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WAYNE NEWTON'S CASA DE SHENANDOAH

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3310 E. Sunset Dr.

Las Vegas, NV 89120

702-547-4811

website

$35-$95

Mon-Sat 9am-6pm

B+

AT A GLANCE

What is it?

The estate of singer Wayne Newton, open for tours of the mansion, car collection, private jet, animal collection, and more.

Where is it?

On southeast side of town several miles from The Strip.

Is it worth the cost?

It's expensive but from a value perspective in terms of what you get for what you pay, it is.

What else do I need to know?

There are several different tour packages that offer varying levels of access to the estate and all of them take several hours to complete, so budget your time accordingly.

What's the bottom line?

A rare look at some interesting Vegas history.

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REVIEW

The history of getting Wayne Newton's Casa de Shenandoah estate open for visitors is a long and tortured one involving all sorts of, well, let's just call it "unpleasantness." There were lawsuits and bankruptcies and plans for a Newton-themed car wash that I'm really only bringing up because you probably heard about it somewhere along the way.

You can forget about all of that, because the estate is now not only open for tourists, but it is one of the more interesting and unique things you can do in Las Vegas.

For those who don't know who Wayne Newton is, pardon me while I sit down and sigh because you have just reminded me of how old I am. Anyway, Newton is a singer and entertainer who got his start as a teenager in the late 1950s and made it big in 1963 with his hit "Danke Schoen," which you may remember as the song Ferris Bueller lip synced in the parade right before he did "Twist and Shout."

What's that? You don't know who Ferris Bueller is? Wow, I really am old.

Newton got a gig as a lounge entertainer in Vegas before he was technically old enough to even be in a casino and turned that into a life-long career that earned him the nickname Mr. Las Vegas. He even owned a Las Vegas casino for a little while - The Aladdin. These days you can find him performing at Bally's.

As a young man with money to burn, he bought a couple of acres on the southeast side of the city and built a small ranch house with some space for horses. Over the years he expanded the footprint to more than 50 acres and added a mansion, guest houses, expanded stables for his Arabian horses, and room for exotic animals, his car collection, and more. Today all of that has been turned into a tourist attraction complete with an onsite museum and a visitors' center across the street.

There are several tour options available.

The basic "Gold" tour starts with an introductory film about Newton's life in the visitors' center (which also has the requisite gift shop) followed by a bus ride across the street onto the actual estate grounds where you are delivered to the museum complex. In it is Newton's private jet, which you can explore the interior of, his car collection of Rolls Royce's and other toys, and lots and lots of memorabilia from costumes to mementos, photographs, and more. A tour guide walks you around providing color commentary and there are videos of Newton along the way offering more behind-the-scenes stories. It's a nice effect, giving personal context to what otherwise might be a glass case full of stuff.

After that you jump back on the bus and trundle through the beautifully landscaped grounds of lush lawns, aquifer-fed ponds and fountains, and trees to the stable area. Here you get to see a demonstration of the Arabian horses and what makes them so unique, which could involve them trotting in a ring or even swimming if you go during the summer. The facility has more than 60 of them and they are undeniably graceful and beautiful animals.

Speaking of animals, your next stop is the part of the estate where they keep all manner of exotic critters including monkeys, peacocks, wallabies, and more. It's not a huge zoo but there are some fun things to look at and some interesting stories to hear - one of the monkeys has its own dog.

The Gold tour doesn't go inside the mansion but if you upgrade to the Platinum tour you'll get to wander the first floor of the 14,000 square-foot house including the "Red Room," filled with more memorabilia including Franklin D. Roosevelt's desk. It's all done in Newton's flamboyant taste, which I'd describe as Elvis meets Liberace circa 1974 - kitschy, a little tacky but in a flagrant display of wealth kind of way, and fun.

Go all the way up to the Diamond tour and you'll get all of the above plus a private tour guide, access to the mansion's second floor bedrooms, a peek at the house's hidden rooms and passageways, and a tour of the ranch house that they bill as his "childhood home" (even though he was technically a young adult when he lived there).

Go all in and you're looking at a nearly $100 price tag but that's for more than three and a half hours of guided touring around the estate. The basic package costs a third of that but you still get a couple of hours' worth of access so no matter which way you swing it, there's a lot of bang for your buck. They'll also create special tours for groups so if you and your friends don't have three hours to spare, give them a call and ask what they can do.

Getting there is the most obvious barrier for most visitors. It's located about 6 miles southeast of The Strip, just past the eastern edge of McCarran International Airport and Sunset Park. That means you'll need a car or a cab or an Uber to get there although it is worth noting that there is limited shuttle service - call for details.

It's also worth mentioning that for parts of the tour you will be outside, so a July afternoon when it's 113 degrees may not be the best time to go.

The thing that I found most interesting about it is that while it is all about Wayne Newton, it also isn't in a lot of ways. Yes, the costumes and the pictures of him shaking hands with everyone from presidents to movie stars are everywhere and there's a bit of hagiography going on but the cars, the animals, the horses, and the big house are really just kind of cool to look at even if you don't know who Wayne Newton is. This is more than Wayne Newton's history, it's Las Vegas history and, in many ways, a history of the last 50 years or so of the entertainment industry.

I enjoyed my time at Casa de Shenandoah. It's an interesting time capsule and a really nice respite from the typical Vegas madness.

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