Tag Archives: Las Vegas

Las Vegas has Wineries?

Where do you go when you need your wine fix and the nearest wineries you know of are in Northern Nevada or over in Northern California?  Pahrump of course!  Las Vegas does not have any wineries-that would be correct.  However, if you drive over the hump (over the mountain) to Pahrump, there are actually two wineries over there.  The whole 20 plus years that I have lived in Las Vegas, I knew there was one winery.  I found out that indeed there are two.  This  trip is just over an hour each direction.  Apparently, the first winery that was there sold out to the second owner and then opened up another one-or at least that is what I was recently told.  

While I had my daughter in town, we went along with a friend each over to Pahrump to check them out.  The first one we went to is called Pahrump Valley Winery and Symphony’s Restaurant. Very classy set up! The entire patron operation is set up amid the vines. You walk in the entry and have the wine bar on the right side with a back bar of all of the wines and their other item store to the left.  As in New Mexico, the tastings in Nevada are no cost.   After our tasting, we decided to have lunch.  While we were pretty casual, one gets a sense that the evening meals they serve are quite a bit more formal.  The food was absolutely delightful.    Did I tell you that I prefer sweet wines?  Not a problem-not only do they have dessert wine, they also have sherry.  This was my first time trying sherry and now I am hooked.

On to the other winery, which is named Sanders Family Winery.  This seems to be the smaller of the two operations (perhaps newer?).  They too sell other items along with wines and I had to take some phone pics while I was there, because they have wreaths on the wall made of wine corks.  They too have sherry for sale as well as their other wines and they introduced us to something new.  When we were done with our tastings, we each got a wine spritzer-made with either port or sherry and some gingerale.  I am hooked.  Of course it makes my purchases last longer as well.  

I have talked this one up and have lots of friends that want to make that trip.  What a party we could have for those that want to go.  This is another one of those trips where I took pictures, but they got deleted.  I promise I will get out there to take pics again.

Pahrump Balloon Festival

During my 21 years of living in Nevada, I have only been over to Pahrump twice before.  The first time was when we first moved here and my husband had to try out his four-wheel drive vehicle, so we went up over Wheeler Peak.  We saw some of the wild horses up at the top and dropped down through the state camping area on the other side then headed into town.  I don’t remember there being that much in Pahrump at that time, but there was enough to grab a bite before we headed back to Las Vegas.  My second trip was related to education and involved visiting one of the schools in Pahrump. I remember there was a Terrible Herbst in town on that trip.  So today, I went over to the Second Annual Pahrump Balloon Festival.  The town has really grown up.  It now has Albertsons, Walmart, Sonic, Denny’s and a whole bunch of other restaurants.

So apparently, balloon festivals are held in many places in Nevada that I wasn’t aware of.  Reno, Las Vegas, Mesquite and now Pahrump each have one.  There were only about 20 balloons today in Pahrump, but there was plenty of excitement.  People volunteered to help with holding the lines on the balloons while they were being inflated by highly powerful fans that amazingly blew them up much faster than I thought could happen.  There were lots of people out there with their cameras, like me snapping pictures.  People were available to form the chase teams to go pick up the balloons when they landed and I learned that the balloonists have a tradition of having Mimosas once the balloons are picked up.

Pahrump Balloon Festival

Pahrump Balloon Festival

There was other excitement too, in the form of a drone flying around and quite a few motorized gliders.  There were so many people in attendance, that Denny’s had quite the time keeping up with all of the customers who came in for breakfast,  but all of the employees were justly apologetic and as pleasant as could be.  One place that I still haven’t gone to out in Pahrump is the winery.  It has been there for years, and it has been recommended by several friends.  But after getting up at 4 am to be out there in time for the ascension, and knowing I had a 90 minute drive back, I wasn’t about to drink any wine this morning.  Depending where you are in Las Vegas, the drive to Pahrump is somewhere between 60 to 90 minutes.

Red Rock National Conservation Area, Calico Basin, Red Spring Park, Valley of Fire State Park and Redstone Picnic Area

Long story short-a friend and I took advantage of the Fee Free National Park Day and visited Lake Mead National Recreation Area after we went through Valley of Fire State Park.  Lake Mead will be found in a different post.

I have lived here more than 20 years and visited both Red Rock and Valley of Fire way back when I first moved here.  Now that the photo bug has bitten, I decided to go back to both of those places.  Nothing is, as I remember it.  I learned that Calico Basin is part of Red Rock and that there is a Red Spring that is on the Calico Basin side also.  I learned that I don’t remember Valley of Fire at all like it is today.  Well, maybe tiny little bits. I remember the original campground and the petroglyphs.  In addition, as we headed back to town along Lake Mead (a trip that I have taken several times even in recent years), that there is place called Redstone on the road.  I swear I don’t remember those rock formations, even though they aren’t the sort of thing that would just spring up.  The park itself may be new enough, that I didn’t see it before.  Boy have my eyes been opened.  Of course, there are also much smaller spots where an occasional outgrowth of red rock that is geographically correct, but isn’t large enough to warrant a park designation.  So now, a little bit about each of the areas mentioned.

Red Rock Canyon from Overlook

Red Rock Canyon from Overlook

Calico Basin and Red Spring Park appear to be part of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, although they are on the other side of the hill and back up to privately developed land. To get to Red Rock Canyon, Calico Basin and Red Spring Park-head west on Charleston Boulevard, until it turns into both Red Rock Canyon Road and Blue Diamond Road.  This is the closest to Las Vegas and is just a couple of miles beyond the developed part of the city.   Ironically-whether you are in Calico Basin, Red Spring Park or Red Rock Canyon-you cannot hear the hub bub of the city at all.

Calico Basin

Calico Basin

Valley of Fire State Park is more of a drive and won’t be done without wheels.  It is 49 miles to get out to the park entrance by taking I-15 toward Utah and getting off at the Valley of Fire Hwy located at the Moapa Paiute Travel Plaza (also referred to as the Smokeshop).  Follow the Valley of Fire Hwy to the entrance to the park. Since we are now having wonderful spring temperatures in the 70s, it was quite busy while we were there on a long weekend.  Come summer, when the temperatures soar into the 110s, I suspect it is still very quiet out there.  I will share more about the Valley of Fire in another entry.

Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire State Park

Redstone Picnic Area looks very new, at least the facilities.  It includes a half mile hiking trail, covered picnic tables and a necessity stop in the parking lot.  On the day we visited, an older couple was getting married amongst the red stones.  Not only is Las Vegas known for weddings in our chapels, but there are a lot of location weddings that take place in Red Rock, Redstone and Valley of Fire.  The backgrounds can’t be beat and can’t be faked.  If anybody is planning one of these little affairs, then contact me.  I want to get into that kind of photography also.  Enough rambling though!  Redstone Picnic Area is located at mile 27 on the Northshore Road along  Lake Mead.  Heading back into town from Redstone, turn onto Lake Mead Boulevard to return through North Las Vegas or continue to Lake Mead Parkway to return in through Henderson.  There are other options if you want to continue around Lake Mead toward Hoover Dam and the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge.

Redstone Picnic Area

Redstone Picnic Area

 

National Park Service Fee Free Days Again!

All weekend long for President’s Day (February 14-16), there is free admission to any of the national parks across the nation.    For me, I think that will mean a trip out and around Lake Mead National Recreation Area.  Look for more information and a pic or two  very soon.  I know I want to get back out to Hoover Dam, as it is soooo low that it is really sad.  We were too late coming back from our last outing.  We could see how low it is with our eyes,  but the camera just couldn’t capture it.  Be back soon!

Brews, Sports and Comfort Food

Maybe you like brew pubs.  Maybe you like everything sports, especially the Packers.  Maybe you like cheese curds or comfort food.  Maybe you like all of these. If you like any or all of the above, then Big Dog’s Brewing Company aka The Draft House is the place to visit. I have visited the Draft House many times during the time I have lived in Las Vegas.  After a long week at work, there needs to be a meeting at the field office for some tasty adult beverages.  My friend absolutely prefers the Draft House, so I often tag along.  I love their menu, especially the cheese curds since I am a “cheesehead” home grown.  Cheese curds don’t necessarily love me back, so I have to choose from the menu carefully.  The last time we were there, I glanced over and bravely asked the man sitting at the next table what he was having.  It looked so good, and he raved about how tender the meat was.  So I ordered up Grandma’s Pot Roast.   I was not disappointed.  We landed there a few days later after work related meeting and I ordered it again.  So maybe that was a little overkill-NO!  The portions are ample enough for even a hearty eater to eat half and take the rest for another meal.  So I go for the food.  My brother-in-law goes for the brews. Some people go for the sports.  They even have live bands playing some nights now.  Whether you live here or are just visiting, check out all they have to offer.  They are located on N. Rancho near Craig.

 

National Park Fee Free Days

Every year, our National Park Service designates fee free days. These are days when you can get into the parks with just a smile and save your green for other things.  A friend and I plan on going back out to Red Rock Canyon on January 19th for one of the fee free days.  In the greater Las Vegas area, fee free days give you access to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and Lake Mead National Recreation Area.  In order to find out when the fee free days are, visit  http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm

 

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

What do nice weather, sports and red rocks all have in common?  They are all a part of biking, running, hiking, and climbing just west of Las Vegas.  While living here for 20 years, I have been out to Red Rock more than once.  I recently got back out there and things seemed bigger this time-most likely due to the weather.  I have noticed that when the sky is cloudy and therefore not as big, all of the mountains seem bigger.  Red Rock National Conservation Area is named because of, well, the red rocks that loom along one side of the park.  It is very common to see people riding their bikes along the loop road, or climbers climbing the walls of the red rock.  The visitors center has a desert tortoise habitat, housing some of the local original inhabitants.  There is even a contest for the local school kids for guessing when Mojave Max, the tortoise will emerge from the den after the winter.  Winning guess gets a visit from the park rangers.

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

On my last visit that direction, I visited Calico Basin, a portion of the park I have never been to before.  Calico Basin is on the back side from the visitor’s center and shares the red rocks.   It seems to be popular with day hikers, but is also partially committed to private properties. All of this is 10 to 20 minutes from the hotels of Las Vegas, depending on where you stay. So which of you as a kid, loved to see if you could get an awesome echo?  While my friend Vicky and I were hiking at Calico Basin, we experienced an echo that we chuckled about and couldn’t stop talking about.   First we heard a dog baying, and we really couldn’t tell where it was coming from.  All we knew was that despite all the noise in town a few minutes away, Calico Basin is simply devine because of its quiet serenity.  Then a motorcycle came into the basin.   As it accelerated after each corner on its way out, we heard the ultimate  echo bouncing back and forth around the basin walls.  It didn’t make the kind of echoing sound you would expect, and the echo just kept bouncing many more times than I would have expected.  If like me, you haven’t been out to Calico Basin ever or haven’t been out to Red Rock Canyon in a while, then take advantage of the nice weather and get out there.  I was really struck at the line of cars waiting to get into Red Rock and how many visitors there were to Calico Basin as well.  But we can probably chalk that up to temperatures in the low 70’s in the early January.

Calico Basin

Calico Basin

Dam Tours

Hoover Dam, once known as Boulder Dam, is definitely a tourist sight that has evolved over the years.  It is located in the Black Canyon on the border of Nevada and Arizona. It is about 45 minutes from the Strip in Las Vegas.  I still remember my first visit to the Dam back in about 1982.  It was really cool to stand in the middle of the dam on the states border and see the time clocks for the two different time zones (only during daylight savings).  The original visitors’ center had a presentation by the Bureau of Land Management showing a video of the Colorado River system, the various dams along the way and what the water is used for-as well as a scaled model of the whole system.   You could also get tickets and wait in line to take the elevator down through the dam to the Dam Tour below. During 1983, the water levels at Lake Mead were so high, that they opened up the spillways.  I got to see that.  It feels like that may never happen again, with our current drought and plummeting water levels.  Looking at a historic graph of lake levels, there is still hope.

Hoover Dam/ Low Lake Levels

Hoover Dam/ Low Lake Levels

In its current condition, the other thing to see is the 100-150 foot bathtub ring around Lake Mead because of the low lake levels.  Things have so changed in so many ways since 1983.  There is a wonderful new visitors’ center with access to the Dam Tours below and a very well done History of the Hoover Dam Museum.   A parking ramp built into the side of the canyon makes parking a lot easier.  There still are manned security stops on either side of the Dam to guard against terrorist threats.  The newest addition includes the 95 Hoover Dam Bypass featuring the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.  It has its own staging area where you can park and walk out onto the bridge and see the overview of Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and the surrounding views.  The first time I went out there after the bridge was completed and I was taking visitors to see the dam and walk out onto the bridge, I actually drove over the bridge without even knowing it.  You see, they have higher side walls on the bridge-so no gawking.  They also had made a separate exit to get to the Dam and the parking area for the bridge.  Walking out onto the bridge is not for those who are height challenged, although they can cling to the back wall of the bridge walkway.  Now that I have been there, I no longer make that mistake.

Hoover Dam Bypass/The Cousins

Hoover Dam Bypass/The Cousins

I also have taken the Black Canyon Raft Tour which starts right at the base of Hoover Dam and then floats on down the River to the Willow Beach Marina.  I have only seen Bighorn Sheep while crossing the Dam two times.  But we saw numerous Bighorn Sheep while on the raft tour.  If you want to see an overview of the building of the bridge, then go to the following site:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuO0sK1VSWw  This is not the shortest video, but it is by far the most beautiful.

 

Gilcrease Orchard in Las Vegas

Las Vegas has natives, almost natives, and the newly moved to Las Vegas.  Surely Gilcrease Orchard is considered a native.   From their website, it looks like it all started in the 1920’s.   Not long after I moved here 21 years ago, someone told me about this orchard where you could go pick your own vegetables and fruits.  I remember making my way out to the orchard and picking cherry tomatoes off the plants in the row.  At that time, the orchard was very lonesome out there, surrounded by very little.  Since that time of course, the developments have gone up around it.

Gilcrease Orchard

Gilcrease Orchard

Gilcrease has remained though and improved.  Now days I get cucumbers, green onions, squash and I had to try the chocolate peanut butter they had for sale. They just put in a parking lot across the road-so no more angle parking in the dirt along the side of the road.  They moved their entrance slightly.  They have a tractor pulling two covered wagons around the orchard if you don’t like to walk.  They have pumpkins in the fall.  They put in a huge covered picnic area for us to come early and wait in, while they are making their apple cider donuts.  And then of course, we can sit and eat them also. The apple cider donuts are only a fall thing when the apples are ready.  This year they started making them on Labor Day weekend.  Then I heard they wouldn’t have them until October. But my co-worker was on the phone texting me the very next weekend, that they had the donuts.  It gets even better! Now they are selling them on Sunday morning as well.  You can get the apple cider donuts alone or with frosting. Get them while they are hot though, Gilcrease Orchard closes down for the season the beginning of November.  If you want to know more, then visit www.thegilcreaseorchard.org  NEWS FLASH!!!  The Gilcrease Orchard website indicates that they will stay open through November 15th on Saturdays only from 7 until noon.  So those wanting  their fix of apple cider donuts-can get them for a few more weekends.

 

 

The Vegas Valley Book Festival

Every year since it was founded in 2002, there has been an ever expanding Vegas Valley Book Festival held down at the Historic Fifth Street School-which is no longer a school. This is the place to go see authors speaking on panels, storytelling, and selling their books for the youngest readers through the oldest readers.  The authors are a mix of local talent as well as those who travel in for a long weekend in Vegas.  Since they are in town, many of the authors go to local schools to do assemblies about the writing process, illustrating, finding ideas, or whatever.  I have been lucky enough to have Luke Anderson and his Hockey Penguin books, and  Mark Crilley and his character Akiko in connection with the Book Festival.  I have also had Brandon Mull with the Fablehaven books, Kevin Janison with the Deputy Dorkface books, and Mike Thaler with his Black Lagoon books out to my schools.  In addition, there is a stage for groups to perform, food trucks to keep the tummies happy, Scholastic Bookfairs has books for sale, and other groups related to books and reading.  It is a great family place to go for a couple of hours or almost the whole day-at least once a year. The Historic Fifth Street School is located on Las Vegas Boulevard and signs are always put out for parking.  I always run into several people I know including other CCSD librarians and students from my school.