This is the perfect place for ‘pinheads’ like us – a museum offering 10,000 square feet of games you can play. What better way to experience some history! This place showcases a collection of hundreds of classic arcade-style pinball games from the 1950s through the 1990s. Older models are a mere quarter to play, while newer (1990s) ones cost just 50 cents. All of the machines are fully operational, situated side-by-side in a bright facility that designed to facilitate nothing more than good, old-fashioned fun.
Well, this isn’t so much a museum per se as it is a well-curated outdoor junkyard of retired casino signs. The Neon Museum offers three separate collections: the Neon Boneyard, the Downtown Gallery and the Las Vegas Signs Project, with signs dating as far back as the 1930s. While the Downtown Gallery is available for viewing 24 hours a day, the Neon Boneyard is only accessible via a guided tour. Check the website for tour information.
The Center for Gaming Research at UNLV
987 E Harmon Ave, Las Vegas, NV [Map]
If you love the games of Vegas, here’s a prize you may not know about: The Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas sponsors a monthly “Gaming Research Colloquium Series.” Some of the topics are academic enough they may not interest the general public – “Data Collection and Analysis as Everyday Gaming” anyone? – but others provide fascinating insight into the culture and science that underpins the whole Vegas experience, like “Surveillance and the Marketing of Vice” or the upcoming discussion of Vegas as Pleasure Mecca. UNLV also hosts a collection of Vegas history artifacts that are worth checking out on their own merits.
Our city and its environs have a storied past that reaches far into history, easily preceding the onset of the casinos. If you’d like a glimpse of our heritage, visit the Clark County Museum (Las Vegas is part of Clark County). It’s an exceptional museum that offers high-caliber exhibits, like the currently running exhibit “Cowboys and Indians: Myth and Reality.” The 30-acre site also hosts a ton of other features, included restored historic buildings and even a reconstructed Ghost Town and Mining Trail.
If you love chocolate, you won’t want to miss this delicious morsel: the Ethel M Chocolate Factory, tucked into the southwest corner of the Vegas community.
Founded by Forrest Mars and named for his mother, the Ethel M Chocolate Factory produces gourmet chocolate through recipes that haven’t changed since their inception. In fact, the factory is still family-owned and operated; chocolate is produced in small batches and boxed by hand; and the chocolate is crafted solely with premium ingredients. As the factory likes to say, “Eat chocolate, not preservatives.”
That’s not to say the famed chocolatiers don’t innovate. A few years ago, under the leadership of then head pastry chef Jin Caldwell, they produced a new line of dozens of custom designed, handmade chocolates while simultaneously re-releasing several varieties of classic, old-school chocolates.
The chocolate factory is a certified hit: it attracts almost 1 million visitors from all over the world visit every year. They come for the chocolate; for the free, self-guided factory tour; and for the beautiful Botanical Cactus Garden.
Note that a visit to the factory will be relatively brief, likely an hour or less; it makes an excellent stop on the way to or from a visit to the Hoover Dam.
Open seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., visitors can take a free tour of the factory. The tour is modest: a simple stroll through the factory that can be as quick or as lingering as you like, concluding in the Ethel M chocolate store, where you’ll get a free sample to enjoy.
And trust us on this: if you haven’t tasted chocolate made fresh, on premises, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Note that since the tour is self-guided and unscheduled, combined with the fact that they produce their chocolates in small batches, you’re not guaranteed to see the machinery working on your visit.
We recommend going outside of lunch hours to maximize your chances of seeing the staff at work. Coming at high season helps too: as Jin Caldwell, Ethel M’s former head pastry chef, explains, “If you come here during holiday season, which is gifting season, then you’re going to see a lot of people working the factory.” She says during those busy times, they sometimes work three shifts.
When you’re finished with the factory tour, head outside to see the factory’s amazing Botanical Cactus Garden.
Boasting beautiful and distinct varieties of cactii – like the Texas Prickly Pear, Teddy Bear Cholla and Bishop’s Cap – and over 300 species of plants spread over four acres, the Cactus Garden displays the Martian beauty of the Las Vegas desert at its liveliest. All of the plants were selected due to their hardiness and ability to adapt to the local climate. Again, the holidays are a prime time to visit: each year, the Cactus Garden lights up into a dazzling display.
Did you miss your chance to visit the factory but still want to sample their sublime chocolates? Never fear: you can find Ethel M chocolates at several locations at McCarran International Airport.
Gates A & B: Located outside of AB Security entrance (Across from Chili’s Restaurant)
Gate C: Located between Gates C4 and C5, next to the Coffee Bean
Gate D: Located Left of the Main Escalator from the Tram
Mulling the glitter and glam of Vegas for your own wedding? If so, you’re in good company: Las Vegas draws millions of engaged couples here each year to celebrate their nuptials. It’s partly the low cost and easy process for getting a license, but there’s more to it than just that.
In our previous post on weddings, we explained why Vegas is the perfect place to elope when you don’t want to deal with all that who-sits-where wedding planning ju-jitsu. But our humble city offers far more than just a streamlined wedding: we promise a fun one. That’s because it’s so easy to create your own personalized, themed wedding that matches the happy couple’s personalities perfectly.
Here’s the Riviera’s quick guide to some of the most popular Las Vegas wedding themes.
This one’s a classic: Elvis. Presley himself married Priscilla here in 1967 at the original Aladdin Hotel (now Planet Hollywood).
Elvis impersonators are a dime a dozen ’round these parts, and being married and serenaded by Elvis is sure to spark a cool wedding whose memories last a lifetime. Not sure where to scare one up? Contact the Riviera wedding coordinators. You can even choose what role Elvis plays in your ceremony: do you want him to officiate? sing? escort you down the aisle? or maybe you want to dress as Elvis? Bonus option: entertain with a Priscilla impersonator as well!
An incredible number of local chapels and casinos offer Elvis-themed weddings, a testament to his enduring legacy here. The Riviera can help: just contact our wedding planning staff to set up your own Elvis dream wedding.
Horror & Fantasy Weddings
Here’s where things get colorful. Down the Strip you’ll find a famous (or infamous?) year-round haunted house, Eli Roth’s Goretorium … at which you can totally get hitched. Wedding packages include a minister dressed as a zombie, vampire or god of gore; appropriately gruesome reception hall; themed cakes; and … of course … a walk through the attraction. Packages start at $666.
You can also find other horrifying weddings that will leave you (or maybe just your mother-in-law) with lifelong nightmares: local wedding chapels can organize weddings themed around Michael Jackson’s Thriller, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Dracula, a graveyard setting or zombies.
If you’d like the fantasy setting but not so dark, don’t worry, you’re covered! You might opt for a Camelot or medieval wedding, replete with dashing knight marrying ravishing royalty.
Honorable Mention: A Cirque Wedding
Love Cirque du Soleil and similarly-styled shows? Then this Las Vegas wedding theme is for you: the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel (highlighted in our post on eloping) offers this magnificently memorable theme. In additional to a theatrical production setup, an aerial team will perform in the air above you during the ceremony.
Want to make your Las Vegas wedding theme a reality?
We’re here to help…we at the Riviera can take care of every detail of your dream ceremony. Just reach out to our wedding chapel and we’ll start planning a wedding that will blow you and your guests away.
Have another wedding theme in mind, or want some more ideas? We’ve only just scratched the surface in this post. Stay tuned for some additional posts with more Las Vegas wedding themes and tips on creating the perfect theme.
Image Credits: Elvis via Wikipedia, Medieval Wedding via sxc.hu
If you’ll be spending the 2012 holidays with us, you’re in for a treat! Vegas virtually transforms into a holiday theme park during the holidays. As the various resorts and casinos decorate, even a simple walk down the Strip becomes a quaint and charming stroll through a wintry wonderland. Moreover, you’ll find plenty of holiday activities and events to get you and your whole family in the season’s spirit!
Here are some of our favorite holiday activities — some secular, some specific to Christmas and others Hanukkah-oriented. But these are just a sampling: we suggest you check with our concierge during your stay for more information on holiday happenings in the area.
We already mentioned the Magical Forest as a fun way to welcome the holiday season on Thanksgiving, but it bears repeating: this place is a holiday marvel. Millions of holiday lights, entertainment, displays, rides, food and more create a fantastically fun experience. All proceeds benefit people with disabilities at Opportunity Village.
Note: the Magical Forest will be celebrating Hanukkah with a special event on December 9. See below for more details.
We’re already great fans of Springs Preserve, and when they do it up big for the holidays? Yeah, we’re there. Their Holiday Spectacular is one of their signature annual events, and it’s a feast for the senses. They create an amazing experience out (eco-friendly) LED lights, holiday treats, crafts, “reindeer” (pony) rides, and more. They’re also hosting a snowman building contest; even if you don’t participate, you can enjoy others’ artistry along the Snowman Stroll.
On Sunday, December 16, the Holiday Spectacular will showcase a Posada, a Mexican Christmas tradition with song, dance, a candlelit procession, pinatas, and traditional food. The celebration will conclude with the tradition of Three Wise Men Day.
Ethel M Chocolate Factory (Free)
2 Cactus Garden Drive, Henderson, NV 89014 [Map]
November 14, 2012 through January 1, 2013 from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (lights nightly from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.) http://ethelschocolate.com
The Ethel M Chocolate Factory will be celebrating its 19th Annual Holiday Cactus Garden this year. In addition to a gorgeous and elaborate light display in their 3-acre cactus garden, guests will also find chocolate art in the shapes of Santa, reindeer, chocolate houses and more.
Town Square Las Vegas (Free)
6605 Las Vegas Blvd South, Las Vegas, NV 89119 [Map]
Town Square Las Vegas is the perfect place to combine some holiday shopping with a holiday-themed experience.
The Las Vegas Motor Speedway transforms into a glittering marvel of lighted displays (all eco-friendly LED lights) accessible by car and benefitting numerous children’s charities. Tip: hit the restroom before you enter the fabulous Avenue of Trees.
If you read our other post on non-holiday December events in Vegas, you know something big — really big — happens this time of the year round these parts: the National Finals Rodeo. If you’re in town for that event and you’d like to sneak in some holiday cheer, you’re in luck. the 2012 NFR Cowboy Christmas Gift Show showcases the best of unique cowboy gifts from hundreds of vendors. The Convention Center is also only a 15-minute walk from our hotel.
Hanukkah & Jewish Events
Light of Life Menorah and Wine Walk ($)
Magical Forest at Oportunity Village, 6300 W. Oakey Blvd, Las Vegas, NV, 89146
Sunday, December 9, 2012 from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM http://www.jfsalv.org
The Jewish Family Service Agency is sponsoring a special menorah lighting at the Magical Forest at Opportunity Village. Along with the candle lighting, they’re also holding a Wine Walk there.
Sponsored by the Jewish Community Center of Southern Nevada, the Bagel Ball is our answer to New York’s Matzo Ball: a giant party for Jewish singles on December 24. Our suggestion: get there early if you want to get your drink on. The open bar switches to a cash bar at 11 p.m.
About to find yourself in Vegas over the Thanksgiving holiday? Here’s a plan for a great Thanksgiving at the Riviera Hotel & Casino.
Start the day off right: The Life Time Fitness Turkey Day 5K
November 22 at 8 a.m.
Fremont Street and Las Vegas Blvd.
An annual event since 1989, participants can run, walk or jog the 3 mile course, which tours historic downtown Las Vegas. A party immediately follows the race. The cost of registration starts at $25.
A word to the wise: This 5K first came to Vegas just last year, and let’s just say that organization was not its strength. It was still a fun race, but the event itself wasn’t so much on track (i.e., when it came to picking up packets, getting started on time, etc). The official website doesn’t even mention Las Vegas! But the 2012 downtown Las Vegas race is stillbeing advertised.
R Steak and Seafood, the Riviera’s celebrated steakhouse, is offering a special prix fixe Thanksgiving menu. The four-course meal includes a choice of roast turkey or Maple Baked ham, plus a bevy of delicious side dishes like orange cranberry sauce, sausage and chestnut stuffing and green beans almandine.
Or, you might opt for a Thanksgiving meal at The Riv Buffet. The enormous buffet will include a carving station for turkey and ham along with a huge selection of other entrees, side dishes and desserts.
Be thankful by giving back while having fun: Magical Forest at Opportunity Village
Opportunity Village is a Las Vegas-based nonprofit for the disabled. Each year, they host the Magical Forest, a multi-acre fest that features holiday entertainment and displays, rides, food and gifts. The holiday decorations – including millions of holiday lights and hundreds of beautifully adorned trees – are spectacular. Guests can further enjoy an antique carousel, a holiday-themed Forest Express Passenger Train, mini-golf, Twas the Night Before Christmas in 3D and more.
This year, Magical Forest opens on November 21 and runs through January 6, 2013. Tickets start at $9. All proceeds benefit people with disabilities at Opportunity Village.
Bring your magical day to a close with the perfect show: ILLUSIONS with celebrated magician Jan Rouven. We recently highlighted this amazing show on our blog, and Thanksgiving is the perfect day to check it out. Jan’s exciting brand of magic tricks will keep you on the edge of your seat and bring to a perfect end to a perfect Thanksgiving Day at the Riviera.
The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement
300 Stewart Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89101 http://themobmuseum.org/
Sunday through Thursday: 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
They don’t call us Sin City for nothing! No wonder the tourist line “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” has proven so successful: Vegas is the vacation people don’t always want to tell stories about.
Oh, but what fascinating stories there are! All the “controversial” activities round these parts have attracted more than their fair share of unsavory elements to our glittering city. You know what we’re talking about: the mob. If you’re interested in exploring this rich and interesting — if not chilling and haunting — topic, may we suggest you visit the newly opened National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, most commonly just called The Mob Museum.
The USA Today travel section put it perfectly in its write-up: “The Las Vegas Mob Museum is a hit, man.”
What you can expect:
A modern, interactive set up.
The museum is a modern multimedia, multisensory, multi-modal experience. It’s the participatory, interactive elements that are the most fun: firing a simulated machine gun, standing in a police line-up and getting a mug shot taken, engaging in FBI-style surveillance, even sitting in actual electric chair used to execute hundreds of prisoners. But you’ll find the dynamic exhibits tell their stories through many different media: artifacts, photos, videos, displays, real audio recordings, and more.
The creative director, Dennis Barrie, is an experienced hand at cultivating interactive museum experiences. He worked with the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. He designed the Mob Museum to tell a compelling story from two competing perspectives — law enforcement and the criminal element.
Among the many exhibits:
Bringing down the Mob
Organized Crime Around the World
Myths of the Mob
The Game Continues
Plus, one great thing about this museum: you can take photos!
An immersive experience.
The museum is housed inside the old, restored Post Office/Court House in downtown Vegas. It’s the same spot where Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver held hearing — which he did in 14 cities nationwide — in 1950–51 in order to expose and control organized crime and its activities. As you watch videos and read about these hearings, you’ll sit in the actual rooms used. “We do consider the building to be really our ultimate artifact,” says Jonathan Ullman, the museum’s Executive Director.
The Mob Museum also offers some cool artifacts from the height of the mob era. For example, the museum hosts part of the wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago, against which is projected a video about the terrible February 14 event.
A sizable, lengthy tour of the struggle between law enforcement and organized crime.
We recommend allowing at least two hours to tour, and frankly you should probably set aside the entire afternoon. You could easily spent 60 to 90 minutes per floor, and there are three floors. It depends on how thorough you are in doing all the reading, absorbing the exhibits and participating in the interactive elements. The crowd will also make a difference: if the museum is packed, you might have to wait a few minutes just to get up to the next exhibit close enough to read the write-up.
A few warnings:
Exercise discretion in bringing children.
Many of the exhibits are graphic. In particular, you’ll find photos of actual mob hits, and they’re not pretty. In fact, even grown-ups may hesitate at some of them. If you do take pre-teens, we suggest asking the staff for suggestions which exhibits would be best to bypass or hurry through.
There’sa lotof reading.
While the museum has a lot of cool artifacts, photos, and interactive exhibits on display, most of what you’ll be perusing are photos and write-ups. Also, not quite everything is labeled, so you might sometimes wonder what you’re looking at. (The museum is working on this; it’s the unfortunate result of the museum being less than a year old and opening behind schedule).
To get to the museum:
Parking is available on the west side of the building for $5
November is a wonderful time to visit Vegas. The falling temperatures are perfect (with an average high of 67 F, low 42 F, rainfall 0.43”), and tourist crowds are beginning to thin. Combine those two facts, and you’re in for a relaxed, comfortable trip.
In addition to hitting the Strip, this is a great time of year for outdoor day trips, like visiting Springs Preserve (see below to find out how you can do that for free this month), or outdoor sports like golfing. We recommend packing and dressing in layers to accommodate the range of temperatures you’ll encounter.
We’re so excited to be hosting Natasha Leggero at our own Starlite Theatre this November! There’s a good chance you already recognize this celebrated comedienne from her appearances on Chelsea Lately, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, Last Call with Carson Daly and multiple stand-up shows on Comedy Central. This is one fun show that’s sure to tickle your funny bones.
Vegas celebrates its arts community the first Friday of every month. It’s a fun and family-friendly event that includes artists, vendors and activities. It’s also free, but you may want to bring along some cash if you plan on purchasing any art or taking advantage of the many, many food trucks. The celebration also usually features multiple live bands and live performance “paintings.” It’s one of our favorite events to take the family, get away from the Strip for an evening and discover a cornucopia of artisans specializing in all kinds of media, like painting, photography, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, and more.
For more information about getting there and what it includes, visit their website.
2012 Dinosaur Ball – End of the World Party! ($)
Saturday, November 10 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Las Vegas Natural History Museum, 900 Las Vegas Blvd N, Las Vegas, NV
Will this be the party to end all parties? For the 2012 Dinosaur Ball, the Las Vegas Natural History Museum drew inspiration from the Mayans, whose calendar ends (yeah, right!) on December 21.
Details haven’t been announced yet, but the Dinosaur Ball is typically a high-class fundraising affair for the museum, including cocktails, dinner, a silent auction, and live entertainment. Last year, tickets started at $250.
One of the largest and most diverse aviation events in the nation, Aviation Nation shines a spotlight on America’s military achievements around the globe. The event includes approximately 100 ground aircraft displays as well as aerial demonstrations. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will headline the two-day event.
Events this November are going to give you vertigo. Coming down from the high of Aviation Nation 2012, we look forward to being firmly grounded at the Motor Trend International Auto Show, which will showcase hundreds of current and upcoming car and truck models. Tickets start at $7.
The Las Vegas Convention Center is about a ten-minute walk from the Riviera:
November 1–4, 2012, show times vary by day
The Smith Center, 361 Symphony Park Avenue, Las Vegas, NV http://zoppe.net/
Napoleone and Ermengilda Zoppe’ founded Circo Zoppe’ in 1842, and the modern incarnation manages to capture all the charm and magic of an old-school circus brought into the modern world. Audiences in the small arena will be treated to acrobatics, equestrian showmanship, clowns and more. This circus provides an intimate experience – rife with audience participation! – that’s often missing from bigger productions, without losing any of the thrills or humor. Tickets start at $28.
Labor Day Weekend is one of Las Vegas’s most exciting times of the year, with parties galore set against the backdrop of the stunning September desert. Here’s some of what’s on tap for Labor Day Weekend 2012 in the entertainment capital of the world. (Labor Day is Monday, September 3rd.)
But first, a tip:
Book a Room at the Riviera Las Vegas Hotel & Casino
Not only do we have some of the most competitive rates in town – and a fantastic, classic hotel to book – but you can save even more money on your room rate at the Riviera by booking online with us directly. (We’re also pet-friendly: bringing the pooch definitely saves money over hiring a sitter or kennel.)
In a desert town that worships the water, one of the best parts about staying at the Riviera Hotel & Casino is the opportunity to indulge in the most glamorous pool party around.
Our guests are glamorous, sexy and ready to soak in the fun next to our shimmering pool. Have a cocktail and work on your tan during the day so that you look oh-so-Vegas at night.
Take in a Show
Here at the Riviera, we’ve got lots of entertainment on tap to help you celebrate your three-day weekend in style.
Extreme Midget Wrestling
Saturday, September 1st and Sunday, September 2nd 8:00 PM In the Royal Pavilion
Oh, yes, we did say it: extreme midget wrestling is here! You won’t believe the hardcore midget mayhem that abounds when nonstop midget violence takes over our Royal Pavilion. Not only do they jump off bars, hit each other with trash cans and staple guns, and do everything they can to defend their titles, but they even take it out into the crowd! A crazy-fun event not to be missed.
The “Metal” King Friday, August 31st and Saturday, September 1st 9:00 PM and 11:00 PM In Le Bistro Lounge
Nominated as Vegas’s #1 Tribute Band for the 2012 Vegas Rocks Awards, The “Metal” King is an 80s-stlye hard rock tribute to Elvis that merges the songs of the King with the best of heavy metal. The energy they bring to the stage is second-to-none, and their unique blend of classic Elvis tunes with heavy metal favorites creates a 90-minute, unforgettable music experience we at the Riviera are proud to host.
Crazy Girls Every night except Tuesdays 9:30 PM Mardi Gras Theatres, Level 2
There are no more stunning, sexy showgirls in Sin City than right here at the Riviera: Crazy Girls is the all-new edition of the most sensuous, funniest and most musical topless revue ever to grace a Vegas stage. Tickets are available at the link above.
Nothing can top Las Vegas, but Nevada does have one other mighty claim to fame that’s only about an hour outside of town: the Hoover Dam. This engineering marvel transformed the Southwest, making it possible to actually live in Las Vegas and the rest of the region.
Getting to the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead
As you drive towards the dam from Vegas, you’ll eventually hit I-93 South. Passing through Boulder City, you’ll come over a rise, and then, BAM! You’ll be surrounded by the magnificent, 9.2 trillion-gallon Lake Mead. (You can also take an organized tour if you’d rather not do the driving yourself. See below for more details.)
The Hoover Dam
Until the Hoover Dam came along, the twin evils of drought and flooding made living in the region downright treacherous. Building an urban supercenter of entertainment, glitz and neon was out of the question.
(On the plus side: it’s all that tumultuous weather that carved the Grand Canyon.)
But starting in 1928, an army of thousands assembled to begin building this technical wonder. The annual floods stopped. Irrigation became possible. And the dam immediately became the hub for hydroelectric power, enabling modern civilization to take hold here.
Although the dam is enormous, mechanical and, perhaps for some, a bit boring to look upon, there are lovely architectural elements to behold. Witness, for instance, the Art Deco touches – it was built in the 1920s and 1930s, after all. We especially like the 30-foot bronze sculpture known as Winged Figures of the Republic.
Tours are available here, ranging in cost from about $10 per person to about $30 per person. More information can be found here.
The Hoover Dam holds back the glorious consequence of its creation, Lake Mead, whose 700-mile shoreline is the center of the National Park Service’s Lake Mead National Recreation Area. After paying your $10 per vehicle entrance fee, you can indulge in a bit of sport fishing, kayaking, boating, water skiing, canoeing, bird-watching, ranger-guided hiking along desert trails, scenic drives, and picnicking.
Tour Groups to the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead
A number of companies offer tours to get you to the dam and lake. Here are a few:
Hoover Dam Tour Company
This company offers free hotel-to-hotel service and narrates the trip, which takes about 8 hours total (including visiting time at the sites). You’ll have two hours to explore the engineering wonder of the dam, and the opportunity to take a cruise on Lake Mead itself. The Deluxe Tour offers lunch, while the regular one does not.
Grand Canyon Tour Company
The Grand Canyon Tour Company offers a number of tours, ranging in cost from about $30 per person to $70 per person, and claims to offer “the fastest tour in town,” a four-hour trip that gives you two hours to explore the dam.
Papillon is French for “butterfly,” and this company allows you to tack on a helicopter tour to your Hoover Dam bus tour.
However you get to the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, make sure to go! They truly are, collectively, one of the engineering wonders of the world.
What if we told you that one of the finest, most sinfully delicious, small-batch chocolatiers in the world was located right here in Sin City, only about ten miles from the Riviera Hotel & Casino? Yes, we’d be salivating too.
You’re in luck. The Mars family – yes, of M&M’s, Milky Way and Mars Bars fame – has been handcrafting chocolate, brittle and candy since Ethel Mars herself began doling her creations out to friends and family in 1911, and the quality of their products really does stand the test of time. Known today as Ethel M premium chocolates, the shops have been serving up versions of her sweet treats since 1980.
Whether your tastes tend toward truffles, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, satin crème, nuts & caramel, sugar-free treats, kosher candies, or a mix of all of the above, you can design a chocolate collection for yourself right in the store. And don’t forget that Ethel M is also famed for brittles: there’s the classic pecan brittle, the chocolate pecan brittle, and the classic & chocolate pecan combo. Yum.
Best of all, they offer self-guided tours of their chocolate factory! It’s located right next to the famed Ethel M Botanical Cactus Garden, featuring more than 300 species of cacti, such as prickly pear, saguaros and ocotillo. Both the factory and the gardens are open seven days a week, although the chocolate machinery usually operates only from Monday through Thursday. Regardless of when you show up, you’ll be able to taste divine chocolates, see the factory, learn about the chocolate-making experience, and visit the botanical gardens.
And it’s free! Talk about a sweet deal.
The Ethel M Chocolates Las Vegas Factory
2 Cactus Garden Drive
(If using a GPS, type in 1 Sunset Way instead.)
Henderson, NV 89014
(702) 435-2655 http://www.ethelm.com/default.aspx
The good news: we’re going to tell you about a secret cultural hangout that most visitors to Las Vegas don’t know about.
The bad news: the place is closed till the end of the Spring. Still, it’s worth whetting your appetite and making a note on your travel plans, as the Marjorie Barrick Museum boasts one of the premier collections of MesoAmerican craftwork in the country. Its mission, say the founders, is “promoting a better understanding of life past and present in the American Southwest [and] Mesoamerica.”
We know: you didn’t come to Vegas to gaze upon Mexican religious folk art, examine Native American pottery or even gawk at Guatemalan costumes and dance masks that make our Crazy Girls’ headdresses look tame. But the Barrick Museum hosts impressive art, poisonous reptiles who nibble on rodents right in front of you, a gorgeous desert garden, and more importantly, an escape from the heat and the buzz that sometimes waylay a visit to Vegas.
In other words, the museum, which is located on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is a haven. Agave, beavertail, yucca, cholla bunny ears, and myriad cacti never looked so good.
And it’s cheap. Make that free. So, there’s that.
Once renovations are over, hours should be as follows:
Music fans, prepare thyselves: Las Vegas’s Electric Daisy Carnival, the largest dance music festival in the nation, is almost upon us!
Prepare to Behold the Awesome: The world’s top electric dance/trance music artists and 300,000 of their sexiest fans will descend upon Sin City for three full nights, from dusk til dawn, starting Friday, June 8th through Sunday, June 10th, 2012.
Coming to the fest? You’d better be. And there’s no better place in town to stay than the Riviera Hotel and Casino: we’re a straight shot from the 1,000-acre Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the site of the 16th annual carnival. Also, two words: comfy beds. Trust us, with all the fun you’ll be having at night, you’ll need your daytime sleep.
For those who haven’t been previously bitten and smitten by the EDC bug, know that the experience is a feast for all the senses. Here’s what can you expect to see that weekend:
Photo courtesy of ElectricDaisyCarnival.com
Cool interactive art installations
Hundreds of theatrical performers
Hot, shirtless guys (if you’re so inclined)
Hot, sometimes shirtless girls (if you’re so inclined)
Thousands of music and digital art fans, determined to have a blast
Photo courtesy of ElectricDaisyCarnival.com
Some of the artists onboard include:
Blue Man Group
It’s easy to forget on the Strip that Las Vegas is surrounded by a striking expanse of undeveloped nature, where desert beauty abounds.
When you’re not indoors enjoying the delights of our gaming, our shows or our restaurants here at the Riviera Hotel & Casino, we say: go outside. See why this area earned the name Las Vegas, which is Spanish for “the meadows.”
And we have the perfect place for you to do some exploring: the Las Vegas Springs Preserve. Hankering for some exercise? Want to see desert plants in full bloom? Interested in checking out local produce? The Preserve has it all.
Bike Rentals and Walking Trails
One of our favorite things to do here is to rent a bike at the Preserve’s Exploration Loop Trailhead, across from the amphitheater, and go for a two-mile whirl along the trails.
You can rent bikes on weekends for $8 an hour between 10:00 a.m. and dusk. Get there early, as only 20 bikes are allowed out on the trails at a time.
Missed out on saddling up? No worries: there are 3.65 miles of trails and 110 acres of native habitats and even archaeological sites that you can explore by foot. Bird watching abounds, and you can discover the Las Vegas Springs, which used to provide the valley with water.
Fun fact: the Springs gave Las Vegas its name, as “the meadows” were abundant when this area was moist and green.
The Springs Preserve hosts a number of different gardens, each worth a gander. Our favorites are the cactus gardens, the rose garden and the palm oasis. There’s also an herb garden, plus vegetable gardens and fruit gardens. Open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., the gardens show off the abundance of the desert. You’d be surprised just how bountiful the desert can be! This place will prove it. You can even purchase a desert rose or cactus to take back home with you — something that doesn’t have to “stay in Vegas”!
Desert Living Center
Called the “Green Jewel” here at the Springs Preserve, the Desert Living Center is a LEED-certified collection of five buildings that host interactive exhibits and galleries that promote sustainable living. You can learn about low-water gardening, green building materials, composting and saving money. There are also lots of activities for kids here, including the Garbage Truck Theater.
Need a healthy snack? The preserve also hosts a weekly farmers’ market. Every Thursday between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. at the Desert Living Center, you can shop for sustainably produced vegetables, herbs, nuts, dairy products, coffee and more. All products are grown locally or regionally.
The Gilcrease Nature Sanctuary is one of Las Vegas’ best-kept secrets. If you’re an animal lover, or just need a few moments of peace and renewal, we urge you to spend part of a morning or afternoon visiting the sanctuary’s 600+ animals: among them are white peacocks, turtles, deer, goats, llamas, ostriches, baby donkeys, macaws, swans, ostriches, emus, miniature horses, lamas, and – entirely suitable for a town where people race off to get hitched – lovebirds.
The sanctuary has fully recovered from a 2010 fire that killed more than 200 of its most beloved, beautiful birds. Back to being a relaxing and calm oasis, it’s a delightful place for both adults and children. (Kids especially love the parrots, who both talk and perform little tricks.)
The Nature Sanctuary is dedicated not only to providing a safe haven for animals but also to educating the public, so in addition to tours, they offer classes and presentations about animal wellness. A well-timed visit can be fun, fascinating and informative for the whole family.
A visit here is also quite inexpensive: $5 for adult admission and $1 for children.
Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the preserve not only provides the petting zoo, but also picnic areas and walking trails. Give yourself at least two hours to tour this place at leisure.
FYI: if you’re really on a nature kick, there’s also a 60-acre sisterorchard that sells fresh fruits and vegetables that you can pick yourself. (It’s not next door to the preserve, but the taste of Gilcrease Orchard’s fresh cider is worth the drive!) Check the orchard’s web site for hours, as well as to see what’s in season right now. In the springtime, you’ll tend to find asparagus, carrots, spinach, arugula, bok choi, and of course their famous apple cider and pear cider.
To reach the Gilcrease Nature Sanctuary (and the orchard) from the Riviera:
Vegas is sexy. It’s glamorous, stimulating and just plain hot. OK, we admit it; sometimes, it’s too hot.
When you want to cool off, two mighty attractive options exist:
1) Visit our casino. It’s the hottest party in town, as well as the coolest, in both senses of the word.
2) Take a quick break to go ice skating.
Since Vegas doesn’t do anything halfway, it should come as no surprise that our favorite place is NHL regulation-sized, a whopping 31,000 square feet, with not one but two full-sized rinks. Besides public skating hours, the Las Vegas Ice Center also offers curling lessons, pickup hockey, figure skating lessons, hockey tournaments and performances. Don’t miss the Sin City Ice Dance Weekend Aug. 31-Sept. 2. More information can be found on the rink’s website.
The ice center is generally open during the following hours: