Vegas4Visitors.com 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!

The latest weekly column will always be on this page, but you can go back through the archives (all the way back to 1999!) or take a look ahead and what's coming up next for Vegas by using the navigation on the left hand sidebar.

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The Countdown: Top 10 Vegas News Stories of the Week

10. Mob Museum Offering Remote Robotic Tours

Can't make it to the Mob Museum in Downtown Las Vegas in person? No worries, now you can tour it anyway courtesy of Moe-Bot, a robotic tour guide that will let people visit from the comfort of whatever chair they have parked in front of their computer. A trained museum educator will accompany Moe-Bot as you guide him around the facility - it'll even have your picture on the screen. The tours have to be arranged in advance and cost $79 - more info on the Mob Museum site and you can see it in action in the video below. Read more about The Mob Museum.

9. Mars Theme Park in Vegas?

If ever there was an item for the "I'll Believe It When I See It File," it is this one: a designer and several hospitality business types are raising money to build a Mars World theme park in Vegas. The attraction would cover more than 60 acres under the world's largest dome and feature simulated Mars walks, a Mars "village, a tram to take guests around the complex, and more. The estimated cost? $2 billion. The wild idea is the brainchild of a guy who helped design the International Space Station and was involved in the early designs for the old Star Trek: The Experience at what was then the Las Vegas Hilton (now the Westgate). This would be fun if it ever actually happened but we couldn't even get to the Moon Resort that was proposed years ago so do we really think we could get to Mars?

8. Topless "Splash" Revue Attempting a Vegas Comeback

Here's another one for the same "Believe It When I See It" file: the original producer of the long-running, water-themed topless revue "Splash" is trying to go back into the water with a relaunch of the production somewhere on the Vegas Strip. The show, which featured a 20,000 tank and a bevy of swimming beauties, debuted at The Riviera in 1985 and ran for more than two decades, finally closing in 2006. The producer, who has also just completed a documentary about the show, says that he is pitching the proposal to casinos around town and that there is interest, but no firm deal in place yet. Yeah. Read more about the history of The Riviera.

7. Spring Has Spring at The Bellagio

The Bellagio Conservatory has launched its spring display, this time featuring a Japanese theme. It features a 12-foot-tall tea house made out of bamboo that houses a hand-made wreath complete with 1,000 Origami cranes. Parasols hover above the display over waterfalls, a walk-through 30-foot dogwood tree, a koi pond with 75 fish, an 18-foot-tall cherry blossom tree, topiary animals, live canaries in specially designed cages, and more. The Conservatory is open 24 hours a day and is free. The spring exhibit will be on display through May 21. Read more about the Bellagio Conservatory.

6. Big Jackpots Won

I'm happy to report that at least someone can win at a slot machine these days. Efren Aquirre, a Nevada gold miner, hit the Megabucks slot jackpot at a casino in Elko, walking away with $12.5 million. Meanwhile, if you think that the slots at the Vegas airport never pay off, allow me to introduce you to a local Las Vegas woman who stopped at a Wheel of Fortune quarter machine before her flight out and wound up with just over $933,000. Read more about Gaming in Las Vegas.

5. Yet Another Stupid Vegas Fee

Thanks to the good work done by VitalVegas.com, there is now another annoying Vegas fee to get angry about. Seems that several restaurants and bars are adding a "Concession and Franchise" (CNF) fee to bills, which is just a random amount of money they are charging because they can. At the new Budweiser Beer park and Hexx Kitchen & Bar at Paris it's 4.7% added to the bill but other places are doing it too according to Vital, like Senor Frogs at TI and Cabo Wabo Cantina at Planet Hollywood. Have we really reached the point where you have to ask everywhere you go if there are hidden fees added onto your bill before you sit down? Sigh. Read the review of Hexx Kitchen & Bar.

4. Lagasse's Stadium Sports Bar of the Year

Congrats to Lagasse's Stadium at The Palazzo, which was named the 2016 Sports Bar of the Year at the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show last week. The bar/restaurant/sports book is a popular destination for the sports minded in Vegas, combining a love of the game with a love of Emeril Lagasse's food. A local bartender, Nactacly Mendoza of Herbs & Rye (near Palace Station) was picked as the Bartender of the Year. Read more about Lagasse's Stadium.

3. Riviera Implosions Coming This Summer

Yes, implosions plural. The people in charge of blowing up s@#% have decided that the shuttered Riviera Las Vegas is simply too big to bring down with one big blast and are going to do two separate ones, most likely in June and August. The bulk of the property will be done in by a wrecking ball (presumably without Miley Cyrus riding on it) and it's the two big hotel towers that will go kaboom. The Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority owns the property and plans to turn the implosions into spectacle events so put pencil marks around those two months (specific days have not been chosen yet). Read the history of The Riviera.

2. Wayne Newton's New Vegas Show

Legendary entertainer Wayne Newton is having a moment. His Casa de Shenandoah estate is drawing folks to an extensive tour of his fabled mansion and grounds and he is helping to open the T-Mobile Arena on April 6 with The Killers. Now, he's getting his own new show at Bally's called "Wayne Newton: Up Close and Personal." The bulk of the production will be Wayne reminiscing about his career with videos, photos, a question and answer session with the audience, and even a couple of songs. The latter will be limited since Newton has throat problems that keep him from being able to sing with the same gusto he used to have. The show opens April 21 in the Windows Showroom at Bally's and tickets will start at $75 and go up from there. Read more about Casa de Shenandoah.

1. Event Parking Fees Start This Week

Get ready to start paying for parking in Vegas. The first shot across the bow - "Event Parking" - will start next week when the garages at New York-New York, Monte Carlo, and Aria all will charge at least $10 to park from 4-11pm whenever there is a show at the T-Mobile Arena. Hotel guests will be exempted but valet at those hotels will cost upwards of $30! Note that this is not the full time parking fees - those will start rolling out to all MGM Resorts hotels (Bellagio, Aria, Vdara, Luxor, Excalibur, New York-New York, Monte Carlo, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, and Circus Circus) starting in May most likely (no, they still haven't made the final determination exactly how much they will be charging at each hotel).

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Preview of The Park

It is no small thing that the biggest Las Vegas opening of 2016 has absolutely nothing to do with gambling. Whether it is a harbinger of the future or merely a sign of the times, The Park is coming to The Strip to add more entertainment, dining, drinking, and relaxation options but not a single new slot machine or blackjack table. Those looking for evidence that things are different in Vegas should look no further.

Set to debut its first phase this week, The Park takes over the formerly mostly unused land between Monte Carlo and New York-New York with a heavily landscaped pedestrian plaza, restaurants, bars, and more all pointing toward the centerpiece, the 20,000 seat T-Mobile Arena. Later phases will add a 5,000 seat theater and more drinking and dining options.

The park part of The Park aims to be as close as you can get to one along the concrete jungle of the Las Vegas Strip. Desert landscaping will dominate with acacia and honey mesquite trees providing shade and flowering plants like pink hesperaloes, yellow damianitas, and purple salvias providing pops of color.

Water features will include a double water wall, standing eight feet high at its tallest point, and low water tables programmed to allow water to bubble and splash.

Large shade structures that resemble something like metal tulips will be unique features for The Park. Ranging between 55 and 75 feet tall, the structures will provide relief from the sun during the day and will be lit up with multi-hued LED lighting at night.

Art will also be a feature with the primary piece being Bliss Dance, artist Marco Cochrane's iconic sculpture, which originally made its debut at Burning Man in 2010. The 7,500 pound piece, showing a female form dancing, has been refurbished after spending a few years on Treasure Island in San Francisco.

Lining The Park will be a variety of restaurants including the already up and running east coast favorite Shake Shack; the Beerhaus, a farm-to-table restaurant and bar that will feature craft beers, live music, and lawn games like bocce ball and darts; the always reliable California Pizza Kitchen; Sake Rok, a sushi/sake restaurant by day and an interactive nightclub after dark; and Bruxie, a gourmet waffle restaurant from California.

These parts of The Park will debut on Monday, April 4.

The T-Mobile Arena debuts on Wednesday, April 6, with a concert by local heroes The Killers and Mr. Las Vegas himself Wayne Newton. The following night, April 7, will feature a double-header grand opening celebration concert from Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande. Future events include shows from Guns n' Roses, George Strait, Billy Joel, Janet Jackson, Garth Brooks, Dixie Chicks, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, and more. The arena will also host sporting events including the Pro Bull Riding Finals in December and boxing and UFC matches during the rest of the year. There are active attempts to score a major league hockey franchises for the city but that hasn't been finalized yet.

The 20,000 seat arena will feature 44 luxury suites, 2 party suites, more than a dozen private loge boxes, the outdoor Toshiba Plaza for special events, and an impressive cocktail and food program from Levy Restaurants and master mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim.

The 5,000 seat theater will debut along with additional restaurants in late 2016 or early 2017 and is expected to have at least a couple of big-name headliners in residence.

See more pictures on The Park page on Vegas4Visitors.com

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Restaurant Review: Yardbird Southern Table & Bar

I'm a fan of many different types of food but if you were to pin me down and force me to pick just one favorite it would have to be southern cooking. Give me a good fried chicken or grilled pork chop or barbecue and some mac and cheese on the side and I'll be as happy as whatever farm animal you happen to pick rolling around in whatever you happen to envision it rolling around in.

But I am also a bit of a snob when it comes to southern cooking, believing that it is virtually impossible to find the real deal outside of the American south. Note that I said virtually, because Yardbird Southern Table & Bar at The Venetian is absolutely an exception to the rule.

The restaurant itself is done as sort of an upscale roadhouse with brick and wood plank walls, exposed wood or stamped tin ceilings, and the like. It's warm and inviting but all the hard surfaces conspire to bounce the conversation and general noise around like sonic ping pong balls, making the place very, very loud. Quiet dinner conversations are not on the menu.

But what is on there is a little slice of down home heaven, all done with a modern gastropub twist. Deviled eggs come with dill, chive, and smoked trout roe; the "mac" is drowning in five artisanal cheeses; the fried green tomatoes come on a BLT with smoke pork belly and tomato jam. You get the idea.

You could try one of the salads made with produce from local farmers but that isn't why you came here.

You came for Mama's biscuits, warm buttermilk flaky bits of genius that you can get with just honey butter and house-made jam or topped with brisket, crispy chicken or Virginia ham. The latter comes with Vermont sharp cheddar cheese and that, in combination with the smoky, salty, yummy ham and mouth-watering biscuit was almost perfect in presentation and taste.

At lunch you get several sandwich options including smoked brisket with Swiss, an open-face chicken salad sandwich with avocado, a burger, and the like. Go up the ladder a bit for a daily fresh fish, chicken wings, or shrimp and grits.

At dinner - sorry, they call it supper here as they rightly should - you get some BBQ pork ribs, short ribs, and a roasted artichoke pasta that I'm just going to presume has some sort of southern origin to it and move on because what you really need to be paying attention to is the chicken.

This is some good bird, served fried with honey hot sauce or smoked with a house-made BBQ sauce. Or you can kick it up a notch with the fried chicken, watermelon, and waffles served with a bourbon maple syrup. I have had some excellent fried chicken in my time but I tell you what, this was a mighty fine example of the delicacy. Tender, juicy, crunchy, just the right amount of heat - you won't find better anywhere in Las Vegas and it's a right fine challenger to some of the best of the bird from the Deep South.

Prices are moderate on most items. At lunch most items are under $18 except for the chicken specialty dishes, which break the $20 and even $30 barriers. It's worth noting that while the fried chicken by itself will run you $26, it's for half a chicken and could easily feed two people.

At dinner most of the main courses are in the $20-$30 range, which I categorize as not bad especially for this much of food this good.

As I write this I am currently planning another southern-fried road trip and dreaming about all of the amazing food I'm going to eat. It's nice to know that if I ever have a hankering, I can just head to Yardbird in Vegas to tide me over until I get there.

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
Venetian Las Vegas
3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
702-297-6541
website
Daily 11am-12am
Vegas4Visitors Grade: A

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