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VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
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VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
March 25, 2013
Every year, tens of millions of people visit Las Vegas and all it takes it one look at the sidewalk on The Strip on your average Saturday night to know that the city lures all types, all ages, all races, and all sizes. But if you were to boil that big mixing pot of humanity down to its most common ingredients, what would you get?
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has released the 2011 edition of its annual survey and report on the Las Vegas visitor, what they did while in town, why they came, and who they are (well, not their names or anything...). The LVCVA surveys 3,600 randomly selected visitors, doing 300 interviews each month for the year. They grab people near Las Vegas casinos and hotels and make sure that they are visitors to the city (and not residents) and are at least 21 years of age.
Fewer and fewer of the people surveyed were visiting Vegas for the first time; only 16%, which is down from 18% in 2010. Of those first timers, only 1% said they were coming to Vegas primarily for the gambling, whereas 8% of repeat visitors cited that as their primary reason for visiting.
Most people, 56% of them, came to the city using ground transportation (mostly their own cars). 44% arrived in the city by airplane. Once they got to Vegas, 24% used taxis to get around.
Visitors stayed in Vegas and average of 4.7 days and 3.7 nights. Both of these figures are up slightly over the last few years, which is good for the city, obviously.
While they were in the city, they certainly spent money but less of it in many instances. Room rates were a big one with the average per night running at around $84. This is up a few bucks from 2010 and 2009 but way below the $109 figure of 2007 before the economy imploded.
The average Vegas visitor spent $275 on food and drinks, $64 on transportation around the city, $129 buying stuff, $48 on shows, and $10 on attractions and other sightseeing.
The gambling activities of visitors were especially noteworthy, mainly because it spells trouble for the big casinos. 77% of visitors reported that they gambled while in Vegas, a number that has been decreasing steadily for the last five years. It was 84% in 2007. Hours per day spent gambling was just under 3, down from 3.4 in 2007, and the average visitor's gambling budget was $448. That's down more than $100 from the 2007 numbers.
As far as entertainment, 60% of visitors saw shows, which is the lowest number in the last five years of the survey. In 2008 it was 72%. The number of people who reported seeing big-name headliners, comedy shows, and paid attractions has also declined over the last five years.
So who were all these people? Well, most of them were married (77%); the average age was 49; the vast majority earned over $40,000 per year and were either employed or retired; 50% had a college diploma; most visitors were from the Western United States (55%) and almost one third were from California (31%).
Who Are You?
The Loews Hotel in Las Vegas is going through an identity change, with the Westin brand name going up over the front doors.
I know, many of you might be asking, "There was a Loews in Las Vegas?" Well, sort of. The hotel is located at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, about 17 miles east of Las Vegas proper. It started life as the Hyatt Lake Las Vegas and gained a bit of fame as the location for the movie "America's Sweethearts" starring Julia Roberts and John Cusack.
It became Loews a few years ago and it, like everything else at Lake Las Vegas, has been struggling. The owners have been fighting foreclosure proceedings and the Westin Lake Las Vegas name is designed to bump up their numbers.
But those numbers will need a lot of bumping. The occupancy rate was at a mind-boggling low 34% last year. Compare that to the nationwide average, which is around 60%, and the general Las Vegas average, which is nearly 80%.
It's also probably worth noting that the Westin brand name may not be all that much of a lure in Las Vegas considering the Westin Casaurina near The Strip has also been going through major financial difficulties.
The rooms are being remodeled to remove some of the Moroccan inspired decor and to add the Westin's signature "Heavenly Beds" but what other changes may come are still to be determined.
What's In a Name?
The fantastic new Smith Center for the Performing Arts has announced their 2012-2013 Broadway series and it's a pretty impressive lineup. It kicks off this fall with the smash "Wicked," marking the first time the award-winning musical riff on "The Wizard of Oz" has played the city.
That will be followed by the musical version of the classic TV show "The Addams Family;" the musical version of the film "Billy Elliot," which features music by Elton John; a new staging of the legendary "West Side Story" (I feel pretty, oh so pretty...); two cartoon adaptations with "Shrek the Musical" and "Disney's Beauty and the Beast;" another classic in "Anything Goes;" and a musical adaptation of the Tom Hanks/Leonardo Di Caprio movie "Catch Me If You Can."
In addition, there will be two special "add on" shows that can be purchased on top of the regular series. "American Idiot" is the hit musical featuring the songs of the punk-pop band Green Day and "La Cage Aux Folles" is the classic musical on which the movie "Birdcage" with Robin Williams was based.
Season tickets are on sale now starting as low as $207 for the main 8-show series. Individual tickets will go on sale at a later date and will start as low as $24.
I highly recommend that you go to the Smith Center website and sign up to get their e-mail newsletter, which will keep you informed of all of the shows at the three theaters in the complex. The next time you visit Vegas you should consider a night at the theater that doesn't include French acrobats.
Taking the Stage
The still popular "Dancing with the Stars" TV show is coming to Vegas with a live stage version at the Tropicana starring some of the most popular contestants and dancers from past seasons.
Celebrity stylist and TV personality Carson Kressley, former *NSYNC star Joey Fatone, Disney Channel star Kyle Massey, Disney recording artist Sabrina Bryan, and actress and singer Tia Carrere are among the "stars" while fan favorite partners like Dmitry Chaplin and Lacey Schwimmer will be helping them twirl across the stage.
The 80-minute show will start April 14 and run for three months in a limited engagement, although there is talk that if it is successful it could be extended with a rotating cast of former DWTS competitors.
For more information and tickets visit the Tropicana website.
The Zip it Up Award of the Week goes to the four new thrill ride zip lines that are being proposed for The Strip. If approved, they will run between Excalibur and Luxor, from the near the top of the pyramid and castle and running for as long as 1,450 feet.
The I'll Match that Zip Award of the Week goes to the OTHER zip line that is being proposed for right across the street at the Tropicana. It would run from the top of one of the hotel towers down across the pool to a spot near the front entrance.
The Keep on Dancing Award of the Week goes to JabbaWockeeZ, the hip-hop dance crew who have been performing at Monte Carlo. They are being kicked out of their showroom in that hotel to make way for the Blue Man Group show, which is moving from Venetian later this year. Now comes word that JabbaWockeeZ will be moving to Luxor, getting their own custom-built show room in the attractions level space that used to be occupied by the IMAX 3-D movie theater.
The There IS an App For That Award of the Week goes to the Leroy's app, now available in the iTunes app store, which will allow you to place race and sports wagers with your smartphone. You have to be in the state of Nevada for it to work.
Zip From Here
It is true: I love burgers. A thick, juicy beef patty on a soft, preferably toasted bun, loaded down with toppings (that really should include bacon if at all possible) and I'm absolutely ready to make a lifetime commitment - or at least one that lasts until the plate has been licked clean. The question is do I love the burgers served at I Love Burgers? Well, I hate to sound like a guy that isn't ready to settle down but love is a strong word...
This gourmet burger joint is the latest in what is becoming a long list of places in Vegas that turn beef in a bun into a fancier and more expensive experience. Located on the second level of the Shoppes at Palazzo at Palazzo Las Vegas, the restaurant is casual funky with lots of retro-mod furnishings, a big bar, omnipresent televisions showing various sporting events, and a wall partially covered in astro-turf for no apparent reason on than it's different.
The menu is limited - some appetizers, a few salads, and then a long list of burgers. Granted you can get your burgers in various beef incarnations, salmon, turkey, chicken, buffalo, and even eggplant if you feel like having something that looks like a burger but is really an affront to the concept. Vegetables should top a hamburger, not replace it.
But let's back up for a moment because you really should pay attention to the starters. Everything is fried within an inch of its life, a concept I heartily endorse although my cardiologist may have issues with me using the term "heartily." The mac and cheese "nom noms" are deep fried chunks of the stuff served with a cheesy dipping sauce that will, in fact, inspire you to make "nom nom" sounds while you eat them. Deep friend pickles, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, and chicken fingers are also offered.
Skip the salads. Why? I refer you back to the place that vegetables have at a place like this.
All of the burgers are served on sweet brioche buns and come in a variety of forms. You can get the standard Angus with tomato and onion or move up to the Caprese, which adds mozzarella and beefsteak tomatoes with a balsamic reduction; the BBQ with American cheese, bacon, and an onion ring; or the Dante with has blue cheese, caramelized onion, and roasted garlic aioli. The turkey burger is served like Thanksgiving on a bun with stuffing and cranberry chutney while the salmon is topped with tartar sauce.
There is no "build your own" version but you can add several toppings to whichever you start with including cheese, avocado, egg, jalapenos, and mushrooms.
Longtime readers will probably remember that I have an affinity for bacon so I was quite thrilled with the concept of the I Love Bacon burger, with applewood smoked bacon mixed in with the ground sirloin then topped with more bacon and bacon mayo. It also has smoked gouda and onion strings, neither of which had bacon in them, sadly. It was good but I actually felt a little guilty eating it thinking about what my aforementioned cardiologist might say.
We also sampled the turkey and one of the Angus beef burgers, both of which were also good but not mind blowing.
A limited list of desserts includes creme brulee, white chocolate bread pudding, and more fried things: Twinkies and Oreos, to be specific. You can probably guess which one I tried. And yes, I've already set up an appointment with Dr. Killjoy.
Prices are typical for this kind of burger place, ranging between $10 and $17 plus anywhere from $1 to $3 for each of the additional toppings. I think if you're going to pay that much for a burger, you had better love it.
I really liked the burgers but I didn't love them, something that I feel bad about. I mean come on! A burger with bacon mixed into it and topped with bacon and bacon mayo? It was doing everything right! I kept wanting to say, "It's not you; it's me."
In the end I'd put this slightly above mid pack in the Great Las Vegas Burger Wars. Better than many but not the best.
Do I Smell Bacon?