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Flying Standby with Mark Vanek: Check out Vegas for a spring break

Now is the time of year when everyone wants to ëget out of Dodge,í thaw out from winterís chilly embrace, and bask in the sun. I say amen to that! After this past seasonís bitter cold, as well as being stuck inside on those snow and ice days, itís a good idea to get away from it all and bury your toes in the sand.
But have you seen the prices those Caribbean all-inclusive resorts are charging? Two hundred and twenty-five dollars a night, per person? And thatís just for the Bahamas. Donít get me wrong, as far as the Caribbean goes, the Bahamas are nice, but for that cost, Iíd want to be booked at more of an exotic destination.
If there is a spring break deal to be found, guaranteed, I will find it! No matter where it isÖ Cozumel, Antigua, Barbados, Aruba, even the Bahamas. Oh my, this really is starting to sound like a Beach Boysí song. But seriously, Iíve been known to ëpack n goí on a momentís notice, and have been to almost every one of the Caribbean islands.
But this spring for some reason, it just doesnít seem to be happening. No last minute deals to a tropical paradise. And we all know what the domestic beaches are like this time of year ó overrun by college students, drunkenly stumbling over you, and ruffling your beach towel. Nope, not my scene. Ft Lauderdale, Myrtle Beach, Iíll save you for a later date.
Surprise Surprise
Okay, here is Vanekís Spring Break surprise selection for this season: Las Vegas!
Las Vegas, where half-priced flights are wide open, and reservations are easily booked on a momentís notice. Tourism is down in Las Vegas so the rooms are plentiful, as well as inexpensive. On any number of travel websites, you will be able to find three star hotels, on the strip, advertised as low as $23 a night.
For this price you could spend over a week in Las Vegas for the cost of one nightís stay at a Caribbean resort. Talk about bang for your buck! And trust me, these Las Vegas hotel and casino swimming pools are beyond reproach. Decked out cabanas, poolside service; youíve now entered the lap of luxury. I know what you are thinking, ëoh my goodness, itís all hedonism and debauchery, certainly no place to take the children.í But this just is not the case.
Bring the Kids
This time of year in Las Vegas, the weather is sunny and mild. Youíll certainly return with a golden tan rivaling anyone who has ventured south of the border! And the grandiose swimming pools during the day are filled with children of all ages.
No trip to Las Vegas with the offspring would be complete without seeing the Grand Canyon. Breathtaking beauty, memorable photographic opportunities, and awe-inspiring vistas await! On the way, be sure to stop at the Hoover Dam for an educational and informative tour of a design and engineering marvel.
The South Rim entrance of the Canyon is open daily, 24 hours a day. There is an entrance fee of $20 per private vehicle, and $10 per individual, (good for seven days).
When back in Las Vegas, donít forget to treat the kids to a hair-raising roller coaster ride at the New York New York casino.
A Romantic Getaway
Las Vegas is no longer all about gaming and loose slot machines; itís now a romantic getaway as well.
The artwork at The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art is certainly comparable to that of the MusČe du Louvre in Paris. Speaking of Paris, when in Vegas, take a romantic trip up the Eiffel Tower, at Paris Las Vegas! The Eiffel Tower Experience costs just $10 per adult and $7 for children and is unquestionably worth the price of admission.
Later, for an intimate evening, donít hesitate to book reservations at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant. You will be guaranteed a spectacular nighttime view of the Fountains at Bellagio, simply by mention that youíd like seating alongside the floor to ceiling windows. This is truly a one of a kind fine dining experience, prepared by one of the worldís finest chefs.
During the day, escape the lively pace of the Las Vegas strip by taking a leisurely gondola ride at the Venetian Hotel. You will feel as though youíve journeyed halfway across the world to Venice, Italy. Gondoliers softly sing and effortlessly guide your gondola past the ëGrand Canal Shoppesí and charming frescos of the luxury resort.
When in Vegas ó Shop
While the spouse is out on one of the several nationally acclaimed golf courses, get out and shop! Donít hesitate to experience all the amazing shopping opportunities Las Vegas has to offer. Even I must admit how impressed I was by CityCenterísóCrystals Mall. Upscale stores such as Louis Vuitton, and Tiffany & Co abound, all masterfully presented in an opulent and chic environment.
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes. When venturing out, casinos can appear very close together, but when in all actuality, they are miles apart. Know the tram systems that run up and down the Las Vegas strip. This will save you much needed wear and tear on the feet! Most Tram-lines are free, and my favorite, the CityCenter tram runs between the Bellagio, Crystals and the Monte Carlo.
Shows
It goes without saying that Las Vegas is world renowned for its entertainment. However, pass on pre-booking your nightly entertainment before you arrive in Las Vegas, unless of course you are afraid of a sold-out show and have your heart set on seeing one of your favorite performers. Instead, opt to purchase show tickets at one of the many, ëHalf Priced Showî kiosks conveniently located on the Las Vegas Strip. You can experience a dazzling and unique show each night of your stay, including Disney’s The Lion King, Zumanity, Le RÍve, Phantom, MystËre, Cher, Kż Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group, The Beatles LOVE just to name a few.
Buffet of Buffets
Of course in Las Vegas you can take anything to the next level, and this is also the case for eating and indulging. Now never would I advocate gluttony, however seven casinos on the Las Vegas Strip have teamed up to bring you an amazing deal for your dining pleasure. Only in Vegas can you experience world-famous buffets like never beforeÖ for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, all for just $39.99 within a 24-hour period! Do not miss Le Village Buffet at Paris Las Vegas, Lago Buffet at Caesars, Carnival World Buffet at the Rio on this amazing meal program!
On the strip
Thereís an amazing little eatery that has an outstanding $3.99 breakfast complete with dollar Bloody MaryísÖ Also, donít forget the ëfive tee-shirts for ten dollars,í that you will be able to dole out to family and friends. They may remark that, ëall they got was a (surprisingly good quality) tee shirtÖí But you will know youíve just experienced one of the best Spring Breaks of your life!
Mark Vanek is a seasoned world traveler, award winning photographer, as well as the creator and host of the talk program, ěThe Bully Pulpit,î airing every Friday morning on WGNC.

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