Tuesday, July 8, 2014

From Bombshells To Just...Well...Bombs

Greetings readers! I apologize for the delay in this, my final entry for my trip to Nevada in May. I've had a lot going on for the month of June, so this is truly the first moment I've had to tell you about my time at the National Atomic Testing Museum.

Above the ticket booth inside the museum
This was my sister's choice for a museum outing- I personally was not interested in the atomic bomb testings or on those kooky 1950s stories about aliens and UFO crashings. However, since she picked it, we went there. It was accessible via the Deuce Bus (you'll need to transfer) and took about 20-25 minutes total in traffic to get there from the MGM. This museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate, and as I also work at a Smithsonian Affiliate institution I received a nice discount on admission (half price if I remember correctly). When you first walk in, it seems as if this place is going to be a weird homage to aliens and pie-tin flying saucer movies (as you can see from the picture above) but thankfully the entire museum wasn't like that.

Display case showing all of the products marketed using an atomic theme
Essentially, the museum touched on both the scientific and cultural impact America's nuclear testing had on history. Admittedly, some of the more boring parts (to me) were the scientific areas- while it is cool to see actual bombs and replicas of the parts, reading about technical achievements weren't exactly up my alley.

Try and contain your enthusiasm folks...

I did, however, learn a lot from the cultural aspects of the museum. Like the JC Penney fall out shelters (maybe those would help boost sales for them now), the economic impact the testing companies had on the region, and the tourism sparked by mushroom cloud viewings and bomb parties. Those sort of tidbits make the time seem relatable, more than a 1:18 scale model ever could.

Take that Walmart! We sell bomb shelters!
There was an "Area 51" section that you have to pay extra money to enter, which we did not. Also, there was a seemingly out of place display about September 11th that had pieces of actual building in it. Upon further inspection you find out that it is dedicated to men and women from the area that have lost their lives to tragedies such as that.

Piece of steel from the Twin Towers after September 11th

My only negative from my time here actually came from my sister. She picked this museum, and wasn't taking time to read or learn or interact with the exhibits. Just kinda breezing through and rushing me as if she was doing ME a favor. Folks, museums are places to immerse yourself in a particular topic, or art, or history, or whatever-- just running through everything (unless you are an expert museum goer such as myself) pretty much misses the point. She slowed down a bit once I told her we didn't have to rush or be anywhere by a certain time. It was a reminder to me that not everyone frequents museums the way I do, so some things just don't occur to them.

A hallway in the museum designed to look like it's underground
with my sister prepping to take a picture
Well, that (finally) wraps up Nevada. I leave for Oklahoma in just over 2 weeks, and you know I've got my itinerary ready! I can say this- I'm excited most about the food! Chicken fried steak, barbecue, and whatever the heck an onion burger is are all things I've read are must haves!

Still working on finalizing a few more travel plans for August, September, and October (Georgia, New Jersey and/or New York, and Michigan, respectively) but I really need to see what my life and wallet are looking like at that time. Also, some other things on the horizon that may hinder my blog goal- but we'll get more into those if they become an actual factor.

As always, thank you for reading my blog, and I'll see you on the next adventure!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Different Hall Of Fame

In the (almost three!) years since I started this blog, I've been to a few halls of fame. There was basketball in Massachusetts, tennis in Rhode Island, and football in Ohio. Those were all great in their own ways, and while in Las Vegas, I was able to add another- albeit more risque- hall of fame to my list. Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting The Burlesque Hall of Fame!

Imagine a trumpet fanfare and some sexy red curtains revealing this fab sign

This museum was located in Downtown (read: old) Las Vegas, one block away from the last stop of the Deuce Bus. Let me warn you ahead of time- it's tiny. My sister and I walked past it three times before we realized the BHOF was actually a smaller component of some hipster looking bar. It was free to enter, which is a good thing because the "museum" is actually just three small rooms with information on the walls and a few outfits on display.

Image from the wall of the Museum
That's not a slight, mind you. The information covered was very interesting and told a story that I feel is a huge part of the whole Las Vegas "mystique". I was a bit disappointed because I'd missed the exhibit about people of color in burlesque by about a week or two. The woman working pointed out a few postcards left from the exhibit that were still for purchase in the gift shop, but without the story behind them I wasn't as interested. Hopefully (maybe) someday they'll publish a book on it- they'll have at least one customer!

Some of the costumes on display
Now, part of me hopes that one day the BHOF will get its own space and be this big huge marvelous testament to the art of burlesque-- not the seedy soft porn vibe people sometimes associate with it. It's a great concept that deserves a few minutes of your time (my sister and I stayed about 15 minutes). While we were on our way out, another woman came in and started a conversation with the woman working there- apparently they both actually PERFORM burlesque- which was cool. But I was trying to make a check donation and the conversation kinda killed the moment by not being able to step in and ask who I should write my check to. I didn't end up making that donation because she hinted that they didn't accept checks, which kinda sucked because I had no cash on me and didn't want to put my donation on a credit card. I highly encourage everyone to donate a few dollars to them though, it is one of those quirky places that often get ignored in the world of cultural giving. If you don't want give money they also have a wish list of stuff they need too!

Doubly sad I didn't get to add money to the pasty-adorned donation box!
Overall, a pretty cool stop while in Vegas. I'd be interested to see where it goes from here!

You can see the rest of my pictures from the BHOF on my Facebook page, and as always, thank you for reading my blog- we'll see you on the next adventure!

EDIT (6/19/2014)

So in my rush to get this entry typed, I forgot to include the link to a very informative podcast that I listened to days before the trip. It is from the podcast "How Stuff Works", and the topic is of course, burlesque. It gives a very detailed history in about 50 minutes of dialog. I still have it on my phone and will probably listen to it again someday. You can listen to it here. Enjoy!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Tips for the Strip

I was in Vegas for 5 days.In that time I did a lot of bus riding and a lot of walking along the famous Las Vegas Strip. This is the part of Vegas everyone thinks about when they think about "Vegas". And it is pretty impressive. Huge casinos/mini worlds with bright lights loud noises all around. It was tacky and elegant all at once, if you can imagine that. This post is going to highlight some features of the Strip and give you a few of my suggestions if you find yourself on your first trip to Vegas sometime soon.

The Las Vegas Strip at night
Image from Wikipedia
First and foremost. I don't care how close you think that next building is-- understand that it is NOT. Vegas blocks put me in the mindset of New York City, in that the blocks were long, crowded, busy, and did I mention they were long? Look, I am an AVID walker...and even I was getting frustrated with how long it took to get to places. Even crossing the street could be a lengthy process- because of the large numbers of people walking around, they have installed escalators to take you up and over streets. Which I guess helps drivers, but easily adds time on to your already lengthy walk.Do yourself a favor, and pay the $20 for a 3 day pass to ride the Deuce Bus.

It felt like Christmas every time we saw one of these babies!
With temperatures that easily rise to over 100 degrees in the day time, these frequent, air conditioned beauties will be your best friend! They don't always stop directly in front of where you want to go, but they get you a lot closer, a lot faster than your feet alone will. At most stops there is an actual employee standing there to give directions and help orient you. Quite a few times my sister and I rode just to see the sights. The express version of this, the SDX, skips a lot of stops and gets you out to Downtown Las Vegas (read: old Las Vegas) a lot faster than the often sluggish Deuce will. 

The Las Vegas Monorail
Another transportation option is the Las Vegas Monorail. It doesn't stop at every casino, but it's even faster than the express Deuce. We rode it from our hotel (the MGM Grand) to Harrah's where we could transfer to a free shuttle to get to the Rio (which is off the Strip) and see Penn & Teller perform. This baby costs $5 each way to ride, though it's cheaper if you buy your tickets round trip ahead of time.

Another option is to hail a taxi. Let me go ahead and tell you that your best bet for catching a taxi is to hoof it to the closest hotel to you, and waiting in line with everyone else- it's nearly impossible to get a cab off the street! I will say every last cabbie we had was friendly, and the rides were reasonable. I don't think we paid more than $10 to get anywhere, and most of the cabs had the machinery to take credit cards (a huge plus for me as I rarely carry cash!)

The Luxor
There were lots of beautiful buildings along the strip, but my personal favorite was The Luxor Hotel and Casino. Shaped like an onyx pyramid, and for some reason beaming a bright light up into the sky, my sister and I came here often- especially when we found out both the MGM and Luxor (and a host of other properties, including New York New York with it's awesome looking roller coaster that I didn't get to ride...) are owned by the same company. The main perk of the Luxor? They not only had the best tasting food from the casinos we tried, they had the most AFFORDABLE food on the strip! Whereas a breakfast buffet at MGM cost us nearly $40 each, at the Luxor, we paid $18 for the buffet- and they have a non-buffet menu with prices starting at $9 for pancakes. Our wallets were very pleased when we found this place!

The famous "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign
Then there was that Vegas icon I talked about on my post on the Neon Museum- the famous "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign. Remember how I said that no matter how close things look, they are much much farther away in reality? My sister and I walked for nearly 40 minutes down Las Vegas Boulevard to get a picture of/with the sign. I went at night, following other travelers' advice that said it's let's crowded than in the day- but I paid the price for avoiding the confusion. Because the night is SO dark and the sign is SO bright, it was nearly impossible to get a good picture. There were "professional" photographers there, but they were so busy arguing among themselves they didn't even bother to try and help us until we'd already taken our shots. Take my advice if you wanna see it. Get up early, ride the Deuce to Mandalay Bay (the last stop in that direction) and be prepared for another 20+ minutes of walking. Take the pic early, then scramble back up to the Luxor before it gets crowded for breakfast.

The beautiful Bellagio
My favorite thing of the entire Strip experience, was getting to see the magical Bellagio Fountains. I have been amazed by them, seeing them on different shows about travel, engineering, and the wonders of water. I was impressed by my hotel and all the attractions of Vegas, but when you reach the part of the Strip where the Bellagio is you are quickly reminded that not everyone comes as a budget traveler lol! In the summer, the shows run every 15 minutes, and I was able to catch on of the longer performances, "Luck be a Lady" by Frank Sinatra. You can see my YouTube video of it below:

Well folks, I still have a few more entries for Nevada, and soon I'll be off to OOOOOOOOOklahoma! (Just bought my plane ticket this morning!

As always, thank you for reading my blog, and I'll see you on the next adventure!