Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring Break Guide: Las Vegas

Derrik Chinn, travel planner extraordinaire and owner of Tijuana tour company, Turista Libre curated six Spring Break guides for Made to Last. He is our featured guest blogger and is giving tips and tricks for all of the hottest Spring Break destinations. This week we are featuring Las Vegas.

Las Vegas

When visiting Vegas it's a given you'll do the shows, the clubs and the casinos, and by the end of your trip you'll probably feel like you've walked the Strip more than Temptest Storm, the town's famed 80-year-old stripper. But over planning the obvious makes it too easy to accidentally miss out on all the Sin City gems that don't throw themselves at you: bacon martinis, showgirl diners, real-life Mario Kart, 855-foot free falls and a post-apocalyptic Pee-Wee's Playhouse.

Neon graveyard. A refuge for decommissioned exhibits of a quintessential Las Vegas art: the ever bright, the ever shiny neon sign. The Neon Museum's collection currently tops 150 specimens from long-gone Las Vegas motels, businesses, casinos and resorts that date from the 1930s to the '90s, piled and propped up around the grounds in what may very well be the world's most kaleidoscopic bone-yard. Drop-in visits are a no-go; call in advance to arrange a tour.

The ultra-lounge that Old Vegas built. At the Peppermill Restaurant and Fireside Lounge, faux foliage falls from the mirrored ceiling, fire pits serve as floor plan centerpieces, and pink and purple neon soak the air. If this "ultra-lounge" looks like the Vegas you came to know and love via "Showgirls," the 1995 campy cult classic about a stripper's rise to become the town's star dancer, that's because it is. Scorsese's "Casino," too. The place serves its old-school diner fare in hungry-man portions and a pours its roster of classic cocktails with the professional drinker in mind.

 Pinned in time. Row after row of some 400 predecessors to Atari fill the 10,000 square foot Pinball Hall of Fame, an homage to the Jurassic period of arcade games that randomly sits right across the street from the Liberace Museum. Among owner and pinball devotee Tim Arnold's collection spans the latter half of the 20th century. All are in working order, not even the rarities are off limits and most cost a quarter to play.

Check out the Pinball Hall of Fame

The golden grill. Another iconic nugget of vintage Vegas dating back to 1958, Golden Steer Steak House claims to be the oldest steak house in town. Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and the Rat Pack tore through T-bones, shrimp scampi and Caesar salads prepared table side between these wood paneled walls in their own private semi-circle booths. And surely many of their impersonators continue doing the same.

Sounds extreme. More than 20 bands on four stages, 65 pro BMX dirt jumpers and 200 amateurs are set to raid Desert Breeze Park for the 11th annual Extreme Thing Fest, happening Saturday, March 31. Billed as Nevada's largest action sports and music festival and cosponsored by Alternative Press, the one-day event includes the Vegas Am Jam, an amateur competition of 200 BMXers and skateboarders, a stage dedicated to specifically to local bands and, if that weren't enough to swallow, a side of pro wrestling. The 2012 lineup is still in the works, but last year's headliners included Hollywood Undead, Sum 41 and P.O.D.

Surviving the Stratosphere. Leave it to Vegas to stock its vacant roofs with million-dollar fixes for adrenaline junkies, like the top of the 108-story Stratosphere Casino. It's home to a compact daredevil amusement park, with rides like Skyjump -- an 855-foot free fall, the highest on the planet -- that will make many macho-macho men break a cold sweat. X-Scream tips upward and downward 27 feet over the building's edge in a monster one sided teeter-totter. Insanity, a giant claw that sits two per each of its four prongs, pivots out over the edge and opens to a 70-degree angle before spinning at three Gs. The view alone -- aimed downward at downtown Vegas -- is worth losing your lunch.

Go for a thrill ride on the Stratosphere Tower

The punk saloon. It's just a block away from the Hard Rock, but this place looks, sounds and smells like the real house of hardcore punk, garage, ska, surf, psycho-billy and cow-punk. Home of bacon martinis and famed concoction dubbed "ass juice" that's served in a shot glass shaped like a toilet, the Double Down Saloon never charges cover for its shows and never closes. Which is probably why they offer $20 "lightweight insurance." You yack, you mop. House rules.

Pool parties. It's a fact of Vegas life. The party starts at the pool, the party ends at the pool. Your waterlogged itinerary: Ditch Fridays at the Palms, Wet Republic Saturdays at MGM and Rehab Sundays at Hard Rock. Bag tickets online in advance.,,

The big mini chase. Rolling Stone called the Mini Baja Chase Sin City's best near-death experience: a 30-minute version of the notorious SCORE Baja 1000 desert race in which you're strapped behind the wheel of a dune buggy, speeding over a 15,000-acre open desert course of dunes, valleys, washed-out creek beds, doing all you can to outrun the expert Dune driver in front of you.

A car competes at the Mini Baja Chase