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!



Love is in the Air: A Vegas Valentine

It's pretty easy to get married in Las Vegas. All you need is a photo ID and a willing participant to get a marriage license. Perhaps that's why 86,203 of them were issued in 2012. That's more than Chicago, Miami, and Dallas issued last year combined!

Of that rather stunning total, about 1,500 will get used on Valentine's Day, the busiest single day of the year for weddings in Vegas. Many of the hotel and stand-alone chapels stay open 24 hours, with people lined up for their chance to say "I Do."

Yes, marriage is big business for Las Vegas, so it is no surprise that you can get married almost anywhere. Need proof? Here are some one-of-a-kind spots in Sin City where you can exchange vows:

Bellagio Fountains

People pay a lot of money for stunning backdrops for their wedding photos but just imagine the iconic dancing waters at Bellagio framing your happy couple pose. The hotel offers a variety of packages that allow you to get married overlooking the Bellagio Fountains and even chose your own show soundtrack.

Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Pop-Up Wedding Chapel

The sight of a bride and groom walking through a casino after getting married is common, but you rarely get to watch the actual ceremony. At the Cosmo all you have to do is stand on the street and you can watch weddings happening in their "pop-up" chapel that has big windows facing The Strip. They also offer faux-weddings in case you want the experience without the commitment.

Eiffel Tower Experience

There are many great views in Vegas but few of them are as stunning as those from the Eiffel Tower Experience at Paris Las Vegas. Couples can get married atop the tower with other couples getting married at the Bellagio Fountains across the street as a backdrop.

Eli Roth's Goretorium

At this horror themed attraction, one of the gory tableaus is a wedding chapel where the groom takes the bride's hand... and arm... in marriage. If the thought of that amuses you, you can have a bloody good wedding of your own at their "Chap-Hell" with a vampire, zombie, or other gory creature of the night officiating.

Erotic Heritage Museum

If you want to get a head start on getting yourself ready for the wedding night, how about having your ceremony at this museum dedicated to all things sex. Sure, marriage is about more than just that but isn't that why they created honeymoons?

Kiss by Monster Mini Golf

I had an opportunity to watch a wedding at the chapel at this Kiss themed attraction and it was as silly as you'd expect it to be - but also kinda sweet. A Gene Simmons impersonator officiates and there will be singing involved.

The Mob Museum

Maybe a shotgun wedding is more your style? You can work out your Bugsy Siegel or Vito Corleone fantasies at this fantastic facility dedicated to the history of organized crime. Let's just hope your spouse is all you wake up in bed with afterward.

The Neon Museum

Among the rescued signs at the terrific Neon Museum are several from long-gone wedding chapels around town. The facility offers couples the chance to get married among these historic masterpieces, giving you a one-of-a-kind backdrop.

Mirage Volcano

Speaking of backdrops, picture yourself standing in front of a mountain of fire and water in the form of the Mirage Volcano. Get a night time slot for the best photo opportunities.

New York-New York Roller Coaster

Thrill seekers can come here to New York-New York and get married while flying along at more than 60 miles per hour on the hotel's roller coaster....

Stratosphere Thrill Ride Weddings

...or they can come here to The Stratosphere and get married on any of the hotel's sky-high thrill rides. With Sky Jump you could take the plunge literally!

Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel

Of all the independent chapels in town, this one is the most classically Vegas offering all manners of themed weddings from Elvis to vampires to showgirls to aliens and beyond. If you want to take your marriage seriously but want a fun wedding, this is the place you should go.


New Coaster for Circus Circus

To help celebrate its 20th anniversary, Adventuredome at Circus Circus is adding a new roller coaster that aims to be one of the most intense thrill rides in the world.

El Loco is the name of the beast that will be only the second of its kind in the US and one of only five in the world. The brand is famous amongst the coaster faithful for their stomach-churning, heart-stopping designs that have features not seen on any other rides.

The Adventuredome El Loco will start with a 70 foot climb that is followed by an over and under backwards dive that will create 1.5 negative vertical G's. This is different than regular g-force such as is experienced with sudden acceleration - negative 2 is about the most the human body can withstand.

The ride also features a 45-degree banked outward turn, a 180-degree turn that goes into a barrel roll, and a greater than straight down diving drop. The four-person open-air cars will give riders the sensation of flying during the 75-second ride.

To make room for the new ride, the classic Rim Runner water flume, one of the park's original attractions, will be dismantled and removed.

Construction will start in the next few weeks and El Loco should be creating screaming terror by December of 2013.

By the way, in case you are wondering, there has been no update or further progress on the Adventuredome's proposed water park. The hotel got approval to build it but has not announced any formal plans yet.


39.7 Million: Vegas Sets a Record

If Las Vegas seemed busier the last time you were there it wasn't your imagination. 39.7 million people came to visit Sin City in 2012, a new tourism record.

The previous high was in 2007 when 39.2 million visitors came to town, unaware that the entire economy was about to go in the crapper. The 2012 figures are 2.1% higher than 2011.

But as we talked about last week, more people doesn't necessarily mean more profits for the Vegas casinos. Despite raking in $6.2 billion is gaming revenue, most of the big companies on The Strip lost money in 2012 due to high debt loads and other expenses. Granted, revenue is up and losses are down but they are still losses.

By way of comparison, the 39.2 million people who came to Vegas in 2007 generated $6.8 billion in gaming revenue on The Strip, meaning the crowds are bigger but they aren't gambling as much as they used to.

They also aren't paying as much to stay in Vegas as they used to. In 2007, the average room rate was $132.09. In 2012 it was $108.08. Overall occupancy is way down, also. In 2007, the citywide occupancy rate was 90.4%. In 2012 that number is 84.4%.

How do more people generate fewer hotel room stays? By adding more hotel rooms. Since 2007, Palazzo, Encore, Aria, Mandarin Oriental, Vdara, and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (among others) have all opened driving up the total room inventory from 132,947 to 150,481. 18,000 new rooms means more than 6 million new "room nights," which means that even if the visitor numbers go over 40 million in 2013, there will still be fewer sold out signs on Las Vegas hotels.


Patient John Has Heart Attack

Most people won't recognize the name John Alleman but if you've been to the Heart Attack Grill in Downtown Las Vegas, you probably would recognize his face. Alleman became the restaurant's unofficial spokesperson, visiting and eating there almost every day and often standing out in front encouraging people to go inside for a meal. The restaurant even put his likeness on a clothes line available in the restaurant's gift shop - they called him Patient John.

The 52-year-old Alleman suffered a heart attack last week and is now on life support. He is not expected to recover. You may make your own comments about irony.

The Heart Attack Grill has gained worldwide attention for its flagrantly unhealthy burgers, the biggest of which - known as the Quadruple Bypass Burger - has two pounds of beef, 22 strips of bacon, and lots of cheese for a grand total of about 9,900 calories. Fries are cooked in pure lard and milkshakes claim to have the highest butterfat content of any in the world.

Whether or not there was a direct correlation between the restaurant's food and Alleman's heart attack is impossible to prove, of course, but this is not the first time a connection has been implied. At least two other incidents have sent customers to the hospital while dining there.

The owner of the restaurant, Jon Basso, has pledged to match any donations made to help Alleman's family pay for medical and burial expenses.


Show Updates: Britney, Broadway, and Classic Rock

After weeks of speculation an announcement from a big Vegas casino company about a Britney Spears residency has resulted in... more speculation.

Caesars Entertainment finally broke down and admitted that they are in talks to bring Brit to Vegas for a Celine Dion style headlining gig. That's not new news, really, as it has been reported pretty much anywhere that has anything to do with celebrities, entertainment, or Vegas. It's just the first time Caesars admitted it and while they weren't specific about which hotel or which showroom she would go into if they got her, everyone believes it is the 7,000 seat PH Live theater at Planet Hollywood.

Apparently there is one other mystery hotel still in the running to get Brit but no one else is stepping up to the jewel encrusted microphone to claim the other half of the competition. I still say it's either The Palms or Wynn/Encore.

The other thing that wasn't confirmed was the rumored price tag to get Spears to agree to the multi-year deal, which has been placed as high as $200 million. Feel free to gasp.

Meanwhile, there has been a great deal of "rocking" in Vegas lately (please extend your forefinger and small finger every time I write "rock" or any variation of the word from now on). There's Rock of Ages at The Venetian; the Rockhouse nightclub, also at The Venetian; the Hard Rock Hotel and Café, naturally; KISS by Monster Mini Golf; and Red Rock Resort.

Okay the last one doesn't have anything to do with the kind of "rock" I'm talking about but this does: LVH (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton) has announced a new show called Raiding the Rock Vault, a rock concert style show featuring various members of big time bands from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Although you probably haven't heard of any of the musicians, they come from groups you definitely have: Heart, Bad Company, Guns n'Roses, Survivor, Asia, Quiet Riot, The Offspring, Deep Purple, and more.

The production chronicles the history of rock and roll from 1948 to 1989 and includes classic songs from The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Eagles, Queen, Van Halen, AC/DC/, Journey, and others.

The show opens March 9 and will play Saturday through Thursday at 9pm. Tickets range from $49-$100 and are available on the hotel's website or through Ticketmaster.

If pop princesses and hair bands don't do it for you, maybe Broadway is more your style. You're in luck because The Smith Center for the Performing Arts has just announced their 2013-2014 Broadway series and it is a doozy.

It kicks off in August of this year with Les Miserables, currently enjoying a revival high due to the Academy Award nominated movie version starring Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway. Next up they'll move from the French Revolution to the Yellow Brick Road with the classic Wizard of Oz in September. October brings two big productions with War Horse, which also got a (non-musical) movie treatment recently from Steven Spielberg, and Sister Act, which of course started as a movie. 2013 ends with Evita, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical about the life of Argentina and how it should not cry for her.

2014 will see the return to Vegas of the hit ABBA-fest Mamma Mia!, which ran for five years at Mandalay Bay. That will be followed (with a feeling) by Flashdance: The Musical (supply your own collar-less sweat shirts, please) and The Gershwin's Porgy & Bess, proving that on Broadway there is a little something for everyone. The season wraps up with the acclaimed musical Once and finally with the mega-award winning The Book of Mormon in June and July.

Right now they are only offering season tickets to existing subscribers. New subscriptions will be offered in May and if there are any seats left, they will be offered on an individual basis in the weeks before the shows.


Vegas4Visitors Weekly Awards

The Do You Have a Light Award of the Week goes to Light, the upcoming Cirque du Soleil nightclub, which has released artist renderings of what it will look like when it opens on April 26, 2013. The venue at Mandalay Bay will feature Cirque performers and atmosphere along with high-tech nightclub trappings and superstar DJs including Skrillex and Zedd. I know that most of you have never heard of Skrillex and Zedd but trust me when I tell you that they are big deals.

The Going to the Dogs Award of the Week goes to Wynn Las Vegas Race and Sports Book Director Johnny Avello, who has released just-for-fun odds for the Westminster Kennel Club Show. Topping the long list is the Doberman Pinscher (I know, I was surprised also) at 7:1 odds followed closely by the Pointer at 8:1 and the Fox Terrier at 10:1. Bringing up the bottom of the list are several dogs like the Great Pyrenees and Border Collie at 600:1. The competition is held February 11-12 this year and will be broadcast on the USA Network.

The Roar Award of the Week goes to LVH (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton), which has inked a deal with the Red Lion hotel chain to market the property as a sister to the company's existing hotels. Red Lion has about 40 outlets primarily on the West Coast and Canada. LVH will stay LVH but it will be considered part of the Red Lion chain, so you can book through their website and earn and use Red Lion rewards points by staying there.