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VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
October 6, 2014
The Countdown: Top 10 Vegas News Stories of the Week
Country Fest Kicks Up Heels in Vegas
The inaugural Route 91 Harvest Festival hit Vegas this past weekend with shows from some of country music's biggest names including Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, Dwight Yoakam, and more. The event happened on the newly christened "MGM Resorts Village," a parking lot across the street from Luxor that was covered with fake grass, tents, a stage, food vendors, and porta-potties. There is no formal report on the attendance figures for the event but anecdotal stories say they did booming business the entire weekend. Organizers hope to make it an annual event.
Strip Harley Dealership Opens
And by that I mean the Harley Davidson dealership on The Strip, not one at which people strip. Although that would be interesting, too. The big new facility is 55,000 square feet of motorcycle madness with a merchandise store, a snack bar (with free Wi-Fi), and sales, service, and rentals of the iconic choppers. It is located within wheelie distance of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign on the South Strip. The soft opening was this past week and a grand opening is expected later this month.
Britney Slot Machines
Of all the big slot machine theme debuts at the Global Gaming Expo this week - everything from Friends to Ellen to the Big Bang Theory to Duck Dynasty - the one that has been getting kind of crazy buzz is the new Britney Spears slot machine. It features a tall, curved screen and plays songs like Toxic, Crazy, and Hit me Baby with both audio and video snippets. Between this and her recent announcement that she was extending her Vegas residency at Planet Hollywood through 2017, Sin City is going to have to be renamed Brit City soon. Read my review of the Britney Spears show.
Sinatra Show to Replace PANDA!
A Frank Sinatra tribute show is going to replace the Chinese acrobatics show PANDA! at The Palazzo. I made a lot of fun of the PANDA! show based on its concept, which is supposed to be sort of like "Kung Fu Panda" meets "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" complete with a guy in a giant panda suit trying to rescue the human woman he is in love with. I resisted seeing it because I was certain it wasn't going to last long but it will have made it almost a year by the time it closes, bolstered in part by investment from China. The new show stars impressionist Bob Anderson and had a very successful test run earlier this year at the hotel. PANDA! closes in December and the Sinatra show opens in January 2015. Read my review of Palazzo.
World's Longest Concert at Ri Ra Happening Now
Head over to Ri Ra Irish Pub at Mandalay Bay over the next couple of weeks at pretty much any time of the day or night and you're going to hear some music. The bar/restaurant is attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the longest concert ever by having more than 16 days of almost non-stop live music. The rules say they can have 25 second breaks between songs and 5 minute breaks between sets but other than that it will be live bands, some of which have flown in from Ireland to participate. The record will be broken sometime on October 17 but they may keep going after that - it'll probably depend on how much of the other type of Guinness is involved. Read my review of Ri Ra.
KOA Taking Over Sam's RV Park
A few weeks ago I told you about the closure of the KOA RV park at Circus Circus, which was shut down in order to make way for the new festival grounds being built for the Rock in Rio and other concerts. Now it seems that KOA is getting a new lease on life in Vegas as it takes over management of the Sam's Town RV park. The company, which has campgrounds around the country, is going to run the day to day operations of the 500-space park, the biggest in Las Vegas. The Circus Circus park will actually reopen in a much smaller format next year, down to 170 spots from the more than 400 it has now, but it won't have the KOA branding anymore. Instead it will be run by MGM Resorts. Read more about Sam's Town.
Restaurant Shakeup at Bellagio
Circo, one of the original restaurants that opened with Bellagio in 1998 closed last week and will be replaced by a new concept called Lago by Chef Julian Serrano who has Picasso at the hotel and his Julian Serrano restaurant at Aria. Lago will feature Italian specialties and capitalize on some of the best real estate in town with both indoor and outdoor patio views of the Bellagio Fountains. It should open in March of 2015. Read my review of Bellagio.
Cirque Beatles Meets Las Vegas Philharmonic
As if you needed another reason to want to go to the Life is Beautiful festival, they have just added a special performance that will combine Cirque du Soleil's LOVE, featuring the music of The Beatles, with the acclaimed Las Vegas Philharmonic. The 40 minute show will feature orchestra versions of some of The Beatles classic tunes along with Cirque style aerialists, acrobatics, and more. It's planned for Sunday, Oct 26, the closing day of the 3-day festival that also features music by Kanye West, OutKast, Lionel Richie, and more; food from Giada, Cat Cora, and more; art, a speaker series, and too many other things to list here. Get more information and tickets at lifeisbeautiful.com.
Roy Turns 70
A little more than a decade ago it looked like Roy Horn of the famed illusionist duo Siegfried & Roy wouldn't make it to his 60th birthday following an onstage attack by a white tiger. Last Friday, October 3, Horn celebrated his 70th birthday at Mandalay Bay with a private party at Holly Madison's 1923 Bourbon and Burlesque and a trip to see Michael Jackson ONE, both at Mandalay Bay. Siegfried and Roy were the hottest ticket in Las Vegas for decades with shows at the Tropicana, The Frontier, and for the last 15 years of their career at The Mirage. The attack happened during a performance in October of 2003 when the big cat bit Horn in the neck and dragged him offstage. To this day Horn insists that the tiger sensed he was having a stroke and was merely trying to protect him. Read my review of Michael Jackson ONE.
Haze Nightclub To Close
This is actually getting a little crazy. To show you how serious and high stakes the nightclubs wars in Vegas are, the former king of the hill Haze at Aria is going to close right after Halloween weekend. When it opened just four years ago, it was THE place to be - I remember lines out the door. Now it apparently can't compete with places like Drai's, Hakkasan, Light, and presumably the huge new club that is replacing Pure at Caesars Palace (which was 10 years old when it closed). No word on what will replace it but it will certainly be another nightclub that will try to outdo all of the others, which will probably cause some other big nightclub to close and get redone into something that will outdo those and on and on and on it will go... Read my review of Haze (while you still can).
Downtown Summerlin Preview
Las Vegas is a shopper's paradise and a retailer's dream, with some of the highest grossing stores in the world located. Shopping is often listed as one of the top reasons that people visit the city and starting this week there will be an entirely new place designed to lure them to break out their credit cards.
Downtown Summerlin is massive new retail, entertainment, and (eventually) residential complex that is located on the far west side of town, right next door to Red Rock Resort. The first phase of the planned 200 acre complex opens Thursday, October 9 and will feature 125 stores and restaurants in an outdoor, walkable and drivable facility similar to Town Square just south of The Strip and The District near Green Valley Ranch.
The first wave of tenants is impressive and includes Dillard's and Macy's as the main anchors along with American Eagle, Bath and Body Works, BCBG Max Azaria, Envy, Express, Forever 21, Guess, Hot Topic, J. Jill, Lush Cosmetics, Michael Kors, Nordstrom Rack, Old Navy, Sephora, True Religion, and White House | Black Market among others.
There are about two dozen dining options, ranging from sit down restaurants to quick serve bites. A few examples include California Pizza Kitchen, Capriotti's Sandwich Shop, Earl of Sandwich, Five Guys Burger & Fries, Red Robin, and Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill, plus a full Trader Joe's grocery.
A movie theater complex rounds out the entertainment offerings.
Downtown Summerlin was originally envisioned way back in 2006 when Red Rock Resorts was first built and was to be called the Shoppes at Summerlin. Construction was halted in 2008 when the economy went south but resumed last year. This is planned to be the first phase of development, with future phases including more stores and restaurants, condominiums and other residential, office space, and more.
The complex debuts with a street festival Thursday October 9 through Sunday, October 12. Thursday night will feature a light show and fireworks along with bands and DJs; Friday is more bands and DJs plus kids' activities, street performances, and more; Saturday is more of the above plus a fashion show; and Sunday will feature jazz bands.
For more information visit downtownsummerlin.com.
Show Review: Boyz II Men
How's this for a bit of trivia? In 1992 Boyz II Men broke a record that had formerly been held by Elvis Presley for the most weeks at number one on the Billboard charts when their single "End of the Road" stayed at the top for 13 weeks. That record was broken in 1994 by themselves when "I'll Make Love To You" spent 14 weeks at number one... and then they broke the record again in 1995 when their duet with Mariah Carey, "One Sweet Day" stayed at number one for 16 weeks. That record still stands today nearly 20 years later.
In other words, Boyz II Men had some serious game back in their day. The good news is that while their dominance of the radio charts may have ended, they still rule over the Las Vegas showroom at The Mirage, putting on a show that is energetic, entertaining, funny, emotional, and filled will some amazing vocal talent.
The staging here is pretty simple. There is some video now and then but for the most part you've got the three remaining members of the group - Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris, and Shawn Stockman - singing and dancing like they are still the teenagers they were when they had their huge hits.
Almost all of them are here - "Motownphilly," "It's so Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday," "End of the Road," "On Bended Knee," "A Song for Mama," and "I'll Make Love To You," to mention a few. Their harmonies, although enhanced by backup singers, are still tight and when the individual members step out front for solos they really show off their skills. A couple of a capella songs including "Still of the Night" prove that these guys can sing.
But it's not all just Boyz II Men back catalogue. They spend a big chunk of the show doing Motown hits, complete with classic Temptations style choreography. Hearing the group tear through songs like "Just My Imagination," "The Tracks of My Tears," "I'll Be There," and other hits of the era is a nice touch for a group that made its name on the Motown label.
Beyond the vocals is the personality. The guys are fun and funny, cracking jokes, teasing one another like brothers, and interacting with the audience to a level that I haven't seen in a concert in a long, long time. They wade out into the aisles and shake hands, hug people, and pose for selfies while they are singing without missing a note.
And of course there's the part where they sing "I'll Make Love To You" while handing out roses to women in the audience. Feel free to bum-rush the stage but just be aware that there are people standing next to you who are willing to fight for one of those roses. I saw some moments that seemed to be a hair's breadth away from slapping and hair pulling.
I will admit that I was never a huge fan of Boyz II Men, but I am happy to say that I am now.
Hotel Review: The Delano Las Vegas
When THEhotel opened in 2004 a lot of people made fun of THEname. Mostly me. Come on, you have to admit it was a bit silly.
It has only taken about a decade but that name has finally changed. In 2014, THIShotel became the Delano Las Vegas, a sister to the very popular, very expensive, very upscale Delano Miami Beach. Delano was originally supposed to come to Vegas at Echelon, the complex of hotels that was to replace The Stardust, but that project died and the company decided to go elsewhere.
The deal is strictly a licensing one - The Delano is still an MGM Resorts property, managed as a part of Mandalay Bay, the megaresort to which it is connected. But the Delano aesthetic that emphasizes a fun, social, upscale experience is in full effect here from the moment you enter to the moment you lay down and beyond.
The 64-story tower still operates as its own entity, complete with a separate entrance and check-in desk, its own elevators, its own restaurants and lobby bar, its own spa, and its own valet parking. If you wanted you could stay at The Delano and never step foot in Mandalay Bay.
Of course if you do choose to wander down the long hallway to the Bay you have a massive casino, more restaurants, shops, and entertainment waiting for you. A warning though - to get there you have to pass the showroom so try to avoid it just before and after show times so you don't get caught in the crush.
THEhotel was done in a stark black, white, and tan color scheme in the public areas. The Delano decor scheme is more subtle Miami Beach, with lots of white mixed with some desert earth tones and lots of emphasis on natural elements. See those two giant sandstone rocks in the entryway from the parking structure? They are from the desert near Jean, Nevada and are estimated to be 150 million years old.
Inside they have carpeting that is meant to evoke the Colorado River, a sculpture with hanging rocks, white sheers on the support columns, candles that come out in the evening, and mood music that changes as the day progresses. They even do things like change the fragrance in the air based on the time of day (mellow in the day and more energetic at night) and write cute, empowering sayings on the mirror just outside the elevator bay to give you a little pick me up as you head out to face the Vegas madness.
On the main level there is a coffee bar that serves up all sorts of exotic blends (and some standard ones also), a breakfast/lunch only restaurant called Della's Kitchen that focuses on upscale farm-to-table offerings, and a multi-level bar/lounge called The Franklin with lots of cozy seating, a fireplace, a DJ booth, and some cool lighting that evokes fireflies in the night sky. It's a fun and funky space that would actually make me consider relaxing in a hotel lobby, something I'm not usually prone to do.
The Bathhouse spa is still there and they made only a few changes to the menu and decor, which is good because it was already a stunner. The eye-popping space has lots of reflecting pools and waterfalls tucked into surprising places creating a coolly tranquil ambience. They offer the full range of services alongside the usual hot tubs and saunas so if you need to pamper your cares away this seems like a really good place to do it.
Or if you need to sweat your cares away there's also a fully equipped, high-tech workout room with all the latest treadmills and exercise equipment. I still don't understand why anyone uses these in Vegas but if you do, you're a better person than I am.
The restaurant and nightclub at the top of the tower will also be getting a makeover but the dining room will still be overseen by Chef Alain Duccase. It will be a version of his award-winning Rivea that is hugely popular in St. Tropez and London, serving French and Italian cuisine. That should debut in 2015.
The 1,117 suites in the Delano have the same footprint as they did when it was THEhotel, with a formal two-room suite including a living room and separate bedroom plus a full bath and a guest bath. The earth tones continue here but lighter, with more cream and tan giving the space a brighter feeling than they used to have with the dark browns that dominated. In the living room is a couch, a chair, a big desk with plenty of outlets and a connectivity panel for the 46" flat screen, a wet bar with a coffee maker, a mini bar with room to put your own items in it (at no extra charge), and more. The bedroom has a massive, tufted leather headboard that takes up most of the wall plus more comfy furniture, another TV, and a closet.
The bathrooms are marble affairs - big with a separate tub and shower and lots of high-end spa amenities from Malin and Goetz.
And of course you'll find the usual lineup of amenities including a safe, iron and board, Wi-Fi included in the resort fee, and more.
Of course all this luxury doesn't come cheap. Weekday rates are usually in the $150-250 per night range and weekends start at around $300 and go up from there (sometimes over $500), and that's before you include the mandatory $25 per night resort fee and the $20 per night valet parking fee. Yes, you read that last part right - paying to park. Although keep in mind that because the main entrance to the hotel is in the parking garage, the free Mandalay Bay valet parking is just a few feet away as are several thousand free self-parking spaces.
That's a heck of a lot of money to pay when you could probably get something next door at Luxor for a quarter of that. Whether or not it's worth it is a decision I can't make for you, but I'm inclined to say that if you want to pay these kind of rates there are very few hotels in this town that do what they are doing as well as they are doing it.
DELANO LAS VEGAS
Wayne Newton Ranch Auction
A bit of Vegas history is coming to an end with the auction of Casa de Shenandoah, the opulent ranch that used to be home to singer Wayne Newton.
Located on the east side of town near Sunset and Pecos, Newton built the 40-acre estate back in the 1970s and in its heyday it featured a Liberace-worthy mansion, guest quarters, stables, tennis courts, pools, an exotic animal menagerie, a classic car collection, and much more.
Money trouble in the 2000s forced Newton to sell the estate but he did so as part of a complicated agreement that would have turned the property into a tourist attraction. Plans were drawn up for a museum, a showroom where Newton would perform, and even a Wayne Newton themed car wash of all things. In exchange, Newton and his family was going to be allowed to continue to live there.
The entire project collapsed into finger pointing and accusations of fraud, in court proceedings that are still winding their way through the courts. In the meantime, Newton was forced to move out and the estate was sold to a Texas developer who spent a bunch of money to restore the property in the hopes of either moving forward with the Newton museum or finding a buyer who would be willing to keep it intact.
That hasn't materialized so the estate went up for auction last week. Although not official yet, new owners will most likely demolish the estate and build a new housing development there.