Austin: Whole Foods, Farmers Market and Veloway Snake Crossing!

Carrots at Austin Farmers Market

A quick  trip to Austin, TX on our way back from a wedding proved to be more farmstand than kickstand. The flagship Whole Food Store in downtown Austin is a vacation destination in itself for this small town girl who grew up grocery shopping at places like Piggly Wiggly and Jitney Jungle.

After leaving Whole Foods with a supply of chia seeds and lentil chips but still feeling like country bumpkins, we checked out the downtown farmers market on Guadalupe, where you can buy hibiscus tea and support humanitarian work in Africa, get juice from Drink Daily Greens and help those battling breast cancer or buy some purple artichoke flowers, which seemed to be everywhere.

After enough munching to sustain us to the next meal, my husband and I stopped in a bike shop and were directed to the Austin Veloway for the best in local cycling.

Located in southwest Austin adjacent to Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the veloway is far from downtown Austin culture and seemed to attract a mix of suburban families with bikes and rollerblades and semi-pro cyclists perfecting their speed on the 3.1-mile loop. No pedestrians or joggers are allowed on the veloway.


Veloway Sign     Snake Crossing

The asphalt path is 23-feet wide so there is enough room for everybody but after riding the loop again and again, we quickly became bored and moved on. The wildflowers were lovely but there is little shade. It’s mostly flat with a steep hill in the last mile called Mt. Everest. It comes suddenly after a sharp turn but there is a warning sign to help you build up speed. There’s also a “Caution: Rattlesnake Crossing” sign. I appreciated the warning but fortunately we saw no snakes.

Austin is a great city to revisit & next time we’ll explore more bicycling options.

48 Hours in Las Vegas

My brand new Fitbit stayed in Vegas.

Somewhere between Pink’s Hot Dogs at Planet Hollywood and our room in the MGM Grand, the Fitbit that I got for Mother’s Day slipped off. I noticed that it wasn’t with me when we came back from the pool. I don’t think it even made it to the pool. I don’t remember having it when I was slathering on sunscreen.

What I can say is Monday’s 13,000 steps recorded was by far the most during the short time on my wrist. And it might have even surpassed my steps during the next two days in the Grand Canyon.

The family in Vegas
The family in Vegas

The Las Vegas strip is spread out and it takes a lot of steps to make it from the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” on the south end to the Stratosphere on the north. Heck, it takes an afternoon just to make it out of the MGM Grand, which I learned is the second-largest hotel resort complex in the United States.

The sites, indeed, are further away than the map shows. The monorails help, but they don’t cover the entire strip. The main fee-based one that runs from MGM Grand to SLS Las Vegas (still a hike to the Stratosphere) only has seven stops and only runs on the east side. You’ll still have to find a bridge to the other side, then the stairs (or elevators if you are lucky) and trek to your location. There are a few free monorails on the west side, but each one only runs to a few properties.

We were in Vegas less than 48 hours, flying in before renting a car and heading to the Grand Canyon. We are not gamblers (even so we had to make some long hikes through the casinos to get where we were going).

My advice for seeing the city in a short period of time is choosing a hotel in the center of the action. Paris is a moderately-priced option.

Or you could stay at MGM Grand on the southern part of the strip and spend all of your time there. Even without gambling at the casino, I’m convinced you could stay busy for a week with these entertainment options and more:

The massive MGM Grand
The massive MGM Grand

Grand Pool Complex: With 6.6 acres of pools, including waterfalls and lazy river, it was a nice free amenity with our modest nightly rate (we paid $135 before resort fees) Drawbacks: the pool complex isn’t open at night and food and drink prices are outrageous.

David Copperfield: the popular illusionist show

Cirque du Soliel: The active show at MGM Grand is Ká, the first Cirque production with a distinct storyline in addition to the lavish martial arts and acrobatics.

Grand Garden Arena: Lots of big-time concerts and sporting events throughout the year

Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club: Everybody loves it when Brad is actually there. The other comedians get mixed reviews.

Restaurants: There are about a dozen really nice ones, including two featuring “French Chef of the Century” Joel Robuchon; about that many modestly-priced options; and a 24-hour food court.

CSI: The Experience: Guests get in on the crime solving

CBS Television City: We could have sat in on free TV show screenings or even earned some money being part of a focus group in CBS’s MGM Grand setup. Just not enough time.

Before you go to Vegas, be prepared to maximize your time and budget by checking out: Don’t buy a show ticket before checking to see what discounted same-day tickets are usually available. You probably won’t get half-priced tickets but 40% off is common. We enjoyed the Frank Sinatra tribute show, which still features many of Frank’s orchestra members.