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VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
December 10, 2012
New Year's Eve Room Rate Report
A few weeks ago I did a check of room rates in Las Vegas for New Year's Eve and this week I've got an update. The good news is that there are still plenty of rooms available if you are looking for something to do on December 31. The bad news is that in many instances the room rates have gone up since I last checked - in some instances way up. But in some instances they have gone down. It's kind of a mixed bag, really.
December 31st falls on a Monday this year, so for the purposes of the survey I have looked at rates for what will be the most common stay - the three nights starting Saturday, December 29th and checking out on Tuesday, January 1st. In all instances I checked rates online and included only those for the most basic of room types unless the basic rooms were sold-out and the only thing available were up-market accommodations (rooms with better views, suites, etc.).
Rates have gone up at hotels like Bally's, Caesars Palace, The Golden Nugget, Bellagio, Imperial Palace/The Quad, and even The Riviera. The biggest hikes came at The Venetian and Palazzo where rates are nearly $400 higher for the 3 nights than they were when I checked a few weeks ago.
Rates have dropped slightly at hotels like Aria Las Vegas, Excalibur, Mandalay Bay, and Treasure Island. The biggest decline came at Luxor, which dropped $268 for the 3 nights. I don't find that surprising since I was suspicious of the rate they were asking back in October, which was nearly $1000 total.
The cheapest rates on The Strip can be found at Imperial Palace/The Quad, which is asking $535 (up $83) for the three nights. Circus Circus is offering one of its bargain basement Manor rooms for $535 (up $67) for the three nights, which is an absolutely insane amount of money to pay for that particular room in my opinion. The Rio actually has the best prices for close to The Strip at $517, down a remarkable $160 from when I last checked.
The most expensive rates are, unsurprisingly, at hotels like Bellagio ($1,417 up $20), Wynn/Encore ($1,447 and $1,497, up $100), The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas ($1,355 down $20), and Caesars ($1,141 up $132).
The rate survey is below. An asterisk next to a rate means that the hotel is not allowing check-ins on that date and it must be combined with another night.
Wanna Get Wet? Las Vegas Slated for 2 Water Parks in 2013
Las Vegas is a dry city. No, not in terms of alcohol - that flows freely - but in terms of water. The annual rainfall is next to nothing but more importantly from a visitors perspective there have been no major water parks in the city since Wet 'n Wild closed in 2004.
We found out early this year that Wet 'n Wild is coming back in the form of a new attraction on the west side of town. Now Las Vegas is poised to have two major water parks in 2013 with the announcement of Cowabunga Bay, a family-friendly destination that is now under construction in Henderson near Sunset Station.
Cowabunga Bay will feature 23 acres of splashy fun including more than 30 water slides and attractions, sandy beaches, wave pools, dining, VIP cabanas, and more.
Notable attractions include Cowabung Splash, a six-story water play structure (billed as the biggest in the world) with bridges, tunnels, body slides, and two giant 1,200 gallon water buckets that will splash (hence the name) the crowds below; Zuma Zooma, a 73-foot tall slide with a trap-door launch and a 360-degree horizontal loop; and Wild Surf, a first-of-its kind ride that has 4-person rafts launched from 55 feet into what they are calling "the world's largest man-made wave."
Vegas4Visitors Weekly Awards
The Reader's Choice Award of the Week goes to you and your chance to make your voice heard on Vegas4Visitors.com. Between now and December 15th you can vote on Facebook or send me an e-mail with your choices for Best Vegas Hotel, Best Vegas Show, Best Vegas Attraction, Best Vegas Restaurant, and Best Vegas Buffet. Every vote gets you an entry into a chance to win one of 3 autographed copies of my new Frommer's Las Vegas 2013 guide book. Vote now!
The Caved Award of the Week goes to The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, which has caved in to the lure of extra revenue and is going to institute a $25 per night resort fee starting in January. The Cosmo was one of the few on The Strip that wasn't charging the fee.
The Star-Studded New Year's Award of the Week goes to your chance to spend the holiday in Vegas with some of the biggest celebrities in the world and it will only cost you $50. The only catch is that the celebrities are made of wax. Madame Tussaud's is transforming into Waxx Ultra Lounge from 9pm-4am on New Year's Eve and will feature multiple DJs, cash bars, and more.
The Good Deed Award of the Week goes to seven Las Vegas hotels including the JW Marriott, the Westin Las Vegas, Hyatt Place, Residence Inn South, Fairfield Inn, and Courtyard South, all of which are participating in the Las Vegas Patient Lodging Program by the American Cancer Society. Anyone who has to drive more than 50 miles to undergo cancer treatment in Las Vegas and can't afford to get their own hotel room can stay overnight for free in one of the participating hotels. Visit cancer.org for more information.
The All Aboard Award of the Week goes to the Springs Preserve, which will be adding a train to the grounds that will take people around the 180-acre nature reserve. It will run on rubber wheels and cost a few bucks extra but it will be a great way to see far flung parts of the facility.
The Doo Wop Award of the Week goes to Human Nature, the Smokey Robinson endorsed Australian singing group, which has announced a two-year residency at The Venetian starting in January. Their show at Imperial Palace closed a few weeks ago.
Show Review: Blue Man Group
The Blue Man Group has been a phenomenon in this country, going from underground, bizarre, avant-garde performance art to nationally recognized, bizarre, avant-garde, performance art to mainstream entertainment in the space of a decade. Much of that success had to do with their long run in Vegas, first at the Luxor, then at The Venetian, and now at Monte Carlo.
Just in case you've been living in a cage somewhere, the Blue Man Group consists of three men whose bald-shaven heads are painted cobalt-blue, giving them the air of visitors from another planet. Their antics over the course of their show only reinforces this feeling, bringing to mind some sort of bizarre mix of Buster Keaton, Ernie Kovacs, and Mork from Ork.
The show has been substantially revised since its last incarnation, which is a good thing in theory since it had become a bit "been-there-done-that." I had seen the wacky Blue Men many times over their years in Vegas and while it was dizzyingly enervating the first time, by the third or fourth I was getting a bit bored.
The problem is that many of the new bits that have been layered into the show are simply not as fun, as original, or as offbeat as the ones they replaced and the entire production now has a slick, over-produced feel that undermines its performance art origins.
Take, for example, the paint drum sequence. This used to open the show and featured the Blue Men surrounding a pair of tall drums. As one of the guys does the percussion, the other two pour fluorescent paint on top, creating multi-hued sprays that fly up in their faces and cover a conveniently placed canvas. It sounds odd, and it is, but their behavior throughout - as if they are children discovering some bizarre and surprising new toy - was still hilarious.
This became so much of an iconic bit of Blue Mannery that it now closes the show, but the canvas painting part of it and the aliens discovering something new shtick has been removed. What you're left with is guys banging on drums that spray paint.
Here's another example: in the old show, the three Blue Men would climb atop a platform above three sets of giant, flip cards with printed text on them. Each set had a different narrative and challenged the audience to try to follow all three as the guys flipped over the cards. It was impossible, so what you wound up with was different portions of the audience laughing at different times and then laughing about the fact that other people were seeing other things. It was brain-bending and really funny.
Now the cards have been replaced by giant screens meant to evoke an oversized iPad and the narratives have been replaced by simpler text and silly visual puns that don't have the same impact as the original.
Other new pieces include a musical number with a pair of auto-building robots, an exploration of the human brain (complete with a Blue Man getting in the way of a synapse), devices that blow big smoke rings, and a grand finale that involves huge, inflated spheres being bounced around by the audience while party dance music plays. Warning: the balls are a lot heavier than they look - don't let one hit you in the face.
The good news is that they have left in a couple of the classic bits including the marshmallow and paintball toss and the Twinkie sketch. If you have seen the show you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, I don't want to ruin it for you - just trust me when I tell you that they are classic Blue Man Group in the best way.
The new version of the show could use more of that classic Blue Man feeling.
Vegas4Visitors Rating: B
Attraction Review: Eli Roth's Goretorium
Haunted house attractions are big business in the weeks leading up to Halloween, even here in Vegas where despite the fierce competition for your attention (volcanoes! fountains! sexy pirates!), attractions like the Fright Dome at Circus Circus and the Screamont Experience Downtown drew long lines of people willing to get the crap scared out of them.
But horror movie director/producer/star Eli Roth's Goretorium is a different beast altogether, aiming to be a year-round attraction in a high-profile location on the Las Vegas Strip. Whether or not there are enough people who want chills and thrills in the middle of December, for example, to sustain the place is a whole other kettle of blood and guts.
Located in the Harmon Corner shopping and entertainment complex, next door to Planet Hollywood and across from The Cosmopolitan, the Goretorium is a combination high-tech haunted house, gift shop, and lounge all with a horror theme. Roth, the brainchild behind the "Saw" movie series, knows his gore and knows how to throw a good scare at his audience, doing so with a good-natured "this is all a joke" humor that was refreshing.
The concept here is that the attraction was built around the bones of an old Vegas hotel, The Delmont, long condemned after a serial killer (the owner's son "Sick Vic") allowed guests to check in but not check out. Your tour of The Delmont starts with an elevator ride that is disconcerting even for those of us who don't harbor fears about those conveyances crashing into the basement. Then it moves into a darkened maze full of gory tableaus - the laundry room where bodies tumble in the dryers; a dining room where zombies dine on a human buffet; a wedding chapel where the groom takes his bride's hand... and arm... in marriage. In each someone will leap out at you, thrust a (non-functioning) chainsaw in your general direction, or beg you to help them escape the clutches of Sick Vic.
By the way, if you are so inclined, you can actually get married in the wedding chapel by a vampire or zombie-slayer minister. It comes with a "brain bouquet."
From a purely objective standpoint the attraction and its features are disturbing and disturbed on many, many levels but it's nothing worse than what you see in the typical modern horror movie or, for that matter, on your average episode of "The Walking Dead."
I personally don't find these kinds of things scary because the pattern of when someone will leap out at you (usually right after you enter one of the rooms) is fairly well established. There was only one moment where I jumped and that was because the monster in question came out earlier than I was expecting. But that's not to say that I didn't enjoy myself. I spent most of the experience laughing, partly because it's all so silly and partly because of the woman in the group I was with that was screaming her head off the entire time - even when no one was actively trying to scare her, she was screaming. It amused me. Perhaps I should be worried about that.
The whole thing takes about 30 minutes but most of that is waiting in lines at the beginning. The actual haunted house part is about 10 minutes and then deposits you on a funky outdoor bar/lounge patio that has one of the best views of The Strip anywhere in town. It's a great place to sit back and soothe your jangled nerves with a cocktail.
There's also a VIP lounge, a gift shop, and another bar on the main level with more on the way.
Ticket prices are perhaps the scariest part of the experience: $30 for a standard entry and $50 for the VIP treatment, which includes priority entrance and a free cocktail in the lounge. Whether it's worth the cost of admission is totally dependent on how much you like being scared.
A couple of important notes... First, the attraction is only open in the evenings, from 7pm until 2am daily. Second, they send you through in small groups of just a few people with plenty of spacing in between groups, which means that it can be a long wait to get started.
Eli Roth's Goretorium
Vegas4Visitors Rating: B+
A Look Back: 600 Weekly Columns & 2005
In a few weeks I will be writing my 600th Vegas4Visitors.com Weekly Column!
The Vegas4Visitors Weekly Column debuted in September of 1999 and I have been averaging about 45 of them a year, every year since. The one you are reading today is the 597th so if things go according to plan we'll see 600 right around the start of 2013 (which, by the way, marks the 15th Anniversary of Vegas4Visitors.com).
Every week from now until 600, I'm going to rerun some of my favorite pieces from columns of days gone by. This week it's time to look back at 2005, which is when we welcomed Wynn Las Vegas, said goodbye to the Westward Ho and Bourbon Street, and got our first glimpses of The Cosmo and Fontainebleau.
Las Vegas Monorail Back on Track Many suggested it wouldn't happen. Some made jokes. A few even wrote limericks. Okay, mostly it was me, but I'm happy to be proven wrong in a situation like this: The Las Vegas Monorail is up and running! Giving the city an early present, the monorail came back online on Christmas Eve day, almost four months after mechanical problems brought the system to a grinding halt. Adding to the present was the fact that rides for the first few days were free to anyone who showed up. Don't rush out there for that, though... they are back to charging their normal $3 one-way fare.
So with one quick stop you can fill the SUV with gas, buy a pack of gum and whatever they have that passes for a Slurpee, drop a few bucks in the casino while downing the Tower of Power (a 100-ounce "personal keg" of beer available at the bar) and then call your significant other to come pick you up because you can't drive the SUV home.
By the way, the new mini-casino even has a tagline: "The Ho - Your Get Lucky Casino."
I love Las Vegas.
The monorail was shut down for months while engineers corrected problems that were causing parts of the trains to fall off. In fact, the line has been closed for more than half of the roughly 210 days since it opened.
People with no sense of humor everywhere immediately got up in arms over what they deemed to be inappropriate comments to the little tykes and the mayor actually seemed to hedge a bit by saying he wouldn't do it again.
Of course right after that he told a group of adults that he was planning to talk to a group of sixth-graders about Cialas.
You just gotta love this guy.
So midnight finally rolls around and the marquee in front of the hotel starts a countdown at 30. It's hard to estimate how many people were there by that time, but my very unofficial count from my vantage point had to be in the 3,000-4,000 range and that was just what I could see. Everyone yelled out the numbers as the counted down, just like on New Year's Eve.
Anticipation grew, the crowd strained to see, the clock counted down, three... two... one... and the marquee said "We're Open."
That was it.
No fireworks. No music. No hip-hip-hooray. Not even a noisemaker. If anticlimactic could take physical form, it would have looked a lot like that moment.
If the construction crews do move in, it wouldn't surprise anyone to hear Donald revised his plans to make the Trump towers 74 stories.
By the way, if Midler does take the Vegas stage I will officially be taking all of the credit since I suggested that she would be perfect for the gig years ago in this very column. I'm sure that was the reason behind all of this. No really.
Harrah's Entertainment announced a $370 million deal last week to purchase the Imperial Palace on The Strip, right next door to their flagship Harrah's hotel and casino. Although no formal plans were announced, it seems like the surest bet in town that Harrah's will knock the place down and start over, perhaps as early as 2006.
The Westward Ho opened in 1963 and has made a reputation for itself over the years as a low-cost alternative to the pricey Strip hotels. It was probably most famous for its 99-cent hot dogs and cheap eats at the new Ho mini-casino at the back of the property (which will also close). So yeah, that story I did about seven places for cheap meals on The Strip needs to be revised, I guess.
No word yet on when the Elvis-a-Rama Museum will close (but figure soon) or when or where the new facility will appear (figure awhile and somewhere on or very near The Strip).
It will be torn down (not through implosion, but through less dramatic means) shortly thereafter to make way for the proposed $5 billion Project CityCenter, a massive development of hotels, condos, a casino, and more. Work will begin in mid-November on clearing adjacent properties including the demolition of the Seven nightclub and several other businesses in the area.
Cosmopolitan is a $1.8 billion hotel, condominium, and casino complex planned for approximately eight acres of land just south of Bellagio, effectively surrounding the Jockey Club time-share complex. It will feature two towers of around 60 stories each with a total of 3,000 units, 2,000 of which will be condominiums plus 1,000 hotel rooms managed under the Hyatt banner. The roofs of each tower will feature pools with, presumably, some of the best views in all of Las Vegas.
It is all part of a major campaign to give the Neon Museum a permanent home including a visitors' center, an outdoor park with restored neon signs, and public access to the famed neon graveyard that is now only accessible through special arrangement. The museum is still in the midst of its capital fundraising campaign but hopes to have the new facility open by sometime in 2007.
Evidence? The X-Scream ride - the one that acts like a giant teeter-totter, dangling riders off the side of the tower nearly 900 feet up - shut down after a power failure last week, leaving six Japanese tourists quite literally hanging for nearly 90 minutes. Picture this... you're in a seat pointing downward at roughly a 45 degree angle, strapped in only by a little metal bar, 27 feet off the side of the tower, around 100 stories up in the air.
I'll be doing my "Told You So" dance right now.
No one was injured in the incident but the tourists were taken to a local hospital to be sure and perhaps be pumped full of sedatives to stop them from screaming. Or maybe that's just what would've been going on if it had happened to me. Then again, it never would've happened to me because I wouldn't have been on the thing in the first place.
The restaurants and clubs along Third Street such as Triple George Grill and Hogs & Heifers, currently operated under agreements by the same company that owns the Lady Luck, will remain open as will the parking structure.
From the review of Vivid, a nightclub owned by a porn company that was at The Venetian
From the review of Body English, a nightclub that use dto be at Hard Rock and will be again soon
From the review of We Will Rock You, the Queen jukebox musical that played at Paris Las Vegas
From the review of Borg Invasion 4D, a Star Trek theme attraction that was at the Las Vegas Hilton (now LVH)
Actually it scares me a little that I actually know what a tribble and a Klingon are but we'll leave that for another time.
From my review of Downtown Gordie Brown, an impersonator who played at The Golden Nugget
From the review of Splash, the classic topless musical that played at The Riviera for decades
Not literally far between, but... well... you know what I mean.
From the review of Eroktica, a rock themed topless review that was at The Rio
From the review of Barry Manilow's show at the Las Vegas Hilton (now LVH)
Yes, I'm a geek. Shut up.
But the thought that this sixty-something year old, lifelong bachelor (wink, wink) could inspire feverish, almost rabid devotion among legions of middle-aged (and other) women (and men) seemed like a bit of a joke. Then I went to his concert. I haven't seen a crowd reaction like that since seeing the clips of the teenage girls watching The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. We're talking screaming, shaking, crying, and standing ovations after every song. Seriously - people stood up after every single song and not just a few people. Fanilows exist and they are not to be messed with.
From the review of Avenue Q, the puppet musical that played at Wynn Las Vegas
Best Hotels of 2005