What have I been up to? Read on, friends.
Gordon is the new robotic coffee-making kiosk by Cafe X, which started pouring cappuccinos and flat whites inside the Metreon food court in San Francisco on January 30. While the kiosk offers a full array of espresso-fueled staples, it doesn’t do much in the way of customization. There’s only one size and one kind of milk, so no, Gordon can’t make you a grande half-caf, almond-milk latte in a venti cup, but he also won’t sneer at you for wanting a pump of caramel in your morning mood juice. He’s a robot. He literally couldn’t care less. (Extra Crispy)
On January 8, the famed Pioneer Cabin tree, a giant sequoia in Calaveras Big Trees State Park that was carved into a tunnel in the 1880s, collapsed after heavy rains. When icons crumble they can deal a surprisingly heavy blow, a reminder that even something as mighty as a sequoia can be brought down by water. But across the globe there are other magnificent trees still worth visiting, from a gnarled pine born before the pyramids to a grove of ghostly clones to a Japanese wisteria whose blooms span 1,000 square meters.
(Travel + Leisure)
Last July, Urban Seed broke ground on its first farm, an assemblage of high-tech greenhouses located on a small plot of land smack in the center of Las Vegas. Eventually the space will hold six 6,500-square-foot greenhouses that will grow 25 different crops aeroponically in vertical A-frames, from bell peppers to beets to alpine strawberries. If an agriculture company launching in the desert sounds counterintuitive, that’s entirely the point. (NPR)
If you want to see Nevada, you’ll have to get in the car. Some of the state’s most intriguing attractions are flung across wide swaths of open land, and your own set of wheels is still the best way to cover the distance. Why bother? Because on these routes you’ll get to commune with 5,000-year-old pine trees, soak in remote hot springs, wander a painted car forest, cruise the Extraterrestrial Highway and marvel at some of the darkest skies in the country.
I did the writing for this gorgeous interactive, which takes readers on a tour of Nevada’s top road trips and invites them to set out on a journey themselves. (Matador)
The canvas is simple: tubular meat, squishy bun, maybe a squirt of mustard. But when that simple combination is done right, a hot dog becomes more than the sum of its parts, a meal that’s simultaneously low brow and divine. The best hot dogs in Las Vegas come in all shapes, sizes and styles, from classic franks to wieners topped with kimchi, pineapple, pastrami and more. (Time Out)
All you had to do was browse the headlines in 2016 to understand that it was a tumultuous year for travel. But amid the tragedy of terrorist attacks and uncertainty of Zika’s spread, the industry also showed signs of resiliency, with some destinations rising even as others stagnated or slowed.
To predict where you’ll visit in 2017, I spoke to travel professionals across the industry to hear about destinations poised to grow in the coming year. (Travel Weekly)
Each year, Vegas magazine and Grand Canal Shoppes at Venetian and Palazzo partner to identify and celebrate women of Las Vegas who are making incredible contributions to worthy causes in the city. Our honorees for 2016 not only have a personal connection to the organizations for which they do so much good, but most are natural extensions of their daily lives and professions. (Vegas Magazine)
Your heart is racing, your fingers twitching, a bead of sweat forming on your brow. But you’re not clutching the dice at a Las Vegas craps table or shuffling chips in the poker room. You’re poised at the apex of a gnarly mountain bike run, about to catapult into a maze of downhill single track just beyond the glare of the Strip. (Marriott Traveler)
Last December, 195 countries approved the Paris Agreement, a historic pact that commits almost every nation on the planet to lowering greenhouse gas emissions. The goal is to avoid reaching a 3.6-degree increase in average global temperatures since the dawn of the Industrial Age, but we’re already nearly halfway there. According to NASA, worldwide averages have ticked up 1.6 degrees since 1880, when modern temperature tracking began. The hottest year on record was 2015, and 2016 is on pace to be even hotter.
Everywhere you look, climate change is on a collision course with tourism. In Venice, the rising seas are damaging important buildings. In Vietnam, historical Hoi An is at risk of extreme flooding. In Costa Rica, the Monteverde Cloud Forest, home to 2.5% of the planet’s biodiversity, is seeing unusual swings in precipitation. If the trend continues, local experts worry that the cloud cover could lift entirely. (Travel Weekly)
When Wolfgang Puck opened Spago inside Caesars Palace’s Forum Shops in 1992, he launched a dining revolution in Las Vegas. Almost a quarter-century later, the Strip is a culinary wonderland stacked with Michelin-starred chefs and bold cuisines that would’ve once seemed unthinkable in the city formerly known for bad buffets and free chicken dinners. And the Vegas restaurant scene isn’t content to grow lukewarm, let alone stale. (LA Confidential)
Just in time for Halloween, it appears we’ve reached peak coulrophobia. But while the irrational fear of clowns might be making headlines right now, it’s far from a new phenomenon. UNLV professor and psychology department chair Dr. Christopher Kearney says our discomfort with the face-painted characters actually has roots in something far older than Internet hoaxes and far simpler than bygone villains like John Wayne Gacy, who worked as Pogo the Clown and killed 33 young men and boys during the 1970s. (Las Vegas Weekly)
I scolded their wood-handled knives with their disgusting, bacteria-laden cracks. I talked about the dangers of dull cutlery. I commiserated over bad knives that tore up loaves of bread and squished tender tomatoes, and marveled at the time you could save by just having a knife that works. I’d have customers grab their go-to kitchen knife and ask them to struggle through pieces of thick rope and leather. Then I’d watch their eyes go wide as a brand new Cutco blade slid through these things effortlessly. “This is what cutting should feel like,” I cooed. (Supper Club)
Mrs. Mary Boyer Shewell had just used her elegant, gray scarf to strangle our tour guide inside the de Young museum. There was a nefarious look to the woman immortalized in the 1775 portrait by American painter Henry Benbridge, and other figures on the walls were also clearly up to no good. Before the group left the gallery, our Museum Hack guide would also be hypothetically killed by poison, a shotgun-wielding toddler and a baby lamb. (Travel Weekly)
It is the best kind of magic trick. One minute there is a building, a tower, a monument to stacked chips, spilled drinks and dreams dashed or fulfilled. The next there is nothing. With the push of a button, a self-contained world becomes rubble. Crowds often cheer when a casino crumbles, but just as thrilling as the symphony of explosions and the crash of concrete is seeing what rises from the ashes.
You could never make the most complicated latte in the world at Starbucks. The caffeine king’s syrup assembly line simply wouldn’t allow for it, and last I checked, they didn’t stock blowtorches. To make the most complicated latte in the world, you need a blowtorch. And maybe a fedora. (Extra Crispy)
The failed coup was but the latest in a series of blows to Turkish tourism. Even before military tanks appeared on the streets of Ankara and Istanbul during the July coup, and a terrorist assault on Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport on June 28 killed 42 people and left more than 200 wounded, tourism in Turkey had been devastated. (Travel Weekly)
It’s hard to comprehend now what Caesars Palace meant to Las Vegas’ nascent tourist corridor when its fountains first began to spew. The resort that opened in 1966 had just 680 rooms (today: 4,610), but it was bigger in every sense than anything else in town. Caesars was grander, more luxurious and more flamboyant. It was an A-list playground, where Andy Williams valeted his kelly-green Rolls-Royce, civilians rubbed elbows with celebrities and everyone dressed like movie stars. Decades before what happened here stayed here, Caesars embodied that infamous attitude, shocking guests with its nude statuary and toga-clad “goddesses,” paid to pour wine down your throat or massage your temples. It was a Roman fantasy, risen from the desert like an outrageous oasis and ready to deal you in. (Las Vegas Weekly)
In San Francisco, guests can sample ales at a craft brewery, followed by a home-brewing workshop and dinner at a secret supper club. Host Justin Tung will even mail participants the results of their brewing efforts. In Tokyo, former sumo champion Konishiki introduces visitors to the sport’s culture with a hosted dinner, a visit to a sumo house (where guests can sample a traditional hot pot meal and learn to throw a 440-pound wrestler) and tickets to a tournament with behind-the-scenes access.
Both jaunts are part of Airbnb’s new City Hosts tour product, “multiday trips curated by local, knowledgeable hosts,” which the sharing-economy giant quietly introduced in June. (Travel Weekly)
Running often seems like the simplest sport. It’s a motion our bodies perform naturally, the only gear required is a pair of shoes (if even that) and we get to pick the pace. Around the world people run for work, play, fitness and even spiritual enlightenment. And while you might think that running is running is running, it is practiced differently depending on where you do it.
After graduating from Rice University, NCAA All-American runner Becky Wade spent a year traveling the globe and studying the way the world runs. During her journey, she met legendary sprinter Usain Bolt, ran on hallowed ground at Roger Bannister Track in Oxford and gathered new techniques and fresh perspective from 22 countries and more than 3,500 miles. Here’s what she learned. (ESPNw)
When I was in college, I saved a Dunkin’ Donuts from almost certain destruction. I was at Tufts University just outside of Boston, and I’d stumbled off campus to present my hangover with a peace offering of doughy bagel and hazelnut iced coffee. Apparently the Dunkin’ staff were similarly impaired on that Sunday morning. When my bagel lodged in the toaster and proceeded to burst into flame, no one seemed to notice. Smoke started to rise from the machine. Still nothing.
“Excuse me,” I said. “I think my bagel’s on fire.”
I don’t mean to brag, but I’m basically a hero. They gave me the next bagel for free.
As its very name implies, Death Valley is a dangerous place. The largest national park in the continental US, its 3.4 million acres cover extremes of geography and climate: the Badwater Basin salt flats at 282ft below sea level, Telescope Peak at 11,000ft high, temperatures that can reach 120F. Many visitors retreat quickly to the relief of an air conditioned car or hotel room. But not Marshall Ulrich. The 64-year-old athlete and ultramarathoner has run more than 4,000 miles in and around Death Valley National Park. It almost killed him once, and yet, he keeps coming back for more. (BBC)
It was cold and damp on my first night in Liverpool, a biting wind blowing across the River Mersey while a blanket of light rain covered the city in a deep chill. Twenty minutes after we’d ordered a taxi, it was still nowhere in sight. There’s a football game, someone at the hotel said by way of explanation as we huddled by the door, weighing the discomfort of walking to dinner against the discomfort of arriving extremely late. We settled on an Uber. Thank God for ride-sharing apps.
The next day, when a marketing manager from VisitBritain’s Northern England division told me, “It’s not grim up north,” I practically laughed. Are you sure? (Travel Weekly)
Las Vegas has a problem.
It’s not that people aren’t visiting the city or that they’re staying out of the casinos. It’s that when they do visit, they’re gambling less, spending less money at the slots and tables. For young people especially, gambling seems low on the collective to-do list. They’re simply not that enticed by what they see on the casino floor. And besides, Dutch DJ Tiesto is spinning music upstairs. (Travel Weekly)
Maybe it disappeared while you were sipping a chilled rosé and working on a hunk of gouda at the cafe down the street. Maybe it packed up while you were sampling a flight of sour beers on the patio of the local brewery. Maybe it vanished while you were enjoying a smoked old-fashioned prepared by an earnest 23-year-old who talks about the golden age of cocktails as if he personally experienced it. Maybe you mourned its passing, or maybe you barely noticed the day your neighborhood bar unplugged its Corona sign and closed down for good.
The neighborhood bar is dying in America. (Tales of the Cocktail)
I stuck my face into the murky water, but there was nothing. Just an empty teal haze that stretched into the distance as I bobbed on the choppy surface of Bahia de La Paz, Mexico, snorkel in mouth, scanning for giants.
“Left! Left!” From the boat, our dive master and captain directed us toward the unseen creatures, but there was only blankness. Then someone grabbed my shoulder and spun me around, and there, just a few yards away, a shadow emerged from the cloudy water. As it approached, the dark form took the massive, dappled gray shape of a whale shark, the largest fish on Earth. (Travel Weekly)
With so much on her proverbial plate, conventional wisdom would dictate that Jennifer Lopez is still at least a decade shy of succumbing to a resident show on the Las Vegas Strip. But Lopez, whose All I Have residency debuts at Planet Hollywood on January 20, isn’t an anomaly. She’s the foaming edge of a tsunami wave that’s been cresting in Vegas for the past few years and has swept up artists like Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Pitbull and Bruno Mars. For more performers and more relevant ones, Las Vegas isn’t an inevitable stop on the downward slope of the fame parabola, but a place to make money and reach fans from around the world right now.
(Las Vegas Weekly)
The first thing you notice as you enter Bazaar Meat are the pigs. Pale and delicate, they hang from their hind quarters in a brightly lit display case. Their creamy skin arcs down to a dainty snout dangling just over a patch of fake grass. They are darling, these sweet little suckling pigs—and terribly delicious. The pigs are something of a coup for chef José Andrés’s SLS meat emporium. After years of working to import the three- or four-week-old pata negra Iberian suckling pigs—the same animals used to make the prized jamón hanging above the charcuterie bar—Andrés received his first shipment of 50 this fall, just around the time of Bazaar Meat’s first anniversary. (Vegas Magazine)
When the curtain closes on Jubilee for the last time on February 11, the Las Vegas showgirl will go extinct. Sure, there will be women who don the costume, but wearing a leopard-skin coat does not make one a leopard. The showgirl isn’t a mannequin in ostrich feathers; she’s a performer, an ambassador, an archetype, an ideal. She is Las Vegas’ favorite mascot: elegant and alluring, strong and sophisticated. Every time a showgirl hangs up her thong an angel loses its wings.
(Las Vegas Weekly)
In 1955, Jack Daniel’s wasn’t the liquor powerhouse we think of today, ubiquitous on bar shelves, the best-selling whiskey in the world. Back then, the Lynchburg company was still a small, regional brand, moving roughly 150,000 cases annually of its black-labeled Tennessee whiskey. By the end of 1956, however, that figure had doubled. What changed? Nineteen fifty-five was the year that Frank Sinatra brought a rocks glass onstage with him and uttered this magical line: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Jack Daniel’s, and it’s the nectar of the gods.”
(Tales of the Cocktail)
The horse is sparkling. It prances around the ring, head held high, its features exaggeratedly pretty, like an equine version of those Big Eyes paintings or a cartoon. When the light catches the animal’s back it seems to shimmer. And that’s when I realise the horse is wearing body glitter. Welcome to Wayne’s world, where even the animals sparkle.
Frankenstein is making tequila. Not the monster, of course. He already has his own shot (not to mention an off-menu seasonal Frappuccino at Starbucks). We’re talking about Frankenstein the machine—a pieced-together wonder of engineering built by tequila royalty Felipe Camarena, which he uses to make G4 Tequila at Rancho El Pandillo in Jesús María, Mexico. (Tales of the Cocktail)
At 8 a.m. on Saturdays, the Las Vegas Strip is still waking up. The all-night crowd blinks into the sunshine and stumbles toward bed. The sidewalks are quiet and clean. The whole place feels like a blank slate, a new Vegas day with the promise of unknown thrills.
In the plaza in front of the Monte Carlo, Alicia Goldsmith is leading a small crowd through downward dogs and breathing exercises. The standard casino soundtrack has been replaced by soothing yoga tunes, and a water feature trickles in the background. As nearby marquees blast their advertisements and early buses rumble down the four-mile tourist corridor known for decadence and debauchery, Goldsmith takes the group through a guided meditation in the least likely place in the world: the center of the Las Vegas Strip. (Travel Weekly)
When you first meet Howard, 67, and Karen, 52, they seem undeniably out of place at their own event. Amid the sea of costume-clad dancers, stretching, popping, locking and flipping, the middle-aged Jewish couple look more like somebody’s parents than the masterminds of this expertly choreographed contest. But backstage at every phase of the competition, breathlessly singing the praises of this crew or that one, are the unlikely creators of the World Hip Hop Dance Championship and the MTV reality show America’s Best Dance Crew: Howard and Karen Schwartz. (Jewish Daily Forward)
A “car forest” of planted trucks and buses, painted with colorful murals. An ATV ride over a 500-foot sand dune. The search for new friends along the Extraterrestrial Highway. An open air museum in the middle of absolutely nowhere. From the Strip to the skies to the bottom of Lake Mead, these only-in-Nevada experiences are easily worth the trip. (Matador)
The words “can i say” are emblazoned across Travis Barker’s chest. They’re woven into a tapestry of ink covering his slender body, from an ethereal Virgin Mary floating atop his head, to the word “Lover” curling over his abdomen, to a sunburst-backed tribute to DJ AM on his left thigh. He’s so accustomed to going under the gun that the jabbing needle doesn’t really hurt anymore. A small anchor sits under one eye, a star under the other. A photo from January shows Barker smiling at the center of a small crowd as two artists tattoo both of his arms at the same time.
You’d never know by looking at him, but some of his ink is missing, literally burned off in the 2008 plane crash that killed four and left Barker and Adam “DJ AM” Goldstein critically injured. If you can read Barker’s story on his skin, it’s in the blank spaces, too. (Las Vegas Weekly)
Monika Haczkiewicz floats across the floor in a series of spins and jumps. A faint smile on her face, she pops onto the blunted toe of one satiny pointe shoe. A pink-tighted leg flies above her head as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. The 17-year-old high school student is both a natural and practiced talent, one of the few little girls who dreamt of being a professional ballerina and might actually be one—if she can standout among the best up-and-coming dancers in the world at the Youth American Grand Prix in New York. (Las Vegas Weekly)
Amelia Boone pulled herself over the top of the cargo net, still dripping from her 35-foot cliff jump into Lake Las Vegas. “Crap, that’s fun,” she said, a wide smile spreading across her face as a small crowd of spectators cheered. Then she was off, running to finish her first full lap of the ultra obstacle race World’s Toughest Mudder. Some 24 hours after that first cliff jump, Boone was grinning again, this time standing atop the winner’s podium in a massive down coat and turquoise sunglasses, holding an oversized check for $10,000 as the first-place female finisher. Total miles run: 75. Sandstorms survived: 1. Weeks since knee surgery: 8. (RunnersWorld.com/Zelle)
Las Vegas’s sinful reputation is so well ingrained that the mere mention of the city conjures images of shining neon and ringing slots. But if you head away from the glitz of the Strip, you’ll find a city of 2 million coming into its own with whimsical boutiques, destination bars, and brilliant restaurants where locals nibble on Mount Fuji-inspired cakes or slurp down stunning Thai curries at 2 a.m. (Conde Nast Traveler)
Despite the flurry of camera phones snapping photos as the train pulled into the station, I felt like I’d drifted back in time. The effect was due to the train itself, the private, three-car Great Western Limited. The conductor, in his formal uniform and smart cap, welcomed us aboard, where bow-tied servers ferried water pitchers back and forth in preparation for our journey. It may have been 2015 outside on the platform, but inside the Pullman Co. dining car it felt like 1956.
That windowless behemoth that rises next to the freeway on the edge of Downtown Las Vegas? That’s the World Market Center, a home furnishings mecca where industry makers meet buyers and business gets done. Until 2010, World Market Center was the upstart Western competitor to the veteran furniture market in High Point, North Carolina, but today they’re united under a single leadership group. The man with the vision to change the industry? That’s Robert. (Vegas Magazine)
“If anyone falls asleep, I’ll f*cking teabag them.” Miguel Medina is sitting propped against the wall of a wide dirt pit dug into the ground maybe four feet deep. His eyes are closed, but he’s definitely awake, and he’s determined that his three teammates in the World’s Toughest Mudder stay that way, too. The four men of Wolf Pack Spartan Team are 25 hours into this 24-hour ultra obstacle race, and even though they’ve already won, they’re stuck out here, huddling against the 40-degree day, the fierce winds and the depths of their physical and mental exhaustion. (Las Vegas Weekly)
In November I had the chance to visit Riviera Maya, Mexico, for the grand opening of Cirque du Soleil’s new show, Joya. Staged inside a stunning new theater carved into the jungle, the show is one part whimsical dinner, one part intimate cabaret, one part classic Cirque. It’s a welcome break from the resort stage shows and discotheques, and a taste of Cirque’s expansion into new territory, both theatrical and geographic. (USA Today)
Ride of a lifetime: Inside a Red Bull Air Race plane (vomit-free)
The minute I sent the email I regretted it: I’d agreed to a fly-along with Red Bull Air Race pilot Kirby Chambliss, and calm scenic flights aren’t exactly his thing. In his Zivko Edge 540, Kirby does aerial acrobatics—rolls, dives and flips—hurtling over the ground in a tightly choreographed, high-speed dance so thrilling even the pilot hollers. Me? I’m just hang on and enjoy the ride. (Las Vegas Weekly)
In the middle of the desert, in the shadow of the Hoover Dam, dozens of feet below the surface of Lake Mead is the ghost town of a Depression-era construction project. Tunnels, railroad tracks and cement basins tell the story of the dam and the process that built it. Last year, Tovin and I did our scuba certification at Lake Mead, and discovered its murky waters hide an incredible world, accessible to only those who can dip beneath the waves. (BBC Travel)
The Shift office at 701 E. Bridger Ave. looks exactly like what you might expect from a Downtown startup. There are brightly colored walls and comfy couches, a liquor cabinet and a wooden rack charging two electric skateboards. Whiteboards everywhere are covered in scrawl, and in a long, communal room with the overhead lights turned off, staffers sit facing away from their desks in the comfortable repose of the laptop set. A poster on the wall reads, “F*ck this. We can do it better.” (Las Vegas Weekly)
On May 18, Miki Sudo ate 11 Niko Niko’s gyros in 10 minutes. On May 11, she downed 164 chicken wings in 12 minutes. Before that it was 7 pounds, 4 ounces of deep-fried california asparagus, 13.5 pints of ice cream (all vanilla), 28.5 pork sliders and 1.687 gallons of chunky beef chili. Thinking of that third-place performance at Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington, D.C., Sudo grimaces slightly, “I’m not going to be good at everything,” she says. (Las Vegas Weekly)
Imagine floating in a life raft on the 53-degree open ocean with dozens of other people, puking over the side and bailing water for eight long, nauseous hours. Then imagine looking around and laughing at your situation. That’s how Air Force S.E.R.E. Specialists handle the kind of survival scenarios that would turn the rest of us into sniveling, shivering rescue cases. I sat down with two military survival experts at Nellis Air Force Base recently to learn about training airmen to “return with honor” and why they can teach you to make shelter in the arctic or find water in the desert, but not the will to survive. (Las Vegas Weekly)
Every January, Las Vegas Weekly kicks things off with our list of people to watch in the coming year. This year’s cast included teenage talents coming into their own, artists poised to make an impact, a healthcare revolutionary and a culinary celebrity getting ready to open her first restaurant. I’m particularly excited to see how 2014 pans out for creative whirlwind CJ Jhureea, a former Cirque performing/budding artist who’s unemployed, unencumbered and open to anything. (Las Vegas Weekly)
Today, it’s been more than a year since Hardy’s last fight, the longest he’s gone without fighting since his first taekwondo match at age 7 and forever for a fighter who only gets paid when he fights. The questions of if and when Hardy will get to fight for the UFC again are still hanging in the air, but the how is not … (Las Vegas Weekly)
How well do we know the people we follow on Twitter? Do we understand their lives? Can we judge them? After the Strip erupted in violence, Las Vegas turned to the Twitter and Instagram profiles of alleged shooter Ammar Harris to understand who he was and what had led to such destruction. But was it fair to profile him based on 140-character notes? To answer that question, I rewound the social media clock on my own posts, to see what image I present to the world. (Las Vegas Weekly)
During high school, I ate a Dunkin’ Donuts bagel with cream cheese purchased from school cafeteria every single day that I didn’t go off-campus for lunch. According to the new USDA nutrition requirements going into effect this coming fall, that absolutely would not fly. As school district nutrition directors across the country look for ways to comply with ever stricter standards while staying within tight budgets and serving food kids will actually eat, we turned to a few local culinary experts and saw what they would do with a couple bucks. The results were delicious. (Las Vegas Weekly)