Weekly Column by Rick Garman

Want to know what's happening in Las Vegas? You've come to the right place.

Each week you can come here to get the latest news, the juiciest gossip, and the best reviews for the most fabulous city in the world, Las Vegas. Hey... it says "fabulous" right on the welcome sign!

The latest weekly column will always be on this page, but you can go back through the archives (all the way back to 1999!) or take a look ahead and what's coming up next for Vegas by using the navigation on the left hand sidebar.

Thanks for visiting! Enjoy!



Fourth of July Fireworks in Vegas

If you're heading to Vegas next week and want to take part in some Fourth of July festivities via fireworks shows, you have plenty of options... just not on The Strip. Unlike New Year's Eve's big pyrotechnic displays, there is no coordinated fireworks show over the main tourist area.

Mandalay Bay is the only hotel on The Strip that will be having fireworks on the 4th. It's part of a Reggae music concert at the Mandalay Beach so if you want to get up close you're going to have to pay $25 but you should be able to see them from south part of The Strip.

Caesars Palace is also having a fireworks show but not until July 7th. Why? Because the 4th happens to fall on a Wednesday and they want to wait until the weekend so as many people as possible can see them (and hopefully come inside to gamble afterward).

The biggest fireworks show in Vegas will be happening at several Station Casinos properties around the city. Aliante Station on the far north side of town, Green Valley Ranch on the south side, Fiesta Rancho and neighboring Texas Station also on the north side, and Red Rock Resort on the West side will have a coordinated fireworks show designed by the famed Grucci of New York company.

If you want to see those fireworks, I recommend going to Green Valley Ranch or Red Rock Resort, both of which are high enough on the hills to give you a commanding view of Las Vegas and the other shows that will be taking place.

By the way, if you take a photo or video of the Station Casinos fireworks and then share them on their Facebook page or tweet them using the hashtag #SCLV4TH, you will be entered to win a free stay at a Station Casino. They will select 10 lucky winners who post the best pictures or video.

If real fireworks are a little too, well, "real" for you, you could always go to the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas for their virtual fireworks display on the big LED screens over the street.

Other locations with fireworks include Lake Las Vegas on the June 30th, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on July 3rd, Cashman Field near Downtown Las Vegas on July 4th, the Mission Hills Park in nearby Henderson on July 4th, and the Primm Valley Resorts at the border of Nevada and California along I-15 on July 4th.

All of the shows start at 9pm-ish.

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Fireworks on the 4th


Fireworks on the 7th


North Las Vegas Declared Disaster Area

Normally when you hear of the declaration of someplace as a "disaster area" you think of hurricanes, tornadoes, or some other bit of nature causing havoc and destruction. In North Las Vegas, however, the disaster was completely man made and it's going to take a lot more than bulldozers to clean up the debris.

The city council of North Las Vegas has declared the small municipality a disaster area due to financial reasons. Burdened by crushing deficits, one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, and collapsing tax revenues, the city council made the unusual declaration so that they could relieve the city of several financial obligations mainly related to pay and benefits for city employees and contractors.

North Las Vegas is mainly a bedroom community, home to a lot of the people who work in the big fancy casinos on The Strip. There are a couple of locals' casinos scattered around including The Cannery and Aliante Station, but for the most part it is a suburb that is pretty uninteresting to most of the people who visit Las Vegas.

The fiscal emergency seems to have been caused by a combination of forces beyond the city's control and poorly timed (or simply poor) decisions by the people who run things. The recession hit the state hard - Nevada has the highest unemployment in the nation - and North Las Vegas suffered some of the worst of it. Thousands of business closed, tax revenue fell by 75%, the city's bond rating was slashed, and deficits ballooned, currently estimated to be about $130 million over the next four years.

That last number is one that has caused a great deal of consternation among some of the city's residents, who blame much of the financial woes on decisions made by the city's leaders. As evidence they point to a brand new city hall that opened recently, the price of which was... wait for it... $130 million.

The money savings anticipated from the declaration of the disaster will not come close to plugging the gap but whether or not it is enough to kick start North Las Vegas toward a recovery is yet to be seen.

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The Cannery


Aliante Station


Vegas4Visitors Weekly Awards

The Still Roaring Award of the Week goes to the Lion Habitat Ranch, the home of the lions that used to be on display at the MGM Grand. The ranch is now open for group tours and has a program that will let you be a lion trainer for a day including lessons on how to feed, bathe, and coach the beasts. More information on their website.

The Quote of the Week Award also goes to the Lion Habitat Ranch. In the video to the right that shows how to feed a lion, the narrator says, "The trick in this case is to make sure you retain all your fingers." Yes, I'd agree that's an important part of feeding a lion.

The Friendly Skies Award of the Week goes to McCarran International Airport's Terminal 3, which opens Wednesday, June 27. If you missed the preview in my recent column, you can see it here.

The Clearing the Table Award of the Week goes to Bradley Ogden, the fine dining restaurant at Caesars Palace, which will be closing August after 10 years of shocking guests with insanely high checks. Although not confirmed, it is rumored that the restaurant will be replaced by a gastropub from celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay of TV's "Hell's Kitchen" fame.

The Lucky Streak Award of the Week goes to a roulette table at The Rio, which gained viral Internet fame this week after a poker player tweeted a picture of the results display that showed it hit 19 seven times in a row. Turns out the table was not live and was being worked on by technicians.

The Curtain is Rising Award of the Week goes to Zarkana, the new Cirque du Soleil show going in to Aria Las Vegas. Tickets are now on sale for the show, which is scheduled to open November 1. It is replacing Viva Elvis, currently scheduled to close on August 18.

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Zarkana by Cirque du Soleil


Packing Tips for Vegas

Your plane tickets are booked, your hotel room is waiting, and your wallet is full of all the cash and traveler's checks you're going to blow in Vegas. So what's left to do? Pack, of course!

Packing for a trip to Vegas is, for the most part, like packing for a trip anywhere else but there are a few things you may want to consider bringing along that will help you enjoy your Sin City getaway.

I opened up the question about what to pack on the Vegas4Visitors Facebook page and I got a lot of great responses. I combined a lot of those suggestions with some ideas of my own and here's what I came up with:

Personal Care Items
Most hotels have soap or body wash, shampoo and conditioner, and hand lotion as a part of their standard in-room free amenities. However, people with sensitivities to perfumes and dyes, or people who just don't want their hair to smell like the wacky mango-coconut-hydrangea-licorice shampoo the hotel offers, may want to consider bringing their own. I usually bring travel sized bottles of body wash because most hotels in Vegas use bar soap and I'm more of a liquid soap kind of guy.

Many of the Facebook fans talked about the need to keep yourself moist in Vegas. Wait... that came out wrong. What I meant was that Las Vegas is in the middle of a desert and the dry conditions can often cause people some misery. Be sure to bring lip balm, eye drops, nasal spray, and lotion. I can attest to some severely chapped lips and a bloody nose or two during visits to Vegas so this one is very important.

Overindulgence is a key part of most people's Vegas experience, whether it's eating too much rich food or drinking too many expensive cocktails. Antacids or other stomach medications are a really good idea as is basic pain relief medications. Trust me... you do not want to have to go downstairs to the sundry store to get a travel packet of Tylenol the night after you've been partying yourself to oblivion.

Speaking of sundry stores, all major hotels have one where you can buy any of the things you have forgotten and there are numerous CVS and Walgreen's type stores along The Strip. The problem is that you will pay more for just about everything than you would at your local grocery store or pharmacy. If you want to save yourself some dough, bring your own.

Figuring out what clothing to bring can be a challenge and totally depends on when you are traveling. In what should not come as a surprise to anyone, it gets a little hot in Vegas during the summer and, what often does surprise people, it gets downright chilly during the winter. Check the weather forecasts and plan accordingly.

One thing to note, though, is that even if its hot outside, it is often chilly inside with the air conditioning at full blast just about everywhere you go. I'm not usually affected by that but I'll admit there have been times when I've been wearing a t-shirt and shivering while playing the slots. Mabye I should've been wearing pants. Kidding! Light layers are usually the way to go - something you can wear inside and then carry or tie around your waist when you go out.

Packing plenty of options is also key, provided you have room in your suitcase. I'll admit that when I travel I usually pack as though I am going on safari even though I'm only going to be there for a couple of days. I like to be able to adjust to whatever circumstances arise without having to go buy a $100 dress shirt at the Aria men's shop when a last-minute meal at a fancy restaurant became available. Yes, it happened.

But no matter what you wear on the upper parts of your body, the most important piece of your clothing preparation is what you put on the lower part, specifically your feet. Regardless of whether you are planning to trek across the city or never leave your hotel, you will be doing a LOT of walking. Comfortable shoes that have already been broken in are an absolute must. If you are bringing the 4-inch cha cha heels for your night out dancing, consider having a pair of simple slip-on footies that you can tuck in your purse and wear both to and from the club. Your feet will thank you.

Health & Safety
Obviously you will want to bring any medications that you need. If they require refrigeration, some hotels will provide a small refrigerator for an extra fee. Just don't put them in the hotel mini-bar. Most of them have sensors underneath the items inside and if one gets moved, you get charged regardless of whether you consumed it or not.

Las Vegas is basically one big germ-fest, from the rooms to the elevators to the slot machine handles, and beyond. Housekeeping will not be offended if you bring your own disinfectant and the areas you should concentrate on are the door handles, the phone, the television remote, and the air conditioning controls. You may also want to bring hand sanitizer or wipes to carry with you.

As mentioned above, Las Vegas is in a desert and the sun can be brutal even when it's 40 degrees outside during January. Always make sure you have plenty of sunscreen and sunglasses are an absolute must.

I usually bring a small flashlight and leave it by the bed when I'm traveling, especially in Vegas. Not only does it help when you're trying to find the bathroom in the middle of the night, but if there's an emergency such as a fire the power could go out and you might not be able to see your way to the exits.

Most hotels have alarm clocks, radios, TVs, and more and the newer rooms usually have connectivity ports so you can plug in your tablets or portable DVD players. The one thing they are often short on is electrical outlets. I can't tell you how many times I have had to unplug a lamp just to be able to have a place to plug in my phone charger and that's before I need to plug in my laptop. A small power strip or one of those doohickeys that turn one plug into two or three can come in handy if you have multiple devices you need to plug in.

Speaking of laptops, if you are bringing yours and you use an optical mouse, bring a mousepad. Most of the desks in Vegas hotel rooms are topped with glass and the optical mouse does not work on them.

Food and Beverage
There is a lot to eat and drink in Vegas but most of it, even the simple stuff you'd buy at the sundry store, is more expensive than what you'd pay by bringing it with you. There's no need to pack a buffet, but some snacks (preferably things that will give you energy as opposed to sugar and fat) and a couple of bottles of water will save you a few bucks.

What Not to Pack
Most hotel rooms have irons and boards (or you can request them) so you can leave your travel iron at home. Ditto hair dryers.

One More Tip
For all of your moisturizer and sunscreen and other liquids, be sure to pack them in a sealed, plastic bag (or two, just to be safe). There is nothing worse than arriving to find out that your bottle of aftershave has spilled inside your bag and ruined all of your clothes.

My thanks to the Vegas4Visitors Facebook page fans Danny, DJ, Jill, Brian, Brendan, Hugh, Felicia, Paul, Jacki, Robert, Katie, Jennifer, Steve, Linda, Tom, Monica, Terence, Nancy, Susan, and Jim for sending in suggestions!

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Small Show Roundup

As a Las Vegas travel writer, one of things I had to accept a long time ago is that I simply cannot do everything. I could go to a different restaurant for every meal, stay in a different room every night, and see a couple of shows a day but I'd be an old man before I could ever get through every single option.

So while I try to get off the beaten track and experience some smaller slices of the Vegas experience, I have to focus my efforts on the larger, more high profile attractions because those are the ones that most Vegas visitors will want to see.

Take shows, for example. In the Vegas4Visitors Show section there are nearly 4 dozen productions of various sizes, most of which I have personally reviewed and felt worthy of inclusion. But there are dozens more small shows around town that I have not been able to see yet and, quite frankly, may never have the time to do so.

Here are a few notable ones that may be worth your time and energy to see, especially if you are on a budget. Most of these shows have ticket prices that are significantly less than what you'd pay for something like a Cirque show or Celine Dion.

Topless vampires. No, I'm not making that up. This show at The Stratosphere features topless dancers, magicians, aerialists, and more rocking out to heavy metal classics from groups like AC/DC and Twisted Sister, all wrapped up in vampire costumes and special effects. I SWEAR I'm not making this up. It is playing Wednesday through Monday at 10:30pm and tickets start at $40. Buy them online at the Stratosphere website.

Dancing with the Stars: Live in Las Vegas
"Celebrities" from past seasons of the ABC show (such as Joey Fatone and Carson Kressley) are taking the stage with professionals like Dmitry Chaplin and Lacey Schwimmer for a ballroom extravaganza at The Tropicana. The show is currently a limited run engagement, scheduled to go through early August but if it is successful it may be extended and become permanent. Shows are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm and 8pm. Tickets are $40-$99 and can be purchased at the Tropicana's Ticketmaster page.

Dancing Queen (Tribute to ABBA)
Playing in a new theater at New York-New York, this tribute show celebrates the Swedish supergroup's hits with live singing and dancing. So it's sort of like "Mamma Mia!" only without the storyline. Shows are at 8pm Tuesday through Sunday and tickets start at $60. Buy tickets online or by phone at 866-606-7111.

Evil Dead: The Musical
Yes, the zombie movie and yes, a musical. I can't explain it either but the comedic show has gotten some good reviews and it includes a "splatter zone" when the fake blood starts flying so there's that. It's playing at the V Theater in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. Showtimes are Friday at 10pm and Saturday at 11:30pm. Tickets are $40-$60 and can be purchased online or by phone at 866-932-1818.

Menopause: The Musical
The things they will turn into a musical are pretty astounding (see Evil Dead above), but this one, about four women telling their stories through pop songs from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, has been playing at one location or another in Vegas for years so there must be something to it. It's currently at Luxor with show times Wednesday through Monday at 5:30pm and Tuesday at 8pm. Tickets are $50-$65 and can be purchased online or by phone at 800-557-7428.

Rat Pack Tributes
Believe it or not there are two Rat Pack tribute shows in town and there has been bad blood between them for years. I'm picturing the two Franks beating each other. Anyway, The Rat Pack is Back is at Crown Theater at The Rio, with shows at 7pm nightly. Buy tickets online or by calling 888-727-6966. Sandy Hackett's Rat Pack Show is in the Shimmer Cabaret at LVH and it plays 6:30pm on Tuesday and 8:15pm on Thursday and Friday. Tickets start at $50 and can be purchased online or by phone at 800-222-5361.

Surf: The Musical
Okay, this whole :The Musical thing is getting a little silly, but if you are fan of the Beach Boys, this jukebox musical about 60s era surfer and the girl he loves may be right up your wave. It's playing at the Planet Hollywood showroom 7pm on Monday, Friday, and Sunday; 7pm and 9:30pm on Tuesday and Wednesday; and 5:30pm on Saturday. Tickets are $80-$180 and can be purchased online or by phone at 800-745-3000.

Tony n' Tina's Wedding
This interactive dinner theater experience that chronicles the wacky goings-on at an Italian wedding has played in so many different showrooms in Vegas that I have lost track. It is currently in the space that used to be the Bally's buffet. Shows are 7pm daily and tickets start at $100. You can purchase them online or by calling 702-777-7776.

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Shopping Review: Lost Vegas Antiques

If you're driving down the northern part of Las Vegas Boulevard on your way to Downtown, it's kind of hard to miss Lost Vegas antiques. You may have noticed the garish yellow and blue exterior or perhaps the flags of many nations flying above the building. Or perhaps it was the life-sized cutout of Elvis that is often out front.

Regardless of what drew your attention, visiting Lost Vegas Antiques is an interesting experience. The inside of the small store is absolutely packed with stuff - whether you choose to call the stuff antiques or junk is up for you to decide.

They specialize in Las Vegas memorabilia and some of it pretty interesting. There have everything from ashtrays to gaming chips to souvenir glasses and beyond from historic, long-gone Vegas hotels.

But that's only the beginning of what you'll find as you wander the narrow aisles. They have comic books, baseball cards, old books, vintage posters, dolls, toys and games, vinyl records, 8 tracks, old radios, photos, and so much more that to list it all would break the Internet.

The prices range from slightly overpriced to insanely overpriced but what do you expect from a place with a life-sized cutout of Elvis in front?

Lost Vegas Antiques
625 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89101
Mon-Thu 10am-6pm
Fri-Sat 10am-8pm
Sun 12-5pm

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