9 new reasons to visit Las Vegas this year
A city where a Playboy Suite is one of the more established hotel experiences, and references to five-star restaurants with sommeliers flying around on wires actually sounds believable. ("Modern Family," anyone?)
A place where $150 million Star Trek Starship Enterprise proposals are green-lighted by the mayor and given land near the city, but are then killed by movie moguls.
So what actually gets the go-ahead in terms of new attractions?
Here are nine crazy new venues dreamed up by Sin City.
1. Mob Museum
More than a decade in the making, the Mob Museum recently opened in a former federal courthouse building where actual mob trials were held.
The creative genius behind this $42 million ode to all things organized crime is the same squad responsible for the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.
Here, they’ve amassed an impressive array of memorabilia, from the barber chair in which the head of the Gambino crime family was gunned down in March 2011, to actual FBI audiotapes in which casino execs conspire with mob bosses.
300 Stewart Ave., Las Vegas, Nev.; +1 702 229 2734; themobmuseum.org
2. Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure
Whether they choose to ride shotgun for four trips around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, or get behind the wheel themselvess for a full 60 laps, visitors can burn rubber like a NASCAR pro at this offshoot of the Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure, which operates at numerous tracks around the country.
On special dates, they can even ride along with old #44 himself.
The track isn't open every day, so reservations are required -- but driver's licenses are not. According to the website, "You do not need a driver's license to race in one of our race cars." Just the cojones.
7000 Las Vegas Blvd. N., Las Vegas, Nev.; +1 1 800 644 4444; www.racingadventure.com
3. Chuck Jones Experience
At the new Chuck Jones Experience inside Circus Circus Hotel & Casino, legendary cartoonist Chuck Jones, responsible for creating everyone from Elmer Fudd to Pepe le Pew, is the subject of a 930-square-meter tribute, which includes the largest collection of his work anywhere in the world, including his last, unfinished canvas.
At interactive stations throughout the space, museum-goers can try their hand at the illustrative arts.
2880 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, Nev.; +1 702 224 2580; www.chuckjonesexperience.com
4. Hotel makeovers
It’s not unusual in Las Vegas for residents to have a little sprucing up from time to time, and we can name three who’ve recently unveiled a fresh new look: Flamingo, Bellagio and MGM Grand.
Each denizen of the Vegas Strip has undergone a multimillion-dollar makeover, updating rooms with new color palettes, furnishings, upgraded amenities and more.
(While updated rooms are available at both the MGM Grand and Flamingo, touch-ups will continue there for several more months.)
Bellagio; 3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, Nev.; +1 702 693 7111; www.bellagio.com
Flamingo; 3555 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, Nev.; +1 888 902 9929; www.flamingolasvegas.com
MGM Grand; 3799 MGM Grand Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nev.; +1 702 891 1111; www.mgmgrand.com
5. Casa de Shenandoah
Wayne Newton has been an attraction on Vegas stages for more than 40 years and now his over-the-top Vegas estate, Casa de Shenandoah, where he still lives, is being opened as a public attraction.
The exact date is still fuzzy, but sometime this spring, visitors will be allowed to check out his 170,000-square-meter property, including the glitzy main house and expansive grounds, replete with peacocks, penguins and the "Danke Shoen" crooner's prized Arabian horses.
Expansion on the site includes a museum that Mr. Las Vegas likens to an entertainment hall of fame, where mementoes from contemporaries such as Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash and Nat King Cole will be showcased.
Corner of South Pecos Road and East Sunset Road, Las Vegas, Nev.
6. Smith Center for the Performing Arts
One of the biggest events in Vegas history?
No, not Cher returning for yet another Vegas stage run, but the March 10 opening of the $450 million Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
Occupying more than 20,000 square meters amid downtown’s burgeoning Symphony Park, the Smith Center features world-class artworks both indoor and out, as well as state-of-the-art design and acoustics within each of its multiple performance venues.
Resident companies include the Las Vegas Philharmonic and Nevada Ballet Theatre, while the lineup of visiting performers includes everyone from Yo-Yo Ma and Savion Glover to David Sedaris and Lily Tomlin.
361 Symphony Park Ave., Las Vegas, Nev.; +1 702 749 2012; www.thesmithcenter.com
7. Oscar’s Beef • Booze • Broads
Only in Vegas could the mayor get away with calling women “broads” and make statements like, “My approach to food and service is the same as my approach to life … eat, talk, have fun and get drunk!”
OK, technically, Oscar Goodman is the ex-mayor of Las Vegas (his wife took over the office last July after he was ousted due to term limitations), but he's still a beloved local figure and is now holding court at the recently opened Oscar’s Beef • Booze • Broads in the Plaza Hotel & Casino.
In addition to aged steaks sizzling over a 600-degree grill, the downtown eatery serves up a little sex appeal in the form of statuesque hostesses who will gladly join you at your table if you’re in need of a dinner companion.
1 S. Main St., Las Vegas, Nev.; +1 702 386 7227; www.plazahotelcasino.com
8. Even more steak
Oscar Goodman isn’t the only one with a new steakhouse in town.
In January, brothers Marc and Greg Sherry opened a Vegas arm of New York’s famed Old Homestead Steakhouse, whose bravado with beef dates to 1868.
Open since September 2011 in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, 35 Steaks + Martinis has become known for its monstrous 35-ounce Tomahawk Chop bone-in ribeye for two.
In May of this year, popular Brit restaurant and TV chef Gordon Ramsay will debut his first Vegas venture, Gordon Ramsay Steak at the Paris Las Vegas, which, in addition to dry-aged steaks, will feature signature dishes like shepherd’s pie and fish-and-chips.
Old Homestead Steakhouse, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, Nev.; +1 702 731 7560; www.theoldhomesteadsteakhouse.com
35 Steaks + Martinis, 4455 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, Nev.; +1 702 693 5585; www.hardrockhotel.com
9. Yoga Among the Dolphins
The Spa at the Mirage Hotel & Casino has introduced an interesting way to help you recover your center and balance after a crazy night out.
Its new class, Yoga Among the Dolphins, takes place in a quiet glassed-wall spot within the dolphin habitat at Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden. Those taking the class can watch the serene sea creatures glide by while working on sun salutations and downward-facing dogs.
3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, Nev.; +1 702 791 7223; www.mirage.com
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