A Weekend in Oslo, Norway

I was in Norway for a week and a half on a business trip, but I got to spend my first weekend there exploring Oslo on my own. I purposefully didn’t see everything the city has to offer, like some of its museums, because those are things my wife will want to see when we’re able to go back together. So I mostly focused on outdoor sightseeing.

One thing to be aware of when visiting Oslo/Norway, though, is that they are a very cashless society. I withdrew $200 worth of NOK at the airport and never spent any of it. You can even buy subway and bus tickets through the Ruter app that can be linked to a PayPal account if your credit card won’t register.

Anyway, when I first set out to see Oslo, I started at the Opera House by the water, which is one of the more iconic architectures in the city:

The Oslo Opera House sitting in the water

The harbor promenade as a whole is fun to walk around, because there are a lot of other interesting buildings, art installations, and activities going on. I chose to walk from there to Ekebergparken next, though in retrospect, I should have just taken the bus. It’s a long walk, and once you leave the waterfront, there’s not much to see on the way.

Ekebergparken is a “sculpture park” up in the hills overlooking Oslo. In the spring/summer, this is probably a really nice park to walk through. In the winter months, the highlights are gonna be the sculptures themselves:

A statue of a head overlooks the city of Oslo

From there, I took a bus to Vigeland Park, which is a more famous sculpture park on the other side of town and probably the most popular attraction in all of Oslo. Personally, I think Ekebergparken is a better park park, but the sculptures in Vigeland are still pretty cool:

A bridge over water contains multiple statues along the sides

The next day, I took the subway farther out of town to the Holmenkollen Ski Museum. Holmenkollen is home to a giant ski jump and many ski competitions. In fact, there was a race happening next door the day I visited. The museum itself is quite small, but you can take an elevator to the top of the ski jump to get a nice view of Oslo in the distance:

The ski jump slopes down with Oslo in the distance

With more time, I would have loved to visit some of the other museums of Oslo, but I’ll save those for my next inevitable trip.

Chinese New Year in Vegas

My wife and I will usually celebrate Chinese New Year locally instead of making it a destination holiday. Unfortunately, we currently live somewhere that does absolutely nothing for Chinese New Year. Las Vegas is the closest big city that also has a big Chinese community, and rumor had it that the casinos and resorts go all out in decorating. Obviously, this would change year to year, though, so my highlights from 2022 won’t necessarily be the best places to visit in future years.

We started at Treasure Island and walked up and down the main stretch of the strip, checking out each resort’s New Year decorations along the way. Some resorts, like MGM, did the bare minimum and weren’t worth walking that far down the strip to see. Caesars Palace didn’t have a lot of decorations up, either, but it was on the way, and their single dragon display was still fun:

A lit up red dragon at Caesars Palace

The Bellagio next door, however, had very extravagant decorations. They’d completely transformed the conservatory into a Chinese-themed garden with several statues and a tea house. It was by far our favorite stop:

The Bellagio botanical garden with Chinese statues

The ARIA was another highlight, for a number of reasons. First, the main casino entrance had a long, golden dragon hanging from the ceiling amongst clouds and Chinese lanterns:

A golden dragon hanging up in the ARIA casino

All of the shopping centers leading to the casino had their own displays, too. Plus, the ARIA was one of the few casinos that held a lion dance ceremony in front of the entrance. The ceremony was clearly aimed at their VIPs, but that didn’t stop looky-loos like us from stealing a peek!

On the way back down the strip, The Venetian was another highlight with their own dragon and dolled up garden:

A dragon swimming in front of the letters LOVE at the Venetian

Our “tour” ended at the Wynn, where the decorations were mostly limited to a smaller red dragon suspended in some trees:

A red dragon hanging from the trees at the Wynn

The Wynn also had a lion dance outside, though, so we were glad we stopped by. Again, this dance was totally aimed at their VIP guests, which I’m sure the decorations at large play into. But as long as Vegas resorts are going to take those measures, it still makes the city fun for everyone else who wants to celebrate Chinese New Year a little differently.

A Day at the National Mall in Washington DC

My wife and I had to visit DC to turn in some travel documents and wanted to spend the rest of that day exploring the National Mall. I’d been there before as a teenager, but I don’t remember my parents and I walking around the whole thing. This is the route we took this time, which covers all of the essential monuments:

Starting at the Washington Monument in the center, we headed west towards the World War II memorial, then cut northwest past the Constitution Garden pond towards the Albert Einstein memorial. His statue isn’t actually part of the National Mall; it’s across the street at the National Academy of Sciences. But it’s worth the detour, because it ended up being one of my favorite stops:

A sitting statue of Albert Einstein

From there, we headed south through the Vietnam Veterans memorial, the Lincoln memorial, and the Korean War Veterans memorial. At that point, you have to backtrack east a little bit to see the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, which marks my second highlight:

Split rocks at the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial

This is where the tour starts to dry up a little bit, since there’s not a whole lot to see as you wrap around the Tidal Basin. Make sure you go through the FDR memorial, though. It rounds out my top three favorite things here:

Statue of FDR sitting amongst the trees

The George Mason memorial is also interesting, which is the last memorial you’ll see before ending at the Thomas Jefferson memorial on the other side of the water from the Washington monument. Unfortunately, going out that far does kind of put you in the middle of nowhere. That’s why we decided to append a visit to the nearby ARTECHOUSE digital art exhibit so it didn’t feel like we walked the whole thing for nothing. But it’s not that much farther to complete the loop, anyway.