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!

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Thanks for visiting! Enjoy!



The Countdown: Top 10 Vegas News Stories of the Week

10. Programming Note: No Column Next Week (11/17/14)

I will be taking a miniature vacation later this week so there will be no column for next week, November 17, 2014 and limited updates on the Vegas4Visitors Facebook group as well. I'll be back on Facebook on next week and the column will return on November 24.

9. Imagine Dragons Surprise Strip Concert

Rock group Imagine Dragons decided to film their newest music video in a high profile location - on a stage at the Bellagio Fountains on the Las Vegas Strip. The group did three songs including "It's Time," "I Bet My Life," and their big hit "Radioactive" while thousands of surprised pedestrians jammed the sidewalks and bridges to get a better look. The members of Imagine Dragons are all from Las Vegas. Read more about the Bellagio Fountains.

8. KISS Mini-Residency Begins at Hard Rock

The classic rock band KISS has started their mini-residency at the Hard Rock Hotel. The greatest hits style set runs through November 23 at The Joint but there are rumors that if it is as successful as ticket sales are rumored to be they could come back for another stint or stints in the future. No doubt the KISS themed miniature golf course across the street would love that. Read more about the Hard Rock hotel.

7. Mustache Rides?

This is one of those times when I think it would be better to just leave my snarky comments out of it and jsut report the facts: the High Roller observation wheel will offer free rides in November to any man sporting a full mustache who donates $5 The Movember Foundation. That group encourages people to grow mustaches in November as a way of calling attention to men's health issues like prostate and testicular cancer. I wonder if they will be giving away t-shirts. (okay, one snarky comment) Read more about the High Roller.

6. High Roller To Stop Spinning (For a Special Occasion)

If you have been on (or near) the High Roller observation wheel you have probably noticed that it doesn't stop spinning - a fact that can make boarding the thing a bit of a challenge. But this New Year's Eve the wheel will stop turning just before the fireworks start blasting during the last few minutes of 2014. They are booking cabins to groups who want to ring in 2015 aboard the world's tallest observation with packages that include a full bar and/or champagne, priority boarding, and more at rates that start at $2,500 for one of the pods for 40 people. Read more about the High Roller.

5. Britney Spears Day

Thursday, November 5 was officially christened Britney Spears Day in Las Vegas. The singer attended a ceremony at The Linq promenade where she got a "Key to the Strip" and then rode the High Roller observation wheel with a bunch of other Britneys (of multiple spellings) who got to ride for free that day. 100 lucky Britneys got tickets to her show at Planet Hollywood, which the pop starlet announced will now be helping to fund the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation. $1 of every ticket purchase will go to the charity. Read my review of the Britney Spears show.

4. Festival Fountain at Forum Shops Removed

The Forum Shops Fountain Shows were one of the last remaining bits of cheesy Vegas silliness but now they are only half as cheesy since one of the two fountains has been removed. The original Festival Fountain toward the front of the mall, which had moving statues with lasers and other weirdness is gone. This leaves only the newer Atlantis Fountain, located at the back of the mall, to carry on the kitsch. The latter got a makeover last year that added more special effects so it will probably stick around. The gods are not amused. Read the full review of the Forum Fountain Shows.

3. Studio B Buffet Preps for 5 Millionth Guest

The Studio B Buffet at M Resort has been serving up millions of meals for the last several years - almost 5 million to be exact. The hotel is anticipating the arrival of the 5 millionth guest sometime during the month of November and to commemorate the occasion, the lucky guest will be awarded with a grand prize package, although they are not saying what that prize package actually is. Hmmm.... a free buffet for life? All the mashed potatoes you can eat? A pony?! We'll find out when #5,000,000 walks in. Read the full review of the Studio B Buffet.

2. Umami's Pumpkin Spice Burger

There are several reasons to visit the SLS Las Vegas but one of the biggest is the branch of the Umami Burger chain that has opened there. To celebrate fall, the restaurant is adding the Pumpkin Spice Latte Burger, which will be available at all participating locations starting November 5, 2014. For that day only it'll be the price of a Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks, just $4. After that it goes up to $12. The Pumpkin Spice Latte Burger features Umami Burger's signature beef patty with a garlic aioli, tempura Kabocha (an Asian winter squash), spiced Mascarpone and a coffee glaze. Read the full review of Umami Burger.

1. Neon Museum Dresses Up for the Holidays

The Neon Museum Boneyard's collection of more than 150 vintage neon signs will be illuminated with a special, holiday-inspired palette of lights - red, green, gold, blue and white - beginning Friday, November 28 through Thursday, January 1. All visitors taking night tours of the Neon Boneyard will be able to experience the seasonal lighting with tickets costing $25. In addition, all nighttime visitors can now see the recently restored and electrified Jerry's Nugget and Liberace Museum signs, installed in the Neon Boneyard this fall. Read more about the Neon Museum.


New Show Heading to Wynn Las Vegas

More than a year after Garth Brooks moved out, the showroom at Wynn/Encore will finally be getting a full-time resident with a new show debuting in just a few weeks. Steve Wynn's "ShowStoppers" brings a cast of 34 singers and dancers, backed by an on-stage 30-piece orchestra, to the theater starting December 16th.

The jukebox musical trend - where they cobble together a bunch of popular songs to create a show as with "Rock of Ages" or "Mamma Mia!" - hits its meta-Zenith here with what can best described as a jukebox musical of musical numbers. The 90-minute production is composed of many quintessential numbers from some of the most celebrated composers and lyricists of Broadway. Names like Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Marvin Hamlisch are on the credits list with more than 20 songs from 11 iconic musicals including "All That Jazz" from Chicago, "Cabaret" from Cabaret, "You're The Top" from Anything Goes, "Luck Be A Lady" from Guys and Dolls, "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from Gypsy, and more.

Combined, the musicals that comprise the scene-stealing catalogue of ShowStoppers have earned 43 Tony Awards.

"ShowStoppers" is inspired by a birthday gift Wynn gave to his wife, Andrea. A company of musicians, singers, and dancers created a revue that included a hand-picked selection of Steve Wynn's favorite numbers from the best of Broadway that makes audiences literally stand up and cheer - true show stoppers. He then translated that intimate production to the big stage at Wynn.

Wynn assembled an all-star and award-winning creative team to turn the inspiration from the birthday party into what has become "ShowStoppers" including director Phil McKinley, most recently with Broadway's "Spiderman: Turn off the Dark;" choreography by three-time Emmy Award-winner Marguerite Derricks; costume designer Suzy Benzinger, recently the head costume designer for the Oscar award-winning film Blue Jasmine; Emmy Award-winning musical director David Loeb; and hair and makeup designer Luc Verschueren.

Ticket prices are $90 and are on sale now through the Wynn Las Vegas box office. There will be eight shows a week: 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays; 7:30 and 10 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; dark on Sundays and Mondays. All guests must be age five or older; children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.


New Year's Eve Room Rate Report

If you haven't made plans for how you're going to ring in 2015, there are still plenty of rooms left available in Las Vegas although as usual you're going to have pay dearly for one.

Earlier this week I did a survey of many of the major hotels in Las Vegas to see what they were charging for the holiday period and found that prices are about where you'd expect them to be, which is to say high for midweek but not terribly outrageous for New Year's Eve. Since the holiday in the middle of the week - a Wednesday night - it could further raise expenses since may people will want to extend their trips through the first weekend of January.

For the record, I checked prices via the Internet direct through each hotel's website for the lowest priced standard accommodation at double occupancy with a check in on Tuesday, December 30 and a check out of Thursday, January 1. The rates listed do not include resort fees, taxes, or other miscellaneous charges.

The highest prices I found were, unsurprisingly at the hotels that normally have high prices although we have a new kind of "expensive hotels" this year. The Cromwell is asking an almost shocking $1,510 for the two nights. Compare this to Wynn/Encore, normally at the top of the heap, but this year asking $1,298 for the two nights. Granted at Wynn you have to add another $203 for the required 3rd night minimum stay through January 2, but still.

FYI, lots of hotels were not allowing check-ins on December 31 or are requiring two night-minimums but Wynn/Encore was the only one that demanded three nights.

Only a few bucks below The Cromwell is Nobu, the boutique hotel at Caesars, which is charging $1,468 for the two nights.

Not far behind those was The Cosmopolitan at $1,100; Caesars Palace and Bellagio both at $1,048; and the Mandarin Oriental at $1,030.

At the other end of the scale are the typically cheap hotels, which are also pretty cheap by comparison. A bare bones Manor room at Circus Circus is going to run you $348 total for the two nights; Riviera at $378; Stratosphere at $445; and Luxor at $490; and Excalibur at $508.

The best deals on The Strip in terms of rate for what you get would probably be at Treasure Island, where you can two nights for $494 or at Monte Carlo which is asking $578. The most shocking price I saw was at Bally's, which is asking $1,042 for the two nights. I think that's wishful thinking.

Downtown and the neighborhood casinos were the only places where I saw "Sold Out" signs with the Cannery and Eastside Cannery, California, El Cortez, Fremont, M Resort, and Main Street Station all saying they have no room at the inn.

Those off Strip hotels are cheaper than what you'll pay along Las Vegas Boulevard. Some examples include $220 total at both Fiesta Henderson and Fiesta Rancho, $250 at Boulder Station, $268 at the Gold Coast, $318 at The Downtown Grand, and $348 at the D Las Vegas to name a few. The absolute rock bottom cheapest I found at any hotel I checked was at Sante Fe Station on the far north side of town, which is asking $215 for the two nights.

In case you're wondering, the hotels that used to be cheap when they were known as The Sahara and the Imperial Palace are not very cheap now that they have their new identities. The SLS Las Vegas is asking $613 for their almost microscopic smallest room and The Linq Hotel is asking $654.

If you are interested in extending your stay, it's worth noting that rates for the Friday and Saturday January 2 and 3 are below average for a weekend at most hotels so if you want to add those days you could get a good deal. For instance, Mandalay Bay is currently advertising $110 per night on January 2-3, an almost unheard of low price for a weekend at that hotel.

Note that these rates may have changed by the time you check.

Boulder Station$90$160$250
Caesars Palace$469$579$1,048
CaliforniaSold OutSold OutSold Out
The CannerySold OutSold OutSold Out
Circus Circus$99$249$348
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas$450$650$1,100
The Cromwell$695$815$1,510
The D Las Vegas$149$199$348
Downtown Grand$119$199$318
Eastside CannerySold OutSold OutSold Out
El CortezSold OutSold OutSold Out
Fiesta Henderson$70$150$220
Fiesta Rancho$110$110$220
FremontSold OutSold OutSold Out
Four Queens$150$190$340
Four Seasons$329$529$858
Gold Coast$129$139$268
Golden Gate$129$169$308
Golden Nugget$149$239$378
Green Valley Ranch$200$250$450
Hard Rock Hotel$269$389$658
M ResortSold OutSold OutSold Out
Main Street StationSold OutSold OutSold Out
Mandalay Bay$245$445$690
Mandarin Oriental$405$625$1,030
MGM Grand$205$465$670
Monte Carlo$179$399$836
New York-New York$199$460$659
Palace Station$80$150$230
Planet Hollywood$360$416$776
The Plaza$169$199$368
Red Rock Resort$190$280$470
Sam's Town$150$165$315
Sante Fe Station$95$120$215
Silver Sevens$180$230$410
SLS Las Vegas$269$344$613
South Point$90$150$240
Sunset Station$100$160$260
Texas Station$140$140$280
Treasure Island$199$295$494

Attraction Review: VooDoo Zipline

I'm still of the mindset that if you're looking for a thrill in Vegas go play a $100 per pull slot machine or get a lap dance at the nearest Strip club. But for those who prefer their thrills more in the thrill ride category, there are plenty of options including the extreme zipline-style attraction VooDoo Skyline at The Rio.

The "zipline style" caveat is important. This is not a traditional zipline where you get into a harness and then let gravity do its job between point A and point B - it is a motorized contraption that sends riders between the two hotel towers some 500 feet up above the pool.

The ride was designed, in part, by Stan Checketts, which is a name most of you have never heard of but is quite the big deal amongst the thrill ride faithful. He and his company were responsible for such high-profile adrenaline pumpers as the El Loco coasters (one of which is now at Adventuredome) and the Big Shot at The Stratosphere among others.

The experience here starts on the second floor shopping area in the Masquerade Village part of the casino. Here you pay your money, sign a bunch of papers that say your relatives won't sue if you wind up as a stain on the Rio's pool deck, and then wait to be escorted upstairs. Alternately, when the nightclub is open there's a desk out on the patio where you can sign up if you haven't been partying too hard at the adjacent bar - anyone deemed too inebriated will be politely asked to step out of line by the bouncer-like ride attendants.

You can't keep anything in your pockets or carry anything with you but they have small lockers to hold your stuff while you fly.

Then you are strapped into a seat that is almost like one you'd see at a ski-lift, with a high-back and a full bench that accommodate up to two people with their legs dangling. You start at the top of the VooDoo tower at the nightclub some 500 feet up and then the seat is sent the length of the line to the lower Impanema tower via a motor that propels riders at speeds up to 30 miles per hour over the pool.

Once you get to the other end, you go back to the starting point... backwards!

Although it operates during the day, it's probably best in a lot of different ways to ride it at night. It's the only thrill ride associated with a nightclub so that's unique, but the views from up there are downright spectacular so there are few better ways to see the lights of Vegas.

It is appropriately terrifying. I will freely admit that I refused to do it so I can't give a first-hand account of what the experience is like but everyone I saw riding it ranged between a little and a lot freaked out beforehand and exhilarated afterward so that bodes well for the thrill ride fans out there. I'd say it's more extreme and scarier than the SlotZilla zipline (which I did) but not as much as the rides atop the Stratosphere Tower, which I refuse to do under any circumstances no matter how dire. If I had been able to have a shot (or two) of liquid courage, I might have wound up in the Skyline chair so I am grateful that the bar wasn't open.

The ride is open from noon until midnight daily but it is worth noting that no one under 21 is allowed to ride after 8pm. You must be at least 48 inches tall to ride, weigh no more than 300 pounds, and no more than 450 pounds combined for two riders.

VooDoo Zipline
Rio Las Vegas
3700 W. Flamingo Rd.
Las Vegas, NV 89103
Mon-Thu 12pm-12am
Fri-Sun 10am-12am
Vegas4Visitors Grade: >B+


Attraction Review: GameWorks

When GameWorks left The Strip in 2013 it took with it one of the few family-friendly destinations that Las Vegas had to offer. You could almost hear parents saying "What am I going to do with the kids now? There's only so much time I can spend at Adventuredome!"

Well good news, Mom & Dad, Gameworks is back and the even better news is that the new version has enough to keep you entertained as well. And I'm not just talking about the full bar, although that helps, I'd imagine.

This incarnation of the entertainment complex is located at the Town Square shopping center, about a mile south of Mandalay Bay. If you don't have a car, it's a $10-$15 cab ride, a quick hop on the SDX or Deuce bus lines, or a ride on the free Town Square shuttle bus that departs regularly from Planet Hollywood and the Tropicana on The Strip. For orientation's sake, it is located at the very back of the property, closer to Interstate 15 than to Las Vegas Boulevard.

The facility packs a lot of fun and games into their 37,000 square-foot space. There is a big arcade with both high-tech, interactive experiences (Super Bikes, Pac-Man Smash, Virtual Cop, Super Shot Basketball, etc.), which you play for fun and high scores, and more traditional arcade style games that you play for tickets that can be redeemed for merchandise in the small gift shop.

If the virtual world is more appealing to you they have an eSports lounge with 60 gamer quality PCs loaded with hundreds of different games plus X-Box and Playstation consoles. You can either play alone or network in your friends, plus you can even bring your own console if you want and plug it into their system.

An 8-lane bowling alley has all the latest high-tech scoring systems with a cosmic bowl style look and feel and there are a couple of billiards tables as well.

If all that fun is making you hungry or thirsty, there is a full restaurant with everything from nachos and wings to sandwiches and steak, plus a full bar serving a bunch of craft beers on tap and in bottles and specialty cocktails. Although kids are restricted from the bar area, adults may take their cocktails anywhere in the facility.

Costs depend on how much you want to play and how long. You can buy either credits or time, with a basic 20 credit card costing $5 plus a $2 activation fee for new cards (which can then be reloaded). The more you pay the more credits or time you get, obviously, and the cards work on every game and attraction in the facility. Bowling ranges between $5 and $7 per game depending on the day of the week and time of day you are playing plus shoe rental. The eSports stations are $5 per hour. In other words, that $20 you were going to lose in 10 minutes on a slot machine can provide you with a lot more entertainment time here.

Of course being a family friendly place means that it draws lots of families. If you want to play games but don't want to be around children, I suggest you get your own gaming console and hole up in your room at the hotel.

With as many entertainment options as they have, GameWorks' return to Las Vegas should be welcome news to more than just parents of bored teenagers.

Town Square
6605 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Sun-Thu 11am-12am
Fri-Sat 11am-1am
Vegas4Visitors Grade: A