The best bets in Las Vegas, once limited
to gambling, now revolve largely around sensory pleasures driven by
accommodations, dining and entertainment. Those hospitality sectors
now generate revenue commensurate with or greater than gambling.
I've been experiencing the city's various offerings for over 30
years, so be assured that there is history and context behind this
sampling of Las Vegas' best bets.
Best-kept secret on the Strip
Resort Hotel & Casino: Rarely discussed among Vegas cognoscenti
and largely ignored by the media, the Monte Carlo is a true sleeper
-- hiding in plain sight.
New York-New York and Bellagio, this hotel is actually noteworthy
for what it doesn't offer: free attractions, high-end shows, trendy
nightclubs or luxury shopping. Those missing pieces, and the crowds
typically associated with them, make the Monte Carlo appealing. It
is a conveniently located, accessible, relatively serene and
affordable Strip hotel.
occasionally start at $79 midweek. The concierge floor, one of only
a handful in Vegas and a relative bargain, is a little-known
Lunch for less than $5
Desert Passage: Featuring what is surely the only served and edible
lunch on the Strip to qualify in this category, the $4.99 lunch
specials at Max's Cafe are a steal.
Located in the
Desert Passage Shops at the Aladdin, soon to be the Miracle Mile
shops at Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino, this operation is all
While seated in
the beautifully lit, elegant dining room, we enjoyed a half-pound
sirloin burger, a warm goat cheese salad and a mahi sandwich; each
item was less than $5.
pony up $6.99 can treat themselves to several pasta dishes or
Every hour is
happy hour at Max's, where you can order three drinks for the price
Buffet for less than $10
Ports o' Call,
Gold Coast Hotel & Casino: A few dicey contenders in this
category made this research a gastronomic misadventure. But despite
the popular notion that buffet quality and low prices are mutually
exclusive, the Ports o' Call lunch buffet at the Gold Coast, just
west of the Strip, is a welcome exception.
stations offer an appetizing and tasty mix of options in an airy,
open and reasonably quiet space, all for $7.49 on weekdays.
Restaurant, Paris Las Vegas: When the Eiffel Tower's elevator door
opens onto the 11th floor landing, many patrons stand slack-jawed
for a moment as they take in the immediate view of the restaurant's
hyperkinetic exhibition kitchen.
But there's a
kicker here: An adjoining window fronts the dessert preparation
area, where all manner of delicious and complex creations are
whipped up before diners' eyes.
Add the view out
the dining room windows onto Lake Bellagio's fountain show and chef
Jean Joho's artfully presented French cuisine, and this
multiple-sensory treat is worth the somewhat hefty price
Venetian: There are hot nightclubs that serve food and swanky
restaurants that feature adjoining clubs, but none that combine the
best of both like Tao at the Venetian.
With a clientele
that's high on the celebrity guest quotient, Tao's nightclub
regularly packs the beautiful people, with a sprinkling of hoi
polloi, into its 42,000-square-foot, Buddha-adorned space.
In the dining
room, chef Sam Hazen's pan-Asian creations, especially the Peking
duck, engage diners on a gastronomic level not usually reached in
proximity to a nightclub.
reserve tables early, as the place becomes increasingly frenetic as
the night progresses.
Production show on the Strip
"Ka," MGM Grand:
Despite spectacular new ("The Beatles' Love," at the Mirage) and
established ("O," at Bellagio) competition, Cirque du Soleil's "Ka"
holds center stage as the premier production show on the
production, a larger-than-life tale of separated twins and their
journey to reunite, recalls the epic battle myths of every culture
in a striking montage of stunningly staged acts.
impossible to categorize, the show easily lends itself to vivid
description. It's ballet. It's theater. It's acrobatics. It's war.
It's ethereal music and incredibly daring choreography coursing
through gravity-defying, dreamlike sequences.
Since its debut
in early 2005, "Ka" has been the show to see in Las
Starring Dirk Arthur," Tropicana Las Vegas Hotel & Casino: In
the rapidly expanding category of afternoon entertainment, Dirk
Arthur's magic show is nighttime quality at afternoon prices, and
that qualifies as the winner in this category.
Arthur and his
assistants wow the audience with large-scale illusions and plenty
of big cats that disappear and reappear with startling speed. And
producing a full-size helicopter, complete with spinning rotor,
isn't exactly something the kids should try at home.
Parking on the Strip
clean, classy and comfortable at Bellagio besides the new spa tower
rooms? The parking garage.
elegant than lots at some off-Strip hotels, the self-parking garage
at Bellagio wouldn't be the worst place to be marooned. Water
fountains, pleasant lighting and elegant elevator lobbies at each
level are a step above the norm.
The short walk
from the garage outlet on the casino level, a trek at other
properties, puts you right into the
resort lobby, next to the conservatory, with its seasonal floral
displays. Best of all, like every other self-parking garage
affiliated with a Strip hotel, it's free.
To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail
to [email protected].