Vegas4Visitors.com Weekly Column by Rick Garman

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Sneak Peek of the Nobu Hotel

There's only one major hotel expected to open on The Strip in 2012, but don't expect the kind of epic scale and grand proportions of most Las Vegas resorts. This one is going for something much more intimate - well, as intimate as you can get when you're surrounded by Roman sprawl.

Expected to debut in December, Nobu Hotel is taking over the old Centurion Tower at Caesars Palace. With just 181 rooms, it will act as a boutique hotel-within-a-hotel, operating with its own check-in, lobby, and room service from a new branch of the hotel's namesake Nobu, a popular Japanese restaurant that has another location at the Hard Rock Hotel.

The entire property is being designed by David Rockwell, the same person responsible for the eye-popping visuals at The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. At Nobu, the decor is definitely more subtle, taking a Zen minimalist approach to evoke Asian design themes. Rooms are done in warm earth tones with splashes of color and graphics in the carpets, wall coverings, and artwork inspired by various bits of nature.

Bathrooms will feature teak fittings, stone tiles, and modern fixtures throughout. An oversized walk-in shower comprised of traditional black Umi tiles will offer multiple shower heads and a teak bathing stool, a commodity seen in traditional Japanese bathhouses. Bath amenities will include a selection of products by Natura Bisse in a signature rosemary and white tea scent designed exclusively for Nobu Hotel.

Check-in features personalized service with in-room iPad registration and a traditional hot tea welcome amenity. The unique turndown service will include his and hers yukata robes and slippers displayed bedside along with an exclusive Nobu Hotel blend of scented sleep oils. An upgraded minibar curated by Nobu will consist of unique selections including organic Wild Poppy blood orange chili juice crafted from orchards in California, chocolate-dipped Pocky pretzels, Japanese beer, and an assortment of Dean & Deluca snack items. Nobu's signature brands of chilled sake and Genmai-Cha brown rice green tea will also be available.

Guests of the Nobu Hotel will have a private entrance to the adjoining Nobu restaurant and lounge or, if they don't feel like going downstairs for some sushi, they can order it up to the room.

The Nobu Hotel will begin taking reservations on October 1, 2012 and is expected to be open sometime in December. More information can be found on the website: NobuHotelCaesarsPalace.com.

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Nobu Guest Room


 


Nobu Bathroom


 


Casino History at the Clark County Museum

The Clark County Museum goes way beyond just The Strip when looking at the history of the region but for the rest of the year there will be a special focus on casinos of yore. "Lost Vegas: Bulldozed and Imploded Casinos of the Las Vegas Valley" is a new exhibition at the museum that takes a look back at the grand gambling halls of Vegas that have been, in their words, "totally annihilated."

Displays include photos, video, memorabilia like gaming chips, and even chunks of concrete from imploded hotels such as The Dunes, The Sands, The Stardust, and more.

The exhibition was supposed to only run through August 26 but its popularity has already gained it an extension through the end of the year.

Admission to the museum is $2 for adults and $1 for seniors 55 and older and kids 3-17. That includes the Lost Vegas exhibit and the permanent exhibits, which include restored settler-era houses and buildings, nature and geography, and more.

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The Dunes


 


Forum Shops 20th Anniversary

As with most things in Vegas, The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace was a bit of a gamble when it first opened 20 years ago. Until then, the only serious shopping option on The Strip was the Fashion Show, a traditional (if high-end), enclosed mall. Shopping at the hotels was mostly limited to a few boutiques and a lot of crappy souvenir stores.

So turning over valuable, Strip-facing real-estate that could have been more casino space to a Roman-themed shopping "experience" was definitely an out-of-the-box idea.

Luckily for Caesars Palace and shoppers everywhere the mall was an instant hit. Its mix of luxury shopping outlets from designers like Armani and more pedestrian stores like The Gap satisfied most tastes while its audacious design evoking a Roman street scene, complete with cobblestone walkways and an ever changing "sky," was a must-see with camera-toting tourists. They even threw in some talking Roman statues as a free attraction just to make sure that the Vegas spectacle was complete.

The mall has expanded twice in its 20 years. An annex at the back of the facility added more stores and a fire/water attraction while a three-story addition to the front of the mall along The Strip added boutiques, restaurants, and what is billed as one of only two circular escalators in the world.

How much of a hit is it? The Forum Shops is the highest grossing mall in America, with sales higher per square foot than any other shopping outlet in the country.

Its success laid the blue print for pretty much every major hotel that followed it. If there was room for a shopping mall on the plot of land on which a new hotel was going to built, it was included in the plans. The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian, the Miracle Mile at Planet Hollywood, Crystals at CityCenter, and even smaller arcades like Via Bellagio at Bellagio and the Wynn Esplanade at Wynn Las Vegas owe a debt of gratitude to the Forum Shops.

The mall is celebrating its anniversary with special window displays and special discounts at participating stores.

Happy Birthday to the Forum Shops!

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Forum Shops

 

Vegas4Visitors Weekly Awards

The Earth Friendly Award of the Week goes to Madame Tussaud's at The Venetian and their new wax figure of Leonardo DiCaprio. In honor of the actor's work on environmental causes, the new wax Leo is eco-friendly, made out of natural clay, beeswax, and organic pigment. It was even made by hand and during the day and then transported via bicycle and public transportation.

The Makeover Award of the Week goes to MGM Grand, which is continuing its big remodel with work commencing this week on revisions to the facade behind the massive bronze lion. This particular bit of construction is related to Hakkasan, a five-story nightclub and restaurant that is replacing the now-closed Studio 54.

The Horsing Around Award of the Week goes to Wayne Newton, who won a skirmish in court against the developer that was going to turn his estate into a tourist attraction. The developer wanted to evict the entertainer's stable full of horses but the judge pulled the reins on that idea. It's all part of a bigger battle between Newton and the developer over the failed deal.

The Okay, Now I'm Hungry Award of the Week goes to KGB, the burger place at Harrah's, which is having monthly burger and shake combos celebrating summer. June is the shogun burger (bacon, fried egg, ginger coleslaw) and coconut milkshake; July is the BBQ rib burger (topped with BBQ rib meat and coleslaw) and an apple pie shake; and August is the teriyaki chicken (pineapple and cucumber) with a pink lemonade milkshake.

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Green Wax


 

National Steakhouse Month

June is National Steakhouse Month, so what better time to take a tour of the best steakhouses in Vegas. These are my picks:

Austins
I "discovered" this place at Texas Station a decade ago and many people didn't believe me when I told them they should get off The Strip to find one of the best steakhouses in town. Those that did have thanked me profusely because Austins offers up some terrific cuts of beef, interesting side dishes, and an impressive wine list all at prices that are significantly more affordable than restaurants on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Delmonico Steakhouse
Emeril Lagasse's entry at The Venetian into the crowded steakhouse market is one of the most successful of his Vegas restaurants. There are some "bam" style kicking of things up a notch but really it's the fantastic cuts of meat that make it worth going back to again and again.

Old Homestead Steakhouse
A fixture in New York City since 1868, Old Homestead arrived at Caesars Palace last year and immediately took the reins as the steakhouse to beat in Vegas. Prices are on the shocking side of things but one bite of their fine steaks and deliriously delicious side dishes will make you believe that it's totally worth the check you'll get at the end.

Oscar's
The steaks are good and the drinks are definitely worth your attention, but here it is more about the ambience than anything else. Located in the iconic dome at The Plaza, with amazing views of the adjacent Fremont Street Experience, this classic steakhouse is the brainchild of former Mayor Oscar Goodman.

The Steakhouse
Celebrating its 30th anniversary this month, the Steakhouse at Circus Circus is as traditional as you can get with a dark, clubhouse style design and big cuts of meat with all the sides included. For the price you can't do any better on The Strip.

Strip House
The cheeky bordello theme of this Planet Hollywood restaurant is one reason to check it out. The amazing steaks, appetizers, and original craft cocktails are another.

Texas de Brazil
Who said anything about it needing to be an American steakhouse? This Brazilian version of the beast serves fantastic cuts of beef (and chicken and sausage and other meats) from skewers hoisted by servers dressed up in gaucho garb. Worth it just to watch them carve your selections table side.

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Austins


 


Old Homestead


 


Strip House


 

Stay Active/Stay Cool This Summer: Vegas Bowling

Summer is upon us and that means it's time to covet the blessed air conditioning that most indoor spaces in Vegas have. When it's 110 degrees outside, it's tempting to just want to sit at a blackjack table and let the AC do its magic, but there is at least one way you can stay active and yet still enjoy the cool air: bowling.

For a long time, Las Vegas laid claim to having the biggest bowling alley in the world with more than 100 lanes at the Showboat (later the Castaways) on the east side of town. That facility closed with the hotel a few years ago but there are still several big bowling opportunities in the city. In fact, Las Vegas has the highest number of lanes per center in the country.

The closest lanes to The Strip are at Gold Coast, Orleans, and South Point.

The Gold Coast Bowling Center is a 70-lane facility with auto-scoring, a pro-shop, a snack bar, and more. Prices are among the cheapest in town at $3 per game and $2.75 for shoe rental. It's open 24 hours a day.

The Orleans Bowling Center has 70 lanes with a state-of-the-art automatic scoring system, a full-service pro-shop, a bar and lounge, a snack bar, a video game arcade, and more. Prices run about $3 a game during the weekdays and around $4 a game evenings and weekends plus a $3 shoe rental fee. It's open 24 hours a day.

The South Point Bowling Center has 64 lanes with a unique layout that puts 32 lanes on either side of a center aisle. They have automatic scoring with touch-screen controls, a snack bar, a cocktail lounge, a pro-shop, and more. Rates are usually around $3 per game with a $3 shoe rental fee. It's open 24 hours a day.

There's a tie for the title of "Biggest Bowling Center in Vegas." One is the 72-lane Strike Zone at Sunset Station on the east side of town. Their scoring system includes 36" color monitors and there are plasma TVs between the lanes plus a video game arcade, pool tables, and more. Prices are $3-4 per game and shoe rental is $3.50. It's open 24 hours a day.

The other 72-lane facility is the Red Rock Lanes at Red Rock Resort on the west side of town. It's probably the fanciest bowling alley in town with 40" scoring monitors, projection screens, and even VIP suites. The latter can be created in 4, 8, and 12-lane configurations and include everything from bottle service to custom music playlists. Prices for regular games are about average at $3-4 plus $3.50 shoe rental. It's open from 8am-2am Monday through Thursday and 24 hours a day on the weekends.

Other bowling facilities include the 56-lane Sam's Town Bowling Center, the 60-lane Santa Fe Bowling Center, the 64-lane Suncoast Bowling Center, and the 60-lane Texas Star Lanes at Texas Station.

If you really want a unique bowling experience, you could also try Drink and Drag in Downtown Las Vegas. The drag queen staffed nightclub has 12 lanes with lounge-like amenities (couches, chandeliers, etc.) and a VIP room. You have to pay a premium for this much fabulousness with per game fees running between $3 and $10 depending on the day and time.

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Strike Zone

 


Red Rock Lanes

 

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