Jordan: Welcome To Jordan!

Probably the single most common question I have gotten about this trip is how I came to choose Jordan as my destination.  I have to give credit to social media for this one.  I was inspired by other travel bloggers that I follow.  I wouldn’t have known or seen the highlights of travel in Jordan without social media.  I saw so many beautiful photos posted of this country.  But it wasn’t just the scenery that inspired me.  It was also that they spoke of how kind the people are and how safe the country is.  I hope that my readers and people that keep up with me on social media are somehow inspired too.  That’s why I started this Blog in the first place: to share and inspire places to travel to that people may not think of, or even know to visit.  For this trip, I was somewhat yearning for a more cultural travel experience than I have had in my other vacations.  I’m so excited to share the details of this with you because I definitely acheived just that!

Jordan is located in the middle of Egypt, Israel, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.  It has been called the eye of the storm because it is a very peaceful country despite it’s sometimes inharmonious neighbors.  I coupled this trip with a visit to Israel and spent eight days in each country, but for this Blog, I’m going to cover only Jordan.

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Jordan on a map!  In the middle of Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel.

Welcome to Jordan!  I crossed the border from Israel to Jordan on foot at the Wadi Araba Border Crossing.  You must cross on foot because Israel taxi’s are not allowed in Jordan.  So, I took an Israeli taxi to the border crossing, walked across the border into Jordan, and took a Jordanian taxi to my first top.  My route through the country was Petra, Wadi Rum, Aqaba, and the Dead Sea/Amman.

Drinking in Jordan:  I had read that there is little to no alcohol throughout the country, as it is against the Muslim religion.  Although we were staying at a very nice place in Petra (first stop) that did serve alcohol, the Wadi Rum Desert (our second stop), did not.   There aren’t liquor stores to stop at, and only certain cities have such stores. So, this meant we had to plan upon entering the country, and bring it with us through our travels.  As we crossed the border, we came across a duty free liquor store.  Jackpot!  We had planned to drive a bit out of the way, so you can imagine how happy we were to see one at the border.  As we went through the final security scan, we got stopped by multiple guards who had to call in the General about our alcohol.  Apparently we had purchased on the Israel side of the crossing, which was 20 feet before crossing into Jordan.  That store had felt like it was too good to be true!  It felt like we endured an eternity of interrogation.  After pleaded and sweet talking about our accidental mistake, the General yelled out “WELCOME TO JORDAN!”, and let us pass with all of our libations.  It was a little bit of a rocky start to entering, and I certainly don’t recommend rolling the dice like this at the border.  We got very lucky! After wiping all the sweat from our brows and shaking our nerves, we jumped in a taxi to our first stop in Petra.

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Cheers to crossing the border from Israel to Jordan on foot.

1st stop: Petra

Petra is known as the “Lost City”, and is one of the Wonders of the World.  It is also the most visited site in all of Jordan.  If you are an Indiana Jones fan, then you are familiar with this site.  For those that aren’t, Petra was once a trading center and capital of the Nabataean empire between 400 B.C. and 106 A.D.  Following this, the city sat empty for centuries.  In the 1800’s it was rediscovered!   You need to purchase your tickets to enter the park to Petra in advance.  Once inside the park, it’s a little over a mile walk to the Treasury.  Being how popular this site is, we opted to enter the park at opening hour (6:00am) to beat the crowds and heat.  It was also quite cool having this mysterious site mostly to ourselves so early in the morning.  We got a ton of great pictures without people in the background, which is always important to me.  Once down there you can enjoy some tea and refreshments, buy souvenirs, and take a camel or donkey ride if you don’t feel like exploring Petra on foot.

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Lost City of Petra.
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So nice to have this wonder of the world almost all to ourselves.  So worth it to get up early!

Because of our early start at the park, we were back at our hotel by lunch time.  I chose the Movenpick Petra for our accommodations for several reasons.  Not only is this hotel absolutely stunning with seven phenomenal restaurants, but: 1) The hotel is located right across the street from the Petra park entrance.  2)  It is the only hotel with a pool that isn’t miles away from the park entrance.  Since we were visiting in June, this was a must for me.  3)  It is the only hotel in the area that serves alcohol.  Wow, I feel like I am talking about alcohol quite a bit in this Blog.  Ha ha!!  I don’t mean to come off as a total professional, but I did a lot of research on this, and want to share it because it was important to us.  We envisioned having a cold beer after exploring the park (which we did), spending a day by the pool with mimosas (which we did), and ejoying wine with our picturesque rooftop BBQ dinner (which we did)!  The hotel was a perfect fit for us, and I can’t say enough about how great the service was.  If you are visiting Petra, book this hotel!  You will not be dissapointed.

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Beautiful lobby of Movenpick Petra.
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Having a pool to cool off in Petra is a huge bonus!

2nd Stop:  Wadi Rum Desert

Wadi Rum Desert is known as the Valley of the Moon, and has the reputation of being Mars on Earth.  It is easy to see why they filmed the movie “The Martian” here.  It’s crazy that places like this exist, and are just a plane ride away.  Talk about a spot to do some soul searching!  We decided to do a real Bedouin experience, and camp in the desert.  I chose Sun City Camp for our camp ground and sprung the extra dough for the Martian Bubble Tent.  This was the most unique accommodations I have ever experienced.  The word “tent” doesn’t do it justice, as this is a true glamping (glamorous camping) experience.  The Martian Bubble tents are clear so that you can stare at the beautiful desert in the day and watch the stars come alive at nigh, all while lying in a bed that felt like a cloud.  So comfy!  These tents are perfectly air conditioned with a full bathroom and refrigerator.  Perfect place to store the hooch we were lugging around that had been purchased at the border crossing.  Upon calling this camp to inquire about liquor, I was told they don’t serve alcohol or allow it in common areas, however they were completely ok with us enjoying it in our tent.  So there in our bubble tent fridge, our drinks chilled.  Breakfast and dinner are included in the hotel price and all meals are served in the main dining hall.  Every night the camp has a ceremony where they pull the Zarb BBQ dinner out of the ground where the meat has been cooking all day in the earth ovens.  We all eat the best buffet you can imagine (seriously the food was to die for), and then the music starts thumping as they light a campfire, serve turkish tea, and smoke hookahs.  I even joined in on a dance around the campfire.  Cultural travel experience??  Check!

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Martian Bubble Tent at Sun City Camp, Wadi Rum Desert.
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What a beautiful view right from your bed!
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Main dining hall and outdoor nightly party location with loud music, dancing, and hookah.

We did two excursions during our stay at Sun City.  One sunset truck ride through the desert, and one sunset camel ride through the desert.  It’s hard to say which one I enjoyed more.  The truck ride was super exhilarating!  We were straight up railing through the desert as we blasted music.  It was so much fun!  The camel ride was very relaxing, and we stopped for a pit stop to watch the sunset in the sand with our camels.  We also got incredibly lucky as both of these excursions were private.  Just us and our guide…and our camels.  LOL.  Totally amazing!

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Our guide had us railing through the desert.  So exciting and fun!
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Stop to watch the sunset on our ride.  So nice to have it be just us two on this tour.
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Headed out on our camels to watch the sunset.
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Again, so fortunate.  We had the desert all to ourselves.  Just us, our guide, and our camels.
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Very happy girl in Wadi Rum.

3rd stop: Aqaba

After camping in the Wadi Rum Desert, we were ready for some beach time.  Aqaba is exactly that: a beach town on the Red Sea.  The Red Sea is well know for it’s water sports, and we were excited to enjoy the ocean and our infinity pool at the hotel overlooking it.  We stayed at Al Manara, a Luxury Collection Hotel,  because it just looked like the most gorgeous hotel ever!  The rates were really great for this type of hotel at $175 per night.  Aqaba was the hottest leg of the trip, so it was a good thing we had the ocean and the hotel infinity pool.  Our first day, we were in that pool from the moment we woke up until the sun went down.  We literally swam all day long!  The second day we chartered a boat to take us snorkeling in the Red Sea.  The Red Sea is huge for diving, but I’m a scaredy cat and prefer to snorkel.  While out on the water, we could visibly see Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Jordan.  It was pretty cool!  We explored a ton of coral, a huge sunken ship, and jumping off the top of the boat into the refreshing Red Sea.  My husband hit 1,389,486 back flips off the top of a boat.  Ha ha!  In case you were wondering, most hotels in Aqaba serve cocktails, but only a couple of restaurants in the city square (which was walkable) do.

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This hotel is a dream!  Al Manara, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Aqaba.
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Swimming in the hotel infinity pool from the moment I woke up until the sun went down.
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Snorkel day in the Red Sea.
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Exploring a sunken ship in the Red Sea.
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The master at back flipping off the top of a boat.

4th Stop: Dead Sea

Well, really our “4th Stop” was a long day of travel with a stop at the Dead Sea, and dinner in Amman.  Our flight home was at 3:00am, and the Amman airport is located on the opposite side of the country from Aqaba.  We decided to spend our last day driving the four hour cross country trip with a stop at the Dead Sea, and a second stop in the capital for a late dinner.  We hired a taxi driver for nine hours, which cost us $300.  This was cheaper than the little hopper flight we could have taken from Aqaba to Amman, and was a much better way to see more of the country on our last day.

We arrived at the Dead Sea about one hour before sunset.  Perfect timing!  The Dead Sea is actually a lake, not a sea.  It is a lifeless body of water, hence the name.  It is eight or nine times saltier than the oceans of the world – so dense and mineral rich that it doesn’t even feel like normal water, more like olive oil mixed with sand. The Dead sea is the lowest point on earth, and receding rapidly at 3 feet per year. I felt incredibly lucky to experience it before it possibly disappears forever.  Here lies the famous photo op of a person reading a book while floating.  It is impossible for one to sink in the Dead Sea due to the salt levels being so high.  So, I just bobbed and floated watching my final sunset in Jordan.  The mud also has a ton of minerals in it that is great for smoothing your skin.  I missed the memo that said not to shave the day of doing this, and after I rubbed the mud all over my body, I broke out in a complete rash.  Fail!  Also, you can’t put your face in the water due to how strong the salt is.  While posing for a photo, I took a wave in the face and water shot in my eyes, nose, and throat.  I kid you not, I thought I was going to go blind.  It hurt so bad!  I also tossed my cookies.  Double fail!  I haven’t thrown up since my very early drinking days, when my drink of choice was a 40oz of Mickey’s.  I was on a budget back then.  LOL. Regardless of what I had to go through…I got the photo!

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Rubbing the Dead Sea mud all over my skin.
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Reading the Alchemist in the Dead Sea.  Caught a wave in the face right after this photo.  Almost went blind and I threw up.  Whatever it takes to get the shot.  Ha ha!

Last stop was a late night rooftop dinner in Amman at Canteloupe.  This is located in the perfect location to view the entire city, ruins, and huge Jordanian flag that blows in the wind.  It was a great place to squeeze in our last supper of beef carpaccio and pasta as we looked over the city lights.  The food was phenomenal!  We were done at 11:30pm and headed to the airport for our 3:00am flight.  Bye bye Jordan!!!

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Rooftop dinner in the capital, Amman.  Perfect way to squeeze in our last supper over looking the city lights.

 

Side note on attire for the ladies:  For those of you gals who are curious how to dress in Jordan, this is for you.  You are welcome to wear whatever you want in your hotel or while out in the Wadi Rum Desert.  However, any time I was outside of these areas, I covered up my shoulders and chest.  I actually just wore my typical sundresses and wrapped a scarf around my shoulders and chest.  It worked perfectly.  It was definitely very interesting to me to visit a country where most women wear head scarfs at all times, some in full Niqab (covers everything but the eyes).  But I have to say, the women and Jordanian people in general, were so kind.  They didn’t judge and I didn’t get one weird look from anyone.  They truly do welcome all cultures and religions with open arms!

Thanks for reading!  Check out my YouTube video below for the Vlog version of this trip!  If you are a YouTuber, please Like and Subscribe.  🙂

XXOO

Jessica

Las Vegas: Top 10 Things To Do With A Family.

Most of us think of Las Vegas as Sin City or an adult playground.  Well, in reality, there’s a ton of stuff to do with kids.  In this Blog, I’m going to talk about the top things to do with kids that puts a totally different spin on our thinking of what a Las Vegas vacation is all about.  And if you have a teenager in the house (like me), you can even manage to sneak in a pretty epic date night in the midst of all that family fun.

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Transportation

The trip I planned was on Spring Break while the kids were out of school.  I always plan a family trip for Spring Break, and try not to go too far being the kids have to jump right back into school after one week off.  I also try to avoid flying on this week of vacay, because getting a family of six anywhere with flights increases my cost incredibly.  If we are flying and spending that extra money, I prefer to have more time than one week to enjoy the trip.  So, I save those trips at far away places for different times in the year. The kids got so excited about Las Vegas and the thought of seeing a little example of different places in the world ex.  Paris, New York New York, Venetian, and Caesars.  The weather is absolutely perfect at this time of year in Las Vegas at 80-85 degrees.  We initially had planned to drive to Las Vegas (from Northern California).  However, at the last second we started to dread the 10-12 hours in the car with four children.  LOL.  We decided on taking the train instead.  This was such a great idea!  It was a new and exciting experience for the kids!  We scored great seats with four top tables.  We could work, do school work, play electonics, get up and walk around, grab a drink at the bar, eat at the cafe when we were hungry, all while avoiding traffic and not stopping to use the restroom every five minutes.  The train was  in no way faster than flying but it was WAAAAYYYY better than driving and was half the cost of flying our family of six.  Being there is no need for a car in Vegas, this ended up being a great choice for us.

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Vegas here we come!
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Settling in for our train ride to Vegas.  So comfy with table tops, cafe, bar, bathrooms, no traffic.  Winning!

 

Accomodations at Tahiti Village

It is absolutely ridiculous for my family of six to stay in a regular hotel room (IMO), and I refuse to do it unless it is a short weekend trip.  When I’m with my entire family, I need to have more space and a full kitchen to feed their hungry mouths that are asking for food every 30 minutes.  Hashtag TRUTH.  Las Vegas is mostly hotels near the Strip, but I came across a place called Tahiti Village online.  Guys, this place ended up being totally awesome for a family trip!  The rooms were huge condos with full kitchens but the property was more like a grand hotel.  If we didn’t feel like cooking or going out, we had a restaurant and bar right on the property.  The best part about this place was the pools and activities.  They had a huge pool with a sandy beach entry where they held sand castle making contests and a long Lazy River with intertubes, which is where my kids spent most of their time.  An evening movie on the grass was shown twice per week.  It was perfect!  Tahiti Village is located just a mile from the Strip, so we could take the free shuttle, or jump in a quick Uber ride to all the Las Vegas action.

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Our condo at Tahiti Village.  A must for our family to have a full kitchen.
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Main pool at Tahiti Village.
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Sandy beach entry to the main pool where they had organized sand castle making contests.
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We rode in the lazy river all day long on our relaxing days.
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Living our best life in Las Vegas.

 

Top Things to Do

Ok, so let’s get into it.  What are the top things to do in Las Vegas with kids??  Well, we barely could scratch the surface in one week but these were my top picks.

High Roller Ferris Wheel

High Roller is a 550-foot tall, giant Ferris wheel on the Las Vegas Strip.  It is currently the worlds tallest ferris wheel and is a 30 minute ride.  This absolutely puts those county fair ferris wheels to shame, and will be quite the experience for your little ones.

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High Roller Ferris Wheel.  The largest in the world.

Circus Circus

Circus Circus is definitley the most kid friendly hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, and is where the Adventure Dome is located. The Adventure Dome is a five acre indoor/outdoor Adventure Amuesment Park.   The kids can ride rides, play games, rock climb, and even catch a creepy clown show.

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Circus Circus.  The most kid friendly hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.
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Virtual Reality Experience at Circus Circus.
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Adventure Dome Circus Circus.

 

Shopping at the Forum Shops

Las Vegas has some of the best shopping!  I have two teenage girls in the house, so we snuck away for a girls day and hit the shops.  We visited several malls, but the Forum Shops at Caesars were our favorite.  The hotel is really beauiful and you feel as though you are shopping in Rome, Italy.

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Shopping at Caesars Forum Shops.

 

Best Restaurant To Dine At On The Strip: Sugar Factory!

Our kids are crazy for sugar (who’s aren’t?), and when we spoil them with a sugary treat they are so so so happy (before they turn into little monsters).  What better place to take them than the Sugar Factory!?  This place is located right on the Strip, and the menu is filled with things like Cheeseburgers with donuts for buns, fried chicken and waffles, or a truly gourment stack of pancakes and chocolate.  The $20 milkshakes are pricey, but you simply have to try one.  Everything is a total sugar masterpiece.  It’s a really beautiful restaurant too with elegant decor, and is a true sugary fine dining experience.  We ate dinner here, and then returned for a milkshake on our girls day in the middle of shopping.  Yum yum!

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The milkshakes at the Sugar Factor are an absolute must!
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Candy Shop at the Sugar Factory.

 

Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden, Tiger and Dolphin Habitat

We set the teenagers free one day to do more shopping, and went to see some tigers and dolfins with our little guys, who are 10 and 5, at Siegfriend and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitiat.  Here, you come face-to-face with some of nature’s most exotic creatures.  Explore, learn and play in an enchanting world of Bottlenose Dolphins, White Tigers, White Lions, and Leopards.  The little guys loved it!

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LOL.  My son had to have this photo…what can I say?

 

Slotzilla Zipline Over Fremont Street

SlotZilla is a 11-story slot machine-inspired zip line attraction on Fremont Street, and is one of the best things to do in Las Vegas!  It was $25 per person or $45 if you wanted to do Superman Style.  I thought these prices were great for the experience you receive!  Making a reservation in advance is a must!  I made mine one week in advance.  The wait could be hours if you don’t have a reservation.  I personally think it is best to do this once the sun goes down and the Las Vegas lights are shinging as bright as can be.

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Slotzilla Zipline.

 

Seven Magic Mountains

Ok, so now that you’ve walked up and down the strip and gotten a taste of all the Las Vegas action, why not take a 15 minute ride outside of the Strip to see a beauiful place in the middle of the desert called Seven Magic Mountains.   A large scale desert artwork comprised of seven towers of colorfully stacked boulders standing more than thirty feet high.  If you can believe it, our kids wanted to go at dawn to exprience the sun coming up in the middle of the desert.  I can never get my kids to catch a sunrise.  This was an absolutely beautiful experience, and one I think they will remeber forever!

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Seven Magic Mountains.
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Catching a sunrise in the dessert.
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Never a bad idea to get up early.  Perfect lighting for great photos.
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Love in the desert.

 

New York New York

I think this was our favorite Strip hotel to visit as a family.  We visited Houdini’s Magic Shop, which the kids stayed at for over an hour learning magic tricks.  There was a bar right outside the magic shop where mom and dad posted up for some adult beverages.  We road the Big Apple Roller Coaster…well, half of us did.  The other half who were either too scared or too small, stayed back in the super enormous arcade.  We ate awesome pizza by the slice, and snuck in a little gambling.  This was definiley a day of fun for everyone, with good mix of adult and kid things to do.

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Houdini’s Magic Shop.
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Little smooching after we won some money at the tables!
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Big Apple Roller Coaster.
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New York New York was our favorite hotel on the Strip that was fun for everyone.

 

Town Square

Located within walking distance from Tahiti Village is Town Square.  Town Square is a shopping, dining, and entertainment center.  There is a huge park in the center of the Square with a train ride, playground, and hoolla hooping for all.  A lot of the restaurants have patios that overlook the park so the adults can enjoy some wine while keeping an eye on the kiddos.  This is an awesome place to go out to eat or shop if you don’t feel like dealing with the crazieness of the Strip.

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Having some Happy Hour while we watch the little guys below at the park.
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That is the exact balcony we sat at for Happy Hour to watch the littles below play at the park and ride the train.

 

Silverton Casino Mermaid’s Aquarium

Named the “Best Free attraction in Las Vegas” is the Mermaid’s Aquarium.  It’s a huge tank filled with tropical fish and live mermaids that interact with the guests.  My kids are Disney’s Little Mermaid fans, so this was a really cute experience for them to wave and blow kisses to real mermaids.

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Mermaid’s show at the Silverton Casino.
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Interacting with real mermaids.

So there you have it!!  These were my top things to do with a family in Las Vegas.  This ended up being one of our favorite Spring Break vacations!  Easy too if you live in California or Nevada.  Hopefully this shows Las Vegas in a different light for you, and that this trip really can be fun for the entire family!

Thanks for reading!!!  For the Vlog version of the Blog, see my YouTube video below.  If you are a youtuber, please like and subscribe.  🙂

XXOO,

Jessica

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All you need is LOVE.
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Exploring the Strip at night.
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Date night.
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Sunrise in the desert.

 

 

 

 

W Scottsdale: Hotel Review

When my best friend called to chat about where she should have her adult only birthday getaway, we were a bit stumped.  As a group of friends traveling together, we had done Las Vegas, Miami, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Lake Tahoe. ” What about Scottsdale, AZ?” she asked.  We had heard so many great travel stories from people who visit for Major League Baseball’s Spring Training that raved about the great weather, awesome golfing, and endless nightlife.  It sounded like a perfect idea!

When I had heard about travels to Scottsdale, the W Scottsdale always came up in conversation.  It is definitely known as THE place to stay in this area of Arizona.  Once we had decided on our destination, we knew there was only one place we wanted to call home for this trip….the W Scottsdale.  This hotel is the perfect mix of luxury and party!  It is a modern hotel with epic weekend pool parties.  And the biggest plus is that the location can’t be beat.  Walk out of the hotel and across the street and you are in the heart of downtown Scottsdale and what is known as the Entertainment District for pulsating nightlife.

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Bird’s eye view of the W Scottsdale.  Walk right across the street and you are in the heart of the Entertainment District.

From the moment you walk through the doors at this beautiful hotel, you are treated like kings and queens.  The service is stellar!  The hotel lobby is gorgeous with uber chic furnishings and an illuminated stairway that takes you to the Wet Deck, which is where the pool is located and they hold all their outdoor events.

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Illuminated stairway in the hotel lobby that takes you to the Wet Deck.

I chose the newly renovated Cool Corner Suite for my room on this trip.  This suite is absolutely stunning!  Floor to ceiling windows and a large balcony with a perfect view overlooking the pool.  I had some major breakfast goals on this balcony while sipping some bubbly and living the true lap of luxury.

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Breakfast goals on the balcony of the Cool Corner Suite.
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Our beautiful room, the Cool Corner Suite…and my crazy hubby doing a belly flop!  LOL

I have been to some pretty fun pool parties, but the Wet Deck at the W Scottsdale is by far one of my favorites.  It was an absolute blast!  The sexy VIP waitresses bring you bottle service on the shoulders of their sexy male helpers, while the DJ thumps some liquid lounge meets hip hop tunes.  The music definitley had me shaking my bon bon all day long!  They have an array of comfy day beds, lounging pods, and private cabanas…but the real party is in the pool!!

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Pool at W Scottsdale.
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Party time at the pool!

The W Scottsdale’s motto is “Lust For Life”, and after spending the weekend here, I can understand why!  Myself, my husband, and our group of friends had the time of our lives at this hotel that is a haven for style.  Scottsdale has most definitley joined my list of favorite party cities in the United States!

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Lust For Life!

Thanks for reading!  For the Vlog version of this trip, see my YouTube video below.  If you are a youtuber, please Like and Subscribe!  🙂

XXOO,

Jessica