Tuesday, November 29, 2011

So Small

One item on our ‘must do in San Francisco’ list was to take a visit to some giant redwood trees. As I was preparing my ‘clipboard of fun,’ I headed to my favorite online tour site, viator.com to see if I could find something that would take me to these giant trees. I was in luck – the site offered a great tour to Muir Woods that included a stop in the seaside village of Sausalito AND a boat cruise of the Bay. Sweetness!

Muir Woods is a national monument that is located just a short distance from the Golden Gate Bridge. It is the site of a virgin forest of California Coast redwood trees, among the oldest and tallest on earth. The tour we took allowed us a decent amount of time to explore the park and walk amongst the tall trees. The average age of the coastal redwoods at Muir Woods is between 600 to 800 years, with the oldest being at least 1200 years old. The trees actually stretch so far up that they provided the perfect canopy for the sun to peek through enough as you walk beneath them. I easily took hundreds of pictures that morning because the scenery was simply breathtaking and like nothing I had ever experienced before.  Below are a few of my favorites.

Before heading back over the bridge, the tour had a short stop in the charming town of Sausalito. Dan and I had a quick bite to eat and some super delicious ice cream as we strolled all the town had to offer. We definitely could have spent much more time window shopping among the cute shops and art galleries that lined the streets, and the beautiful marina that housed dozens of beautiful boats we could only dream of owning.

The last part of our tour was a narrated boat ride around the Bay where we got amazingly up close to Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, even riding directly underneath the bridge. A word to the wise, if you plan on taking a boat ride in San Francisco, brace for wind. It was so windy that a group of old ladies literally had to hold each other down as they took pictures, and Dan came perilously close to donating his favorite hat to the San Francisco Bay. And I thought Chicago was the Windy City…

Monday, November 28, 2011

We Sang Dirges in the Dark

Even though Dan and I had visited Las Vegas twice, last month marked our first trip out to Fremont Street. Just a short cab ride from the Strip, Fremont Street is a neon paradise and home to some of Vegas’ first and most classic hotels and casinos like the Golden Nugget and the Pioneer Club. A little bit less polished than its Las Vegas Boulevard counterpart, Fremont Street offers up a grittier version of Las Vegas than I was used to. And ya know what? I liked it.

Our first stop was to the Golden Nugget where we hit the penny slots and scouted out our spot for the night – Gold Diggers Bar. It didn’t open until 9pm so we had plenty of time to take in the sights before drinking until the sun came up. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain during the Fremont Street Experience and even though the street is ‘covered’ by a canopy, the rain still made its way through. We had to find salvation under a casino’s awning and even though we still got wet, it was worth it. The first light show we watched was set to Don McLean’s American Pie – one of my favorite songs ever. It was really fun to watch the visuals above and sing along at the same time.

After the first show, we braved the rain and walked down the strip. I may or may not have been lured in a random casino by free Mardi Gras beads. Despite the crappy weather (who knew it rained in the desert!) I was able to take a bunch of pictures before heading back to the Golden Nugget to use (read: lose) the money my dad gave us to play on the oversized slot machine. Oops, sorry Dad.

Vegas Vicky
For the best view of downtown, head to Gold Diggers Bar. If you perch yourself at an outside table, you’re provided with a front row seat to all the action AND an up-close view of the iconic neon cowboy, Vegas Vic.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

One Armed Bandit

My name is Stephanie and I am addicted to penny slot machines. Sure, I used to make fun of people who played them thinking ‘what is the point of playing for such little money,’ but then, I took one for a whirl and I have not looked back. In the past few months, I have taken my obsession to casinos in Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Central City, CO and the new racino in Queens, NY. 

The Resorts World Casino in Queens has only been open for a few weeks, yet we thought it would be a good idea to take a peek. Big mistake. Now, don’t get me wrong - the casino itself is actually really nice and home to a bunch of good restaurants. But with a huge demand and not enough slot machines, it was next to impossible to find one to park myself in front of. And when I did get lucky and find a vacant machine, I felt myself being ‘stalked’ by someone waiting to get on the machine next. Fail. The only redeeming part of the day was finding this gem of a slot machine. I mean, could it be more perfect??

Too bad my good pal, Max Win didn’t make an appearance. He goes down as the best slot machine ever. My dad actually had a huge win on this machine in Atlantic City so it became my number one priority to track it down during my last visit. Working off explicit directions from my dad (you’ll see a staircase on your left…take it ten paces until you reach the Godfather machine) we found him. Notice how I speak of this machine as if it were a real person? Yes, problems. Max was good to me and now I have become obsessed with finding him in every casino I go to. 1-800-GAMBLER - expect a call from me soon.

Best friends for life

Friday, November 11, 2011


"This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave." -Elmer Davis.

Happy Veteran's Day

pic via wikipedia

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Bridge to the Future

“You can trust us to wake up every day remembering the people we saw on the bus trips, the people we saw in the town meetings, the people we touched at the rallies, the people who had never voted before, the people who hadn’t voted in 20 years, the people who’d never voted for a Democrat, the people who had given up hope, all of them together saying we want our future back. And I intend to help give it to you…Together we can do it. Together we can make this country that we love everything it was meant to be. I still believe in a place called Hope.”  -President-elect, Bill Clinton, Little Rock, AR, November 3, 1992

Ah politics. One of my least favorite subjects ever. But since I have such a strong love for history, I have to accept that the two of them overlap quite a bit. A perfect way to get a nice blend of both history and politics is a visit to a Presidential Library and Museum. Situated in the hometown of each President since Herbert Hoover, these museums offer the best glimpse into each President’s life and most importantly, time in office. This past year, we’ve visited two of these libraries – FDR’s and Bill Clinton’s. (Recap on FDR’s to come in a future post.)

You'll find the William J. Clinton Presidential Center located along the banks of the Arkansas River.  It was important for President Clinton to have this Center built in his home-state of Arkansas - specifically Little Rock - a city that played a tremendous role in the Civil Rights Movement.  It was during this time that Clinton developed his extremely passionate views on equality and civil rights that stayed with him through his entire life and career.

Before entering the actual exhibit space, a quick film is shown that takes you through Clinton’s life – from his upbringing to his time in office, to today. After the film ends (and you wipe away your tears, like I did) you have free reign to walk around the museum. The first stop is the area devoted to President Clinton’s campaign. Next, is an entire room devoted to the Cabinet and is set up exactly as it appeared during the Clinton Presidency. I made myself at home in the President’s seat.

The museum does an amazing job of chronicling each year of the Clinton Presidency, highlighting his political accomplishments for each year served. A good amount of space was devoted to each year served, right down to the volumes of binders containing his exact itinerary for each day he was in office - complete with morning jogs that we all know may have been skipped! Behind the glass of the display cases were letters sent to the President from average Americans telling him of their hardships and thanking him for doing his best to help them out. Many of these letters actually moved me to tears. Separate displays were set up for letters from notable celebrities like Paul Newman, Elton John and John F. Kennedy Jr. Not one to shy away from controversy, there was also some attention paid to the Monica Lewinsky scandal.  It was not ignored or just glossed right over, which was pretty refreshing.

Upstairs, you’ll find many of the gifts that President Clinton received while he was in office – ranging from tokens exchanged with Heads of State to personal gifts from ordinary Americans (like paintings of the First Cat, Socks). There are also a bunch of biography cases devoted to the President’s upbringing in Arkansas. These included everything from kindergarten drawings done by "Billy Clinton," to school term papers, to his very first campaign flyers, to even some mementos from his courtship with Hillary. This was one of my favorite parts of the whole museum.

But perhaps the best part is saved for last – a replica of the Clinton Oval Office. President Clinton's office was designed by Arkansan Kaki Hockersmith, who used a vibrant color palette of cream, gold, crimson and sapphire blue. President Clinton brought back JFK’s Resolute Desk into the Oval Office where it remains today.

Please visit here and here for more information.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Favorites: Walking in Memphis

I’m not ashamed to admit that Marc Cohn’s Walking in Memphis is one of my favorite songs of all time. There is just something about it that I truly love. When we visited Memphis this past April, that song was pretty much on loop in my head the entire time. And it didn’t help that the elevator banks’ walls at our hotel were plastered with the lyrics.

Our one and only ‘big night out’ in Memphis was spent at Silky O’Sullivan's on Beale Street. You see, the Knicks were playing the Celtics in Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs so it was mandatory for Dan to sniff out a big screen TV to watch the game. We marched right into the blues/dueling piano/sports bar and literally planted ourselves directly in front of the biggest screen in the place. For the entire first half of the game, no one else seemed to care about it…until the second half when a man and his two sons sat right next to us. Of COURSE, they were from Boston and of COURSE they were hard core rooting against us. I hated these people. I still hate them actually. The only time I threw a smile their way was when one of the two teenage sons walked up to the dueling piano players and requested it. Yep, Walking in Memphis. My song. There was just something amazingly awesome about being on Beale Street, singing that song with a group of strangers. This may be a pretty insignificant moment for some, but for me, this experience goes down as one of my most memorable vacation moments ever.

Needless to say, the Knicks blew the game and we had to buy those jerks a round. Curses!