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What's New in Vegas

From restaurants to gigantic sky wheels on the horizon,
this desert getaway is never the same twice.
By Randy Cosby

The word “change” is used by a lot of politicians during an election run, but change is a way of life in Las Vegas, Nev. Month by month, Vegas casinos, hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues are renewed, reshuffled, and replaced to attract visitors who are looking for a destination to dispose of their disposable income. This round up of what’s new was researched during a recent visit to Vegas.


Above: Palms Casino Resort is spending $50 million to remodel 428 rooms. In addition, the resort will introduce a new pan-Asian restaurant. Palms Casino Resort photo

In Title: The iconic neon sign welcomes travelers to Las Vegas. Las Vegas News Bureau photo

Below: Blue Man Group this fall opened a new show at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino.

(c) Blue Man Group

Let’s dish about new restaurants

A smorgasbord of new restaurants bringing a change in culinary choices includes Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at the AAA Four Diamond Caesars Palace which, when opening late this year, will give the television chef two namesake restaurants on The Strip. Gordon Ramsay Steak at the AAA Three Diamond Paris Las Vegas, a two-level steakhouse with a British décor, opened in May. The Pub & Grill will feature traditional British pub food and some of Ramsay’s favorite dishes. It will be located adjacent to The Colosseum in the space formerly occupied by Bradley Ogden restaurant.

Vegas’ reputation as “the best place on Earth to eat a steak,” according to a recent edition of Robb Report, was bolstered by the recent opening of the Center Cut Steakhouse at Flamingo Las Vegas (AAA Three Diamond), and will be further fortified next summer when Tom Colicchio, head judge from Top Chef on the Bravo channel, opens a new restaurant at The Mirage (AAA Four Diamond).

The AAA Four Diamond hotel, Wynn Las Vegas, has added three varied restaurant choices: classic Japanese cuisine, with a new seasonally focused approach by Chef Devin Hashimoto, at Mizumi; casual Italian-American cuisine as imagined by Chef Enzo Febbraro at Allegro; and a sophisticated nightlife dining experience, with celebrity DJs and a new supper menu by Chef Mark LoRusso, at Botero at Encore.

Caesars Palace claims to be taking the art of the buffet to another level with it Bacchanal Buffet, featuring more than 500 items created by a team of chefs. The feast offers everything from wood fired pizzas and Chinese dim sum to prime rib and red velvet pancakes.

Dessert is taken to another level at the AAA Three Diamond Palms Casino Resort’s Chocolat Bistro, where Italian gelato, made-to-order crepes, handmade chocolates, and other sweets are artfully prepared. In December, the resort will open XISHI (pronounced “zai she”), a pan-Asian restaurant offering contemporary Asian food in space formerly occupied by Little Budda.

Authentic Mexican cantina cuisine, along with an entertaining party atmosphere, is on the menu at Carlos’n Charlie’s in the Flamingo Las Vegas (AAA Three Diamond), while a more laid-back, hip gastro pub offering great food, libations and live music now can be found at Culinary Dropout at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas.

nothing but a good time

Bars and clubs in Vegas are everywhere, but three openings are worth mentioning. Partiers of a certain age with a specific taste will like the recently opened Bourbon Room at The Venetian (AAA Five Diamond), which offers 28 bourbons–as well as a variety of other beverages popular in the 1980s–and music videos featuring more than a few “hair bands” from the same era. The bar is inspired by the Sunset Strip club in the musical, Rock of Ages, which debuts Dec. 18 at The Venetian.

Borrowing on a pre-Prohibition theme, Commonwealth, a 6,000-square-foot cocktail bar with a backroom speakeasy and a rooftop bar, opens in November at 525 E. Fremont St. in downtown Vegas.

Entertainment choices in Vegas are almost limitless, and rock aficionados have the chance to catch Guns N’ Roses performing their top-rated songs over the last two decades during several performances through Nov. 24 at The Joint in Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

Rod Stewart also has added nine new performances between Jan. 23 and Feb. 9, 2013, at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. The pace will be a bit slower when Tim McGraw and Faith Hill perform at The Venetian Theater on 10 weekends between Dec. 7 and next April.

Next year, the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino opens its Hakkasan club in the former Studio 54 space. This 75,000-square-foot, five-level project will include a restaurant, a lavish lounge, and a nightclub.

Vegas entertainment can’t be discussed without mention of Blue Man Group or Cirque du Soleil, both of which opened new shows in October. Blue Man Group describes its new production in Monte Carlo Resort and Casino as “the only show that combines robots and inventive technology with comedy and inspiring theatrics.”

Cirque du Soliel’s Zarkana, previewing in October but officially opening in November at the AAA Five Diamond ARAI Resort & Casino, already has been seen by more than 1.2 million guests worldwide. It blends acrobatic circus arts with the surreal in a slightly twisted fantasy world that, ever so slowly, transports the audience from unsettling chaos to a festive joy.

Acrobatic dance is featured in Jabbawockeez, the eight-member, male, hip-hop dance crew best known for being the winners of the first season of America’s Best Dance Crew will open a new show this spring in a custom-built, state-of-the-art theater at Luxor Hotel & Casino.

New twists to the half-day Pink Jeep city tour include a visit to the Mob Museum (National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement) downtown, as well as the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, whose owners star on the History Channel’s Pawn Stars show.

resort renovations

At the same time that entertainment venues are being shuffled and restaurant space is being re-purposed, Vegas hotels are committing millions for upgrades. The AAA Four Diamond MGM Grand recently spent $160 million to remodel more than 4,000 rooms and suites in its main tower, including the development of 42 Stay Well rooms. Billed as the first of their kind, the rooms have 12 health-promoting features, including advanced lighting designed to complement sleep/wake cycles, a special air purification system, and a vitamin C shower infusion designed to neutralize chlorine and promote healthy hair and skin.

Vegas’ original casino, the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino, has added a five-story, all-suite tower and a new porte cochere. The D Las Vegas (formerly Fitzgerald’s) boasts 638 remodeled contemporary rooms and suites, plus the longest bar in Nevada. By year’s end, Bellagio (AAA Three Diamond) also will have spent $40 million to remodel 928 luxury rooms in its Spa Tower; Palms Casino Resort (AAA Three Diamond) will have spent $50 million remodeling 428 rooms in an ultra-chic and modern style; and Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas (AAA Five Diamond) will have remodeled 424 guest rooms and suites in a style partly inspired by the Art Deco period.

And then there is the Delmont, a fictional hotel that is the setting for one of Vegas’ newest attractions and certainly its goriest. Eli Roth–a horror film producer, director and writer–opened the Goretorium, a 25-minute self-guided tour that’s certainly not for children or the faint-hearted, proof that whatever one’s imagination can conjure up, it’s likely found in Vegas.

Randy Cosby is a contributor from St. Louis, Mo.

Nov/Dec 2012 Issue


If Vegas is in your travel plans, baby, check out AAA's Las Vegas page for hotel and attraction deals for AAA members, including savings on Blue Man Group plus save 10 percent on merchandise at the Blue Man Group tickets and merchandise.

Your AAA Travel professional can put together a great Vegas getaway for you. To visit Vegas, first stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks® and TourBook® guides.


Wheels of Fortunes

By Randy Cosby

In Texas, “bigger is better” could easily be the state’s motto, but in Las Vegas, it’s a mantra. Proof of this is the fact that by early 2014, the Las Vegas Strip may have a pair of 500-foot Ferris wheels or, as they often now are called, observation wheels.


Above: SkyVue is under construction across from Mandalay Bay.

Below: The High Roller is part of Project Linq, an open-air entertainment, retail, and dining district developed by Caesars Entertainment. Caesars Entertainment rendering


SkyVue, the $200 million project under construction across from Mandalay Bay on the southern end of The Strip, will have 32 glass-walled gondolas, along with 50,000-square-foot rotating LED screens on either side of the wheel. Each gondola would hold between 20 and 25 passengers, and a 30-minute ride is expected to cost about $25 a head. On the ground below the 500-foot wheel will be 160,000 square feet of retail and convention space.

The High Roller, a 550-foot behemoth that would be the largest observation wheel in the world when completed, will have 28 glass-enclosed, spherical cabins accommodating up to 40 people each. Initial estimates indicate it would cost between $20 and $25 per person to take a 30-minute ride that would consist of one full rotation of the wheel. Located in the center of The Strip behind the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino and the Flamingo Las Vegas, High Roller will be the focal point in Project Linq Las Vegas, Caesars Entertainment’s $550 million, 300,000-square-foot, open-air dining, entertainment, and retail district currently under construction.

But a recent announcement by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg likely already is sowing the seeds of an inferiority complex in the owners and operators–or soon-to-be-operators–of all the above wheels.

Bloomberg unveiled a plan for a New York Wheel, a 625-foot-tall structure that would be built on Staten Island and offer up to 1,440 passengers at a time unparalleled views of the Statue of Liberty and the downtown Manhattan skyline. The $230 million project, which would include a 100-shop outlet mall and a 200-room hotel, is expected to draw an estimated 4.5 million people a year and could be operational by 2015, officials said.


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