South Point Casino Hotel Spa, Equestrian Center in Las Vegas

Friday September 27, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 6 Comments

South Point Casino

South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa Review

Everything about Nevada is big; from Hoover Dam, to the casinos on the Las Vegas strip. One thing I didn’t expect to see in a Las Vegas casino hotel was a larger-than life bronze statue of legendary poker player, mobster, casino owner and cowboy Benny Binion, sitting on top of his roping horse, near the entrance to South Point Casino’s equestrian center on the casino floor. This really shouldn’t surprise me, as South Point is famous for its arena and equestrian center.  South Point Casino is the only hotel I know of where you can drive up in your horse trailer, unload your horses and check into your hotel room all at the same time.

 

 

South Point Hotel suite

South Point Hotel suite #2481

Stay and play at South Point Casino Hotel and Spa

The South Point Casino, located on the tail south end of Las Vegas Boulevard, features 2,163 hotel rooms, 11 restaurants, a movie theater, bowling alley, weekly entertainment in the showroom, a swimming pool and Spa Costa del Sur, in addition to the equestrian center, arena and exhibit halls. In other words, you can stay and play at South Point without leaving the grounds.

After a day of watching cutting horses work with cattle (many of the equestrian events are open and free to the public) I checked into my king suite #2481, with a city view and view of the parking lot. My non-smoking room rented for $79. plus tax during the weekend and $49. on a week day – check the website for details. The room included a Serta Perfect Sleeper Point Plush mattress, 300 thread count linens and Archive bath and body amenities.

South Point Hotel pool

South Point Hotel swimming pool in Las Vegas

Rooms offer LED screens, high speed internet, separate bathroom with combination shower and bath, large closet with safe, desk and in room coffee maker. There is a daily resort fee of $14. per room that covers in room Wi-Fi, fitness center, local and toll free in room telephone calls, boarding pass printing, airport shuttle (based on availability) and casino discount booklet.

South Point dining options

It was my good fortune to be in Las Vegas during Restaurant Week. Restaurant Week in Las Vegas is not only a good value at participating restaurants, $5 of each meal purchased is donated to Three Square to help end hunger in Southern Nevada. After dining at four of South Point’s restaurants, I have come to the conclusion that large portions are key to the casino’s success. In listening in on diners conversations with waitstaff, most everyone walks away satisfied.

Cowboy sculpture, "Saturday Night" Kelly Graham

Cowboy artwork hangs outside Cinch Saloon at South Point Hotel and Equestrian Center

As I walked into Silverado Steak House, I was thrilled to be surrounded by cowboys here attending the Las Vegas Cutting Horse Association Futurity. Call me an equestrian groupie; I like the smell of horses and leather and the jingle jangle of spurs hitting the floor as cowboys and cowgirls amble along.  After an appetizer of Thai crab salad, my Kona crusted flat iron prime rib with cafe de Paris butter arrived sizzling on the plate, accompanied with asparagus, a hand tossed salad and perfectly baked potato. A flavorful Merlot from Lodi, California was included with the meal, as was a chocolate molten cake paired with vanilla ice cream. A satisfying meal for any cowgirl.

Lunch at the Big Sur Oyster Bar was overkill. A Las Vegas local recommended the lobster grilled cheese on sourdough with white cheddar ($24.) While the waitress suggested the Maryland jumbo lump crab cocktail ($16.) Like a kid in a candy store, I ordered both and instantly regretted my decision as soon as the crab cocktail arrived. With its all meat lump crab, this was a wonderful meal in itself for seafood lovers. Then came the lobster sandwich, stuffed with slipper meat from China or Indonesia and house cooked potato chips. According to the chef, Maine lobster is cost prohibitive.

prime rib, South Point Steakhouse

Kona prime rib at Silverado Steakhouse, South Point Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada

Don Vito’s Italian restaurant was also participating in Restaurant Week. My dinner began with bacon wrapped scallops, followed by heirloom tomato salad, Scampi Puttanesca over spinach tagliatelle, concluding with warm chocolate bread pudding. The house Cabernet Sauvignon accompanied the meal with $5 per meal given to Three Square. Service was attentive. Again, large portions – the cowboy seated across from my table wasn’t able to finish his meal either.

Breakfast the next morning found me at Coronado Cafe, open 24 hours, this restaurant reminded me of Denny’s – friendly service, value-pricing. I ordered the three cheese omelette with buttered wheat toast and hash brown potatoes ($7.95.)

Costa del Sur Spa, South Point Hotel, Las Vegas

Make time for Costa del Sur Spa at South Point Hotel, Las Vegas

Costa del Sur spa

I’m not a fan of Las Vegas casinos, nor the accompanying cigarette smoke. I’d rather spend my money in the spa. To date, one of my best spa experiences was found at Costa del Sur. This 40,000 square foot spa features 28 treatment rooms, a relaxation room, jacuzzi and eucalyptus steam room.  I recommend you arrive at least 30 minutes early – why not make it a spa day – to enjoy the entire spa experience! Daily spa passes are offered to hotel guests for $30. My insider tip: ask for Denise – she has been with Costa del Sur since it opened at South Point in 2006.

My 80 minute Goddess of the Sun Ritual body treatment started off with a full body exfoliation with sugar scrub. This followed with a hydrating body wrap, along with a cool stone facial and warm Moroccan oil scalp massage ($170.) If you want to really knock your socks off, combine the Goddess treatment with a hot stone, deep tissue sports therapy massage (additional charge) and throw in Reflexology, using pressure points on the feet. Be warned; this custom spa treatment will leave you so relaxed you’ll be headed to bed early. As Denise says, “it’s all about getting the body to exhale.” Amen to that!

slot machines, South Point Casino, Las Vegas

Hotel room artwork and slot machines feature horses at South Point Hotel

Insider tip

Gambler or not, make sure to sign up for the South Point Club Card – it’s free (must be over 21) and gives you discounts. And who doesn’t like to save a buck, go bowling for free or get a complimentary dessert with dinner? For the night owls, Coronado Cafe offers graveyard specials from midnight until 6:00 a.m.

Need to know

South Point Casino, Hotel and Spa does not accept pets. The South Point Equestrian Center does not board individual horses, nor do they offer horseback riding to the public.

Check-in time: 3:00 p.m.

Check-out time: 12:00 p.m.

If You Go:

South Point Hotel Casino and Spa (702) 796-7111

9777 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, Nevada 89183

Article written by, video and photos courtesy of  Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. Top photo courtesy of South Point Hotel. I was a guest of South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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Wild Water Fun in Niagara Falls, NY

Wednesday September 25, 2013 at 8:08 AM | 5 Comments

Maid of the MistMany often think of Niagara Falls as being in Ontario, Canada, but most people don’t realize that two of the three falls that comprise Niagara Falls are actually located in the United States. While the Canadian side does boast fabulous views of the falls, there are some fun water activities that you can do in Niagara Falls, NY – leaving your passport at home!

Maid of the Mist

Both countries currently offer rides on the Maid of the Mist, although the Canadian Maid of the Mist will cease operations this year (with another company poised to take over in 2014). It’s a family-friendly attraction that’s appropriate for kids of all ages. Guests don a complimentary blue poncho and board the short boat tour of the falls. While guests on one side of the boat got soaked, it’s easy to move over to the opposite side if you’d prefer to only get slightly wet. The Maid of the Mist is the best way to get up close to the falls, and any tourist to Niagara Falls should do it.

Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours

Adrenaline junkies can’t leave the Niagara Falls, NY area without a trip on a Whirlpool Jet Boat. These boats travel through class five rapids at a quick speed, soaking passengers in the process. There are three Whirlpool Jet Boat locations in the Niagara Falls area, with one in Canada and two in New York. We visited the Lewiston, NY location, where I was impressed with the professionalism of our guide Shaun and captain Aleeshia. Despite the layers of clothes they provide you, you will get absolutely soaked on the ride, so be prepared with a full change of clothes. If you sit in the first three rows of the boat you’ll feel almost submerged by water at some points, so sit in the back if you aren’t comfortable with that.

Cave of the Winds

Cave of the Winds is located in the Olmsted-designed Niagara Falls State Park, the oldest state park in America. Guests receive specially-designed sandals and yellow ponchos, and ride in an elevator 175 feet down into Niagara Gorge. Wooden boardwalks are rebuilt seasonally and take you right by the Bridal Veil Falls. If you are brave, be sure to walk all the way to the Hurricane Deck, where you’ll experience the rushing winds and waters of the falls. It’s the closest guests can get to the falls!

If you go:

To get the best photos, invest in a small, waterproof camera. Although you won’t be able to use it during the Devil’s Hole Rapids runs on the Jet Boat, you will be able to use it during part of ride.

This is a guest post by Jodi Grundig of Family Travel Magazine. Photo is courtesy of Jodi Grundig.

Disclosure: I experienced these attractions at no cost as part of the TMS Family Travel Conference.

The Lodge at Jackson Fork Ranch, adventure in Wyoming

Friday September 20, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 5 Comments

Lake Marlene, Wyoming

Enjoy Wyoming’s wide open spaces at Jackson Fork Ranch

Wyoming is home to bears, bald eagles, bison and bronc riders, among others. It’s a place where you step back in time to the wild west days; where neighbors were few and far between and land stretched out as far as the eye could see. A place where cowboys rode in the Tetons for days at a time looking for their cattle.

I recently discovered the wide open spaces of Bondurant, Wyoming at The Lodge at Jackson Fork Ranch. This intimate lodge, located 40 miles south of Jackson Hole, is ideal for singles, couples or families looking to experience an active adventure vacation while still enjoying gourmet meals and luxury lodging.

Open year round, Jackson Fork Ranch specializes in fly fishing, but like the fictional character Doctor Dolittle, with his menagerie of animals, the owner of this 1,300 acre bison ranch has a soft spot for animals, thus explaining the presence of 350 bison, a Percheron horse breeding program, minature donkeys and a Trumpeter swan partnership with the state of Wyoming.

 

 

Traveling trout, National Museum of Wildlife Art

Traveling trout, National Museum of Wildlife Art

Wyoming fly fishing

The sun beat high overhead on my first cast into a riffle on  Wyoming’s Upper Hoback River. I saw the splash of a tail flick the surface of the water as the fish manuevered away from the fast current.

My next cast landed in the eddy and danced my fly right to the shady spot by the river bank. Nibble, nibble, tug on the line; this fish was mine – for the moment. I’m a catch and release girl when it comes to native cutthroat trout.

Hiking in wild Wyoming

Waders off, we return to The Lodge at Jackson Fork and change into hiking boots. After filling our water bottles, our group decides between an ambitious hike to Kilgore Falls behind the lodge or down a flat forested trail. We opt for the forest trail and are rewarded with wild flowers, a beaver house and moose sighting by the Upper Hoback River. After patiently posing for our party of papparazzi, the moose meanders off the gravel bar, headed into the forest.

High Plains Bison, Jackson Fork Ranch

High Plains Bison filet is served at Jackson Fork Ranch

Dining at The Lodge at Jackson Fork Ranch

Dinners are well thought out culinary adventures at the all-inclusive Jackson Fork Lodge. As most guests come for the fly fishing, it’s a given that fish will surface on the menu during your stay. Bison will also be highlighted in the form of bison filets, bacon or perhaps tucked under layers of pasta in a house made lasagna. Mr. Joe Ricketts, TD Ameritrade founder and owner of The Lodge at Jackson Fork Ranch, also owns several bison operations in Canada and Montana, as well as High Plains Bison, a manufacturer of bison meat. If you have never tasted bison, you are in for a treat.

Back to the menu at hand; an herb filled creme fraiche tart with yellow and red garden fresh tomatoes  and basil started our dinner, followed with bison on a bed of mashed potatoes and asparagus. A trio of house made chocolate cake, upside down pear cake and cream puff pastries completed the meal.

Breakfasts are hearty affairs with eggs benedict and fried potatoes, fresh fruit and juice, as well as homemade granola with yogurt. Picnic style lunches are packed to go at the lodge for your outdoor adventures. Lunches may range from meat and cheese sandwiches, with chips, salad and fruit, to cold chicken, Cous cous salad and homemade toffee or brownie bars. Gluten free options are available, as well.

Be advised that the lodge does not own a liquor license. It’s BYOB (bring your own beverage) at the ranch.

Jackson Fork Ranch Percheron horses

Gray Percheron horses pull the carriage at Jackson Fork Ranch

Horses at Jackson Fork Ranch

Just as Wyoming is larger than life, it follows that the horses of Jackson Fork Ranch would be massive. Looking down at the pasture from Jackson Fork Lodge, the horses grazing in the meadow don’t look that big. However, get up close to these gray or black beauties and you’ll be hard pressed to call them ponies.

Take a Percheron driven carriage ride (or sleigh ride in the winter) through the Upper Hoback valley, watch the ranch hands feed bison (there’s even a bison round up in November) or go horseback riding into the Bridger Teton National Forest between the Wyoming Range and the Gros Ventre Range.

hot tub, Jackson Fork Lodge

Enjoy the hot tub at Jackson Fork Lodge in Wyoming

Sweet dreams at Jackson Fork Lodge

After a day of fishing, hiking, horseback riding, or Nordic skiing, slip into the outdoor hot tub and soak up the Wyoming beauty.  Then it’s time to turn in and tune out in your private room at Jackson Fork Lodge. All rooms in the four bedroom lodge, which may be rented out in its entirety, are named after settlers in Wyoming.

My upstairs room, the Sublette Suite, rented for $625 per night, including meals, and featured a king bed, stone fireplace, Jacuzzi tub and separate shower, in addition to a large walk in closet. With a panoramic view of the Upper Hoback Valley and surrounding mountains, be sure to take in a sunrise or sunset during your vacation.

Sublette Suite, Jackson Fork Lodge, Wyoming

The Lodge at Jackson Fork Ranch includes the Sublette Suite.

Need to know:

Guests will either drive to Bondurant, Wyoming or fly into Jackson Hole Airport (JAC.) While shuttles from Jackson Hole Airport may be arranged, it is recommended that guests rent a car during your visit to Jackson Fork Ranch. You’ll need access to a vehicle for visits to downtown Jackson Hole, meeting fishing guides or sight seeing off property. Check the website for details.

Check-in time: flexible

Check-out time: 12:00 p.m.

Insider Tips

Plans are underway for a 20 room lodge at Jackson Fork Ranch. The ranch has a “no tipping” policy for staff. Outside partners and guides for fishing and horseback riding is left to your discretion.

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter.

If You Go:

The Lodge at Jackson Fork Ranch  (866) 953-1290

670 Upper Hoback Road

Bondurant, Wyoming 82922

Article written by, video and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I was a guest of Jackson Fork Ranch.

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