Slow Weekend Getaways: Las Vegas + L.A. + Portland

Hello and welcome to emmehope.co! If you’re a first time visitor, please check out what the blog is all about HERE, and check my previous posts HERE for San Francisco travel ideas and stories relating to the Slow Lifestyle. Thank you so much for your visit. I hope this space leaves you inspired for your upcoming travels as well as the ordinary (yet beautiful) days!

Who’s ready for the beautiful colors of Autumn?! The Fall Equinox is on Sept. 22nd so technically, we’ve yet to say goodbye to Summer’s longer days and shorter nights—that’s still a few short weeks left of summery days!

If you’re in need of some inspiration for your end-of-summer road trips/adventures, or even planning ahead for some Fall weekend getaways, this post is made just for you.

I’m sharing some of the short weekend trips we had from past years. We got the most out of them without being worn out and stressed by time constraints. I’m all for slow travel and I’ve talked about it recently on my previous post THE SLOW TOURIST: FINDING BALANCE IN THE AGE OF TRENDS AND BUCKET LISTS— where I talked about  pressure-free traveling.

UP NEXT: Summer in San Francisco is unlike most cities in the US in terms of the weather, and we’ve always recommended that the best time to visit is during the Fall season. I’ve got you covered on my upcoming post if you’re visiting this year. Stay in touch via Instagram or Facebook for the “Fall in SF” post update!

 

PLACES WE VISITED:

December in Las Vegas – a day exploring a nearby outdoor gem. 

Overnight in Los Angeles – experience La La Land Live in Concert and La La Land itself.

October in Portland – 2 days of popular food truck/carts, walked around lively neighborhoods and—literally—smelled the roses! 

JUMP TO THE SUMMARIZED ITINERARIES:

LAS itinerary | ☞ LAX itinerary | ☞ PDX itinerary

 

LAS VEGAS

It was my first time visiting Sin City yet we didn’t participate in any gambling, nor did we even go to a club, or see one of those famous, spectacular shows. Instead, the highlight of the trip was going on a scenic drive to explore one of Nevada’s outdoor gems. 

Upon our arrival on Thursday evening, we went for a drive around the glittering city and stopped by the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign for that postcard selfie.

Our dinner reservation was at one of the restaurants in St. Mark’s Square which is inside The Venetian. The hotel’s architecture and design—a tribute to Venice, Italy— as well as their small-scale replica of Piazza San Marco is mesmerizing. Hand-painted mural on the Square’s ceiling incredibly mimics the sky.

We walked past the indoor canal shops, rowing gondolas, and performers on our way to Mercato Della Pescheria. We sat at their patio overlooking the square. It was a relaxed setting juxtaposed with the lively atmosphere where we enjoyed the sounds and sights—it was the perfect choice for our first night in Las Vegas and a pleasant post-flight dinner. The service was very good and the food was delizioso!

Morning came and so did the birthday gal’s glee to go on an adventure. Just a few short miles away from the exuberant and glittering atmosphere, we went on to explore the magnificent red sandstone formations in the Valley of Fire State Park. 

We spent a beautiful sunny day exploring, took on a bit of hiking, and used up one of those Kodak disposable cameras.

Sandy shoes, chilly winds, mysterious hieroglyphics, unfamiliar 4-8 legged crawlies and captivating Aztec sandstones . ’Twas a day filled with uncomfortable giggles brought by the unfamiliar sights but mostly simple yet adventurous moments that made a joyful celebration of life spent with John, the S.O., in a deserted area rich in fascinating geological stories dating back to the age of dinosaurs! *rawr*

Have a look at this video — it shows how truly amazing it is there. I highly recommend a side, day trip if you’re going to Las Vegas.

It was quite chilly in December but that did not take away from the delightful experience. It will leave you inspired.

We planned on having dinner at the strip but by the time we were back to our hotel, we were famished and decided not to wait for our dinner reservation in Scarpetta (the place no longer had an earlier availability) so we got Chipotle to-go just nearby the hotel and devoured it in the hotel’s dining area. Yes, that was my Birthday dinner—*chuckles*—a relaxing one for sure before heading back to the strip. 

It turned out perfectly as we ended up having some wine and a variety of exceptional desserts in Scarpetta. Upon reservation, you can request for a seat overlooking the Bellagio fountains. The contemporary interior was a bit too upscale for my liking but that was okay because the ambiance was intimate, inviting, and most importantly, the service was impeccable. ’Twas a lovely nightcap for sure.

If you often find yourself exhausted by the end of the day of your trip/vacation, try to eliminate some activities and focus on the ones that will bring you and your company sweet memories free of stresses. Perhaps set a time of the day to take a break or dedicate a specific time to unwind by the end of each night. It’s always a good idea to unwind by the end of the day and all throughout the end of the night. Your trip may not be filled with activities—that is, for sure, taxing by the end of the day—but it’s definitely going to be more fulfilling for you and your company.

We walked around the city after a pleasant time at the restaurant and hopped in and out of grandiose hotels and casinos to experience a little bit of the well known Vegas scene.

Since this was in December, we saw Christmas displays in the Bellagio, Wynn, Caesar’s Palace and Venetian Hotels.

This simple yet fun activity is good for families and my personal favorite was the one in the Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens—a beautiful festive display with a ginormous Christmas tree at the center of it all.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by the Fremont Street Experience—it’s not in the same area as the main Vegas strip and is instead located in downtown Las Vegas. This area has a more eclectic vibe with the older casinos, street vendors, and live show bands. They even have a zipline. Just a side note that this place seemed to have significant police presence.

The following day, the goal was to see the Fountains of Bellagio which cannot be missed especially if you’re visiting during the holidays. The choreography—the interwoven water, classical/Christmas music, and lights—is enchanting and captures the elaborate Las Vegas vibe you see in movies. 

We had lunch at Bobby’s Burger Palace by Bobby Flay. TRULY AMAZING AND SCRUMPTIOUS BURGERS. Don’t forget the onion rings!

We never go on a trip without experiencing at least one local coffeeshop so for our downtime, we went to Sambalatte in Monte Carlo (they are temporarily closed but have other locations) as we waited for the Bellagio Fountain show. Great latte and capp, and their coffees are ethically sourced!

The typical nightlife offerings of Las Vegas is not my cup of tea but nonetheless, we had a wonderful time overall. I think first time visitors will surely find something they will enjoy there, whether it’s the typical “Wolf Pack” experience, or an outdoor adventure in one of the nearby fascinating Nevada deserts, or the variety of amazing shows—famous musicians, tributes, over the top acrobatics, and etc.,—plus the various food joints. 

As for me, I chose to keep a low-key trip for me and J because I find that it’s more important that you enjoy your visit to your own liking regardless of what the place is famously known for. As I’ve mentioned on my previous posts, pressure-free adventures are the most fulfilling!

Las Vegas Itinerary:

Thursday – evening arrival

See: a short drive around The Strip  + “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.

Eat: Dinner at Mercato Della Pescheria

Friday

See: Valley of Fire State Park + The Strip + the lobbies and casinos of Bellagio, Wynn, Caesar’s Palace and Venetian hotels.

Eat: hotel’s free breakfast + unplanned Chipotle for dinner + Scarpetta for nightcap

Saturday – leisure walks around The Strip + late evening return flight

See: Fountains of Bellagio

Eat: hotel’s free breakfast + Bobby’s Burger Palace for Lunch + Sambalatte for downtime coffee time (they are temporarily closed but have other locations)

 

LOS ANGELES

I hate jazz.” . . .

Unlike Mia from the movie, La La Land, J and I like jazz—we have always appreciated and enjoyed the musical talents of out-of-this-world cats. Along with our appreciation for the genre, we also appreciate the movie a whole lot—the full orchestra score, the cinematography, and its influences. So when I heard that they were doing this “Film-to-Live Experience”, flying to La La Land to see La La Land in Concert was a no brainer!

It’s one of the best two-day getaways I’ve had. It was slow, relaxing and pressure-free—I gave up going on a sunrise photography session at the Griffith Observatory (which I was so eager and committed to) for sleeping-in after the late-night show.

Our main goal was to experience the show and have a pleasant time together regardless of how short the trip was.

We kept it pretty simple.

Landed at LAX early in the morning: we took a morning stroll along the eclectic Venice Beach Boardwalk and the beautiful Venice Canals, and had a relaxing brunch in Santa Monica. We got to our hotel just in time to unwind for a bit and get ready for the show at the Hollywood Bowl.

The film played as the talented ensemble did its orchestrating magic and there were some synchronized fireworks as well. It was a magical, spectacular, magnificent, and all-things-wonderful experience.

After the show, we looked for a nightcap joint close to the hotel and as we walked around, we stumbled upon Street Churros at the TCL. It was the perfect munchie to cap the night with, sans the alcoholic sense of it.

The following day, we got a pizza box to-go and a couple of very delicious smoothies to bring with us to the Griffith Observatory for a tailgate party for two—overlooking picturesque views atop Griffith Park. Simple joys and simple moments like these, make for a fulfilling trip. *100 heart emojis*

After our delightful time at Griffith Observatory, we went for a drive around the hills, the scenic views, and on to see Greystone Mansion. Despite the horrific history behind the mansion in the 1920s—its landscaped estate was highly astounding. The mansion is actually often used for film locations. They had a wedding that time we went so we only got to peek into the fountain area. Nonetheless, the rest of the estate was worth at least the 1 1/2 hour stroll—beautiful gardens and water features.

Our experience during our visit was lovely, quiet and serene, though I imagined Gatsby (Leo?) in the veranda—looking down at us common folks (why are we even there?)—contemplating whether or not to invite us to yet another one of his lavish parties held at the estate. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

L.A. Itinerary:

Friday – early morning arrival

See: Venice Beach Boardwalk + Venice Canals + La La Land Live in Concert at the Hollywood Bowl

Eat: Society Kitchen for Brunch + Hollywood Bowl’s munchies for dinner + Street Churros for non-alcoholic nightcap

Saturday – late evening return flight

See: Griffith Observatory + Greystone Mansion + Scenic Drives + Santa Monica Beach

Eat: J’s favorite pizza since his childhood from our home-country that we don’t have back home in SF — Shakey’s (LOL. Mojos, anyone?) + seriously refreshing and delicious smoothies from a healthy smoothie shop situated in the relaxed neighborhood of Los Feliz  (great neighborhood!) — The Punchbowl (their smoothies are amazing!)

 

Portland

Despite the typical cold and gloomy weather the Pacific Northwest is known for, our weekend spent in PDX was wonderful and cozy! We wholeheartedly had such a great time that we already swore on going back just on our first day. We felt kinda at home. 

Their food scene reminded us of ours. Though in comparison to SF (thanks to its tangled bureaucracies), PDX has a significantly higher number of food carts which we love, LOVE!!!

Some of the neighborhood street vibes, especially the Alberta Arts District, reminded us of some of our street scenes too—arts/crafts shops, local produce shops, and plenty of culture.

The ultimate goal was to experience their food cart/truck scene. It’s the perfect way to stay on budget whilst experiencing something intimate and local. We felt a sense of connection and comfort through all the local food joints we went to. The folks in all such businesses we met were very warm and friendly which is icing on the cake considering the very satisfying gastronomic experiences we had that were so highly appreciated on this short trip. Satiated, indeed! 

Portland landed a special place in both our hearts, hence—on the next blog post—I’m going to share more detailed stories on this trip, including our itinerary, hoping to inspire you to have the same lighthearted experience on your next out-of-town adventure wherever that may be, if not in the City of Roses.

What season is it where you’re reading me from? Do you have any plans for what’s remaining of the season or are you planning ahead for the next? Share them on the comments section below or connect with me on Instagram— @ehmeehope and send some travel inspiration my way.

Thank you for reading through. Happy slow and pressure-free travels!

💛 E

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