Journal

More Adventuring with our Grandchildren

by | Mar 2, 2015 | Editorial

In 2012 we added A, now four, to our troop, and decided a shorter journey was in in order. Now we were eight. It would be the last year we could all fit into that trusty SUV. We went to Las Vegas and stayed at a condo-resort off The Strip.
They gave us two attached mirror-image units, where we could actually set up meat and dairy kitchens! And it’s really amazing how much there is to do with grandchildren in Vegas, ever mindful of keeping them away from…all the things you want to keep them away from.

They’ve all been to New York, so they loved the New York New York hotel, with its cobblestone streets, fire escapes and other amazing replicas of New York City. The older kids went wild for the roller coaster and everyone had a great time in the huge arcade area. We had to drag them away.

We went to the extraordinary Bodies Exhibition at the Luxor Hotel. Here, through an innovative process, real human bodies are preserved and presented in a respectful, informative manner. You can see organs, skeletons, whole and partial bodies. One of the highlights is a display of a healthy lung alongside one blackened by smoking. You can follow the path of the circulatory system, and see layers of muscle, skin and tissue. It’s truly amazing and we were all fascinated.

On a more commercial note, the Coca Cola store, with every conceivable (and inconceivable) Coke product was a big hit. For some reason the kids loved having their picture taken next to a giant Coke bottle. The M&M store had a similar incomprehensible appeal.

The Venetian Hotel was a special favorite. You can, thankfully, bypass the casino level entirely and head straight for the Grand Canal Shoppes. You don’t have to have been to Venice, Italy (which none of us has) to enjoy the ingenuity here. The gorgeous, enormous mall features a long indoor Grand Canal. We piled into two gondolas and enjoyed a scenic fifteen-minute ride, complete with singing gondoliers. Besides the endless shops, there ware costumed opera singers and dancers performing in the streets.

And then there are the statues – white stone statues of people in Renaissance dress on low pedestals in San Marcos Square and near the shops. At least they look like statues. They are absolutely still. They do not even blink. They do not smile at the kids’ antics. No one dares touch them. The kids hotly debated whether actual people might be under all that plaster. The only clue is the discreet little bucket into which people in the know place dollar bills. It’s quite a marvel to observe such absolute stillness.

At one point in the Venetian we split up. Michael took the boys to Houdini’s Magic Shop and I took the girls to The Shemoni Sterling Silver Jewelry Shop, where pretty baubles can be had for amazing prices. After the girls made inroads in their Souvenir Budgets, we joined the guys at the magic shop. The staff members there perform magic tricks. It’s like being at a close-up magic show. Then if you decide to buy any of the tricks (at prices that match silver bracelets any day, I might add), you get invited into a hidden back room. Here they reveal to you the secret of the magic trick. All very mysterious and a great thrill for the kids.

Another outing they enjoyed was to the Excalibur Hotel. This is a pint-sized souvenir hunter’s dream. Its shops feature all kinds of vital necessities for princesses and knights, as well as its share of magic. The food court has a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop, and since it’s kosher this was a great find.

And now a word about night activity. In our extensive planning A and I leave little to chance. With a group this size we think of THE TRIP as a mini summer camp, and advance planning is vital. Otherwise, precious hours can be wasted with indecision and everyone voicing an opinion. We are, however, flexible.

Sometimes night activity is a late swim in a hotel pool. Sometimes it’s dinner in a kosher restaurant. Las Vegas has several, and we went out to dinner two of our nights there. Disneyland – if we happen to be there – is one big night activity in and of itself. Or sometimes it’s a stroll through a quaint little shopping district, like Seaport Village in San Diego.

But my all-time favorite night activity popped up serendipitously on our Las Vegas trip. It had been a strenuous day. We were in heavy traffic leaving The Strip. The kids were cranky, loud and way too wired. My husband was losing his mind. We needed a way to wind everyone down. A was texting me from the back seat: “Nana, we need to think of something! Quick!”

I wracked my brain. Then I saw it. A sign. Was it real? Did the brick and mortar store still exist, or was the sign the only remnant of what was now an empty shell? I had seen such things before. I whispered to my husband to pull into the parking lot. To pull up close to the store. And lo, praise the L-rd. The door opened. People were coming and going! The store was still in business!

It was a Barnes and Noble Bookseller.

We parked and I laid down the ground rules. We would be here for one hour. Everyone was entitled to buy one “big book” (translation: expensive) or two “little ones” (i.e., inexpensive paperbacks.) No, this didn’t count toward the Souvenir Budget. This was a special extra gift. The kids were thrilled and dashed off to the children’s section. A grinned at me. “Good one, Nana,” she said and headed after them.

Michael spied the attached Starbucks. “Do you mind if I –“

“No, “ I said. “Go ahead. We’ve got it covered.” He bought a book and disappeared into the coffee shop. I didn’t see him for the next hour.

I quickly followed A and we had a great time. The kids had immediately assumed their quiet “bookstore voices” and were eagerly sifting through the possibilities. They were calm and excited at the same time. We read and looked at pictures. They weighed their options carefully. A and I helped them pick theirs and then made our own selections.

We met up with Michael an hour later at the front door. “Thank you,” he whispered, “that was just what I needed.”

As they say, a win-win. Back at the hotel, the kids calmly read their books and fell asleep clutching them.

The Las Vegas trip went by all too quickly. S claims it as her favorite. Michael wants us to go back – there was so much “kids’ stuff” we never even got to do.

They gave us two attached mirror-image units, where we could actually set up meat and dairy kitchens! And it’s really amazing how much there is to do with grandchildren in Vegas, ever mindful of keeping them away from…all the things you want to keep them away from.

They’ve all been to New York, so they loved the New York New York hotel, with its cobblestone streets, fire escapes and other amazing replicas of New York City. The older kids went wild for the roller coaster and everyone had a great time in the huge arcade area. We had to drag them away.

We went to the extraordinary Bodies Exhibition at the Luxor Hotel. Here, through an innovative process, real human bodies are preserved and presented in a respectful, informative manner. You can see organs, skeletons, whole and partial bodies. One of the highlights is a display of a healthy lung alongside one blackened by smoking. You can follow the path of the circulatory system, and see layers of muscle, skin and tissue. It’s truly amazing and we were all fascinated.

On a more commercial note, the Coca Cola store, with every conceivable (and inconceivable) Coke product was a big hit. For some reason the kids loved having their picture taken next to a giant Coke bottle. The M&M store had a similar incomprehensible appeal.

The Venetian Hotel was a special favorite. You can, thankfully, bypass the casino level entirely and head straight for the Grand Canal Shoppes. You don’t have to have been to Venice, Italy (which none of us has) to enjoy the ingenuity here. The gorgeous, enormous mall features a long indoor Grand Canal. We piled into two gondolas and enjoyed a scenic fifteen-minute ride, complete with singing gondoliers. Besides the endless shops, there ware costumed opera singers and dancers performing in the streets.

And then there are the statues – white stone statues of people in Renaissance dress on low pedestals in San Marcos Square and near the shops. At least they look like statues. They are absolutely still. They do not even blink. They do not smile at the kids’ antics. No one dares touch them. The kids hotly debated whether actual people might be under all that plaster. The only clue is the discreet little bucket into which people in the know place dollar bills. It’s quite a marvel to observe such absolute stillness.

At one point in the Venetian we split up. Michael took the boys to Houdini’s Magic Shop and I took the girls to The Shemoni Sterling Silver Jewelry Shop, where pretty baubles can be had for amazing prices. After the girls made inroads in their Souvenir Budgets, we joined the guys at the magic shop. The staff members there perform magic tricks. It’s like being at a close-up magic show. Then if you decide to buy any of the tricks (at prices that match silver bracelets any day, I might add), you get invited into a hidden back room. Here they reveal to you the secret of the magic trick. All very mysterious and a great thrill for the kids.

Another outing they enjoyed was to the Excalibur Hotel. This is a pint-sized souvenir hunter’s dream. Its shops feature all kinds of vital necessities for princesses and knights, as well as its share of magic. The food court has a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop, and since it’s kosher this was a great find.

And now a word about night activity. In our extensive planning A and I leave little to chance. With a group this size we think of THE TRIP as a mini summer camp, and advance planning is vital. Otherwise, precious hours can be wasted with indecision and everyone voicing an opinion. We are, however, flexible.

Sometimes night activity is a late swim in a hotel pool. Sometimes it’s dinner in a kosher restaurant. Las Vegas has several, and we went out to dinner two of our nights there. Disneyland – if we happen to be there – is one big night activity in and of itself. Or sometimes it’s a stroll through a quaint little shopping district, like Seaport Village in San Diego.

But my all-time favorite night activity popped up serendipitously on our Las Vegas trip. It had been a strenuous day. We were in heavy traffic leaving The Strip. The kids were cranky, loud and way too wired. My husband was losing his mind. We needed a way to wind everyone down. A was texting me from the back seat: “Nana, we need to think of something! Quick!”

I wracked my brain. Then I saw it. A sign. Was it real? Did the brick and mortar store still exist, or was the sign the only remnant of what was now an empty shell? I had seen such things before. I whispered to my husband to pull into the parking lot. To pull up close to the store. And lo, praise the L-rd. The door opened. People were coming and going! The store was still in business!

It was a Barnes and Noble Bookseller.

We parked and I laid down the ground rules. We would be here for one hour. Everyone was entitled to buy one “big book” (translation: expensive) or two “little ones” (i.e., inexpensive paperbacks.) No, this didn’t count toward the Souvenir Budget. This was a special extra gift. The kids were thrilled and dashed off to the children’s section. A grinned at me. “Good one, Nana,” she said and headed after them.

Michael spied the attached Starbucks. “Do you mind if I –“

“No, “ I said. “Go ahead. We’ve got it covered.” He bought a book and disappeared into the coffee shop. I didn’t see him for the next hour.

I quickly followed A and we had a great time. The kids had immediately assumed their quiet “bookstore voices” and were eagerly sifting through the possibilities. They were calm and excited at the same time. We read and looked at pictures. They weighed their options carefully. A and I helped them pick theirs and then made our own selections.

We met up with Michael an hour later at the front door. “Thank you,” he whispered, “that was just what I needed.”

As they say, a win-win. Back at the hotel, the kids calmly read their books and fell asleep clutching them.

The Las Vegas trip went by all too quickly. S claims it as her favorite. Michael wants us to go back – there was so much “kids’ stuff” we never even got to do.

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