Nevada, Where We've Been

Las Vegas, NV

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Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas is a city in the middle of the desert, unlikely to exist was it not for the water and power provided it by the Hoover Dam. As with a lot of big cities there are places to avoid, but there are good parts to the city as well… you just have to know where to look.

On the Las Vegas Strip, the more family friendly places are on the west side between the Mandalay Bay and the Mirage. We walked into the Luxor and enjoyed the Egyptian architectural theme throughout the hotel. Statues of sphinxes, obelisks, and great pillars with hieroglyphs are scattered throughout. It used to be that you could ride the angled elevator to the top and look out over the floor below, but that has since changed to guests of the hotel only.

The Excalibur is designed like a medieval castle with a jousting tournament show to entertain the guests. The lobby to the hotel has large statues of chess pieces on either side. There’s a tram that connects the 3 southerly hotels (including Mandalay Bay at the south end) because walking the long distance between each of them can be exhausting.

The Mirage casino had a volcano show that goes off every hour starting at 8pm. Fire erupts from the volcano and from the pool of water below. The water is lit up fire red and shoots up into the air. When you’re standing by the railing to watch the show, the heat from the fiery blasts can be… warm, especially at the end.

Our favorite hotel to walk through was the Bellagio. Its ornate decoration was unsurpassed in any of the other hotels we visited. After walking past the flowing fountains of chocolate and the high-end shops, we reached the Bellagio Conservatory. Wow! It was decorated with a fall theme of pumpkins, cornicopias, water features, and bedazzling trees and flowers everywhere you look.

The Bellagio also had a show in the front of the hotel. Fountains of water shoot up in choreographed motion with the music. It was a really great show and probably our favorite.

Ethel M Chocolates

Ethel M Chocolates offers a factory tour to see how their delicacies are made. Named after Ethel Mars, the mother of the famous Forrest Mars who began the Mars candy company, they opened Ethel M in 1980 from recipes she developed in 1911. They had just finished laying out the raspberry filling when we arrived. We saw their huge melting pots and machinery and watched the workers package the chocolates for sale. 

In the shop, we were able to sample a few of the special flavors. Ellie tried a lemon filled chocolate and Jaden tried the dark chocolate raspberry. Both were delicious! 

National Atomic Testing Museum

The Nevada desert has been used for years as a testing site for atomic bombs. This museum told the history of the bomb, from its conception under the name of the Manhattan Project, its use in World War II, throughout the Cold War, and to the inevitable cease of testing in the 1990’s. 

Several atomic bomb shell casings are on display in the museum, from both a real bomb and a replica of the first bomb, named Trinity.

Atmospheric atomic bomb testing was banned under JFK, but testing continued underground for nearly 30 more years before eventually being put to an end. The Nevada desert in this located has been pockmarked with craters that show the destruction that took place here.

Valley of Fire State Park

The Valley of Fire is definitely a place to not miss. It’s located off the beaten path about 50 minutes north of Las Vegas. Its unique red rocks make it a fascinating place to hike and explore. I could have spent many days here.

It’s also famous for the alien planet-type atmosphere it exudes. In fact, at least one famous movie was filmed here that is an attraction for fellow Trekkies. This is the place where Captains Picard and Kirk fought with Soran and where that Captain Kirk died in the movie Star Trek Generations.

Nellis AFB

We stayed at the FamCamp on Nellis Air Force Base. Security is tight here so I wasn’t given access with my VHIC card, but did receive a 60 day pass to access the base. 

This has got to be one of the best RV parks we have visited so far. First class service being chauffered to our campsite, pull-thrus, lots of landscaping to avoid the heat of the afternoon sun, playground for the kids, large parking spots for reservation check-in, and very pleasant staff.

Starlink was a little better here than southern California, but not blazing fast. We were able to get decent speeds though without the buffering.

The nights were quiet and days peaceful.