California – Nevada Connection for March 2013

TV room_4113_copyOur guest post and monthly column comes from Howard Hian who was recently awarded a Gold Medal/First Place Award from the North American Travel Journalists Association’s annual international writing contest.

San Diego– Daylight Savings begins on the 10th. and that means Spring is here and it’s time to plan a vacation.  Two new hotels are opening in San Diego. In East County, it’s the Viejas Casino & Resort, opening March 21st.   The property has 99 luxury rooms and 29 VIP suites.  Among the new amenities are a large pool and lounge area, fitness center and user-friendly business hub.

There are five restaurants in the casino and great shopping at the Outlets at Viejas. The casino offers 2,000 slots, table games, bingo, poker room, off-track betting and concert venues.

In North County Carlsbad, the LEGOLAND California Resort opens April 5th. featuring themed pirate, adventure and kingdom rooms.  Premium class accommodations incorporate extras including LEGO models, treasure chests for each child and a kid’s area with a bunk bed and pull out-trundle that sleeps up to three. An advantage to reserving this category is entry to select LEGOLAND rides and attractions before the park opens. Additionally, there is a heated swimming pool, play areas and interactive LEGO features throughout the hotel. There’s also child-friendly dining at the new Bricks Family Restaurant .

Eldorado Hotel RoomReno – On a recent getaway, I stayed at the family-owned El Dorado Hotel Casino. Casino Player Magazine recently named it as having the “Best Rooms and Suites” in the city.  They are spacious with interactive flat screen TV, in-room safe and comfy beds.  Good news; about 85% of the rooms are non-smoking.

There is a big commitment by the owners to serve outstanding food. There are 10 restaurants including five-star dining. They roast their own coffee with a special blend for each outlet, they have their own brewery, butcher their beef in-house and, best of all, they have a bakery that daily pumps out outstanding desserts, bread and gelato. There were too many places to eat during my short visit but here are a few recommendations.  Go to The Brew House for Happy Hour and don’t miss the Saigon Subs at Pho Mein.  Head to The Buffet for dinner; there is a carving station, extensive salad bar, an array of ethnic entrees and desserts galore. Tivoli Gardens is open 24/7 and the baked goods alone make it worth a stop (it’s also a Wi-Fi hot spot). Roxy offers over 100 martinis; try the lobster medallions appetizer served escargot style and ask for a basket of cheddar bacon bread.

For entertainment, don’t miss Magique, their showroom extravaganza featuring beautiful women, lavish costumes, imaginative dance routines, blazing pyrotechnics, amazing special effects and great magic and illusions.  It’s running through April 14th, followed by Menopause The Musical.  Poker-wise, there’s all the action one could imagine. If you like live games, the daily 10 AM and 6 PM Hold ‘em low buy-in tournaments attract locals.  That’s always a tip-off to a well-run poker room. The Poker Room Manager, Margie Heinz, is in the Women’s Poker Hall of Fame and was the first female to deal in the World Series of Poker.  Unfortunately, she was off during my stay but her assistant, Greg Steinmetz, was a wonderful host.  There are also continuous 5-card stud and limit and no-limit Hold ‘em games.  For hotel information and specials, logon to While online, join Club Eldorado for customer recognition rewards. For a free app of the Reno/Tahoe Area and other details, go to

Safe travels and enjoy the journey…

Howard Hian