‘WOW: The Las Vegas Spectacular’ Celebrates Two Years on the Strip


Rio’s water-based variety show sails on a sea of silly fun….

It’s a world of water. A world of whimsy. And most especially, a world of wonder at WOW: The Las Vegas Spectacular. The fantastical international variety production at Rio Hotel Casino is celebrating two successful years with new acts and plenty of excitement and laughter.

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The premise of WOW is pretty simple…a shy, awkward fisherman casts his pole into mysterious waters and drifts off to sleep. His fishing line opens the doorway to an undersea kingdom of nymphs, mermaids, pirates, and long-lost souls. Freed from the depths, these spirits dance, sing, fly and celebrate with all forms of acrobatics and aerial magic. With their encouragement, the fisherman discovers his confidence and joins in on the fun.

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If the concept of a water-based dream sounds a little like Le Reve, you’re right. But that’s where the similarities end. Unlike the Wynn production’s romantic-triangle storyline, WOW audiences are presented with a free-wheeling assortment of sequences, each built around water. From the romantic canals of Venice to the dangerous shores of the Carribean to the Grand Ballroom aboard Titanic, WOW takes you on an unforgettable adventure through the oceans of time.

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Rio’s spacious circular showroom has been outfitted with a powerful sound system and visual effects that are simply stunning. Wide panoramic screens envelop the audience and heighten the central action in a way that’s almost three-dimensional. You’ll feel like you’re zipping across the surface and plunging below the waves.

An actual pool at the center means you might even experience a mild splash or two.

Along with physical feats and plenty of gut-busting comedy, WOW features several Broadway-worthy dance numbers. A musical salute to “Singing in the Rain” drenches the cast in a high-tech downpour where rainfall takes the shape of umbrellas, diamonds, and hearts. With gorgeous choreography and highly-talented performers, this sequence alone is worth the price of admission.

But there are plenty of other reasons to experience WOW. The fun-filled production is….

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WOW: The Las Vegas Spectacular performs Tuesday & Wednesday at 7PM, Thursday – Saturday at 7PM & 9PM, Sundays at 5PM & 7PM. Family-friendly, although no children under 4 will be admitted.  

Photos: Sam Novak, WOW – The Las Vegas Spectacular

 

 

R.U.N For The Exit – Cirque du Soleil’s Latest is an EPIC DISASTER


Tone-deaf stunt show-cum-blockbuster confuses vulgarity and violence for action…

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If we can applaud entertainment companies for expanding outside of their comfort zone, then we’re surely entitled to speak up when they cross the line. That’s what’s been happening since Cirque du Soleil premiered R.U.N: The First Live Action Thriller at Luxor a few weeks ago. The public reaction has been overwhelmingly negative.

The outcry towards R.U.N has gotten so strong that I was bashed on Twitter for penning an opinion-free article describing the structure and content of the show for a freelance gig:

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Just how bad is it when readers DEMAND a negative review? Well…pretty darn bad indeed. R.U.N could have easily fallen into the category of “So awful that you have to see it”. Which is amusing when you consider that those very words described the previous occupant of Luxor’s theater – Criss Angel BeLIEve. That smelly heap of garbage somehow made it through ten long and miserable years (and several major overhauls) before Cirque could bleach away the stench and move forward with their next offering.

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But this is what they came up with for their newest show? I couldn’t for the life of me recommend R.U.N to anyone in good conscience…not even an enemy. It’s an ugly, inconsistent, poorly-planned and sloppily-executed mess that lies there like a dead body in a ditch. That is, except when characters are shouting F-bombs, being wheeled through the audience strapped to a torture device, having a syringe of drugs pumped into their arm or suspended over the audience by a metal claw driven into the face.

Yes, those things really happen in a Cirque du Soleil show….and people get up and walk out during these revolting sequences night after night (or so I’ve been told). It certainly happened during a Saturday 7pm timeslot that I attended. It’s also worth noting that despite plenty of nationwide advertisements and billboards all over the city, the auditorium was shockingly empty…..perhaps 25 percent of the seats were taken, and that’s not counting the two upper sections that are blocked off and covered with canvas. Ouch.

So how could something so awful make it past a brainstorming session, let alone twice-a-night performances on the Vegas Strip? Your guess is as good as mine. But let’s be real here….Cirque‘s reputation as a top provider of entertainment isn’t what it used to be. Viva Elvis did so poorly for ARIA that they ripped out their gorgeous theater when replacement production ZARKANA tanked there, too.

There have been numerous other missteps in the past few years that have allowed Spiegelworld (Absinthe, Opium and Atomic Saloon Show) to take away and put a new shine on Cirque’s tarnished crown. And the failing attendance of Cirque’s six other resident productions has led to rumors of them pulling out of Vegas altogether in the next few years. That’s what happens when you glut the market on a worldwide scale. You’re forced to eat your own tail just to survive.

Does anyone remember IRIS, the $100 million Cirque du Soleil resident show in Hollywood that closed after only 16 months? How about Paramour, the New York-based musical which did so poorly that Broadway’s LYRIC Theater paid Cirque $23 million just to close up and leave? There were other high-profile flops like Zaia in Macau, Zed in Tokyo, Banana Schpeel (New York/Chicago) and the first attempt to launch BAZ in Las Vegas (yes, it was Cirque that brought BAZ to Mandalay Bay before pulling out mere weeks into the run).

For some reason, Cirque du Soleil has been obsessed with Hollywood as of late. They seem to think that people want to pay over $100 to see a movie salute…at a time when people are skipping the cinemas and doing Netflix-and-chill at home. Besides film-centric IRIS and Paramour, they collaborated with director James Cameron on Worlds Away, a fantasy film that barely made a blip at the 2012 box office. Then Cirque produced TORUK – The First Flight, a poorly-reviewed touring show (based on Cameron’s AVATAR) that one magazine called “A troubling, redface spectacle”.

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                 R.U.N has guns, cars, drug dealers and LOTS of cardboard boxes…

Cirque even considered doing a Quentin Tarantino musical, but chose BAZ instead…because Tarantino films are so dark and violent! In an interview for Los Angeles Magazine in 2015, Cirque Theatrical‘s Scott Zeiger had this to say:

For the Record: Tarantino was going to be playing in Montreal. I went and loved it. I brought all of the top dogs from Cirque parent to see it. While all of them liked it, they were afraid for Cirque to get involved with this brand because the content of [Tarantino’s] films is pretty violent and deals with subject matter that might not be on the same wavelength with Cirque du Soleil’s more spiritual, love-oriented, happier themes.”

Yet here we are with a brand new $63 million production written by film director Robert Rodriguez, the man behind super-violent films like Planet Terror, Machete, Machete Kills and From Dusk Til Dawn. Somehow the company that once brought you glorious productions like Mystere and The Beatles LOVE thinks you want to spend an evening…and your hard-earned cash…watching the kind of show you’d slip into at Universal Studios for free to get out of the heat.

And as the photo below shows, people just didn’t care about the characters or what was going on all around them in the theater.

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                  Some people would rather stare at their phones than watch R.U.N…

That in itself shows just how tone-deaf Cirque has become to our current culture. And R.U.N lacks any kind of wink-wink fun that audiences might expect from the show’s advertisements. People are depicted as being tortured, killed and burned alive. One character has his arms and legs pulled out of joint and broken (with the sound of bone cracks amplified by Luxor’s megawatt sound system).

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Speaking of the sound system, this show is absolutely deafening. About five minutes in, my ears were literally hurting and my head began to throb. Fortunately, I’d read some online reviews warning about the extreme decibel level and brought along a pair of earplugs that stayed in place until the lights came up.

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So can this show be saved? Yes, it can. When Le Reve premiered at WYNN back in 2006, it was received so poorly that performances were cut and the production received a major retooling. Now it’s considered one of the best shows on the Strip…because audience reaction was analyzed and changes were made. And that HAS to happen with R.U.N, too.

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                   You’d have more fun playing a video game in a dark, creepy alley….

I predict a full closure for this show and a massive gutting. Costumes and sequences will be tossed out and the torture depictions have to go. Right now. There is no charismatic leading man to cheer for, no emotional investment in the fates of the characters, and even the plot (“retrieve a necklace to win” belongs in a video game, not a stage) will need to be refashioned into something people care about. A kidnapped child, perhaps? A damsel in distress? Anything but a pendant holding some secret data.

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The opening sequence, which is an actual film, goes on for far too long. From the get-go, people will be wondering “Did I just pay $300 to take my date to a movie?”. When flesh-and-blood characters actually appear, their performances and stunts will have you shrugging. Gang fights are so choreographed and punches so fake that you’ll think you’ve wandered into a high school production of “West Side Story”, despite silvery mylar costumes and moon boots that belong in a 90’s boyband video.

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Imagine if this show was built around an actual, heroic movie star! How cool would it be to watch the likes of Van Damme, Stallone, Chris Pratt or Dwayne Johnson doing their best stunt work before your eyes?  Even a live-action version of a familiar movie would be a cool idea…perhaps Rodriguez’s own SIN CITY, a hit film based on the works of Frank Miller. Now THAT is something I might recommend, not this violent, rambling and ugly excuse for a show.

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And yes, there were children in attendance despite a disclaimer stating that the material is intended for mature audiences 13 and up. I questioned a box office attendant as to whether they enforce this policy and she told me that they do not…it is a recommendation, not a restriction.

R.U.N is not a show for kids. Or teens. Or adults…or anyone, for that matter. Run as far away from R.U.N as you can…and don’t look back. Sorry, Cirque, but you’ve lost it…and heads are certainly going to roll.

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Normally I’d put ticketing information and showtimes here, but that’s not going to happen this time. See anything else (except for Mariah Carey or Criss Angel) but skip this bomb.

Photos: Sam Novak

Food and Fun Come Together at ‘sixth + mill’


Venetian’s latest culinary offering brings the flavor of southern Italy to St. Mark’s Square…

If you’ve ever visited the city of Venice, you no doubt have fond memories of indulging in the wonderful tastes of the local cuisine, most likely from a scenic outdoor patio. The dining opportunities of that amazing destination are one of a kind…yet Vegas visitors can relive the experience once again…or for the very first time…at sixth + mill ristorante, pizzeria and bar at Venetian.

You may recall my previous write-up of Venetian/Palazzo‘s Matteo’s Ristorante Italiano, a glorious Sin City extension of L.A.’s famed Factory Kitchen. Situated along Restaurant Row, this eatery is the brainchild of restaurateur Matteo Ferdinandi and his longtime friend Chef Angelo Auriana. Now these gentlemen have brought another Los Angeles destination to Vegas, this time at Venetian’s St. Mark’s Square.

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sixth + mill takes its name from the original location in California. The restaurant is a celebration of southern Italian culture as seen through the region’s food. Here guests can enjoy “outdoor patio dining” while taking in Venetian’s signature street performer shows. This is their operating philosophy and conveys why dining there is such a pleasant way to enjoy a meal:

Experience a casual-refined atmosphere that recreates the feel of a classic ristorante – pizzeria and the platform to educate and share the culture and the lifestyle of Southern Italy and its people’s dedication to food and wine.

In Southern Italy, the rich volcanic soil has always been the fueling force of the agriculture that from thousands of years has produced unique ingredients that are intrinsically part of the much sought-after Mediterranean Diet.

Chef Angelo’s commitment is on keeping these old traditions alive today. The cuisine of sixth+mill focuses on traditional recipes that capture the uniqueness and versatility of the regional southern Italian food and include appetizers, fritters, homemade pasta, meat & poultry, seafood, and desserts, keeping an eye on traditions and looking at today’s necessity of lightness, healthiness, and simplicity.

With a description like that, it’s clear that Chef Angelo and Matteo take great pride in sharing their heritage with guests. And fortunately for Vegas foodies, we now have two restaurants by these gentlemen to choose from.

My first visit to sixth + mill was a veritable bounty of flavor, color, and presentation. Interestingly, my companion and I gravitated towards plant-based dishes that were perfect for a satisfying lunch without a heavy feeling afterward. We began with some dishes from the list of “Fritters”.

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First up was u’vroccolo, a plate of cauliflower florets accompanied by parmigiana dipping sauce ($11). It was followed by brussels sprouts toasted, a hearty mound of the divisive little cabbages prepared with a slightly smokey flavor and topped with almonds, paprika and lemon ($12).

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Our final fritter was arancinotto, a generous portion of the traditional Sicilian recipe made with rice, beef, pork, tomato and mozzarella ($12 for 3 pieces). Mouthwatering with every bite, this delight was my favorite part of the meal.

We then moved to a selection from “Small Plates” with melanzana, a warm shareable made with eggplant, parmigiana, scamorza and tomato ($15). Other small plates on the list include minestra soup with quinoa, vegetables, ricotta and chili oil ($15), crostone, an inviting mushroom toast with herbs, reggiano and provolone ($13) and rapini, a leafy green vegetable cooked with chili oil and oregano and served with ricotta and bread crumbs ($9).

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While these delicious vegetarian dishes were incredibly satisfying, there was plenty left to explore on the extensive sixth + mill menu. Our next selection from “Meat & Poultry” was brasato (braised beef with carrots, red onions and gaeta olives – $38). It was so moist, delicious and tender that I was able to separate it with a spoon.

There’s also polpette beef and pork meatballs, chicken parm, pollo romano, and siciliana prime beef steak to go along with seafood selections like acqua pazza (sea bass), pepper-couli salmone and spicy mussels mitili.

While enjoying the brasato, our table was visited by Matteo Ferdinandi himself. Jovial and clearly excited about his new restaurant, he wanted to be sure that we were enjoying our meal. Yet…he couldn’t resist chiding us in a joking fashion about not trying any of his endless combinations of pizzas.

The menu features hand-crafted Neapolitan style pizzas, traditional wheat pastas, and tomatoes chosen with purpose. They use three varieties of tomatoes for their pizza sauce; one for sweetness, one for tanginess, and one for consistency.

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There are six varieties of red pizzas and four white pizzas to choose from. You can customize your selection with ten specialty toppings like n’duja (spicy pork salume), stracciatella (water buffalo milk cheese) and speck (smoke-cured prosciutto). All pizzas are baked in one of two special pizza ovens created to achieve the best airy and chewy crust. The ovens were flown into Las Vegas from Italy especially for sixth + mill.

Pasta is a big deal at any Italian restaurant, but sixth + mill goes the extra mile. Every ravioli, cavatelli, linguine, and fusilli is made fresh in-house and topped with sauces like meat-tomato ragu, chicken sugo and lemon cream with mint oil. There are whole wheat varieties and gnocchi (potato dumplings), too.

Make sure to complete your meal with one of several delicious desserts. And check out their outstanding beveage menu of cocktails, wines, champagne, beers, and teas.

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So the next time you’re craving authentic Italian food with a view of Venice, head over to sixth + mill at Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes. It’s the perfect way to satisfy your culinary urges while indulging in a mini-vacation at the same time.

sixth + mill is open daily from 11 am to 11 pm. Phone: 702.414.1227 for reservations and information…

Photos: Sam Novak, sixth + mill

 

NEED FOR SPEED: HANS KLOK IS ‘THE WORLD’S FASTEST MAGICIAN’ IN NEW SHOW

UPDATE: Hans Klok adds an exhilarating new holiday spin to his latest family-friendly production, Hans Klok: The World’s Fastest Magician. The limited holiday engagement begins Monday November 25th at 7 p.m. in the new state-of-the-art showroom at the Excalibur Hotel & Casino. Tickets are now on sale.

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“This is the most magical time of the year, and I’m thrilled to unveil new elements of my production to celebrate the Christmas season,” said Klok. “This show was created to entertain the entire family, and it’s the perfect chance to introduce your loved ones to the magic of Hans Klok – they might even get a chance to be part of the show!”
The holiday run of Hans Klok: The World’s Fastest Magician will perform nightly at 7 p.m. (dark Dec. 6, 13, 20, 22, 31) inside the Thunderland Showroom at Excalibur, with matinees on select Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. (matinees available Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 21, 22, 28, 29).

When it comes to magic acts, the set-up is usually 90 percent of the illusion. Describe the trick, set up the props, lay on a little distraction and then…”ta-da!”. Not so with Hans Klok: The World’s Fastest Magician. Now performing six nights a week (with matinees on select dates), the latest production at Excalibur is a breakneck theatrical experience that will leave you slack-jawed and gasping in wonder.

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Longtime Vegas visitors may remember Klok’s large-scale 2007 production “The Beauty of Magic” at Planet Hollywood. Accompanied by glamorous Baywatch beauty Pamela Anderson, Klok turned Vegas magic shows inside out by combining vintage theatrical flamboyance with a hip, cutting-edge performance style (think Siegfried and Roy meet Criss Angel). The show drew attention from A-list celebrities like Sylvester Stallone and Amy Winehouse, along with former America’s Got Talent judge (and Anderson’s Baywatch co-star) David Hasselhoff.

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In the ensuing twelve years, the Holland native has cemented his status as the “Dutch David Copperfield”. He’s toured throughout Europe, received numerous awards, appeared on countless television programs and was inducted into the “Inner Circle” of the British Golden Circle Magic Organization. In addition, Klok set a world illusion speed record in 2012 which he subsequently topped the following year. Now he’s returned to Vegas with a new collection of spectacular mind-benders.

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To describe any of Klok’s many sequences would spoil the fun. But “fun” is indeed the operative word here. The production is mostly light-hearted, family-friendly and filled with music and memorable costumes. A sexy cast of male and female dancers….

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Hans Klok: The World’s Fastest Magician performs Saturday through Thursday (dark Fridays) at Excalibur’s Thunderland Showroom. Check schedule for exact times and matinees on select dates…

Photos: Hans Klok, BestOfVegas.com

 

 

Everything You Need to Know About ‘R.U.N by Cirque du Soleil’



Breaking down the high-octane elements of Cirque’s new spectacle…

Strap yourself in tight and prepare for the ride of your life at R.U.N, the latest offering from Cirque du Soleil. R.U.N is a high-octane thriller that’s part action movie, part stunt show and totally unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

 

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Billed as “The First Live Action Thriller”, Luxor’s new production blurs the line between performance art and cinema in mind-bending fashion. Written by cutting-edge film director Robert Rodriguez (“Sin City”, “Predators”, “Alita: Battle Angel”), R.U.N envelops you in a hyper-stylized vision of Las Vegas filled with gritty thugs, warring gangs, warehouse battles, and a hero on a quest to save the city.

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So how does a movie come alive? With the ultimate in technology and theatrical tricks, of course. Cirque du Soleil has always been at the forefront of entertainment innovation. Their employment of electronics, projection, and practical effects has been heavily integrated into productions ranging from The Beatles LOVE to . R.U.N represents the next step in Cirque’s evolution, and the results are stunningly effective.

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Imagine a chase across the Mojave desert recreated right before your eyes. Drivers engage in hand-to-hand combat while their cars spin, soar and race to avoid a speeding freight train. Motorcycles burst from the screen and soar up the aisles.

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R.U.N performs Wednesday through Sunday at 7 pm and 9:30 pm. It is recommended for mature audiences 13 and up. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HUMAN NATURE’S LATEST SHOW FEATURES ‘MOTOWN AND MORE’

Relive the best songs of all time at “Human Nature Sings Motown and More”, Venetian‘s new show from chart-topping Australia’s Human Nature. Packed with amazing harmonies, precision choreography, live musicians and a stunning setlist, the group’s latest Vegas show will have you humming all night and dancing in the aisles.

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“Motown and More” is a nonstop cavalcade of hits, presented in a smooth sexy style that only Human Nature can deliver. After a joyous romp through the decades in the show “JUKEBOX”, the latest production revisits the Motown setlist that harkens back to their Vegas premiere. Debuting ten years ago at Imperial Palace with “Smokey Robinson presents HUMAN NATURE: The Ultimate Celebration of the Motown Sound”, the boys are excited to once again celebrate the songs that made them Sin City stars.

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Motown is marking its 60th anniversary this year, so the latest refresh of Human Nature’s setlist was a brilliant decision. Currently celebrating three decades together, the group was presented with the Medal of the Order of Australia in May. Earlier this year they hit the 2,000 performance mark of their Vegas residency and this month the quartet will be inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in Sydney. The Venetian has also extended their residency through 2022. So 2019 has indeed been packed with landmark achievements.

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Many Stateside fans are unaware that members Phil Burton, Toby Allen and brothers Mike and Andrew Tierney originally rose to fame in their homeland as a 90’s boyband. Yes, Motown singers that were the down-under equivalent to N’Sync and Backstreet Boys. But even before that, Human Nature formed as a school-age doo-wop group. And it’s that kind of feel-good music that they’re circling back to once more.

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And why shouldn’t they? After all, Human Nature boasts a stellar endorsement from mentor (and Motown legend) Smokey Robinson. And no matter what musical genre fills up your favorite playlist, chances are that you know the lyrics to “Stop! In The Name of Love”, “My Girl” and “I’ll Be There”. Those classics and many more from the “Motown sound” have made an indelible impression on our culture. And they continue to raise our spirits and lift us to our feet.

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Along with the Motown songbook, guests can expect excursions into other periods with hits from the likes of…

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Human Nature Show Schedule: Tuesday – Saturday at 7:00pm. Click here to purchase discount tickets through BestOfVegas.com.

 

TRAVEL BACK IN TIME AT TITANIC: THE ARTIFACT EXHIBIT

Las Vegas is a city built on escapism and frivolity, yet there are abundant opportunities to experience the wonders of reality and history. Numerous museums and exhibitions allow you to enlighten your mind and enrich your soul, from the Atomic Testing Museum to Real Bodies at Bally’s. The biggest and most impressive of these is Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition at Luxor.

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Located on the atrium level of Luxor’s enormous pyramid, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition is a massive exhibit befitting the White Star Liner’s “Ship of Dreams”. Much more than a stuffy museum, the 25,000 square foot attraction is an emotional journey back in time to experience what a trans-Atlantic passage on the ill-fated liner would have been like.

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Titanic’s walk-through exhibit is a fully-realized sensory experience. Sound and lighting effects, throbbing vibrations, icy temperatures, and chilling breezes enhance recreations of the Promenade Deck and engine room.

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There are replicas of the Grand Staircase, corridors and cabins belonging to First and Third class sections. The staterooms are meticulously displayed using authentic furniture commissioned for the Exhibition by original manufacturers.

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Sections of the Exhibition are dedicated to fascinating details of the Titanic’s construction, launch, and operations. But it’s the personal stories of the victims and survivors that tell the true tale of the ocean liner and its sinking. Hundreds of artifacts recovered from the wreckage at the bottom of the ocean are on display. They offer an insight into the lives that were lost on that fateful evening.

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Postcards, shaving implements, luggage, clothing, playing cards, money….all of these everyday items from a century ago remind us that each person on board was an actual soul. You’ll learn with reverence about immigrants hoping to start a new life in the United States. You’ll witness the opulent lifestyle of the rich and wealthy, who were just as vulnerable to the chilling waters. And you’ll be inspired by the workers who bravely assisted women and children to the lifeboats, sacrificing themselves in the ultimate act of heroism.

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All of the artifacts on display, including numerous pieces from the ship itself, have been carefully restored and preserved by RMS Titanic, Inc. This organization was formed to serve as the official steward of the wreckage site and its contents. Using the latest scientific advances, experts have cataloged each recovered item and treated it to protect from further degradation. Artifacts will sometimes be retired from the display and others brought in to replace them.

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The most amazing part of Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition is undoubtedly “The Big Piece”, an enormous section of the starboard hull. Suspended mid-air in a climate-controlled environment, this massive relic took several years and countless hours of effort to bring to the surface. An amazing testimonial to the wonders of science and archaeology, “The Big Piece” can only be seen in Las Vegas.

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Optional audio narration devices enable you to hear in-depth details of the various rooms and objects throughout the Exhibition. Descriptions are often provided in…

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Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit is open daily from 9:30 am to 9 pm.

Photos: Sam Novak, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, Travelzoo, Patch.com, Best of Orlando