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VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
April 11, 2016
The Countdown: Top 10 Vegas News Stories of the Week
10. Best Vegas Show Coming Back
It had been rumored but now we know it's the real deal: the show I picked as the best in Las Vegas for 2015 is coming back! Baz: For the Record played for only a few weeks at Light nightclub at Mandalay Bay but it made a huge impression with its inspired mashup of stories and music from the films of director Baz Luhrmann including "Romeo + Juliet," "The Great Gatsby," and "Moulin Rouge." The new version, now called Baz: Star Crossed Love will be opening at The Venetian on June 25. The theater, which used to be home to Rock of Ages, has been revamped, removing entire rows of seats so that the actors can move in and out of the audience during the performances. You really need to put this one on your must-see list for your next trip to Vegas. Read the review of the original Baz.
9. Backstreet Boys Testing Vegas Residency
90s Nostalgia is getting another boost in Las Vegas with word that the Backstreet Boys, one of the biggest boy bands in the history of every, is going to do a limited run residency in Las Vegas as a test to see if there is enough of a demand for a permanent gig. The place and timing have not been confirmed yet, but word on the streets is that the Boys will do a nine-show run later this year or early in 2017, which they will use as a kickoff for their upcoming album and world tour. If the nine shows do well, the group may come back to Vegas to set up shop for the long haul like fellow 90s refugees Britney Spears and Boyz II Men. The Backstreet Boys have sold over 145 million albums worldwide and are best known for hits like "Quit Playing Games," "As Long As You Love Me," and "I Want it That Way." Read more about Britney Spears.
8. The Park & T-Mobile Arena Open
The opening for the new entertainment district known as The Park went smoothly last week, including traffic as about 20,000 people streamed into the area for two nights of kickoff concerts by The Killers with Wayne Newton, Nicki Minaj, and Ariana Grande. Anyone who tried to park in the adjacent parking garages was hit with a $20 fee, which will be standard anytime there's a big event there. This is different than the upcoming parking charges at all MGM Resorts. The Park, located between New York-New York and Monte Carlo, features landscaped open areas with a few restaurants and bars leading back to the big arena. A new 5,000 seat theater and more restaurants will open late this year or early 2017. Read more about The Park.
7. High Roller Second Anniversary Specials in April
To celebrate the second anniversary of the High Roller, the world's tallest observation wheel is offering discounted tickets for anyone who spends at least $20 at the restaurants or shops at The Linq. Show the receipt (must be from the same day) at the box office and you'll get up to four day or night tickets for $22, a $5 discount for day tickets and a $15 discount for nighttime rides. The deal is good for the entire month of April. Read the full review of the High Roller.
6. Guy Who Had Sex on High Roller Wheel Murdered in Texas
Speaking of the High Roller, remember the couple who got arrested in Vegas for having sex on the giant observation wheel? You know, the ones that had just met a few hours before and had an alcohol-fueled tryst in full view of tourists in adjacent cabins despite the fact that the man was in town to get married to someone else? And then the fiance bailed him out of jail? Yeah, that guy got murdered in Texas a couple of weeks ago in an incident that involved big wads of cash, a strip club, and a stripper (the aforementioned fiance). I'm NOT saying that being the type of person to have sex in public with a stranger just hours before you are supposed to get married to a stripper and then flashing rolls of cash in the place in which she works at 4am in any way justifies someone killing you (it's very sad and condolences to his family, etc., etc.) but it certainly makes it not terribly surprising, don't you think? Read more about the original tryst and arrest.
5. Monte Carlo Revamp and Renaming Confirmed
There have been rumors running around for months that the Monte Carlo was going to get substantial overhaul and a new name but it wasn't until last week that MGM Resorts finally relented and fully confirmed that the rumors were true. They still aren't giving any details about what will be involved in the remodeling or what the new name will be, but most signs seem to indicate that they will be doing a top to bottom revamp on the twenty-year-old property including the rooms, the casino, the restaurants, the pool, the exterior of the building, and more. The most likely contender for the new moniker is something involving The Park, the new entertainment and dining district that opened last week in between it and New York-New York. Read the review of the Monte Carlo.
4. Five More Years of Fator
Ventriloquist Terry Fator has signed a deal to stay at The Mirage for five more years, extending his contract through at least 2021. The man of many voices gained fame after winning America's Got Talent in 2007 and then took up residency at The Mirage the next year, taking over the theater that had been occupied by the late impressionist Danny Gans. Fator's "Cast of Thousands" includes Winston the laid-back turtle; Walter the horn-dog cowboy; Elvis impersonator Maynard; stoner Dougie; middle-aged cougar Vicky; and more. Read the review of Terry Fator's show.
3. Caesars 50th Anniversary Celebration Taking Shape
August 5, 2106 marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of Caesars Palace and the hotel is gearing up for some big celebrations to mark the occasion over the summer. Chief among them is a super-special Celine Dion show that will be her 1,000th at the hotel and will serve as the centerpiece of the hotel's anniversary plans. Full details and timing have not been settled yet but they are expecting to try to put together some "Best of" type tribute shows featuring artists that have performed at Caesars Palace over the years along with some VIP parties, fireworks, and more. Read the history of Caesars Palace.
2. Red Rock Resort 10th Anniversary Celebration
It has awhile to go to match Caesars longevity, but Red Rock Resort is still going all out to celebrate their upcoming 10th anniversary. The hotel opened on April 18, 2006 and they are planning a week's worth of festivities to mark the occasion. Fireworks will kick off things on Friday, April 16 at 9pm and comedian Rita Rudner is doing two shows at the hotel April 22-23. In the casino, they are offering 10x points accumulation on their players' club through the entire month of April and gamblers will be automatically entered into drawings to win up to $250,000. They're even giving away an actual video poker machine to one luck video poker winner. Read more about Red Rock Resort.
1. New Wynn Las Vegas Hotel Announced; Beach Theme Planned
Wynn and Encore Las Vegas are going to be getting a little sister after the announcement last week that the company is planning to build a third hotel tentatively called Wynn Paradise Park. The $1.5 billion resort will take the place of the golf course, which will close this fall, and feature 1,000 room around a 38-acre lagoon (roughly 5 times the size of the Bellagio lake). The lake will have a white sandy beach, a boardwalk, water skiing and paddle boating, and a nightly fireworks display. There will be a small casino, lots of restaurants and nightclubs, and more convention space also. Construction should start in earnest next year with a 2020 debut planned. Read more about Wynn Las Vegas.TOP
Thrills are a dime a dozen in Las Vegas. You've got the crazy rides atop the Stratosphere or the wild roller coaster at New York-New York. You can soar high with a helicopter ride or a zip line down Fremont Street in Downtown. Or heck, you could put $500 on red at the roulette table and really get your blood pumping.
But for my money, there really is not greater thrill than going really, really fast in a really, really nice car. There are several places you can do that in Las Vegas but the newest, and potentially most interesting, is going to be welcoming its first drivers this week.
I got a preview of SPEEDVEGAS, a new attraction on the far south side of town that will feature a 1.5 mile track where you can drive some of the coolest performance cars in the world. Among their fleet are Italian supercars like the Ferrari 458 Italia and the Lamboghini Huracan, the best of German speed machines like the Porsche 911 GT3 or the Mercedes AMG GT-S, Japanese rockets like the Nissan GT-R, and good old American muscle such as the Corvette Z06 and Shelby GT.
There are several things that make this track different than the competition in Vegas. First, whereas other performance driving experiences are done at existing race tracks or in makeshift courses, SPEEDVEGAS is the first purpose built performance driving track in the country. At 1.5 miles it is the longest in Las Vegas and features 12 turns, sixty feet of elevation change, and a half-mile straightaway so you can really see what these machines can do.
The entire experience will take a couple of hours, starting with a review of the fleet so you can choose your car (you can also choose in advance if you want to make sure something specific is available) then go through a briefing on the best ways to maximize the experience in terms of the track and the vehicle. There's a safety session and then you're suited up with a helmet so you can go fulfill your need for speed.
A professional driver is in the passenger seat and has some emergency controls at their disposal just in case you decide to try to do something stupid with their very expensive cars. The experiences can go from four laps up to, well, as many as you want to pay for but four or five laps is usually pretty standard. Don't worry - if you get out there and decide you just can't bring that baby back into pit row after only five laps, they will have in-car technology that will allow you to purchase more on the fly.
And if the idea of driving one of these really powerful machines at insane speeds is just a little too, well, insane to you, you could opt for a ride-along experience where a professional driver will take you out on the track and basically try to scare you to death.
When the facility opens on April 15, the course will be operating (of course) but they will be manning facilities out of temporary buildings while the permanent welcome center is being built. When that is done it will have training areas, a driver's lounge, a Sambalatte coffee shop to get you amped up if you need it, observation decks so your friends and family can watch you pretend you a Formula 1 driver, garages, meeting space, and more. That should be up and running this summer.
They will also eventually be adding more tracks and experiences including kart and drag racing.
Getting there is easy. It's located right off Interstate 15 about 12 miles south of Mandalay Bay. If you have a car at your disposal, just jump on the freeway and you're there in no time. If you need a lift, they will have a free shuttle bus running on The Strip.
Costs vary depending on which car you get and how many laps you drive. For instance, four laps in a Corvette will run you about $200 while five laps in the 458 Italia will set you back $445. A two-lap ride-along is $99. So yeah, not cheap, but I've done these types of performance driving experiences before and I have to tell you it is a thrill that will make it feel totally worth the cost.
You can read more about SPEEDVEGAS, browse their inventory, check out driving packages, and make reservations on their website at SpeedVegas.com or call them at 702-874-8888.
Restaurant Review: B&B Ristorante
Sometimes you can't always taste the difference in quality that price often brings with it. Is a $20 hamburger necessarily twice as "good" as a $10 one? It's subjective at best and often an exercise of degrees.
Let's start with the dining rooms, which are gorgeous with warm lighting, golden tones and rich woods, and shelves of wine bottles creating a feeling like you're eating in a private, very rich wine cellar. If you believe that setting a mood is a part of a fine dining experience, you'll be more than satisfied here.
The menu is northern Italian, so no spaghetti and meatballs here. It's all done with a sustainable mindset, using locally sourced produce when possible and wasting nothing. They are proud that they don't just use part of the pig or lamb, but find uses for the whole thing such as a lamb's tongue appetizer done with chanterelle mushrooms and egg. It's worth noting that the menu changes seasonally so you may not find everything mentioned below when you visit.
Antipasti features a few salads and some adventurous palate items like the aforementioned lam's tongue, a lamb neck "fritti" with artichokes and salsa verde, a pork belly dish with asparagus, and warm tripe as a few examples. If those are too far afield from your taste buds, go for the house cured salumi platter, which gives you choices of meats from delectable prosciutto to salami and more. It comes with pickles and marinated olives and is a fantastic way to start a meal, especially if you've got a good group who wants to sample a bunch of different tastes.
Signature on this section includes the grilled octopus, done with a spicy limoncello vinaigrette. This is not breaded and fried calamari, which allows one some plausible mental deniability in terms of understanding what you are really eating. No, these are hunks of octopus tentacles, suckers still attached. If you can get past that, the meat is tender and delicately flavored.
The pasta list does have spaghetti on it, but in this case it is done with garlic chives and lobster. Other options include tagliatelle with asparagus, pappardelle with veal and pork ragu, orecchiette with spicy lamb sausage, and linguine with clams, probably the most traditional dish on the menu.
You would be remiss in not sampling the gnocchi with rabbit confit and braised Swiss chard. These are simple but delicious little dumplings, topped with tender meat and a earthy green sauce. Fantastic.
Main courses include pork Milanese with fennel and spring greens, lamb Spiedini with lemon pepper yogurt, a grilled pork chop with pickled green strawberries, steak and ribeye options, and more. I sampled the lamb leg done with charred parsnips and unexpectedly spicy Calabrian chili. While good, the cut I tried was a little fatty and just a touch undercooked. It was a minor disappointment, but it was the only one of the evening.
Scratch that - the other disappointment is that I didn't have time or stomach space to sample something from the dessert list, which includes tiramisu, chocolate torta, gelati and sorbetti, cannoli, biscotti, and more.
Don't miss the extensive wine list and the very knowledge sommelier. They will find the perfect pairings for whatever it is you are hungry for.
The service was fantastic throughout the meal and not just because I was there to review the restaurant. I pay attention to how the staff treats other guests and they were just as knowledgeable, friendly, and fast with the other patrons as they were with me.
Prices can bring about a little bit of sticker shock. My meal with a couple of appetizers, a pasta, and a main course - granted, more food than one person should or could eat - came out to over $100 and that's before wine, tax, or tip. Starters are generally $15-$20, pastas $25-$36, and main courses starting around $36 and going way up from there.
But this is one of those rare cases where the quality of the food may very well justify the high price tag that comes with it. Every bite is distinctive and demanding of your taste buds' attention. If you have to pay a little extra for that it may be worth it.