• Las Vegas Sign

    Family Fun in Vegas

    The Travel Addict is collaborating today with Kendra Thornton for the first time to hear her recommendations for fun in the whole family in Vegas. Kendra appears as a travel expert on television stations across the country to offer travel tips to millions of people every year. She makes regular appearances on ABC, NBC and CW stations in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. She has also made special guest appearances on The Nate Show, Fine Living Network, and The Tyra Banks Show.

    Kendra’s Thoughts on Las Vegas Family Friendly Entertainment:

    Travel to new and familiar places is a hobby of mine that I have done since I was a little girl. It gives me great joy to visit various places around the United States. One of my favorite places that I love to visit with my family is Las Vegas. Here are some of my top places to see when I visit Las Vegas with my family.

    Rolling Roller Coasters

    Our children love to ride the rails of various roller coasters. Therefore, we visited the Adventuredome in Circus Circus. The Canyon Blaster is an awesome ride that features corkscrews, loops, twists and turns. The El Loco ride is thrilling to our children, but it was too adventurous for my husband and me. One of the benefits of this facility is that it is indoors.

    Golf for Everyone

    Although my husband loves to golf, we decided to do some golfing that everyone can enjoy. Therefore, we decided to go mini golfing. At Monster Mini Golf, people can play this fun sport while enjoying the theme featuring the American rock band KISS. It was great to see giant guitars and a huge head of Gene Simmons that golf balls go in. It was an experience all of us enjoyed.

    Fins and Swims

    Both of our children enjoy sea life, but like sharks most of all. When we heard that people could swim with these amazing creatures at Mandalay Bay, we jumped at the chance. This facility is known as “North America’s only predator-based aquarium.” I certainly agree with that statement. Words cannot begin to describe the feeling I felt as I entered the shark-infested tank with my family. Our experience lasted for 45 minutes, and it seemed like we were in the tank for about 5 minutes. I was not very concerned about our safety, since everyone had to wear chainmail. While we were waiting our turn to swim with the sharks, we visited various exhibits featuring animals like moray eels, piranhas, jellyfish and golden crocodiles.

    Las Vegas provides families with many experiences that are unforgettable. The key is to be adventurous in trying something new. With so many places to stay and things to do, each experience is different than the last and sites like Gogobot make it easy to plan your trip. All of us love to visit this great area, and my children keep asking when we will be going back. I hope we will be going back quite soon.

    Photo by: Amy Harris- The Travel Addict

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    Durango Kids

    Several years ago we took a trip out west to Durango, Colorado. During that trip we were able to photograph a local rodeo. It was definitely a challenge to photograph the many cowboys and cowgirls that ride the unpredictable animals through the arena in the early evening light.

    One of the most intriguing parts of the rodeo for me was seeing the kids who participated in the events. It became apparent how deep the roots of this American sub-culture run in the community. It made me cringe a little to see the children ride the animals but all you could see was pure joy on their faces.

    I look forward to traveling back out west to continue to capture more rodeo moments and cowboy western culture in future years.

    Scroll through the images to see the Durango Tiny Cowboys.

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    Cuba Street Photography

    One of my personal photo goals of 2014 is to try to find more opportunities for street photography. I have always focused on taking the perfect “stock” photos, usually with no people in them at all. Because of this, I know I have certainly missed many opportunities for photos far more interesting with people at historical locations. Street photography is one of the most difficult forms of photography to me. Trying to see the moments and be quick enough to capture the frame with the camera. I travel often by myself and people watch on a regular basis imagining stories in their lives.

    This photo of a young couple in love was taken while walking the back streets of Havana in 2011. They stopped for a kiss right by the Che Guevara sign providing the perfect background to capture a moment in time. It is one of my few successful attempts at street photography. The Cuban people are some of the most warm and friendly people I have met in the world and I was able to look for of these unique opportunities last week as I walked the streets of Havana for the second time.

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    As we head to Cuba for New Year’s 2014 I wanted to look back at our first trip there from December 2012. There is something surreal and alluring about being in a country that is forbidden to visit. You have a feeling like you are constantly being watched and that you are starring in a strange movie when you are on an island with no boats and no modern luxuries. The people don’t have internet access and are in many ways cut off from the outside world except for what they hear from foreign visitors.

    With the US embargo starting in 1960, most US citizens have only seen Havana in magazine photos and the first thought that comes to mind is old 1950’s cars. The cars were there but I was surprised to see many progressive changes taking place in the country since Raul Castro took over for his brother Fidel in 2008. People are starting to be entrepreneurial with new businesses popping up on every corner and just this week the traditional communist government lifted their ban on private citizens being able to buy new cars which in the past had just been for a select few appointed by the government. This will surely spell the end for many of these relics that line the streets of Havana.

    The photo above is of a 1950’s style Chevy sedan in pristine condition driving past the National Capital Building in Havana. It took many hours practicing pan and blur to get images of these classic cars. Until walking in Havana, I had no idea they built their El Capitolio building in the likeness of the US Capital building in Washington DC.

    Cuba is changing fast and so I find it very important to visit and document a place with photos that seems stuck in an era gone by. It feels like you can step back in time and imagine the glamour of the past when Havana was the true playground of the rich and famous in the 1950’s. While sipping a mojito at Hotel Nacional de Cuba you know that Frank Sinatra, Eva Gardner and Hollywood elite sat in the same place basking in the romantic Caribbean air sipping the world famous Havana Club Rum. Many people love Cuban cigars but it is Havana Club that I find to be the true coveted item of choice.

    I cannot wait to celebrate on the top of a building in the Plaza de la Catedral and ring in 2014 with canons that rock the city and feel like I have truly taken a step into the past to move to the future.

  • Monument Valley - Artist's Point

    Monument Valley

    In September 2008, Bryan and I rented an Excursion and took a road trip out west starting in Colorado National Monument driving through Utah and Arizona ending up in Vegas. We spent many nights in various Holiday Inn hotels watching as the world was first introduced to Sarah Palin at the RNC convention happening in Minnesota and we felt worlds away in the western states.

    I have to admit that I am not a landscape photographer and I was pretty happy to get to Vegas but one of my favorite stops was Monument Valley to photograph the desert scenery. We stayed at the world-famous Goulding’s Lodge at Monument Valley where John Wayne stayed while filming his westerns. The lodge is not fancy but it is one of my favorite hotels because of its private cabin rooms and Hollywood history.

    This photo shows a gorgeous day at Artist’s Point where you can see shadows moving across the butte structures. It is important when traveling to Monument Valley to research the time of day you should travel to the various monument locations to ensure that you have the proper light. Lighting can be too harsh to photograph if you show up at the wrong time of day.

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    Airport Q&A

    We are right in the middle of the holiday travel season so I would like to take the time to answer a few questions that came through Facebook messages this week.

    Tim: What percentage of the time have you been delayed or bumped to a later flight or had plane troubles?

    Travel Addict: I would say that it comes in waves. For example, I had a terrible period from January to March where I don’t think I had one trip where I arrived on time with my bags to my destination. It actually took me almost four days to get home from India in March. Travel issues can also be seasonal and airline dependant. Winter is always a difficult time to travel due to weather conditions.

    For the most part I think travel gets more complicated all the time as airlines cut flights and have more maintenance issues as plane fleets age. I usually plan extra time when traveling and do not schedule meetings or appointments close to travel times. I have had to learn patience and focus on the opportunities that are on the other side of the flight. I tell everyone that I love to travel but hate the process of getting from place to place.

    I also recommend that you join frequent flier programs on any airline that you fly. I have status on many airlines so that prevents me from being bumped and helps persuade them to get me on flights that are running. I feel that United has one of the best frequent flier programs in the industry. Their miles go the furthest toward free flights and upgrades.

    TSA Pre-Check is also now open for any passenger to apply and sign up. Pre-check greatly saves time when you arrive at airport security and you no longer have to take laptops out or remove shoes. (www.tsa.gov)

    Tim: Which airlines are the worst to travel both in and outside the country?

    Travel Addict: I live in Cincinnati so I am really locked in to flying Delta and Delta partners most of the time. Because of this, I tend to have most of my personal flying issues with Delta. I have also had my share of issues with Air France as well. One of my worst travel experiences recently was at Heathrow with Air France. They only permit one carry on at Heathrow, which is almost impossible if you are a photographer with expensive camera gear and any other bag. My biggest issues almost always lie when they don’t enforce the rules equally and allow some passengers to have extra bags and others are shutdown. Make sure to check airline and airport policies when traveling overseas.

    Overall Asia Pacific airlines are my favorites. Korean Air, Singapore Air, Cathay Pacific, and Virgin Australia all rank as my top picks. They have a huge commitment to customer service and making your experience happy on the flights. They also have friendly flight attendants who have not tired of their jobs or dealing with customers. As a passenger I don’t like to hear flight attendants in the aisles constantly complaining about their jobs and benefits, which is what tends to happen in the US.

    If you have any travel questions, feel free to contact the Travel Addict on the contact page or via Facebook message.