Vegas4Visitors.com 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!

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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 only hotel that has moved into sold-out territory is The D Las Vegas, which joins Main Street Station and The Tropicana as the places with no room at the inn.

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.

Hotel 12/29 12/30 12/31 Total
Aria $252 $380 $519 $1,151 (Down $36)
Bally's $119 $269 $269* $657 (up $28)
Bellagio $299 $499 $619 $1,417 (up $20)
Caesars $163 $479 $499* $1,141 (up $132)
Circus Circus $96 $194 $239 $529 (up $67)
Cosmopolitan $280 $425 $650 $1,355 (Down $20)
The D Las Vegas sold out sold out sold out sold out
Encore $399 $499 $599 $1,497 (up $100)
Excalibur $120 $199 $277 $596 (down $74)
Flamingo $100 $185 $315* $600 (up $100)
Four Queens $89 $189 $189* $467 (down $20)
Golden Nugget $129 $209 $259 $507 (up $50)
Hard Rock Hotel $162 $332 $498* $992 (up $235)
Harrah's $104 $270 $280* $654(up $134)
Imperial Palace $80 $220 $235* $535 (up $83)
LVH $100 $130 $300 $530 (up $65)
Luxor $148 $218* $306* $672 (down $268)
Main Street Station sold out sold out sold out sold out
Mandalay Bay $174 $174 $366* $714 (down $112)
MGM Grand $206 $206 $398* $810 (down $45)
Mirage $169 $225 $498 $892 (up $18)
Monte Carlo $156 $156 $371* $683 (down $202)
New York-New York $159 $225* $398* $782 (down $63)
Orleans $115 $225 $275 $615 (up $80)
Palazzo $459 $459 $459 $1,377 (up $390)
Paris Las Vegas $157 $305 $343* $805 (up $47)
Planet Hollywood $191 $344 $409* $944 (up $62)
The Plaza $89 $179 $184 $452 (down $41)
Rio Suites $100 $178 $239* $517 (down $160)
Riviera $149 $189 $289 $627 (up $90)
South Point $120 $180 $180 $480 (up $161)
Stratosphere $101 $189 $249 $539 (down $119)
Treasure Island $126 $210 $320 $656 (down $96)
Tropicana sold out sold out sold out sold out
Venetian $459 $459 $459 $1,377 (up $390)
Wynn Las Vegas $359 $499 $599 $1,447 (up $50)

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$1,151


 


$1,417


 


$1,141


 


$529


 


$535


 


$517


 

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."

Cowabunga Bay will be located in Henderson at Galleria Drive and Interstate 95, near the Galleria at Sunset Mall and close to Sunset Station hotel. It is slated to open in the summer of 2013.

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Cowabunga Bay


 

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.

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Vote!


 


$25 Resort Fee Added


 


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.

Blue Man Group
Monte Carlo
3770 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
800-311-8999
website

Price:

  • $65-$237
  • Show Times:

  • Nightly 7
  • Fri-Sat 7 & 9:30pm
  • Vegas4Visitors Rating: B

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    New Home, New Show

     

    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
    3717 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
    Las Vegas, NV 89109
    website

    Price

  • $30-$50
  • Hours

  • Daily 7pm-2am
  • Vegas4Visitors Rating: B+

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    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.

    January 10
    Bellagio Expansion Opens
    The new Spa Tower at the Bellagio opened just before Christmas, adding 928 rooms and suites, a new restaurant, more shopping, a revised spa and salon, and 70,000-square-feet of additional meeting space. Located at the south end of the property, the new tower has over 800 standard guest rooms and over 100 suites in varying sizes all the way up to a couple of "Presidential Suites" at 4,500-square-feet and $5,000 per night apiece. Yikes. The rest of the hotel's 3,000-plus rooms were remodeled to reflect the look and feel of the newer tower so that guests wouldn't feel like they were getting short shrift if they got put in the "old" section (opened in 1999).

    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.

    January 17
    Who You Calling a Ho?
    The Westward Ho has officially opened their expansion, known simply as "The Ho." No, I'm not making this up. The 13,000-square-foot building sits at the back of the Westward Ho property (located next door to Circus-Circus) and features a truly novel combination of a convenience store, a café, a gas station, a bar, and, of course, a casino. It's not a big casino but more than the five video poker machines you usually find at fill-er-upperies around town. This one has 200 machines, five gaming tables, and even a sports book with a whopping four television screens.

    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.

    January 31
    Rio New Home of World Series of Poker
    It's official - the World Series of Poker has a new home at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino's brand new poker room. The legendary competition had been held for years at Binion's Horseshoe in Downtown Vegas but when Harrah's bought the rights to the Horseshoe name it got the rights to the tournament as well. The ten-table room features a variety of Texas and No-Limit Hold 'em games for the rest of us non-pro types. It's located near the sports book and is open 24 hours a day. The first WSoP at the Rio will be held in April.

    February 7
    Monorail Shuts Down Briefly
    A problem with a section of the electrified track that powers the Las Vegas Monorail caused an all-day shutdown of the trouble-plagued system last week. Operators and engineers are trying to figure out what caused a short circuit that left a small chunk of the line near the Las Vegas Hilton without juice, a problem that was discovered before the system opened for the day. The rail line was repaired and the trains were running again by nightfall but it's yet another black eye in the less-than-stellar short history of the transportation system.

    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.

    February 14
    Golden Nugget Sold
    Was it something I said? Just about two weeks ago I was touring the Golden Nugget, looking to see what kind of changes and improvements Internet millionaires Tim Poster and Tom Breitling had instituted since buying the place a couple of years ago. Now comes word they have sold the place to Landry Restaurants, Inc. for $140 million in cash and $155 million in debt assumption.

    March 7
    Palms To Add Third Tower
    Aiming to capitalize on a growing trend, officials with The Palms have announced plans to build a 50-story luxury condominium/hotel tower on their property. The new tower, expected to be completed by 2008, will feature 599 units ranging in size from 600-square-foot studios to 7,000-square-foot penthouse suites and in price from half a million to $7 million. The owners of the units will have the option of putting them into a rental pool when not in use, allowing the hotel to sell them as upgraded hotel rooms with the owners getting a share of the rental. Even before a shovelful of earth has been turned (and before a formal announcement) the units are already 50% sold.

    March 14
    Why We Love Oscar Goodman
    The plain-spoken Mayor of Vegas, Oscar Goodman, has been making headlines again over his plain-spoken-ness (if we can invent a word). At a Q&A session with a group of fourth graders in the area, Goodman was posed the question "What would you want with you if you were stranded on a desert island," and Goodman responded, "A bottle of gin."

    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.

    March 21
    Wynn Update: Encore, Encore
    A little more than a month before the unveiling of his $2.7 billion namesake hotel, Steve Wynn is moving forward on plans for a second mega-resort right next door to be named Encore. Originally discussed as an expansion of Wynn Las Vegas with 1,500 rooms and an expanded casino for about $900 million, the new blueprint for Encore creates a separate property (although the two will be connected) with 2,000 rooms, a much bigger casino than originally planned, restaurants, meeting space, nightclubs, a high-tech concert hall, and much more, all for around $1.4 billion. The place will aim to out-luxury even Wynn Las Vegas, with all the rooms over 1,000-square-feet and going for around $400 a night minimum.

    March 28
    Performing Arts Center Gets Big Gift
    Las Vegas is known for its big money action but it's never seen anything like this: a $50 million donation toward the city's first performing arts center. The gift from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is the largest in Nevada history and virtually guarantees the development of the center, which had been in planning stages without concrete ideas of where the money was going to come from to build it. Now the donation, along with other charitable gifts and funding from a proposed car rental tax increase, has put things on a fast track for design and construction. If all goes according to plan the complex should be up and running in Downtown Las Vegas by 2009 and will be home to various local performing arts organizations.

    April 11
    Casino Legends Museum Closed
    This is just sad. The Casino Legends Hall of Fame Museum at the Tropicana, an attraction I considered to be one of the best in the city, has closed. There was no publicly divulged reason for the closure but from what I've read and heard it sounds like the decision was made by hotel officials and not by the owner and operator of the museum, Steven Cutler. With more than 10,000 pieces of Las Vegas memorabilia on display from costumes to gaming chips to slot machines and more, Casino Legends was a terrific blast from the past, preserving a bit of the history of a city that seems all too eager to forget about what made it great in the first place.

    April 18
    Riviera Celebrates 50th Anniversary
    When the Riviera opened on April 19-20, 1955, it was a revolution of sorts. It's original nine-story tower was the tallest in Vegas at the time and the whole place set the standard for luxury resort destinations. Despite some early difficulties (the place went bankrupt shortly after it opened), The Riviera has surived and grown while others of its era (Dunes, Sands) have gone the way of the wrecking ball. As the Strip has marched relentlessly upscale, the image of the hotel has faded considerably in recent years - in fact, I wouldn't exactly put it on my "recommended" list unless price is a huge consideration for you. But the fact that it is still in business and has managed to last this long is worth noting and so a hearty "Huzzah" for the Riviera's 50th from Vegas4Visitors.com.

    April 25
    Insanity Goes Nuts
    The new thrill ride atop the Stratosphere Tower lived up to its name last week, offering a local teenager and her 11-year-old cousin a glimpse of true "Insanity." The ride, which spins people around over 900-feet in the air, shut down mid-spin when the system detected winds in excess of 60 miles per hour. Per the specs, whenever that happens, the ride shuts itself down - good news. Bad news, there were people on it and the winds didn't subside so they couldn't be brought in right away. The two girls spent over an hour in hanging in mid-air until technicians were able to attach a cable to the arm securing their seats and pulled them to safety.

    May 2
    Wynn Opening: A First-Hand Account
    After five years, several billion dollars, and more hype than... well, more hype than pretty much anything, ever, Wynn Las Vegas opened to the public last week and I had a front row seat. Well, that's not totally true. I didn't pay several thousand dollars to be one of the special guests who got in early. I also wasn't one of the few privileged media representatives who were allowed in on an official capacity. Instead, I was one of the several thousand people standing outside the place, waiting to get in at 12:01am on Thursday, April 28.

    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.

    May 23
    Fountainbleau Set For Strip
    The famed Miami Beach resort Fountainbleau will get a Las Vegas sister with the announcement of a $1.5 billion development on The Strip just north of The Riviera and south of The Sahara. Set for the now vacant land that used to be home to The Silverbird (and later El Rancho) and Algiers, the project will evoke the namesake original with a luxurious Miami Beach theme, 4,000 rooms (include many condo units), a casino, and all of the requisite Strip resorts bells and whistles. It's still in the planning and money-raising phases so anything could happen between now and shovel turning, but if all goes according to plan construction will commence later this year and be complete by 2008.

    June 6
    Trump vs. Trump
    As if you needed more proof that Las Vegas is one of the most wonderfully wacky cities on the globe comes this juicy bit of gossip: Ivana Trump is trying to trump her former hubby Donald. The ex-wife of the real-estate tycoon (and reality TV star) has lent her name to a proposed 73-story condominium complex being built across Sahara Avenue from The Sahara Hotel and Casino on Las Vegas Boulevard. The Ivana, as it will apparently be known, is slated to be nine stories higher than the Trump International project getting ready for construction just down the street. The Donald had no comment on the announcement but some of his associates on the Vegas project were happy to jump into the fray, suggesting that other Ivana monikered condo projects have been announced but never actually built.

    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.

    July 25
    Wynn Nightclub Gets Overhaul
    Changes are already underfoot at Wynn Las Vegas after only a few months in operation. In addition to some basic tweaking of how the hotel operates (in response to some complaints from guests), they are taking the drastic step of completely scrapping their big fancy nightclub La Bete, including the décor, the name, and the management. Victor Drai (Drai's at Barbary Coast fame) has been hired to oversee the revamping although no details on the specifics were released. The club will close in October, get a top to bottom makeover, and reopen about a month later.

    August 1
    Spamalot Lands at Wynn
    The rumors that had been spreading for the last couple of weeks turned out to be true: "Spamalot," the Tony-Award winning musical based on "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," will be getting its own production at Wynn Las Vegas. Contrary to reports that it may replace the struggling "Le Reve," "Spamalot" instead will go into a third theater to be built on the property. The 1,600-seat performance space will include a themed shopping and eating area. Unlike Broadway hit "Avenue Q," also opening at Wynn in August, the deal for "Spamalot" is not a nationwide exclusive. Touring companies will hit the nation for the show but under the agreement they will not come to California, Nevada, or Arizona, helping to ensure an audience for the Las Vegas production.

    August 1
    Bourbon Street Hotel To Close
    I know, you're sitting there saying "What's the Bourbon Street Hotel?" Okay, it may not be the most high-profile of casino-hotels near The Strip but its high-profile location has doomed the place to the wrecking ball. Bourbon Street is the small hotel casino on Flamingo Road between Barbary Coast and the Westin, just across the street from Bally's. It opened in 1980 (as the Shenandoah with Wayne Newton as one of the original investors) and never did all that great, sinking into bankruptcy and changing hands many times over the two-and-a-half decades it has been sitting there. Gaming giant Harrah's Entertainment bought the place earlier this year and now they have announced that the 166-room hotel and tiny casino (only 100 slots) will close in October. They haven't said what they plan to do with the land and the adjoining parcels they purchased but don't be surprised to see some sort of boutique property that will act as a bridge of sorts between their Flamingo, Bally's, and Paris hotels.

    August 8
    Barry Extends Gig
    Barry Manilow fans who were worried about not being able to make it to Vegas to see the singer's new show at the Las Vegas Hilton can relax a bit. A new deal has been announced that extends the gig through 2007. According to most reports the show has been a big hit so it's no big surprise from the hotel's perspective, although there had been some rumblings that Manilow wasn't completely happy with the arrangement so there was probably a big-bucks bonus to get him to stay on. The extension will guarantee 150 more shows over the next two years.

    August 15
    New Caesars Tower Debuts
    With little of the fanfare that usually accompanies such occasions, Caesars Palace got a lot bigger last week with the opening of the new 949-room Augustus Tower. Located on the south edge of the property along Flamingo Road, the new tower features a brand new lobby that will serve the entire resort, stores, restaurants, a VIP lounge, and three wedding chapels in addition to the fancy new rooms. All of the accommodations are suites, ranging from 650 to 760 square feet, and feature the all of the upscale conveniences expected of a modern Las Vegas luxury room these days including three plasma-screen televisions, high-speed Internet service, plushy furnishings, and rich décor. How much is one of the fancy new rooms going to cost you? A quick glance at the Caesars online reservations calendar showed most weekdays between $200-$300 with most weekend nights between $300-$400 (and a few higher than that).

    August 15
    Best Bette In Vegas?
    Local gossip columns are abuzz with rumors that the Divine Miss M. (a.k.a. Bette Midler) may be in negotiations to join Celine Dion and Elton John as rotating headliners at the Caesars Palace Colosseum. If it happens, Bette would take the stage for about 30 shows a year in between the roughly 200 that Celine does and 75 or so that Elton performs. Reps at Caesars Palace and Midler's camp were in "no comment" mode about the whole thing but this is coming from fairly reliable sources so expect an announcement sometime this fall.

    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.

    August 29
    W Details
    A few details have been released about the first planned W Hotel in Vegas and the project is bigger than most people thought. The property, intended to be a flagship for the trendy boutique hotelier, will have more than 3,000 hotel rooms and condos, a 75,000-square-foot casino, about a dozen restaurants and super-trendy clubs (I added the super-trendy, but trust me), and more. The hotel will be constructed at the corner of Harmon Avenue and Koval Lane, just behind The Aladdin (soon to be Planet Hollywood) and MGM Grand and right next door to the massive Hard Rock expansion. Construction on the 21-acre, $1.7 billion property should start in early 2006 and is expected to be complete by 2008.

    August 29
    Imperial Palace Sold; To Be Demolished
    Whenever someone asked me what I thought would be the next hotel on The Strip to make a date with a wrecking ball, I went with the usual suspects: The Boardwalk, The New Frontier, The Stardust, The Tropicana, and perhaps even The Riviera. But one hotel I usually left off that list was the Imperial Palace. Just goes to show that not even so-called Las Vegas experts are right 100% of the time.

    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.

    September 12
    Clooney's Vegas Venture
    Actor George Clooney, star of (among other films) the Vegas-centric "Ocean's 11" is betting big on the city with the formal announcement of his long-rumored involvement in an upcoming hotel and casino project. Clooney is investing an undisclosed amount in Las Ramblas, a proposed 4,400-room hotel and condo development planned for 25-acres on Harmon Avenue between the Hard Rock and the upcoming W Hotel. The project, named after a promenade in Barcelona, Spain, will feature a 48,000-square-foot casino, lots of nightclubs and entertainment venues (under the aegis of Whiskey Sky founder Rande Gerber), a movie theater for Hollywood-style premieres, a separately run 300-room boutique hotel, and the requisite shopping, dining, spa, and other features found in a facility of this size. The whole thing will cost $3 billion in the long run and will begin construction next year with the first phase due by 2008 or 2009.

    September 19
    Westward Ho To Close
    Another week, another hotel closure. The Westward Ho, a 700-room motel on the north end of The Strip between Stardust and Circus-Circus, has been sold and will close on November 17, 2005. Other than saying it's a "Fortune 500 company," no one is releasing details on who bought the place but speculation is floating around that a Texas-based residential development company is behind the deal and has designs for building luxury high-rise condos on the 12-acre parcel of land.

    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.

    October 3
    Elvis Museum To Close, New One Planned
    Elvis may have left the building but he's making yet another comeback, of sorts, in Las Vegas. Elvis Presley Enterprises, the official handlers of all things Elvis, has purchased the Elvis-a-Rama Museum (located on Industrial Avenue near Treasure Island) and plans to close the facility so it can open a new, higher-profile tribute to The King. The existing museum was considered to be the largest private collection of Elvis memorabilia outside of Graceland but you're going to have to go to Hawaii to see it. As part of the deal to sell and close the Vegas version, the owner gets permission to set up a new on the big island.

    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).

    October 24
    Boardwalk Slated to Close January 9
    If you want to take one last stroll on The Boardwalk you're going to have to hurry: the hotel/casino on the south part of The Strip next door to Monte Carlo has received its official pink slip and will close permanently on January 9, 2006.

    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.

    October 31
    Cosmopolitan Unveiled
    A groundbreaking of sorts was held for the new Cosmopolitan resort complex on The Strip recently that unveiled new details about the project. I say "of sorts" because rain forced the cancellation of the actual ceremonial shovel turning, but the company in charge of the project held a ceremonial unveiling anyway.

    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.

    November 14
    La Concha Saved
    The famous shell-shaped lobby of the La Concha motel on The Strip has been saved from the wrecking ball due to a generous contribution from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The building, located on The Strip next door to the Riviera, was slated for demolition along with the rest of the motel that was torn down earlier this year to make way for the upcoming Conrad Majestic hotel and residential development. But officials with the city and the Neon Museum wanted to rescue the distinctive lobby to use as the main entrance for a proposed permanent home for the museum's collection of neon signs from Vegas' past. The developers of the new project were willing to donate the building to the Neon Museum but needed someone else to pay for moving the structure to its proposed Downtown location. Enter the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which agreed to pony up $300,000 to finance the move, provided the museum can raise another $300,000 to restore and rebuild the structure.

    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.

    November 21
    Told You So
    Ever since they put in the latest exercises in mental torture (otherwise known as thrill rides) atop the Stratosphere Tower I've been saying that you'd have to either be quite insane or quite drunk to want to ride them. Now some may call me a wuss and that's fine, but I'm sorry - I don't care how safe they are (which intellectually I know they are), I still say that they are mechanical and therefore things go wrong.

    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.

    December 19
    South Coast Opens This Week
    The newest resort hotel in Las Vegas is set to open Thursday, December 22, 2005. The Sun Coast is the latest from the company that runs Orleans, Suncoast, and Barbary Coast and is located on Las Vegas Boulevard about six miles south of Mandalay Bay. The $500 million complex will feature 660 rooms in a 25-story tower, an 80,000-square-foot casino, restaurants and entertainment venues, a 16-screen movie theater, a 64-lane bowling alley, and a 4,400 equestrian events center. For more information on the South Coast, visit the Upcoming Hotels page on Vegas4Visitors.com.

    December 19
    Lady Luck To Close
    The luck has apparently run out for the Lady Luck, a Downtown Las Vegas landmark for more than 40 years. The hotel has gone through a virtual parade of owners over the last few years and the current owners have apparently decided there's nothing that can be done with the place while still keeping the doors open. They plan to close it on February 12, 2006 for at least a year to do a major renovation, although the details of what will be done to the place, and even if it will keep the Lady Luck moniker, were not revealed. It apparently came as a bit of a shock to the hotel's nearly 700 workers, all of whom will be permanently laid off when the doors slams shut in February (Happy Valentine's Day!) and will not be given any special consideration when the property reopens.

    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.

    Review Quotes

    From the review of Vivid, a nightclub owned by a porn company that was at The Venetian
    You're coming because it's a nightclub named after a porn company, right?You'd probably never know it unless you knew it in advance. No Vivid videos playing on the monitors, no actresses hanging out signing autographs, no gift shop. Think of the fun they could've had with the gift shop.

    From the review of Body English, a nightclub that use dto be at Hard Rock and will be again soon
    Body English is a riot of energetic design and layout with crystal chandeliers, rich fabrics and woods, mirrors on the walls, and luxe furnishings adding up to a distinctly gothic feel. It's the club Cher and Ann Rice dream about.

    From the review of We Will Rock You, the Queen jukebox musical that played at Paris Las Vegas
    There are some troubling moments. A surprise twist ending plays up female empowerment only to have said female flash her panties at the audience. For a moment you want to examine what kind of mixed message that sends about the role of women in society but then you realize this is a Vegas musical about a guitar with supernatural powers and you shrug your shoulders and get back to rocking out.

    From the review of Borg Invasion 4D, a Star Trek theme attraction that was at the Las Vegas Hilton (now LVH)
    You're going to have to be patient with me. Although I am familiar with the concept of "Star Trek" I am in no way well versed in the lore of the popular series of series and movies so if I confuse a tribble with a Klingon you're just going to have to deal with it.

    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
    I have to admit up front these types of impersonator/music and variety shows bore me to tears. If I want to hear Kenny Rogers singing poorly I'll watch those Barona Valley Ranch commercials. Trust me, everyone in Southern California totally got that joke.

    From the review of Splash, the classic topless musical that played at The Riviera for decades
    The one thing that was surprisingly underplayed was the one thing you would most expect to see in a topless showgirl show: topless showgirls. Oh sure, they were there but the vast majority of the dance numbers were performed completely clothed so the few breasts you do get to see are few and far between.

    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
    The women are beautiful in that strip club kind of way and while I didn't find any of it particularly erotic, I'm not exactly what you'd call the target audience for this kind of show and leave it at that.

    From the review of Barry Manilow's show at the Las Vegas Hilton (now LVH)
    I had heard about the concept of "Fanilows" - fans of singer Barry Manilow - but I didn't really believe it. Don't get me wrong, I like Barry Manilow. In fact, the very first concert I ever went to was a Barry show in the late '70s at the Five Seasons Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I practically wore out his "Live" album and I performed several of his songs in swing choir.

    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
    I've struggled with a succinct way of summing up Avenue Q, the Tony-Award winning musical and what I've arrived at is this: It's Rent meets Melrose Place meets Sesame Street. If that doesn't intrigue you I'm not sure we have anything left to talk about.

    Best Hotels of 2005

    Best Restaurants of 2005
    • Best New Restaurant: Fix
    • Best Buffet: Wynn Las Vegas
    • Best Steakhouse: Austins
    • Best Bargain Restaurant: Capriotti's
    • Best Expensive Restaurant: Alex
    • Best Desserts: The Chocolate Swan
    Best Shows of 2005
    • Best New Show:
    • Best Production Show: Mystére
    • Best Magic Show: Mac King
    • Best Music/Variety Show: Clint Holmes
    • Best Comedy Show: Second City Improv
    • Best Adult Show: Folies Bergere

    return to the top

     


    Vegas 2004


     


    Who You Callin' a Ho?


     


    No More WSOP


     


    More Problems


     


    Lucky 3


     


    Encore, Encore!


     


    The Gift That Created The Smith Center


     


    50th


     


    Scream Worthy


     


    Grand Opening


     


    What Could Go Wrong?


     


    Donald vs. Ivana


     


    Rabbits Included


     


    Bourbon Street


     


    Barry


     


    Divine


     


    Won't See 2006 For Sure


     


    Ho Ho No Mo


     


    Closing


     


    Last Stroll on the Boardwalk


     


    It Became This...


     


    Malfunction


     


    Now Known as South Point


     


    Unlucky


     


     


     


     


     


     


     


    Best Strip Hotel 2005 (the one on the left)


     


    Best New Show 2005


     

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