aeri rose’s guide on how to have a rockin’ vegas weekend

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The view of Las Vegas Boulevard from The VooDoo Club

Step 1) Drop in on a high school girlfriend, now a professional actress living in Las Angeles, and kidnap her from work Friday evening. Drive straight to Las Vegas. Get lost only sort of and spend far too long driving through tiny desert towns on your way to Sin City.

Step 2) Roar into your hotel parking lot by 10:00 pm, check in, drop your bags, put on lipstick and high heels, and hit the casino floor for some free drinks and fun with the slot machines.

Step 3) Sufficiently buzzed, head to The Strip and take in the lights, sounds, and sights of Vegas at street level.

Step 4) Grudgingly, like kids at a sleepover, agree you should get some sleep. Crash into unnaturally soft and luxurious beds in a pitch black room and sleep far too late.

Step 5) If this is your first time in Las Vegas, as it was mine, pull yourself out of that bed at a somewhat reasonable hour for a chance to check out some of the most famous casinos.

Some Highlights?

– Walk the sidewalks and raised bridges of The Strip and snap a selfie in the center of Las Vegas Boulevard (from the elevated safety of a bridge of course).

– Watch the Fountains of Bellagio water show. Several times daily the outdoor fountains of The Bellagio Casino put on a beautifully orchestrated show incorporating music, lights, and dancing jets of water. Free and fantastic! A must see.

– Admire the grandeur of The Venetian. Eat some gelato on a bench beside the canals and watch the gondoliers ferry other guests around the opulent casino. Admit that you almost feel like you really are in a dreamy Italian city.

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Yes this is really a picture of inside the casino

– Back outside, visit White Castle for some burgers and fries and remind your palate that you’re really still in America. Let the setting sun is encourage you to run back to your hotel to get dressed for another night on the town.

Step 6) If you’re only here for the weekend, this is your only full night of debauchery. Make the most of it! Start your evening at a concert or show. Whatever kind of entertainment you’re looking for, Vegas can deliver.

We went for a rock show, like any good punk rock princesses would.  Since high school I had been trying to catch The Darkness live, and I was over the moon to find out they would be playing at the House of Blues that night. So, hair properly teased and full of enough hairspray to blast a new hole in the Ozone layer, we made our way to Mandalay Bay.

 

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I believe in a thing called love. Just listen to the rhythm of your heart.

It. Was. Awesome! Worth the wait and just the kind of energy we needed to get our night started.  In the crowd we met a group of English guys in the RAF (thats the Royal Air Force) stationed in Vegas for the summer. Which leads me to step 7.

Step 7) Make Friends!

Following the concert the British Guys recommended we check out this other club. “The best view in Vegas” they promised. With no further plans, and open to whatever the night might throw at us, we agreed. So we made our way to The VooDoo Nightclub at the top of Rio Las Vegas.

They were right about the amazing view. Situated slightly off The Strip, from the top of the Rio you can see all of Las Vegas laid out below you, fanning out in straight golden lines of light across the desert.  It’s incredible.

Look closely and see the massive High Roller Ferris Wheel. At 550 feet tall, it currently stands as the world’s largest ferris wheel. And with an open bar “happy half-hour” ticket option, that’s one Las Vegas sight that I still need to conquer.

With hints of blue starting to thread their way into the star filled night sky, we knew it was time to call this night a success and head back to our hotel for some zzz’s. Though the next day would be the last day of our wild weekend retreat, we had plans to go out with a bang.

As a happy coincidence, the weekend we went to Vegas also happened to be Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend, a massive Pin-Up and Rockabilly conference held at The Orleans Hotel every year in April.

Which is why Step 8 is…

Step 8) Make the most of every minute

Sure we stayed out until past 4:00 am the night before. And sure my girlfriend’s flight back to L.A. left the airport at 3:30 pm.  But that is no reason not to pull out our peep-toe heels, don our cutest leopard print vintage ’20’s dresses, and twirl our hair into a Victory Roll or two for day of Rockabilly, classic cars, greasers, and pin-up girls.

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So we made the most of every minute. We woke up. We chased our Advil with multivitamins and Smart Water. And we had a blast at Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend. The cars were incredible. The shopping prolific. The other attendees inspiring.

But all too soon it was time to take my partner in crime to the airport.  With happy hugs and promises to see each other again soon, we closed the curtain on our Rockin’ Vegas Weekend.

After dropping her off I pointed my Jeep eastward and on towards Zion National Park; the next stop on my road road trip east, and an adventure of an entirely different sort.

Tune in next week for stories from Angel’s Landing Trail and Zion National Park in Utah.

See you down the road!

~ Aeri

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306545_10100339996775636_297841040_nHave you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as an artist and entrepreneur.  To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.

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pittsburgh: the pearl of pennsylvania

Like an oyster with a grain of sand, Pittsburgh is fast emerging as The Pearl of Pennsylvania. Long considered the tough and gritty anchor of the state’s western edge, a youthful artistic movement is rapidly re-gentrifying this unique metropolis. Last week I had the opportunity to check out Pittsburgh for myself, and I have to say, the rumors are true.  I found a rapidly growing artisan community that was as optimistic as it was unpretentious. Locals were friendly and genuine, the art was vibrant, and the food delicious. Our aimless wanderings quickly turned into an international gastro-tour of Lawrenceville and The Strip, two little gems that really deserve some fanfare.

Lawrenceville is an area northeast of downtown that is blossoming into a trendy and fresh neighborhood grown from industrial roots.  Along its main drag sprout coffeeshops, art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and more. Near by, accessible by foot, bike, or car, The Strip District is a historic area now home to nightclubs, bars, and oodles of specialty shops and import grocers.

While we couldn’t hit every store on our tour (our wallets and waistlines just wouldn’t allow it) I am sure you will find just as many gems on your adventure as we did on ours.  But if you’re looking for some recommendations, follow along as I recount our recent gastro-tour.

We started out in Lawrenceville at Gryphon’s Tea, 4127 Butler St., with orders of Cold Earl Grey with agave nectar, and Matcha- a powdered green tea drink.  Both were brewed fresh while we waited, and the barista was friendly and filled with recommendations of sights and eats in Lawrenceville.

After a leisurely stroll up Butler St., into a few art galleries, and down to the waters edge, past design studios and consulting firms, we wandered past La Gourmandine Bakery and Pastry Shop, 4605 Butler St., and were betrayed by our noses.  It would take someone with a stronger will than I to walk past that shop and not be lured in with the scents of fresh french bread, buttery croissants, and delicate pastries.  The smell was exactly as a French Bakery should be.  It brought back memories of living in Lyon, rushing past bakeries just taking out their fresh baked goods as I caught the bus to class in the morning, and then picking up fresh baguettes in the afternoons on my way home.  The treats were as delicious as they smelled, with flaky layers that melted in your mouth and left you completely satisfied.

Wandering back down the other side of Butler Street, we took the barista up on her recommendation to eat at Smoke BBQ Taqueria, 4115 Butler St.  Smoke is an unassuming restaurant next to a refurbished movie theater that specializes in bar-be-qua and tacos.  It was while deciding what to order here that we committed to our day of foodie exploration.  So rather than order full meals we each ordered a taco snack. I had a taco with black beans, roasted corn, poblano relish, fried potatoes, and topped with ribs pork. It was an astounding blend of flavors and textures and every bite was a delight.

From there we hopped back in our car and drove the few blocks down to The Strip. I’d like to take a moment here to applaud the geniuses at the Pittsburgh Parking Authority. Their new parking meters are brilliant in their simplicity. Rather than print out tags that one must leave on their vehicle’s front dash, at these meters you simply key in your license plate and you’re done.  Why is this so brilliant? Because it is possible to refill your meter from ANYWHERE in the city. Simply visit one of these parking pay stations, key in your license plate number and viola your meter has been refreshed.

Anyway, back to food.  Our first stop in The Strip was a visit into one of the many Asian Markets along Penn Ave. There we found all our standard favorite spices, deserts, and drinks.  I left with bags of mochi, Tom Kha soup mix, wasabi snacks, and dried seaweed.

Back outside, not two doors down, we found a Polish Deli, S&D Polish Deli, 2204 Penn Ave. Here we ordered a selection of Polish Cheeses, some spinach and cheese pierogis, and a stuffed cabbage.  The cheese was sharp, the pierogis fresh, and the stuffed cabbage just the way babula makes it.

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Pierogis and stuffed cabbage from S&D Polish Deli

Surely they must be getting full, you might think. Maybe a bit. From here we transitioned to some grocery shopping and exploring more of the specialty shops along Penn Ave.

There are Italian Markets, Middle Eastern spice shops, Mediterranean grocers, fresh butchers, outdoor produce markets, and more. The cultural cacophony is deafening, and inspiring.  “If we lived here we could make this and that and more!” we found ourselves saying over and over again.  “I can’t believe they have this!” I exclaimed more than once over rare cuts of meat, exotic vegetables, and hard to find spices.

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An outdoor produce market on Penn Ave in The Strip 

After stocking up on some Italian cheeses from the Pennsylvania Macaroni Co., and some fresh biscotti from The Enrico Biscotti Co. we were ready for a break.  Rather than head home, we wandered into The Beerhive for a seat and a drink.  After a couple of refreshing pints of Octoberfest we were ready for round two of our gastro-tour.

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So many specialty shops all in a row!

We ended the day with Vietnamese sandwiches from Pho Van Vietnamese Noodles & Grill.  A Vietnamese Bahn Mi Sandwich, as I soon learned, is a mouthwatering combination of tender pork, chili sauce, onion, cilantro, and cucumber on top of a french baguette.  Pho Van does Bahn Mi right.

With that, we concluded our delightful gastro-tour of Lawrenceville and The Strip District. Everything was delicious, reasonably priced, and worth every calorie.  By the end of the day we were ready to collapse into a satiated food coma back at our hotel, and we did just that.

Pittsburgh, you hidden pearl, never again will I think of you as a city of steel mills and silly football players.  You are now forever in my heart as one of the most delicious, artistic, friendly and inviting cities in the Northeast.

Until next time, Buon Appetito and Salute!!

Aeri