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VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
February 1, 2016
The Countdown: Top 10 Vegas News Stories of the Week
10. Elevated Roadways Proposed for Vegas
Transportation is the big conversation in Vegas these day as various agencies are actively and aggressively trying to find ways to keep The Strip from hitting complete gridlock, a state of being that it regularly approaches on Friday and Saturday nights. Light rail has been a big part of the dream but now the county is also proposing elevated roadways to funnel people more effectively from McCarran International Airport to The Strip. The proposal would see portions of Swenson Avenue (which is the street that comes out of the airport), Paradise Road (which goes into the airport), Tropicana, Flamingo, and Koval all get a second level that would act as an expressway between hotel rooms and airplanes. It's all just an idea so far - an expensive one, at that, with a price tag of tens of millions of dollars and years of traffic disruptions because of it. Will it happen?
9. Aria to Get a Burger Joint
Apparently there's a law that says that every Las Vegas hotel must have a restaurant that specializes in hamburgers, or at least that's the only thing I can conclude from news that Aria will be adding a Burger Lounge to its dining lineup. Because I guess the burger joint at the one at neighboring Cosmo (Holsteins), and the one at nearby New York-New York (Shake Shack), and the one right across the street (Fatburger), and the RIGHT IN FRONT of Aria (Bobby's Burger Palace) isn't enough. Burger Lounge is a popular Southern California chain that goes the grass-fed, locally sourced, green design route to appeal to the crowd that cares about those sorts of things, which probably isn't people who devour lots of hamburgers generally, but whatever. Burger Lounge is supposed to open in March. Read more about Aria Las Vegas.
8. KISS Mini Golf Moving to The Rio
It is probably the most unlikely of Vegas attractions, which I guess in some ways makes it just perfect for Vegas, but the glow-in-the-dark indoor miniature golf course themed to the rock band KISS has been drawing visitors from around the globe to its Harmon Avenue location for four years. It's closing in a couple of weeks but not because the rocking has stopped but because it's getting a major upgrade in the form of a 13,000 square-foot space at The Rio. KISS by Monster Mini Golf is going to move into the space at the end of the masquerade village once occupied by the Village Seafood Buffet. The 18-hole golf course will move over, with new video, animatronics, and props added, and there will also be arcade games, a wedding chapel, a rock 'n roll gift shop, and a live DJ. KISS memorabilia will be located throughout the attraction including costumes, instruments, cars, and more. The Harmon location will close February 6 and the new Rio location will open sometime in the spring. With the recent addition of the Rock of Ages musical to the hotel, it looks like this is where the real Rock in Rio can be found. Read more about KISS by Monster Mini Golf.
7. Donny & Marie Wax Figures to Debut in Vegas
I will do my best to set aside all plastic surgery jokes and just report, with a semi-straight face, that Donny and Marie Osmond are getting the wax treatment - as in wax figures, which will debut at Madame Tussaud's Las Vegas on February 9, 2016. The brother and sister duo, headliners at The Flamingo for the last five years, got measured for the figures last year but it took months to make the realistic replicas. They will be dressed in costumes used in their show and will become a part of the permanent collection at the attraction. Read more about Madame Tussaud's.
6. The Park to Debut April 4
The results of all that construction between New York-New York and Monte Carlo is finally going to get unveiled now that an official opening date of April 4 has been set for The Park. Although it's probably a stretch to call it a real park, it will have actual trees and some virtual ones in the form of giant shade structures, plus water walls, outdoor seating, desert landscaping, and more. At night LED sequenced lighting will liven things up for passersby. Dining will include the already open Shake Shack, a Beer Garden, the California Pizza Kitchen, Sake Rok (a sushi bar/nightclub), and Bruxie, a place that offers waffle sandwiches. The rest of The Park, including more restaurants, bars, and a 5,000 seat theater, will open in phases throughout 2016 and into 2017. Read more about The Park.
5. Las Vegas Arena Gets First Seats
A big part of The Park will be the T-Mobile Arena, a 20,000 seat venue for concerts, special events, and (they hope) a professional hockey team. The arena is racing toward its opening and hit a milestone last week when the first seats were installed. The arena is set to open on April 6 with a show by local heroes The Killers and local legend Wayne Newton. Other events currently scheduled for the arena include Guns N Roses April 8-9; the Harlem Globetrotter April 19; George Strait April 22-23; Janet Jackson May 14; Garth Brooks doing six shows between June 24-July 4; the Dixie Chicks July 16; George Strait again September 9-10; Keith Urban October 21; and the Professional Bull Riders event Nov 2-6. Read more about The Park.
4. Mob Museum Celebrates Anniversary With Bloody Valentine
The Mob Museum will celebrate its fourth anniversary February 13-14 with a special preview of original crime scene evidence from the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. They include bullets removed from the bodies of the seven victims, bullet fragments and cartridge cases retrieved from the garage floor, and two of the actual Tommy guns used in the Massacre among other memorabilia. The guns will only be viewable on this weekend but the rest of the stuff will be around until the end of February and back in 2017 as a permanent part of the museum's collection. To make sure everyone gets a chance to see the exhibit, that weekend they will have admission specials with locals getting in free and out-of-town visitors receiving a buy-one, get-one free deal. Read more about The Mob Museum.
3. Downtown Vegas Wins Big
All of the numbers have been tallied and the results are in: Downtown Vegas crushed it in 2015. Across the entire state, gaming revenue was up only 1% year over year and on The Strip it was actually down 1%. But in Downtown Las Vegas, gambling revenue was up 6% as more and more people ventured off The Strip to explore the new restaurants, shops, bars, and attractions that are making the area so popular (and apparently did a little gambling while they were there). The success is obvious on any given Friday ro Saturday night when huge crowds pack the Fremont Street Experience and the Fremont East district. Expect more development in Downtown with the potential renovation of the now shuttered Las Vegas Club and upgrades to The California and other casinos in the area. Read more about The Fremont Street Experience.
2. Wynn Las Vegas Adding New Dining & Retail
Watching the development of the outdoor retail, dining, and drinking destinations of The Linq and The Park must be making the leaders of other hotels without a bit jealous. How else can you explain the newly proposed Wynn Plaza, a development of shops, restaurants, and bars that will extend from the existing Wynn Las Vegas building out to The Strip, taking over the space that used to be occupied by the Ferrari dealership. According to plans filed with the city, the expansion will be two stories and have more than 86,000 square-feet of space, doubling the existing size of Wynn's retail offerings. The expectation is that construction will begin soon and be done sometime early next year. Read more about Wynn Las Vegas.
1. Venetian Head Proposes $1 Billion Domed Stadium
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The Best of the Rest of Las Vegas
Every year I do the Vegas4Visitors Top 10 Awards, where I pick the best hotels, shows, restaurants, attractions, shopping, and more in Las Vegas. What's that? You say you missed it? Well just click on through here to see them, why don't you? We'll wait.
Oh hi. You're back? Cool.
So, while I cover a lot of ground in the Top 10s, there is a lot more about Las Vegas that I don't talk about that shouldn't go overlooked. So with that in mind, I present the Best of the Rest of Las Vegas for 2015:
Best Festival: Life is Beautiful
Vegas has become the music fest capital lately with Rock in Rio, Route 91 Harvest, and Electric Daisy Carnival all drawing tens (or hundreds) of thousands of people to the city. But none of them can hold a candle to the original, interesting, entertaining, informative, and cool Life is Beautiful fest, which takes over Downtown with blocks of music, art, food, and more. The fourth one is happening this September. Don't miss it. See photos and more from the 2015 Life is Beautiful Festival.
Best Lobby: The Cosmopolitan
Everything at this hotel is gorgeous but the lobby, with its pillars wrapped in hi-def video screens showing random visuals (champagne spraying, people dancing, etc.), is a feast for your eyes that kicks things off in style. Cool, retro check-in desks, too. Read more about The Cosmoplitan of Las Vegas.
Best Nature: Ethel M. Cactus Garden
Las Vegas is not exactly the place you think of when you are considering getting back to nature, unless perhaps you are talking about a natural in craps. But there are some ways to commune with Earth and one of the best is at the Ethel M. Cactus Garden. The largest botanical cactus garden in the state and one of the biggest in the world features over four acres with more than 300 species both indigenous to the region and imported from other areas. Plus, it's outside of the Ethel M. Chocolate Factory, so when you get tired of nature you can go get a sugar high. Bonus: They string the whole thing with Christmas lights during the holidays! Read more about the Ethel M. Chocolate Factory & Gardens.
Best Parking: The Cosmopolitan
With MGM Resorts plan to start charging for parking, this one becomes even more important and no one does it better than The Cosmo. Part of it is the easy accessibility, allowing you a quick elevator or escalator ride directly into the casino as opposed to the half-mile (or so it seems) treks that most other garages make you do. But they also have simple but effective tech in place that tells you how many spaces are available on each level and leads you to empty ones with red and green lights. Cool. Read more about The Cosmoplitan of Las Vegas.
Best Players Club: Total Rewards
All of the rewards clubs have gotten stingier over the last few years but of the major ones I see the most benefits from Caesars Entertainment's Total Rewards. I'm a mid-level gambler at best but I get the kinds of offers and attention that a person who wagers much more should get. Read more about Caesars Palace
Best Photo Op: Giant Stripper Statue
Sure, you can do a selfie with the Bellagio Fountains in the background or with your arm slung around a showgirl or Elvis impersonator, but that's been done a million times. Instead, get a picture of you and the giant stripper statue outside the V Theater in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. Mine is to the right - don't you think that makes a much better photo than another of you and a statue at Caesars Palace?
Best Pool: The Cosmopolitan Boulevard Pool
No, not the one that burst into flames, but the one up front with a modern design, a fun atmosphere, and a killer view of The Strip. Yes, the plastic palm trees (you know, the ones that burst int flames at the other pool) aren't as nice as the lush foliage at The Mirage and The Flamingo, but the overall package is more appealing in my humble opinion. Read more about The Cosmoplitan of Las Vegas.
Best Showroom: Le Reve Theater, Wynn Las Vegas
It's fairly specific to the show so it might not work for any old production, but the theater that is home to the remarkable Le Rêve at Wynn Las Vegas is a stunner. A pool sits at the center of a theater in the round, with wonderful sight lines from pretty much every seat and they are comfortable to boot. Oh, and the show is fantastic, too. Read more about Le Rêve
Show Review: Crazy Girls
It's hard to believe but Crazy Girls has been playing in Las Vegas for almost 30 years, most of that time at The Riviera and now at Planet Hollywood. It's a Vegas institution in a lot of ways - the blueprint upon which other topless shows patterned themselves and the subject of many a souvenir photo as people posed with the bronze statue honoring the dancers', um, "assets."
The show is pretty much exactly what you'd expect it to be with pretty girls dancing their way through some sort of male fantasy sequence (country western cowgirls, leather wearing dominatrixes, a naughty teacher) that end with them taking off their tops. There's nothing that breaks new ground or differentiates this show from any of the other topless shows in town until you realize that they were probably doing all of this stuff first.
Most of the numbers are fine but not terribly memorable but a few stand out. The aforementioned bondage routine set to Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" is edgier than what you'll usually find in a Vegas topless show while a solo strip tease set to Eartha Kitt's live version of "How Could You Believe Me?" is cheeky fun (pun intended).
The dancing is solid throughout ranging from burlesque to bump and grind, although it should come as no surprise that I was probably the only person in the audience there to critique their fancy footwork.
Of course it's the women and they are all beautiful if a bit homogenous. Don't expect a huge amount of diversity here - they go out of their way to make them all look kind of the same, often using blonde wigs to create a unified front.
There are a few odd moments. The (overly long) opening video introduction is set to Vertical Horizon's "Everything You Want," which sounds like a good song to use if you don't listen to the lyrics which include "But she means nothing to you and you don't know why" as its primary hook. And of course the trademark giant phallus that shoots streamers into the audience is as silly as it sounds.
Interestingly the original giant phallus got stolen when the show relocated to Planet Hollywood. I still hope whoever stole it turned it into a coffee table.
The traditional showgirl extravaganzas like "Jubilee!," "Folies," and "Enter the Night" are mostly gone and forgotten, leaving shows like this one to carry the mantle of "classic" Vegas topless production. There are several in town so what would make you choose this one? Three decades of breasts can't be wrong.
Show Review: Aussie Hunks
Channing Tatum ruined for everyone. For most of human history, male strip shows could be content being little more than a parade of hot guys taking off their fantasy fulfillment costumes (cowboy, fireman, etc.) to reveal impossibly toned bodies. Then "Magic Mike" came out, filled with highly choreographed routines showing that the guys were more than just slabs of beef, they were talented artists, gosh darn it!
But Aussie Hunks is different. The small cast of Austrlian dancers are actual dancers, no quotes needed. They specialize in hip-hop moves and a couple of the guys are serious b-boys.
Yes, of course they are also ridicuously handsome and yes, of ccourse they take off their clothes along with a lot of bumping and grinding, but mixing in their dancing skills takes it all to a new level.
As with all male strip shows, much of the entertainment comes from the mostly female audience and their reaction to the guys. If you have ever watched a movie like "Magic Mike" and thought "women don't really act like that at a male strip club" I'm here to tell you that they do. They scream, they shake, they wave dollar bills, they touch things their husbands probably would not want to know they touched, and generally act insane. I've said this before in other similar reviews, but if guys acted like this at a female topless show or a strip club they'd be shown the door.
The best bits are the audience participation moments when they pull a lady (or 4) up on stage and basically torment them for the amusement of everyone else watching. And it is amusing, trust me.
This is a fun show filled with, yes I'm going to say it, talented guys who will go to extreme lengths to make sure the audience is having a good time. Magic Mike would be proud.