Tourist Locations

Trip Report: New Mexico, California, Mexico, Colorado

Follow my travels long enough and you won’t even blink at a headline like that. I like to maximize my travel dollars, so when I have a trip I have to make for business, especially one that takes me to the other coast of America, I’ll take some time seeing if I can extend it a few days to have a little fun or do a little business.

So this trip was for our Ante Up Poker Cruise from Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera. But I added a day on the front end to meet with our Ante Up Poker Tour partner in Albuquerque, a couple days after that for fun and sight-seeing in Los Angeles and a couple of days on the back end to thank a great supporter of Ante Up in Colorado.



I’ve been to this New Mexico city before, and I always like coming back. I once spent an entire day doing my own “Breaking Bad” self-ie tour, taking photos in front of all of the houses and scenes featured in that great show. (There are organized tours that are easier, but they don’t go to all of the places you want to go. Do a little web research, and you can put together your own tour like I did.

This trip, I only had time for one touristy  thing, so I chose the National Museum of Atomic Science & History, and it was, pardon the pun, a blast. In addition to seeing and learning about old bombs, it features a large outdoor area with planes. And, inside, they have a DeLorean for us children of the ’80s.



Famous homes: Life moves pretty fast, and if you don’t stop to take a selfie outside of Ferris Bueller’s house in Long Beach, you might miss it. I’ve been to L.A. tons of times, so I was looking for something new this time. A quick Roadside America search pointed me in the direction of the iconic house in the iconic skipping-high-school movie. Later, I used the same site to guide me to the Brady Bunch house, which sadly doesn’t look much like the Brady Bunch house these days.



Vixen concert: I’ve seen a show at The House of Blues in Anaheim before, and it’s a great venue to see a band … especially if you spend the minimum amount of money in the restaurant of gift shop prior to the show to get a line pass. I ended up about 9 inches from Janet Gardner of Vixen, which closed out a great show started by Femme Fatale.


Hollywood: I’ve always wanted to hike to the top of the Hollywood sign. But it’s getting harder to do. The folks who own houses on the road that gives the quickest path are tired of the traffic (I don’t blame them), so strict parking restrictions mean you have to get there super easy to hike from there. The other paths are longer. And the real bummer is that even if you do make it to the top, fences keep you from getting that photo that will really impress your friends. So I opted for the more efficient drive up the mountain, where there are couple really nice places to park and see the sign about as close as you can get from the front of it. One even has a nice park to relax in. Here’s a link to how to hike to the top.


Being a movie buff (I’ve seen every Oscar-nominated movie for the past few years), a trip to the Dolby Theater where the Oscars are held was a must. The tour is a real bust, but you do get to get inside the theater for a selfie or two. Depending on the day you are there, the theater might be a work in progress for an upcoming event, as it was for me.



There’s only so much L.A. anyone can take, so a couple hours south is the oasis known as San Diego. The weather there is almost always perfect. This trip was to see another of my infatuations – the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team – play a friendly at the aging and needs-to-be-razed Qualcomm Stadium. But before the match, I stopped by Kansas City Barbecue, where the “Great Balls of Fire” scene from Top Gun was filmed. The bar suffered a fire some years back, so none of the original stuff is there, but they’ve built it back with lots of cool stuff. And the food is amazing.



This is the second time Ante Up Poker Cruises has sailed from Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera stops of Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Our company prefers to use Royal Caribbean for lots of reasons, but it doesn’t sail out of California, so NCL is our back up. The Jewel was our ship this time, and was nicer than our previous vessel. Still, NCL just doesn’t match up well to Royal for me. I admit part of it is my familiarity with Royal, but I also find NCL to be a notch below in almost everything. The one advantage the cruise line does have is its “freestyle” options that allow you to go to many different restaurants, some of them for free. However, it’s sometimes hard to get in the restaurant you want at the time you want, so it can turn into a negative.


If you’re a drinker, you’ll love Cabo. Beach bar after beach bar. Mazatlan? Eh. Just not much to do there, and the city is still fighting a reputation for crime, so much so that ex-pats from a lot of countries who have relocated to the city volunteer to meet cruise ship passengers at the pier to direct them around the city. Puerto Vallarta is a treat, no matter what your interests. This trip, we took an amazing zip-lining tour from Outdoor Adventures. I love zip-lining, but this tour was the best yet. It started with a donkey ride up the mountain (could have done without that), and then the most extensive series of zip lines I’ve ever been on. They even had one that was a surfboard. Not even lying. It was a board just big enough for two people to stand on, and you zipped standing up to the next platform. Wow. And twice during the lines, you got to take a waterslide to cool off.




Let’s start off by saying there’s a reason I moved to Florida from Ohio – snow. (More accurately, cold, but they all work hand in hand). So going from the warm waters of Baja California to a blinding snowstorm in the Rockies was jarring, to say the least.

But I hadn’t been to the old mining-now-gambling town of Cripple Creek, and I owed a visit to a great client, so up the mountain I went. I somehow survived, and am glad I did. Cripple Creek is more accessible Deadwood, with a main drag with little old-timey casinos, gift shops and other merchants. Perfect place to spend a weekend. I stayed at Midnight Rose Hotel & Casino, and highly recommend it. From there , I made a repeat visit to the state’s other gambling town, Black Hawk. Both are great escapes from Denver for gamblers. Just maybe not in January. If you’re from Florida. 🙂


Categories: Cruises, Drinking, Gambling, Museums, Pop Culture, Rock & Roll, Tourist Locations, Trip Reports | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trip Report: Key West for New Year’s Eve


New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday. Always has been. It might be because my parents always through a party at our house for their friends, and while I was quarantined in my bedroom for all of them, I could still tell it was a rockin’ good time downstairs.

So Laura and I make a point of traveling somewhere for New Year’s Eve every year. We’ve now spent NYE in all four Lower 48 time zones, and did the countdown in Vegas, Seattle, Phoenix, Chicago, Pensacola and many, many other places. I’ve even done the Times Square madness. Once. And only once.

This year, we chose Key West. It’s our kind of town, so it has to be our kind of NYE town, right? Yes, yes it was.



As the crow flies, Key West isn’t all that far from our house in Safety Harbor, Florida. But the crow doesn’t fly there, and the airlines that do charge a heart-stopping amount to get you there during NYE. Driving is out of the question, because it’s a seven-hour drive. SEVEN. So we finally took a trip on the Key West Express, and pretty much loved it.

The Express is a high-speed ferry from Fort Myers Beach to Key West, sailing back and forth daily. It’s a quite large vessel, and well appointed. It’s all open seating, you have your choice of airline-like seats or, if you board early enough, couches with tables perfect for groups. On the way down, they showed a movie, and on the way back, they showed Monday Night Football, so there’s some free entertainment on board. There’s also a bar with a small snack bar, so the couple-hour trip can go by quickly.

The only problem for us is that it leaves very early in the morning from Fort Myers Beach, so we decided to book a hotel there the night before to avoid the early-morning drive. On the way back, we could have done the same thing, but opted to drive home after it arrived back in Fort Myers Beach late in the evening.



Somewhat surprising, considering that we didn’t decide on Key West until October, we were able to find a pretty cool hotel that didn’t break the bank. The Ibis Bay Beach Resort is an old motel that has been redecorated into a funky place to stay. We had a first-place room overlooking the bay, with a hammock and some chairs to watch the resident birds and tortoises from. It has a great pool area that includes a movie screen, with a nice restaurant and bar.

It’s a bit out of the entertainment district, but it uses old school buses to take guests to multiple stops in town and then back to Ibis.



Drag Queen

The highlight is, of course, the multiple NYE celebrations and traditions, pretty much a different one for whatever type of person you are. We chose the Drag Queen Shoe Drop at Bourbon Street Pub, because it seemed the most fun. And it was. The streets were crowded, but hey, it’s NYE. If you’re not excited about crowds, choose a different favorite holiday. But quite surprising to us, we were able to find a lot of not-as-crowded bars in town all night, so it doesn’t have to be all shoulder-to-shoulder contact if you don’t want it to be.


There are lots of great museums in the city, so I could tell you about Harry Truman’s Little White HouseErnest Hemingway’s house or the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, but if you’re going to Key West for NYE, you’re going there to drink. And drink we did! In fact, we held an impromptu contest for our Facebook friends to guess how many different bars we’d visit over the weekend. Did you guess 32? If so, you would have won a T-shirt! And don’t forget to visit Dante’s. It’s a great bar/restaurant right by the dock to the Key West Express. It has a full pool with waterfall, so it’s a great place to cool off while enjoying some drinks.


Categories: Drinking, Entertainment, Hotels, Museums, Pop Culture, Tourist Locations, Trip Reports | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at