile E. Coyote over the canyon’s edge. Beep, beep. Whistle.
What surprised me about the people in America is that if you are trusted and loved by a friend, the bond is deep; survival deep. You only have each other after all and in a way, you form your own militia. And the gun. You have the gun. And if you want to throw a couple of rifles into the back of a pick-up and drive through endless national forest, no one can damn well-stop you. Americans fight to maintain as much personal freedom as they can, as if they were still on the wagon, riding it over the plains. Freedoms I didn’t know I had the right to exercise in Australia, because they’ve already been taken away. But I think they get it wrong on the guns.
What do you think about gun control in the USA vs Australia?
Dreaming of a holiday? What holiday destinations are on the top of your travel wish list?
The HotelClub Travel Wish List survey asked 2,500 Aussies what destinations they’d love to travel to, and the results have given us a serious case of wanderlust!
The top 10 overseas holiday destinations are:
1. United States
3. United Kingdom
9. New Zealand
Closer to home, the top 10 Australian destinations we’d love to visit are:
4. Gold Coast
6. Hamilton Island
The survey also found that we like culture but we also like to relax when we travel, with 27.3% saying touring cultural and historical sites is the most important holiday activity, followed by 25.5% who admit that relaxing and pampering is on the top of their holiday wish list.
As a nation we also seek destination where we can primarily enjoy water activities like swimming and surfing (14.2%), shop till we drop (6.6%), indulge our passion for photography (5%), and go hiking or bush walking (4.9%). Surprisingly only 3.7% of Australians said their favourite thing to do on holiday was to party!
What’s the top holiday destination on your travel wish list?