MORE VEGAS INFO
VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
December 14, 2015
The Countdown: Top 10 Vegas News Stories of the Week
10. Serendipity 3's New Eating Challenge: The Brick
This place really wants eating to be a challenge. Last month was Serendipity 3's five-pound huevos rancheros challenge and now comes The Brick, five of their 16-inch flatbread Meat Madness pizzas stacked together, loaded with prosciutto, pepperoni, sausage, pancetta, cheese, and marinara sauce. Eat the whole thing by yourself in 40 minutes or less and you get it for free or you can be more sensible and order it for your group for $75. The Brick is available through the end of December. Read more about Serendipity 3.
9. Gordon Ramsay Surprises Diners for Anniversary
To mark the three year anniversary of his three Las Vegas restaurant, celebrity chef and master yeller Gordon Ramsay surprised diners with a trio of desserts from the trio of eateries. Ramsay went to every table at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace and Gordon Ramsay BurGR at Planet Hollywood and dropped off Spotted Dic from the pub, Vanilla Shake with Brulee Pudding from the burger joint, and Sticky Toffee Pudding from Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris Las Vegas. Read the reviews of the Gordon Ramsay restaurants in Vegas - the Pub, BurGR, and Steakhouse.
8. Zombies Shuffle to New Theater
The evil dead are on the move! The bloody silliness of Evil Dead 4D: The Musical is moving from its longtime home at the V Theater complex at Planet Hollywood over to the Tommy Wind Theater just down the street. The show is a mash-up musical version of the Evil Dead movies with lots of fake blood sprayed on a portion of the audience seated in what is affectionately known as the "Splatter Zone." If you're not familiar with the Tommy Wind Theater, who can blame you? It has had many lives as nightclubs like Utopia and more recently the reinvented gay club Krave but also as a legit theater with B or C-level shows like this one. It's located in a strip mall across the street from Monte Carlo behind a Fatburger. Read the review of Evil Dead 4D: The Musical.
7. Mob Museum's Manhunt for Millionth Visitor
Sometime on Tuesday, December 11th the Mob Museum in Downtown Las Vegas will conclude a manhunt as they find the one millionth person to visit the facility since its opening in 2012. The lucky visitor will be greeted with confetti, balloons, showgirls, a champagne toast, and a presentation by former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman featuring a commemorative cake. The museum is projecting that lucky number 1 million will arrive sometime after 11am on Tuesday. Maybe they'll also get a picture with the museum's newest exhibit - the chair from the gas chamber at the Nevada State Prison. Read more about The Mob Museum.
6. The Killers, Wayne Newton to Open Las Vegas
Country superstar George Strait may be one of the first acts that will be playing the new Las Vegas Arena when it opens next year, but he won't be the very first. Hometown heroes The Killers and Mr. Las Vegas himself, Wayne Newton, will be the opening act at the $375 million arena on April 6, 2016. The 20,000 seat facility is part of The Park development under construction between Monte Carlo and New York-New York that is adding restaurants, bars, shopping, a 5,000 seat theater, pedestrian plazas, and more. Tickets for The Killers and Wayne Newton are on sale now at Ticketmaster.com. Read more about The Park.
5. The Future of Vegas Transportation?
A year and half of research and analysis by local tourism and transportation experts has led to this conclusion: traffic in Vegas sucks. To combat it they have prepared a 2,400 page report that recommends building a light rail system from the airport that goes up The Strip and all the way to Downtown, more pedestrian bridges and elevated sidewalks along The Strip, an extension of the monorail to Mandalay Bay, a Downtown trolley, and more. The cost of all this runs into the many, many billions of dollars and at this point it's just a "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if..." kind of deal, but the city and county are taking it pretty seriously and some of it could come to fruition in the next few decades. Until then, read about getting around in Vegas now.
4. Uber Now Operating at Las Vegas Airport
It has taken awhile but ride sharing service Uber is finally picking up and dropping of passengers at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. Competitor Lyft has been operating at the airport for several weeks but Uber and the county got into a spat over driver data and the permits got held up. If you request an Uber or Lyft at the airport, go to baggage claim and take the elevator near door #2 up to level 2. Cross the pedestrian bridge on level 2 to the Terminal 1 Parking Garage. The Ride Share pick up is located on level 2M of the parking garage. If you are flying into Terminal 3, take the elevator near baggage claim up to level 1, cross the pedestrian bridge to the parking garage, and go to the valet level where ride share pick up is located. Read more ride share services in Las Vegas.
3. Hotels For NYE Fireworks Set
The annual "America's Party" fireworks show is set once again for New Years' Eve in Las Vegas with pyrotechnics expected to be launched from the roofs of hotels up and down The Strip. The hotels participating in this year's even are Aria, Caesars Palace, MGM Grand, Planet Hollywood, The Stratosphere, Treasure Island, and The Venetian. The fireworks display is one of the largest in the country each year with hundreds of thousands of people jamming the city to party that weekend.
2. Vegas4Visitors Readers' Choice Voting Underway
Just a quick reminder that the voting is now underway for the annual Readers' Choice Awards, where you get to tell me your picks for the best of Las Vegas. The voting is happening on Facebook and is now open for Hotels, Shows, and Attractions with Dining, Buffets, and Nightlife coming this week. All you have to do is go onto the Vegas4Visitors.com Facebook group and comment on the posts with your choice - here are some handy links - Vote for Best Hotel, Vote for Best Show, Vote for Best Attraction. If you aren't on Facebook and would like to participate, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your selections for the six categories.
1. Jubilee! To End in February After 34 Years
Say goodbye to the last showgirl extravaganza. Jubilee! will be ending it's run at Bally's on February 11, closing the door on the era of topless beauties in giant head dresses. The show opened in 1981 and became famous for its sinking of the Titanic and Samson's temple numbers, outlasting similar productions like Folies Bergere, Enter the Night, and Splash, which all gave way to the Cirque du Soleil wave that swept in during the 1990s. Although a part of me always hates to see Vegas history fall by the wayside, it was time to put Jubilee! to rest. Read my review of Jubilee! to find out why I say that.TOP
Holidays in Vegas
It used to be that Christmas and the weeks leading up to it were the slowest time of the year in Las Vegas, with very little to do in the way of holiday festivities. These days there are still plenty of low cost rooms to be had and you'll find shorter lines at the buffets but there is plenty to do that will put you in the holiday spirit. Here's a sampling:
A must-visit on everyone's list should be the botanical gardens at Bellagio, which get all decked out every year with one of the most eye-popping holiday displays in town. There is usually a giant Christmas tree and plenty of faux-snow, plus more than a few lights and ornaments. The holiday display runs through January 3, 2016. Read more about the Bellagio Conservatory.
One of the most iconic Vegas attractions takes on a decidedly holiday spin with the dancing waters choreographed to various Christmas songs. Expect "It's Beginning to Look at Lot Like Christmas," "Santa Baby," and "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" to name a few. The holiday songs will be in the rotation during the month of December. Read more about the Bellagio Fountains
Cosmopolitan Ice Skating
It's usually too chilly in Vegas in December to go swimming so the Cosmo has decided to embrace that weather reality and turn their pool area into a winter wonderland once again this year, complete with an ice staking rink, fire pits, and warm cocktails, s'mores, and even a machine creating snow showers over the area. Mondays feature "Date Skate," with couples specials and holiday movies playing on the marquee; Wednesdays will have resident DJs pumping up the jams; and Thursdays will feature retro music from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. The ice skating rink is open from 3pm until 12am Monday through Friday and 12pm until 12am Saturday and Sunday until December 21 and then daily from noon until midnight through January 3, 2016. Snow effects will happen Wednesday through Sunday nights from 6-10pm. You can visit the winter themed area for free but the cost for skating is $15 per person with skate rentals at $5 more. Read more about The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Crystals at CityCenter Holiday Display
The big mall at CityCenter usually decorates to the nines for the holidays with thousands of seasonal flowers (think poinsettias) and decorative ornaments. The display typically runs during the month of December. Read more about Crystals at CityCenter
Ethel M. Chocolate Factory Holiday Cactus Gardens
With the sweet smell of chocolate wafting in the air, the Ethel M. Chocolate Factory transforms their botanical cactus garden into a winter wonderland with half a million colorful lights adorning the plants. They also feature visits from Santa and local choirs performing carols. The display is on now through January 1 from 5-10pm nightly and is free of charge. Sanata will also be visiting Friday through Sunday from 5-9pm and local choirs will be performing Friday through Sunday from 6-8pm. Read more about Ethel M. Chocolate Factory
Fashion Show Mall
The plaza in front of the Fashion Show Mall on The Strip is getting the holiday treatment with an hourly video presentation and faux-snowfall. It's free and happening at the top of every hour through January 1. Read more about the Fashion Show Mall.
Fremont Street Experience
Glitter Gulch gets wintry in December with the addition of Christmas themed shows on the Viva Vision canopy, holiday concerts on the various stages, and lots of winter themed decorations. The light and sound shows are every hour on the hour after dark; concert acts and times vary. Read more about the Fremont Street Experience
Glittering Lights Las Vegas at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway
More than 2.5 miles of twinkling holiday lights adorn a drive-through spectacle at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It costs $20 per car to drive through regardless of how many people you have inside. The lights are lit now through January 3, 2016 and are open for goggling from 5:30 to 9pm Sunday through Thursday and from 5:30 to 10pm Friday and Saturday. Note that traffic can be a bit of a nightmare around the event area so plan on some extra time. You can get tickets and more information on the event website.
Legends in Concert
Every year the long-running impersonator show gets its festive on by adding a couple of Christmas songs to each of the performer's sets. This means you'll wind up with something like an "Elton John" doing "Rocket Man" and "Jingle Bell Rock." It's silly fun, so why not? Read the review of Legends in Concert
Britney Spears kicked off the holiday season with a special tree lighting ceremony at The Linq Promenade. Hundreds of guests cheered as Britney took the stage to flip the switch on a 30-foot Christmas tree, decked out in red and gold with white lights. The ceremony also featured a holiday choir performance from Las Vegas' Doral Academy while the Fern Adair Conservatory for the Arts got the crowd pumped up with a performance to Britney Spears' "My Only Wish (This Year)." And of course Santa and his elves handed out gifts. The Linq will have a variety of festivities through Christmas with things like discounted tickets to the High Roller observation wheel, story time with Santa, and more. A nightly holiday is taking place in front of the fountain every hour from 5-9pm with carolers and entertainers. Read more about the Linq Promenade.
Magical Forest at Opportunity Village
More than 3 million lights and holiday displays adorn the Magical Forest, an attraction put on by local charity Opportunity Village. But it isn't just lights... they also have Santa visits, carousel rides, a miniature golf course, carnival games, a train ride, and more spread out across three acres. All of the proceeds go to help people with learning disabilities. The Magical Forest is open now through January 3, 2016 from 5:30 until 9pm Sunday through Thursday and from 5:30 to 10pm Friday and Saturday and costs $12-$22 for adults and $10-19 for kids. You can get more information on the event website.
Sam's Town Mystic Falls
The indoor atrium at Sam's Town on the east side of town gets a holiday makeover with polar bear sculptures, twinkling lights, holiday music, and a Cowboy Santa Claus. It's free and is open daily through January 1 in the evenings. Read more about Mystic Falls.
Scuba Santa at Silverton
When you have a 117,000 gallon aquarium, what you do during the holidays it put a scuba diving Santa Claus in it. Or at least that's what the Silverton does from 10am to 1pm daily through December 3. Kids can bring their wish list and an elf will communicate it to Santa via microphone. I love Las Vegas. Read more about The Silverton
The Smith Center - "The Nutcracker"
The holiday classic "The Nutcracker" is being performed at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts by the Nevada Ballet Theater and The Las Vegas Philharmonic. The eight show run goes through December 20. Read more about The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
Town Square's Snow in the Square
The Town Square mall just south of The Strip is having holiday themed snow shows in their main square, with flakes falling while classic holiday tunes play. They'll also be having local choirs performing every Thursday night through the holidays. Read more about Town Square
It's not quite as grand as the Bellagio Conservatory display but the Venetian and Palazzo gussy up their main atrium and waterfall with a winter wonderland theme each year. It's located just off the Palazzo casino in the entrance to the Grand Canal Shoppes and is open 24 hours through January 3. Admission is free. Read more about The Venetian and The Palazzo
Show Review: Piff the Magic Dragon
Most of America came to fall in love with Piff the Magic Dragon during his 2015 stint on "America's Got Talent" but I, and many other Vegas fans, joined the cult of Piff last year when he was a featured performing in Vegas Nocturne, the Absinthe spin-off that played at The Cosmopolitan for a too-brief time. He was the best thing about a really terrific show and I believed that he was destined for headliner status. Now he's there with his own show in Vegas at The Flamingo and all I can wonder is why it took so long!
For those of you who missed him here or on AGT, the concept of the act is a relatively compact British guy who wears a cheesy dragon costume, has a wryly sardonic and biting wit, a laid-back delivery, and Mr. Piffles, his Chihuahua magic assistant. He does tricks and tells jokes and if it all sounds weird, it is, but also really funny, often astounding, and every now and then quite brilliant.
The magic portion of the show is mostly card tricks and other up-close magic so you're going to want to sit as close to stage as possible to get the highest impact. Even though it's not a very large room, if you're sitting at the back of it you'll be straining to recognize that he did, in fact, just pull the correct card out of a can of dog food. While the bit involving a computer screen that not only shows a chosen card but Piff himself running down the street to retrieve is a nice bit of tech-era wizardry, most of the tricks are decidedly old school and low-fi, a welcome relief to those of us who are tired of the big prop illusions done at a lot of the other magic shows in town. Really, which is more impressive - a guy escaping from the "whirling blades of death" that you know he's totally not going to actually die in or a guy making a piece of toast with the correct number and suit of a card chosen by an audience member on it?
Add in the fact that said guy is really funny and wearing a dragon costume and I don't know how it gets any better. You have to be a fan of sarcasm and dry humor to enjoy Piff but those of you who do will be entertained especially when he singles out hapless audience members to assist him on stage.
And of course who could forget Mr. Piffles? The white Chihuahua is the calmest dog ever in the history of the world and incredibly patient with an owner that likes to do things like make him escape from a straightjacket.
The relatively young show isn't perfect yet. Piff has made a career out of mostly doing quick-hit featured performer gigs, where he comes on for 10 minutes, kills it, and walks off a hero. Stretching it out to an hour-plus feels, at times, like a series of stitched together bits rather than a cohesive whole, but I think this is part of the process for anyone who is getting their first ever headlining show. I look forward to going back to see it again to prove my theory.
Updated Show Review: Blue Man Group
The Blue Man Group has been a phenomenon in this country, going from underground, bizarre, avant-garde performance art to nationally recognized, bizarre, avant-garde, performance art to mainstream entertainment in the space of a decade. Much of that success had to do with their long run in Vegas, first at the Luxor, then at The Venetian, then at Monte Carlo, and now back at Luxor again. More on that in a moment.
Just in case you've been living in a cage somewhere, the Blue Man Group consists of three men whose bald-shaven heads are painted cobalt-blue, giving them the air of visitors from another planet. Their antics over the course of their show only reinforces this feeling, bringing to mind some sort of bizarre mix of Buster Keaton, Ernie Kovacs, and Mork from Ork.
The show has been revised many times over the years, which is a good thing in theory since it had become a bit "been-there-done-that." I have seen the show seven times in Vegas and while it was dizzyingly enervating the first time, by the third or fourth viewing I was getting a bit bored.
The good news is that their recent move back to the Luxor in a smaller theater has forced changes that bring it back to its roots and make it simpler, sillier, and so much fun that I didn't mind seeing it yet again.
There are a lot of classic Blue Man Group set pieces where they do things like pour paint on drums to create a multi-hued spray and create a Pollack-worthy work of art from it; toss marshmallows and paint balls into each other's mouths; create music out of elaborate PVC pipe constructions (everything from Beethoven to Devo); turn the chewing of Cap'n Crunch cereal into a musical; and torture an audience member in a bit with Twinkies that is still funny after multiple viewings. All of this sounds odd, and it is, but their behavior throughout - as if they are children discovering bizarre and surprising new toys - is endlessly entertaining.
Speaking of the audience, don't be late... they'll make you regret it.
Newer bits that are still included include oversized iPad-like screens with various apps that they have great fun with; a trip down an audience member's throat with a camera; and the big finale involving smoke cannons and toilet paper.
Returning to their roots has re-energized the show and put it back on my short list of things that are worth going out of your way to see in Vegas.