4 Vegas4Visitors - Top 10 Awards: The Best of Las Vegas 2015 by Rick Garman
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Vegas4Visitors 2015 Top 10 Awards

It's been a strange year in Vegas, one that started out with a big bankruptcy and ended with a tragedy on The Strip. In between, we had a old hotel become a new one, a classic close, and showgirls starting to pack their bags. It was a year of transition, where the construction crews started working again but it'll be awhile before we start to see the fruits of their labor. It was also a year of caution, as the companies that run Vegas got hurt by the casinos they run overseas.

But this remained true: Las Vegas has some pretty amazing hotels, shows, attractions, restaurants, buffets, nightlife, shopping, and casinos and below you'll find my picks... and yours... for the Best of Las Vegas in 2015.

As always, my choices are bound to elicit some commentary. If you have something you want to add, we'll be having a discussion about it on the Vegas4Visitors Facebook group.

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The Countdown: The Top 10 Biggest Las Vegas News Stories of 2015

10. SLS Struggles

It was supposed to be the great hope for the former Sahara, a reinvention into the hip and happening SLS Las Vegas. But the hotel has done almost nothing but stumble with the brains behind the operation, Sam Nazarian walking away; restaurants, nightclubs, and stores closing; room rates and occupancy lower than they should be; and way too many empty gaming tables and slot machines. Whether the place can be rescued by the plan to turn a part of it into Vegas' first W branded hotel may garner this hotel a spot on this list in 2016.

9. RIP Vegas VIPs

A lot of Vegas luminaries passed away in 2015 but there were three that were especially noteworthy. Casino magnate Kirk Kerkorian helped usher in the "biggest, largest, most" era of Vegas with hotels like both MGM Grands (the original in 1973 and the current one in 1993). Chef Kerry Simon was more than a celebrity chef with fantastic restaurants, he was a Las Vegas local and very active in the community. And Betty Willis designed the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, one of the most recognizable symbols in the world. We will miss them all.

8. Downtown Vegas Kicks Ass

How's this for a shocker... over several months in 2015 while gaming revenue went down on The Strip, revenue in Downtown went up... and up and up. It speaks to a fully in-bloom renaissance that the city core has undergone, turning what was a bunch of seedy casinos into a bustling urban oasis with great restaurants, interesting bars, attractions, shopping, festivals, concerts, and more. If you're looking for the best of Vegas, you'll find a lot of it in Downtown.

7. Hotel Development Starts Up Again

After many years of not much happening with the development of new hotels or redevelopment of existing ones, things really started happening with the ground-breaking of two new multi-billion dollar resorts (Resorts World and Alon), the advancing construction of the Lucky Dragon, the sale of the Tropicana and Hooter's, and the potential sale of the Fontainebleau. This bodes well for new, interesting, and different things to do in Vegas.

6. Ride Sharing Arrives in Vegas

Ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft have been operating in other cities for years but a powerful taxi commission kept them out of Vegas... until 2015. They came with a lot of drama. A false start wound up with drivers having their cars impounded and plenty of courtroom time, but in the end it all worked out and now Vegas visitors have many more options for getting from point a to point b.

5. Huge Caesars Bankruptcy Means Nothing

It was the largest bankruptcy for a gaming company in history, worth an estimated $18.4 billion, and it rocked this once vaunted company to its core. Well, that's what I should have been writing about it but instead it has been business as usual while the empire goes through all of the legal machinations it can to get out from underneath an overwhelming amount of debt.

4. Riviera Closes

Just a few weeks after celebrating its 60th birthday, the legendary Riviera closed its doors forever on May 4, 2015. It opened in April of 1955 and for decades was one of the most luxurious resorts on The Strip. But time had not been kind to the old gal and she became a shadow of her former glory, mostly appealing for its cheap room rates and low-limits gambling. The hotel was purchased by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, who plan to tear it down and build new meeting space facilities.

3. Rough Times for Traditional Vegas Shows

It wasn't terribly surprising when they announced that Jubilee!, the Strip's last remaining showgirl production, would be closing in 2016 after 34 years in Vegas. The show had long outlasted its usefulness and relevance and you can only coast on the kitsch value for so long. But when they announced that Cirque du Soleil's Zarkana would be shutting down at Aria that raised some eyebrows. And when they said they would be tearing down the theater and replacing it with convention space, leaving the hotel without ANY entertainment, that was downright shocking. As Vegas moves more and more toward headliner residencies, will the traditional Vegas show become even more rare? Stay tuned.

2. Resort Fees Break $30

We have long passed the "resort fees are here to stay" conversation and have now arrived at the "how high will they go?" questions. This year the fees broke new ground by surpassing $30 per night at many of The Strip's biggest hotels. At some places on certain slow nights, the resort fee is actually higher than the room rate! Will they go above $35 in 2016. Do I hear $40? Check out the list of resort fees at all the major hotels in Las Vegas.

1. Tragedy on the Vegas Strip

Las Vegas was built as an escape from reality; a place where the sun never sets (or it seems that way when you're in a casino all night), drinks are always free, and you get to see things like the Sphinx and Eiffel Tower without leaving the United States. So it's always scary when real life invades Vegas and that was especially true on December 20, 2015 when a woman intentionally drove her car onto the sidewalk in front of Planet Hollywood and Paris Las Vegas. In the end, 37 people were injured and one person, a 32-year-old tourist from Arizona, was killed. One witness summed it up perfectly when he said, "This isn't supposed to happen here. This is Vegas!"

Special Mention: The Only in Vegas Files

While writing the Top 10 News Stories for 2015, there were plenty to choose from that fall into the Only in Vegas category - those weird and wonderful occasions that could only take place in a place like this. Here's a sampling:

After the Crazy Girls topless revue closed at The Riviera when the hotel shut down, a truck full of props from the show was stolen, which meant that some poor police officer was forced to write something like "Stolen Item: six foot tall phallus that shoots streamers from its tip."

Speaking of thefts, one of the more brazen ones involved the Blarney Stone at The D Las Vegas. This good luck charm had been sitting unguarded and unsecured on a table in the casino for years without incident but one man decided it would be a great idea to walk out the door with it. He returned it a few days later with an apology and an explanation that alcohol was involved in his decision making process.

People loved to get wet in inappropriate ways in 2015. One guy figured that taking a swim in the Bellagio Fountains would be fun and was subsequently chased through the lake by police on a boat. Meanwhile over at The Venetian, two guys thought diving into the cement canals out in front of the hotel would be excellent and wound up in critical condition because of it.

And finally, what would a walk through the weird news of Vegas be without a discussion of the Nicki Minaj wax figure at Madame Tussaud's Las Vegas? Set up in a provocative pose from her Anaconda music video, the statue lured many a visitor to take lewd selfies with it. They actually had to station a security guard to stop the inappropriate behavior, otherwise known as a weekend in Las Vegas.

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Vegas4Visitors Top 10 Awards 2015: The Best Hotels in Las Vegas

Two "new" hotels opened in 2015 and therefore becoming eligible for this list, but sadly The Linq and SLS Las Vegas, while fine for their category, can't compete with the amazing resorts that made the cut. Here are my picks for the Best Hotels in Las Vegas for 2015:

1. Caesars/Nobu

Caesars and its hotel within a hotel Nobu take yet another victory lap in this category for their incredible combination of luxurious rooms, friendly staff, and seemingly endless array of restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. Plus their resort fee, while obnoxious, isn't quite as obnoxious as some of other high end hotels so that's gotta score them a couple of extra points. Read the full review of Caesars Palace and Nobu.

2. Aria Las Vegas

This stunningly visual hotel keeps going up and down in my estimation but never by a lot and it usually lands somewhere near the top of this list. The rooms are gorgeous, the casino is lively, the restaurants are among the best in the city, and the vibe is fresh and modern. A contemporary take on a Vegas casino. Read the full review.

3. Wynn/Encore

Wynn and its sister Encore take classic and put an of-the-moment spin on it with luxurious appointments and high tech accoutrements everywhere. Stay here and you will probably never forget it and that's saying a lot in the increasingly bland world of Vegas hotels. Read the full review of Wynn Las Vegas and Encore.

4. The Cromwell

Size matters in Vegas but The Cromwell proves that even the little guys can make big waves. Instead of three or four party spots and a dozen dining destinations they just built the best nightclub in Vegas with Drai's and one of the most sought after restaurants in the city with Giada and then dropped the microphone. Good for them. Read the full review.

5. MGM Grand

No matter how hard they have tried over the last two decades to make this place less overwhelming than it actually is, it's still pretty darned overwhelming but in a decidedly Vegas way. Revisions to rooms, restaurants, and clubs have knocked it up a few notches in terms of the luxe quotient but it's still accessible and fun. And big. Really, really big. Read the full review.

6. Bellagio

Iconic. There is so much about this property that meets the definition of that word that it, in many ways, is Las Vegas. Don't worry about the cost for now - you can think about that when you get the bill but when you do you will most likely say "totally worth it." Read the full review.

7. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

I love almost everything about the Cosmo, from its cheeky attitude to its sweet rooms to its wonderful lineup of restaurants and bars and more. Wrap it up in distinctive, modern eye candy design worthy of being in a contemporary art museum, and what's not to love? Well, they have to get docked a few points for being the first hotel to break the $30 per night resort fee barrier. Yes, a bunch of other places did it after them, but they opened the door. Read the full review.

8. Mandalay Bay/Delano/Four Seasons

Three distinct hotels in one unique package gives this uber-resort an all-things-to-all-people quality that is hard to match. Go modern with the main hotel, hip with the Delano, and traditional luxury with the Four Seasons and you might not believe that you are staying in the same place were it not for the fact that all three experiences are great. Read the full review of Mandalay Bay, Delano, and The Four Seasons.

9. The Golden Nugget

Despite revolutionary improvements at many of the hotels surrounding it, the Nugget has remained the Grand Dame of Downtown hotels. How good is it? Pick it up and plop it down on The Strip and it would instantly be nicer and more appealing than many of the resorts there. But on second thought, leave it just where it is... Downtown Vegas is where all the cool stuff is happening these days anyway. Read the full review.

10. Red Rock Resort

It's hard to believe that this fantastic locals' hotel is going to turn 10 years old next year, partly because it still feels fresh that it seems like it couldn't possibly be that old and partly because it feels like such a fixture that it couldn't possibly be that young. Regardless, Red Rock remains the best neighborhood hotel/casino in Vegas and well worth a spot on the Top 10 list every year. Read the full review.

Readers' Choice: The Mirage

Vegas4Visitors readers went retro with the hotel that changed it all for the Las Vegas Strip. It just celebrated its 26th birthday (!!) but The Mirage is still a fan favorite. Read the full review.

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Vegas4Visitors Top 10 Awards 2015: The Best Shows in Las Vegas

The Vegas show scene seems to be undergoing an evolution. The classic showgirl productions are gone (or will be soon when Jubilee! closes) and audiences are clamoring for more of the celebrity headliner engagements (Celine! Britney! J Lo! Mariah!) and less of the Cirque shows that have dominated The Strip for the last two decades. I have a feeling that entertainment in Vegas will look dramatically different in five years. But that's prognostication - here is what is happening now, or at least what has happened in the last year: my picks for the Best Shows in Las Vegas for 2015:

1. For the Record: Baz

Why am I selecting a production that closed after only a few weeks as number one pick in this category? Two reasons. First, it was quite simply the best show of the year, a dizzyingly thrilling mash-up of music, dance, and drama taken from the films of Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby, Romeo + Juliet). Second, although it's not official, it's probably coming back to another showroom on The Strip. So when you see the ads for it the next time you're in Vegas, you'll remember this list and go buy a ticket to what is going to once again be the Best Show in Las Vegas.

2. Absinthe at Caesars Palace

Gasping. That's a fairly typical reaction to this show, whether it be gasping at the (almost literally) death defying stunts or gasping for air as you laugh at the deliriously dirty antics of the host and his sidekick. Bring an oxygen tank and enjoy! Read the full review.

3. Michael Jackson ONE at Mandalay Bay

Say what you will about the man but it's impossible to deny he made great music and that's what makes this stunning Cirque du Soleil show so stunning. It brings Jackson's music to life in ways both familiar and unexpected, leaving audiences delighted at every moonwalk. Read the full review.

4. Le Reve at Wynn Las Vegas

It's been a decade since this show stormed onto The Strip but it has been in the last few years that it became great. Mixing Cirque-style acrobatics with dark and moody visuals, ballroom dance, and a dreamy love story sounds like a strange combination but it totally works. Few other shows on The Strip stick with you after you have left the theater the way this one does. Read the full review.

5. Mac King at Harrah's

For years, Mac has been the "King" of the afternoon show circuit, putting on a magic show that is as much comedy as it is trickery. The fact that it's one of the most affordable show tickets in town is like a crazy bonus. Read the full review.

6. Jeff Civillico at The Flamingo

If Mac is King, then Jeff is the court jester, bringing a manic energy to his juggling antics and a laugh-out-loud sense of humor good for kids and adults. Read the full review.

7. Vegas! The Show at Planet Hollywood

The traditional Vegas show may be a dying breed but this celebration of all-things Sin City entertainment is a rollicking reminder of why this city is the true entertainment capital of the world. Read the full review.

8. Mystere at Treasure Island

This Cirque du Soleil production revolutionized the Vegas show scenes when it debuted way back in 1993, paving the way for no fewer than eight other Cirque shows after it. The fact that it has outlived the last one that debuted (Zarkana) is not at all surprising - it's still one of the best. Read the full review.

9. KA at MGM Grand

Right behind its Cirque sibling, KA takes everything that the company is good at - stunning acrobatics, amazing visuals - and wraps it up in a moving story about twins separated by war. It's one of a kind and not easily forgettable. Read the full review.

10. Showstoppers

If you are a fan of Broadway music you have to put this show on your list of things to do in Vegas. They take the biggest numbers from the most popular musicals and string the together in a non-stop cavalcade of Great White Way entertainment. Done by an incredibly talented cast, this is like a Best of Broadway CD brought to life. Read the full review.

Readers' Choice: Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil

Just because I didn't put this show at #1 doesn't mean I don't love it and totally respect your choice to make it the readers' pick for 2015. Read the full review.

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Vegas4Visitors Top 10 Awards 2015: The Best Attractions in Las Vegas

Tried and true seems to be the catchphrase for the attractions on this year's Top 10 list, which is mostly filled with things that were on the list last year. But that's okay - this is a solid line up of cool things to do in Vegas whether you are experiencing them for the first time or not. Yes, most of the things on here are just as entertaining the second time around! Here are my picks for the Best Attractions in Las Vegas for 2015:

1. Bellagio Conservatory

The seasonal displays at Bellagio have always been amazing but this past year seemed to really kick things up a notch with incredible designs for Chinese New Year, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and the Holiday season. No matter what time of year, you can always rest assured that it will be beautifully represented here, making the Bellagio Conservatory my pick for the Best Las Vegas Attraction for 2015. Read the full review.

2. Fountains of Bellagio

After you look at the Conservatory, step right outside the hotel and see the dancing waters, light, and sound show of the Fountains. Yes, you have seen it before. No, it never stops being fun to watch. Read the full review.

3. Mob Museum

This fascinating museum cataloguing the influence of organized crime in America could have rested on its laurels and just coasted. Instead, they are continually adding new attractions (the chair from the Nevada State Prison gas chamber just took up residence) and having special events that make repeat visits totally worth your time. Read the full review.

4. Neon Museum

As historic hotels like The Riviera head toward their inevitable dates with wrecking balls, it is an incredible thing that this facility saves and restores the neon signs from them (and other businesses). These are classic bits of art that helped define the city and I can never get tired of looking at them. Read the full review.

5. Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign

Speaking of neon art, here's one of the most famous examples, an instantly recognizable symbol of the city. Its creator, Betty Willis, passed away in 2015 and so it seemed fitting to make room on the list this year for such an iconic bit of Vegas' history. Read the full review.

6. Fremont Street Experience

Celebrating its 20th year in existence, the Fremont Street Experience is coming into its own as the Downtown scene around springs to life with new restaurants, bars, attractions, and more. It's about time! Read the full review.

7. SlotZilla

This only-in-Vegas attraction is a zip line shaped like a 12-story-tall slot machine. How can you not love that? Read the full review.

8. Fire Breathing Praying Mantis

As fun as it is to watch a giant praying mantis sculpture belch fire from its antennae, it's even more fun watching the people passing by on the street as it scares the crap out of them. Seriously, grab a cocktail and take a seat - it's endless fun. Read the full review.

9. The Smith Center

It's hard to create something world class but that's what they did when the opened the city's performing arts center near Downtown. Multiple, gorgeous and technically sophisticated performance spaces create a package that is hard to beat just about anywhere else. Read the full review.

10. High Roller

I understand the criticisms - it is too expensive; for a big chunk of the ride you're looking at a parking lot or the backs of buildings. But come on... it's the world's tallest observation wheel and if you don't get a bit of a thrill when you reach the top, there's something wrong with you. Read the full review.

Readers' Choice: Bellagio Fountains

I think this proves what I said above. I mean really, how many of you were just seeing the fountains for the first time this year? Second time? Tenth time? It is a Vegas classic that never old!

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Vegas4Visitors Top 10 Awards 2015: The Best Dining in Las Vegas

The dining lists are always the hardest for me to put together. There are so many great places to eat in Vegas that squeezing it down to only ten is almost painful. A couple of years ago I split the list into Expensive and Affordable categories, giving myself the bandwidth to choose twenty restaurants but even that's not enough. Maybe someday this will be a Top 25 list but for now it's my picks for the Top 10 Las Vegas Dining experiences:

Expensive Restaurants

1. L'Atelier at MGM Grand

I have eaten at this incredible little bistro from chef Joel Robuchon several times and each time I come away with a sense of having experienced something truly special. The quality, the preparation, the inventiveness, the flavors... I will remember eating here for the rest of my life and so it makes a no-brainer that his remains the Best Expensive Restaurant in Las Vegas for 2015. Read the full review.

2. BLT Steak at Bally's

I'm as surprised as you are that this place hit such a high peak on the list. I mean, really? It's just another steakhouse, right? Wrong - it's an amazing steakhouse with some really interesting and original things on the menu other than just slabs of beef. But if all you get is a slab of beef, you'll be thrilled because they are the best steaks on The Strip right now. Read the full review.

3. Giada at The Cromwell

When it first opened there was a two month wait to get a reservation at a peak dinner time. Today, it's a little bit easier to get a table and that's great because now you don't have an excuse to try Giada de Laurentiis' incredible Mediterranean cuisine. Read the full review.

4. Aureole at Mandalay Bay

Chef Charlie Palmer is nothing short of a miracle man, or so you might believe after trying the divine concoctions served at his signature Vegas restaurant. The complexities of the creations are almost mind boggling but always a delight for the taste buds. Read the full review.

5. Alize at The Palms

Proof that fine French food doesn't need to be intimidating can be found here at local hero Chef Andre Rochat. And although the view from the top of The Palms tower is gorgeous, you'll find yourself ignoring it so you can pay attention to what's on your plate. Read the full review.

6. Andiamo at the D Las Vegas

The best steakhouse in Downtown Las Vegas puts an Italian spin on the proceedings with pastas and more as side dishes or even as full entrees. They are so good you may want to pass by the steak, but don't - they are amazing! Read the full review.

7. Raku Grill

I can't say enough about this place and its inventive yet traditional take on the Japanese robata grill. Food on sticks is not a new concept but this place elevates it to art. Read the full review.

8. Old Homestead at Caesars Palace

Yes, another steakhouse and the singular reason this one isn't higher on the list is because of the cost. It's definitely one of the most expensive steakhouses in town but their cuts are a cut above so it's worth it. Read the full review.

9. Emeril's at MGM Grand

After 20 years in Vegas, a revamp of the room and the menu have breathed new life into this staple of seafood excellence. Although I have to put it on the "Expensive" list, it's worth noting that it isn't exactly "expensive," especially when compared to other high-end seafood joints in town. Read the full review.

10. Strip House at Planet Hollywood

I like steak, sue me! But seriously, a recent revisit to this long-running beef boutique reminded me just how amazing their steaks are and when you have an appetizer that is a big plate of bacon, how can you go wrong? Read the full review.

Affordable Restaurants

1. Itsy Bitsy Ramen & Whiskey

I have been raving about this place to anyone who will listen, begging them to go Downtown to experience the Japanese street food, ramen, and other specialties at this fantastic little eatery. Don't have a car to get there? It's absolutely worth a cab or an Uber - it's that good. So good that it is, hands down, the Best Affordable Las Vegas Restaurant for 2015. Read the full review.

2. The Goodwich

Ah that most humble of inventions, the sandwich. But here they elevate it to something special, with exciting twists on everything from ham and cheese to a patty melt. That it's served out of a small shack in a parking lot of a bar should not deter you - these are the best sandwiches in Las Vegas. Read the full review.

3. Carson Kitchen

Chef Kerry Simon was a legend in Las Vegas, bringing his approachable style to fantastic restaurants like this on in Downtown Las Vegas that has sort of a farm-to-table approach. Sadly we lost Chef Simon this year, but his legacy lives on here. Read the full review.

4. Glutton

The top four affordable restaurants are all in Downtown Las Vegas? Now that's what I call a renaissance. This one does locally sourced produce, house made pastas and sauces, and fresh meats and seafood all mixed up in creative and delicious ways. Read the full review.

5. Tom's Urban at New York-New York

The have this thing called the Urban Slopper, see... it's a huge hamburger with a thick juicy patty and a buttery bun smothered (actually drenched) in pork-green chile, queso fresco, pico de gallo, and melted cheddar and jack cheeses. And everything else is great, too. Read the full review.

6. La Comida

Back to Downtown for an authentic Mexican experience with the kind of casa-made cooking that your abuela made. It's not drive through stuff served in paper wrappers - this is the real deal with a level of quality that every restaurant should strive for. Read the full review.

7. Hash House a Go Go at The Linq

The "twisted farm food" served here is like a shock to your stomach, but in a good way, proving that breakfast in Vegas doesn't have to be warmed over eggs in a buffet. That lunch and dinner are just as good is a bonus. Read the full review.

8. Citizens Kitchen at Mandalay Bay

I can't say enough good things about the classic American comfort food served here. You just have to trust me that if you want a great, satisfying meal without a lot of gastronomic nonsense on the menu, become a Citizen. Read the full review.

9. Lola's

New Orleans residents are pretty darned picky about the food from their neck of the bayou and rightly so. A lot of them have blessed Lola's as "authentic" and so go get you some jambalaya or red beans and rice without having to go all the way to Louisiana for it. Read the full review.

10. Guy Fieri's Kitchen

I know, I know. Guy Fieri is destroying American dining. He panders. He is the devil. Whatever. The restaurant serves huge portions of really tasty (if outrageously bad for you) food at moderate prices. I don't know how you don't celebrate that. Read the full review.

Buffets

Once again, the participants in the Best Buffets list hasn't changed much although the order certainly has. This year was all about the revamps, with several buffets upping their game, their food selection, and their price. Here are my choices for the Best Buffets in Las Vegas for 2015:

1. The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas

A multi-million dollar upgrade of the decor and the food turned what was already a great buffet into a spectacular one. The quality of the food, the atmosphere, and the service are all a cut above any other all-you-can-eatery, making this an easy pick for the Best Buffet in Las Vegas for 2015. Read the full review.

2. Garden Court Buffet at Main Street Station

The most amazing thing about this buffet is that if you were to transport it intact from its home in Downtown Vegas to any of the major hotels on The Strip and then charged three times as much for it, nobody would blink an eye. It's way too good to be as inexpensive as it is. Read the full review.

3. Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace

Yes, it gets all the headlines but while it's undeniably great, it just doesn't do it for me the way the ones above do. Having said that you will have a hard time beating the selection and quality. Read the full review.

4. The Buffet at Bellagio

My guess is that any day now they're going to revise this buffet to try to be competitive with Caesars and Wynn but the good news is that until they do, this is a pretty fantastic buffet with a huge selection of finely prepared food. Read the full review.

5. Carnival World Buffet at Rio Las Vegas

This fan-favorite has a new lease on life now that the Seafood Buffet at the other end of the hotel has been closed and integrated into this one. It costs extra to include it but it's nice to have it all in one place. Read the full review.

6. Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood Resort

I always really liked the fact that they kept the name and the overall concept of this buffet after they changed the hotel around it from the Aladdin to Planet Hollywood. Extensive Mediterranean and Middle Eastern items make this one unique. Read the full review.

7. Station Casinos Feast Buffets

No matter which hotel you have your Feast at, you can rest assured that the selections will be plentiful, the quality high, and the cost low (at least compared to The Strip). Read the full review.

8. Le Village Buffet at Paris Las Vegas

Even after all these years it's still a kick to eat in the Disneyland-like French countryside surroundings. And the food is pretty great, too! Read the full review.

9. Studio B Buffet at M Resort

It's a bit of a hike to get here, but the effort is worth it for this contemporary take on the tried and true buffet experience. They even include beer and wine at no extra cost! Read the full review.

10. Wicked Spoon Buffet at The Cosmopolitan

I'm going to be honest - the only reason I'm including this buffet is because I needed a 10th one to round out the list. It's not bad by any stretch of the imagination, just not great but neither are any of the other buffets in town so this one at least has a cool dining room. Read the full review.

Readers' Choice

Best Restaurant: Hash House a Go Go

Y'all really love your big breakfasts don't you? Or is their hangover remedy, O'Hare of the Dog That Bit You (a can of Budweiser in a bag served with a plate of bacon). Regardless, Vegas4Visitors Readers chose the twisted farm food as their favorite in Vegas again in 2015. Read the full review.

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Vegas4Visitors Top 10 Awards 2015: The Best Nightlife in Las Vegas

The constant battle to have the biggest and/or best nightclub in Vegas continued in 2015 with the launch of Omnia at Caesars Palace, a hugely popular place that you will note is NOT on the list. I love a good nightclub and there are a couple included but my choices are more diverse, more fun, and less overwhelming. That's what I look for in a nightlife experience so that's how I arrived at this, the list of the Best Nightlife in Las Vegas for 2015:

1. Fizz at Caesars Palace

This tiny slip of a place serves up the best cocktails in Las Vegas (champagne and otherwise) and does so in a fun atmosphere dreamt up by Elton John's husband David Furnish. It's modern meets retro with a chill vibe that you just can't get anywhere else and that, more than anything, is why I picked it as the Best Nightlife in Las Vegas for 2015. Read the full review.

2. Drai's at The Cromwell

As far as big clubs go this is one of the few I would consider standing in line for. The gorgeous indoor/outdoor space atop the hotel is stunning and the crowd seems a little more into it for the party than the posing. Read the full review.

3. Beacher's Madhouse at MGM Grand

It's hard to explain this bizarre mixture of nightclub and carnival sideshow but just trust me when I tell you it is the most unique nightlife experience in town. Read the full review.

4. Surrender at Encore Las Vegas

It is often overshadowed by its big brother XS down the hall, but Surrender is the place for the people in the know who want a hipper vibe and a eye-popping indoor/outdoor experience. Read the full review.

5. Vanguard Lounge

I still can't get over how fresh everything tasted here at this little craft cocktail haven in Downtown Las Vegas. It's amidst a bunch of other more high profile bars but don't overlook it! Read the full review.

6. Atomic Liquors

A mixture of hipster attitude with old-school Las Vegas pride makes this retro wonder a really fun place to drink. Be sure to look for Barbra Streisand's honorary stool. Read the full review.

7. Share

Once Krave closed, it cleared the runway for Share to become the coolest, hippest gay club in town. The two level space and the goings on there are just sexy enough to titillate. Read the full review.

8. ghostbar at The Palms

A recent revamp restored the luster to this rooftop ultra-lounge, turning it into a kitten-with-a-whip boudoir setting that draws a diverse and fun crowd. Read the full review.

9. Vesper at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

The bar is named after the classic martini that James Bond drinks and their specialty is reinventions of classic cocktails - think Manhattan, Gin Fizz, Bloody Mary, and the like. These are crafted cocktails, using the best alcohol and ingredients, and the attention to detail is obvious. Read the full review.

10. Hyde

The space is gorgeous and intimate with multiple levels evoking an Italian villa - on that just happens to have the best views of the Bellagio Fountains in town. Read the full review.

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Vegas4Visitors Top 10 Awards 2015: The Best Shopping in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is a shopping mecca, with more square-footage of retail space crammed into one relatively small geographical area than just about any other place on earth. On The Strip alone there are no fewer than four major malls and if you expand your horizons there are a dozen including three outlet malls! But just because you can buy it, does it mean you should? Here are my choices for the Best Shopping in Las Vegas for 2015:

1. Downtown Container Park

This retail and entertainment complex that has quickly become an indispensable part of the Downtown Las Vegas landscape and a must-visit for savvy shoppers, eaters, drinkers, and fun-seekers. And it has a giant, fire-breathing praying mantis out front so how could it not win the title of Best Shopping in Las Vegas for 2015? Read the full review.

2. Bonanza Souvenir Store

They call themselves the world's largest souvenir shop and it's hard to argue when you see the mind-boggling array of every imaginable doodad, doohickey, tchotchke, and thing-a-ma-bob, all stamped with some variation of "Las Vegas" on it. A tourist trap to be sure but a really fun one! Read the full review.

3. Writer's Block

I haven't had a chance to write up a full review of this indie bookstore in Downtown Las Vegas but the fact that I put it at #3 on this list should tell you a lot. It's a funky, fun, and unique space celebrating the written word and anyone who reads should stop by. Visit the website for more information.

4. Zombie Apocalypse

It's really just a survivalist store filled with all manner of things with which you could stock your bunker and ride out whatever calamity happens to befall humanity, only here the presumed calamity is a zombie invasion. If you can get over the fact that a lot of the goods are designed to appeal to people with an overdeveloped sense of paranoia it is great silly fun. Read the full review.

5. Toy Shack at Neonopolis

If you can remember you favorite toys from childhood, this place probably has it right beside all the newest options, too. It is a must-visit for any serious toy fan and a fantastic nostalgia trip down memory lane for everyone else. Read the full review.

6. Hershey's Chocolate World at New York-New York

The Strip is a little sweeter these days with this place giving people the sugar rushes they have been craving. Yes, the Empire State Building statue made out of chocolate is cool, but it's the fresh bakery goods that really make the store worth visiting. Read the full review.

7. Gambler's General Store

If you can imagine it about gambling or Las Vegas, they probably have it: books, cards, chips, dice, gaming tables and tops, roulette wheels, clothing, Las Vegas souvenirs, photos, and much, much more. A must for anyone who has ever spent time in a casino and enjoyed it. Read the full review.

8. Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian/Palazzo

If you only have time to visit one highly themed mall in Las Vegas it should probably be this one. Not necessarily because the shopping is all that exciting but because as an experience it can't be beat. Read the full review.

9. Town Square

This strikes me as a great place to get away from the Vegas hustle and bustle - stroll the tree lined streets, listen to a band in the park, and get some shopping under your belt all at the same time. Read the full review.

10. Linq Promenade at The Linq

This is a nice addition to the sprawl of the Center Strip and a nice alternative to the more maddening malls and casinos that surround it. It has a good layout, an eye-pleasing design, and an interesting roster of tenants and while you may not be able to waste a lot of time here, you'll be able to waste enough to keep you entertained. Read the full review.

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Vegas4Visitors Top 10 Awards 2015: The Best Casinos in Las Vegas

This list is different from the Best Hotels list in that it only focuses on the gambling portion. Sure, the list winds up being similar since a really good Vegas hotel should have a really good casino but a really good casino doesn't have to have a spectacular hotel attached to it. So, with that in mind, here is my list of the Best Casinos in Las Vegas for 2015:

1. Caesars Palace

It isn't the biggest or the most stunningly designed but it is all-encompassing in its offerings and unique in its Roman themed, still slightly kitschy design. I love how there are multiple areas instead of one big room, giving you the illusion that you can maybe change your luck just by changing location. It's contemporary and a throw-back all at the same time and I think it's the Best Casino in Las Vegas for 2015. Read the full review.

2. Aria Las Vegas

The gorgeous design here, using multiple textures and interesting patterns, gives the room a modern look but still offers all of the classic gambling action you'd expect. Read the full review.

3. Planet Hollywood

It often gets overlooked for more splashy gambling halls, but this one has a great layout, tons of games, a very friendly staff, and the highest ceiling in town giving it an airy feeling that the others wish they had. Read the full review.

4. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

This is the most beautifully designed casino in town, turning the stuff that surrounds slot machines into a veritable art gallery. Read the full review.

5. Wynn Las Vegas

When it opened it felt contemporary but now, ten years later, it feels more "classic" - in a good way. The luxe appointments and wide range of games makes it a fun place to gamble. Read the full review.

6. Green Valley Ranch

Get off The Strip and you'll find a lot of places like this that offer lower limit games and a friendly staff. But few are as gorgeously designed as this one, with an Italian countryside feel that is warm and inviting. Read the full review.

7. Golden Nugget

Downtown Vegas' premiere casino has been in business for almost 70 years(!!) but they have done a great job keeping it up to date, comfortable, and friendly. Read the full review.

8. Red Rock

Before there were the visual feasts that are places like Aria and The Cosmo, this locals' casino upped the ante on design with a beautiful mixture of natural elements and light. Read the full review.

9. Mandalay Bay

Most of the casinos in town are way too crowded with precious little chance for personal space. This one might actually be almost too sparse, making it feel like there aren't enough games to fill up the space. But there is a lot to choose from here and I'll take sparse over crowded any day. Read the full review.

10. Bellagio

When it opened in 1998 it set the standard for what a luxurious Las Vegas casino should look like with rich fabrics and woods instead of cheap carpeting and metal. Read the full review.

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