Category: Travel (Page 3 of 5)

Horsin’ Around Adventures – Sedona, AZ – Review

Last summer we visited Sedona and, of course, that meant organizing a horse ride for the kids.  I’ve ridden a horse once in my life and that was enough to know I don’t want to do it again.

Most of the Sedona-based companies seem to get fairly good reviews, but Horsin’ Around Adventures seemed particularly friendly.  Plus they were OK with doing a last minute dusk trip.

The girls had a GREAT time.  In their word, the ride was “awesome”.  They had a 90-minute ride and, for the girls, it was not nearly enough.  For my husband, whose horse-riding muscles are not commonly exercised, the last half hour was painful.

The scenery was beautiful, I’m told, even though it was sprinkling and the tour guide very nice.

Horsin’ Around Adventures
2650 N. Dancing Apache Rd
Cornville, AZ

Bishop Village Motel – Review

California’s eastern Sierras are a vacationer’s paradise, with access to beautiful national parks, amazing lakes, lots of fishing an amazing old-West ghost town. The area is very popular with tourists and vacationers and hotel prices are quite steep – specially after just coming from Vegas. I had originally planned to stay in the Bridgeport, but we left Vegas late and we didn’t make it to Bishop until 7:30 PM. I didn’t see any reason to continue on that night, so I looked for a hotel to stay in Bishop. It was a Monday night, but most of the better reviewed hotels in Bishop were full.  The Bishop Village Motel had OK reviews and a room available with two queen-size beds and a kitchenette for $90, so we decided to take it.  It was an OK place to stay for a night, overpriced, but as I mentioned that’s true of all hotels in the eastern Sierras.

Our room had a small kitchenette, with all the needed appliances as well as plates and silverware (I didn’t look for cooking utensils).  There was a small, tall table with two chairs – too small and in too small a space for the four of us to be able to eat together (we got take out).  The room itself was in an L shape and featured a double bed and a Queen size bed, each with night tables.  There was a dresser with an old-style TV, a closet with extra pillows and not much else.  The small bathroom was small, but the towels were fine. They had soap and shampoo, but no conditioner.  The beds were comfortable enough.

Even though the room is definitely dated and tired, my girls really liked it.  Its major problem was that the wireless internet didn’t reach it, and the wired internet didn’t work.  Again, not a big deal for one night.

The motel itself is pretty humble, but it does have a swimming pool, which we didn’t use but looked quite clean.  The managers have a friendly dog and a cat, and my kids were super happy with them.  The only problem was that they weren’t there at 8:30 AM or so when we were ready to leave, so we couldn’t leave the keys with them (and the motel has real keys, not the key-card type).  We gave them to a woman waiting for them who said worked there and appeared to be the cleaning lady – I’m hoping she was 🙂

All in all, it was a fine place to stay for a night.

Bishop Village Motel
286 West Elm Street
Bishop, CA
(760) 872-8155

Marga’s Hotel Reviews

Luxor – Las Vegas – Review

Last week we stayed at the Luxor hotel in Las Vegas for 3 nights, over the weekend, while Mike attended a conference.  It was just the girls (Mika, 9, and Camila, 6), most of our time there, and in all the Luxor provided a good base.  Its biggest pluses are the moderate prices and the cool ancient Egyptian theme. Its minuses are the location at the far southern end of the strip, a less-than-great pool, and staler air than at other hotels. In all, I’d stay at the Luxor again if the price demanded, but I’d prefer to stay somewhere more central to the strip if I could.

Why we chose this hotel

We were staying in Las Vegas over a weekend in August and hotel prices were quite high.  I wanted a hotel on the strip and had first considered the Circus Circus, but it’s pretty far from the other hotels and I knew transportation would be a problem.  The Luxor was more expensive, but it was still reasonable and it had the advantage of both being closer to the strip and having an ancient Egyptian theme.  Mika used to be very much into Ancient Egypt and she really wanted to stay there.

Hotel Rooms

I was concerned about staying at the Luxor as I’d read many negative things about its hotel rooms.  Fortunately, we lucked out and got a very nice room in the pyramid (the rooms in the Tower are nicer, but Mika wanted to stay in the pyramid).  The room was decorated in an ancient Egyptian theme, hieroglyphs adorned both the headboards and the armoire, and there was a large stone (or stone like) carving of an ancient Egyptian theme decorating the wall.  It’s true that our carpet had seen better days, there were some stains, but it was clean.  The furniture was in great condition and didn’t look 15 years old.  The room had two queen size beds (but they were narrower than my bed at home, so I think they’re actually doubles), one night table, an arm chair with a floor lamp, a small table, two chairs, a small desk, and an armoire with drawers and space to hang your clothing.  It was a nice size for four people (larger than our room at the MGM), and I felt it was quite comfortable a room.  We were at the back of the pyramid with a view of the airport/parking lot. Not the best view, but not a big deal either.

The beds were quite comfortable, and while neither the bedding nor the pillows were are nice as those at the MGM, we slept quite well.  The bathroom only contained a shower, but it was large enough for two people.  My kids are old enough to take showers now, but if you have younger kids you may want to stay somewhere with a bathtub. Note that while the Luxor gives you soap, lotion, body wash and shampoo/conditioner, they don’t give you conditioner by itself – a problem, I find, with those with longre hair.  The room and the bathroom were both very clean.  Also note that the TVs are the old style type, not a big deal but it means you can’t easily connect it to a computer if you want to watch a DVD.  They seem to have plenty of channels, but the only one we watched was “nick”.  The room has its own climate controls, and the air conditioning worked quite well.  The room was cool when we got there.

The Luxor only offers wired internet, the wire is in the closet.  This wasn’t a big issue for us as we brought a wireless travel router that we just connected to the wire, and gave us secure wi-fi throughout the room.  However, be aware that if you don’t bring something like that you will probably only be able to plug one computer to the internet at a time, and you won’t be able to use your wireless devices.  The lack of wireless had one advantage, however: fewer people were using the network and thus download speeds were very decent (better than what we get at home).

The rooms come with an iron/ironing board (Mika loved that!) and a hair dryer, but there is no fridge or coffeemaker.  Of course, they want to encourage you to consume more at the hotel.  You can rent a fridge for $25 a day, which I find ridiculous.  Instead we brought a cooler, filled it with ice, and were able to keep our milk there.  Our room was close to the elevators/Coke machine, and sodas (Pepsi brand) were $2.

Pool Area

The Luxor features three pools, including a paid one.  The area around it is mostly cement (or whatever they make the floor from), there are a few plants and palm trees, but it’s not in the least lush.  There is practically no shade whatsoever, the only place you can find it is under the bridge, on the way to the bathrooms (but this area is small and gets filled quickly), and very partially against the wall by the entrance.  If you come here, prepare to sunbathe.  And believe me, when the sun is shining and it’s over 100F, it’s bloody hot.  The swim area has adequate bathrooms but no changing rooms.  There is a towel service and a bar serving drinks (and I think snacks).

The pools are fairly nice, but they don’t have anything exciting to them.  There is a tall, but fairly narrow, waterfall on one side, and while visually imposing, the water falls close to the wall, so you can’t swim under it or anything like that.  Basically, this is a wading pool.  The pool is 3 1/2″ deep, which is actually a good depth.  My 6 year old could reach the bottom on her toe tips, but it was tiring for her so I ended up buying her a noodle at the pool store ($4).  One thing to keep in mind is that the water at these pools doesn’t seem to be heated and it’s very cold when you first get in.  After a while, under the hot sun in 100+F weather, it’s very refreshing – but once the sun comes down it became too cold for us (even though it was still about 100F outside).

We went to the swimming pool early in the morning (it opens at 9 AM) and later in the day (it closes at  8 PM) and at those times it wasn’t very crowded and we had no problems getting lounge chairs.  The kids could even swim.  But I hear the pool is super-crowded in the middle of the day.

In all, it was an OK pool area but not a compelling one.

Hotel Grounds

Our main reason for going to the Luxor was its ancient Egyptian theme, and while the hotel is a bit worse for wear (we stayed here for New Years 2000), the theme is still in almost full swing.  That means that for an Egyptologist-wannabe it’s wonderful.  There are sandstone-like walls inscribed with hieroglyphs, columns, colossal statues, and lots of architectural details that make you feel – with a bit of an imagination – like you are in ancient Egypt.  My girls loved it.

Though according to Wikipedia the Luxor is the 6th largest hotel in the world, it really didn’t seem that large.  The central area is taken over by the casino (which is smokey, though not as much as it was a decade ago), there is mezzanine with a food court (just McDonalds, Nathans and another restaurant), venues for shows and the wedding chapel), which we found useful to cut through the hotel without having to go through the casino.  There are nice shops and restaurants in the way to the Mandalay Bay and the Excalibur.  There are several restaurants as well, the only one we at at was the Pyramid Cafe (which was OK).

Check In/Out

We tried to check in on a Thursday around 1:30 PM, but we couldn’t get a room high in the pyramid as we wanted.  They asked us to come back later, and we were able to get such room (26 floor) around 3:30 PM.  I had heard that lower rooms in the pyramid suffered from casino/disco noise so I wanted to avoid them.  Lines at both times were fairly short.

We tried the $20 trick, but we weren’t able to get a room upgrade or even a complimentary fridge.  The people are the reception desk were all no-nonsense and all-business.

Check out on a Sunday morning was more painful, I may have waited in line for 20 minutes.  You don’t have to go to the reception to check out, you can just leave your keys in a box, however.


The Luxor is and feels like a moderate-priced hotel. There is no sense of snootiness here.  Though it’s one of the preferred hotels for families, we didn’t really see many kids around, but I didn’t feel uncomfortable having the girls there.  The crowd was very heterogenous, with people of all ages/races/nationalities.

Overall Impression

In all, I found the Luxor to be a nice, comfortable, 3-star hotel.  It’s a good – but not great – place for families.

Luxor Hotel and Casino
3900 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV

Marga’s Hotel Reviews

MGM Grand Hotel & Casino – Las Vegas – Review

We were just recently in Las Vegas for a few days for Mike to attend a conference.  We stayed our first 3 nights at the Luxor, and our last one at the MGM Grand.  I wanted to stay at the MGM Grand because I’d heard their pool area was great, but the rates were too high during the weekend.  Even for a Sunday night they weren’t cheap (a bit over $100, including tax and resort fee), but the pool experience probably made it worth it.

In all, we liked the MGM Grand though it has only 3 things to really recommend it: 1 – its location close to the center of the strip, 2 – its incredibly comfortable pillows and 3- it’s very cool lazy river.


We stayed in a standard room with 2 “queen size” beds.  I put that in quotation marks because I’m pretty sure they were doubles rather than queens, they were narrower than my bed at home.  The room was rather small and featured two beds, two night tables, a desk, an armchair, two chairs, an entertainment unit with an old, non-flat screen TV and a small closet.  The bathroom had one sink and a bathtub with a shower curtain.  The room looked dated, the greenish wallpaper looked sad.  We had a view of the roof of the casino, not a big deal as we were only there for one night.  The room was, at least, clean.  It didn’t include a coffee pot or a refrigerator (they do this so you’ll spend money buying coffee and drinks at the hotel).  It had both wired internet and wi-fi but the connection was rather slow.

On the plus side, it has very comfortable beds with great bedding.  The down (or down-like) pillows were the most comfortable pillows I’ve ever slept on.  They were quite full, just as soft and flexible as down, and there were plenty of them.  The down-like comforter was also very comfy.  If you’re into a good night sleep, this is definitely a place to get it.

There was good water pressure in the shower, and the hotel provides you with shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, lotion and soap.  The towels were fine.


As I mentioned, the big draw of the MGM Grand for us was the pool area.  The MGM Grand features four pools and a lazy river.  The lazy river is quite long and has a number of areas with water falling into it, though most of these you can avoid.  There is a small pool area with a huge waterfall attached to it, here there is also a high platform were toddlers and babies can sit in the water (but it drops into the deeper pool, so you have to pay attention to them).  The lazy river seems to vary in depth, but it’s probably shallow enough for a 7 to 8 year old kid to be able to walk it (my 6 yo was a bit too short for it).  It was a lot of fun, but very crowded on a Sunday in August.  There were some children, but most of the people there seem to be in their 20’s.  Quite a few of them appeared drunk, though we didn’t have any incidents.  Unfortunately, many people like to hang out by the edges of the river, making it hard to navigate through it when it’s quite crowded.  There are huge life savers you can rent (for about $16 each!).  We got a couple that people left behind and while they were fun for a while, it was a bit crowded to just lie on them and relax.There is a bar near the lazy river, so you don’t have to go far to get your $22 frozen margarita or $35 bucket of beer.

In addition to the lazy river, there seem to be 4 pools in the pool complex.  We tried 2 of them (another one was used for a water polo game) and they were basically just largish, square, non-exciting pools.  Still, Camila wanted to swim and she couldn’t do that at the lazy river. The pools were also pretty crowded (though she had room to swim), about 3 1/2 ft. deep.  The water in both the lazy river and the pools was on the warm side (no “cold shock” when you first get in).

The pool area has a snack bar, but no dressing rooms (!). There is a small bathroom (with 3 toilets, I think!).  Fortunately it wasn’t crowded.  Of course, that may be because people pee in the pool 🙁

Even though there were lots of people on Sunday, we didn’t have trouble finding loungers around any of the pools.


The MGM Grand is the third largest hotel in the world (at least according to Wikipedia), and like other Vegas hotels, its grounds feature a casino, a spa, multiple restaurants and shops. The coolest part is the lion habitat they have, which features a group of 3 lions they bring in daily (different lions each time).  Unfortunately the exhibit is only open between 11 AM to 7 PM and lions are most active at dawn & dusk, so most of the time they seem to just be sleeping.  Still, the girls found it very cool.  They have a small play area downstairs with Chuck-e-cheese style games (you buy tokens, you play them, you get tickets in return you can exchange for junk).  The only restaurant we visited was the Rainforest Cafe, which is terribly overpriced.

The air at the hotel is pretty good, they seem to lightly perfume it in a pleasant way.

The casino features a small business office with limited hours.  You are allowed to make 5 copies, and to print your boarding pass only (otherwise they charge over $1 per page you print).

There are coke machines by the elevators ($3!!!!) and ice machines as well.


Camila and I checked in at around 11:30 AM a Sunday morning.  We had to stay in line for about 15 minutes and got our room right away.  I’d reserved a King size room, but was able to change it to a room with two queen size beds.  The woman at the front desk waived the $10 fee.  I did the automatic check out, where you fill a card and drop it off in a box. You can also check out via TV or go to the front desk.

The line for storing luggage when we went was HUGE, though I suspect mostly with people checking out.


The MGM seems to be particularly popular with people in their 20’s bent on getting drunk and having a good time.  There is nothing wrong with that, but I did have to explain to my kids why people were behaving  strangely.  Hopefully it’ll teach them a lesson about getting drunk in public 🙂


In all the MGM Grand is an OK hotel, but not one I would rush to come back to.  I did love the bedding and the lazy river, but otherwise I’d probably go somewhere else.

MGM Grand
3799 South Las Vegas Boulevard
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 891-1111

Marga’s Hotel Reviews

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