One of the great things about Las Vegas is that it’s always changing. The 80′s and 90′s brought themed hotels and casinos while the city tried to cater to families. More recently hotels have shunned the themes in favor of more modern designs where they depend on what’s inside the casino to wow us. There are hotel-casinos, like the Cosmopolitan, which rarely mention the fact that they have gaming and emphasize the nightclubs and fine dining in their marketing. All of this just makes Las Vegas a more diverse town and that’s great. Somewhere between the theming and de-theming of the hotels Las Vegas became a town for foodies. The finest chefs across the world have restaurants in Las Vegas.
Variety is the spice of life whether you have wide interests and even when you focus on a niche. My niche as a foodie is steak. I’ve been to almost every steakhouse on the Vegas strip and I continue to explore different steakhouses when they open or go back to the few steakhouses that have been around for years that I haven’t had a chance to visit.
Last year, the MGM Grand cornered off a huge section of tables, took away those fluffy lions, and shut the doors to Studio 54. A night at Studio 54 was always a blast and I think the name alone gave me the feeling that I was in a “special” club reminiscent of the days in 1977-1981 in New York City. Being a fan of amazing clubs and having visited many of them throughout the US and Europe, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on the topic. I have spent several vacations in Ibiza, Spain and South Beach in Miami to watch the sun come up. But, now I don’t have to go so far to experience the newest and grandest nightclub in history opening its doors April 2013 at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The name is not as cool as Studio 54, but Hakkasan Night Club is supposed to be way more than just a place to shake your moneymaker.
I just returned from a crazy trip to Austin, Texas for what people in the interactive, music, and film industry should rename adult spring break. This South by Southwest conference has become so huge that there is not a lot of work getting done but a lot of network “partying” being accomplished instead. My liver told me it only felt this way in one other city – LAS VEGAS. The after-effect of the conference feels a lot like a few days in Sin City! So, it is only fitting that SXSW bring the conference to the west and take residency in Las Vegas.
SXSW V2 is the newest addition to the ever-growing SXSW family. This conference is going to be held at the Cosmopolitan Hotel from August 11-August 14, 2013. The conference is a condensed version of its counterpart in Austin, which lasts a full 10 days! But, if you are like most people, 2 days and nights in Las Vegas can feel like 2 weeks in another city (in a great way).
Just about anyone can crack open a beer or throw together a Jack n Coke but creating a cocktail is not so simple. A cocktail is a little more complex. By definition a cocktail an alcoholic mixed drink that contains three or more ingredients with at least one of those ingredients being a spirit. You can get a drink at any bar but you can’t always find a cocktail. Creating a cocktail is an art – so much so that bartenders that make cocktails are often referred to as mixologists. Call the cocktail creator what you want but if they can turn a drink into more of an experience then a drink you have someone and something special.
Over the past few years downtown Vegas has undergone a facelift. It’s no longer “Old Vegas” even if it is old and in Las Vegas. Old Vegas was a place to go for a cheap time in Las Vegas and it still is in part. The recent facelift downtown has not only yielded cleaner and more modern casinos but its also added a slew of new bars and restaurants. There’s even a website, fremontstreetbars.com, to keep track of all of the new bar activity in downtown Vegas. Many of the new bars don’t just serve drinks, they cater to the cocktailer in all of us. Here are some of the best places to cocktail around Downtown Vegas.
The pool scene in Las Vegas has changed a lot over the past few years. During the week the pools in Vegas may be a nice place to relax and read a book while catching some rays but that changes at a lot of hotels the weekend pool parties take over. While a few heated pools are open all winter long most of them close. The closed pools in Vegas are re-opening all throughout March with the MGM Grand pool having been the first to re-open for the season on February 22. Pool parties are a whole other story. Las Vegas pool parties come in two varieties – Big and Bigger. This is Vegas after all.
Normal weekend afternoons at many of the major resort pools have shunned RnR for DJ’s. Chances are that you won’t be able to make it through your book with the music cranked up to 10. There are fun, yet still affordable pool parties like at Planet Hollywood and Flamingo which both feature anonymous DJ’s (more on this in a second) spinning your favorite current party tunes.
I can feel it is March because I have that college basketball itch! My beloved University of Arizona Wildcats are in the Pac 12 and the tournament is moving from the Los Angeles, Staples Center and relocating to the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The viewership of the tournament had declined in the last couple of years (which is obviously the reason I was able to get a seat in the front row at Staples last year) and the forces that be, believe moving the Pac 12 tournament to Las Vegas will attract more attention. I think they are right! This is yet another good reason to visit Las Vegas in March (as if you needed another reason). What better appetizer for College Basketball March madness than with PAC 12 tournament basketball.
If you don’t feel like dealing with the hustle and bustle of the huge, somewhat over-played restaurants and bars that everyone goes to when they visit Las Vegas, then I have some great suggestions for you. I have had the pleasure of frequenting a few bars and restaurants that fly under the radar in Las Vegas and I am going to give you a peak into my secret stash.
Firefly is a true favorite restaurant amongst Las Vegas locals. Not to mention the fact that it is a tapas restaurant, which is perhaps the greatest invention ever (you get a little bit of this and a little bit of that or a lot of that). What could be better? A dessert sampler!
Some people call “The Mob” the founding fathers of Las Vegas. They were gangsters, hoodlums and thieves that migrated to Las Vegas from all over the country. Before Las Vegas became big business run by corporations the mob ran this town. From the early 1950′s through the 1980′s you could find the mob running the best casinos on the Vegas strip.
Even though the mob helped make Las Vegas the tourist destination it is today it wasn’t without it’s flaws. The mob was always known for being a major part of prostitution, drug dealing and loan sharking. Mobsters were often ruthless businessman who withheld tax money that should have gone to the Government to build schools, hospitals and roads. However, there were a small portion of the mob that changed themselves for the better to become model citizens and respectable businessmen.
I was first in line last year when I heard that Motley Crue was doing the first ever rock n’ roll residency in Las Vegas. This was a groundbreaking event for rockers around the world. We no longer only had the option of just seeing Elton John or Celine Dion with our parents for a show night out. Now, rockers of the world were able to unite at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino’s Joint to rock out to our favorite anthems with a bunch of other rock revelers. I joined my fellow “Crue Heads” and definitely participated and left my “Shout at the Devil” and loved every minute of it.
I no longer needed to pack skin tight dresses (that would fit a 5 year old) with 5 inch stilettos but traded that Vegas uniform the much more rock appropriate tight black pants, high boots, tank and a ton of jewelry.
NCAA Basketball Tournament, AKA March Madness, is one of the busiest sports weekends in Las Vegas. This year the tournament begins Tuesday, March 19 but the Madness doesn’t begin until Thursday, March 21. The first weekend of March Madness is spread over four days making it the second busiest event for the sportsbooks in Las Vegas behind the Super Bowl. This chaos complicates things for people that want to wager on the games and even for people that just want to watch the games.
There are 16 games on each of the first two days with another 8 games on the first Saturday and Sunday of March Madness. Sportsbooks will be overflowing with people before the first game tips off on March 21 around 9am pacific time. Besides betting on the games sportsbooks are a great place because they’re open to whomever wants to just sit and watch the games. During March Madness those seats are at a minimum. If you want to watch the games on the big screens of the sportsbook make sure you arrive early because those seats are first come whether you bet on the game or not. There are tales of some people paying the homeless to sleep in the sportsbook overnight to ensure that they seats.