Posts Tagged With: Las Vegas

Singing my way through North America, 2017 edition: how I karaoked in 14 new U.S. states (plus another part of Canada)

Selfie in front of Warren Buffett’s house in Omaha, Nebraska in September 2017.

As detailed in this post, in 2016 I continued to place a high value on international travel but added a new focus on seeing more of my own country, the United States – with the ultimate goal of visiting, and karaokeing in, all 50 of its states. Henceforth, I shall refer to that 50-state karaoke project as my American Karaoke Tour – the domestic counterpart to my World Karaoke Tour.

In 2017, I took a great leap forward towards completing my American Karaoke Tour. As the world rang in 2017, the tally of U.S. states on that tour stood at 28. Before the year was out, that number would climb all the way to 42. Plus I made some return singing appearances in a couple of additional states in which I’d sung in the past; and I explored a Canadian city that was new to me, thereby experiencing (and karaokeing in) a new Canadian province!

I realize that this blog post is exceedingly long, even though my recaps of particular destinations are quite condensed. Don’t feel overwhelmed; if you’re reluctant to slog through the whole thing, no one could blame you. 🙂 Just scroll down and read about the locations that most grab your fancy. Nor do I expect that you would have the time to view anywhere near all 19 of the karaoke videos that are embedded herein, even if you wanted to; but I do hope you’ll play at least a small sampling of them, to get a feel for what my North American singing experiences were like as I crisscrossed the continent in 2017. If you want suggestions, I can tell you that my own favourite videos in this blog post are of my performances of “Walking in Memphis” (which I sang in Vancouver, British Columbia); “Rock Lobster” (which I sang in Portland, Maine); “Wonderwall” (which I sang in Salt Lake City, Utah); and “Blister in the Sun” (which is the second video that you’ll find in the section on Des Moines, Iowa).

1. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (February 2017)

During the long President’s Day weekend that my home country observes in mid-February, I made my first visit to the Canadian province of British Columbia – and specifically, to the city of Vancouver. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with Vancouver, as so many travellers from all over the world have.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver is a rickety span that hangs 230 feet above the water below. Residents and tourists alike visit the park where it’s located, just for the opportunity to traverse it.

Vancouver is an intriguing amalgamation that combines a colourful history, quirky local institutions, and profuse outdoor recreational opportunities. In that latter quality, it resembles the nearby U.S metropolises of Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon – both of which are also situated in the region commonly dubbed the Pacific Northwest. (An additional commonality of Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland is that they’re prone to being periodically shaken by powerful earthquakes, due to their presence in the Cascadia Subduction Zone; but if you were to avoid all seismically hazardous locales, you’d be left with a lot fewer cool places to travel to. 🙂 ) Also similar to Seattle and Portland, Vancouver receives abundant rainfall during certain parts of the year. For example, don’t go to Vancouver in the month of February, as I did; that’s one of its soggiest months, and Vancouver got soaked throughout the long weekend of my jaunt there. Continue reading

Categories: North America, travel, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Singing my way through the U.S.A.: getting better acquainted with my country in 2016

14124516_10153968017432198_5873781346852298892_oAs reflected on this website, my karaoke travels — and my wanderings generally — have traditionally focused on international destinations. After all, this blog celebrates my World Karaoke Tour. However, in mid-2016, I began to place a greater priority on getting to know — and singing in — more of the vast, diverse United States in which I live. This new emphasis was foreshadowed on the penultimate night of 2015, when I made my South Carolina singing debut in the lovely city of Charleston. Then, shortly after the calendar flipped to a new year, I made a fulfilling jaunt to Baltimore, a city where I once lived and to which I often return. About halfway through the year, as the summer was heating up, I embarked on a campaign to expand the number of states in which I’ve stepped foot, while sometimes making repeat journeys to old favourites. I began flying (and occasionally railroading) all over the continental U.S. on weekends — in some cases, taking advantage of longer holiday weekends. Here are highlights of my American travels of 2016, and my “road” singing appearances in the U.S. during the year that was. Note: This post contains numerous karaoke videos. I get it; you have a busy life. So if you can watch just one of the videos, I suggest that you make it the one from Alabama. But you should watch more than just one. 🙂

Baltimore, Maryland (January 2016)

In mid-January, I strode down to Baltimore to catch up with some friends from my university days. (I studied at Johns Hopkins University in that city.) Baltimore, which is nicknamed “Charm City,” boasts a handsome skyline when viewed from across the harbour:

The downtown Baltimore skyline on a cold day in January.

The downtown Baltimore skyline on a cold day in January.

Naturally, my Baltimorean excursion featured some karaoke. (If it hadn’t, I wouldn’t have included that particular trip in this post. 🙂 ) Continue reading

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Ten things I’m looking forward to in 2016 (and a couple more that I’m hoping for)

42762094_sI think it’s fair to say that any year when you undergo heart surgery is a rough one. By that standard, 2015 was challenging for me. Not that the year was without its magical moments; seeing Angkor Wat and Mount Rushmore in person were certainly bucket list experiences, and after I recovered from my operation I increased the number of countries on my World Karaoke Tour to 39 by singing in Rome.

On a non-travel-related note, in July I moved to a new apartment — still in Manhattan, but in a much better building, with far superior management to the slumlords who own the apartment that I vacated, and in a nicer neighbourhood. My new residence provides me with more pleasant surroundings — a big plus, since on the vast majority of my days I’m not off globetrotting, but am hanging out in my home base of New York City where I work full-time as a lawyer.

Me at Mount Rushmore in July 2015.

Me at Mount Rushmore in July 2015.

So with my surgery 110 days in the past, 2015 is ending on a high note for me; and as the world prepares to begin using its 2016 calendars, I have heaps of exciting plans for the year ahead. Here are the things that I’m most looking forward to in the upcoming 366 days (remember, ’16 is a leap year!):

1. Charleston, South Carolina for New Year’s

Tomorrow I’ll be flying to Charleston, South Carolina; it’ll be my first-ever visit to this city in the southern U.S. that I’ve long sought to experience. In 2014, readers of Conde Naste Traveler magazine voted Charleston the no. 1 city in the U.S. to visit, and the no. 2 city in the world to visit. I look forward to finding out firsthand why Charleston makes such a spectacular impression on its visitors. While in town, I’ll be taking in historical sights as well as reconnecting with some old friends who reside in the area. And Charleston is where I’ll be ringing in the new year. Because this is a karaoke travel blog, I feel obligated to mention one more aspect of what’s in store for my sojourn in Charleston: either in the last days of 2015 or the very beginning of 2016, South Carolina will become the 21st U.S. state in which I’ve sung karaoke! (Technically, my tally will then stand at 20 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia, which lacks statehood status. But I’m trying to keep things simple here. 🙂 )

Stock photo of some historic homes in Charleston, South Carolina.

Stock photo of some historic homes in Charleston, South Carolina — the city in which I’m going to start 2016!

Continue reading

Categories: Asia, Europe, travel, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Viva Las Vegas: stunning views, a quest for a motorcycle, and karaoke during my eighth visit to Sin City

Las Vegas selfieEarlier this month, I made my eighth annual visit to Las Vegas. For the fifth year in a row, my trip to Sin City was in conjunction with the annual Trivia Championships of North America (TCONA). At TCONA, I had my usual awesome time convening with some of the smartest and most knowledgeable people in the United States (and even a few from other countries like Canada and Norway). It was enjoyable to reconnect with some really cool and interesting people who share my passion for learning as much as I can about every subject in the world, and whom I’m honoured to call my friends. Moreover, it was equally rewarding to make new friends who meet that description. As well, competing against a self-selected group of elite trivia players, in the diverse array of individual and team contests that TCONA offers, pushes me to improve myself and perform as well as I can.

As I do every year, I also managed to slip away from TCONA to experience an attraction in Las Vegas outside of the Tropicana Hotel where the event is traditionally held. Of course, it also goes without saying that my latest long weekend in Vegas included karaoke. 🙂 Finally, being that I was in a town where gambling has been known to take place, I also managed to squeeze in a little bit of that pastime — and came across a new twist on the blackjack tables that I tend to hit.

The view from Paris: très jolie

The Strip is renowned for its themed hotels, including several with sections that mimic world landmarks.  For example, if you roam the grounds of the New York, New York hotel, you’ll find replicas of iconic Big Apple structures ranging from the Statue of Liberty to the Brooklyn Bridge to the Chrysler Building. At the Venetian, you can take a gondola ride among doppelgängers of some of Venice’s most legendary sights, such as the campanile (bell tower), the Rialto Bridge, and Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square). And then there’s the destination that was the subject of my August 2015 non-TCONA excursion in Las Vegas: the Paris Hotel, and one portion of it in particular.

While the Paris boasts reproductions of the venerable Arc de Triomphe and of several other Parisian edifices of note, the hotel’s centerpiece — and a key component of the skyline of the Las Vegas Strip — is a one-half scale duplicate of the most celebrated symbol of the City of Lights: the Eiffel Tower.

The view from the top: it’s not the Champs-Élysées, but it’s pretty darned nice

The Eiffel looms over the Paris Hotel, as seen from behind the fountains of the Bellagio across the street. This photo was taken during my very first visit to Las Vegas, in November 2008.

The replica of the Eiffel Tower looms over the Paris Hotel, as seen from behind the fountains of the Bellagio across the street. This photo was taken during my very first visit to Las Vegas, in November 2008.

Las Vegas’s version of la tour Eiffel features an observation deck 460 feet above ground level. (By way of comparison, the highest observation level in the actual Eiffel Tower in the city of Paris is 906 feet above the ground.) Continue reading

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H-Bomb’s Friday photo, week 8: decomposing neon in Las Vegas

Okay, so I’m a little late with last week’s Friday photo. 🙂 But thanks to the magic of backdating, this post will still appear in my archives as a Friday entry!

The Boneyard is a junkyard of discarded neon signs in downtown Las Vegas. The signs date as far back as the 1930s. Public tours of the Boneyard are offered by the Neon Museum, which opened a brand-new Visitors’ Center last month.

My favourite section of the Boneyard is what I call Fast Food Gulch: a grouping of signs from some of Sin City’s more healthy dining alternatives.

fast food gulch

This photo was taken during my visit to Las Vegas in March 2009. It came at a price: after I wandered away from the tour to photograph these fast food signs (which were tucked away in the back of the lot), I accidentally got locked in to the Boneyard. Luckily the Neon Museum folks hadn’t wandered too far from the gate by the time I noticed that they were gone, and they quickly unlocked the gate and let me out. 🙂

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Yeah, I sang in Las Vegas this weekend . . .

I was just in Las Vegas. The impetus for the trip (as if an excuse is ever needed to travel to that city) was my participation in the second annual Trivia Championships of North America (TCONA). But I couldn’t go to Las Vegas, of all places, without getting in some karaoke! And so, while I enjoyed immensely the various tests of knowledge that brought me to town, and while it was fun hanging out with the interesting people who were my fellow TCONA attendees, I had to tear myself away from all that. I needed to hit some karaoke venues on the Las Vegas Strip. Over the course of the weekend, I proceeded to sing at the two places that are, in a city that doesn’t lack for karaoke options, my very favourite karaoke haunts. I’m happy to report that at both of those places, the karaoke was just as spectacular as I’d recalled it being. Continue reading

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Why Barry Manilow is dead to me

This Thursday, I’m flying to Las Vegas. Naturally, I’ll be doing some singing while in town. My upcoming trip to Sin City will be my fifth time there; and as it approaches I’m reminded of some of the great times I’ve enjoyed in Las Vegas in the past. But I’m also reminded of a colossal disappointment that I suffered at the hands of Barry Manilow during a Vegas vacation in 2009. I’m going to reprint here, verbatim, the text of a heartfelt letter that I sent to Mr. Manilow (with a copy to his agent) in the aftermath of that incident; the letter speaks for itself regarding how Barry wronged me. Then I’ll share some parting thoughts.

Before I get to the letter, I also want to apologize to you, my readers, for the long interval between blog posts. In my previous article, I promised that the subject of my next posting would be my September 2010 trip to Easter Island. I’m still working on that essay; it’s a wide-ranging account of my experiences on the island also known as Rapa Nui, and it’s taken longer than anticipated to edit my recollections and photos into a coherent form that’s ready for publishing. (Also, in all candor, it can be tough sticking to a regular schedule when you’re writing for your own blog and don’t have an editor pushing you to meet deadlines.) However, I’ve reached the point where I no longer want my entire blog to be on hold just because of delays in completing one post. So while my Easter Island memoir will soon appear in this space, I’ll publish articles on other subjects in the interim — including some dispatches live from Las Vegas later this week! And now, without further delay, here’s the letter that explains my antipathy towards Barry Manilow.

Dear Mr. Manilow:

I am writing to express how upset I am about your last-minute cancellation of your Las Vegas concert on Friday, March, 20, 2009, which my friend David and I had tickets to attend. Enclosed is a copy of my ticket order confirmation. Continue reading

Categories: North America, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , | 14 Comments

My favorite place to sing karaoke in the whole world . . .

is quite possibly Las Vegas. Sin City, of course, is fun for many reasons. But for my money, karaoke is right up there with its other attractions. Many outstanding karaoke venues can be found on or near Las Vegas Boulevard, popularly known as the Strip. Here are two of my favorites, both of which offer unique experiences:

Zinger’s Rock ‘n Roll Cafe

The Rock ‘n Roll Cafe is located in the Hawaiian Marketplace, near the Harley Davidson Cafe and across the street from the Aria hotel. The special attraction is that the seating and performance areas are outdoors. So when you’re singing, passersby on the sidewalk can not only hear you; they can see you as well. Many people who are walking past will stop and gather at the railing that surrounds the periphery of the bar’s seating area; and they’ll stay to watch the singers. So when I’m singing at the Rock ‘n Roll Cafe, I enjoy the challenge of getting drunken revelers who happen to be walking down the Strip to stop what they’re doing and cheer on the H-Bomb!

I don’t yet have any videos of myself performing there, but here’s a video I found on YouTube that will give you a good idea of what this place is all about (and I’m really digging the stage name of the male singer here. He calls himself “Smoothini the Ghetto Houdini.” It makes “H-Bomb” sound pretty ordinary).

Oh, and best of all, the Rock ‘n Roll Cafe offers karaoke seven nights a week!

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon

Bill’s is not like those sprawling, theme-oriented mega-hotels that are now prevalent on the Strip. This place has character! And it also offers a karaoke experience like no other. The karaoke lounge is immediately adjacent to the casino, and the sounds of the karaoke singers can easily be heard on the casino floor. So when you grab the mic there, you are the entertainment for the gamblers! I think that’s pretty cool.

No matter where you choose to sing in Vegas, the vibe of the city (i.e., everyone is there to party) makes it even more enjoyable. In addition, Las Vegas has a long and storied association with music, going back to the days of Elvis and the Rat Pack. I believe that the city’s contemporary karaoke scene fits firmly into that tradition. 🙂

So I love singing in Las Vegas; and I am therefore especially excited to announce that I have just made plans to return to Vegas for several days in August 2012. The occasion for this visit will be the second annual Trivia Championships of North America. But I will find ample time, in between quiz bowls and other trivia events, to do some karaokeing! (I’ll also be fitting in some sessions at the blackjack table; and I look forward to checking out the brand-new Mob Museum, officially titled the National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement, which is slated to open in February 2012).

Viva Las Vegas!

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