2nd Annual FIRE WIRE Road Trip

My family and I just returned from our 2nd Annual FIRE WIRE Road Trip, where we had an opportunity to experience some of the finest family friendly destinations that Southern California and Las Vegas have to offer.  We were also fortunate enough to spend some time at THE FIRE WIRE Headquarters. Our trip spanned 4 different airports, with a final overnight layover in Chicago.  The most valuable piece of travel equipment that we took was our ZÜCA Pro bag.  I was able to comfortably sit on my ZÜCA in the airport when there was limited seating.  It fit beautifully in the overhead compartments of each of the planes. Best of all, I was able to pack everyone’s individual overnight supplies in one convenient and well organized space. 

Throughout our journey we visited some well known tourist attractions that included: The Griffith Observatory, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Disneyland and California Adventure. Everyone had a fantastic time being photographed with the famous HOLLYWOOD sign, matching their hands with the handprints of famous movie stars, and donning Mickey ears and eating churros. Our goal for each trip is to find activities that everyone in our family can enjoy, a mixture of fun, education and new experiences.

Some of the highlights of our trip began in Las Vegas. While Las Vegas is a veritable playground for adults, it also offers a wide variety of activities for the younger traveler.  My son Ben adores architecture and logo design, so he was thrilled to find that he could tour New York, Paris, Venice and ancient Egypt all in one convenient location.

THEhotel at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino
3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, Nevada 89119

877-632-7800 or 702-632-7777

We were thrilled with our accommodations.  We chose to stay at THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, located at the southern end of the strip.  We selected this hotel, as it offered wonderful roomy all-suite accommodations.  We stayed in THESuite, which provided ample room for our family of four. Our room was on the 38th floor which provided an incredible view of the strip, especially at night. The suite was tastefully decorated in a contemporary style and came well equipped with a 42” Plasma TV in the living area, as well as additional television’s in both the bedroom and bathroom. We were pleased to also have access to both a DVD player as well as an alarm clock that was iPod compatible. There was also a desk area with wireless and hi-speed internet access. The suite boasted 1 1/2 baths, which was very convenient. The master bath was spacious and had a granite dual sink vanity with a roomy shower and large soaking tub. There was even a phone in the bathroom.  The closet had complimentary his and hers bathrobes and slippers to use during our stay.  The beds, couches, and chairs were all incredibly comfortable, and a great night of sleep was had by all. The air in the desert tends to be dry.  Fortunately, we packed our Air-O-Swiss travel humidifier, which made the room even more comfortable. We also had access to the facilities at the Mandalay Bay Resort, including the Bathhouse spa which offers a large variety of options including their signature hot-and-cold body treatment and facials as well as a fitness center with personal training and yoga, warm and hot spa tubs, a sauna, and eucalyptus steam room, as well as a tropical water complex with a sandy manmade beach, seasonal wave pool, and three outdoor pools. Mandalay Bay is also the home to a shark-themed aquarium, the House of Blues concert hall, a live theater, and 20 restaurants, lounges, and cafés.  THEhotel was conveniently located within indoor walking distance to the Mandalay Bay Resort, Hotel, and Casino, as well as The Four Seasons, The Luxor, and the Excalibur.  Shops and restaurants were all conveniently located close by for that quick cup of coffee or souvenir purchase.

Best of all, we were steps away from the Theater at the Mandalay Bay Resort, where we were fortunate enough to see THE LION KING. If you have not had the opportunity to see this magical show, I urge you to do so. Based on the 1994 Disney animated film, THE LION KING brings the story of a precocious young lion named Simba to life with the most spectacular colorful costumes, creative puppetry, and fantastic characters, each one better than the next.  I assure you, you will leave the theater singing “Hakuna Matata”.  It is a show that the entire family will enjoy.  My kids raved on and on about how much they loved the experience, and wanted to know when they could see it again.

The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas

3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109


We thoroughly enjoyed a memorable and delicious dinner at The Buffet at Wynn.  The atmosphere was upscale and beautifully decorated with colorful flowers as far as the eye could see. Several massive dining rooms were located adjacent to the 16 live action cooking stations. This is not your average buffet, imagine 5 star fine dining with every conceivable food option available to try, it was pleasantly overwhelming. The Buffet at Wynn offered some of the finest cuisine; each dish that we sampled was beautifully presented and offered a taste sensation for the palate.

Here is a small sampling of some of the foods that were offered:

Appetizers: Pre-cut Alaskan King Crab Legs, Shrimp Cocktail, Italian Cold Cuts, Pot Stickers, Vegetable Egg Rolls, Squid Ceviche, Sushi, New England Clam Chowder, Gazpacho, Caesar Salad, Smoked Salmon, Assortment of Gourmet Cheeses, Hummus, Tabbouleh, and Marinated Duck Salad.

Entrees: Wood-Fired Artisan Pizza, Pesto Ziti, Prime Rib with Horseradish Sauce, Roasted Leg of Lamb, Pumpkin Ravioli and Gnocchi in Brown Butter Sauce, Curry Dishes, Lamb Chops, Jerk Chicken, Turkey, Veal Short Ribs, Pork Chops, and Pad Thai.

Desserts: Brownies, Assorted Tarts, Crepes and Waffles, Cookies, Raspberry Champagne Mousse, Cakes, Tiramisu, Gelato Bar with Numerous Toppings, Candied Apples, Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Covered Marshmallows, and Crème Brule.

Breakfast $18; Lunch $22; dinner $34-38; Sat-Sun brunch $29-$35

Open daily:
Breakfast: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Lunch: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Dinner: Monday through Thursday, 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, 3:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Sunday, 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Champagne Brunch: Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Whether you are seeking a gourmet brunch or a decadent late night snack, you are sure to enjoy the casual fine dining at The Buffet at Wynn as much as we did.

The Adventuredome Theme Park at Circus Circus

2880 S. Las Vegas Blvd.

Las Vegas, NV 89109

800-444-2472 or 702-794-3939

The kids were thrilled to be able to release some energy and play at the largest indoor amusement park in America, the Adventuredome at Circus Circus, located at the northern end of the strip.  This 5-acre park has more than 25 rides and attractions for all age levels, and is kept at a constant 72°F.

This amusement park offers two levels of entertainment. There are rides to be enjoyed by the whole family.

You can ride each ride individually or purchase a Ride-All-Day Wristband (Junior under 48″ tall for $16.95 and a Regular 48″ or taller $26.95).  This entitles you to enjoy the majority of attractions and rides within the park (does not include the featured attractions).

There are a variety of Family Rides such as:

– Drifters Balloon Ferris wheel: A hot air balloon Ferris wheel that gently carries you up and around.

– Road Runner: A mini-Himalayan ride.

– Circus Carousel: A classic carousel ride.

– B.C. Bus Stop: Get on the B.C. Bus and have a blast going up, down and all around.

The Premium Rides include:

– Extreme Ride Theater which is a motion simulator ride featuring Dino Land and Log Ride.

– Disk ‘O’: You’ll find yourself spinning and twirling in different directions the entire time while moving at an astounding 14 rotations per minute on its 100-foot roller coaster track.

– Sling Shot: Which shoots you up toward the ceiling at 4Gs and brings you back down at 1G. The ride is fast and packs a powerful punch.

– Inverter: Takes you 50 feet off the ground as it flips a full 360 degrees.

– Rim Runner: If you don’t mind getting wet, take a ride on the Rim Runner log flume with its 60-foot waterfall.

– Lazer Blast: Lazer Tag arena.

– Chaos: Spins you upside-down, backward and counterclockwise.

– Canyon Blaster:  The world’s largest indoor, high-speed roller coaster that reaches speeds up to 55 miles per hour and gives riders a 90-foot-high view of the park and boasts the only double-loop, double-corkscrew track in the United States.

Large Rides:

– Sand Pirates: An out-of-control swinging pirate ship.

– Canyon Cars: Classic bumper cars.

Junior Rides:

– Frog Hopper: The Frog Hopper ride will have you going up, down, up, down …

– Thunderbird: Play pilot above The Adventuredome crowd in a remnant 1920s airplane.

– Miner Mike: A runaway coal train ride.

Featured Attractions include:

– Virtual 360 Ventures: A ride that combines virtual reality with 3D.

– Xtreme Zone: An indoor rock climbing and bungee jumping experience.

– Pikes Pass: 18 holes of miniature golf.

– Midway Games: Where you can play old-fashioned carnival games to try to win oversized stuffed animals.

– Adventuredome Arcade: An abundance of video games.

– Highway 66: Mini-bowling.

There are also a variety of entertainment options within the park.  There are several free clown shows throughout the day located on the show stage. As well as a 4D Special FX Theater offering Dora & Diego’s 4-D Adventure and Nickelodeon’s Sponge Bob Square Pants 4-D for viewers 33” and taller.

Throughout the park there are plenty of places to grab a quick bite to eat such as a slice of pizza or a hot dog or enjoy some of your favorite fair food treats. For healthier food options or if you are looking for a close-by sit down meal, you can go into the promenade to the Garden Grill. They have a variety of salads, sandwiches, and steaks, as well as a children’s menu.

The Gondola Ride at the Venetian

3355 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 414-4300

The Gondola Ride at the Venetian is not just for young lovers, but in fact offers a wonderful experience for the entire family.  The resort was built after a Venetian palazzo, complete with ceiling paintings and gilded columns. You can choose from either an indoor or outdoor ride, lasting approximately15-20 minutes. The kids loved riding up and down past the Grand Canal Shoppes. We had an amazing gondolier named Tino (Constantino) who hailed from New York. Not only did he have a wonderful singing voice, but was friendly, charismatic, and funny.  He made our ride gliding through the clear blue waters a total joy. He sang “O Sole Mio”, “That’s Amore” and a variety of well known Italian songs and wore the classic black and white striped shirt and red scarf.  We all enjoyed the charming trip under bridges and through the canals. I was told that this is such a popular attraction, that they sell out every single day, therefore reservations are necessary.  The cost for up to four adults to ride is $16.00 each.  A private two-passenger gondola costs $64.00. Ride hours are from:

Sunday – Thursday
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.*

Friday & Saturday
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 a.m.*

12:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.*

* Last gondola leaves the dock 15 minutes prior to closing. The outdoor ride operates on a seasonal and weather permitting basis.

Madame Tussauds Las Vegas

3377 Las Vegas Boulevard South Suite 2001
Las Vegas, NV 89109


I will admit, I had never been to a wax museum prior to visiting Madame Tussauds at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.  I was not sure how the kids would react to wax statues.  I had no idea what to expect.  We were all pleasantly surprised.  This was not your typical “look, don’t touch” museum, in fact, looking and touching was suggested, even encouraged.  In addition, we were able to walk up to each and every celebrity look-alike to pose with them for some amazing pictures.  The wax figures were so natural-looking and realistic. I felt like a member of the paparazzi as everyone in my family insisted that I take a picture as they posed with Frank Sinatra, Lady Gaga, Johnny Depp, and Simon Cowell, to name but a few. When you enter the museum, you can be photographed with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Will Smith. It was great to see the kids come to life as they tried to match the pose of each character; they really enjoyed their time at the museum. Madame Tussauds is divided into different rooms featuring figures including; Movie Stars, Speed Demons, Sports Stars, Pop Stars, Cultural Icons, World Icons, Hollywood Stars, and Las Vegas Legends. I would only caution parents with young children that in the Cultural Icons corner, you can pose with Hugh Heffner on a bed, and in that same corner is a partially covered topless Playboy bunny.  We simply skipped that room with the kids. I was told that figures are frequently changed or new clothing may be updated. If you want to be certain to see a particular figure, you may want to call ahead to be sure that your favorite celebrity will still be there for your upcoming visit. The price for admission is $25 for adults, Seniors 60+ $18, Children ages 7-12 are $15, and Children under 6 are free. At the end of the museum is a wonderful gift shop where you can purchase some unique and iconic souvenirs.

THE BUFFET at the Bellagio Las Vegas

3600 Las Vegas Blvd. South.
Las Vegas, NV 89109


On our way to enjoy a sumptuous feast at THE BUFFET at the Bellagio, we stopped to enjoy the Fountains of Bellagio show right outside the main entrance of the hotel. This fully choreographed and complex water show features colorful lights and perfectly timed water cannons that are beautifully synchronized to a wide array of music.  The dancing water fountains were impressive and best of all were a free attraction.

We enjoyed a wonderful casually upscale dining experience at THE BUFFET at the Bellagio. The Bellagio is known for using the freshest ingredients. They always go direct to the source, whether they are seeking lobsters from Maine, Colorado beef, produce from the heartland of America, or unique food items flown in from all over the world.  They spare no expense in bringing only the freshest seasonal foods to their restaurants, THE BUFFET included. The Buffet incorporates several live-action cooking stations and successfully creates an exceptional variety of delicious and beautiful food choices to satisfy even the pickiest of diners.

Some of the offerings included:

Appetizers: Rosemary Ham, California & Italian Salami, Wisconsin Goat Cheese, Sashimi, Sushi, Ahi and Salmon Poke, Shrimp Cocktail, Mussels, Smoked Salmon, a variety of Soups and  Salads.

Entrees: Several Asian Stir Fry Selections, Brick Oven Pizzas, sliced Flank steak, Prime Rib,

Beef Wellington, Lobster Ravioli, Kobe Beef Sliders, Pasta, Grilled Sea Bass, Scallops, and Turkey Breast.

Desserts: Crème Brule, Carmel Flan, Cream Filled Waffle Cones, Soft Serve Ice Cream, Assorted Cookies

Fruit Tarts, Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, Apple Cobbler, Bread Pudding, Carrot Cake, Coffee Tiramisu, A Large Selection of Sugar Free Desserts, Chocolate Walnut Brownie, White Chocolate Nutella cone, Panacotta Strawberry, Exotic Cakes, Chocolate Éclairs, Apricot Mousse, Raspberry Chocolate Mousse, Macaroons, Cheesecake, and Florida Key Lime Pie.

The price for dining at THE BUFFET is as follows:

– Mon-Fri breakfast $15

– Mon-Fri lunch $20

– Sun-Thurs dinner $28

– Fri-Sat dinner $36

– Sat-Sun brunch $24-$29

– Children 2 and under free

The Beatles LOVE – Cirque du Soleil at the Mirage

3400 S. Las Vegas Boulevard

Las Vegas, NV 89109

1-800-963-9634 or 702-792-7777

Cirque du Soleil: The Beatles LOVE at the Mirage is truly an immersive and spectacular experiential show. The Beatles LOVE music was created by Sir George Martin and his son Giles Martin, using the master tapes at Abbey Road Studios and released back in 2006. The Beatles LOVE show started as collaboration between George Harrison and Cirque du Soleil’s Guy LaLiberté.  After George Harrison’s death, the remaining Beatles and the families of the late group members helped bring Harrison’s vision to life by sharing their ideas about song selection and song order for the show. The Mirage resort created a custom-made 360 degree theater housed around a central stage just for this show.  The show was built around the music of the Beatles, and combines the best of Cirque’s mix of martial arts, puppetry, and pyrotechnics. The result of all of their efforts is an amazing show like no other, I felt like I was at an actual Beatles rock concert.  I did not want the 90-minute spectacle to end.  My feelings were shared by my entire family.  The music of the Beatles comes to life with the multi-sensory inputs that come from eye popping graphics, lights, music, dance, puppetry, acrobatics, insanely amazing stunts all wrapped together within the magic that only Cirque du Soleil can create.  Specific stunts were performed on skates, trampolines, bungee cords, Korean rope, and a Russian swing, to name but a few. I could see this performance15 times and still not see everything that was going on around me, as there was constant entertainment within the audience, below, on, and above the stage. This is a show that will surely be enjoyed by those young and old. However, I would caution bringing the very young, as the music is wonderfully loud, but not suitable for tiny ears. My kids have gone to a variety of circus shows in the past, and never quite enjoyed the experience.  However, Cirque du Soleil is a circus like no other.  My entire family cannot wait to see our next Cirque show.  Whether you are a long time Beatles fan or just being introduced to the group for the very first time, one thing is certain, after you see this show you will be a fan.


1 Legoland Drive

Carlsbad, CA. 92008


In Carlsbad CA your imagination can go wild at LEGOLAND.  My household is filled with diehard Lego fans.  So they were thrilled to be able to enjoy a park that caters to their favorite Danish multi-colored brick. The word Lego is derived from the Danish words leg and godt, which basically mean “play well.” This is a park that truly has something for everyone. There are more than 60 rides and attractions that can be found throughout the park.  The park is divided into 8 main areas; Fun Town, Dino Island, Duplo Village, Pirate Shores, Castle Hill, Land of Adventure, Imagination Zone, and Miniland USA.

Here are some of the highlights from the park that we enjoyed:

Dino Island: The Coastersaurus roller-coaster speeds up to 21 mph as it maneuvers around a prehistoric jungle of life–size animated LEGO brick dinosaurs.

Fun Town: Learn how LEGO bricks are made on this factory tour that features real automated machinery demonstrating molding, decorating, assembling and packing of LEGO products.

Fun Town: The Sky Cruiser allows you to pedal high above, on a track and get a great view of the entire park.

Castle Hill: Hideaways multi-level play structure allows children a place to get in on the activity. Kids can climb the rope ladders and brave the wooden catwalks.

Land of Adventure: Dune Raiders allows you to slide down this 30-foot-high attraction in one of six side-by-side 50-foot-long racing lanes.

Land of Adventure: Lost Kingdom Adventure has a 16-foot tall LEGOpharaoh that guards the entrance to Lost Kingdom Adventure.  Your journey begins as you try to recover stolen treasure by blasting targets with laser guns.

Land of Adventure: Pharoah’s allows both children and parents to fire thousands of foam balls at targets and each other.

Imagination Zone: Lego Technic Coaster offers an action packed experience along a wild roller coaster track.

Miniland USA: This area includes reproductions of seven well known areas of the United States.  All constructed with 20 million LEGO bricks in 1:20 scale, and can be seen from many places in the Park. Areas include New York City, New Orleans, Washington D.C., and Las Vegas.

With all the walking and playing, you are sure to build up an appetite. With 5 restaurants and 8 food stands, your LEGO adventurers will find plenty of dining options within the park.  There are also numerous shops throughout the park, so LEGO builders are sure to find just the right set or create their own with the option to stock up on LEGO bricks by buying them in bulk.  While at the LEGO Club House in Fun Town we made our very own custom drink combinations with the Coke Freestyle machine. Who knew that mixing Diet-Coke, Lemon, Orange Hi-C and Cherry Hi-C would be such a taste sensation?

The price for parking your car is $12 and campers or RV’s are $15 per day.

Daily Admission to LEGOLAND CA is as follows:

Adults (Age 13-59) $69

Seniors (Age 60+) and Children Age 3-12 $59

Toddlers (Age 1-2) Free

Please note that the park offers a variety of park hopper combinations to increase the fun and the savings for your next visit.

We had a great time at LEGOLAND CA. It was a wonderful way to spend the day with our entire family. If you are going to be near Carlsbad, be sure to stop by and see the new STAR WARS Miniland Area opening in the spring of 2011.

SEA LIFE Carlsbad Aquarium

1 Legoland Drive

Carlsbad, CA. 92008


Also located right next door to LEGOLAND CA is Sea Life Aquarium which features hands-on learning activities coupled with educational talks and opportunities to have up close and personal encounters with a variety of sea creatures, such as starfish at the touch pools. The aquarium has play zones, as well as fun facts and quiz trails that encourage learners to get a greater understanding of the aquatic world in a unique and interactive environment. The displays were colorful and lively, and introduced sea life from around the world to enjoy. The museum is divided into exhibits spanning the California coastline to tropical coral reefs. There was a wonderful aquarium tunnel that we walked through which allowed us to be able to see a wide variety of fish species swimming all around us, even above us.  This collection included sharks, sting rays, and a whole host of colorful tropical sea creatures. At the end of the two-story aquarium is a cafe with a small toddler play area as well as a gift shop.

Admission for the aquarium is as follows:

– Adults (Age 13-59) $20

– Seniors (Age 60+)  $17

– Children Age 3-12 $13

– Toddlers (Age 1-2) Free

Petersen Automotive Museum

6060 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036

The Petersen Automotive Museum is a Mecca for auto enthusiasts. This museum was founded by Margie and Robert Petersen.  Robert was the founder of both Hot Rod and Motor Trend Magazines.  The museum opened in 1994 and has since been dedicated to the exploration and preservation of the rich history that surrounds the automobile as it pertains to life and culture in America.

Parking was easily accessible. Upon entry to the museum, there was an ample gift shop on the first floor. The museum consists of three floors. The 4th floor is used for special events and functions. Permanent exhibits reside on the first floor, such as the Streetscape exhibit, which brings the history of the automobile to life. It reveals how the invention of the automobile impacted our daily lives. The early models are a wonder to look at, and the history about the evolution of service stations and the rise of car dealerships are both very interesting. Each car is set in a lifelike diorama or exhibit. After touring the museum, you might build up an appetite. Fortunately, there is a Johnny Rockets on site to satisfy that perfect burger, fries, and shake craving.

The second floor features five rotating galleries that have displays ranging from celebrity and movie cars, racecars, vintage motorcycles, classic cars and concept cars.  We especially loved seeing and posing next to the Batmobile, Green Hornet and my personal favorite, Herbie the Love Bug. There was also an exhibit called “The Hot Wheels Hall of Fame” that included a large collection of vintage cars as well as information on the production process.  My husband and boys loved looking through the case and locating cars that they too had in their own collection. We also enjoyed the exhibit on dragsters and funny cars.

The third floor is home to the May Family Discovery Center.  This 6,500 square foot hands on interactive area was a hit with my children.  They loved learning about the scientific fundamental principles associated with the functioning of a car.  They also had an opportunity to sit in a Indy race car as well as dress up in vintage motoring attire and experience a 1910 Model T, as well as experience sitting on a real CHP motorcycle (just like Ponch used to ride).

The Petersen is a wonderful museum for car buffs, children, and everyone in between. If you are in the Los Angeles area, please be sure to check out the latest exhibit: Supercars: When Too Much Is Almost Enough, which began on 3/6/11 and will run through 10/16/11.

In summary, this whirlwind trip to the West Coast truly provided my family the flavors, sights and sounds of Southern California and Las Vegas. Although our schedule was hectic, there was a wealth of activities that ensured that each member of my family walked away with long lasting memories. We can’t wait to go back and do it again. (Written by Meredith Fire-Hess)

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