It’s not even summer yet but things are already heating up. The place to be is OUTSIDE and on my recent “Houston Life” appearance (NBC) I showed some gadgets to help you have some fun. Enjoy!
Click HERE to watch
It’s not even summer yet but things are already heating up. The place to be is OUTSIDE and on my recent “Houston Life” appearance (NBC) I showed some gadgets to help you have some fun. Enjoy!
Click HERE to watch
When it comes to gambling, eating, sipping cocktails, playing in the sun or – heck – just about living life to its fullest, I am your man. This fact is not hard to figure out since Las Vegas is my most-visited city in the U.S. (confession – but don’t be a hater – I’ve already been to Vegas 4x this year alone). But instead of hopping a flight for all this fun I may have found my new hangout just a few hours drive from Houston.
The Golden Nugget in Lake Charles, Louisiana, opened in December 2014, and I recently spent a Friday night at this palatial playground near the swamp lands. My crew and I headed eastbound along Interstate 10 to broadcast my radio show from “the Nugget” and we experienced a wonderful time from arrival to departure. The $700 million project came into view as we crossed over the I-210 bridge. Thoughts of ringing slot machines and stacks of casino chips in my head had me more excited than seeing Space Mountain the first time I approached Disney World as a kid.
Walking into the hotel was akin to entering one of the glitzy hotel casinos in Las Vegas. That is a high compliment from me as I have been in many casinos around the world that looked similar to my upstairs poker room at home. The marble floor and high ceiling gives the lobby and casino a roomy feel. Several retail shops dotted the aisles and I caught a glimpse of several restaurants throughout the ground floor. More on this later as restaurants play a large part of the Golden Nugget since it is owned and operated by Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta. Yes, that Tilman Fertitta of Landry’s Inc. fame and fortune.
Check in was quick and simple probably because I was staring at the large window behind the counter which overlooks the H20 pool and bar. It was a Friday afternoon and the outdoor area looked rocking as tanned guests were wading around the swim-up bar.
My pool view room with balcony overlooked this same scene and I could not wait to get down there to sample the libations and do a quick site check for my radio broadcast location the next day. But I spent a while in the nicely appointed room looking at the many features. 500 square feet of space included a large soaker tub, king size bed, 42″ TV, stand-up shower and a dining nook. I’m not sure how many guests utilize the small table and chairs to eat as we soon found out there are so many things to do to keep you downstairs.
The pool scene was indeed loud and fun. Cabanas are spaced around the adult pool and bar (21 and up) with a large stage for DJs, concerts and other entertainment. A lazy river is adjacent to the adult pool winding its way around a waterfall and under foot bridges.
Back to the restaurants. It is hard to determine whether this facility was built around the restaurants of Fertitta’s empire or the hotel/casino just happened to place a Fertitta-owned restaurant every few feet along the spacious corridors. Familiar brands can be found throughout the grounds including Saltgrass Steakhouse, Grotto, Landry’s Seafood House, and Cadillac Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar. We wanted to go all out for dinner so we opted for Vic & Anthony’s, a top steakhouse with locations in Houston and Las Vegas.
V&A General Manager Craig Harrington was inviting and worked the elegant dining room filled with guests dressed in sport coats, blue jeans and even shorts. An order of maple glazed quail and a jumbo lump crabcake started us off. Those appetizers quickly gave way to a table full of prime porterhouse, organic lamb chops, blackened scallops and grits, and of course there was a lobster tail. The wine list is extensive and – my personal affection to a bar – the bourbon collection was first rate.
Once our bellies were full and happy it was time for one of my favorite ways to kill time and money (or hopefully make money)…the casino. The Golden Nugget has 70 gaming tables and 1,600 slot machines. This Friday night seemed busy and it took a little while to find an open spot at a craps table. But once I realized there was 20x odds on the numbers all was well. A large bar sits in the middle of the casino floor which makes for a nice place to relax and meet on the couches or tabletops. A high roller section is situated in the back of the casino with its own bar and higher minimum tables and slot machines. I did not notice a VIP lounge on the casino floor but, alas, there may be one somewhere for actual VIPs.
The staff was friendly whether they paid you winnings or took your losses. This was a real Vegas “feel” which is hard to replicate outside of those large Nevada casinos.
Saturday morning found us broadcasting my radio show back to Houston (KPRC 950AM) and the world (iHeartRadio app). The marketing staff found a wonderful location for our booth with a backdrop just a few feet away from the sparkling water and in-pool lounges. My guests on the show included the property’s executives from the resort, operations, and beverage departments as we learned some of the interesting facts about the gleaming property. [Note to self: I need to visit again soon to play the recently-opened Country Club 18 hole golf course] And our good friend Craig Harrington stopped by to bring some more delicious snacks from Vic & Anthony’s.
After the 2 hour show it was time to pack up the radio gear and change into swim gear. We hung out the rest of the afternoon in a cabana which I recommend reserving if you have several people in your party. It provided a nice place for shade with couches, small refrigerator stocked with bottled water, and a TV.
Our quick 24 hour visit left a great impression on us and many of my radio listeners. Lake Charles has become a booming destination for entertainment for southerners but especially with Texans who daily cross the border in hoards. Until Texas approves legalized casino gambling (hint: do not hold your breath) this will continue to be a hot place to visit. The Golden Nugget is shiniest new star in the area and I can’t wait to go back.
Listen to The High-Tech Texan Show podcast from the Golden Nugget:
What’s the deal with Colorado? Why do so many people flock to this land-locked state not just to play in the winter snow but to soak up the summer fun in its high altitude?
I don’t look into these questions too deeply. I simply visit the Rocky Mountain state regularly – seemingly a few times each year – and thank God I’m a country boy. Last year the family visited Beaver Creek, minus my oldest son who was at summer camp. After seeing our photos and hearing our stories, the kid insisted he make the next trip with us. And thus the Garfield Colorado trip of summer 2014 included him and his two younger brothers.
The allure of the mountains west of Denver called us again. This time just a few miles down from Beaver Creek to Vail. This destination, like last year’s, makes for convenient travel thanks to non-stop flights from Texas into Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE). United Airlines has several weekly flights directly into this cozy airport from George H.W. Bush Intercontinental Airport while American Airlines operates service from D/FW.
The trip from EGE to Vail took about 30 minutes in a comfy SUV driven by Colorado Mountain Express. Our driver pulled into what we would call home base for the next few days, The Sebastian, a resort located near the foot of the Vail mountainside.
The Sebastian is a Trip Advisor Four Diamond property is a chic social hub for owners, hotel guests and the local community. The inviting lobby offers a roaring fireplace, plush couches and some of the friendliest staff I have met during my travels.
It is a wonderful place for families for many reasons including the variety of room choices and suites. And when traveling with kids one of my rules has been to put those boys in their own rooms. We checked into a three bedroom suite overlooking the 11,450 foot tall mountain complete with kitchen, dining area and washer/dryer. It was a big suite. I barely saw the kids when we were in there.
The next several days found us eating, hiking, climbing, fishing, eating, laughing, swimming and eating. Maybe it was the thin air but our appetites were big and the food did not disappoint. From small sandwich shops to the luxurious restaurants in The Sebastian, we added back the weight that we lost throughout our active days.
Leonora, an Alpine Bistro & Tapas Bar, offers fresh, local and organic ingredients with tapas, crudo and Alpine bistro fare The wine list is extensive but I was more impressed with their bourbon selection (you know me). Frost is the bar you can never pass up as it is just off the lobby. The warm atmosphere has an amazing adventure in microbrew and bartenders who take pride in the art of mixology. I can imagine how rocking this place is for après ski.
One of the more famous eateries in the village is the Vail Chophouse, situated a few yards away from the bottom of the mountain. I can imagine patrons visiting during the winter skiing directly onto the patio and partaking in a late-afternoon cocktail while still attached to their skis. Red meat is aplenty in the chic yet comfy restaurant. I’m more of a seafood guy and the menu did not disappoint. A three-tiered seafood smorgasbord of lobster tail, oysters, jumbo shrimp and crab legs could have sufficed for my dinner but I still had the perfectly grilled salmon a main course.
While the kids enjoyed the chophouse burger and, of course, chicken tenders they were eager to catch some food of their own out of the local rivers and creeks. The following morning found us knee-deep in Eagle River slowly casting fly rods into the cool running water. I tried to explain to the boys that fly fishing is vastly different from the fishing they have grown up with in the Texas lakes and Gulf of Mexico. This is an active sport that takes a different technique and some guidance, which Daddy could not provide.
So some expert anglers from Gore Creek Fly Fishing led us on a half-day experience that we won’t soon forget. After suiting up with waders and getting state fishing licenses we received hands-on lessons on the way to catch trout in the local waters using flies and a rod. I have been fly fishing before and was a bit concerned the boys would have a little difficulty getting the casting motion down and reaching the goal – catching fish. Guess who caught fish before the old man? All three kids.
Our guide told us that fly fishing can be a sport enjoyed throughout the year but the summertime is when the best fishing happens. Not to mention you could be standing in an ice pond come winter. We caught and released nearly a dozen rainbow and brown trout but not before taking photos with our booty and prepping our stories to tell of the whoppers we caught.
3,000 feet above that river sits the summit of Vail Mountain. There are a few ways of traversing the steep mountainside. While we saw hikers and bikers trek up and down the dirt trails we decided the 10 minute ascent in an enclosed gondola was more our speed. Atop the mountain are breathtaking views of the Gore and Sawatch Ranges. And more adventure.
Adventure Ridge provides daylong fun for all ages. A zip line allows you to soar a few hundred yards down the mountain and a ropes course provides a challenging way to prove to your kids that your parents still have a bit of athleticism. The three-level ropes course was one of the most memorable parts of our trip as it not only tasked us with problem-solving ways on maneuvering but also incredible views of the mountaintop and surrounding area.
Back down at the base of the mountain Vail provides its own exhilaration and views. The layout of the town allows for relaxing strolls down narrow streets populated with taverns, shops, boutique hotels and family gathering places. Vail Village encompasses the east end of town and has an old world Bavarian-style charm. Covered wooden bridges provide picturesque walkways over Gore Creek. A pint of ale (or hot cocoa for the kids) makes for a nice afternoon stop on flower-covered tavern patio.
A newer town center-style area in the Village seemed to be the hot spot during our stay. A large green space surrounded by shops and condos allowed the kids to run around, toss a football and kick a soccer ball. This is the same space an ice rink occupies during the winter months and I can only imagine how inviting that setting is.
A short walk or a quick, free bus ride away is Lionshead on the west side of Vail. I found this section of town to be a bit more modern with newer architecture yet still retaining a village-style feel. What could be described as a high-end outdoor mall includes a space for a wintertime ice rink, shops, ice cream and pizza joints, and more inviting taverns, restaurants and bars. Between meals we found time to stop off at Blue Moose Pizza in this area for design-your-own slices and soda.
Back in Vail Village we decided to spend one evening challenging our taste buds and bowling skills in the modish Bol. Gourmet food and 12 pound bowling balls just can’t be beat. We reserved a colorful lane flanked by large TV screens and ordered chef-prepared burgers, steaks, fries and seafood while participating in the Garfield Boys Bowlathon. Finally something I could win.
When planning a visit to Vail during the summer I would suggest scheduling a Sunday to experience the Farmer’s Market & Art Show. Colorado’s finest are showcased including locally grown produce, international dishes, fresh baked goods and even Colorado wine. The Art Show feeds travelers’ creativity offering everything from beautiful clothing and jewelry to handmade home items.
Sure we could have played golf on one the nearby courses. White water rafting trips also enticed us as did hiking and biking tours. But we couldn’t decide who was more tuckered out – dad or kids – from our adventures in eating, fishing, and well you know the rest. And there was no shortage of ways to relax especially back at The Sebastian. The swimming pool and hot tubs provided a nice respite. The spa and gym also make leaving the property tough.
The hardest part of our visit was packing up realizing we were about to leave a climate that averages 75 degrees during the day and 45 degrees at night would soon give way to the heat and humidity of home back in Texas. An easy ride back to Eagle County Regional Airport via Colorado Mountain Express was a final hurrah to end our boys’ getaway.
As I have written before, for those that imagine Colorado as a place to only enjoy the winter, my simple advice is to GO WEST, young man. Thanks to non-stop flights directly into the most beautiful parts of the state there is no reason to swelter and sweat in your hometown this summer.
Thermostats. Cameras. Lighting. Window shades. Refrigerators. TVs. Audio systems.
This is just a brief list of things in your home that can be updated, upgraded and integrated into a “smart home.” One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “what is the simplest way to make a smart home.” My answer isn’t that simple as there are many ways to do it including DIY kits, hiring contractors, using cloud servers vs. on-site storage, etc…
So it is time to do some show-and-tell on bringing your home or apartment into the 21st century. Over the next few months we will be adding and installing products and services in a new home while documenting the research, installation and usage. We will be adding videos, stories, links and suggestions on how to plan for a new home or just retrofitting an existing home.
Send your suggestions or favorite products to us and we will incorporate your ideas into this series. Tune in to “The High-Tech Texan Show” on iHeartRadio and on stations across the country to hear our thoughts and listen to product and industry experts. And maybe we will give away a few items to get you started.
Get Smart! (Sorry about that, Chief)
Today Verizon launched an unlimited LTE data plan, called Verizon Unlimited. The plan starts at $80 a month for one line or $45 a line for a group of four on smartphones or tablets. Both new and existing subscribers can sign up. Those prices are described as “introductory” and require both paperless billing and AutoPay to be enabled. Customers will get full LTE speeds until they reach 22GB of usage, after which they’ll be subject to slower data speeds.
The move marks the first time in more than five years that Verizon, the nation’s largest carrier in terms of total subscribers, will have an unlimited offering. Verizon says the plan also provides unlimited calling and texting to Canada and Mexico, along with 500 MB a day of LTE data in those countries.
I spoke with Verizon’s South Central Market President, Krista Bourne, today to get more information. You can hear the audio below.
The Super Bowl was just held in Houston to end the NFL season. The “Super Bowl of NASCAR” will be held in just two weeks as the Daytona 500 begins the racing season. Last year’s runner-up Joey Logano was in town to see his New England Patriots pull a great come from behind win. I caught up with him the day after the big game to talk about his love of sports, changes to the NASCAR points system and what a new title sponsor to the Championship series means. As we all know it’s all about sponsors so thanks to the Shell Pennzoil team for having me out at their headquarters to hang with Joey.
Super Bowl LIVE is the hub of all the downtown action surrounding the NFL’s showcase event in Houston this week. Here is my look at how Verizon is monitoring everything around the area while feeding data and info to the Houston Police Department. Also, check out the Charging Hub from Ventev to keep everyone’s devices charged up during the big game. – courtesy HOUSTON LIFE (KPRC-TV, NBC)
It’s not everyday you can actually unbox a ticket. But when the ticket is a seat at the Super Bowl and purchased through the NFL’s official hospitality division – On Location Experiences, the packaging better rock your world after a minimum price tag of $7,249.
Here is a look at the Elite package ticket box. Tip: sit down first, turn up the volume and close your mouth so you don’t drool on your phone. Yes that is a video player that automatically plays when opened. This package sold by NFL On Location includes a game ticket, entry to the on-site tailgate party featuring Lady Antebellum and all the food and drink you can handle, and access (which I presume means forking over even more cash) to hotels and Bruno Mars’ appearance at Club Nomadic on Friday night.
Oh and look what arrived a few days later. A boxed set of glasses with the Super Bowl LI logo. The NFL says to “expect more surprises” up through game time. Can we assume a set of steak knives?
The pop-up nightclub known as Club Nomadic went from a dirt lot near downtown Houston back in November to an almost-ready, sleek, techno venue that will host tens of thousands of Super Bowl-themed revelers. The media got a sneak peek of the 64,000 square, 3 level structure just off Washington Ave.
Jack Murphy, president of Nomadic Entertainment Group, hosted a tour of the facility while proclaiming the finishing touches will be done in time for the first event on Thursday, February 2. EA Sports will host a function featuring The Chainsmokers. Bruno Mars appears the next night courtesy of Pepsi’s LIFEWTR brand. Saturday night finds DIRECTV sponsoring Taylor Swift. According to Mr. Murphy the facility can hold up to 9,000 people with over 5,500 on the main floor. Upper levels are reserved for sponsors and VIPs who will receive “white glove treatment.”
Most tickets have been sold however some Bruno Mars tickets will be released this Friday at 10am through Ticketmaster. Tickets are $175.
Here’s the deal…I like food. Food festivals are great. Add some liquor and it’s heaven. For the past 26 years one of the largest and most successful food events has been The Taste Of The NFL. It features a chef from each NFL city serving their signature dish alongside a current or alumni NFL player. Add that up and you get more than 35 food stations where to sample the fine cuisine, meet and take photos with famous chefs, NFL greats and participate in a silent auction with unique sports memorabilia and other exciting items.
This year’s strolling gastronomical feast will be held at the University of Houston on Saturday, February 4. VIP entry begins at 6pm and the rest of the crowd flows in at 7pm. They better hope the VIPs don’t eat everything that first hour.
The event is billed as the Party With A Purpose with proceeds from benefiting food banks in each of the 32 NFL cities, with special emphasis this year placed on the Houston Food Bank. Tickets usually sell out but can still be had as I type this for $700.
I recently spoke with the Founder and Executive Director of the organization, Wayne Kostroski. Here is the audio where you can hear his passion and enthusiasm for the event. Listen to my show on KPRC 950AM and iHeartRadio to win a pair of tickets.