MORE VEGAS INFO
VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
October 5, 2015
The Countdown: Top 10 Vegas News Stories of the Week
10. Plaza Adds Coin Slots
The retro appeal of hearing coins rain down into a metal bin at the bottom of a slot machine is hard to deny but many of the casinos that had installed the throwback devices eventually got rid of them because people weren't playing them as anything other than novelties. Witness the second floor of The D Las Vegas, which used to be all coin-based slots and now has none. But The Plaza has embraced the past with the addition of 30 coin machines that were rescued from the now closed Las Vegas Club across the street. Read more about The Plaza.
9. Bellagio Craps Cheats Steal $1.5 Million!
Four people, including two dealers and their friends, have been arrested after getting caught cheating at craps at Bellagio. The scheme involved the friends playing crowded tables and placing late bets or completely non-existent bets and getting paid for them anyway. The cheating went on for more than a year and the foursome allegedly took the casino for about $1.5 million. They are all under arrest charged with multiple counts of casino cheating and theft, which could get them decades in prison. Read more about Bellagio.
8. Sea Monsters Attack Mandalay Bay
Well, not really, but you can now get up close and really personal with some deep sea critters at Sea Monsters Revealed, a companion exhibit to the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay. Similar in concept to Bodies: The Exhibition at Luxor, Revealed uses plastination to preserve and display both the outsides, and insides, of 18 creatures from the deep and more than 150 different organs. Included are a 15-foot-long mako shark and an 18-foot long whale shark. The exhibit runs through October of 2016 and will cost you an extra $5 over the cost of the Shark Reef ticket. If you want to do just this, it's $12. Read more about the Shark Reef.
7. Rat Pack Reunited With Intersection
The Rat Pack has officially been reunited! A portion of Industrial Avenue, running behind casinos on the west side of The Strip, has been renamed Sammy Davis Jr. Drive and it hooks up with other streets named for famous Rat Pack members. Sammy Davis Jr. Drive starts at Sahara Avenue on the north and extends southward to where it meets Frank Sinatra Drive and Dean Martin Drive behind The Mirage. Street signs have already been swapped out and even Google Maps has updated their application.
6. Fall Arrives at the Bellagio Conservatory
The autumnal display is now open at the Bellagio Conservatory. It starts with a 33-foot-long vine-covered footbridge leading to a "talking tree" at the base of a watermill. Scarecrows and LED dandelions standing 14 and 18 feet tall are near the pond and there are giant pumpkins weighing between 400 and 1,000 pounds. The display is open daily 24 hours through November 30 and is free. Read more about the Bellagio Conservatory.
5. George Strait to Open Las Vegas Arena
The mystery "headliner" taking up a "residency" in the new 20,000 seat arena behind New York-New York has been announced - country music legend George Strait. I'm using the quotes because it's not exactly a residency even by the loose standards that have become commonplace in Vegas. Instead its four shows - two in April of 2016 when the arena opens and another two in September of 2016 although Strait has said that he will likely wind up doing more than just the four shows. Does that count as a headliner residency? You decide. Tickets are on sale now at ticketmaster.com. Read more about the Las Vegas arena.
4. John Fogerty To Do Mini-Residency at Venetian
Singer/songwriter John Fogerty, most famous as the lead of the seminal '70s band Creedence Clearwater Revival, will be doing a nine show mini-residency at The Venetian in January of 2016. It's a part of Fogerty's "1969" tour, celebrating the year that CCR released three albums. Expect to hear songs like "Proud Mary," "Bad Moon Rising," and "Down on the Corner." Tickets go on sale October 9 at ticketmaster.com. Read more about The Venetian.
3. Martorano's Serving up Pasta Eating Championship at Paris Las Vegas
On Saturday, October 10 at 1 p.m., Major League Eating and Martorano's at Paris Las Vegas will partner to present the first Martorano's Masters World Pasta Eating Championship. Taking place under the Arc De Triomphe at Paris Las Vegas, the contest will bring 12 professional and amateur competitive eaters together to eat as much Martorano's signature pasta as they can in 8 minutes. The event is free and open to the public. The iconic South Philadelphia cook Steve Martorano will host the event in honor of National Pasta Month and the first anniversary of his restaurant at Paris Las Vegas. Prizes include $2000 for first place, $1000 for second place, $500 for third place $350 for 4th place and $150 for 5th place. Read more about Paris Las Vegas.
2. Uber/Lyft Update
The ride-sharing apps are up and running in Las Vegas, but not without their share of hiccups, most notably the citations drivers are getting for operating at the airport. The companies have not worked out details with the county and airport yet to allow them to pick up and drop off passengers at McCarran but that hasn't stopped drivers from doing so leading to dozens of tickets. Uber and Lyft have said they'll pay the fines while things are getting worked out and have instructed their cars to stay away from airport property. Read more about ride sharing in Las Vegas.
1. Wynn Ferrari Dealership To Close
When Wynn Las Vegas opened in 2005 it made a big statement about the level of luxury guests could expect by having its very own Ferrari dealership located inside the casino. Whether or not anyone actually bought cars there is irrelevant - it turned into a major tourist attraction, requiring a $10 cover charge just to get in and look at the automotive works of art. Well, put your driving gloves away because the Ferraris are going to be zooming out of town - the dealership is closing by the end of the year. No word on what will replace it but Wynn is promising something big and crowd pleasing. With its location right as you come out of the parking garage into the casino, it certainly will have a good location. Read more about Wynn Las Vegas.
Halloween in Vegas
Las Vegas can be a scary place all year round but during the Halloween season, the city pulls out all the stops to throw a few frights into the proceedings. Here are a few of the most noteworthy things to do this spooky season in Vegas.
Fright Dome at Circus Circus
The annual scary takeover of the Adventuredome at Circus Circus has six haunted houses with themes including "Insanitarium," where you have to make your way through an abandoned insane asylum, and the needs no explanation "Killer Clowns," and "Slaughterhouse" among them. There are also creepy shows, horror movie screenings, "scare zones" (where random costumed performers will try to elicit a scream or two), and the rides running in the dark. It's up and running now through October 31 with tickets starting at $35 and running all the way up to $100 depending on what night you go and whether you want to splurge for the VIP experiences that allow you to skip lines and get a private tour. Visit frightdome.com for more information.
Haunted Hearse and Car Show at Circus Circus
The second annual Haunted Hearse and Car Show at Circus Circus Las Vegas returns with classic cars, hearses, limos, spooky/gothic vehicles, rat rods, and hot rods. Attendees will enjoy retail vendors, live music, hearse and car contests featuring celebrity judge Steve Darnell of Welder Up, as seen on Discovery Channel's "Vegas Rat Rods;" a family-fun costume contest for kids and adults, and a 21 and older Adult Costume and Karaoke contest; appearances by Sin City Paranormal Investigators; and more. The event is being held October 9-10 and admission is free.
OktoberFrightFest at Fremont Street Experience & the Las Vegas Halloween Parade
Proving that Vegas has the best ideas ever, the Fremont Street Experience combines two of October's biggest events - Oktoberfest and Halloween - into one month-long OktoberFrightFest. Special Halloween themed shows will play on the Viva Vision light and sound canopy including seasonal songs like "Monster Mash," "Thriller," and "Time Warp" plus there will be free concerts, costume contests and more. It all leads up to the Las Vegas Halloween Parade on October 31st, which will wind around Downtown starting at 7pm - those in costumes can participate and potentially win prizes, those who aren't can watch. During all of this, various casinos along Fremont Street will be celebrating all things beer including the Golden Nugget's Beer Festival the weekend of October 9th. For more information on all of this, visit the Fremont Street Experience website, the Golden Nugget website, and thelasvegashalloweenparade.com.
Triq or Treat at The Linq Promenade
The Linq Promenade shopping plaza will offer family-safe trick or treating for the kids on October 29-30 from 6-10pm with special entertainment, costumed performers, face painters, and more. On Halloween proper, the plaza will be overrun with scary surprises, a costume contest, and a zombie-themed takeover of the High Roller Observation Wheel. Walking through the promenade is free but you have to get a regular admission to the High Roller to get in on the zombie fun. Visit The Linq website for more details.
Henderson Zombie Run
The walking dead invade Henderson for the second annual Zombie Run 5K and Family Fun Walk on October 26. Participants, who are encouraged to wear costumes, will use their brains (pun intended) to outsmart hungry zombies along the 3.1-mile course on an equestrian trail. A shorter, zombie-free route will also be available for families. Afterwards, runners and walkers of all ages will enjoy a bounce house and Halloween-inspired activities at Equestrian Park South. Visit the city of Henderson's parks website for more info.
HallOVeen at Opportunity Village
The Magical Forest at Opportunity Village gets decked out for Halloween with a haunted house, spooky rides, crafts, a "ghost train," and more benefitting the organization that serves children and adults with intellectual disabilities. It's open throughout October and costs $22 for adults and $19 for kids. Visit the Opportunity Village site for more details.
The Springs Preserve Haunted Harvest
The Springs Preserve is doing their annual family-friendly spookfest, which includes a haunted hay maze, ghost stories, trick or treat stations, carnival games, a petting zoo, entertainment, and more. It runs Friday through Sunday nights from 5-9pm and costs $7. Visit the Springs Preserve website for tickets and more details.
Titanic Ghost Tours
Titanic: The Exhibition at Luxor is having special tours in October where guides will tell stories of passengers from the fated ship and the ghostly encounters guides at the attraction have experienced. The tours run every Saturday and are included in the regular admission price. Visit the Titanic website for ticket information.
Of course Vegas doesn't really need an excuse to party but Halloween offers a really good one. Halloween weekend includes Calvin Harris at Omnia, Tiesto at Hakkasan, Fedde Le Grand at Foxtail at the SLS Las Vegas, and the Fantasy and Fetish Ball at the Hard Rock Hotel, an annual outrageous party that has been called on of the best events in the country.
Dining Review: BLT Steak
The long-running steakhouse at Bally's was one of those Vegas institutions, better known for its classic trappings than for its food. It's worth noting that when it was replaced by an outlet of the chain BLT Steak earlier this year, absolutely no one freaked out. They were right not to because the new steakhouse is light years ahead of the old one in every measure and has immediately risen to the top of the very large heap of meat palaces on The Strip.
BLT Steak has about a dozen locations around the world, with outlets in Atlanta, Miami, New York, Scottsdale, Washington DC, Tokyo, Seoul, and Aruba to name a few. It's run by the same company that does the underwhelming BLT Burger over at The Mirage but don't hold that against them. Whatever shortcomings that has are more than made up for here.
The restaurant is gorgeous - sort of a contemporary interpretation of the classic American Steakhouse with cdark woods, subtle lighting, and comfy tables and booths. A big chalkboard at the back of the main dining room lists specials; a nice touch.
Things kick off in high style with their incredible signature popovers, like big puffy muffins made with an insane amount of milk, eggs, and Gruyere cheese served with salted butter. You'll want to devour all of them and nobody would blame you but you should try to save room - there's lots of good stuff coming.
Starters including many of the classics you'd expect at a steakhouse - oysters, shrimp cocktail, crab cakes, and the like but also some interesting diversions from the norm like a burrata with tomatoes and vinaigrette and a big ol' plate o'bacon. You heard me - bacon, thick and grilled and topped with garlic and sherry. It should come as no surprise to those that know me that I ordered that and was very happy with my decision. I could've made a meal of that and popovers and been satisfied.
Steaks are the centerpiece of the menu unsurprisingly, most of which is 28-day dry aged and comes in NY strip, bone-in strip, rib eye, porterhouse (for two), and filet varieties. You can also opt-up for the American Wagyu ribeye or filet but the regular cuts are so fantastic that I don't think it's worth the extra $40 bucks or so that you'd need to pay for the privilege.
The filet was about as perfect as you can get - cooked exactly the way I requested it, juicy, smoky, and a bit peppery. It reminded me of the steaks at Strip House down the street at Planet Hollywood, which are fantastic, only I have to say this one was even better. You could consider the long list of optional sauces including red wine, chimichurri, blue cheese, or BBQ but I don't think the steak needs it.
If you're one of those iconoclasts who comes to a steakhouse and refuses to order steak, there are options for you. There are seafood dishes like branzino, lobster, and salmon among others; rack of lamb; veal; and lemon-rosemary chicken. My dining companions went into this section of the menu and got the Dover sole sauteed in brown butter and capers and the port wine braised short ribs. I'm not a fan of fish but even I can appreciate a really well-prepared one and the sole was fantastic - fresh, light, and flavorful. The short ribs came in a pot roughly the size of a basketball and were so tender they practically dissolved the moment they got in a mouth.
Sides are fairly typical although note the down home dishes like mac and cheese or white grits. I'm a fan of Southern cooking so I liked seeing these on the menu.
Desserts run the gamut from chocolate cake to bourbon soaked bread pudding.
Service was excellent from the moment we arrived to the moment we left. I couldn't find a single thing to complain about.
This is a steakhouse on The Strip so it shouldn't be a shocker that prices are high. Starts run $13-$20, Black Angus steaks all around $60, Wagyu $65-$90, non-beef items $35-$55, and sides and desserts all around $10. Our table of three went over $250 once you added in cocktails, tax, and tip. Expensive, yes, but no more so than the bulk of the other steakhouses on The Strip that aren't as good as this one.
Nightlife Review: Omnia
My experience of visiting Omnia at Caesars Palace is a blur. Part of that is me, I'm sure, since I'm way past the age where a Las Vegas mega-club on a Friday night is high on my list of things to do, but the majority of it is because this is the kind of place that is designed to bludgeon the senses. It's huge, loud, boldly visual, and insanely popular, which results in a fundamental inability, at least for me, to be able to do anything other than feel completely overwhelmed.
This replacement for the former mega-club Pure is even more mega than that one was. It took over not only the space occupied by that club but also the old poker room for a grand total of more than 75,000 square feet.
The main room is a massive airplane hangar of a space with multiple bars, a dance floor bigger than most people's entire houses, and a design scheme that is meant to evoke a European theater with opera box style balconies ringing the party pit. A veritable Times Square of lights, sound, special effects (fog, etc.), and create a constant cacophony, all revolving around the centerpiece, a 22,000 pound waterfall crystal chandelier and light ring sculpture above the center of the dance floor. It moves up and down and pulses with not only its own energy but the absorbed energy of everything going on around it.
A second club within the club called the Heart of Omnia is smaller than the main room but that's like saying a battleship is smaller than an aircraft carrier - it's bigger than a lot of other full nightclubs in town. It has its own dance floor, bottle service tables, bars, and a separate sound and lighting system so the music here is different than in the main room.
But wait, we're not done! There's a third club, of sorts, in the form of an outdoor veranda overlooking The Strip. There is no formal dance floor but it has its own DJ, cabanas, and more.
Now, take all that and add in every single person in Las Vegas under the age of 25 in the club at the same time, which seemed to be the case on the night I visited. That's an exaggeration, of course, but I am serious when I say there was not one single square inch of space in the entire club that was not occupied by a human being. Everyone was packed in there so tightly that getting from one side of the room to the other or to the separate club spaces probably should require a helmet and a protective cup. I was in the club for about an hour and most of that was spent trying to navigate through the sea of humanity around the various rooms. I couldn't have stopped if I wanted to - there was no room to stand still anywhere. The dance floor was literally wall-to-wall people so there wasn't dancing as much as this big blob of humanity vaguely moving in time to the music. I didn't even try to get to the one of the bars to get a drink - there was a mob 20 people deep at every one of them.
If I had made it, I would have found typically high drink prices, with a standard cocktail probably running you in the neighborhood of $20 once you add in tax and tip.
Every employee of the place that I saw looked miserable except for the DJs and the bottle service waitresses once they had actually gotten to the tables. One poor guy was tasked with trying to clean up the inevitable spills and he had to have two musclebound security guys with him who had to shove people out of the way just to give him the space to do his job. I wanted to give him a hug.
I worked in nightclubs for a long time as a bouncer, a bartender, and a DJ and I still enjoy going out to them on occasion - I had a great time at clubs like Drai's, Light, and LAX - but I freely admit that I am not the target demo for a place like Omnia. I really don't understand how anyone could enjoy the sardines-in-a-can effect of having that many people in a really loud, chaotic space but everyone I saw seemed to be having a grand time. Alcohol probably had a lot to do with that. Add in some booze and subtract about 500 people and it starts to make a little more sense to me because the club itself is gorgeous, high-tech, and built for a party.
Those of you who want the hottest scene and the craziest party and don't mind that you're going to be sharing that experience with every single person in the entire world at the same time should absolutely put Omnia on your must-do list. Everyone else may want to find another place for their nightlife adventures.