Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Weather Update

It's turning to fall in Las Vegas which means...

...our lemon tree is starting to make baby  lemons (which will be ripe in January).

We had a small storm yesterday which left this (I'm sure out neighbor wasn't happy to come out and see that his car was swallowed up by a tree).

But the fall weather does produce some pretty sunsets...

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Mt Charleston

We have exactly one mountain in southern Nevada and it is a quick 40 minute drive from Las Vegas.  It isn't that tall (7,000 ish feet) but the locals love it because the temperatures are always cooler up there and it is the only nearby place to ski in the winter.  People were saying the trees were changing color there (it also has the only forest in the entire area) since it is now fall, so today we took a quick drive up the mountain to check it out.  Unfortunately there were literally only a few trees changing color (I had visions of fall in Washington or Connecticut...that didn't happen) but it was a nice drive and gave us an opportunity to check out the tiny towns on the mountain, visit the lodges at both the bottom and top of the mountain (who knew there were two?) and take some nice photos...

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Flower Art

It's amazing what people can do with flowers here in Las Vegas.  This is a display at the Wynn...

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Off to Laughlin

Today we took a day trip to Laughlin NV and Bullhead City AZ.  Not only did I get two counties (Clark County NV and Mojave County AZ) for the Extra Milers Club...

...but we also stopped by the Big Bend of the Colorado State Park to check out the park and pick up another Nevada Park stamp.

Then we enjoyed a bit of gambling and some nice views of the Colorado River in Laughlin.

Before hitting the road home...

Friday, September 16, 2016

Well I *Had* Some Nice Pictures to Post...

We spent the day at Fremont today and I took some nice pictures of the Fremont overhead canopy, Slotzilla, and the general tourist attractions there (even the huge golden nugget at the Golden Nugget!)...and somewhere between my cell phone, email, then landing on my computer the picture files would not open.  They lost the jpeg part somewhere along the way which has never happened before and I couldn't figure out how to get the file extension back (and therefore how to open them).  Note to self, don't delete pictures from cell phone until you can open them on your computer! So here are some pictures of my shopping trip to the outlet mall earlier in the day which is just a few blocks from the Fremont Experience...obviously I like purses...

And from a few days ago at Michael's.  I had never seen so much yarn in one place in my life!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

100 Cheap (or Free) Things in Las Vegas

Las Vegas has a lot going for it when it comes to getting things free or relatively cheap (probably why it is such a popular retiree destination!).  Here's how we save a ton of money living in Las Vegas...

  1. Breakfast at Ikea is $1.  With their free club card you can get free coffee anytime you are there as well.
  2. Due to the topography of the valley, over the air antennas work really well here (we get 50+ stations on ours all for free).
  3. It costs $4 for 12 games of bingo at Southpoint Casino (this includes free donuts at the 11am session and free drinks at all sessions).
  4. Also at Southpoint: rodeo/horse show events are usually free to watch, major bowling events are free to watch, and they also have the occasional western gift shows which are free to attend.
  5. If you are a senior, pick up the $10 lifetime National Parks pass (it's good for free entry to Red Rock Canyon, Lake Mead National Park, the Grand the the other 400+ National Park units).  Passes are free for military members as well as families with children who are in the fourth grade.
  6. Once you have your pass to Red Rock Canyon, be sure to take advantage of the free, almost daily events their interpretive association hosts (usually presentations on a number of topics, star parties, guided hikes, etc).
  7. Seniors can get an annual Nevada State Parks pass for $30.  This is a pretty good bargain considering it covers all 23 parks in the state and many offer lots of free events like guided hikes, demonstrations, classes, etc.  Also, if you get their "passport" stamped at each park you visit, you will get a free annual park pass the following year after 15 park stamps.
  8. The Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Cactus Garden is free (plus they give free samples of their wonderful chocolates).
  9. The Bellagio Conservatory and their famous water show are both free (and really pretty!).
  10. The Fremont Experience is wonderful and it's free.  Each evening they have free overhead light shows as well as lots of free entertainment (DJs and live bands nightly, and some very famous musical groups as well sometimes).
  11. Our local (county) parks are free and a fun place to spend the day--Sunset Park, Floyd Lamb Park, Wetlands Park, etc.  
  12. Some of the local bowling centers in the casinos (Orleans Bowling Center and Southpoint Bowling Center for example) offer $1 bowling after midnight.
  13. Also after midnight you can still find some pretty great food specials including the $4.95 steak and eggs breakfast at the Southpoint, and the $2.21 graveyard specials at the Rampart Casino among many others).
  14. And then there is the Rainbow Casino Cafe that still has its famous breakfast special for $1.89--and it's huge!
  15. The Henderson Bird Preserve is a fascinating, free place to walk around and go bird watching no matter what time of year it is.
  16. And speaking of birds, the Flamingo Bird Habitat behind the Flamingo Casino on the Strip is a free and relaxing place to hang out and watch a number of different species of birds (they are really photogenic as well!).
  17. While we have subscriptions for both Fill A Seat and House Seats (basically pay a flat fee and enjoy tickets for all kinds of Las Vegas shows for a year or two), the Show Tickets 4 Locals service lets locals sign up at no charge and get free tickets to a bunch of lower level but still entertaining Las Vegas shows all at no cost. 
  18. There are a bunch of annual events that are free to watch around Las Vegas (our favorites: the annual Las Vegas Marathon, the World Series of Poker, and annual K-9 competition at the Orleans, the Santa Run, etc).
  19. We also have free outdoor movies on a weekly basis around the valley (although why they do this in the roasting hot summer is beyond me but's free).  These are found at the Cosmo, Green Valley Ranch, and Town Square.
  20. The library system in Las Vegas is sooo awesome!  Besides free books (I've already downloaded thousands on my Kindle) and free movie rental they also offer free movies in their auditorium, free classes, and free shows (we've watched a Frank Mareno show there as well as the Las Vegas Brass Band show several times).
  21. The Las Vegas (actually Clark County) municipal pools are both fun and cheap.  Any of their many outdoor or indoor pools are only a dollar or two for a full day of fun.
  22. Las Vegas also has one of the best LDS genealogy libraries in the US, it's free to use and the people that work there are super helpful.  The Henderson library also has a great genealogy library as well.
  23. People can do free walks around the city with the Las Vegas High Rollers and Strollers volksmarching club.
  24. Seniors (those over 50) can join the Around the Bend Friends hiking club for the low annual fee of $5(!).  This club hosts free daily hikes around the Las Vegas area (Red Rock, Lake Mead, Mt Charleston, etc) for both beginners and experienced hikers.
  25. Speaking of Mt Charleston, this is a great place to spend the day (or weekend) in the mountains.  In the summer it is much cooler than Las Vegas and in the winter there is snow to play in.  Plus there is no charge to visit here.
  26. Walking is free, of course, and there are plenty of cool places to walk around Las Vegas including The Strip, the Fremont Experience, the Downtown Container Park, City Center and Crystals, the Linq, etc.
  27. The Barrick Museum on the UNLV campus is free plus they have a nice xeriscape garden and grassy mall to check out as well.
  28. Circus Circus shows are free and run roughly every half hour.  This is a great place to entertain the kids.
  29. Some of our local businesses also offer free (and very interesting) tours of their facilities including Vegas PBS, the Smith Center, Banger Brewing, and Anderson Dairy.
  30. If you  like fish, check out the aquarium at the Silverton (free) as well as the huge fish tanks at the Bass Pro Shop right next door to the Silverton.  The shark tank at the Golden Nugget is also a cool (and free) exhibit to check out.
  31. No visit to Las Vegas would be complete without stopping by the Welcome to Las Vegas sign and taking a picture (it's free to do this of course).
  32. If you like airplanes, there is a free viewing area right off Sunset where you can watch airplanes land and take off.
  33. The Hoover Dam shouldn't be missed.  While there is a charge for the dam tour, it is free to walk across the dam and take pictures (either on the dam or atop the bypass bridge) as well as walk the railroad tunnel trail.
  34. Nearly every casino in Las Vegas has a "draw" that brings people in to take a look--the painted ceilings at the Venetian, the gondolas at the Venetian, the sunset stampede at Sam's Town, the world's largest golden nugget at the Golden Nugget, etc.
  35. The Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings (about a half hour south of Las Vegas) is interesting--and free--to check out.  It includes an old fashioned saloon (complete with bullet holes) as well as an area dedicated to Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.
  36. For a quick and inexpensive day trip out of Las Vegas, check out the Grayline tour to Laughlin.  It is cheap (under $20, even less with a Groupon or discount coupon) plus they give you a free meal voucher and about six hours to spend wandering around Laughlin which is on the Colorado River.
  37. For locals--the Clark County Assessor's office offers a number of tax exemption programs to help you save money on your property tax and/or car registration fees.
  38. Also for locals--check with your utility companies (LV Energy, LVV Water District, etc) for rebates, freebies, and other programs they offer to help you save money on your utility services.
  39. First Friday is a popular free event on the--what else--first Friday of each month.  There is no charge to walk around the event, check out the artists, and peruse the vendor's wares.
  40. I'm a big fan on annual passes, especially if people will actually use them and especially if they have kids (it's a great, "free", last-minute entertainment option).  Annual passes to the Springs Preserve, the Children's Discovery Museum, etc. can be a great bargain.
  41. There are free national programs that will get you free entry to Las Vegas places such as the National Parks fee-free days, the Museum Day Live program (free entry to local museums), the ASTC travel passport program (free museum entry), etc.
  42. Sign up for freebies for your birthday.  Many many places in Las Vegas participate in these programs so on or around your birthday you will receive an email box full of free offers ranging from a whole pizza (Grimaldi's), free donuts (Crispy Cream, pancakes (IHOP), etc.
  43. Megabus and Bolt bus offer a cheap way to get out of Vegas (to Los Angeles).  The fares are cheap, the times are quick, and you can find yourself on the beach in a matter of hours.
  44. A person can literally spend weeks enjoying free exercise classes around the valley.  Many karate dojos, yoga studios, gyms, and other exercise-y places often offer a free class to check out the facilities.
  45. UNLV, our local university, offers a bunch of free and cheap things even if you aren't a student.  From free lectures to discounted dental work to the OLLI program for senior citizens--these are some amazing programs to check out.
  46. The Gun Store offers free CCW (concealed carry) classes.  This can save a lot of money over the cost that other places charge for this class.
  47. If you are a local you should ALWAYS ask for a locals discount.  Many places offer locals a discount (from the High Roller to shopping places to other popular tourist attractions) but these discounts aren't usually advertised unless you ask.
  48. Ditto if you are a military member.  There are a couple of military bases near Las Vegas so many businesses offer military discounts just for the asking.  Also, the Southpoint Buffet (among others) give current and former military members free buffets on Memorial Day and Veteran's Day.
  49. People often ask where to get the best bargains on groceries.  The answer is obviously not the Strip or other tourist areas but whether you are stocking your home pantry or hotel room, the best deals on food and snacks can be found at the 99 cent store, Dollar Tree, Albertson's and Smiths (loss leaders), Mexican grocery stores, and Asian grocery stores.
  50. For individuals, the best transportation deal is a 24-hour bus pass for the RTC ($8 per day, $65 per month).  For three or four people is it often cheaper to just rent a car.
  51. DNR land around Las Vegas (and around the state for that matter) is free to camp on in undeveloped areas (there is usually a small fee to camp at developed DNR areas).
  52. Since Uber and Lyft are still relatively new to Las Vegas, you can often find promo codes for free rides from both of these services.
  53. Time shares are pretty ubiquitous in Las Vegas.  For the price of suffering through these "free" presentations you can often get free meals, free show tickets, and even free overnight stays in their lodgings.  Just don't get a time share as they are a royal rip off IMHO.
  54. Everyone--tourists and locals alike--should sign up for player's cards at each casino you visit.  Not only do you generate "free" comps via your casino play, you will also get on their mailing list for coupons like two-for-one buffets, etc.
  55. The Mystere show at Treasure Island offers free entry to watch their rehearsals on weekends.  Free is an amazingly good price for a Cirque du Soleil show.
  56. Check out Groupon for great deals in Las Vegas (there are too many to list here!).
  57. There are a number of free hot springs you can visit just outside of Las Vegas.  They all require a hike to get to and for the love of all that's holy don't go there in the summer (many people die trying to hike out to these places when it is 110 degrees outside).
  58. From the "that's a weird kind of fun" files, we like to visit open houses and model homes for something to do.  It's fun to check out different home designs, different neighborhoods, and get cool decorating ideas from these.
  59. Looking for cheap flights in and out of Vegas?  Allegiant (blech) and Spirit often offer flights into and out of Las Vegas for $50 or less.
  60. Las Vegas is a boon for photographers.  As one of the most iconic cities in the world and with so many places to photograph, this can keep both hobbyists and professionals busy for days.
  61. Another kind of "that's a bit weird" entertainment is to go to meetings in Las Vegas.  Visitors are usually welcome whether it is watching a jury trial, attending a HAM radio club meeting or checking on what the city council is doing at their regular meetings.  If you have a particular hobby, you can see if there is a club meeting being held in Las Vegas on the topic.
  62. Want to be on TV?  There are a number of ways to do this in Las Vegas.  There are sometimes movies and TV shows taping in the city which requests locals to be "extras" as well as shows that need audience members (such as for Penn and Tellers "Fool Us" show and the American Ninja Warrior show).
  63. For something kitchy, you can get a free photo with a million dollars at Binions in downtown Las Vegas.
  64. If you are beautiful (and young and hot and female) you can often get in free to the popular nightclubs that otherwise charge everyone else $25 to $100 to get into.  The more beautiful people in a group the better.
  65. If you really want to see a big-name show and still want to save some money, check out the Tix4Tonight kiosks all over town.  You can often save a lot of money this way on otherwise very expensive tickets.
  66. Connect yourself to a variety of Vegas-related social media outlets (Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, etc) for up-to-the-minute information (and possible discounts) on local happenings.
  67. Want to go to the Strip and save money on parking (yes, a number of greedy casinos now charge to park your car before they fleece you on your gambling)?  Take one of the free shuttles from the Orleans, Gold Coast, or Rio that offer regular service from these properties to the Strip.
  68. If you are going to buy a car in Las Vegas, definitely check out Tru Car and/or use your Costco discount to save money on the purchase.
  69. While not specific to Las Vegas, websites such as Deal News, Tech Bargains, Amazon Prime/Daily Deals, Best Buy daily deals, etc. can save you a whole lot of money on your consumer items.
  70. You can find free wifi all over the valley.  Besides all of the libraries, it is available at the Golden Nugget (password was poker last time I used it), the Orleans food court, the Southpoint sports book and bowling centers, the Rio near Starbucks, etc. 
  71. If you don't mind volunteering some of your time, you can get free entry into some pretty amazing events/shows.  Many big Las Vegas events (Life is Beautiful, Las Vegas Marathon, national conferences in many industries, etc.) routinely need volunteers which comes with the perk of free entry to the event during your time off.
  72. For locals, look through your junk mail.  There are many many freebies and discounts that show up in that pile of junk mail you take out of your mail box.  In just the past six months we got $6 off a haircut at our favorite haircut place, paid $3 for a regularly priced $8 sub at Jersey Mikes, got a couple of free Del Tacos, etc.
  73. The Goodwill in Las Vegas is amazing.  To date I've found a North Face jacket in perfect condition for $8, oodles of t shirts for $2 each, and enough home decor items to decorate a few houses.  Be sure to go on the days that feature added discounts (like half off Wednesdays for seniors or special half off for everyone days).  The Goodwill also has a special store just north of Blue Diamond facing I-15 where you buy Goodwill stuff by the pound which makes everything even cheaper.
  74. Cell service in Las Vegas is generally pretty good everywhere.  No longer do you have to have the expensive cell service just to have a good signal.  Our $30 a month Walmart Family Mobile plan (unlimited calls and texts plus 1 gb data) is a great bargain.
  75. The Home is Possible program in Las Vegas provides qualified home buyers up to $10,000 for their down payment (and this money never needs to be paid back!).
  76. There are plenty of cool, free things for kids to do in Las Vegas too.  On Halloween, Town Square has a huge trick or treat event for kids at no charge, Lowes and Home Depot usually have free weekend workshops where kids learn how to build things, and kids eat free at many restaurants around town, etc.
  77. The Southern Nevada Health District offers free healthy kids exams, a free Healthy Start program for mothers and infants, and some free vaccination services.
  78. Las Vegas has some interesting and unique classes and programs that locals can participate in free of charge including the Citizens Fire Academy, Red Rock Search and Rescue, the Las Vegas Metro Police Department Citizen Review Board, and the CASA children's advocate program.  This is a fascinating and unique way to help the community.
  79. The American Red Cross offers free smoke detectors and installation.
  80. On another safety note, AAA's Tipsy Tow program offers Las Vegas locals a free ride home (and free tow home for their car) on most major holidays.
  81. NV Energy offers a free home weatherization program as well as free energy assistance payments for those who qualify.
  82. Need a pet?  The Animal Foundation has pretty frequent "clear the shelter" events where pet adoption fees are free or significantly discounted.
  83. Did you know you can get the most amazing full body massage for only $20 in Las Vegas?  Actually it is $20 for the massage and we tip $20 because $40 is still a super low price compared to other massage places.  Our favorite place is the UE Foot Spa on Decatur (even though it says foot spa it is actually a full body massage that they do).
  84. Some of the hotel pools in Las Vegas allow locals free entry with ID (instead of charging them up to $10 or $20 which is what they charge tourists).  The Rio is our favorite, free, hotel pool to visit.
  85. A free place to leave your car when you fly out on a trip is to park it at the South Strip Transit Center Park and Ride (they allow free parking for up to a week, longer with approval from the security office at the center).  Then you can just hop on a bus and be delivered to and from the airport.  This sure beats the cost of parking your vehicle at the airport!
  86. Free entry to unique events.  Las Vegas draws all kinds of events so if there is a major event going on, you may be able to get free tickets for all or part of the event (ie: all of the presidential candidates came through Las Vegas this year and tickets to their rallies were free through their websites; Manny Pacquiao fights are super popular here and many times tickets are free to see the weigh-in portion before the fight; MMA fights are also popular and there is often a free fan meet and greet that goes with this; the Riviera Casino was imploded so people gathered within viewing distance of it to watch, etc).
  87. There are a handful of free clinics in Las Vegas that offer everything from free STD testing to free to sliding scale medical services for those who can't afford expensive medical care.
  88. The Las Vegas Metro Police Department has crime prevention specialists who will come out and do an inspection of your home and teach you how to make your home safer...and this is a free service!
  89. Other free safety-related things in Las Vegas: free document shredding events (varies, Google for dates), free medical disposal (drugs, sharps) services, and free child safety seat installation and car checks through Safe Kids.
  90. People who want to hunt in Nevada can take a hunter's ed class for $5 through the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
  91. Call for free help: call 911 for emergencies, 311 for non-emergency help from the police department, and 211 for help with social service problems (ie: links to shelters, food banks, etc).
  92. Locals can get free tax filing assistance from both VITA and the United Way of Southern Nevada.
  93. Las Vegas has a Small Business Development Center that offers all kinds of free help and services to small business owners (or potential owners) to help them start or grow a business.
  94. Check out our local swap meets for cool, cheap, interesting, and unique things.  The Fantastic Swap Meet offers two-for-one entry coupons on its website, the Broadacres Swap Meet has free live entertainment every day that it is open.
  95. For sports, check the website of your favorite activity (golf course, ice skating rink, roller skating rink, climbing wall, etc) and check for both discount coupons as well as certain days and times that offer discounted admission/green fees).
  96. Did you know that you can get assistance for burial and cremation services in Las Vegas or even donate your body to science here?
  97. If you want to hang out with locals who share your interests, check out the many meet up groups around the valley.
  98. Have you heard of the $20 trick?  In theory you slip the reception person a $20 when checking into your hotel and you can receive a much better room than the room you booked (thus saving a lot of money over the regular cost of the better room).  YMMV
  99. Parking downtown can get expensive (it is almost all paid parking) so consider valet parking your car when you go down to Fremont.  Not only is is easier to drop off and pick up your car but you don't pay a fee for valet parking, you only tip them (which can end up being cheaper than paid parking).
  100. And some personal recommendations: best car repair service--Excel Auto on South Decatur (great service, great prices); cheapest place to get new watch batteries ($5 for the battery and installation)--Fantastic Swap Meet (the big watch shop about half way down on the right); Starbucks (off the Strip locations can save you $1 or more per drink); Bellagio buffet (expensive but worth it); Lee's Sandwich Shop ($1 for a giant bang of bread ends). 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Ethel M Chocolate Factory

We headed over to the Ethel M Chocolate Factory today...only to find it kind of closed.  While the factory is still producing fabulous chocolates they are remodeling the viewing area and candy shop so we went into their little pop up shop (and still got some free samples...yum!) then walked through their fascinating cactus garden.