Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The new Las Vegas

I was recently in Las Vegas for a conference and although it was a busy week, I had time to walk down the strip and take some photos.

A LOT has changed since I moved away nearly five years ago.

One of the biggest architectural changes has been the addition of the City Center which contains hotels, condos, upscale malls and restaurants.  The Aria hotel and casino has the new Elvis Cirque de Soleil show which has been getting so-so reviews.  If you want to see a great Cirque show, go see Ka at the MGM instead.

City Center looks like the future.

While I was amblin' along the strip, I started to think of all the cool things that Vegas has lost over the years.  

If you lived in Vegas or travelled to it several years ago, you might remember ...
  • The Coke Museum (and no, not the drug).  This is where coke would fly across the room and land in your cup.  I loved it and it only cost $2 for the entrance fee.  
  • The Shark Club.  The first nightclub that I used to go to.  Had an aquarium with real sharks.  
  • The Beach.  Nothing will erase all the great memories that I had at this nightclub.  At midnight, they used to spray the crowd with toilet paper while playing "Zombie" by the Cranberries
  • Nudes on Ice.  Whatever happened to the ultra-tacky Vegas-style shows?  
  • Rum Jungle.  The restaurant/nightclub at the Mandalay Bay.  Used to be the place to go to party on a Saturday night.  Or, if you wanted to indulge yourself in animal flesh, you could have dinner and eat the Brazilian BBQ.  
  • Drink.  Another off-the-strip nightclub where they had foam parties.  Hmmm, back in the day, I went to a lot of nightclubs ...
  • The Tillerman.  Used to be one of the most profitable restaurants in Las Vegas.  Now it appears to be closed for good.  
  • The Magical Empire at Caesar's?  I can't remember what this was called but it was ultra-cool.  You started off with a dinner where they performed some entertaining tricks.  Then you could wander around to various rooms where magicians did everything from close-up magic to more formal stage productions.  At the center of the empire was a fire that twisted around like a cyclone.  
  • Bacchanal.  The restaurant at Caesar's which was designed like a roman feast, complete with Caesar who came around and wished everyone an enjoyable evening.  The food was incredible and the atmosphere was a lot of fun.  
  • And while we're on the topic of Caesar's, whatever happened to the fake hair and the weird cones that the cocktail waitresses had to wear on their heads?  
  • The Debbie Reynold's Casino.  I felt really bad when this casino disappeared.  I was there one New Year's Eve with my parents and the Unsinkable Molly Brown gave me a kiss on the cheek.   
  • Dive, the restaurant.  Not terribly good food but every 30 minutes or so, the whole restaurant tried to give you the feeling that you were headed underwater, just like a submarine taking a dive.  Entertaining for those out-of-town guests that wanted something a little different.  
  • A Little off the Top.  The only place in town where you could get your hair cut by topless hairdressers.
  • The weird show at the Rio that didn't even last a year.  Someone will have to help me on the name of this one.  A lot of the actors were on bungee cords and bounced around above the standing audience.  Water was sprayed everywhere and no intelligible words were spoken. Ultra-cool soundtrack.  I saw it in New York and was thrilled when it came to Vegas.  Sadly, it never caught on and was quickly cancelled.  

A reproduction of the Eiffel tower at the Paris Hotel and Casino.  

They removed the fountains at the Paris Hotel.  Replaced by another restaurant.  

The MGM Grand.  While I was still living in Vegas, they did away with the first entranceway to the casino.  It was in the form of a lion's head and if the rumor was true, it was bad luck for the Asian gamblers to be "swallowed up by a lion".   

The New York, New York Hotel and Casino is looking a little faded these days.  Time for a paint job.  Externally, this is one of my favorite casinos.  Very cool design without being overly tacky.  

I circled back around and headed into the mass of buildings at the City Center.  There is a mall there where everything is completely unaffordable unless you are Kim Kardashian.  

The year of the rabbit.  I forget what animal I was born under.  Something very uncool, like the ox or duck.  Rabbits are pretty cool, especially giant gold ones.  

The Cosmopolitan at the City Center is the latest hotel to open on the strip.  

Their signature bar is the Chandelier Bar.  A full three stories in the shape of a chandelier.  Only in Vegas, right?  

And the Bellagio.  The Italian seaside casino.  The fountains are very worthwhile to check out.  And they're FREE.  

Gone is the Desert Passage Mall at the Aladdin.  Now we have the Miracle Mile Shops.  A little bit more modern perhaps but if you walk through them, there are plenty of sections that make you feel like you're in the Sahara.  

If you've never been to Vegas, there has never been a better time.  Yes, this city has lost some things over the years but there is still lots to do especially if you can afford it.

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