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VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
July 28, 2014
The Countdown: Top 10 Vegas News Stories of the Week
10. Big Names Planned for iHeartRadio Festival
Every year in September, the streaming music service iHeartRadio has a big two-night music fest in Vegas and it's often most star-studded event of the year. This year's appears to be no different with a line-up that includes Taylor Swift, Coldplay, Usher, Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran, Motley Crue, Zac Brown Band, One Direction, Nicki Minaj, Paramore, Iggy Azalea, Train, Eric Church, Lorde, Calvin Harris, Bastille, Steve Aoki, Neon Trees, Lil Jon, Childish Gambino, and more. Most of the show is in the MGM Grand Garden Arena but some of the sets will be in The Lot - the parking lot/festival grounds across from The Luxor. Tickets are on sale now on ticketmaster.com (and often sell out quickly). Read more about the MGM Grand.
9. The Commissary Expands 99-Cent Menu Times
For a long time, Vegas was famous for its cheap eats - think $4.95 all-you-can-eat prime rib specials. But while most of those have disappeared there are still a few places you can get value meals including the fantastic Downtown restaurant The Commissary at The Downtown Grand. They have taken their popular 99-cent Taco Tuesday promotion and made it available all week long. Now you can get one of their signature brisket, chicken, or bean and cheese tacos for 99 cents Sunday through Thursday from 11am to 3pm and Friday and Saturday from 11am to 7pm. They have also created a new burger, fries, and a drink combo for $9.99 available during the same hours. Read my full review of The Commissary.
8. Score! at Luxor Closed
With very little warning, the sports themed attraction Score! at Luxor closed last week. The facility had various immersive exhibits that allowed you to pretend to be a football player, on a pit crew of a race team, a basketball star, and more, plus a huge gift shop of sports apparel and memorabilia. There is no word on why the attraction closed so suddenly but maybe people were more interested in betting on sports in Vegas than taking part in them? The hotel hasn't announced what it will do with the space yet. Read more about Luxor.
7. Vegas Oops of the Week
The passenger pick-up area at McCarran Airport's terminal one was closed for several hours on Thursday after a Holiday Inn Express shuttle van took a wrong turn into it and wound up being a little too tall for its own good. Several people sustained minor injuries in the crash and were taken to nearby hospital. Operations returned to normal at the airport but not, I'm guessing, for the shuttle van. Read more about McCarran airport.
6. munchbar Closed
The quick bite cafe munchbar at Caesars Palace closed recently, removing another relatively affordable place to have a meal in Vegas. I was a fan of their burgers and the fact that they were often open until the wee hours of the morning, offering a great place to satisfy the late night munchies. No word on what will happen to the space but it is most likely going to be incorporated into the new nightclub being built next door that is replacing Pure. Read more about Caesars Palace.
5. Krave Closing (Again)
The gay and lesbian nightclub Krave has had more incarnations in Vegas than just about anything else I can think of but it appears that it may have reached the end of its nine lives. The club shut down after this past weekend's parties and will be replaced, according to reports, by a new GLBTQ nightclub called Equilibrium, which may debut later this year. Krave operated for many years in a space at Planet Hollywood, then operated in a temporary space at The Rio, then moved into a former movie theater complex at Neonopolis in Downtown Las Vegas, and the most recently in the former Empire Ballroom space across the street from the Monte Carlo.
4. Mamma Mia! Closing at the Trop After 3 Months
When they announced that they were bringing the ABBA musical "Mamma Mia!" back to Vegas at The Trop, I have to admit that I said to myself "oh please don't make me have to go see this show again." I'd seen it twice when it was at Mandalay Bay years ago and while it's entertaining in a mindless way, seeing that show twice is plenty. Guess I won't have to worry about it because the show is closing August 3 after less than 3 months in business. Perhaps after playing on Broadway and in touring shows (and in Vegas) for years, everyone else had the same thought I did. No word on what will replace it, if anything. The photo, BTW, was just sent by the show's PR team last week with the cast spelling out the letters of the show while Vanna White presents them. Can I buy a "buh bye?" Read more about the Tropicana.
3. Bellagio Robbed; Suspect Caught
An armed man made off with more than $30,000 after police say he robbed a casino cashier cage at the Bellagio Friday night. The man approached the cage at around 8:30pm, pointed a gun at the cashier, and demanded money. The cashier, who was unharmed in the incident, complied and the gunman ran out of the casino on foot. Police caught up with the suspected robber on Sunday and he is now in custody. Read more about Bellagio.
2. Las Vegas Monorail Celebrates 10 Years (Minus 4 Months)
A series of open house events at the stations along the Las Vegas Monorail last weekend helped mark the 10 year anniversary of the system, which first began carrying riders on July 15, 2004. Of course the system hasn't actually been operational for 10 years because shortly after it opened it shut down again for four months while they tried to fix all the stuff that was wrong with it - including things that made parts of the trains fall off onto the roadways below. The system, which runs from the MGM Grand to the SLS Las Vegas (formerly the Sahara) has always struggled to meet its ridership and revenue goals and fell into bankruptcy in 2010 but emerged a year later with new management. Read more about the Las Vegas Monorail.
1. Shania Twain Show Closing
Although no one is saying why, Shania Twain is not going to be extending her residency at Caesars Palace past the original two year commitment she made when she signed up. There are a handful of shows in October and the last few will be in December. There are whispers that the show wasn't doing very well from a ticket selling perspective, with frequent appearances at the 2-for-1 ticket booths around town on show days. If you didn't get a chance to see it, don't worry - a DVD is being prepped for a Christmas 2014 release. No word yet on who, if anyone, will take the dates she was performing each year at the Colosseum but there are also whispers that Caesars wants to get someone who will generate the kind of buzz and younger audiences that Britney is bringing in at Planet Hollywood. Read more about Caesars Palace.
Lap of Luxury Special
The stock market is reaching record territories, most economic indicators are on the upswing, and things like interest rates and inflation remain low, all of which conspires to make people at least think they have more money to spend (even if they really don't). So what should you do with your newfound wealth? Put it into savings? Invest in real estate? An interest bearing bond, perhaps?
Nah! Blow it in Vegas!
Las Vegas is a city that was built on the concept of separating you from your cash (and savings and credit and debit and traveler's checks and things you can pawn for cash and...). There are very few places on earth where there are more ways to practice the religion of conspicuous consumption in such a concentrated area than The Strip. You can spend a year's worth of rent on a lavish hotel suite for a few days, lay down a few grand on one hand of cards, have meals that will cost you more than the average car payment, and buy... well... pretty much anything if you can afford it (and aren't afraid to ask). And you can often do this without ever leaving the building.
Let's take Wynn Las Vegas for example. You could stay in one of their luxurious Fairway Villas, which will run you a couple of grand per night at least, head to Bartolotta for dinner where you can spend $200 per person without even trying all that hard, walk into the casino and take a seat at one of their $500 minimum blackjack tables, and then, just because you were practicing restraint the rest of the night, head down the hall and buy yourself a Ferrari at the dealership located inside the hotel.
The rest of this week's column is all about extravagant ways to experience Vegas, including outrageous hotels, over-the-top dining, wild things to do, and expensive things to buy.
And just in case your finances are like mine, think of it this way... we may not be able to live big, but we can dream big, right?
Lap of Luxury: Extravagant Hotel Experiences in Las Vegas
Almost every hotel in Las Vegas has some sort of ultra-luxurious room product with square-footage bigger than the average house and a list of extravagant amenities longer than the line in which the regular people would have to stand to check in to their standard guest rooms. Butlers, indoor pools, DJ booths and dance floors, bowling alleys... you name it and you can probably find it in a Vegas hotel somewhere.
Let's take the Mansion at the MGM Grand for instance. These palatial estates range from 2,400 to 12,000 square feet and are decorated to resemble villas in Florence, Italy with antiques and masterworks from famous painters adorning the walls. They have multiple bedrooms, fireplaces, salons and parlors, indoor private pools, a full staff to cater to your every need, and more.
The thing is, though, that most of these rooms are not available to the average Joe or Jane. You can't just go on the website and find them in the inventory and usually are not rented out like standard hotel rooms. Instead they are reserved as perks for the highest of the high rollers; the people who regularly drop six, seven, or even eight figures in the casino over a weekend. Sure, if you have a big enough suitcase stuffed with enough cash, they will probably rent one to you, but there is nothing as tacky as published rates so who knows what it would cost.
So maybe you'd be better off at a place like the Villas at The Mirage. These two and three bedroom suites have all the comforts of (a really rich person's) home including private pools, putting greens, fireplaces, formal dining rooms, and more. Need more proof of their swank factor? This is where Michael Jackson lived for awhile when he was trying to figure out how to reestablish his career. They run between 7,000 and 8,500 square feet and will cost you, on average, about $2,000 per night... and that's during the week, off-season. If you can get one on a weekend - which is a big if - you're looking at more like $4,500 per night.
Caesars Palace has their own super-luxe villas that range from 9,500 to 12,000 square-feet and have everything from their own bars to private pools and 24-hour butler service. They actually advertise these on their website and say that costs start at $25,000 per night (not a typo) although considering the published prices of some similar places at other hotels, my guess is that's probably flexible.
Need something more outrageous? Head over to The Palms where their luxurious fantasy suites come with dreamy features that you won't find anywhere else. For instance they have a 9,000-square-foot, two level penthouse with a private infinity pool hanging off the top of the tower; an all-pink "Barbie" suite done up like the famous doll's dream house; a 10,000 square-foot "Hardwood" suite complete with its own indoor basketball court; and the "Real World" suite where the MTV reality show was filmed. These rooms are usually reserved for high rollers but if no one has them booked, you can rent them - just be prepared to write a check for several thousand dollars per night.
Perhaps the craziest thing about all of these temples to excess is not that they exist but that there are enough people who are willing to pay these kinds of rates to make their existence worthwhile to the hotels.
Lap of Luxury: Extravagant Dining Experiences in Las Vegas
Dropping $100 per person on a meal in Las Vegas is frighteningly easy. I can think of dozens of restaurants where a multi-course meal plus drinks, tax, and tip will go over that mark without much effort and you can probably break $200 if you try hard enough.
But there are places around town that take the idea of fine dining to a completely different level, either across their entire menu or with specialty menu items.
Consider Joel Robuchon at the Mansion at MGM Grand. This luxurious restaurant from one of the world's most award-winning chefs is easily the most expensive in Las Vegas. Their signature 16-course degustation menu will set you back $425 per person and that does not include tax, tip, or drinks.
Steakhouses are a dime a dozen in Las Vegas but no place does big beef better, or more expensively, than Old Homestead at Caesars Palace. Here you can get a 12-ounce Japanese Kobe steak for $350... ala carte.
In the mood for something sweet? The Golden Opulence Sundae at Serendipity 3 at Caesars Palace is built with several scoops of Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream, chocolate syrup from Amedei Porcelana, chunks of rare Chuao chocolate, exotic fruits and nuts, and then topped with 23 karat edible gold leaf. The cost? $1,000.
The most expensive regular menu item that I know about is at Fleur, the delightful restaurant by Hubert Keller at Mandalay Bay. Their Fleur Burger costs a cool $5,000. What makes a hamburger so special? The fact that it comes with an extremely rare bottle of 1995 Chateau Petrus on the side. You even get to keep the crystal stemware that you drink it out of. Don't want to carry that home in your suitcase? That's okay - they'll deliver the glasses to your home anywhere in the world.
Okay, now I'm hungry. If you need me, I'll be looking at the 99-cent menu at The Commissary.
Lap of Luxury: Extravagant Things to Do in Las Vegas
Some of the most popular things to see and do in Las Vegas are free - the Bellagio Fountains and the Mirage Volcano come to mind. But what if your wallet is overstuffed with casino winnings and you are looking for a way to spend it on a little Vegas excitement before heading back to your boring desk job? There are plenty of ways to do that and which one you choose depends on your tastes.
Animal lovers should start their spending spree at the Mirage Dolphin Habitat, where you can take part in their Trainer for a Day program. It allows you to be in the pool with the animals, learning how to care and feed for them and get a little play time in as well. It'll run you between $495 and $595 depending on the time of year.
More interested in sports? How about a tee time at Shadow Creek Golf Club. It was originally built by Steve Wynn for guests of Bellagio and his other resorts at the time and is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful, and most exclusive, courses in the world. Putting the little ball on the little piece of wood will cost you around $500.
If you need a little more adrenaline, consider the Richard Petty Driving Experience. This attraction allows you to get behind the wheel of a NASCAR race car and take it out for a little spin on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Packages start at a few hundred bucks but why not go all in for the Advanced Racing Experience, which includes training plus 40 laps around the track for only $3,500.
But the real big spenders these days are heading to the city's nightclubs. No, I'm not talking about the $40 cover charges or the $18 drinks - I'm talking about places like Hakkasan, Light, or XS where bottle service at a VIP next to the dance floor can easily run you $10,000 and go much higher than that depending on how many people you have and how much you're drinking.
Not pricey enough for you? Okay, check out Hyde Bellagio, where you can get an opportunity to launch your very own show of the Bellagio Fountains. They will present you with a gold plated box that has a big red button in it to push that starts the dancing waters. It includes a bottle of Armand de Brignac Brut Gold Ace of Spades that comes in a bottle equivalent to roughly 40 regular bottles. The cost is a cool quarter of a million bucks - $250,000.
But wait, we can get even more outlandish than that. The recently opened Drai's on the rooftop of The Cromwell is offering open customized fireworks packages that allow guest to choose from a menu of options and then press the button to launch them. They come with bottles of Dom Perignon and start at a measly $20,000 but can go all the way up to $737,000 if you want the private Boeing 737 plane to fly you and 100 of your friends to Vegas, each of whom would get their own bottle of champagne.