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Las Vegas Archives - Air Canada Vacations

10 Mar

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Fun With the Kids During March Break

March 10, 2015 | By |

“Are we there yet?” takes on new meaning when you finally arrive with a luggage full of summer wear and a family ready to start their fun.

After all, it is March Break or Spring Break depending on where you’re from and that means one thing: fun in the sun.

Here’s where to get the extra fun breaks that’ll satisfy both adults and the kids.

The Mayan Riviera

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Blue azure sea, white soft sand, and a Caribbean reef that’ll have the kids snorkelling for Nemo are just some of the fun to be had at the Mayan Riviera.

I also love to hang with the critters in a jungle-rich environment at Xcaret Park. Amid the tall leafy trees in this eco-archeological park, you can hear the sounds of the jungle, prowl through the tropical jungle trail, stop at the wild bird aviary and watch entertaining free shows scheduled daily. See big cats at Jaguar Island and discover the ancient culture of the Mayans at the recreated villages. Water activities are popular too. I enjoy the clear, cool waters by the underground river and it’s always a treat to drift down the canyon-like Paradise River with its exotic foliage in a small raft.

Of course, swim spots are totally fun in Xel-ha Park. This water park torques through more Mayan jungles and winds past mini islands. Grab a tube and a lifejacket and prepare to tube down lazy rivers with its jungle backdrop. Xel-ha boasts many attractions and is loaded with activities. On my last visit snorkelling by the natural cove was a huge hit. You can also hike the nature trails to spot jungle critters.

Little kids may not really care for visits to see ancient ruins, but older ones like tweens should drop by with their parents to see Tulum. After you visit this ancient Mayan waterfront site, take a dip in the sea – as clear and sinfully warm as a hot tub.

At Tulum, you’ll learn about the ancient Mayans who were a resourceful, ingenious lot. If you want to dabble further into the world of the Mayans, take a full day excursion by bus to Chichen Itza. Located in the neighbouring state of the Yucatan, it is a bit of a drive (like 2 hours with a very early wake-up) but is well worth the trip to view this massive ancient Mayan site complex. Excursion tours can be booked directly at your resort.

Vegas for families

New York New York Hotel and Casino

Big Apple Coaster at New York New York Hotel and Casino

When you think of Las Vegas, you think of high rollers, casinos, and late nights, maybe not the stuff you want your family exposed to. But let me tell you, there’s a lot more to Vegas than adult entertainment.

There are the gondola rides, roller coasters, animal shows and tasty snacks and that’s just for starters.  I enjoy the variety and the selection in offerings is pretty staggering too.

At New-York New-York, get strapped in for dips and turns and try the Big Apple coaster ride with its Coney Island feel. At the Stratosphere, get strapped in again, but this time, the ride shoots you up into the stratosphere (try 160 feet) in just 2.5 seconds.

In this desert town it’s the hotel pools that make the big splash. Spend hours luxuriating at the poolside or hours at the many other attractions.

Fun in Orlando

Orlando SeaWorld

SeaWorld

Hit the big theme parks in Orlando. Don’t think too much about the line-ups… Just think: it’s not every day the kids get to visit Disney WorldUniversal Studios or SeaWorld.

International Drive is crammed with resorts. In between the pool visits, spa treatments, and great dinners at your property, don’t forget to make time for some quick retail therapy. I love to hang out by the famous Premium Outlet Malls on International Dirve. Scour the shops with luxe brands like Ann Taylor, Kenneth Cole, and Kate Spade New York.

For some downtime, or to flee the crowds at the theme parks, why not mellow next door at the “Gateway to Fun,” known as Kissimmee. This neighbouring city and its surroundings have some of the nicest off-the-beaten path activities. Take a fabulous paddling trip at Shingle Creek Regional Park. Located at the most northerly stream of the Everglades not far from International Drive, this waterway is laden with mangroves and promises fabulous nature sightseeing.

One of my favourite stops in Kissimmee is to spend the day at Gatorland. Dubbed “The Alligator Capital of the World,” the ginormous park is also home to a menagerie of other critters like tropical birds and snakes. Hands-on activities and daily shows with naturalists make it educational without being boring.  Once at Gatorland, you can’t escape hearing the call of Tarzan either. That’s because the park is home to 5 zip lines. Called the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line, it’s great fun for the whole family. Note there are certain height and weight restrictions that apply.

Award-winning travel writer Ilona Kauremszky is a co-producer of mycompasstv and mycompass.ca and works with leading publications across North America. She’s been a nationally syndicated travel columnist and has appeared as a travel expert on CBC, NPR, Yahoo Finance and other national broadcasters. Follow her travel pursuits on Twitter and YouTube @mycompasstv.  

24 Feb

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11 Free Things To Do in Las Vegas

February 24, 2015 | By |

Think Las Vegas and you’ll likely think extravagance: casinos, fancy hotels, elaborate entertainment. A trip to Las Vegas, however, does not have to break the bank. In fact, there are plenty of free things to do in Las Vegas. Here are our top 11 free shows and attractions in Vegas:

Conservatory & Botanical Gardens at Bellagio

Everything at the Bellagio Hotel is an experience, and its Conservatory & Botanical Gardens are no exception. There are 5 distinct exhibitions per year: one for the Chinese New Year in January, followed by one for spring, summer, fall and winter. Each exhibition is treated as a theatrical production, featuring a colourful assortment of flowers, plants and trees that requires months of preparation.

The World’s Largest Permanent Circus at Circus Circus

Every half hour between 11:00 a.m. and midnight, the World’s Largest Permanent Circus takes centre stage at the Carnival Midway at Circus Circus Hotel and Casino. Each segment lasts about 10 minutes and features stunning performances by acrobats, trapeze artists and jugglers. Make sure to get there at least 15 minutes in advance if you want to get a seat!

Free gaming lessons at various casinos

Are you a novice when it comes to casino games? No need to worry! Several casinos in Las Vegas offer free gaming lessons to get you started. They’ll introduce you to the basic rules, etiquette and strategies for games such as poker, roulette and blackjack. The Luxor, Circus Circus and Excalibur are among casinos to offer such lessons.

The Fall of Atlantis at Caesars Palace

This 11-minute fountain show takes place inside the Caesars Palace Forum Shops. It tells the tale of sibling rivalry, as the son and daughter of King Atlas battle over who should take over as ruler of Atlantis. The story is brought to life by 9-foot animatronics, as well as dazzling water and fire effects. While you’re there, you can also marvel at the 50,000-gallon saltwater aquarium that surrounds the area.

Flamingo Wildlife Habitat

The Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino is like a miniature oasis amid the hustle and bustle of The Strip. Chilean flamingos, exotic ducks, black swans, Japanese koi and yellow catfish are among the wildlife you can observe here.

Auto Collections at the LINQ Hotel & Casino

The Auto Collections at the LINQ is a sort of living antique and muscle car museum, featuring over 250 vehicles. The cars on display are all for sale, so the collection changes frequently. You may also occasionally see iconic cars from famous Hollywood movies or that have belonged to celebrities. For an even more enriching experience, opt for a free audio guide to learn about the history of the vehicles.

CBS Television City Research Center at The MGM Grand

Ever wondered what it’s like to be an executive for a major TV network? At the MGM Grand’s CBS Television City Research Center, you can be a TV exec for a day! You’ll learn the ins and outs on deciding which shows get put on the air, as you view a selection of shows and learn how to register your opinion on the cast and content of each one.

Carnevale di Venezia at The Venetian

No need to go all the way to Italy to get a taste of the Carnevale di Venezia (Carnival of Venice). For a quick glimpse into what the Italian festival is all about, head to the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian Hotel. Every day (at different intervals), a troupe of gondoliers, living statues and jugglers put together a 15-minute performance that emulates the famous Venetian carnival.

The Volcano at The Mirage

The Volcano at The Mirage is a spectacular sight, featuring 2 volcano systems, a lagoon and fire shooters that shoot flame more than 12 feet in the air. As if that’s not enough, the fireballs move to the sounds of an exhilarating soundtrack created by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and Indian composer Zakir Hussain. The sound is so powerful that you can actually feel the rumble of the volcanic movement.

Paris attractions at Paris Hotel and Casino

No, it’s not the real Paris. But with the amount of detail put into its design, it could be! If you’ve always wanted to see famous Paris attraction like the Eiffel Tower, the Paris Opera House, l’Arc de Triomphe and l’Hôtel de Ville, just stroll throughout the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino for free!

Laughlin tour

This one is exclusive to Air Canada Vacations. Book a vacation package to Las Vegas and you get a free tour of Laughlin, a city off The Strip that has just as much to do as Vegas does (minus the hustle and bustle). This resort destination has tons of casinos, shopping, spas and golf courses to keep you busy, as well as outdoor activities like fishing, swimming and boating.

 

Wondering what else you can do in Las Vegas? Check out our Vegas page for the full low-down on Sin City, including a multitude of other activities (which may not be free, but can be booked in advance!)

 

12 Sep

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Off the Strip: 6 Sightseeing Musts from Las Vegas

September 12, 2014 | By |

Las Vegas may be known for its bright lights and entertainment-filled nights, but truth is there are even more dazzling sights if you are willing to venture past the Strip. From man-made marvels to natural wonders, here are 6 sightseeing musts from Las Vegas.

Hoover Dam

hoover-dam

Built between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression, Hoover Dam was one of the largest US government projects of its time and remains an engineering wonder. It’s located between Arizona and Nevada and spans the Colorado River in the Black Canyon. Architecturally beautiful, the structure stands out for its curvilinear arch and art deco design. The dam is also home to Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the US.

How to get there: hop on a Hummer or bus tour, rent a car, or take a helicopter ride

How far from Vegas: approx. 1-hour drive; flight times vary depending on chosen tour

Grand Canyon

Considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon is a spectacular sight for the eyes. If heading to the West Rim on a ground tour, you’ll likely travel through the Joshua Tree Forest, while an aerial tour will provide views of Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. Key highlights of the West Rim include Hualapai Market at Guano Point and the Grand Canyon Skywalk at Eagle Point.

Grand Canyon Skywalk

Grand Canyon Skywalk

Going to the South Rim instead? As part of the Grand Canyon National Park, the South Rim offers picturesque trails and views at Mather Point. Bright Angel Lodge, a historic hotel complex located directly on the edge of the Canyon itself, is another must-see. A helicopter ride of the South Rim offers views of Dragon’s Corridor, the Tower of Ra, Kaibab National Forest and the Colorado River.

grand-canyon-afternoon

How to get there: hop on a Hummer or bus tour, rent an SUV, or take a helicopter ride

How far from Vegas: approx. 2.5 hour drive (West Rim) or 5-hour drive (South Rim); flight times vary depending on chosen tour

Death Valley

Don’t be fooled by its name: Although Death Valley is the hottest area in all of North America, if offers tons of natural and historical riches (just make sure to see them in an air conditioned vehicle or during cooler hours of the day). Among its hidden treasures is Scotty’s Castle, a Spanish-style villa that was built in the 1920s after a conman successfully convinced a millionaire to invest in his “goldmine.” Death Valley’s mysterious aura is also attributed to the Ubehebe Crater (all that remains from a violent volcanic eruption thousands of years ago), Badwater Basin (a saltwater basin and the lowest spot in North America) and Rhyolite Ghost Town.

How to get there: hop on a bus tour, rent a car, or take a helicopter ride

How far from Vegas: approx. 2-hour drive; flight times vary depending on chosen tour

Red Rock Canyon

red-rock-canyon

A scenic 21-kilometre drive along Red Rock Canyon is perfect for a day of sightseeing: take in views of the sandstone Calico Hills, marvel at the limestone roasting pits used by the Native Indians and study the petroglyphs at Willow Springs. A Red Rock Canyon trip would not be complete without seeing Spring Mountain State Park, a ranch previously owned by Howard Hughes, eccentric millionaire extraordinaire. The canyon also offers 19 hiking trails, as well as opportunities to observe plants and wildlife.

How to get there: hop on a bus or Hummer tour, or rent a car

How far from Vegas: approx. 35-minute drive

Zion National Park

Known for its red, white and pink rock formations, Zion National Park is a feast for the eyes. Located in Springdale, Utah, the park offers a stark contrast between desert areas and pockets full of waterfalls, ponds and lush greenery. Some major points of interest include Virgin River, Checkerboard Mesa, Weeping Rock and Emerald Pools.

How to get there: hop on a bus tour, rent a car, or take a helicopter ride

How far from Vegas: approx. 2.5 hour-drive; flight times vary depending on chosen tour

Laughlin

laughlin

Laughlin is no Vegas, but this gambling city’s smaller-town-feel and lower costs make it an attractive alternative to the glitz and glam of the Strip. In addition to casinos, you’ll find shopping, spas and golf courses. Its location on the banks of the Colorado River and its proximity to Lake Mohave also mean opportunities for fishing, swimming, boating and other aquatic activities.

How to get there: hop on a bus tour, or rent a car

How far from Vegas: 1.5 hour-drive

Ready to make the trip from the Strip? Learn more about your options for sightseeing tours from Vegas so you can get started on planning!

27 Jan

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Celebrating in the sun

January 27, 2014 | By |

… just got better. Take your wedding to the sun, and suddenly finding places for everyone to stay, planning the entertainment and finalizing the menu, all become a breeze. Many of our resorts offer fantastic wedding specials and on-site wedding coordinators who can take care of just about everything from the flowers, the food and the music to the seating arrangements and table decorations. The only things left for you to worry about are how many swimsuits to bring and how many people to invite. And the larger the group, the easier it gets. For groups of 10 or more, Air Canada Vacations has travel specialists ready to organize all your travel plans from flights and hotels to great rates and other perks. Celebrating in the sun simply unforgettable.

Forty in Vegas

As if my group of friends hadn’t done enough for my 40th a whole weekend in Vegas with the 10 of us golfing, dining and taking in great shows I found myself on the last day in a helicopter high above the Grand Canyon. Great majestic cliffs and the tiny blue ribbon of the Colorado way down below. It was a stunning sight and perhaps the best birthday present I’ve ever received.

Family Caribbean Cruise

We’d shopped the market in St. Thomas. We’d climbed to Brimstone Hill Fortress on St. Kitts. We’d tasted spicy treats on Grenada. My parents’ retirement had been toasted. My husband had discovered a passion for hot tubs. My sister and her husband had fallen in love again at the piano bar. All the kids, all six of them, had made great friends at the kids’ club. And now, on our way to dive the blue waters of Bonaire, I stood on the bow of our cruise ship and looked up at the glorious night sky—sparkling stars as far as far can be.

The time of my life in London

Still jetlagged, my gang of friends and I clambered into our seats at the Prince of Wales Theatre. The place was electric. Hundreds of ABBA fans all crowded in to see the 10th anniversary of Mamma Mia in London. The curtain went up and I think I sang along with every single song. After the bows and the cheering, I thought it was over and then… Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson actually appeared onstage and I just went berserk.

02 Dec

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4 destinations to kick-off the New Year

December 2, 2013 | By |

Crack open the bubbly It's New Year's!

by Ilona Kauremszky

Every holiday has its traditions. Why not start the New Year with your own? I did and haven't looked back. Over the years I've been to amazing places with blockbuster year-end celebrations. So get ready to fasten your seatbelt for this ultimate New Year's party list.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Banderas Bay is the place to be. Just as the clock strikes midnight, spectacular fireworks burst into the sky along this popular hotel strip. Each resort prepares a memorable medley of Technicolor, all vying for the best displays. It's a symphony of fire in the sky. I also like how the pubs are packed along the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta. It's sheer mayhem.

Cancun, Mexico

Cancun's all about the ultimate sun vacation and makes a great stress-free getaway. With so many direct flights, you can opt to travel with family and friends and be on the beach with your favourite umbrella drink. Be prepared to be mesmerized by the ample New Year's Eve celebrations too. I like staying at the hotel for New Year's madness because of the convenience factor. You can dance for hours and make an easy return to your room.

Las Vegas, USA

They don't call it the Entertainment Capital of the World for nothing. Just when you thought the celebrations can't get any bigger in Vegas, they get bigger. I can't get over how the Las Vegas Strip packs in the revellers, and fireworks light up the Nevada sky. Meanwhile A-listers attract their own following as they perform their greatest hits on stages across the city.

New York City, USA

I kept my round-rimmed 2000 glasses as a souvenir of my rocking good time in New York City when we blew our party horns there. Head to Times Square where traditionalists converge. Others find party madness across the boroughs or go all Woody Allenish and sit beside their paramour by the Queensboro Bridge with a glass of bubbly.

27 Jun

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Viva Las Vegas!

June 27, 2011 | By |

 

How I wish there were more

Than the twenty-four hours in the day

Cause even if there were forty more

I wouldn’t sleep a minute away

Elvis Presley

Much has been said, sung and written about Las Vegas; with good reason. It’s the ultimate escape where time is irrelevant and adrenaline-fuelled nights dissolve into sun-soaked days. Not to mention the fact that it’s the fastest growing metropolis in the United States.

Never one to pass up an opportunity for great food, awe-inspiring hotels and some of the best shopping in the world, two girlfriends and I recently made our mark on Sin City. And how!

Our three-day escapade started at Planet Hollywood, a Caesars Entertainment hotel with star-worthy accommodations. Our room featured a display case with the dress worn by Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest as well as a variety of Bonnie and Clyde memorabilia, including Faye Dunaway’s famous fedora!

We dined at the Strip House on our first night and I literally fell in love with my meal: Maine lobster linguini. Mmm. My friends Judith and Joelle equally enjoyed their meals, sesame crusted yellow fin tuna and pan seared red salmon, respectively. Executive Chef John Shenck created the menu which is a tasty mix of surf and turf, fresh from the sea and with all of the best cuts. The rich, red, burlesque-like atmosphere was also the perfect precursor to our next stop: Holly Madison’s Peepshow.

Peepshow is a sophisticated burlesque show led by Holly Madison, best known for her television shows Holly’s World and The Girls Next Door. It was a fun and sexy romp through Madison’s world which is ripe with beautiful, and talented, dancers and singers. And Timber! After Peepshow the good times continued at Gallery Nightclub, where we skipped the line, enjoyed complimentary drinks and danced the night away.

After checking-in at Caesars Palace I did a little dance when I saw the heavenly Jacuzzi in our room. After spending some down time at the pool, soaking up the rays and the tunes, we ordered takeout from the Beijing Noodle No. 9. From its dramatic entrance flanked by giant fish tanks to its authentic Northern Chinese cuisine, it did not disappoint.

A delicious, casual noodle shop, we especially enjoyed the mouth-watering handmade, knife-cut noodles and dim sum, which we ate while watching television in our room. Thank you Executive Chef Li Yu!

Later that night, after a long soak in the Jacuzzi and a tasty dinner, we made our way to PURE, Caesars’ hottest nightclub. With a great view of the Strip and four different atmospheres on two storeys, it was definitely a night to remember. But you know what they say? What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!

Our third day was taken up by shopping at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino where we pillaged Bettie Page, a vintage-inspired clothing store.

 

As the King sang “Bright light city gonna set my soul, gonna set my soul on fire… Viva Las Vegas.”