Road Trip USA-Hoover Dam and Vegas Baby, Vegas!


Who could think of a better time to visit Hoover Dam?  I mean everybody enjoys traversing the desert in mid-July in 110 degree heat, right?  After the extreme camping in the Grand Canyon, we continued our journey on to Las Vegas.  While all of that outdoorsy bonding with the elk was indeed gratifying, we could not ignore the lure of a fancy hotel room and all of its basic amenities, like running water and electricity.  On our way I insisted we stop at Hoover Dam.  It is truly spectacular and I didn’t want Paul to miss out.  Yet, as our Jeep continued to wind down the highway towards the borders of Arizona and Nevada, we kept a close eye on our dashboard and its constant reminder of the rising temperature outside.  By the time we reached Hoover Dam at about 1pm, we had reached the peak of the heat that day and had arrived just in time to find a parking spot in the furthest available parking lot around the dam itself.  It seemed we weren’t the only fools who found it necessary to visit one of the country’s biggest spectacles in engineering on the hottest day of the year.


We spent a total of 10 minutes at Hoover Dam.  We didn’t even want to open the doors of the Jeep to venture outside, and when we finally did, the hot air slammed into us like a wall.  We descended the many steps from our parking space high above the dam and wiped beads of sweat from our faces as we walked.  Paul snapped a few photos as we admired the steep walls and rushing water below.  Then we ascended the stairs as quickly as we could and rushed back to our Jeep to blast the air conditioning.  At this point, we were Vegas bound and had about 30 more miles to go before we reached the famous Vegas Strip.


Using our Hotel Tonight app, we scored a room at The New Tropicana for $40.  See our Santa Fe post to read about how much we love Hotel Tonight.  The New Tropicana is really a DoubleTree by Hilton and is the renovated remains of the old Tropicana.  It is not affiliated with the Tropicana in Atlantic City, and for this reason, does not honor Tropicana cards.  You must register for The New Tropicana card to earn rewards.  We read some pretty negative reviews about the former Tropicana hotel, and, because of this, I approached The New Tropicana with a bit of reservation.  However, there was no reason for concern.  We made an excellent choice.


While The New Tropicana does not look as immense or as Disney-like as some of the other hotels on the Strip, we highly recommend it for many reasons.  First, the lines at check-in are not nearly as intense as the lines at some of the bigger hotels.  In fact, if you do encounter a line at check-in and you complain about it, I urge you to go stand in line to check in at the Venetian or Caesars.  Those places are huge and, as a result, insane amounts of people are checking in each day.  Second, the Strip around The New Tropicana is not as crowded as it is in other areas.  You can actually walk between casinos and not get trampled on by thousands of drunken tourists.  Third, The New Tropicana has a fabulous outdoor pool and deck that makes you forget you’re in the middle of the hot desert and gives you a much-needed break from the jingling of slot machines.  Fourth, it’s $40 a night and it’s clean!  For this reason, we added another night to our stay just to savor in a good night’s sleep before the cross country adventure headed towards California.


Finally, let’s talk about food.  In my opinion, this is the most important piece of the traveling pie.  In an effort to have an elegant and tasty dinner, we relied on one of our favorite New York City chefs to bring Italy to Vegas-Mario Batali.  Being huge fans of Lupa, Mario’s NYC masterpiece in the Village, we headed to the Venetian to eat at B & B Ristorante, a restaurant by Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich.  We started our dinner date with an appetizer of silky burrata with olive oil, followed by our carefully chosen main dishes.  Paul ordered the Bucatini “all” Amatriciana while I decided on the Spaghetti with One Pound Lobster.  I know what you are thinking.  Who orders spaghetti with a one pound lobster?  The waiter promised me it would be delicious and I’m glad I trusted him on this one.  The lobster, already removed from the shell, was succulent and flavorful and was a perfect complement to the blend of spaghetti, spicy budding chives, and sweet garlic.  While my meal was excellent, I could tell that Paul found his Amatriciana to be just average.  Unfortunately, we left B & B Ristorante with mixed feelings.  We love and adore Mario Batali and everything he stands for in NYC, but there was something missing from our experience in Vegas.  Perhaps it had less to do with the food and more to do with the intimate experience we always have at Lupa that seemed to be nonexistent in Vegas.  Or maybe it was because the prices are extravagantly higher than what we normally pay in New York City.  I’m not sure we can really put our finger on what exactly disappointed us the most, but we think, in large part, we are obsessed with Lupa and we held it to Lupa standards.  Obviously, our beloved little Italian eatery in the Village is one of a kind.

Aside from eating and relaxing, Paul and I found time to wander the Strip a little.  We found ourselves strangely traveling the world “Vegas” style.  Here are a few of the places we wandered into…



New York City…




After we traveled around the world in just one walk, we headed to this joint.  Paul wanted to see it.  It’s a real hoot if you ask me…


Then, we wanted to see for ourselves if Caesar really lived here…


And just in case you are wondering, no, we didn’t make a stop in Paris on our Vegas worldwide tour.  That’s just not my tower…


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