Weekly Column by Rick Garman

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Listapalooza Las Vegas #1: Vegas A-Z

Las Vegas really is a place that has almost everything, from A to Z. So with that in mind, I have curated the following list that gives my picks the best Vegas representative for each letter of the alphabet from the categories of Attractions, Dining, Hotels, Nightlife, Shopping, and Shows. The battle for some letters was fierce... let's see what won:

A - Absinthe

There is lots of competition here including the fabulous Alizé restaurant, the fun and informative Atomic Testing Museum, and the wonderful Aria hotel but I'm going to have to give A to this gleefully profane skewed take on Cirque du Soleil style theatrics that remains one of my favorite shows in town.

B - Bartolotta

I considered giving B to Bellagio, Blazing 7 Slot Machines, or even the Bonanza Gift Shop but in the end had to go with the most amazing Bartolotta and its deliriously fresh Mediterranean specialties.

C - The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Contenders here included Clint Holmes, Caesars Palace, and a trio of C-capped restaurants including Citizens Kitchen, Culinary Dropout, and The Cupcakery but The Cosmo takes the letter for its hip and fun updating of what a Las Vegas casino/hotel can be like.

D - Downtown Container Park

This terrific new addition to Downtown Las Vegas features shopping, dining, drinking, and a fire breathing praying mantis. That combo helped it beat out the worth options of The Downtown Grand and the Discovery Children's Museum.

E - Eat Downtown Las Vegas

It's the beignets, really, that made me tip the E to this wonderful little Downtown Vegas eatery over strong competition including Encore, Emergency Arts, and Exotics Racing.

F - Fountains of Bellagio

You can never go wrong with the iconic water show at the Bellagio, although I'll admit it was a tough choice considering the other possibilities. First Friday, the Fremont Street Experience, Fleur restaurant, or the Forum Shops would have made good representatives for the letter F.

G - Green Valley Ranch

I enjoy the Grand Canal Shoppes and think the Golden Nugget is one of Downtown's best hotels. Plus Gilley's, on the Vegas Strip at Treasure Island, is still a fun place for a rootin' tootin' good time. But this one was really no contest - G belongs to Green Valley Ranch, one of the best locals' hotel-casinos in town.

H - Hash House a Go Go

It's possible that the High Roller Observation Wheel will steal the H after it opens but for now that letter is owned by the delicious, twisted farm food at Hash House.

I - Insert Coin(s)

Just because there isn't a lot of competition for this letter doesn't mean that Insert Coin(s) was somehow a lesser choice. This fun video game inspired bar and nightclub is one of the best in Downtown Las Vegas.

J - Jeff Civillico

The crazed antics in comic juggler Civillico's show at The Quad will keep audiences of all ages entertained, from kids wowed by the stunts to adults appreciating his off kilter sense of humor. Other J options included JabbaWockeeZ at Luxor and the JW Marriott hotel.


The best burgers in Vegas are found here at Kerry Simon's joint at Harrah's. It's hard to beat that although the eye-popping spectacle of KÀ by Cirque du Soleil certainly came close to doing so.

L - L'Atelier

This one was tough. In restaurants you've got Michael Morton's Downtown "instant classic" La Comida and the Cajun wonders at Lola's. In nightlife there's the fun speakeasy concept of The Lady Silvia along with the Cirque du Soleil powered nightclub Light at Mandalay Bay. Plus, Le Rêve at Wynn Las Vegas is like Cirque's darker, more visually arresting sister. All worthwhile considerations but there was no way, really, for me to do anything other than give L to L'Atelier, the mind-blowing (and mind-blowingly expensive) restaurant at MGM Grand. Eat here and you will remember it for the rest of your life.

M - Michael Jackson ONE

This was probably the hardest letter for me to choose a winner in. I mean, look at the list of competitors: Mac King, Mystére by Cirque du Soleil, Mesa Grill, Mon Ami Gabi, Mirage Dolphin Habitat, The Mob Museum, Megabucks slot machines... the list goes on and on. But I remain in awe of the music, artistry, and Cirque presentation of Michael Jackson ONE at Mandalay Bay and so had to give it the M.

N - Neon Museum

Restoring and maintaining Vegas' history of neon art wins the N for the Neon Museum over it's only real competition New York-New York.

O - Old Homestead Steakhouse

The easy choice would have been to give O to O by Cirque du Soleil. I mean, it's right there - how obvious could it be? But I wound up going in a different direction, probably because I'm hungry as I write this. If you can afford it, there are no better steaks in town than found here at this temple to all things beef at Caesars Palace. An honorable mention has to go to the Oh My Gosh Ganache cupcake at The Cupcakery. Dessert, don't you know.

P - Penn & Teller

There were some good challengers here in the form of the Pinball Hall of Fame and the new Kerry Simon eatery in Downtown Vegas called Pork & Beans, but P is for the princes of prestidigitation, Penn & Teller, whose show at The Rio continues to be one of the smartest in town.

Q - The Quad

Okay, this one was mostly because there is no other Q worthy of even mentioning that I could think of. But in its defense, you kind of have to tip your hat to the changes being made at the former Imperial Palace. The rooms still need a LOT of help, but the casino, restaurants, bars, and other main parts of the building have gotten some seriously nice upgrades and its worthy of a nod.

R - Red Rock Resort

I thought about the fantastic Japanese delights at Raku Grill (I'm hungry, remember?) and the fun throwback shopping found at Retro Vegas, but this locals' resort takes the R-shaped cake for its combination of beautiful design, gorgeous rooms, and relatively affordable costs.

S - The Smith Center for the Performing Arts

It's possible that SlotZilla will zip past the competition when it opens in the spring, but for now The Smith Center is owning S for its wonderful blend of world-class performing arts center and intimate local venues.

T - Todd's Unique Dining

If you want gourmet quality food but don't want to pay gourmet prices, get off The Strip to this out-of-the-way delight that serves up some of the finest cuisine in Vegas. Other options included Table 10, Todd English PUB, Top of the World, Toy Shack, and my favorite table game, Three Card Poker.

U - Ultimate Texas Hold 'em

This table game is a relatively low-stress way to introduce yourself to the world of Texas Hold 'em. Plus it's the only U I could think of.

V - Vegas! The Show

I love this throwback revue at Planet Hollywood but I have to admit it was a tough choice given the wonderful, handmade concoctions at Vanguard Lounge.

W - Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign

Wynn Las Vegas would have been the obvious choice and of course you can't deny the most popular slot machine ever with Wheel of Fortune, but the sign is iconic and nothing says Vegas (literally) better.

X - XS

Here's another one where there wasn't a lot of choice but it doesn't mean this isn't a great nightclub. Located at Encore, it's one of the few that feels relatively grown up and remains one of the hottest in town.

Y - You

There wouldn't be Vegas without you, so you - whoever you are - win this letter. And yes, it's primarily because I couldn't think of anything else that started with a Y.

Z - Zombie Apocalypse Store

Grrr. Arrgh.


Listapalooza Las Vegas #2: Top 10 News Stories of the Week

#1 - The Cromwell soft opening April 21

Total Rewards players have gotten a bit of breaking news with word that The Cromwell, the fully revamped version of Bill's Gamblin' Hall, will have a soft opening on April 21. The casino and some of the other parts will apparently be operating on that day with the full resort, including Giada De Laurentiis' restaurant and Victor Drai's nightclub and pool area, featured in the grand opening May 21. Read more about The Cromwell.

#2 - El Loco Opens

The El Loco roller coaster is up and running at Adventuredome at Circus Cirucs, scaring the hell out of people apparently. The new ride is one of only six such extreme coasters in the world.

#3 - Erotic Heritage Museum Closes

One of my favorite attractions in Vegas is no longer, with the closure last week of The Erotic Heritage Museum. It was a fascinating, educational, and sometimes shocking look at human sexuality that both educated and entertained, but apparently a dispute between the respective owners of the building and the material that was housed in it led to the shutdown. The building owner says he wants to start a new sex museum and the exhibition owners say they want to find a new home but I wouldn't hold my breath.

#4 - Neon Museum Celebrates Women in March

Take a tour of the Neon Museum in March and you're going to hear some special stories about women's influence in Las Vegas history. Notable highlights include Helen Stewart, who sold her ranch to the man that would form Las Vegas on the land (and who would become the city's first postmaster); Mayme Stocker, who was the first person of any gender to get a legal gambling license; and Betty Willis, who designed the Moulin Rouge and Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Signs. The added info will be part of the regular tours throughout March. Read more about The Neon Museum.

#5 - Venetian & Palazzo Sites Back Up

A politically inspired attack brought down the websites for Venetian and Palazzo for nearly a week but everything is back up and running. A spokesperson for the company says that while employee's personal data may have been compromised, no customers were affected.

#6 - Double Barrel Roadhouse Opening March 7

The new honky-tonk themed restaurant and bar that is fronting Monte Carlo will be opening on March 7. It's located near Diablo's Cantina and is part of the revamp of the facades of the hotel and neighboring New York-New York. Read more about the project.

#7 - Hakkasan buys Angel Management

Hakkasan, the company behind the huge nightclub of the same name at MGM Grand, has purchased Angel Management Group, the company behind several Las Vegas and Atlantic City clubs and restaurants. This means that Hakkasan is now sisters with Pure at Caesars Palace, Wet Republic at MGM Grand, and LAX at Luxor plus the Social House restaurant at Crystals at CityCenter.

#8 - Prepaid Gambling Cards Approved

The Nevada Gaming Commission has approved use of prepaid gambling cards in slot machines in the state. Already used in New Jersey, the cards require you to register with the casino and then you can deposit money into an account from your bank (with limits of $2,000 per day). Then you just stick the card in the slot machine, enter a PIN, and start gambling - it will automatically deduct or add winnings to the card. The cards can also be used as regular debit cards elsewhere but the slot machines will only take these and not standard debit cards or credit cards. It'll take awhile before this technology starts rolling out in the casinos but expect to see it in the next few months.

#9 - Stratosphere Suicide

Neil Roberts, a 27 year old visitor from Britain, committed suicide last week by jumping off the top of the Stratosphere last week. According to witnesses he scaled two barrier fences and then leaped off the side, falling more than 800 feet to the street below. Family in England say they had heard from Roberts several times during his trip and he had been in good spirits, visiting the Grand Canyon and seeing Elton John. They say they are "mystified" as to why he would have killed himself.

#10 - Siegfried & Roy Getting a Park

The famed illusionist duo Siegfried & Roy will be getting their very own park in Las Vegas under a plan just approved by the county. The 20 acre park will be located along Russell Road between Maryland Parkway and Swenson, directly across the street from the new Terminal 3 facility at the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. The park may include a statue in their honor. Ground will be broken later this year but there is no official opening date yet. Siegfried & Roy were the top entertainment draw in Vegas for decades with a signature magic act that played at multiple hotels around town. The show ended when Roy was bitten by a tiger during one of the shows in 2003.


Listapalooza Las Vegas #3: The 7 Best Mexican Restaurants in Las Vegas

For a long time there were very few good Mexican restaurant in Vegas but now almost every hotel in town has one and there are even some notable independent joints worth knowing about. Here are my picks for the seven best in town:

#1 - La Comida

The food here is traditional Mexican - not the kind of stuff you'll find at fast food drive-thrus or cheesy chains, but the real, honest to goodness flavors that come from family kitchens. It's fantastic in ways that most Mexican restaurants aren't. Read the full review.

#2 - Tacos & Tequila at Luxor

Okay, I admit that this one gets up high on the list more for the margaritas than for the food, but the former are the best in town (period) and the latter is still good. Read the full review.

#3 - Pinches Tacos at the Downtown Container Park

This recently opened LA transplant is like the authentic version of fast food Mexican. The tacos are signature but check out the huge menu of options. Read the full review.

#4 - Diablo's Cantina at Monte Carlo

I still have happy dreams about the stuffed quesadillas here and their margaritas kick ass. Read the full review.

#5 - Border Grill at Mandalay Bay

There will soon be a second outlet of this south of the border favorite at The Forum Shops - proof, I think, that they are still serving up some of the best, spicy flavors in town. Read more.

#6 - Hussong's Cantina at Mandalay Bay

The original Hussong's claims to have invented the margarita, and while good, it isn't as good as the ones at Tacos & Tequila. Still, there food is fantastic and worthy of a spot on this list. Read the review.

#7 - Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace

It's kind of a stretch to put this one in the Mexican category - it's more of a southwestern inspired gourmet menu - but there are still enough of the flavors of the region, and they are so terrifically prepared, that it would be a shame not to include it here. Read the full review.


Listapalooza Las Vegas #4: 10 of the World's Largest in Vegas

Las Vegas holds a lot of world records for really big things. Here's a few of the best:

#1 - World's Largest Chocolate Fountain

The dreamy, flowing goodness at the Jean Phillipe Patisserie at Bellagio stands at 14 feet tall.

#2 - World's Largest Glass Sculpture

Fiori di Como in the lobby at Bellagio has more than 2,000 pieces of blown glass.

#3 - World's Largest Atrium

The pyramid at Luxor could reportedly hold 13 jumbo jets.

#4 - World's Largest Golden Nugget

On display, appropriately enough, at the Golden Nugget in Downtown Las Vegas, the "Hand of Faith" nugget weighs in at 61 pounds, 11 ounces.

#5 - World's Largest Observation Wheel

It's not quite open yet, but the High Roller at The Linq is already standing 550 feet tall, higher than any other similar wheel in the world.

#6 - World's Largest Permanent Circus

The acts under the big top at Circus Circus have been running for decades, also making it one of the longest running circus companies in town.

#7 - World's Largest Strip Club

There are actually two in Vegas that lay claim to this title - Sapphire Gentlemen's Club and Larry Flynt's Hustler Club are both over 70,000 square feet.

#8 - World's Largest Gift Shop

I don't know if this one is actually true or not, but the Bonanza Gift Shop on the corner of The Strip and Sahara has had this claim on their building forever so I'm going to give it to them.

#9 - World's Largest LED Screen

The bright as daylight display on the Harmon Corner mall, next door to Planet Hollywood, measures 65 tall by 320 long.

#10 - World's Largest Pinball Machine Collection

At the Pinball Hall of Fame of course.


Listapalooza Las Vegas #5: The 7 Most Historic Sites in Vegas

Looking for a little history in Las Vegas? Here are the places that made a mark on the town in ways that will never be forgotten.

#1 - Golden Gate Hotel (Main Street and Fremont Street, Downtown Las Vegas)

In 1905, this plot of land was the site of the land auction that would establish Las Vegas as a city. A year later in 1906, the Hotel Nevada became the first hotel to open in the state and is still in operation today as The Golden Gate. Read the history of Downtown Las Vegas.

#2 - El Cortez (7th and Fremont)

This hotel opened in 1941 and was owned for a time by Bugsy Siegel. It is the oldest hotel-casino operating under the same name in Las Vegas. Read the history of El Cortez.

#3 - El Rancho Site (Southwest corner of The Strip and Sahara)

This empty lot was the home to the first major resort on what would eventually become The Strip. Designed like an old-west village, El Rancho opened in 1941 and burned down in 1960. The lot has been empty ever since. Read the history of El Rancho.

#4 - The Pair O'Dice Site (Empty lot across from Wynn Las Vegas)

In 1930, the Pair O'Dice nightclub and casino opened on his plot of land and is believed to be the first major drinking and gambling destination on what would become The Strip. The fact that both drinking and gambling were illegal in 1930, only makes it more noteworthy. The building was later incorporated into the construction of The Frontier hotel and casino, which opened in 1942 and was imploded in 2007 to make way for a new hotel that was never built. The land remains empty today. Read the history of The Frontier.

#5 - The Flamingo

Bugsy's dream is the oldest continually operating hotel on The Strip, in business since 1946. Okay, technically it closed for a couple of months right after it opened so it's really only been in non-stop business since 1947, but it still holds the title. Read the history of The Flamingo.

#6 - Bally's

Originally opened in 1973 as the original MGM Grand, this was the site of a devastating fire in 1980 that killed 80 people and injured more than 700. Read the history of the original MGM Grand.

#7 - Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign

Erected in 1959, this sign on the southern end of The Strip has become one of the most instantly recognizable symbols for any city in the world. Read more about the sign.


Listapalooza Las Vegas #6: 7 Best Off the Beaten Path Bars

Intimidated by the wild nightclubs? Tired of the boring hotel bars? There are still plenty of places to drink in this town that offer up an interesting change of pace. Here are my picks for the best of the off-the-beaten path watering holes:

#1 - Atomic Liquors

It won't be off the beaten path for long, as the Fremont East Entertainment District continues to expand its reach, but for now the historic Atomic is still a relatively under-the-radar joint famous for its nuclear age cocktail specials and nods to Vegas' past. Read the full review.

#2 - The Lady Silvia

They make finding it intentionally hard so it is a no-brainer for off-the-beaten-track status, but if you can follow the breadcrumbs you'll be rewarded with a warm library of a space, a chill crowd, and some terrific hand-crafted cocktails. Read the full review.

#3 - The Griffin

Although located in the heart of the increasingly insane Fremont East Entertainment District, The Griffin still feels like a bit of an oasis, with its cave-like interior and cool vibe. Read the full review.

#4 - Artifice

Part dance club, part art gallery, this place is hugely popular with a local (read: not pretentious tourists) crowd. Read the full review.

#5 - Funhog Ranch

For the gays and lesbians in the audience, this is the Vegas version of the neighborhood bar that you probably go to in your town. Read the full review.

#6 - Velveteen Rabbit

Already enormously popular with the in-the-know local crowd, this fun and funky bar located on a street of mostly commercial stores in Downtown Vegas is worth knowing about. Read the full review.

#7 - Petrossian at Bellagio

I know it seems weird to put a bar in the middle of Bellagio, within view of the casino and lobby and the conservatory, in this category, but it's more because of its oasis-like quality - a sea of calm in the storm that surrounds it. Great people watching views and amazing cocktails, too. Read more about it.