OurLAblog

Archive for the ‘Road Trip!’ Category

Las Vegas is without question the brightest oasis in any desert. The city is absolutely worthy of nicknames like Sin City and “adult playground.” In fact, it undeniably deserves to have its name shouted to raised fist by people in bars, as the anticipation of a Vegas trip evokes the same feelings you had when you were a kid going to Disneyland.

But as fun and exciting as this wanton desert community is, there are definitely things about Vegas that irk. Whether it’s because Vegas knows exactly how much we love to go there, or because people can’t help but crap on a party, here are a few common Vegas pitfalls, with some quick advice on avoiding them. Proceed with riot batons raised.

expensive1. Ridiculously expensive crap. It’s just not Vegas without excess. Even though this means you can do things like reserve a floorside table at a posh club or rent an exquisite limo to carry your posse around town, it also means $14 well drinks, $100 cover charges and $2,000 bottles of champagne. But that’s okay, since I just happened to sell my $5.6-million trust fund the other day. How about you?

What it means for your trip: Provided you’re not the next heir to the Trump estate (if you are, you can skip ahead), you have to watch yourself as you’re sucked into the Vegas free-for-all — because it’s absolutely NOT free. Keep a running tab in your head if you have to, or set a limit to how much you’re willing to part with that weekend. And always remember to save an extra bill for the cab ride home, MC Hammer.

sexual marketing2. Blatant sexual marketing. Everyone loves seeing beautiful people. But does it make sense to harness people’s hormonal drives to peddle cell phone plans, credit cards and insurance? It’s not so much seeing it (which only a nun would have a problem with), it’s just a reminder that marketing people are sly and devious, and know just how to manipulate humans such as yourself. Hey, let’s use your sex drive to sell you crappy auto warranties, or maybe pre-owned vacuum cleaners. Why not?

What it means for your trip: Don’t get conned into buying something just because it’s offered to you on a sparkling platter by Adriana Lima. Or at least just don’t let the ways of the machine get to you. Want to be truly smart? Buy only from ugly people. (Just kidding.)

drunk guy3. That Guy. It’s nearly impossible to find a place of leisure that isn’t accessible to That Guy — the one who’s starting a fight while everyone else is relaxing, or who’s too drunk to figure out which hotel room door is his. Or who wants to take on three bouncers at once because he has a right to be in the club impersonating The Thing. Of course, it just wouldn’t be Vegas without him, too. Just saying.

What it means for your trip: If you have a run-in with That Guy, just remember he either thinks he’s still having fun, or he’s genuinely angry about something most people wouldn’t think twice about. Try not to lose your temper with him. It also won’t help much to try to communicate in complex sentences. Just steer him out of harm’s way or yourself out of his way, and enjoy the rest of your night.

drunk Baby4. 1 a.m. stroller pushers. Maybe this is a new trend, but there seem to be a lot of new parents who don’t know when to stop partying. They still like to make last-minute Vegas plans, but in the absence of a last-minute babysitter they opt to cart their infant or toddler around amid the late-night throng of people who are plastered, zapped up or otherwise oblivious to tiny, under-foot protohumans. What are they thinking, and where was Grandma when they needed her?

What it means for your trip: Nothing, it’s just kind of concerning.

bass overkill5. Bass overkill. Booming bass is good to have inside the club. But 300 yards away in an entirely separate bubble, where the imaginary birds and butterflies are fluttering about over a peaceful landscape of poolside relaxation, that bass is knocking my imaginary birds clear out of the park. Turn it down, dammit, I want my birds back.

What it means for your trip: Try to remember, as your universe pulsates with the rhythm of some formless, boundless DJ, that you could be at work, or stuck in traffic somewhere. To hang on to your zen state of tranquility, try to zone in on the parts of your bubble you can still reach, and forget about everything that doesn’t fit in. Or you could remember your iPod.

bling overkill6. People who have way too much money. Nothing can shock you back to real life like seeing a dude casually throwing hundo’s down on the craps table like he’s got them sprouting out of his armpits, reminding you that for some, the Vegas lifestyle is real life. Very likely this guy’s got so much piled up in the bank that he forgets which Italian sports car he parked at the mall six hours ago, and his maid finds cut diamonds lying under his couch cushions. In other words, your vacation is his Tuesday at the office. Of course, it’s also possible that he’s just like you, but much less wise.

What it means for your trip: Again, nothing. You’re you, he’s him. Now tip the valet guy.

leaving las vegas7. Trying to leave. It’s partially because you know the traffic out of town will have you cruising at 20 mph most of the way home, but it’s also because of the pool! and the lights! and the atmosphere! and the music! and the fact that it’s all still going, even at 2 pm when you’re hauling your stuff back to the car and starting to think about the next day. Boo, this part of Vegas is worst of all.

What it means for your trip: You can’t avoid this one, unless you’d like to join the jovial ranks of Las Vegas’ homeless population. But don’t fret, all you need to do is remember to take lots of pictures to remember the fun times, and you’re good to go.

winery viewHere’s a quick and easy guide to taking a fun weekend road trip to Solvang, CA. This is what we did, and it definitely did the trick. Add a few of these things to your Solvang checklist.

PS: If you have your own advice, add it in the comments below!

1. Book the hotel several months early. It’s a tourist spot, so everything books up quickly. It’s also smart to make restaurant reservations a few days in advance for the same reason, even though you might not need them.

2. Leave Friday night after work if you’re in the LA area. You’ll make it before everything closes, and it’s worth it to already be there in the morning.

3. Stay at the Hadsten House Inn. It has the most positive reviews of all the hotels there, and with good reason — it has a sweet location, friendly staff, super-nice rooms, and a supremely good restaurant attached. We mean it. Out of all the restaurants in town, it had the best one we encountered. Win. (link)

4. Make a point to try wine at every opportunity. The first one we tried (Parker Station pinot noir) ended up being our favorite, with a few runners up from the local tasting rooms. Get it by the glass in restaurants, and visit a few of the tasting rooms in town. It’s usually about $10 for 5-7 wine samples, and definitely worth it.

5. Wander around downtown. This is a no-brainer, since that’s what everyone else is doing. But you can easily make a day out of it, so we’re pointing it out.

6. If you rent a surrey bike (those side-by-side, four-wheeled bikes), don’t go too far south. South equals downhill. And downhill is only fun in one direction.

7. Paula’s Pancake House. Go there. (reviews)

8. Wear sunblock. I forgot to, but I soon had an effective reminder about wearing it.

9. Make one day all about outlying wineries. The downtown wineries pale in comparison to the ones that sprawl over hills of grapes, offering amazing views and a huge variety of wine styles. The same prices as downtown usually apply, and most only require reservations for large parties. Fess Parker has good wines, and Rusack Vineyards has a spectacular view from the outside porch.

10. Take pictures. Another no-brainer. But the Danish style downtown area is Disneyland-caliber photogenic, as are the views when you get out into the hills and vineyards. (See our pics)

11. Get a photo in front of the windmill on the corner of Alisal and Molle Way. You know you want to.

12. Go to a bakery. Denmark is known for its pastries, and Solvang continues the legacy of sweet, fluffy, sugary goodness in pretty much anything you get. Especially the Abelskivers that manage to pretty much force themselves down your throat.

13. Also get chocolate. Check.

14. Visit the 1804 Santa Ynez Mission at Mission Blvd and Alisal. It’s an interesting piece of the town’s history, and commands another spectacular view of the valley. (link)

15. Stop at the Nojoqui Falls, a beautiful natural waterfall accessible by a 10-minute walk up a creekside path, located about 30 minutes outside of town. It’s not especially frequented, so you’ll be able to enjoy it.

16. Bring a bottle of wine home with you. (Try not to open it in the car.)

17. After you get home, it’s absolutely nap time.

(See the pics from our Solvang trip)