The Secret to Recycling in Las Vegas

During our first few weeks at our rental house in Las Vegas we were surprised not to find any recycling bins near the trash containers. We figured that there had to be recycling services in such a large city. Seeing as we were going to be here for a month we began collecting all of our recyclable materials in the garage and figured that as we explored the city we were sure to find a place where we could recycle.

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As the month slipped away and the recycling piled up we still hadn’t come across any roll-away bins or drop-off recycling centers. Finally after sitting down to a bit of Internet research we found posts from a few people that had luck dropping off their household recycling at Republic Services located at 333 W Gowan Rd in North Las Vegas.

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Today as we loaded the back of our rental van with a month’s worth of recycling we were really hoping that Republic Services would pan out and not send us away. Fortunately dropping off our recycling couldn’t have been easier. We were met by a friendly employee who directed us towards several clearly marked blue bins where we could deposit our recycling. After some quick sorting we were on our way, happy that we had cracked the secret to recycling in Las Vegas.

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Full Tilt at the Pinball Hall of Fame

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Where do pinball machines go to retire once they leave the arcade? We think we may finally have an answer to this age-old question. If the pinball machine is lucky, it ends up in the Pinball Hall of Fame just a few blocks off of the Las Vegas Strip. We were lucky to spend an afternoon playing these beautifully restored arcade favorites as a family.

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The Pinball Hall of Fame is an all-volunteer labor of love that aims to do good work both in and out of the arcade. The machines in the collection number in the hundreds, and they are constantly being reconditioned and repaired so as many as possible are available for visitors to play and enjoy. In addition to the Hall of Fame being 100% family friendly (smoke-free, alcohol-free, and plenty of stools and chairs to help smaller players see and play), all of the proceeds left over from maintaining the machines go to local charities.

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Deciding which games to play first was probably the hardest part of our day. Of course, our old favorites got the first few quarters. Five String was beside himself when he discovered that his two favorite games were not only on display, but also standing right next to one another. For the Younger Fives, this was their first real pinball experience, so they spent their time trying out different promising machines and selecting their favorites. In the end, Shrek became our new family favorite for its overall value (it is very forgiving with saving balls that go between the flippers) and the overall fun of the playing experience.

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The more modern, flashier pinball machines are by no means the only stars of the show. The Younger Fives became close friends with KITT, the Knight Rider car that graciously took them for many rides. We also tried out some older and very fun pinball machines from the 1970s and 60s. While they weren’t as forgiving with lost balls, we really enjoyed learning about their history from the index cards placed on each of these machines.

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While we have for the most part avoided the casinos that make Las Vegas famous, we are by no means immune to the charm of bright lights and flashy games. Spending an afternoon in the Pinball Hall of Fame, knowing that every quarter we played was helping people in the local community, felt like the perfect way to build some lasting Las Vegas memories as a family. It turns out that pinball and charity are a pretty classy combination.

A Day in Pictures at Red Rock Canyon

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Located within the Las Vegas city limits, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area feels worlds away from the rest of town. In reality, it is only 17 miles west of The Strip, but it is hard to imagine it shares the same address. Who would have thought you could see scenic natural vistas, a desert oasis, rugged canyons, and countless opportunities for rock climbing without actually leaving the city? 

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The stunning red rocks that give the area its name.

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Five Ball exploring a dry stream bed.

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The Younger Fives making the climb to Lost Creek, an oasis where trees thrive in the dry Mojave desert.

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A pictograph from the original inhabitants of the area, the Pauite.

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Looking at all the natural beauty can even give pause to our high-energy High Five.

Bellagio for Beginners

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Staying in Las Vegas for over two weeks now, we have steered clear of The Strip. Until today, that is. With Nana Five joining us for a visit, we thought it was finally time to make the trip downtown and see a different side of Vegas. We did some research on free, family-friendly activities on The Strip, and three of the most appealing ones are housed at Bellagio. For our first trip downtown, then, we decided to take things slowly and focus our exploration here.

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Our first stop was the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. The display changes five times a year, and our visit came just a day before the current spring display is transformed into a summer theme. Impressive is definitely an understatement. The amount of flowers on display is truly mind-boggling, and the wonderful aroma is a refreshing change from the stale smell of cigarette smoke found in most places around The Strip. The overall attention to detail kept us all marveling at every sculpture and scene we came across, from caterpillars and ladybugs to a painting made entirely of live plants and flowers.

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When we left the Conservatory to watch the show at the outdoor Fountains of Bellagio, we thought we had seen the best that Bellagio has to offer. We were wrong. The shows happen every half-hour and are quite the sight to see. Each one is a choreographed display of water and music, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that each show is different. The height and power of the fountains is pretty amazing, and at times it sounded more like fireworks than water.

DSC03707-picsayWe ended our excursion with a visit to the world’s largest chocolate fountain back inside. Unfortunately, thick glass prevented us from sampling any of the flowing chocolate, but our taste buds made some pretty realistic guesses at what the three types would taste like. While The Strip is best known as a playground for adults, the fountains and flowers at Bellagio convinced us that this part of Vegas can also be an amazing experience for all members of the family. Entranced by these wonderful examples of imagination given form, we were content to let our minds fill in what the rest of Bellagio and The Strip would be like.

This is How We Roll

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Yesterday, Five Spice and Five String found the perfect ingredients for their anniversary: vegan donuts, Miyazaki movies, and roller skating. Over time our anniversary has morphed into a family fun day, and we found plenty of family excitement here in Las Vegas.

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We started our day stopping by the very well-reviewed Ronald’s Donuts. The bakery has a charming “old-school” feel, and we had an impressive assortment of vegan donuts, muffins, and fritters to choose from at reasonable prices. While all of the items we sampled were delicious, the chocolate-glazed doughnuts and apple fritters were the best of the best. While we did have some leftovers (which we got to take home in the bakery’s signature pink box), needless to say they did not last very long.

After picking up some groceries, we returned to our apartment for a mini-Miyazaki marathon. Our local library (linked to all the libraries in the Vegas area) is pretty well stocked, and we enjoyed some of our favorites including Howl’s Moving Castle.

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Later at 6:30 sharp, we headed around the corner to the Crystal Palace Skating Center’s Family Skate night. This was an amazing deal: three hours of skating for the entire family, including rentals, for $12 total for us all. The Younger Fives had never laced up skates before, but they all had a wonderful spirit of adventure and did an incredible job finding their skating legs. We definitely had our share of falls, but by the end of the night Five of Hearts and Five Ball were gliding across the rink entirely on their own without the support of the wall, and High Five was skating while just holding one parent’s hand.

All in all, we could not have asked for a better place than Vegas to spend our anniversary. While this was actually our second time having our anniversary here (the first was before kids), this was definitely the one that will always stand out. While much of the skyline of the Strip is different than we remember, it is wonderful to know there are some places in Vegas that feel timeless. From cash-only family-run bakeries to roller skating rinks still playing the Hokey Pokey and having limbo contests, this anniversary felt both excitingly new and warmly familiar at the same time.