MORE VEGAS INFO
VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
January 25, 2016
The Countdown: Top 10 Vegas News Stories of the Week
10. Oscar Odds from Wynn Las Vegas
It's award season and that means it's time to bet on who will win the awards being handed out, or at least pretend that we can. Johnny Avello, Director of the Race & Sports Book at Wynn Las Vegas, has laid out the odds for who he thinks will win this year's Academy Awards. It's all just for fun since you can't legally bet on things like the Oscars in Vegas but if you go for the safe bets it's going to be Spotlight winning Best Picture with 6-5 odds, Alejandro Inarritu winning Best Director for The Revenent at 7-5 odds, Leonardo DiCaprio taking Best Actor for The Revenant at 1-9 odds, Brie Larson getting Best Actress for The Room at 1-3 odds, Sylvester Stallone knocking off the Supporting Actor trophy for Creed at 8-5 odds, and Rooney Mara accepting the Supporting Actress trophy for Carol at 2-3 odds. The long shot bet of all the awards? Brooklyn winning Best Picture at 75-1 odds. Read more about Wynn Las Vegas.
9. Jennifer Lopez Debuts New Vegas Show
She's on not one, but two TV shows (Shades of Blue and American Idol), she's preparing a new album, and now she's got a headlining show in Las Vegas entitled "All I Have." Jennifer Lopez brought out the big guns for her debut at Planet Hollywood last week with Ja Rule, Ne Yo, and Pitbull all joining her on stage (don't expect that to happen every night). In the audience... Justin Bieber, Ryan Seacrest, TI, Gina Rodriguez, Ray Liotta and more. JLo was originally booked to play about 50 shows at year over the next two years but word on the street is that ticket sales and early notices are so good they have already extended that to three years. Read more about Jennifer Lopez.
8. Atomic Liquors to Open Restaurant
The retro wonder of the Atomic Liquors is going to get a little more tasty with the upcoming addition of Atomic Kitchen, a new restaurant that will be going in next door. The $1 million restaurant will take over a garage and will feature a vintage Vegas theme and classic American cuisine. The relatively non-descript building has an interesting history - some fo the scenes from Martin Scorsese's film Casino were shot there. They are hoping to have Atomic Kitchen open by April. Read more about Atomic Liquors.
7. Matt Damon's Boure Movie Closes Vegas Strip
Filming is underway in Las Vegas for the next Jason Bourne movie and it is causing quite a stir. The Strip has been shut down at nights for the production as they film a big car chase that starts at Aria and (reportedly) ends at The Riviera, which has been lit up again just for this. Some homemade videos of the action, including a big crash between a limo and a SWAT vehicle, are showing up on social media - just go search YouTube or Twitter for "Bourne Vegas" and you'll get tons of results. Here's one...
6. Station Casinos Changing Name, Sort Of
Local gaming company Stations Casinos is a well-known name around Las Vegas, operation casino/hotels like Palace, Sunset, and Texas Stations plus Green Valley Ranch and Red Rock Resort. Starting this year, locals will have to learn a new name - Red Rock Resorts (plural). Stations is going public with an IPO in June and at that time will introduce the new Red Rock Resorts branding, but in one of those "only makes sense to guys in business suits" twists, Station Casinos will still be the operating division of the properties around Las Vegas. Confused? Me too. Read more about Red Rock Resort.
5. Aria Launches New In-Room Technology
Ever since it opened in 2009, Aria has been pushing the boundaries of hotel technology with in-room control systems that operated a variety of functions. Those systems are getting a big overhaul with the launch of the new Crave Interactive in-room tablets. Among the features are the ability to order room service and book restaurant reservations, request housekeeping services such as extra towels or turndown service, order special occasion packages, make spa appointments, keep up with the news, control room functions like lights and curtains, and even communicate with other rooms if booked as a group. The tablets will be deployed to all of the 4,000 rooms at the hotel throughout 2016 and additional features will be added including the ability to keep track of your M Life players' club stats, social media, and more. Read more about Aria Las Vegas.
4. Country Superstars Set for Vegas Music Festival
The third annual Route 91 Harvest festival has lined up a pretty impressive lineup of country music talent including headlining sets from Luke Bryan, Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Little Big Town, and Chris Young. The festival will be happening in the Las Vegas Village, also known as the parking lot across the street from Luxor, from September 30 through October 2. Other artists confirmed include Billy Currington, Lindsay Ell, Tyler Farr, Travis Tritt, and more. Tickets go on sale January 29th and 10am Pacific and start at $210 for general admission for all three days. Learn more and buy passes at rt91harvest.com.
3. Excalibur to Redo Rooms
Excalibur is upgrading about half of its rooms in what they will be calling the Royal Tower. The changes will be strictly cosmetic involving new beds, furnishings, carpeting, and 40-inch flat screen TVs. Nearly 2,000 of the hotels' 4,000 rooms will be changed over and you can expect about a $10 nightly premium to stay in them over what you'd pay for the very similarly designed Resort Rooms. Some of the new rooms are already up and running with the full redo expected to be done by April, which is when they also plan to debut changes to their pool deck including new dining, cabanas, and more. Read more about Excalibur.
2. Budweiser Clydesdales To Trot The Strip
To celebrate the opening of the Budweiser Beer Park at Paris Las Vegas, the famous Budweiser Clydesdale horses will lead a procession up The Strip to the hotel starting at 10:30am on January 30th. They'll be greeted by Clark County Commissioner Mary Beth Scow who will present an official proclamation and will be one of several dignitaries who will tap the first ceremonial keg. The Clydesdales will also be available for photos from noon until 2pm. The Beer Park is going in on the roof of Hexx Kitchen and Bar overlooking The Strip and will feature an outdoor grill, lots of TVs for sports viewing, picnic tables, picnic games like bean bag toss and lawn darts, and more than 100 draft, can, and bottle beer selections. Read more about Paris Las Vegas.
1. Cirque Overhauling Las Vegas Shows
The head of Cirque du Soleil had a conversation with Robin Leach of Vegas Deluxe and announced changes to several of the company's long-running shows in Vegas. Believe with Criss Angel at Luxor is going to close briefly in April so they can integrate new illusions, costumes, and more. With what the expect to be about 70% new content, the show will probably get a new name as well. Previously announced changes to Love at The Mirage are going to take place in February. They are redoing the music and adding new technology to bump up the experience level. They are planning to start performances by March and have some sort of big party for the new version of the show in June to celebrate the show's 10th anniversary. Changes to O at Bellagio are also possible, although the endless popularity of that production means that the revisions will probably be mostly of a technical nature. Read the reviews of Criss Angel and O.TOP
Battle of the Buffets: Wynn Buffet vs. Caesars Bacchanal Buffet
Las Vegas practically invented the all-you-can-eat buffet. El Rancho, the very first hotel to open on what would become the Las Vegas Strip in 1941, had a "chuck wagon," where diners could get a variety of items for one dollar. That evolved into the all-you-can-eat concept, which is credited to a PR man in Vegas in the 1950s.
For most of their history in Vegas they were refueling stations, places where you could pay a relatively small amount for a relatively huge amount of decent, but usually unspectacular, food. That all changed in the last couple of decades as buffets have gotten bigger, more extravagant, and significantly more expensive.
Two places in Las Vegas have led the charge to the high cost, fine dining end of the scale - the relatively new Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace and the recently redone Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas. Every other buffet in town looks like a chuck wagon in comparison and there are lots of opinions as to which one is better. So I figured lets settle this once and for all with a Battle of the Buffets.
Here, I'm going to pit the two buffets against one another and compare what they have to offer in several categories, eventually leading to a winner. Let the battle begin!
The Bacchanal is located at Caesars Palace, which is in the heart of the Mid-Strip - pretty much as close to where the bulk of the people are at as it could be. The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas is just over the line in what is considered the North Strip and so certainly not out of the way, but it is at the edge of the tourist epicenter instead of right in the middle of it.
Although its only by a matter of degrees, I have to tip this one to the Bacchanal.
This is all about getting to the buffet once you get to the hotel. At Wynn you can get from the parking garage or the front door to the buffet without going through the casino (although you need to skirt the edges of it). Once you get there the lines are usually long but manageable.
At Caesars there is no way to get to the buffet without going through the heart of the busiest part of the casino. Well, that's not totally true - there is a way to do it from the front door but it's very long walk and nobody should have to do it. If you go at a peak time the lines are enormous and intimidating.
The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas wins this one hands down.
This one really is a matter of taste. Do you prefer the clean, modern, and simple decor of the Bacchanal buffet or the colorful, sunlit, garden effect at the Wynn Buffet? In a vacuum the Bacchanal room is very nice but put it up against the warm and whimsical Wynn Buffet room and the former looks like a high school cafeteria.
No contest here - The Buffet at Wynn wins the day.
This category is not about the amount of any one specific item but how many items are available through the entire place. More items means more choices and choice, especially at a buffet is a good thing. To be completely clear, there is more food at either one of these buffets than any one human being could want or need but we're looking for a winner here so in this case bigger is better.
The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas has a huge spread with 15 live action cooking stations and hundreds of items that, on its own, feels overwhelming in its size and scope. But put that side by side with the Bacchanal buffet, which seems to go on forever ("wait, there's more!?") and its clear to see which one is offering more. Caesars touts that they have 500 daily menu items, which is a bit of a misleading statement because that means they have 500 different things available among all of their breakfast, lunch, and dinner feasts but regardless, it's still a heck of a lot of food.
Caesars Bacchanal is bigger and therefore takes this category.
As with atmosphere, there is a lot of subjectivity here, and as with other categories we are not talking about one being good and one being bad, we are talking about one being fantastic and one being a little bit more than fantastic. It's all a matter of degrees.
Everything I have ever eaten at the Bacchanal buffet has been of impeccable quality - tasty, well-prepared, warm or cold appropriately, and substantial. By the latter I don't mean quantity - that's the category above - but instead I mean substantial in that this is not throw-away, bargain-basement buffet food. This is real food, much of it is worthy of being served in a full-service restaurant.
But the food at the Wynn Buffet is just a few degrees better. I ate there after their recent remodel and the quality of the food - the freshness, the flavors, the preparation, and the presentation - was noticeable in its abundance. I had a made-to-order omelet that tasted like they must have a chicken in the back laying those eggs moments earlier.
I have to give this one to the Buffet at Wynn.
As with most buffets, your interaction with staff is fairly limited. There are the folks who take your money, the culinary wizards behind the interactive cooking stations that help you with a made-to-order whatever, and then the people who make sure you have your fill of beverages. But since these are mnostly a do-it-yourself affair, the service angle of things is a little less important than at a traditional full-service restaurant.
For this reason and because everyone I met at both places was perfectly lovely, I'm calling this category at tie.
Both of these buffets are expensive. Heart-stoppingly expensive. Ridiculously, almost laughably expensive. Having said that, the Buffet at Wynn is a little less expensive. Not by much, but still a little less.
The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas gets the edge.
Every category win gets one point, ties split the point. Caesars Bacchanal Buffet took the location and quantity categories and tied in service. The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas took accessibility, atmosphere, quality, and price and tied in service. With 4.5 to 2.5, the winner of the Battle of the Buffets is the Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas.
Show Review: X Comedy
I don't normally review comedy clubs since the experience of visiting one will be totally dependent on the talent appearing. Since most clubs have different comics each week, it's hard to give an overall opinion on anything other than the room in which they are performing.
I made an exception for X Comedy when one of my favorites, Piff the Magic Dragon was on the bill regularly but he's not anymore - he has his own show in the same theater.
So where does that leave X Comedy?
The rest of the performers on the night I saw the show varied in style and impact. Hosts Nancy Ryan and John Bizarre are genial in a foul-mouthed kind of way - he tells some great dirty jokes that you will probably want to tell at work but shouldn't and she mines plenty of humor from random conversations with the audience. Don't be from Florida. I'm just saying.
Comic James Bean had some good observational humor and Joe Trammel (aka the TV Guy) did his usual, strange shtick, which involves pre-recorded bits of music and movie dialogue and lots and lots of props.
Despite its name and association to the topless X Burlesque and X Rocks shows, the comics I saw here were no more "X" than ones I have seen at other comedy clubs in town. Expect fairly typical stand ups so expect dirty words. The good news is that no one veered into anything too offensive from a race, gender, or sexual orientation standpoint - a welcome relief from a lot of comics who go are too unoriginal to do anything other than go for an easy laugh by insulting women or gay people.
The room? Fine. Decent spacing between the chairs, which are usually much more tightly packed at comedy clubs, but still not the most comfortable things in the world. Tip the maitre'd a few bucks and try to get seated on the much more plush banquette seating at the back.
Before you grab your tickets, find out who is on the roster and YouTube some of their work to find out if they are someone you want to see.
Show Review: X Burlesque
Pretty women take off most of their clothes and dance, shimmy, and gyrate in various themed fantasy numbers. In other words, it's a typical Las Vegas topless show so you could stop reading here and know most of what you need to know about X Burlesque.
The primary differentiator here are the vaguely artistic pretensions they use to spice things up a bit. Each vignette is presented with a title - "Smoke and Mirrors;" "Cake and Eat It, Too;" "Hot Mess;" etc - that represents a theme, a prop, or a musical style. Some of them are pretty simplistic - "Down Home Cookin'," for instance, is an excuse to put the girls in cowboy hats and boots (and not much else) and do a little two-steppin'. But some go a little further with moody video accompaniments and/or stage effects that boost it beyond just looking at topless women.
An example: "Sweet and Innocent" features two topless women and a tub. But instead of splashy cavorting, the piece is done as a series of posed "snapshots" with moments of lights-out darkness in between to reset the scene. It's almost demur in a way and certainly more visually interesting than if it had just been two topless women in a tub.
Then again, the target audience probably just wants to see two topless women in a tub and never mind the artsy fartsy stuff. Having said that, those particular people are probably over at the strip club and not here anyway so perhaps we can live to appreciate the balance.
Two complaints. First, the lack of a personality other than the ones being displayed by the dancers leave things a little flat. Fantasy, down the street at Luxor, has a live singer jazzing things up and interacting with the audience throughout and X Burlesque could use some of that energy. Second, the soundtrack was not as interesting as it could have been with many of the numbers unrecognizable background music and the rest not always what I'd call sexy. "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars is a fantastic song but it's more party up than get down if you know what I mean. Ditto "Crazy Bitch" by Buckcherry and "Fly" by Lenny Kravitz, which were used appropriately for the scenes they set (the aforementioned "Hot Mess" and "Mile High Club" with randy stewardesses respectively) but aren't the kinds of things you've probably got on your "in the mood" playlist.
Oh, you know you've got one. Don't lie to me.
But in the end, we go back to the basics of what this show is: pretty women take off most of their clothes and dance, shimmy, and gyrate in various themed fantasy numbers. Do you need more than that?