Frommer's EasyGuide to Las Vegas 2017 (Easy Guides) (2016)

8

ENTERTAINMENT & NIGHTLIFE

According to an advertising slogan, Hollywood is the “Entertainment Capital of the World.” But consider for a moment the sheer number of shows, headliners, bars, nightclubs, lounges, and other forms of entertainment and nightlife in Las Vegas. Your options are almost limitless: Cirque du Soleil has more than a half-dozen permanent shows here; virtually every hotel has at least one showroom, if not four; Mariah Carey, Elton John, and Britney Spears are among the big names who perform regularly, and sometimes exclusively, in Vegas; most bars are open 24 hours a day; 7 of the top 10 grossing nightclubs in the U.S. are in Vegas, accounting for over half a billion dollars in revenue in 2015; and yes, there are even a few showgirls left. Hollywood may have the slogan, but Las Vegas is the real capital.

You certainly won’t be lacking in things to do; in fact, the opposite may be true in that there are simply not enough hours in your vacation to do all the things you may want to do. The key is to cover the basics—a Cirque show if you’ve never seen one; a headliner, if one is in town; a fun bar; a high-energy nightclub—and then start layering in the off-the-beaten-track, the one-of-a-kind, and the less-high-profile shows, clubs, and entertainment offerings that will make your trip more memorable.

What follows are the things you should not miss—and some that are not worth your time no matter what you may have heard—in the category of performing arts, which includes shows both big, small, and in between; the bar scene, including lounges, piano bars, and pubs; the club and music scene, which covers the big dance clubs, ultralounges, comedy clubs, and more; and, of course, the strip clubs, which are big business in Vegas. There’s also a section for gay and lesbian visitors showcasing the best and brightest bars and clubs around town.

Las Vegas Shows

2439

THE PERFORMING ARTS

This category covers all the major Las Vegas production shows, and a few of the minor ones as well. Note that shows can close without warning, even ones that have been running just shy of forever, so please call first. You might also want to double-check on days and times of performances; schedules can change without notice. Note: Most ticket prices do not include taxes, fees, or drinks, so you might also check for those potential hidden costs.

 

Hot Tip!

Tix4Tonight (www.tix4tonight.com; Black-Phone_bphone 877/849-4868) is a service that puts unsold seats for that evening on sale for as little as half the usual ticket price. There is no way to know in advance what shows will have tickets available for that evening, so the very nature of the service means you can’t plan; you have to stand in line and take your chances. Sales start at 10am, but lines start forming well ahead of that. Although many of the tickets offered are for the B- and C-level shows, some of the bigger productions, like those from Cirque du Soleil and Penn & Teller, will sometimes have discounted tickets. Note that they may not be half-price and they may not be the best seats. So if you have your heart set on a specific show or a specific seat, don’t rely on Tix4Tonight, but if, like a good gambler, you like taking chances, head for any of their nine Las Vegas locations, including the one at 3785 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (in the giant Coke bottle, at the Showcase Mall).

Absinthe Red-Star3_redstar3    Like the supposedly hallucinatory drink it is named after, this Cirque du Soleil–style revue may leave you reeling. But, boy, will that hangover be worth it. The show is performed in the round in a small tent-like structure in front of Caesars Palace, with a tiny circular stage and only a few rows of seating. That means all of the “death-defying stunts”—acrobats, trapeze artists, high-wire walkers, and even high-speed roller skaters will be just feet—and in some cases, inches—from your face. Adding to the thrills are the raunchy host, The Gazillionaire, and his faithfully dimwitted sidekick assistant, who introduce the acts with a dirty glee and X-rated humor that will leave you laughing so hard you’ll forget to be offended or shocked. Sidekick Joy Jenkins’ hilarious, jaw-dropping potty-mouthed rant is worth the price of admission alone. The cast rotates so the show differs from performance to performance. Definitely not for kids or prudes! Shows are Wednesday through Sunday at 8 and 10pm only. In Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.absinthevegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 800/745-3000. Tickets $99–$139.

Blue Man Group Red-Star1_redstar1    Are they blue? Indeed they are—three bald, nonspeaking men dipped in azure paint, doing decidedly odd stunts with marshmallows, art supplies, smoke-ring blowing cannons, giant inflatable balls, commenting on the use of technology and social media without saying a word, and an amazing array of percussion instruments fashioned fancifully from PVC piping. Blue Man has moved back to its original Las Vegas home, Luxor, with an updated and re-imagined show to fit into the new, smaller space. Moments of silly genius are a staple—those oddly compelling, giant smoke rings, for example, and a routine with a Twinkie and a hapless audience member are classics—but the new, cozier theater allows the troupe to create a more intimate, immersive experience and a few new surprises. In the end, the show that used to be unique in Vegas is now uniquely Vegas, as much a part of the entertainment landscape as Cirque du Soleil, and for that alone it is worth a visit. Shows are nightly at 7 and 9:30pm. At Luxor, 3900 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.blueman.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/262-4400. Tickets $64–$125; VIP and backstage tour packages available.

Cirque du Soleil’s  Red-Star3_redstar3     overturns expectations by largely ignoring the usual Cirque format—acrobatic-style acts and ethereal performance art trappings with a tenuous-at-best connective tissue—in favor of an actual plot, as a sister and brother from some mythical Asian kingdom are separated by enemy raiders and have to endure various trials and tribulations before being reunited. Gleefully borrowing imagery from magical realist martial-arts movies such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the production makes use of a technically extraordinary set that shifts the stage not just horizontally but vertically, as the action moves from under the sea to the side of a steep cliff and beyond. The circus elements—clowns and acrobats—are incorporated into the show in a way that makes loose narrative sense.

The story is by turns funny, whimsical, and pulse-pounding, with moments of exquisitely perfect bits of theater. It might be too long and intense for younger children, but older ones will be enthralled—and so will you.

The tragic death of one of the show’s performers during a show in 2013 has had only a minor impact on the fundamentals of this production but should have profound impact on the audience’s interpretation of what Cirque does, reminding us that these are real human beings performing dangerous stunts for our amusement. Stand up at the end of the show and applaud that.

Performances are held Saturday through Wednesday at 7 and 9:30pm. In the MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.cirquedusoleil.com/ka. Red-Phone_redphone 866/740-7711. Tickets $88–$196.

Cirque du Soleil’s LOVE Red-Star1_redstar1    A collaboration between the Beatles (by way of Sir George Martin’s son, who re-configured and remixed the music with a free hand that may distress purists) and Cirque du Soleil, this is the usual Cirque triumph of imaginative design, but it also feels surprisingly hollow. Yes, there’s inspiration in the idea of pairing Beatles’ music with Cirque’s joyous spectacle. But while Cirque shows have never been big on plot, the intense aimlessness of this production means that the show too quickly dissolves into simply the introduction of one novel staging element after another. In other words, its visual fabulousness ends up repetitious rather than thrilling. Still, the familiar music provides an aura of accessibility to the sometimes-dense world of Cirque du Soleil that other Vegas productions don’t, so it could be good for Cirque newbies. Shows are held Thursday through Monday at 7 and 9:30pm. At The Mirage, 3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.cirquedusoleil.com/love. Red-Phone_redphone 800/963-9634 or 702/792-7777. Tickets $88–$209.

BIG NAMES, BIGGER SHOWS

During its fallow days in the 1970s and ’80s, Las Vegas was the place where an entertainer’s act went to die. The headliner showrooms were the refuge for singers whose careers’ best days were years, and sometimes decades, behind them.

That all changed when Céline Dion came to town in 2003. Her 5-year engagement at Caesars Palace shattered box office records and made it safe for big-name headliners to call Vegas their home. In the last decade we have seen marquee-topping extended runs from Elton John, Cher, Bette Midler, Prince, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw & Faith Hill, Shania Twain, Rod Stewart, and more.

Tickets are expensive, with the best seats going for upward of $300, and the concerts are not performed every week, so if you want to see one you have to plan your vacation around their schedule rather than yours. But many of the shows are exclusive engagements, meaning if you want to see the stars, you have to come to Vegas.

Céline Dion is deep into her second headlining run at Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.celinedion.com; Black-Phone_bphone 877/423-5463; show times vary; tickets $55–$250). Backed by a 31-piece orchestra, this is a more dignified affair than her dance-heavy 2003–2008 show. It showcases her voice in a way that proves she is probably one of the most naturally gifted singers in the world. On signature ballads like “Because You Loved Me” and the inevitable “My Heart Will Go On,” it’s easy to understand how she can sell out a 4,000-seat theater on a regular basis. We would’ve liked to have heard more of her hits rather than her covers of other’s music that take up big chunks of the show, and we longed for more up-tempo moments, but fans will likely be rapt.

Sharing the same stage (but not at the same time, sadly), Elton John, at Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.eltonjohn.com; Black-Phone_bphone 888/435-8665; show times vary; tickets $55–$500), is also back for a second run of shows entitled The Million Dollar Piano. Sir Elton’s canon of work is irreproachable: “Benny and the Jets,” “Rocket Man,” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” We could be here all day just listing his 5 decades’ worth of hits. He’s also a master showman; king of the bling and the tricked-out pianos like the one used in this production, complete with LED video panels built into it. Downsides (depending on your viewpoint) include a ballad-heavy playlist and some deep album cuts that only the most rabid of fans will recognize, along with less-energetic staging than we’ve seen in the past, but musically speaking, Elton John is a genius and this production proves why.

Country icons unite in Reba, Brooks & Dunn: Together in Vegas at Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.thecolosseum.com; Black-Phone_bphone 800/745-3000; show times vary; tickets $60–$205), a show exclusively created for Las Vegas. Reba McEntire collaborated with country duo Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn for this fun, 90-minute honky-tonk, packed with plenty of number one songs from both their extensive catalogs.

Finally, pop princess Britney Spears has taken up residency at Planet Hollywood, 3667 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.britneyspears.com; Black-Phone_bphone 866/919-7472; show times vary; tickets $65–$255), making the revamped Theater for the Performing Arts, now the Axis Theater, her home until at least the end of 2017. The show is heavy on the type of special-effects staging and energetic choreography that Brit’s concerts have been famous for, and leans, heavily on her roster of hits like “Oops, I Did it Again,” “Toxic,” and “Scream and Shout.” That she lip-syncs her way through most of the show (sorry, “sings to track”) should not be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention.

Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson ONE Red-Star3_redstar3    Unlike LOVE, Cirque’s Beatle-themed show, Michael Jackson ONE works like gangbusters. Its blend of the brilliantly conceived pop music (and pop culture touchstones) created by Michael Jackson and the pop-art interpretive lens of Cirque du Soleil is a perfect union. Massive walls of video seem to envelop the audience while speakers, built into the seats, pump the timeless soundtrack of Jackson classics, remixed and remastered, directly into your brain. Each is presented with a set piece that ranges from evocative to stunning to giddy glee-inducing. “Bad” features a gang zooming in on zip lines and bouncing around on what amounts to a giant rubber band stretched across the stage; “Wanna Be Starting Something” showcases an acrobatic troupe using Jackson’s iconic fedoras as twirling and twisting props; a mashup of “Human Nature” and “Never Can Say Goodbye” has a solo dancer doing expert human animation; “Billie Jean” evokes the lighted sidewalk in the music video with lighted suits on dancers performing in an otherwise darkened theater. By the time they get to the part where it “snows” on the audience, or the “Thriller” homage with zombies on trampolines, you’ll want to stand up and cheer. And when the company dances with a so-realistic-it-hurts hologram of Jackson during “Man in the Mirror,” you may have a lump in your throat. It’s okay if you do. You need to be at least an appreciator of the music and also willing to overlook the subtle hagiography of the guy who created it to properly enjoy the show. But anyone who ever danced to a track of “Thriller”—which is pretty much everybody—will be, in a word, thrilled. Shows are held Friday through Tuesday at 7 and 9:30pm. At Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.cirquedusoleil.com/one. Red-Phone_redphone 877/632-7400 or 800/745-3000. Tickets $69–$180.

Cirque du Soleil’s Mystère Red-Star3_redstar3    2013 marked the 20th anniversary of the first (and many say the best) of Cirque du Soleil’s multiple Las Vegas productions. Although there have been some tweaks here and there and a few new acts were added in 2012, the show is pretty much the same as it always has been, which, in a word, is stunning. It’s the closest to the original ethos of the Montréal-based company’s unique circus experience, which focuses on feats of human strength and agility all wrapped up in performance art elements both absurd and surreal. The show features one unbelievable act after another (breathtakingly beautiful aerial maneuvers, seemingly boneless contortionists and acrobats), interspersed with Dadaist/Commedia dell’arte clowns. All this and a giant snail! The thesaurus runs dry trying to describe it: dreamlike, suspenseful, erotic, funny, mesmerizing, and just lovely. At times, you might even find yourself moved to tears. I’m not ashamed to admit I was. Catch it Saturday through Wednesday at 7 and 9:30pm, or pop in for free dress rehearsals on Saturdays from 3 to 3:30pm or Sunday from 4:30 to 5pm. In Treasure Island, 3300 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.cirquedusoleil.com/mystere. Red-Phone_redphone 800/392-1999 or 702/894-7722. Tickets $69–$119, discounts for children under 12 based on availability.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY SHOWS

Appropriate shows for kids, all described in this chapter, include:

bullCirque du Soleil’s , at the MGM Grand (p. 206)

bullCirque du Soleil’s LOVE, at The Mirage (p. 206)

bullCirque du Soleil’s Mystère, at Treasure Island (p. 208)

bullDavid Copperfield, at MGM Grand (p. 210)

bullJeff Civillico: Comedy in Action, at Flamingo (p. 212)

bullMac King, at Harrah’s (p. 214)

bullTournament of Kings, at Excalibur (p. 218)

Cirque du Soleil’s O Red-Star3_redstar3    Franco Dragone, the director, gave Cirque’s next smash hit its one-letter-name because it’s a symbol for infinity; moreover, “O” is the phonetic pronunciation of “eau,” the French word for water. Go to see O, and turn your attention from the stage for a moment and you’ll find another reason for this odd-title: the saucer eyes and open mouths of the audience. This is simply the most astounding, profound, exhilarating, eye-poppingly beautiful show in Vegas. I know that’s a long chain of superlatives but if I had more space, I’d probably add a couple more. The show is centered around a 1.5-million-gallon pool, an engineering marvel: In seconds flat it transforms from pool to a shallow African watering hole, to a dry platform filled with dancers and acrobats, to a plateau with dancing fountains, or to a shimmering lake studded with islands and clown-steered houseboats. Synchronized swimmers plunge into its depths, staying submerged for what seems like ten minutes while above-the-water divers twist and knife in, as brilliantly costumed parades traverse the edges of the water. It’s a spectacle like no other and does the impossible: It tops all of the other brilliant Cirque shows. Performances are held Wednesday through Sunday at 7:30 and 9:30pm. In Bellagio, 3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.cirquedusoleil.com/o. Red-Phone_redphone 888/488-7111 or 702/796-9999. Tickets $132–$210.

Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity Red-Star1_redstar1    Most controversial among Cirque’s offerings, Zumanity is an erotic circus that celebrates sexuality in all its myriad incarnations: men with women, women with women, men with men, senior citizens with other seniors or with young folks, little people with Amazon-sized women, group sex, masturbation, you name it. Which means that when the two strong men are lifting one another in the classic “watch our veins pop out as we imitate Atlas” act, it’s clear that there’s a lot more than just lifting going on between these two. And when the aerialist hanging from the long silk ribbon is flinging herself around the stage, it’s all about S&M and autoerotic asphyxiation. Those who are open-minded will find the Cirque magic here, as much of it is visually arresting. When I was last there, however, a number of people did walk out, so think honestly about what makes you squeamish before you book. Shows are held Friday through Tuesday at 7 and 9:30pm (show times vary seasonally). In New York–New York, 3790 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.zumanity.com. Red-Phone_redphone 866/606-7111 or 702/740-6815. Tickets $88–$127. Only ages 18 and over admitted.

BACHELORETTE PARTY SHOWS

Las Vegas gained its Sin City reputation for gambling, free-flowing alcohol, and entertainment that often involved big, feathered headdresses and bare breasts. But women also get their titillation in Sin City. Of the several beefcake revues in town, Chippendales Black-Star1_bstar1 at The Rio, 3700 W. Flamingo (www.chippendales.com; Black-Phone_bphone 855/234-7469; nightly 8:30pm with an additional 10:30pm show Thurs–Sat; tickets $50–$73) gets the most attention simply because of its well-known brand name. The show ticks all of the boxes: inhumanly handsome and fit men; fantasy fulfillment sketches featuring the guys as cowboys and firemen and the like; and an audience of (mostly) women who go quite, quite crazy. Bring earplugs because the screaming is non-stop. Check the website for frequent guest appearances by “famous” hunks like Tyson Beckford, Ian Ziering or Antonio Sabato, Jr. (it’s okay if you don’t know who they are).

If we were the ones screaming for more skin, we’d probably do so for the hunks of Thunder from Down Under Black-Star2_bstar2 at Excalibur, 3850 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Flamingo (www.thunderfromdownunder.com; Black-Phone_bphone 702/597-7600; Mon–Wed at 9pm; Thurs and Sun at 9 and 11pm; and Fri and Sat at 7, 9, and 11pm; tickets $51–$71). It’s not that the guys are any hotter or the dancing any better, but this production has an edgier, anything-could-happen vibe that amps up the energy and the fun. Plus, the guys here are all Australian. Oh, those accents.

Criss Angel: Mindfreak Live! Red-Star2_redstar2    And for his next trick, rockstar illusionist Criss Angel transforms his original collaboration with Cirque du Soleil into a brand new show. Seven years into his contract with the human circus, Angel said goodbye to BeLIEve to return to the TV show that put him on the map, Mindfreak. As of press time, the show had yet to open officially, but sources told us that this version will be based on Angel’s popular touring show, with those only-in-Vegas touches: fancy animated LED lighting, laser explosions, 3-D immersive effects that put audiences in virtual worlds and pyrotechnic landscapes, plus original illusions. While his first show opened with many hiccups, Angel has finally figured out how to be a presence on stage, so hopefully he won’t have to go through those growing pains again. Although this is technically still a Cirque du Soleil–related production, there are very little (if any) Cirque-style theatrics, which is ultimately a good thing, considering they were the weakest part when the show first debuted. Shows are held Wednesday through Sunday at 7 and 9:30pm. In the Luxor, 3900 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.cirquedusoleil.com. Red-Phone_redphone 877/826-0255. Tickets start at $59.

David Copperfield Red-Star1_redstar1    Illusionists don’t come any more illustrious than David Copperfield, who has been in the business for decades and has done everything from making the Statue of Liberty disappear to walking through the Great Wall of China. He has played semi-regular sets at the MGM Grand for years, but now is making the hotel his home with his name on the showroom. He mixes small, up-close magic like popping balloons “with his mind” and making a small piece of tissue dance up someone’s arm, with larger stunts like making a car appear out of nowhere and causing an entire group from the audience to disappear (from the stage, not their seats). His laconic, “I’m so good at this I don’t need to make a big deal about it” stage presence is a welcome relief from the hyper-dramatic theatrics that other magicians of his caliber often embrace, and Copperfield’s ever-evolving act means that even if you have seen one of his TV specials, you’ll witness new tricks here. Shows are held nightly at 7 and 9:30pm with an additional 4pm show on Saturday. In the MGM Grand, 3555 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.davidcopperfield.com. Red-Phone_redphone 877/880-0880. Tickets $83–$240.

Divas Las Vegas Red-Star1_redstar1    Star impersonator Frank Marino hosted the similar La Cage for more than 2 decades up the street at the Riviera. This show at The LINQ isn’t really all that different, in that it still features Marino as Joan Rivers in a series of Bob Mackie–esque gowns telling groan-worthy jokes and introducing a lineup of female impersonators. The “ladies” vary in quality and illusion: “Beyoncé” is done more for laughs and “Madonna” and “Dolly” are good, but “Céline Dion” is dead-on and “Lady Gaga” is frighteningly accurate (but hey, she kind of looks like a drag queen anyway). They lip-sync their way through hits, often accompanied by scantily clad male dancers, which gives you something to look at if the impersonator isn’t up to snuff. Interesting side note: Marino’s partner proposed on stage in 2013 on the couple’s 20th anniversary. Shows are held nightly at 9:30pm. In The LINQ, 3535 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.thelinq.com. Red-Phone_redphone 888/777-7664. Tickets $27–$101.

BROADWAY & BEYOND

The opening of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts (p. 162) in 2012 changed the scope of entertainment for Las Vegas in dramatic ways. Despite the numerous showrooms, arenas, and theaters in this town, the closest thing to a performing arts stage was a 40-year-old concert hall in the middle of a shopping mall, adjacent to a casino that occasionally hosted a third-string Broadway touring show.

Now that the Smith Center has arrived, there is a legitimate home for cultural pursuits of all types, including the Las Vegas Philharmonic; in-demand Broadway touring companies like Book of Mormon and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder—they’re even getting Hamilton in 2017; a New York Stage series with concerts from Broadway luminaries like Patty Lupone and Audra McDonald; a monthly jazz-tinged set from longtime Vegas showman Clint Holmes (which is one of the best shows and best values in town); a speaker series that has hosted legends like Carol Burnett to Alan Alda; and a host of other concerts from classical to contemporary to choral and more. This is all in a multi-venue facility that has become the envy of cities around the globe.

Visit the Smith Center website at www.thesmithcenter.com or call Black-Phone_bphone 702/749-2000 for information on shows that will be playing when you are in town.

Donny and Marie Red-Star1_redstar1    Proving that a good fainting spell on Dancing with the Stars is worth a lot more than you’d expect, the wholesome brother-sister duo of Donny and Marie has made a comeback on the stages of Las Vegas, performing their personal blend of music, comedy, and variety at the Flamingo. The show is a lot more fun than it has any right to be as long as you go in with your tongue placed firmly in cheek and aren’t flabbergasted by the $260 top-end ticket price. The duo is doing fewer shows each year here to give them room to perform elsewhere, but this is still their home base. Shows are held Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30pm. In the Flamingo, 3555 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.flamingolasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 855/234-7469. Tickets $95–$260.

Human Nature: Jukebox Red-Star2_redstar2    It might have been crooning Motown hits that put Australian quartet Human Nature on the map, but after a long run on the Strip, the other guys from Down Under have expanded their repertoire with Jukebox (which also happens to be the name of their platinum-selling album). Their tight harmonies are delightful throwbacks to the era when the Miracles, the Supremes, the Four Tops, and the Jackson 5 ruled the charts, but they whip audiences into the 21st century with just as exciting pop covers of Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars and The Beatles. Make no mistake, Human Nature started as a boy band (though at this age they really are a man band), so you’ll also be delighted by renditions of other all-male groups like The Beach Boys, Boyz II Men and Backstreet Boys. Save your quarters. This is a jukebox where you won’t want to skip any songs. Shows are Tuesday through Saturday at 7pm. At The Venetian/Palazzo, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.humannaturelive.com. Red-Phone_redphone 866/641-7469 or 702/414-9000. Tickets $49–$118.

Jabbawockeez: JREAMZ Red-Star2_redstar2    The shtick here is that each of the crew of hip-hop dancers is totally covered with clothes and serene blank masks, so issues of race, gender, and physical perfection are left at the door. It’s interesting and sporadically amusing as they use their bodies to communicate everything from lust to disgust, but the real benefit is that it allows the group to function as a single unit; almost like a multicell organism, only one that pops and locks. Their show’s latest incarnation, in a new home at MGM Grand, is set on a smaller stage, which may seem confining for their acrobatic dance style, but the addition of video mapping and intricate lighting effects makes the stage as big a part of the show as the dancers. Shows are Thursday through Monday, 7 and 9:30pm. In the MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.jbwkz.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/891-3577. Tickets $55–$120.

Jeff Civillico: Comedy in Action Red-Star2_redstar2    Family-friendly shows are few and far between in Vegas, especially ones that can be as entertaining for adults as they are for children. This one hits both of those targets with kids wowed by the manic-energy juggling of everything from bowling balls to chainsaws, and grown-ups appreciating that it is all presented with Civillico’s lightning-quick wit and sardonic patter. Some of the stunts are wow-worthy—he was a world-champion juggler by the time he was 15, after all—and some of his jokes are so sly that it’ll take you a moment to fully appreciate how funny they are. Lots of audience participation gives the show an off-the-cuff vibe and will keep it fresh for repeat viewings. With tickets starting at just over $40, this is a great entertainment value even before you add in all the discounts and bonus offers on other show tickets and meals that come with admission. Shows are daily Saturdays through Wednesdays at 5:30pm. In Flamingo, 3555 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.flamingolasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/794-3296. Tickets $40–$104.

JUST FOR LAUGHS

Depressed over all the money you lost in the casino? A surefire way to get cheered up is to check out one of the shows from stand-up comics currently playing in Las Vegas.

Lipshtick, at Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.venetian.com; Black-Phone_bphone_box 702-414-1000; select Saturdays 8pm; tickets $39–$96) proves that women aren’t just funny, they’re hilarious. A rotating list of headlining comediennes has included Roseanne Barr, Jennifer Coolidge, Susie Essmann, and Lisa Lampanelli.

If you’re feeling absurdist, you can try the outrageous, stream-of-consciousness prop comedy of Carrot Top, at Luxor Las Vegas, 3900 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.luxor.com; Black-Phone_bphone_box 800/557-7428; Mon and Wed–Sun 8:30pm; tickets $50–$65).

Also be sure to see who is playing at the comedy clubs in Vegas, all described in this chapter, which include:

bull_boxBrad Garrett’s Comedy Club, at MGM Grand (p. 236)

bull_boxThe Improv, at Harrah’s (p. 236)

bull_boxThe Laugh Factory, at Tropicana (p. 236)

Jersey Boys Vegas Red-Star2_redstar2    Between 1962 and 1975, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons racked up an astonishingly long string of catchy, well-crafted pop hits that are as beloved as any in pop music. These time-tested songs are the central draw of the massively popular, Tony Award–winning (for Best Musical) Jersey Boys. But this is far more than a rote musical revue, or just another re-creation of a popular oldies act, as anyone who saw the film now knows. It’s a real musical play, with a compelling street-to-suite storyline, a fair share of drama, and enough humor and uplift to satisfy both the theater veteran and the vacationing family (with a mild warning for some salty, Jersey-esque language). A dazzlingly visual production that crackles with energy and shines with precision stagecraft, Jersey Boys has already had an enthusiastic post-Broadway life, including here with its second incarnation in Vegas at Paris Las Vegas after several years of sold-out performances at the Palazzo up the street. Performances are Tuesday through Sunday at 7pm. In Paris Las Vegas, 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.jerseyboysinfo.com/vegas. Red-Phone_redphone 702/777-7776. Tickets $59–$200.

Legends in Concert Red-Star1_redstar1    After more than 25 years as a nighttime show at hotels like the Imperial Palace and Harrah’s, this parade of faux celebrities made the move to afternoons at the Flamingo in 2013. The only real difference is that it is daylight when you walk out of the showroom. Performers vary depending on when you see the show; you may catch “Janet Jackson” and “Diana Ross,” or you could get “Lady Gaga” and “Prince,” but you will almost always get “Elvis.” Unlike other impersonator shows, the singing is live (no lip-syncing, even when “Britney” is performing), which can enhance the illusion or destroy it. Some performers succeed more in appearance and others do better with vocal mimicry, and while most are at least passable, there are a few that will leave you wondering if he or she is the real thing playing a joke on the audience. Don’t scoff; Ellen DeGeneres did that very thing during a 2008 show and captured the audience reactions (“didn’t look anything like her”) for her daytime talkfest. Shows are daily 9:30pm, with additional shows on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 4pm, and Sunday and Monday at 7:30pm. In the Flamingo Las Vegas, 3555 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.flamingolasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 855/234-7469. Tickets $53–$82.

Le Rêve Red-Star2_redstar2    Challenged from the get-go, thanks to a decision to base this Cirque-like show around a stage of water, thus prompting inevitable comparisons with down the street, this production has received major revamps, both in staging and choreography. By and large, the choices—particularly to get revered avant-garde choreographer and MOMIX-genius Moses Pendleton to take over the choreography (thus increasing the presence of dance)—have been good ones, and this production is a worthy competitor to its rival. Set in a dramatic theater in the round, the “stage” at the center of the bowl-shaped room can be solid, a shallow pool, or deep enough to dive into from what seem like insane heights—proven in a gasp-inducing moment. Certainly the acrobatic, diving, aerial work, and ballroom dance is as good as what you’ll see in any Cirque show, but it is the moody atmospherics and visually arresting staging that really set the show apart. The wordless storyline concerns a woman considering love but needing to face her own demons and past as she wanders through a dreamscape of betrayal, passion, fear, and ultimately salvation. Provocative moments include a sultry tango performed in ankle deep water and a set piece involving performers descending from the rafters, limp and motionless until they hit the water and spring to life. The latter ends with some of them being jerked back up into the smoky ceiling, screaming as they go. It, like much of the rest of the show, is dark and a bit disconcerting at times, but in a good way, staying with you long after you leave the showroom. Glimpse behind-the-scenes action without ever leaving the theater with a VIP package that gives you your own theater box, bottle of Champagne and video screens of the underwater action as the show happens. Avid divers can opt for a package that includes the VIP experience, plus a backstage tour that takes you not only from the deep pools to the towering dive platform, but also into the water itself for a SCUBA training session guided by the Le Rêve diving team. Shows are held Friday through Tuesday at 7 and 9:30pm. In Wynn Las Vegas, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.wynnlasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 888/320-7110. Tickets $105–$205. Only ages 13 and over admitted.

Mac King Red-Star3_redstar3    The best daytime show, in fact one of the most exceptional shows in Vegas period, the Mac King Show is that rare breed of entertainment that’s not only appropriate for all ages, it’s actually a show that junior, grandma, and the hot date you met in Vegas will enjoy. A comedian with a big talent for magic—King is the only magician who was asked to appear on all five of NBC’s “World’s Greatest Magic Show” specials—King looks like a refugee from The Music Man, wearing an old-fashioned plaid suit and a goofy aw-shucks expression. His tricks are oddball illusions (featuring fellows in bear suits, a “cloak of invisibility,” and disappearing heads), which he performs with a generous dose of whimsy and intelligence. If there’s any justice in the world, he’ll soon be headlining his own evening show. He’s that good. Shows are held Tuesday through Saturday at 1 and 3pm. In Harrah’s, 3475 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.mackingshow.com. Red-Phone_redphone 800/427-7247 or 702/369-5222. Tickets $32–$43.

PENN & TELLER’S TOP 10 THINGS ONE SHOULD NEVER DO IN A VEGAS MAGIC SHOW

Penn & Teller have been exercising their acerbic wit and magical talents in numerous forums together for more than 25 years, and their show at the Rio is one of Vegas’s best and most intelligent. We must confess that we couldn’t get the quieter half of the duo, Teller, to cough up a few words, but the more verbose Penn Jillette was happy to share.

1.Costume yourself in a gray business suit totally lacking in rhinestones, animal patterns, Mylar, capes, bell-bottoms, shoulder pads, and top hats.

2.Wear your hair in any style that could not be described as “feathered” or “spiked.”

3.Use really good live jazz music instead of canned, sound-alike, cheesy, rip-off, fake pop “music.”

4.Cruelly (but truthfully) make fun of your siblings in the magic brotherhood.

5.Do the dangerous tricks on each other instead of anonymous show women with aftermarket breasts and/or endangered species.

6.Toss a cute little magic bunny into a cute little chipper-shredder.

7.Open your show by explaining and demonstrating how other magicians on the Strip do their most amazing tricks, and then do that venerable classic of magic, “the Cups and Balls,” with transparent plastic cups.

8.Treat the audience as if they have a brain in their collective head.

9.Allow audience members to sign real bullets, load them into real guns, and fire those bullets into your face.

10. Bleed.

(You will find many of these “don’ts” in the Penn & Teller show at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.)

Million Dollar Quartet Red-Star2_redstar2    Musical history was made on a chilly night in 1956 in Nashville when Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins wandered into a studio at the famed Sun Records and had an impromptu jam session. This pared-down version of the hit Broadway musical imagines what that night might have been like with rock-’n’-roll classics like “Hound Dog,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” and “I Walk the Line” driving the barely there storyline. The actors are excellent stewards of both the sounds and affectations of the legends they are embodying and bring down the house with their top-quality musicianship. Shows are held Wednesday through Friday at 8pm, and Sunday and Monday at 5:30pm. At Harrah’s Las Vegas, 3475 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.mdqvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 888/746-7784 or 702/369-5111. Tickets $57–$79.

Olivia Newton-John Red-Star2_redstar2    From her “I Honestly Love You” beginnings through her “You’re the One That I Want” and “Physical” superstardom and beyond, pop singer Olivia Newton-John puts on a terrific show that is more than just a retrospective of her career, it’s a soundtrack to a lot of people’s lives. She still sounds and looks great and could teach some of today’s pop stars a thing or two about showmanship. She’s made her latest go-round “Summer Nights,” so she’s only in the showroom from July through August, with show times (usually) Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30pm. In the Flamingo, 3555 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.flamingolasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 855/234-7469. Tickets $75–$350.

HEADLINER VENUES

Pretty much every singer worth their Twitter followings makes a stop in Vegas on their national tour. While the big acts usually play the big arenas, some go for the more intimate rooms so you may get a chance to see your favorites up close and in person. Major headliner showrooms in Vegas include the following:

bullThe Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.cosmopolitanlasvegas.com; Black-Phone_bphone_box 877/551-7778) has two venues, the laid-back, open-air Boulevard Pool overlooking the Las Vegas Strip, and the Chelsea, which is a surprisingly intimate venue considering the fact that it can accommodate more than 3,000 people. This converted ballroom feels less like that and more like an industrial-chic play space complete with reclaimed wood accents, subway tile, and a cheeky attitude perfect for the hotel in which it is located. Both draw big names including Lorde, Adele, and Bruno Mars.

bullThe 4,000-seat Colosseum, in Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.caesarspalace.com; Black-Phone_bphone_box 866/227-5938) has been home to extended runs for big-name artists like Céline Dion, Elton John, Shania Twain, Rod Stewart, and more, with shorter stands by big-name singing and comedy acts like Janet Jackson and Jerry Seinfeld.

bullHard Rock Hotel’s The Joint, 4455 Paradise Rd. (www.hardrockhotel.com; Black-Phone_bphone_box 800/693-7625 or 702/693-5000) was rebuilt in 2009 and now holds 4,000 people for rock concerts and special events. The smaller Vinyl club is like a rock-’n’-roll haven on the Sunset Strip.

bullThe House of Blues can hold several hundred people for smaller rock and blues concerts and their weekly gospel brunch (in Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; www.hob.com; Black-Phone_bphone_box 877/632-7400 or 702/632-7600).

bullBrooklyn Bowl opened in 2014 and has cornered the market on the indy-rock market for Vegas. The concert venue is intimate and relaxed; a perfect place to catch the general-admission shows from artists both edgy (Jane’s Addiction, Fishbone, and so on) and safe—hey, where have you been, Steve Winwood? (at the LINQ, 3545 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Suite 22; www.brooklynbowl.com; Black-Phone_bphone_box 702/862-2695).

bullMandalay Bay Events Center seats 12,000 people for arena-style concert tours and indoor sporting events (in Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; www.mandalaybay.com; Black-Phone_bphone_box 877/632-7400 or 702/632-7580).

bullMGM Grand Garden Events Arena can hold over 17,000 people and is home to big-name concert tours and events (in the MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; www.mgmgrand.com; Black-Phone_bphone_box 800/929-1111 or 702/891-7777).

bullThe Orleans Showroom seats 9,500 people and often has concerts, ice hockey, traveling circuses, and other events (in the Orleans, 4500 W. Tropicana Ave.; www.orleanscasino.com; Black-Phone_bphone_box 800/675-3267).

bullThe Pearl Theater is a three-level venue that seats up to 2,500 people for pop, rock, R&B, and comedy concerts (in the Palms, 4321 W. Flamingo Rd.; www.palms.com; Black-Phone_bphone_box 866/942-7770).

bullSam Boyd Stadium is a 36,800-seat stadium that features big concerts and sporting events (7000 E. Russell Rd.; www.ticketmaster.com; Black-Phone_bphone_box 800/745-3000).

bullThe Smith Center for the Performing Arts has a 2,000-seat concert hall for big stage shows (including a Broadway series), a 300-seat Cabaret Jazz theater, and a 200-seat theater for smaller productions. See p. 162 for more details (361 Symphony Park Ave.; Black-Phone_bphone_box 702/614-0109).

bullThe Thomas and Mack Center is a 19,522-seat arena that hosts concerts and sporting events (UNLV Campus; www.ticketmaster.com; Black-Phone_bphone_box 800/745-3000).

bullThe Fremont Country Club is Downtown Las Vegas’ only real concert venue, hosting rock shows and other special events. (601 E. Fremont St.; Black-Phone_bphone_box 702/382-6601).

Penn & Teller Red-Star3_redstar3    The most intelligent show in Vegas, as these two—magicians? illusionists? truth-tellers? BS artists? geniuses?—put on 90 minutes of, yes, magic and juggling, but also acerbic comedy, mean stunts, and quiet beauty. Looking like two characters out of Dr. Seuss, big, loud Penn and smaller, silent Teller (to reduce them to their basic characteristics) perform magic, reveal the secrets behind a few major magic tricks, discuss why magic is nothing but a bunch of lies, and then turn around and show why magic is as lovely an art form as any other. We won’t tell you much about the various tricks and acts for fear of ruining the illusions, but watching Teller fish money out of an empty glass aquarium or play with shadows is to belie Penn’s earlier caveats about learning how tricks are done—it doesn’t ruin the wonder of it, not at all, nor the serenity that settles in your Vegas-sensory-overloaded brain. Hang around the lobby after the show for a free meet-and-greet, something other Vegas headliners charge a hefty fee for. Shows are held Saturday through Wednesday at 9pm. In the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, 3700 W. Flamingo Rd. www.riolasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 888/746-7784. Tickets $87–$97. Only ages 5 and over admitted.

Recycled Percussion Red-Star1_redstar1    If, for whatever reason, you are averse to loud noises and you think going to a show with the word “percussion” in the title is not a good idea, we are here to counsel you otherwise. This quartet of cacophony-makers will bust out a beat on anything they can get their hands on, from real drum sets to improvised ones made from plastic buckets or, in one stunning set-piece, their own bodies. As if that’s not enough, they also pass out metal pots and drumsticks to the audience before the show and encourage sonic mayhem throughout. It’s a bit loud, is what we’re saying. But the four lads are insanely talented, and their cheeky, oddball sense of humor plays well. Be on the lookout for a “totally random cookie break,” which lives up to the random part of its name in a delightful way. Shows are held Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 5:30pm. In Planet Hollywood, 3667 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.planethollywoodresort.com. Red-Phone_redphone 866/919-7472. Tickets $60–$70.

Rock of Ages Red-Star1_redstar1    If you ever wondered what you’d get if you crossed a corny, over-the-top movie musical from the ’40s with a heavy metal music video from the ’80s, it would look a lot like this silly confection of a jukebox revue. The plot, about the lives and loves of a group of people affiliated with an imperiled Sunset Strip rock club, is kind of stupid (and knows it) and the music, from Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, and other hair band icons, is often bastardized to the point where it is unrecognizable as the “classic rock” it occasionally is. But there is something undeniably infectious about its throw-everything-at-the-wall energy and gamely talented cast. The move to the Rio took the show out of a stuffy theater and into a showroom, so it feels more like seeing a rock show in a club. Shows are nightly at 7:30pm. In the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, 3700 W. Flamingo Rd. www.riolasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 888/746-7784. Tickets $59–$149.

Terry Fator Red-Star1_redstar1    America’s Got Talent winner Fator is no Susan Boyle, that’s for sure, but his shtick—ventriloquism meets impersonation—is entertaining. The format of the 80-minute show is fairly standard: A series of puppets joins Fator on stage, and they proceed to do a song or three impersonating a famous voice. Winston the Turtle does a serviceable Justin Bieber and a very good Kermit the Frog (which is weird if you think too long about it—turtle, frog, felt), while Walter the Cowboy kills on a Brooks & Dunn song—or rather Fator does, of course. Even the less-than-perfect impressions are still impressive considering the fact that he’s doing it all with his mouth closed. Fator’s overall demeanor is a little too laconic, especially when he doesn’t have a piece of felt on his hand, but the show mostly hits its middle-of-the-road target on the bull’s-eye, offering up some decent chuckles and a nice night of music. Try to get a seat in the center section, otherwise you’ll spend most of your time watching the giant TV screens instead of the guy (and his friends) on stage. Shows are Monday through Thursday at 7:30pm. At The Mirage, 3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.mirage.com. Red-Phone_redphone 800/963-9634 or 702/792-7777. Tickets $65–$163.

Tournament of Kings Red-Star1_redstar1    “Lords and Ladies, Wizards and Wenches, hasten thee to thy throne, for the battle is about to commence.” Yes, that’s how they talk at this dinner show—like a Renaissance fair, only with better production values. There’s nothing different here than you’ll find at one of those Medieval Times chain restaurants, with a decent dinner and lots of knights-in-shining-armor–style theatrics. It’s not Game of Thrones (now THAT would be an interesting Vegas show), so it’s one of the few family-friendly options in town; younger kids will like it, teenagers will be too jaded, and adults will probably be bored. Shows are Monday and Friday at 6pm and Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday at 6 and 8:30pm. In Excalibur, 3850 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.excalibur.com. Red-Phone_redphone 800/933-1334 or 702/597-7600. Tickets $44–$58.

V: The Ultimate Variety Show Red-Star1_redstar1    Although not as big-budget as the Cirque productions, V can still offer some big thrills if you happen to see it on the right night. It’s a collection of variety acts that could include acrobats, magicians, musicians, dancers, and more, but since the acts vary, so does the quality. Check to see if the thrilling roller-skating couple Vittorio and Jenny Aratas are on the roster. They only do 5 minutes of a 70-minute show, but their hold-your-breath stunts performed mere inches from the audience will make whatever you have to watch in the other 65 minutes totally worth it. Shows are nightly at 7 and 8:30pm. In the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort, 3667 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.vtheshow.com. Red-Phone_redphone 866/932-1818 or 702/260-7200. Tickets $70–$90.

Vegas! The Show Red-Star3_redstar3    What would happen if you took the best bits of classic Las Vegas entertainment from the last 70 years or so and put it in one package? That’s the basic question behind this loving look back at the ghosts of the Sin City stages, and the answer is this: It would be a heck of a lot of fun. A gateway to the days of Vegas past, with beautiful showgirls in skimpy costumes and big headdresses; headliners like the Rat Pack and Elvis; variety acts (tap dancing! magic!); dancing; singing; even Elton John and implosions. The show plays like a history channel special done by Busby Berkeley. The singing and dancing are among the best you’ll find in Vegas, which may very well make you long for the days before those French Canadian acrobats took over the showrooms. Shows are nightly at 7 and 9pm. In the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort, 3667 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.vegastheshow.com. Red-Phone_redphone 866/932-1818 or 702/260-7200. Tickets $80–$100.

THE BAR SCENE

In addition to the venues listed below, you might check out the incredible nighttime view at the bars and lounges atop the Stratosphere Casino Hotel & Tower (p. 70) or midway up on the Eiffel Tower Ride (p. 154)—nothing beats them, except for maybe the more up-close view of the bar adjacent to the 23rd-floor lobby at the Mandarin Oriental (p. 49). The floor-to-ceiling windows make you feel like you’re floating in the middle of the Strip, especially at night.

Bars & Cocktail Lounges

Atomic Liquors Red-Star1_redstar1    Las Vegas history is on glorious display in this reinvention of a classic watering hole. The building dates back to 1945 and is the oldest freestanding bar in the city. It got its name in 1952 when people used to go up on the roof to watch the aboveground nuclear blasts from the Atomic Test Site north of Las Vegas and became a go-to spot for everyone from the Rat Pack to Barbra Streisand, who has her own memorial stool at the bar. Now fully restored after years of decline, there’s a classic neon sign out front and a big bar and plenty of comfy seating inside, plus nearly two dozen microbrews, a craft cocktail menu (featuring some classic “Atomic” concoctions), and a variety of events to keep things interesting. One note: This is one Vegas bar that is not open 24 hours. Atomic Liquors is open Monday through Wednesday from 4pm until 2am; Thursday from 2pm until 3am, Friday from 2pm until 4am; Saturday from noon until 4am; and Sunday from noon until 2am. 917 Fremont St. (at 9th St.) www.atomic.vegas. Red-Phone_redphone 702/349-2283. No cover except for special events.

Las Vegas Nightlife

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Backstage Bar & Billiards Red-Star1_redstar1    Intended to be the actual backstage area for Fremont Country Club, local producers and musicians transformed it into an intimate, cool hang out space, complete with rock paraphernalia, band equipment crates from Anvil Cases as furnishings, and 8 decades worth of DJ and turntable history as decor. It’s basically where you want to be for an after-party with the band. Live performances by mostly punk rock bands are a big draw for the tatted-and-pierced set, as are cheap beers and lack of pretentious attitude. A little rough around the edges compared to the other wannabe posh bars in the area, but it wouldn’t be punk rock any other way. It’s open nightly from 7pm until late. 601 E. Fremont St. (at 6th St.) www.backstagebarandbilliards.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/382-2227. No cover except for special events.

Beauty Bar Red-Star1_redstar1    Take a vintage beauty parlor and add cocktails: that’s the formula that’s been so popular it’s turned into a hipster chain with outlets in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. At Las Vegas’ Downtown version, you get a lot of diversity thanks to its location near Fremont Street Experience. During the day, it’s a more chill experience where you can get a decent manicure and pedicure whilst sipping on fruity cocktails, but the evening features live bands and DJs on both its indoor and outdoor stages. It’s open nightly from 9pm until 4am. 517 E. Fremont St. www.thebeautybar.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/598-1965. No cover except for special events.

Beerhaus Red-Star1_redstar1    The stretch of real estate between the new T-Mobile Arena and Las Vegas Boulevard is intended to coax pedestrians to pause from traipsing up and down the Strip. And there’s no better way to keep tourists in one spot than giving them somewhere to drink, preferably outdoors and with games. Billing itself as a “modern American beer hall” Beerhaus is where you might fondly relive your college days, complete with live cover bands, foosball, ping pong, cornhole and shuffleboard. But at two beers averaging around $22, these are definitely not college bar prices. The patio seating allows guests to soak up the sun while people watching. Large garage doors open between the main dining room and the elements, in the event you’d rather soak up the air conditioning while still eyeing the crowds. One more detail isn’t exactly obvious: servers only serve drinks, so if you want to order food—nothing fancy, bar bites like pretzels with cheese, cheese-filled brats, etc—it’s served fast casual style. Order from the bar and they’ll give you a buzzer to pick up your snacks when it’s ready. It’s open Sunday through Thursday from 11am until 1am and Friday and Saturday until 2am. In The Park, 3784 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.theparkvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/693-7275. No cover.

Beer Park Red-Star1_redstar1    Based on the name, you’d think that this second beer garden to open on the Strip this year would be at The Park, but surprise! This one is on the rooftop of the Paris hotel, and produced by the king of beers itself, Budweiser. There’s way more than just the classic red label beer being served from the more than 36 taps and additional 60 or so bottle and can selections. Not surprisingly, most are Budweiser products, even those you that give the appearance of being craft beer labels (or once were craft beers only to be bought up by the likes of Anheuser Busch), like Goose Island, Shock Top and Firestone Walker. Nevada local Joseph James brewery does make an appearance, though. As far as outdoor beer drinking vibes go, compared to the one across the street, the Beer Park is less yuppie and more sports-oriented, while giant Jenga and burgers from the grill make it feel more like an evening in your own backyard. It’s open daily from 11am until late. In Paris Las Vegas, 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.beerpark.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/444-4500. No cover.

The Commonwealth Red-Star2_redstar2    Part speakeasy, part neighborhood bar, Commonwealth has earned itself a reputation as one of the true hot spots to come out of the revitalization of this stretch of Fremont Street. The 6,000-square-foot, swanky, multi-level space has a pre-Prohibition era vibe, with a mix of vintage and modern artwork (peacocks are a big deal here) and stiff cocktails. The main floor is a bustling mix of folks from the neighborhood and tourists who found their way here from the Fremont Street Experience, while the rooftop patio is one of the few outdoor spaces comfortable to hang out above the hubbub of the main drag. Cocktail aficionados should secure themselves an invite into the Laundry Room, the true speakeasy located in back of the main floor (just ask and they’ll walk you back there). This intimate room allows for a one-on-one session with one of Commonwealth’s expert mixologists who are at the ready to dazzle you with custom concoctions based on your tastes. Open Tuesday through Saturday 7pm until late. 525 E. Fremont St. (at 6th St.) www.commonwealthlv.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/798-7000. No cover except for special events.

Dino’s Lounge Red-Star2_redstar2    This dive bar on Las Vegas Boulevard marks the divide between the glitzy part of the Strip and grittier Downtown, and chances are you’ve breezed right past it. Which, if you ask the locals perched on stools at the bar, is just fine with them. The family-run watering hole has been an unofficial landmark since 1962, as the city has grown around it. If you’ve ever wondered what a bona fide locals bar looks like in Las Vegas, this is it, complete with smoky atmosphere, video poker nestled into counters, cheap, no-frills drinks, cold beer, and not a lick of sunlight, even in the daylight hours. Come in often enough and you’ve got a shot to be nominated to by bartenders to be Drunk of the Month. On weekends you’ll find some of the best karaoke in town, hosted by a guy named Danny whose pipes are so good, you’ll wonder why he doesn’t just sing the whole show himself. The kiosk in the parking lot is a recent addition, having served as an incubator for several dining concepts that have gone on to become brick-and-mortar restaurants. Whoever’s cooking in the kiosk when you’re there is bound to be putting out great food, which you can eat inside the bar. Dino’s is open daily 24 hours. 1516 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (at Wyoming Ave.) www.dinoslv.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/382-3894. No cover.

Double Down Saloon Red-Star2_redstar2    Leave the multiple-ingredient cocktails to the Strip. Here you’re going to be listening to live punk, rock, or blues bands while pounding PBR and shots of Ass Juice, a fruity, if not unappealing-looking mystery concoction that the bar has been selling for 2 decades. If the idea of Ass Juice isn’t your idea of a good time at a place whose motto is “You puke, you clean,” then try their other house specialty, the bacon martini, which Double Down claims to have invented. It’s like every other punk bar you’ve been to in other cities, with psychedelic murals, second hand furniture, weird videos playing on the TVs, and a very punk rock jukebox, but this one just happens to be the antithesis of the city surrounding it. The Double Down is open daily 24 hours. 4640 Paradise Rd. (at Naples Dr.). www.doubledownsaloon.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/791-5775. No cover except for special events.

Fizz Red-Star3_redstar3    The schtick here is that you’re being invited into one of the city’s biggest power couple’s circles: Elton John and David Furnish (he’s the creative director here, and John is often performing his show at the Colosseum next door). So this narrow, elegant champagne bar is decorated with photographs by international artists such as Guy Bourdin, Denise De La Rue, and Guido Mocafico. Never heard of them? That’s ok, Furnish and John have, and they’ve shared their excellent taste with you. Bubbles are a must, of course, with vintages and prices that range from the accessible to the gasp-inducing (the Fizz Deluxe cocktail, a twist on the classic French 75 is $2,500 a flute. And for that price, yes, there is gold in it). You can even snack as Elton and David do, with a menu prepared by the couple’s private chef. Upstairs, when you’re hunting for the bathroom, if there’s a chance to glimpse into Elton’s private VIP booth, do so. The bar is open nightly from 5pm until 2am. At Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.fizzlv.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/776-3200. No cover.

The Griffin Red-Star2_redstar2    This is one of the few bars you can walk into in Las Vegas that doesn’t feel like Las Vegas at all. The strong brickwork and arched ceiling inside offer that post-industrial feel you’d get in old-school-turned-hipster bars in Chicago or New York, while two fire pits give it an almost Aspen-vibe (the lack of video poker machines inset into the bar also help). There are better mixology programs in the surrounding bars, but this is where you’d come to relax, maybe have a real conversation with real people, and get out of that Vegas mindset, if only for a little while. Live bands and DJs play on weekends. It’s open Monday through Friday from 5pm until 3am; Saturday from 7pm until 3am; and Sunday from 8pm until 3am. 511 E. Fremont St. Red-Phone_redphone 702/382-0577. No cover except for special events.

Hogs & Heifers Saloon Red-Star1_redstar1    Hot, midriff-revealing chicks dancing on the bars, screaming at you with bullhorns, cold cans of PBR, all with a collection of bras hanging above your head: that’s the scene at Hogs & Heifers and it’s not my idea of a good time, but I may be in the minority. This outlet is part of a chain started in New York City, where the original outpost of Hogs (as in motorcycles) & Heifers was born and inspired a movie and a competing outfit called Coyote Ugly. It’s open daily, usually 1pm to 6am (call to check, as hours vary by month). 201 N. 3rd St. (btw. Ogden and Stewart aves., 1 block from the Fremont Street Experience). www.hogsandheifers.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/676-1457. No cover.

O’Sheas Red-Star1_redstar1    With its beer pong and omnipresent host Mr. Lucky (see below), O’Sheas is like a fraternity bar that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day year-round. When its home, the stretch between the former Imperial Palace and Flamingo, was imploded to make way for The LINQ promenade, many wondered if that was the end of the rowdy casino/bar. Fortunately, Mr. Lucky (a little person dressed as a leprechaun) and O’Sheas have been reinstated to their rightful spot on the Strip. The current O’Sheas is smaller and slightly less seedy than the original, but the now 5,000 square feet is still the place for cheap beer (they’ve got more than 50 brews), some gaming, and those always-popular daily beer pong tournaments. Plus its access to The LINQ and High Roller make it a great place to pre-game before taking a ride on the observation wheel. The bar is open 24 hours a day. In The LINQ, 3535 Las Vegas Blvd. S., www.thelinq.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/697-2711. No cover.

Park on Fremont Red-Star1_redstar1    While Commonwealth (p. 222), Vanguard (below), and Downtown Cocktail Room (p. 233) are more sophisticated drinking establishments, Griffin and this spot are casual watering holes, which is perfect considering its proximity to the Fremont Street Experience. Rest assured, there are fine cocktails on the menu at Park, along with a decent bar food menu (Sunday brunch, complete with stacked Bloody Marys is a busy time), but Park is a much more relaxed, come-as-you-are spot to throw back some brewskies. The front patio offers great people watching on Fremont Street, while behind the bar is another, walled-in backyard that you’d kill to find at your own neighborhood bar, complete with a fireplace, murals, and artwork from local artisans. And tucked behind that is another secret alcove with a seesaw. It is called a “park,” after all. Open Monday through Wednesday from 4pm to midnight, and Thursday and Sunday from 11am until midnight and Friday and Saturday from 11am until 3am. 506 Fremont St. (at Las Vegas Blvd.). www.parkonfremont.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/834-3160. No cover.

Peppermill Fireside Lounge Red-Star2_redstar2    Austin Powers would be in his element at the Peppermill Fireside Lounge. With its bubbling fire pool, mirrored walls, circular booths, neon tubes of blue and pink, and cocktail servers dressed in elegant black gowns, it harkens back to a groovier era, baby. Voted one of “America’s 10 Best Make-Out Bars” by Nerve Magazine, this is not the bar to bring someone who wants to be “just friends.” It is, however, the bar to bring someone who appreciates old fashioned cocktails (Harvey Wallbanger, anyone?) and who can hold their liquor—the signature Scorpion is an alky’s dream come true, with six different kinds of liquor and ice cream. It’s served in what looks like a fishbowl and it tastes great going down, but by the time you get to the bottom of the 64-ouncer, the flavor will be the least of your concerns. The Peppermill is open daily 24 hours. 2985 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.peppermilllasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/735-4177. No cover.

Vanguard Lounge Red-Star2_redstar2    The long, narrow bar is the most minimally appointed one that you’ll find on this stretch of Fremont Street, but that is by design. Cocktails take center stage here, made by a team of talented mixologists who use seasonal, artisanal, and house-made ingredients for well-executed tipples that focus on balance and flavor. Be prepared for the usage of lots of bitters and stuff like Falernum and amaro in some pretty mind-blowing drinks. These folks can do more than just sling a gin and tonic or pour you a beer (though they do have an excellent craft selection, too). On weekends, house and techno DJs liven things up. Vanguard is open Monday through Friday from 4pm until 2am, and Saturday from 6pm until 2am. 516 E. Fremont St. www.vanguardlv.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/868-7800. No cover.

Velveteen Rabbit Red-Star2_redstar2    Located in the ever up-and-coming Arts District near Downtown, this is probably the most hipster of the hipster bars in Las Vegas, complete with funky, boho-chic, vintage furniture decor, and tatted-up, mustachioed mixologists furiously shaking their metal Boston shakers. While each drink might take about 10 minutes to make, they’re worth the wait, running on the herbal, floral, and savory side of the palate, presented in beautiful vintage crystal tumblers and coupes. If you can’t wait that long, they have a selection of interesting craft beers. And at $8 a pop, you can’t beat these prices, considering you’d be paying twice as much for the same caliber of cocktail on the Strip. It’s open Monday through Saturday 5pm until 2am and Sunday 5pm to midnight. 1218 Main St. (near Colorado Ave.). www.velveteenrabbitlv.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/685-9645. No cover.

Hotel Bars

Alibi Red-Star2_redstar2    Set right in the center of Aria’s casino floor, this opulent, back-lit gem of a bar has a lovely, vintage vibe. I especially like the crystal decanters on display and the ornate wooden and faux mother-of-pearl accents (though don’t mistake the large, round objet d’art above the bar for a clock, this is on a casino floor, after all). More often than not, you’ll find tourists stopping in to re-up their Bud Light, but you’re missing out if you don’t put the bartenders through their paces. They’re expert at giving classic cocktails modern twists, and have a really fun “craft ice” program (you’ll see what I mean). At night, the curtains around the round space are drawn, creating a nice barrier between the bar and the buzz of the casino. It’s open 24 hours. In Aria, 3730 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.alibiloungelv.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/693-8300. No cover.

Bond Red-Star2_redstar2    It’s hard to know just where to look first at Bond, the glam lounge that combines video poker screens with chandeliers of downy feathers. Those who aren’t gazing down at the Strip below through the floor-to-ceiling windows, are staring up at the go-go dancers, shimmying in boxes above the main floor (tastefully attired, these gals can actually dance, which is a nice change). Take the time to also take a gander down at your cocktail, which will be expertly mixed, many of its ingredients pureed, distilled, and infused in-house. Bond is open Monday through Friday from 11am until 5am, and Saturday and Sunday from 10am until 5am. In The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.cosmopolitanlasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/698-7929. No cover.

Bound Red-Star2_redstar2    Just one vowel away from Bond, this lobby bar at The Cromwell features a drink list created by famed mixologist Salvatore Calabrese. Located near registration, it’s a sophisticated oasis before you enter into the madness of the casino floor, done up in lots of gold, with plush seating and a cabinet full of rare spirits. Calabrese, who once set the Guinness World Record for creating the World’s Most Expensive Cocktail, left that one off this list, but does serve up his Breakfast Martini here. Legend has it that he created it after his wife implored him to eat breakfast (as opposed to drinking it, we’re assuming), so he made this with the orange marmalade he puts on his toast. To go along with this theme, Bound also has a selection of nice, strong coffee cocktails, to give you a nice jolt as well as a buzz. Bound is open Monday through Thursday from noon to 3am and Friday through Sunday from 10am to 3am. In The Cromwell of Las Vegas, 3595 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.thecromwell.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/777-3777. No cover.

The Chandelier Red-Star3_redstar3    The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas really does love its chandeliers. So much so, that it’s got a three-story one in the middle of its casino, made of millions of crystals strung together in one towering, shimmering masterpiece. The crystal curtains envelop the top two floors of this elaborate space, while one stunning centerpiece chandelier hangs above the ground level bar. The main floor on the casino floor features plush seating and a raised platform where live trios sometimes play; the mezzanine is more secluded, featuring a mixology-driven menu; the top level is a stark white lounge, where you can often find folks who are waiting to get into the adjacent Marquee nightclub hanging out with a drink. No matter what level you choose, this is one of the most unique places to sip a cocktail on the Strip. The Chandelier is open 24 hours. In The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.cosmopolitanlasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/698-7979. No cover.

Franklin Red-Star2_redstar2    Just like the hotel, this bar is named for the 32nd president of the United States, and it’s a welcome watering hole in this casino-free venue. (Having it here means you don’t have to walk all the way over and through the casino of adjoining Mandalay Bay to get a drink.) It has a sleek, contemporary look, all browns and blues, though the twinkling lights above the bar make us think of fireflies (or maybe we had one too many on the last visit). Classic cocktails are the focus, prepared with high end spirits, like the Delano Daiquri with Bacardi 1909 Heritage Rum, or the barrel-aged drinks, made with the resort’s own exclusive reserve of bourbon. Open daily from 10am to 2am. In Delano, 3940 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.delanolasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 877/632-5400. No cover.

Petrossian Bar Red-Star3_redstar3    Vodka? Caviar? Live piano? Afternoon tea? This one spot serves many needs. Under the garden of Dale Chihuly flowers on the lobby ceiling, Petrossian is one of the most beautiful, if underrated, places to have a drink on the Strip. The bartenders here are seasoned professionals who not only know how to make a proper martini, but can give you a solid education on their selection of vodka, not to mention which caviar you should pair with each tipple. The pianists who tickle the ivories night after night are amazing entertainers in their own right; come in earlier for an elegant spread of afternoon tea. It’s open daily 24 hours. In Bellagio, 3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.bellagio.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/693-7111. No cover.

Vesper Red-Star2_redstar2    The most low key of the three main bars of Cosmopolitan, Vesper is relatively small, and that’s how we like it. While tourists might be cramming themselves into the Bond and Chandelier bars, this is where you’ll find savvy locals and hotel executives unwinding after their days (we wonder if it’s because of its close proximity to the parking garage elevators). Named for an obscure cocktail created by James Bond in Casino Royale, the focus here is on other cocktails of the same ilk: classic and with a twist. The music can get a little loud on weekend nights, but the steady stream of stumbling club-goers through the lobby make the people watching pretty hilarious. Vesper is open daily 24 hours. In The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.cosmopolitanlasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/698-7000. No cover.

Piano Bars

The Bar at Times Square Red-Star1_redstar1    Much like the actual Times Square, this bar is usually jam-packed full of tourists looking for a night of revelry. Dueling pianos are the draw, and create the perfect soundtrack for a booze-driven night of camaraderie with your fellow Vegas visitors. Lord help you when they start playing Billy Joel’s Piano Man. The bar is open Monday through Thursday from 1pm until 2:30am, and Friday and Sunday from 11am through the wee hours. Shows are from 8pm to 2am, but if you want to be able to have a conversation without shouting over the music, stop in for happy hour, weekdays from 3pm to 7pm. In New York–New York, 3790 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.newyorknewyork.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/740-6969. No cover.

Don’t Tell Mama Red-Star1_redstar1    This piano bar, named again for a New York City classic, is less group sing-along (like the Bar at Times Square, above), and more live karaoke. Audience members get up to sing standards with the crack pianists (they can play anything) and, though in other towns this would lead to hours of painful howling, there’s so much talent in Vegas that the impromptu show is often darn good. In fact, many of the performers who appear in visiting Broadway musicals and other Strip shows, often head here to belt out a tune or two after they’ve finished up their paid performance, just for fun. Not that that should intimidate you from getting up there and singing a heartfelt version of Me and Mr. Jones with a live pianist backing you. Don’t Tell Mama is ready for you Tuesday through Sunday 8pm until late. 517 E. Fremont St. www.donttellmama.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/207-0788. No cover; one drink minimum.

THE CLUB & MUSIC SCENE

Most of the clubs in town have DJs, often famous ones, and on those rare occasions when you do have live entertainment, it’s usually a pop or cover band. If you prefer alternative or real rock music, your choices used to be limited, but that’s all changed. Most touring rock bands make at least one stop in the city. But otherwise, the alternative club scene in town is no great shakes. If you want to know what’s playing during your stay, consult the local free alternative papers: the Las Vegas Weekly (with great club and bar descriptions in its listings; www.lasvegasweekly.com), and Vegas Seven (weekly, with a funnily curated list of the must-sees each week; www.vegasseven.com). Both can be picked up at restaurants, bars, record and music stores, and hip retail stores. If you’re looking for good alt-culture tips, try asking the cool staff at Zia Records (Black-Phone_bphone 702/735-4942); not only does it have bins dedicated to local artists, but local acts also play live in stores on the weekend.

Dance Clubs

In many ways, especially monetarily, the nightclub scene in Vegas has eclipsed famous party spots like Ibiza, New York, and Los Angeles. Almost every hotel has at least one club and almost all of them are packed whenever their doors are open.

Many of the following have insanely high cover charges ($30 and up), outrageously priced drinks ($10 for a domestic beer), and seating that is reserved for patrons willing to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get bottle service. For the uninitiated it sounds crazy, and is, but the hordes of people willing to pay those kinds of costs seem to be having a good time, so maybe they know something we don’t.

One bright note: Women are usually charged less for admission than men (sometimes even allowed in free), and any guest can get a comped ticket to even the hottest clubs, if you play it right. If you are gambling for any length of time, ask the pit boss for comps.

1 OAK Red-Star1_redstar1    In a town where celebrities are often paid to make appearances (read: they get paid stupid money to hang out in a private booth and drink free booze), this is one of the few clubs where the celebrities actually go of their own free will. The New York transplant opened with a bang: performances by Fergie and a legendary 3-hour DJ set by none other than Kanye West, setting the tone for the star-studded years to come. The 16,000-square-foot space is actually visually interesting, with cool modern artwork, dark woods, track lighting, and elevated poles ready to be danced around. Low ceilings, and clusters of booths ready for bottle service, make this a tight space to walk through if you’re not seated at a table, but mostly you’re just there to see and, hopefully, be seen by any number of A-listers that stop in, like Katy Perry, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, and Adam Levine, who all just want to have a good time like everyone else. Though 1 OAK stands for One Of A Kind, we question the veracity of this acronym considering that there are also 1 OAKs in New York and Los Angeles. It’s open Friday and Saturday from 10:30pm until 4am. In The Mirage, 3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.1oaklasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/588-5656. Cover $30 and up.

Artifice Red-Star1_redstar1    While not a nightclub per se, this multi-purpose space is one of the few places in town where you’ll hear decent local DJs who aren’t bumping only mainstream electronic pop music. Fitting in with its Arts District locale, Artifice also features a gallery space with work from up-and-coming artists, and an eclectic assortment of events, from singles mixers to neo-burlesque shows to open mic nights. Open Monday through Friday from 5pm until 2am, Saturday from 6pm until 2am, and Sunday from 8pm until 1am. 1025 First St. #3 (at Charleston Blvd.). www.artificebar.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/489-6339. No cover except for special events.

CROWD CONTROL

Huge lines outside are a point of pride for Vegas clubs. So if you’re into dancing, you may spend a good chunk of the night single-file, double-file, or in an enormous, unwieldy cluster out in front of a club—particularly on Friday or Saturday. We’re not kidding: Lines can be hours long (see below), and once you get to the front, you’ll find that there’s no actual order. You’re at the mercy of a power-wielding, eye-contact-avoiding “executive doorman”—bouncer—who gives attractive women priority. To minimize your time in line, try the following strategies:

Arrive before 11pm. You’ll have a harder time getting in if you show up between 12:30 and 1am, the busiest period at clubs.

Group yourself smartly. The larger the group, the longer the wait—especially a large group of mostly (or all) guys. Split up if you have to, but always keep some women with each part of your group (it’s much harder for unaccompanied men to get into the clubs).

If you’re trying to tip your way in, don’t make it obvious. It’s a negotiation. Don’t wave cash above your head (the IRS has recently been clamping down on unreported tip income, so that tactic will make you very unpopular). Discreetly and respectfully hand the doorman $20 and ask if he can take care of you.

Don’t buy a VIP Pass. Can you say “scam”? Many passes require you get there before midnight (a time when there’d normally be no line), and with others you’re paying big bucks just to have someone make the call ahead that you could have made yourself. Again: Don’t fall for this scam.

Do check the websites. Many clubs will offer front-of-line passes, cover discounts, and drink specials via text alerts and/or if you check-in via a social networking site like Facebook or Twitter. Details change often, so check the club’s website for the latest offer.

Dress to impress. For women: Antediluvian but true—showing more cleavage is a line-skipping tactic. If that’s not an option, stick with a little black dress or nice jeans and a sexy or club-wear–style top. For men: Look good. Avoid baggy jeans, shorts, tennis shoes, or work boots. Nice jeans or pants and a collared shirt work well.

Look confident. While cockiness never helps, assertiveness never hurts.

Chateau Red-Star1_redstar1    This is definitely not a Paris, France nightclub. Chateau may sport some lovely French touches in the decor, but the club is all high-energy, high-rent Las Vegas. Three distinct spaces offer three different nightlife experiences. Head up the spiral staircase from the casino floor to enter the nightclub, a long, narrow room flanked by bottle service tables. The sultry red lightings complement the modern French-inspired furnishings, complete with crystal chandeliers hanging from the high ceilings, along with classy touches like the DJ booth planted atop a 10-foot-tall marble fireplace mantel. When it gets too crammed inside, head out to one of two outdoor sections. The first is a VIP deck two stories above the Strip, with unobstructed views of the Fountains of Bellagio; it’s the perfect spot to have a more intimate conversation with that stranger you just met on the dance floor. There’s also the 22,000-square-foot rooftop garden, set at the base of the Eiffel Tower, that is essentially a whole other club with its own dance floor and bars. You won’t convince yourself that you’re in Paris proper, but as far as romantic locations, this is just as effective. Chateau is open Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 10:30pm until close. In Paris Las Vegas, 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.chateaunights.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/776-7770. Cover varies, usually $20 and up.

Drai’s Red-Star1_redstar1    Nightlife impresario Victor Drai ruled the underground—literally—in Las Vegas. His after-hours club (which still exists in the underbelly of The Cromwell) was around for nearly 2 decades as one of the only house-music-fueled after-parties, with attendees who often spilled back on to the Strip when the sun was already well up in the sky. Now the sunlight shines on Drai’s all day long at his 65,000-square-foot rooftop club atop The Cromwell, which hosts the beach club around the hotel pool until the sun goes down, when it transitions into a dance club. A roster of well-known resident DJs provide the EDM-heavy soundtrack, but hip hop acts such as Nas, Chris Brown and Fat Joe have been making their way into the residential rotation as well. The dress code still applies here—even if you’ve been hanging out at the pool party all day, you still have to put on more clothes to attend the club at night. The nightclub is open Thursday through Sunday from 10:30pm until 4am. In The Cromwell, 3595 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.draislv.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/777-3800. Hotel guests are free, non-guests are $20 and up.

Foxtail Red-Star1_redstar1    Foxtail serves double duty as both nightlife hot spot and day club for SLS Las Vegas. The 43,000-square-foot complex splits up as the 8,000-square-foot nightclub, which features state-of-the-art technology like an LED light fixture directly above the dance floor, plus a Funktion One sound system over which DJs pump their beats. Elaborate graffiti by French-Moroccan artist Tarek Benaoum flows along the walls, which draws your eye to the outdoor Foxtail Pool club that pops off on weekends (during the week, it’s simply one of two pools for the hotel). At night, the pool stays open (though most go back and change out of their bathing suits) and the party moves between both spaces, for performances by more DJs or live concerts. Foxtail Pool Clubs is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., then transitions into the nightclub, which is open usually Friday through Sunday, from 10pm until close. In SLS Las Vegas, 2535 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.slslasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/761-7621. Cover varies, usually $20 and up.

Hakkasan Las Vegas Red-Star2_redstar2    At the biggest nightclub in the world, you’ll have to navigate through five levels in the course of an evening. These include an elegant modern Chinese restaurant, an ultralounge, tables with exorbitantly-priced bottle service and a booth where a roster of world-famous EDM DJs spin their magic. Kudos to whatever lighting designer strung the LED lighting along the ceiling of the club and behind the DJ booth—the effect is mesmerizing. Lines to get in are long and filled with young and excited partiers who don’t mind being crammed onto a dance floor, so long as they can get a glimpse of the world’s highest-paid DJ Calvin Harris or watch Steve Aoki take a ride on the crowd in an inflatable boat. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 10pm until close. In the MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.hakkasanlv.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/212-8804. Cover varies, usually $40 and up.

Intrigue Red-Star2_redstar2    Occupying the space formerly known as Tryst, Intrigue opened to much fanfare, but mixed reviews. Tryst was a groundbreaking club for its time (that time being the mid ’00s), one of the first to fully capitalize on the growing EDM scene, and creating what we know as bottle service today (and along with the latter that odious distinction between being VIP and a mere mortal). Tryst was starting to feel a little dated, but it knew exactly what it was. To take its place, Intrigue wanted to break its own ground, promising to move away from overpaid DJs and focus more on the guest experience for ALL the guests, not just the ones who paid for table service. Yet opening night featured a big-name DJ. Even more telling that we’ve got the same old same old going on here: one of the most noted feature of Intrigue is a club-within-a-club that only the true elite will ever see. The social media-free zone is hidden behind a secret door, and admittance can only be gained through approval by some cabal of executives. So much for breaking ground. So what is new? Well they’ve added a “selfie wall,” choreographed pole dancers and cocktail waitresses who wear different uniforms every night. More than that, the club itself is slated to change in mood and theme every month, promising a new experience every time you visit. For the part us mere mortals can see, I do appreciate that the rest of club was lightened up all around, and that the 94-foot man-made waterfall that was the centerpiece to Tryst’s outdoor section remains, though I imagine that wasn’t easy to demolish it just for a new club. Intrigue is open Thursday through Saturday from 10pm until late. In Wynn Las Vegas, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.trystlasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/770-7070. Cover varies, usually $30 and up.

LAX Red-Star1_redstar1    The club that was once RA Nightclub can’t seem to fill the shoes of its predecessor, and has changed owners more than once in the past few years. But Luxor needed a club, apparently, so LAX is it. To be fair, the club itself is beautifully appointed. Semi-private booths on the mezzanine level are separated by red curtains and feature their own ornate chandeliers (though they’re not always lit enough for you to see them). While you won’t hear any world-famous DJs behind the decks, LAX has been making a niche for itself on Throwback Thursdays with a solid lineup of ’90s favorites, including Kid ‘n’ Play, Naughty By Nature, Young M.C. and yes, even Vanilla Ice. Half the time you’re wondering, “These people still perform?” While the other half you’re too busy enjoying the blast from the past. LAX is open Thursday through Saturday 10:30pm until 4am. In Luxor Las Vegas, 3900 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.laxthenightclub.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/242-4529. Cover varies, usually $30 and up.

Light Red-Star3_redstar3    While once upon a time Cirque du Soleil “powered” this nightclub at Mandalay Bay, that is no longer the case; Cirque pulled out of the venture in late 2015. So while periodic performances by acrobats, dancers, and other artists have gone away, the light show is still spectacular. It’s a lot of fun, as is the massive video wall that projects ambient visuals while illuminating the room, and the killer, well-balanced sound system (your entire sternum will quiver from the reverberation of the bass used by acts like Disclosure and Baauer). It’s the only major club on the Strip to host any semblance of non-mainstream electronic acts, though bottle service—and the crowds that love bottle service—still reigns supreme. Its sun-up component, Daylight, is one of the cooler pool parties on the weekend, if only because the music is slightly better than the other options. Open Wednesday from 10:30pm until 4am and Friday and Saturday from 10pm until 4am. In Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.thelightvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/632-7777. Cover varies, usually $30 and up.

Marquee Red-Star3_redstar3    At more than 60,000 square feet and containing three different party atmospheres within, the mega club at Cosmopolitan is here to say: size matters. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a Vegas club: massive main floor, huge LED wall behind the DJ booth that projects an amazing laser show while internationally renowned house DJs play, and lots of low booths to be sold to the highest bidder for bottle service. The main room can be overwhelming, especially when people are wall-to-wall and it’s six deep even to get a drink. Hole up in the Library, the more exclusive lounge, where the music is more chill, there are pool tables, and you can actually pull a seat up to the bar. Need a break from all the EDM? The hip-hop and pop-driven soundtrack in the intimate Boombox will clear your head from all those synths. There’s also an outdoor patio with cabana seating (where tables will run cheaper than inside the main club) and gaming if you can’t stay away from the slots too long. The line to enter will snake across the second floor of the Cosmopolitan, so unless you’ve got a table, be prepared to wait for a long time. Marquee is open Monday, Friday, and Saturday from 10pm until 5am. The pool club is open seasonally on weekend afternoons. In The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.marqueelasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/333-9000. Cover varies, usually $30 and up.

Omnia Red-Star1_redstar1    Now occupying the space of former mega club Pure, the new mega club Omnia was created by the same people who did Hakkasan at MGM Grand. The 75,000-square-foot space underwent a $100-million renovation, which ditched the white, airy, 1990s vibe of Pure, replacing it with a dark, ultra-modern vibe, accented by the multi-million dollar, spaceship-looking chandelier above the middle of the dance floor. Why does a chandelier cost so much money? When it’s really a high-tech installation of eight concentric rings that slowly drop from the ceiling while projecting lights and lasers, and move and shift along with the music played by star DJs (like Afrojack and Calvin Harris). It’s breathtaking to watch, actually, and everyone will stop in their tracks when it comes to life. Get a better view of it from the second level, where you won’t be nearly as jam-packed as on the main floor. Omnia also inherited Pure’s prime terrace, which overlooks the Strip, and offers an exclusive VIP lounge, the Heart of Omnia. As it’s the newest kid on the block, everyone is clamoring to get in here, so dress to impress and employ some pre-game as needed. Patience will be key as you’re simmering in between the stanchions. It’s open Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday from 10pm until close. In Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.omnianightclub.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/785-6200. Cover varies, usually $30 and up.

Tao Nightclub Red-Star1_redstar1    Once the palace where the Hiltons, Kardashians, and other reality TV celebrities partied the night away, the Asian-themed club at the Venetian has lost a bit of the limelight to bigger, newer Strip clubs. Ah well, it’s still fun. Enter into the Buddhist temple—if Buddhist temples were opulent palaces that offered high-end bottle service—under the arched hallway, flanked by bathtubs, which appear again on raised platforms on the dance floor. Where you’d usually find go-go dancers inciting the crowd, bathing beauties are trying to not splash water everywhere to the beat of the pounding bass. The footprint of the main floor of the club is small compared to current standards, which ensures that everyone dancing gets to know each other really well. The bathrooms on the second level are, er, interesting; they overlook the main floor, but once you enter them and lock the door behind you, the frosted glass door goes opaque, so you will have privacy while you do your business. Bottle service tables line up against a long banquette, so unless you pony up for a truly private table, your party will have to mingle with the one next to you. But that’s ok, you came to make new friends, didn’t you? It’s open Thursday through Saturday from 10pm until 5am. In The Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.taolasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/388-8588. Cover varies.

XS Red-Star3_redstar3    As the abbreviated name suggests, this gold-plated crown jewel of Wynn nightlife is excessive. A recent $10-million redesign upgraded the entire space (both the inside area and its outdoor pool deck) to include a pyrotechnic system that shoots flames above the pool, and added a DJ booth with 14,000 LED lights, moveable video screens, and more lasers. An update like this costs a pretty penny, but as the highest grossing nightclub in the country (thanks to the contributions of appreciated visitors like yourself), XS can afford lots of lasers. XS is open Friday through Monday from 10pm to 4am. In Encore Las Vegas, 3121 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.xslasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/770-0097. Cover varies, usually $30 and up.

Ultralounges

What, you may be asking, is an ultralounge? That’s an excellent question, since it is loosely defined at best. Generally speaking, ultralounges are smaller than traditional nightclubs, offering a more intimate vibe. Some have dance floors and some don’t, although even the ones that don’t usually have DJs and people will dance wherever they can find the room to do so. You’ll also usually find a lot more seating at an ultralounge, but most of it will probably be reserved for people willing to pay for bottle service. Drink and cover prices may be a bit less than the big nightclubs. The type of crowd they draw depends on the location and theme, with the most popular bringing in the same young and pretty crowd that goes to the hot dance clubs. (They’ll often come to an ultralounge first, and then head to the dance floor elsewhere.)

Downtown Cocktail Room Red-Star2_redstar2    This intimate mixology bar is a go-to joint for those who want a chill evening without all the craziness that comes with other bars, both on and off-Strip. Its entrance on Las Vegas Boulevard, across from the Fremont Street Experience, hides in plain sight; a big metal sheet that looks like it shouldn’t move opens when you pull it. Sheer drapes and low banquettes offer private seating when you maneuver them to your liking. Low ceilings, large Picasso-esque paintings, and deep red tones make things cozy and calm, while talented mixologists behind the bar whip up avant garde cocktails. The punch bowls, delicious and dangerous, are meant to be shared. It’s open Monday through Friday from 4pm until 2am and Saturday from 7pm until 2am. 111 Las Vegas Blvd. www.downtowncocktailroom.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/880-3696. No cover.

ghostbar Red-Star1_redstar1    The club on the 55th floor of the Palms has been an old standby for Vegas nightlife, reinventing itself as recently as 2013. It’s gorgeous, if not small for a modern club, with crystal chandeliers dangling from the ceiling in the white space, accented with black and pink. Step out onto the outdoor patio for one of the best views of the Strip; if you’re not afraid of heights, head to the edge to look down through a Plexiglass window to see how far up you are from the ground. During the non-pool season, ghostbar hosts Saturday afternoon excuses to drink called ghostbar Day Club (GBDC for short) that are themed parties from week to week. This club is open daily from 8pm until late. In the Palms, 4321 W. Flamingo Rd. www.palms.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/942-6832. Cover varies, usually $20 and up.

Hyde Bellagio Red-Star2_redstar2    Get there early enough, and Hyde Bellagio is the perfect perch from which to watch a couple of rounds of the Fountains of Bellagio show while sipping on well-executed cocktails. Head over later, and that’s when the party gets started (and you may forget all about the fountains). Though it looks like an Italian villa on the inside, the lounge transforms into a serious nightlife destination, complete with ridiculous bottle service presentations (at one point you could pay tens of thousands of dollars to press the “button” that starts one of the Fountains’ performances). The lounge opens nightly at 5pm until late, while the club opens at 10:30pm on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. In Bellagio, 3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.hydebellagio.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/693-8700. Cover varies, usually $20 and up.

Surrender Red-Star2_redstar2    Another feather in the cap of the Wynn and Encore resorts, the intimate Surrender is a stunning space. A giant, golden snake poses on the wall above the bar, while white, plush leather curved couches dot the room, enticing partiers to take a seat and pay through the nose for it (with outrageously costly bottle service). The real party happens outside, however, when the wall of windows open up to Encore Beach Club (p. 237), and big name DJs like David Guetta, Diplo and Martin Solveig set the soundtrack for the biggest day party in town. Surrender is open Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 10pm until dawn. In Encore Las Vegas, 3121 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.surrendernightclub.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/770-7300. Cover varies, usually $30 and up.

VooDoo Rooftop Nightclub Red-Star1_redstar1    The two-floor behemoth, on the 50 and 51st floors of the Rio, was one of the original mega clubs before nightclubs became the huge deal that they are today. The steakhouse component occupies the first level. After a dinner there, head up to the club to continue your night. There are two sections in which you can spend your time: the lounge with voodoo-themed decor and furniture (yeah, it feels a bit dated), or the more contemporary dance floor area. The two-story rooftop terrace is the winning feature here affording some of the best views of the city, not to mention a breath of fresh air when you need it; you can head even higher up if you take the spiral staircase. Beware the blacklit hallway into the club; it’s meant to highlight the neon voodoo paintings on the wall, but also succeeds in pointing out any lint you have on your clothes. The lounge portion is open nightly 5pm to 3am and the nightclub operates Sunday through Thursday from 8pm until 2am, and Friday and Saturday until 3am. In the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, 3700 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.riolasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/777-6875. Cover varies, usually $20 and up.

Hotel Lounges

Most of the nightclubs in town are ruled by the young and pretty—you know who we mean: the 23-year-olds in impossibly short dresses, with tiny waists, and an attitude that can be seen from space. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. If I were thin and pretty, I’d want to hang out at these nightclubs, too.

But what about the rest of us? What about older people who may no longer be a size 0 but still want to go out, dance, and have a good time?

For them we offer what some consider to be a dinosaur of a bygone age: the hotel lounge. Don’t roll your eyes! Many hotel lounges offer entertainment, dance floors, low or no cover charge, cheaper drink prices, and an almost total absence of the kind of “hey, look at me” posing that’s de rigeur at the trendy nightclubs. These are great places to go to simply have a night out of fun that doesn’t involve a slot machine or blackjack table. All of the major hotels have at least one, so you can just wander by to see if it strikes your fancy, but here are a couple that might be worth the extra effort to visit.

Carnaval Court Red-Star1_redstar1    If partying front and center right on the Las Vegas Strip is on your bucket list, you can cross it off here. This open-air party blares music day and night, luring in passers-by, and the party just gets bigger and bigger as the night goes on. Lounge bands channeling the ’70s and ’80s get a ton of play here, so you’re guaranteed to know just about every song . . . if you’re of a certain age. If the faux “hair bands” aren’t entertaining enough, the bartenders’ flair will get your attention, flipping bottles and shakers around before mixing a cocktail. All in all, when all you want to do is dance like no one’s watching, to music that you actually recognize, it’s a nice alternative to the casino nightclubs. Carnaval Court is open daily from 11am until 3am. At Harrah’s Las Vegas, 3475 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.harrahslv.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/731-7778. Cover varies.

Gilley’s Red-Star2_redstar2    One of the few Country & Western spots on the Strip, Treasure Island inherited Gilley’s from the Frontier after it closed. The mechanical bull gets a workout all night (as do those trying to test their ability to hang on for 8 seconds), while live honky-tonk bands and country rock bands perform several nights a week. Think you sound like Reba or Garth? There’s Cowboy Karaoke on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Line dancing is, of course, a must, with lessons offered Monday through Friday at 7pm. The BBQ is worth a taste, as well. The saloon opens at 11am daily, while the nightclub portion of the facility gets going around 7 or 8pm and stays open until 2am weeknights and later on weekends. In Treasure Island, 3300 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.gilleyslasvegas.com Red-Phone_redphone 702/894-7111. Cover varies.

Mizuya Lounge Red-Star2_redstar2    This Japanese-themed lounge serves sushi, but also happens to be an incredibly chill place to take a break from the casino floor. Nightly entertainment is, usually, provided by local cover bands, who play classic rock and some pop. While there’s no cover, there is a two-drink minimum when the band is playing, but they’re usually decent enough that you don’t mind paying to stick around. It’s open Monday through Thursday from 11am until 3am, Friday from 11am until 4am, Saturday from 9am until 4am, and Sunday from 9am until 3am, but the party part doesn’t usually start until evening. In Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.mandalaybay.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/632-4760.

Comedy Clubs

Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club Red-Star1_redstar1    Set off a walkway between the MGM Grand parking garage and the casino, this comedy club isn’t the easiest to find. But for Everybody Loves Raymond’s Brad Garrett’s self-deprecating-style of stand-up, this underground lair, with its cabaret-style stage and intimate seating, has just the right, pretention-free ambiance. The star appears here regularly, along with an ever-revolving roster of talented comedians. The humor tends to run on the raunchy side; if you’re easily offended, remember you’re in Vegas. Lighten up. Photos of comedy legends hang on the walls; reserve a booth to feel like a VIP. If by chance Mike Tyson is performing his one-man-show, Undisputed Truth, while you’re there, I highly recommend it. He’s a surprisingly good storyteller. There’s no food, but there are three different types of flavored popcorn to snack on; specialty cocktails are a must, but be aware that there will be a pre-added gratuity to your bill. Shows are nightly at 8pm. In MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.bradgarrettcomedy.com. Red-Phone_redphone 866/740-7711. Tickets $47–$90.

The Improv Red-Star1_redstar1    The brick wall of the Improv is an iconic sight for those who know of the comedy club’s storied past. Started by Budd Friedman in New York City in the ’60s, The Improv has become an institution, with alums like Jay Mohr, Margaret Cho, and Chris Rock. The intimate, 400-seat Vegas showroom features three new comedians each week, and while they might not be household names yet, it’s a great spot to catch some up-and-coming talent or obscure acts. Shows are nightly at 8:30 and 10pm, and only 10pm on Friday and Saturday. In Harrah’s Las Vegas, 3475 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.harrahslv.com. Red-Phone_redphone 800/392-9002 or 702/369-5000. Tickets $30–$65.

The Laugh Factory Red-Star1_redstar1    Another comedy institution, this one was born in Hollywood with names like George Carlin and Ellen DeGeneres on its roster. Much like the Improv, three new comedians put their comedic skills to the test each week. It’s not really fair to compare the two clubs; both are showcasing the best talent out there right now. Shows are nightly at 8:30 and 10:30pm. In The Tropicana Las Vegas, 3801 Las Vegas Blvd. S. www.troplv.com. Red-Phone_redphone 800/462-8767. Tickets $35–$55.

THE GAY & LESBIAN SCENE

Hip and happening Vegas locals know that some of the best scenes and dance action can be found in the city’s gay bars. And no, they don’t ask for sexuality ID at the door. All are welcome at any of the following establishments—as long as you don’t have a problem with the people inside, they aren’t going to have a problem with you. For women, this can be a fun way to dance and not get hassled by overeager Lotharios.

COOL BY THE POOL

A critical part of the nightclub scene is that it takes place at night. Maybe that’s why they call them “night” clubs. But you don’t have to wait until the sun goes down to start partying, especially in Vegas, where a host of daytime pool clubs give vacationers an opportunity to boogie down while working on your tan.

Most of the major hotels have some form of a poolside day club that usually operates on weekends and only in season (Mar–Oct mostly). They all feature DJs or live music, bars, private cabanas, and lots of opportunity to splash around in pools that are separated from the main recreational facilities, for people over 21 years of age only. All charge a cover (although they vary as much as nightclub covers do) and some offer table games (like blackjack) and topless sunbathing. All are open to the general public (you don’t have to be staying at the host hotel).

It should go without saying that these usually draw a younger, fit crowd who aren’t embarrassed about how they look in a bikini or board shorts. If that isn’t you, you may want to consider alternate afternoon entertainment.

Here are the most noteworthy of the current pool clubs:

bullBare    At the Mirage, 3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (Black-Phone_bphone_box 702/696-8300; www.barepool.com). Small pool, cabanas, DJ, and bar. Topless sunbathing allowed. Open daily 11am to 6pm. Cover $20 and up.

bullDaylight    At Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (Black-Phone_bphone_box 702/693-8300). 50,000-square-foot beach area with pool, three wet decks, private cabanas, DJ, bars, and food service. No topless sunbathing. Open Wednesday 11am to 3am and Friday to Sunday 11am to 6pm. Cover $25 and up.

bullEncore Beach Club    At Encore Las Vegas, 3121 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.encorebeachclub.com; Black-Phone_bphone_box 702/770-7300). 60,000-square-foot facility, three pools, cabanas, DJ, gaming, bar, grill. No topless sunbathing. Open Friday 12 to 6pm and Saturday to Sunday from 11am to 6pm. Cover $25 and up.

bullLiquid    At Aria Las Vegas, 3730 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.arialasvegas.com; Black-Phone_bphone_box 702/693-8300). Three pools, cabanas, DJ, bar, restaurant. No topless sunbathing. Open daily 11am to 6pm. Cover $20 and up.

bullMarquee Dayclub    At the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, 3801 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.marqueelasvegas.com; Black-Phone_bphone_box 702/333-9000). Two pools, cabanas with private pools, DJ, gaming, bar, food service. No topless sunbathing. Open daily 10am to sunset. Cover $25 and up.

bullRehab    At the Hard Rock Hotel, 4455 Paradise Rd. (www.rehablv.com; Black-Phone_bphone_box 800/473-7625). Several pools, sandy beaches, cabanas, DJ, gaming, bar, food service. No topless sunbathing. Open daily 10am to sunset. Cover $25 and up.

bullTao Beach    At the Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.taobeach.com; Black-Phone_bphone_box 702/388-8588). One pool, cabanas, DJ, bar, food service. Topless sunbathing allowed. Open daily 10am to sunset. Cover $20 and up.

bullWet Republic    At MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (www.wetrepublic.com; Black-Phone_bphone_box 800/851-1703). Two pools, cabanas, DJ, bar, food service. No topless sunbathing. Open Thursday to Monday 11am to 6pm. Cover $20 and up.

If you want to know what’s going on in gay Las Vegas during your visit, pick up a copy of Q Vegas, which is also available at any of the places described below. You can also call Black-Phone_bphone 702/650-0636 or check out the online edition at www.qvegas.com.

Funhog Ranch Red-Star1_redstar1    Forget lines, high cover charges, and overpriced drinks, this is not the place for those things. Funhog Ranch is the dive bar of Vegas’ gay bars, which isn’t a bad thing; it’s tiresome to be surrounded by so much manufactured opulence all the time. This is a relaxed, casual environment where partiers have no expectations beyond having a good time. The atmos-phere is rustic, with wooden booths, a jukebox, video poker, and cheap drinks. Fetish and leather gear is encouraged, though you’re not required to be a bear to have fun. Funhog is open daily 24 hours. 495 E. Twain Ave. (just east of Paradise Rd.). www.funhogranchlv.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/791-7001. No cover.

Piranha Las Vegas Red-Star2_redstar2    The jewel of the Fruit Loop—the small “boystown” of Las Vegas—is this see-and-be-seen club for the city’s gay elite. The brick facade makes the building look unassuming from the outside, but once you enter, it’s a whole new world. The small, but banging, blue-lit nightclub is constantly teeming with bodies. For a better view, and some air, head to the lounge on the second floor. Even more air (and a break from the loud music) is available on the outdoor patio, a popular spot where partiers warm up by the fireplace. Now that it’s open 24 hours it’s not unusual for the party to go from a Saturday night into a Sunday mid-morning. A professional drag show takes the stage nightly, and if you need more drag in your life, Drag Queen Bingo takes place on Thursdays. Open 24 hours. 4633 Paradise Rd. (at Naples Dr.). www.piranhavegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/791-0100. No cover.

STRIP CLUBS

No, we don’t mean entertainment establishments on Las Vegas Boulevard South. We mean the other kind of “strip.” Yes, people come to town for the gambling and the wedding chapels, but the lure of Vegas doesn’t stop there. Though prostitution is not legal within the city, the sex industry is an active and obvious force in town. Every other cab carries a placard for a strip club, and a walk down the Strip at night will have dozens of men thrusting fliers at you for clubs, escort services, phone-sex lines, and more. And some of you are going to want to check it out.

 

For Men Only?

Many of the strip clubs will not allow women in unless they’re escorted by a man—presumably to protect ogling husbands from suspicious wives. If you’re looking for a ladies’ night out and want to check out the topless action, be sure and call ahead to find out what each individual club allows.

And why not? An essential part of the Vegas allure is decadence, and naked flesh would certainly qualify, as does the thrill of trying something new and daring. Of course, by and large, the nicer bars aren’t particularly daring, and if you go to more than one in an evening, the thrill wears off, and the breasts don’t look quite so bare.

In the finest of Vegas traditions, the “something for everyone” mentality extends to strip clubs. Here is a guide to the most prominent and heavily advertised; there are plenty more, of increasing seediness, out there. You don’t have to look too hard. The most crowded and zoo-like times are after midnight, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Should you want a “meaningful” experience, you might wish to avoid the rush and choose an off-hour for a visit.

Cheetah’s Red-Star1_redstar1    The club that was featured in Showgirls employs 500 women in a 24-hour period on the weekends, quite possibly outnumbering the number of men who are there at the same time. This is a good thing, as variety is the spice of life in a lively club like this. Mirrored walls around the booths give you a good look at all the flesh around you, and yes, there are lots of fake cheetahs prowling around the main and five smaller stages. Lap dances are $20. Cheetah’s is open daily 24 hours. 2112 Western Ave. www.cheetahslasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/384-0074. Topless. Cover $30.

Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club Red-Star1_redstar1    Comparable in size to the “World’s Largest Strip Club” Sapphire, the interior of porn king Larry Flynt’s joint is just as gaudy as its “you can’t miss it from the highway” exterior, with three floors of entertainment, featuring spaces with names like the “Beaver Stage” and “Honey Suites.” It’s a maze to navigate, and easy to get separated from your group. In the event one of you gets a private dance make sure you can locate him, lest you lose him and he loses too much money. There’s also a 25,000-square-foot adult superstore. Lap dances are $30. The Hustler Club is open daily 4pm until 9am. 6007 Dean Martin Dr. www.hustlerclubs.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/795-3131. Topless. Cover $30 (includes first lap dance).

 

Question Your Cabbie

If there’s a particular strip club you want to visit, don’t let your cabdriver talk you out of it. Clubs give cabdrivers kickbacks for delivering customers. So be leery of drivers who suggest one club over another. They may be making $20 for delivering you there. And don’t accept a higher cover charge than we’ve listed here; the clubs are trying to get you to cover the kickback they just gave the cabbie.

The Palomino Red-Star1_redstar1    What the Palomino lacks in convenient location or gorgeous decor, it makes up for in nudity. Yes, this is the only strip club in Vegas where all the bits are revealed, thanks to the club’s license being grandfathered in before selling alcohol and being totally nekkid were banned from happening in the same place. In addition to women, there are male dancers as well, and they’re just as attractive as the ladies. But with great power comes great responsibility: you don’t have to sit on your hands during private dances (as is required in other similar establishments), but keep your phones in your pockets. Photos are strictly verboten. Topless lap dances are $20; totally nude dances are $40. The Palomino is open Sunday through Thursday from 4pm to 5am and Friday and Saturday from 4pm to 7am. 1848 Las Vegas Blvd. N. www.palominolv.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/642-2984. Totally nude. Cover $30.

Sapphire Gentleman’s Club Red-Star3_redstar3    Charlie Sheen publicly endorsed Sapphire, so yes, things do get crazy here. It’s the largest strip club in the world at 70,000 square feet, and features three stages joined together as a bridge across the room, and one big room where multiple dancers vie for your attention from their respective poles. But what might be the most unusual part of the experience is that the women look just like women you’d find on the street: more natural-looking than at other strip clubs and of all shapes and sizes. Sheen isn’t the only celebrity to make it rain here, others who choose to remain anonymous take to the private and expensive rooms upstairs for VIP action. During the day, you can spend the day getting hotter under the sun with the girls at the Sapphire Pool. Lap dances start at $20. Sapphire is open daily 24 hours. 3025 S. Industrial. www.sapphirelasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/796-6000. Topless. Cover $30 6pm–6am.

Spearmint Rhino Red-Star2_redstar2    Ask any man that’s never been to Vegas before if he knows of a strip club here, and he’ll mention the Spearmint Rhino. If anything, the Rhino, as it’s affectionately called, is one of the best looking clubs in town. It’s 18,000 square feet of opulence, divided into three main viewing areas done in black and gold notes, along with plenty of tables and VIP rooms for those private encounters with the girl of your dreams. The dancers are as comely as the club; in fact, many would say that the Rhino gets the hottest performers in town. Lap dances are $20 and up. Spearmint Rhino is open 24 hours. 3340 S. Highland Dr. Red-Phone_redphone 702/796-3600. Topless. Cover $30.

Treasures Red-Star3_redstar3    The most Vegas-y of the Vegas strip clubs, Treasures is a favorite of both locals and visitors alike. The outside looks like it was lifted right from Caesars Palace, while the interior is as ornate, modeled after a Victorian brothel. The main stage is a spectacle with two staircases descending down to a platform, where a neon-lit pole is used by dancers who actually take pride in their work. There’s no disaffected shimmying here; these dancers put on a show, complete with special effects, props and feats of athleticism. And while we’d normally shy away from eating at a strip club, the steak house is actually quite good. Lap dances are $20 and up. Treasures is open daily from 4pm to 6am. 2801 Westwood Dr. www.treasureslasvegas.com. Red-Phone_redphone 702/257-3030. Topless. Cover $40.