Hidden Vegas: Into “The Vortex” at Linq Hotel


Another elusive treasure that’s yours to discover…perhaps for only a short time longer…

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If you’re a frequent traveler to Las Vegas, you might think that you know the city pretty well.  It is, after all, one of the most visitor-friendly cities in the world.  And yet, there’s a separate side to Vegas that you may not ever see.  It’s vast, exists on many levels, and some of them are right under your nose (like the never-completed St. Regis Tower at Venetian, hidden behind a canvas facade).

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Vegas photographer Greg C. and I are what he likes to call  “urban explorers.”  We get a certain thrill from finding our way to the balconies, closed-off corridors, rooftops and recesses of Vegas structures. And we’ve decided to share our discoveries with a series we’re calling “Hidden Vegas.”

My fascination with this city’s secrets was ignited back in 2007 when I lost some memory cards in front of the Mirage volcano.  Hours later I was escorted to the casino’s Lost and Found department to claim them. Luckily, that office was deep within the bowels of the Mirage.

The stroll back there seemed to take forever, and I was amazed at the enormous amount of activity that most folks would never lay their eyes on.  It was like stumbling upon a forgotten city…dazzling and unforgettable.

The Strip isn’t the only place where you can go treasure hunting. Downtown Las Vegas is a veritable goldmine for the urban explorer. There are catacombs inside just about every hotel on Fremont Street, especially at places like Binions and the now-destroyed Las Vegas Club, where closed-off hotel rooms and shuttered restaurants are just begging to be rediscovered.

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While we don’t encourage doing anything illegal, it’s hard to resist the urge to peer behind a rarely-open door, especially when you have a camera or phone with you. My  buddy Scott Roeben, that cool dude at VitalVegas, has become fond of regularly posting his own “security breaches”. Perhaps it’s the reporter in us, ever-present, that hopes to catch a glimpse of the newest venue rising up behind construction barricades. Even so, if you explore, do so wisely and at your own risk.

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I’m 2015, while searching for a less-crowded restroom at the premiere of Mat Franco – Magic Reinvented Nightly, I headed to the fifth floor of Linq Hotel, which was once a collection of Imperial Palace restaurants. These days it has been named the “Bloq Room” and was a temporary home to Divas Las Vegas as their theater was undergoing renovations.

On the far side of Bloq Room, a pair of open doors beckoned me towards a not-quite-finished escalator that led towards a vast outdoor space. And beyond that was…(cue the drum roll)…THE VORTEX!!!!

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The Vortex might seem eerily familiar to Star Trek fans. Perhaps that’s due to its resemblance to the God-like artificial intelligence known as V’Ger from the 1979 theatrical movie STAR TREK: The Motion Picture.

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                The Enterprise encounters “V’Ger” in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)…

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You have no doubt noticed this incredible light show, which beckons visitors away from the Strip and into the pedestrian mall that now shares the Linq name with the former Quad Hotel. The colorful swirl of lights is an eye-catcher from the ground, but standing underneath it is absolutely surreal.  The dizzying, ever-changing digital tornado could easily give you a feeling of vertigo, especially if you’re prone to motion sickness. Epileptics, don’t even think about prowling around up here.

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But what exactly is this space and why isn’t it being utilized? Ask the show performers and employees at Linq, and the most common response is “I heard it’s going to be a nightclub”.  So why isn’t it yet? Pure Nightclub at Caesars Palace became Omnia in less time that Vortexhas been sitting here, virtually forgotten.

Press releases stated that the renovation of Linq Theater was the final step in Linq Hotel‘s conversion.  But I wasn’t so sure of that, as my explorations also came across the former third-floor bar/food court/sportsbook, walled off and awaiting renovations.

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I do know that the Vortex Deck has been used for special events, as a Fourth of July fireworks viewing party was held there that summer for Linq VIP customers. And, we spotted a small stage during our exploration that appeared to have been recently used.

According to the Vortex information page on Caesars Entertainment website, this massive space and light show can be yours…for a price. The entire deck is available for parties, catered events, concerts, weddings etc.  Prices aren’t mentioned anywhere, but we guess it would cost a pretty penny to have such a sprawling venue – with an incredible view – all to yourselves.

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For us that evening, the space, the solitude, the silence…and the view…were absolutely free. And totally priceless. But with the  recent announcement of both a zip line and the bizzare Kind Heaven project, the future of this spot seems uncertain.

So, the next time you’re in Sin City, consider putting on your hiking shoes and setting out to find your own “Hidden Vegas”. But be sure to share those photos!

This article previously appeared on another site. It has been updated and expanded.

Photos: Sammasseur, Greg C.

Hidden Vegas: Structures Hiding In Plain Sight


Look closer…not everything is as obvious as it appears…

Welcome to “Hidden Vegas”, teasing your brain with questions like “How did I miss that?”. I’ll take a close look at structures that are more than meets the eye…and others which have been repurposed into something fresh and new.

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Let’s start off with the St. Regis Tower. As seen above, the unfinished structure between Venetian and Palazzo resorts was once planned to be a condominium tower. An economic collapse and financial trouble for Sands Corporation froze the $600 million project in 2008. Thus, it joined a list of rusting eye sores that suddenly littered the Strip and surrounding areas.

Sands Corporation forked over a million dollars for a custom tarp, meant to cleverly disguise the skeleton while the powers-that-be decided what to do with it (the market for Strip residences isn’t what it was when the first blueprints for St. Regis were being drawn).

Whether it ends up being dismantled, completed for a timeshare operation or used as an additional tower for Venetian/Palazzo is anyone’s guess. But for now, St. Regis continues to exist as a genuine mirage – a building that isn’t really there…in a land of make-believe.

Now, if only someone could toss an invisibility cloak over the unfinished Fontainebleau. At least that monstrosity now has a new name (The Drew), new owners (Witkoff\Marriott) and a projected  opening date of 2020. Call me “skeptical”.

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Planet Hollywood began life as a chain of celebrity-fueled restaurants. Then it became a casino resort that was once the Aladdin Hotel. And the Aladdin Hotel was once known as…the Aladdin Hotel.

Don’t be confused. The original Aladdin began life as the English-themed Tally-Ho. It opened in 1963, but was rechristened a year later as King’s Crown…which promptly failed. A few years and several million dollars later, the Aladdin Hotel Casino opened up on the same spot.

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During the summer of 1976, Neil Diamond became the first performer at the new Aladdin Theater for the Performing Arts, constructed on what was once a golf course. The huge venue, boasting a glass ceiling, was the only thing standing when the Aladdin was leveled in 1998.

A new Aladdin went up around the free-standing building, this time integrating it into the casino design….and forever hiding the exterior view from the naked eye (unless you’re on a rooftop, like Greg C. was for this recent photo).

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This past February 2018, the AXIS Powered By Monster Theater (we aren’t making that up) which replaced “Art” with a tart (Britney Spears, natch) was once again renamed as Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood.

That gorgeous open ceiling was covered by a non-transparent dome years ago. It’s current seating capacity is greatly downsized from the original 7,500 monster (see what we did?) to 4,600 for residency shows. Even so, Zappos remains one of the largest venues on the Strip, and the largest of its kind in the United States.

Anyone who has walked the full length of MGM Grand Resort will vouch for its enormous footprint. The sprawling property is even larger when including Signature at MGM Grand. That three-tower annex sits on land that was once home to MGM Grand Adventures Theme Park. The main building, though, has a secret that few current visitors are aware of: the west wing once stood alone as the Marina Hotel.

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Marina Hotel opened in 1975, had 714 guest rooms and its own casino. It was closed in 1990 to become part of the new location for MGM Grand, the original name for the current Bally’s (did you follow that?). Instead of leveling Marina, it was cleverly integrated into the new, Oz-themed structure, which opened right before Christmas in 1993.

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MGM Grand’s “West Wing” rooms are smaller and less expensive than those in the newer portions of the resort. However, they’re sleek, stylish, and still a favorite for solo travelers…and those who enjoy easy access to the Strip.

The Shops at Crystals might be touted as a world-class shopping destination, but for some of us it’s more like a mausoleum or an echo chamber. Highly regarded premium designers have locations here, so if you have thousands for impulse purchases, Crystals is your place.

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                (Photo by Scott Roeben, VitalVegas.com)

For the rest of us, one thing alone makes the lengthy walk into the Simon Corporation mall worthwhile: gawking and chuckling at that giant wooden penis. A perfect example of “What were they thinking?” , the  multi-story shaft and scrotum are home to Mastros Ocean Club aka “Treehouse”. I’ll just leave this here:

Our final entry sits at the opposite end of the Strip, directly in the shadow of the aforementioned Fontainebleau Resort carcass. It’s an industrial-looking tower next to Circus Circus.

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The family-friendly Circus Circus resort boasts Adventuredome, a glass-enclosed amusement park that opened its doors (and attractions) in 1993. Before that, thrill-seekers had to go outside to get their pulses racing. And they probably bypassed the sedate-looking merry-go-round for a shot at the Rocket Ship Ride.

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This earth-bound cousin to Stratosphere‘s sky-high “Big Shot” attraction took travelers up a 210-foot tower, which undoubtedly offered a terrific view of the Riviera Hotel across the street.

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In 1992, the tower was repurposed as a bungee-jumping attraction, utilizing an elevator that, according to bungee.com, is the tallest single-stage lift in the world.  A reflecting pool was added to allow jumpers to witness their own descent.

These days, the pool has been filled in and seemingly forgotten. The rocket itself sits earthbound, too, as shown in this photo by Greg C. It was taken on January 2015…from the base of Stratosphere’s “Big Shot” ride.

This article previously appeared on another site. It has been updated and expanded.

Photos: Greg C., UNLV Digital Library, bungee.com, Flickr.com, Scott Roeben via VitalVegas

Malta and Tenerife Await


Vegas Unfiltered will be taking a two-week hiatus…

I hope everyone is enjoying the dawn of springtime. Yours truly will be jaunting off on an extended visit to Malta and Tenerife (in the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa) with brief stops in London and Barcelona.

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I’ll be returning to the States on May 4th and will hop right back into things here asap after that. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to keep you up to date via the official Facebook Page. That is, of course, as time allows.

Until then, keep thinking those happy thoughts, thank you for reading my site and enjoy your Vegas daydreams!

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                                              Sam Novak aka “Sammasseur”

Spiegelworld’s OPIUM is a Space Voyage from Uranus (sorry) to your Heart


Absinthe’s new cousin is the schlocky 70’s sci-fi variety show that never was….

Imagine that you’re scanning the channels and come across TV Land, the cable network specializing in beloved 60’s and 70’s programs. They’re airing a weird science-fiction variety show that you don’t remember at all…and you can’t look away.

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The wacky neon-and-spandex-clad passengers and crew of the starship OPIUM are headed towards Earth. For some reason they perform musical and acrobatic acts when not doing naughty things on and with each other. No, it’s not an episode of The Twilight Zone or the super-bizarre Brady Bunch Variety Hour (yes, that was really a thing!). It’s Spiegelworld’s OPIUM…and the ship of fools has landed at Cosmopolitan.

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OPIUM takes over the space once occupied by Vegas Nocturne, another Spiegelworld creation. That lamented masterpiece of hysteria now lives on through OPIUM, which infuses the spirit of Vegas Nocturne with a psychedelic vibe all its own.

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An ethereal mood is instantly established when you enter through Rose.Rabbit.Lie‘s ring of mysterious doors and head for the bar. The lounge is bathed in pink and purple neon tubes and 70’s kitsch like lava lamps and portable televisions (who didn’t have one of those?) line the walls. There, under a shower of electronic bleeps and Moog synthesizer music, you can peruse a 3D menu of specialty cocktails via an authentic View-Master reel.

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Comparisons to Absinthe will be unavoidable, but as my guest at a recent performance noted, OPIUM is the exact opposite of the nearby production. While that long-running hit at Caesars is back-to-back acts of world-class quality, OPIUM deliberately revels in its own awfulness. It’s pure camp and overacting on an epic scale.

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It would be unfair to give away the plot or tell you too much about the characters. They’re pure delight and half the joy is in discovering them. Instead I’ll focus on some of the variety segments, which don’t all achieve the stellar heights of Absinthe but soar on their own plane of existence.

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“Dusty Moonboots” is the songbird of Starship Opium’s crew. She (or he…I can’t be totally certain) belts out ballads and pop numbers with aplomb, sporting an outlandish series of costumes that seem re-purposed from a roadshow version of Priscilla – Queen of the Desert.

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Vegas Nocturne returning performer Brett Loudermilk is unrecognizable as the ship’s resident sword swallower. His risque oral act is exactly what you might be thinking. Armed with a suitcase full of swords of varying shapes and sizes (along with a rather large “personal item”), Brett’s stunts will shock, nauseate and have you holding your aching sides from the laughter.

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The ship’s all-purpose handyman “Scottie” seems determined to fly his inner rainbow flag through the solar system. Armed with dozens of bright pink hula hoops and streamers trailing behind his go-go shorts, the chubby crew member amazes with his balance, flexibility and grace.

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By far my favorite sequence involved America’s Got Talent duo Christian Stoinev and Scooby. The hunky shirtless young strongman and his faithful chihuahua are so entertaining that they alone are worth the ticket price. This video clip from the performance I attended is a real treat:

Despite the seeming randomness of OPIUM’s concept, it really is cohesive…and surprisingly touching. There’s a story arc, character development, audience interaction and some pretty kick-ass music from a live band. If you’re a Freddy Mercury fan, you’ll love the Queen sing-alongs that form a framework of universal love and acceptance.

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OPIUM’s goal is to amuse, titillate, revolt, befuddle and entertain. Most of all, it’s about delivering the unexpected. On that OPIUM succeeds beyond your imagination. It might not reach the heights of either of its Spiegelworld relatives, but OPIUM is one schlocky sci-fi tale that deserves to run for at least a five-year mission. William Shatner would be proud.

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OPIUM performs nightly (except Tuesdays) at Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. Ticket are available online or at the OPIUM box office on the second level. Click here for show schedule and times. Discounts of 25% on select seats are available courtesy of our friend at VegasFool by clicking here

 

Spa Days Are For Guys, Too


Yours truly indulges in a manly head-to-toe experience at Westgate’s Serenity Spa…

There’s an outmoded perception that spa treatments are something that only women are likely to enjoy. But those in the know realize that occasionally pampering our overworked bodies allows them to recuperate, regenerate and regroup for what lies ahead.

Men are most likely to use the fitness center and steam room/massage at a resort’s spa…but why stop there? Your skin, hands and feet take as much abuse as your muscles. They’ll also benefit from a bit of professional attention. And who knows…perhaps you’ll get other kinds of welcome attention in return.

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As a guest of Westgate Resort, I was invited for a courtesy MVP for the Day package at Serenity Spa. The three-hour session included an aromatherapy elixir massage, Versailles rejuvenating facial and a spa pedicure. The retail cost for this package varies by weekday/weekend rates, but if you’re a regular visitor to my official Facebook Page you’ve seen the Groupon specials I post there (why not head over and click “Like”?).

If you’re new to the atmosphere and procedures of a spa, then read on. Being a former licensed massage therapist myself (hence the pen name “Sammasseur”), I know my way around these places and can help you to feel comfortable and prepared.

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You’ll want to make your appointment(s) in advance, much like visiting a medical office. The staff at any legitimate spa is a collection of highly-trained and licensed professionals. They need to keep to their schedules just like your doctor does. You can always call to check availability during moments of spontaneity, but it’s best to plan ahead. If you happen to arrive late, it’s standard procedure for your service to finish at the originally-scheduled time.

To acquaint yourself with a spa’s services, check their online menu to see what’s available. Then decide what fits your needs and budget. Services can be chosen a la carte or in a variety of specially-priced packages. It’s worth noting that most spas in Vegas have adjoining fitness centers, pools and steam room/sauna/hot tub areas. Your fees normally entitle you to use of these amenities, allowing you to make a full day of it if you so desire.

As spas exist to promote relaxation and balance, it’s best to ease into your visit. Ideally, you’ll want to arrive a half hour or more before your first scheduled service. Once you’ve checked in, an attendant will take you to your gender-appropriate area for a tour. They’ll provide you with a locker, sandals, robe and some bottled water.

Cell phones are strictly prohibited, so you’ll want to shut off your ringtone and store the phone with your other valuables and clothing. On your initial visit you’ll be asked to fill out an intake form with questions about health and special needs. You can look over a description of proper spa etiquette by visiting here.

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Before your appointment you may wish to shower, steam or slide into the hot tub to set that “Ahhhhhh” mindset into motion. Many spas are clothing-optional, but it’s best to bring a swim suit. You’ll want to make a trip to the restroom, too. Once prepared, head for the “relaxation room” until your attendant summons you for your services.

Relaxation rooms are generally equipped with plush chaise lounges, fruit-infused water, light snacks and fresh fruits. There may be magazines, a fireplace, candles and a TV with captions (no sound). Conversation should be quiet and kept to a minimum to foster the atmosphere of peacefulness.

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My three-part package began with the massage. Eric, my usual therapist, is the talented young man whom I mentioned in a past article. Whereas previous sessions had been performed with Himalayan salt stones and deep-tissue therapy, today’s was structured around aromatherapy.

I was presented with a choice of fragrances based on natural elements like fire and water. Each selection is designed to promote a certain type of therapy or wellness. I went for “metal” which offers detoxifying benefits….perfect for recovering from Vegas indulgences.

A first massage can be a little disconcerting for the uninitiated. You can ease that concern by watching internet videos of how pro massages are performed. Let the therapist know of any sore, sensitive or ticklish areas….or just places that you don’t like being touched (bottoms of feet are a common one).

You’ll be placed under a blanket on a warm table with only the treated areas being exposed as necessary. There’s no need to worry about modesty, but once again keep in mind that you’re in the company of a state-licensed professional. Trust the skills of your therapist and allow your body to relax freely. Take deep, regular breaths and provide feedback if something doesn’t feel comfortable (pressure, speed of massage strokes, etc.).

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At the midway point you’ll be asked to turn over. Some clients like to take a sip of water during this pause, which is another good time to confirm that all is going well. After you change from a prone position to supine (on your back), a soft cloth may be draped over your eyes to keep out the light. BTW, it’s perfectly normal and acceptable to fall asleep if you achieve a point of deep relaxation.

After the massage you’ll be escorted back to your respective spa area. You might wish to use the bathroom once again, and be sure to have more water….an essential ingredient in all bodywork applications. Then it’s back to the relaxation room to await your next service.

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Step two for me was a facial. Once again, there are a variety to choose from based on your needs and skin type. There’s even a Gentleman’s Facial geared towards shave-weary faces. My slightly-aging (ahem) skin was eager to receive a rejuvenating treatment branded as Queen of Versailles. The line of products used for it are inspired by Jackie Siegel, wife of Westgate Resorts owner David Siegel.

Aside from short demonstrations at department-store counters and fitness expos, this writer had never received a full-service facial. They’re performed in a room that combines the tranquility of a massage studio with the clinical precision of a dentist’s office. My licensed esthetician, Kellee, invited me to get comfortable on a multi-position table before discussing my current skin concerns.

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After covering my eyes to block out light, she closely examined my pores and skin texture under intense light and a magnifier. Then she discussed options for blemishes and trouble spots that might require special attention. Next was a multi-step process that included steam, applications of various creams/cleaners, massage…and some high-tech equipment.

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Most of the facial was a relaxing and pleasant experience….some not. You see, trained estheticians perform “extractions” of blocked pores. This process can be little on the painful side…but so are most trips to the dentist. Fortunately it was followed with soothing gels and more massage to reduce redness and impart a healthy-looking glow. Improving your looks isn’t always wine and roses…but the end result was fantastic.

Speaking of wine, MVP Spa Package includes a glass of your choice. It was offered during my final hour, this time in the spa’s nail salon. Tori Lyn invited me to settle into a comfortable recliner with controllable heat and massage. Placing my feet in a glass bowl of swirling, heated water (and enhanced with LED lighting effects), I stretched out and allowed Tori Lyn to work her magic.

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Getting a professional pedicure was another first for this guy. As you might imagine, the procedure involved trimming and shaping of the nails, neatening of cuticles and more massage.

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The part I most benefited from was buffing and removal of calluses and dead skin from the toes and heels. That might sound uncomfortable, but soaking in moving jets of water beforehand made the experience quite pleasant. Moisturizers and soothing oils were applied to my feet and nails as a final touch.

After three hours of continuous pampering, I rose from my recliner feeling like a new man. As stated previously, you’re free to stick around and enjoy other areas of the spa. You might even want to get a contemporary new cut and style from the hair salon (Westgate’s iBlowDry Salon is open daily from 9am to 8pm). For myself, this was the perfect time to head back to the suite for a nap.

If you’re next stop after the spa is something more formal, be assured that full showering and grooming facilities are at your disposal. They usually include razors, styling products, antiperspirants and dental hygiene accessories. Ask your attendant for anything that might be lacking. They’re sure to have it…even a plastic bag your your damp swimsuit.

It’s standard procedure in American spas for the proper gratuity to be added to your charges (20% is the current norm). This will be disbursed in appropriate amounts to those who provided your services. I tend to give a little extra cash to the locker attendants, but the choice to leave additional for anyone is yours.

After a “guy’s day” at the spa, you’ll be prepared for whatever the setting sun has in store. With a full package of treatments to make you look and feel your best, there’s no limit to what you’ll be able to achieve in Sin City.

Westgate Serenity Spa’s business hours are from 6am to 8pm daily. Special discounted package rates are available. For more information or to book a service, call 702.732.5648. Groupon is currently offering limited-time deals for up to 50% off. 

Photos: Sammasseur, Westgate Las Vegas, TripAdvisor, Yelp!, Quora

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SAW Escape Experience Takes to the Strip via FLO Advertising’s Mobile Digital Billboard Trucks


World-famous Egan Productions teams up with the latest high-tech advertising firm to deliver the deep cuts of Lionsgate’s slasher movie series…

Mobile advertising is a rich part of American culture. From Depression-era sandwich boards to Goodyear Blimps hovering over stadiums, advertising has always been most effective when it’s on the move.

Las Vegas has its own popular collection of mobile billboards and taxi toppers. They keep visitors up to date on the hottest shows, best restaurants and newest headliners on the Strip.

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New Vegas-based FLO Advertising is the latest such venture. FLO Advertising features high-tech digital mobile billboards mounted to a fleet of sleek black trucks. Gliding up and down the Strip with the brightest eye-catching electronic signs, FLO Advertising estimates that they reach up to four million potential customers each month.

FLO’s mobile digital billboards are 23% larger than the conventional mobile digital billboards you’ve been seeing on the Strip. Their electronic signage is staggering 10,000 NITS brightness which is 25% brighter than the competition. Their state of the art technology is instantly update-able and flexible, allowing for unlimited creativity and immediate response to marketing demands.

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It’s no surprise, then, that innovative Egan Productions , a full-service production company also based in Vegas, has partnered with FLO Advertising to promote their new Official SAW Escape Experience. Inspired by the long-running series of Lionsgate hit films, SAW Escape Experience brings your biggest horror-film fears to life.

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Now open at 2121 Industrial Road, just behind the Stratosphere and a bone’s throw from the world famous Golden Steer Steakhouse, SAW Escape delivers a full-building multi-room experience that is entirely immersive and absolutely terrifying.

As the unwitting player in Jigsaw’s twisted games, you’ll need to rely on wits and reflexes to survive a harrowing tour of Egan & Co. Meat Packing Plant. That’s where things will undoubtedly take a sinister turn for you and your friends.

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Since their inception, escape rooms have quickly overtaken murder-mystery dinner theater as the hottest interactive thrill. Egan Productions ramps up the octane by building theirs around a familiar and frightening villain.

“Jigsaw”, the vengeful mastermind behind SAW’s traps and pratfalls, has sliced and diced his way through eight successful films. The latest was released just last Halloween to over 100 million dollars at the box office.

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             Jason Egan (far right) is embraced by the world of horror films…

SAW Escape benefits by having the best creators at the helm. Egan Productions is the firm behind Fright Dome, the infamous Halloween attraction held each year at Circus Circus. Company creator Jason Egan knows his way around the world of horror. He’s served as Executive Producer on cult horror films like Bloodsucking Bastards and The Neighbor (with Vegas favorite Bill Engvall). He even partnered with legendary director George Romero for a Night of the Living Dead-themed house.

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                                      Egan on the set of The Neighbor

Jason’s Fright Dome attractions featuring the SAW franchise have been standouts in recent years. So when he decided to launch a permanent escape experience in Las Vegas, it seemed natural to integrate the twisted puzzles and traps of Jigsaw’s sinister universe. And Egan’s successful past collaborations with Lionsgate Studio enabled them to entrust their signature character to his team.

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               Jason Egan and actor Tobin Bell, the iconic “Jigsaw” himself…

With the Official SAW Escape Experience now welcoming victims visitors, the creative team has entrusted their mobile marketing plans to FLO Advertising. Research shows that 73% of Vegas visitors have seen mobile billboards. Of them, 53% say they remember specific ads that they’ve noticed.

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If something like a traditional billboard can garner that much attention, imagine the number of impressions that an enormous mobile LED-style ad can achieve with 17,000 tourists walking the Strip every hour.

A large number of visitors wait until they get to Vegas to arrange their entertainment and dining plans. Strip-level mobile advertising is a great way to make arriving tourists aware of what’s new and exciting in Sin City.

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With the partnership of FLO Advertising and The Official SAW Escape Experience taking to the streets, you can believe that horror fans will be lining up to take their crack at the challenges of Jigsaw. “Do You Want To Play A Game?”

SAW ESCAPE EXPERIENCE operates Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6pm to 11pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 5pm until midnight. Click here to purchase tickets. Information about FLO Advertising Mobile Digital Billboards is available on their website. Click here to learn more or request a quote. 

Photos: FLO Advertising, SAW Escape Experience, Jason Egan via Facebook

 

NEON DREAMS – RENO: Where “Old Vegas” Went To Thrive


Yours truly visits Sin City’s sister and re-discovers treasures you thought had long disappeared….

Reno Old Vegas

Last week, three downtown Boyd properties quietly began charging resort fees. Popular Main Street Station, California and Fremont hotels were three of the last four to avoid the reviled mandatory daily charges. Now only Four Queens remains as the sole truly value-laden destination in what was once considered a refuge for those avoiding Strip-style gouging.

To make today’s Vegas seem even more frustrating, our friend Scott Roeben of VitalVegas.com recently exposed a sneaky, expensive trick being played on patrons at nightclubs like Tao, Omnia, Hakkasan and Wynn’s XS. It’s not unlike the bogus CNF charge he warned us about two years ago. And yet, Sin City continues to find new ways to rip you off.

You’d think that all this bull-shittery would have pushed Vegas fans passed the tipping point long ago…yet they continue to flock in. Those of us who are savvy and sick of being gouged may be seeking out more value-laden destinations for our Vegas fix, and rightly so. It never hurts to discover new places…or in my case, to rediscover an old one.

Nearby Laughlin, an easy two-hour drive from the Strip, boasts an old-time atmosphere you may be craving. Smokey casinos, cornball shows, sticky slot machines, cheap buffets and oceans of blue hair vie for your attention.

Reno Old Vegas

Hotels with familiar names like Golden Nugget, Tropicana and Harrah’s still have that out-of-the-seventies feel (brass, glass and tacky carpeting). Alas, Laughlin’s version of the Strip is quite small, with only nine hotels to choose from. In its favor, they all line up along a scenic riverside location.

Reno Old Vegas

Reno, on the other hand, is a full city of adventure. Nicknamed “The Biggest Little City In The World”, it’s very much like the Las Vegas I discovered over a decade ago….right before everything started to go to shit for the sake of “upscale” improvements.

Once downtrodden and decaying, Reno still carries a sad reputation. Some of it is deserved, as certain sections of the city remain sketchy and unattractive. Yet at its heart, “Little Vegas” is alive and thriving. And lots more fun these days than you’d expect.

My most recent visit to Reno was last weekend after a three year hiatus. The experience was positive from arrival to check-out time. There was an intense feeling of deja-vu during the entire stay. It felt as though I’d been transported to my first Vegas visit…and all of that excitement of discovering Sin City came flooding back.

Reno Old Vegas

Even if you’ve never been to Reno, you’re likely to feel right at home immediately. The local airport is small but efficient and well-equipped and it’s an easy drive to the heart of the city. You’ll recognize familiar names like El CortezCircus Circus and Harrah’s. In fact, the current Caesars Entertainment Corporation began life right here in Reno.

Reno Old Vegas

        Cool, overcast days are part of the seasonal weather variety in Reno…

For this stay, my hubby and I decided to try Whitney Peak Hotel, a newly-renovated building that was once known as Fitzgerald’s Casino Hotel. Yes, the same as THAT Fitzgerald’s on Fremont Street (now known as The D – a stupid rebranding that I still can’t make myself say out loud). Despite being less-than-impressed with the Whitney Peak website, we were curious to finally see the inside of this long-shuttered tower, so we took a chance. And what a breath of fresh air it was.

Reno Old Vegas

Reno Old Vegas

Reno Old Vegas

Before getting into details of Whitney Peak, I want to focus on what made Reno such a great alternative. First off, the ambiance was fantastic…very much like “lost Vegas”. The neon is bright and blinding, the tackiness is more atmospheric than literal (things in every major casino appeared to be polished and well-maintained) and employees were uniformly pleasant if not outright endearing.

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Reno10

Reno Old Vegas

Reno Old Vegas

When I first started visiting in 2011, Reno was in a really sad state. Casinos were shuttered, businesses were boarded up and vagrants lined the sidewalks. These days, those elements are disappearing at a rapid pace…and in their place are fun new restaurants, shops and hotels. Street fairs and events are commonplace and an eclectic vibe has moved into the area.

Reno Old Vegas

After storing our luggage at the Whitney Peak reservation desk (we had driven overnight from northern Oregon and arrived around breakfast time), it was off to the casinos to play while waiting to be notified of early check-in availability.

Reno Old Vegas

Hubby quickly ate through a few twenties at the slots (as is his norm), but I quadrupled my cash while enjoying some very tasty Bloody Marys at Eldorado Casino. And yes, just like in Vegas, your cocktails are free as you play.

Reno Old Vegas

Reno Old Vegas

Reno Old Vegas

Reno Old Vegas

Silver Legacy is Downtown Reno’s most popular hotel. Blame the Bloody Marys…

Next we strolled through adjacent Silver Legacy, a spacious and slightly more luxurious offering than its neighbor. Cocktail service was speedy here as well and the Bloody Marys were abundant with celery stalks, green beans, olives and lime. While scoping out dining and entertainment options for the weekend, we realized we were quite hungry. So, it was back the way we came for lunch at the Club Cal-Neva.

Reno Old Vegas

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Reno Old Vegas

The Cal-Neva originally opened in 1962 and is one of the longest-running and most historic casinos in the downtown area. For a while it also operated the adjacent Virginian Hotel. The sixteen-story Virginian had 125 rooms that were shuttered in 2004. In that way and many others, the casino’s history and resemblance to Binion’s Gambling Hall on Fremont Street are remarkable.

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Along with a large and popular William Hill Sportsbook, the biggest draw at Cal-Neva appears to be the Top Deck diner. If you’re a fan of the former Binion’s Original Coffee Shop in Vegas, (the basement location, not the current casino cafe) you’ll love Top Deck.

Reno Old Vegas

Reno Old Vegas

The interior design is all hunter green and brass…very reminiscent of the Paradise Buffet at Fremont Hotel in Vegas. Open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays and from 6am to whenever the rest of the week, Top Deck has portions and prices that are insane.

If you’re a fan of Hash House a Go Go, you can get your Sage Fried Chicken Benedict fix at Harrah’s Reno. That hotel casino also has their own buffet named Carvings. While similar in size and quality to Flavors of Harrah’s Vegas, the prices are way lower (dinner is $20 vs. up to $33.99). There’s also Bavarian World for you Hofbrauhaus aficianados.

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Reno Old Vegas

Reno Old Vegas

                    La Strada Italian Restaurant is an outstanding choice…

If fine dining is your thing, there are plenty of steakhouses and higher-end international options. We chose La Strada inside Eldorado Casino for our anniversary/Saturday-night pre-show meal. Ranked as one of the top ten Italian restaurants in the country with an award-winning wine list, La Strada was definitely a top-notch experience. And our tickets to Cirque Paris in the main showroom entitled us to 50% off our entrees.

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Speaking of the show, Cirque Paris is a new variety production at Eldorado that can give nearly any similar Vegas show a run for its money. A brilliant cast, excellent acts and clever production design was a little Zumanity, a slice of BAZ and a whole lot of Absinthe.

Reno Old Vegas

Reno Old Vegas

Cirque Paris evokes a turn-of-the-century Parisian cabaret. Sexy courtesans and muscular ushers help guests to their seats and mingle with patrons at a full-service circular bar in front of the main stage. If you’re lucky, one of them might slap a gold seal on your shoulder, which upgrades you to front-row seating that magically appears when the bar transforms into part of the stage.

Reno Old Vegas

Reno Old Vegas

It turns out that the ushers and bar staff are actually performers. They bring in a row of lounge chairs to surround the stage before taking their places on the set. The effect is dazzling, as is the show itself.

Reno Old Vegas

Reno Old Vegas

Former members of Cirque du Soleil, along with other world-class acrobats and comedy acts, mix sexy flirtation with astounding athleticism. And at $59.99 for top-tier seats (which include champagne), Cirque Paris is one of the most outstanding entertainment deals you can find.

Reno Old Vegas

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Reno Old Vegas

Today’s Las Vegas seems intent to scrub away or tear down its own history, but Reno casinos embrace it. Walls are festooned with plaques commemorating legendary performances. The Cal-Neva is celebrating 56 years of operation by charging its customers even LESS than normal. And hotels don’t strip away their themes but boast about them.

Reno Old Vegas

Whitney Peak may be a newly-opened hotel but it dares to have a theme of its own. Unlike the office-building blandness of Aria, Whitney Peak offers a unique theme that appeals to sports enthusiasts of the literal kind. Armchair quarterbacks might feel at home in the city’s sportsbooks, but adventurous Spiderman wannabees are encouraged to climb right up the side of Whitney Peak’s exterior wall.

Reno Old Vegas

Reno Old Vegas

The second floor of the new hotel is home to Base Camp Climbing Gym, an indoor rock-climbing facility and workout center. Guests of all ages can challenge their abilities with boulders in varying degrees of difficulty, all in a safe and monitored environment. Group workout classes, climbing instruction, fitness center and steam room/sauna combine into one unique experience.

Reno Old Vegas

Reno Old Vegas

Reno Old Vegas

The rooms at Whitney Peak have been gloriously refitted and decorated with modern yet rugged appeal. We were kindly upgraded to a top-floor suite that included a top-of-the-line Keurig coffee maker, kitchen with microwave oven and fridge, dining counter and expansive seating area. Wi-fi is included in all rooms, it’s pet-friendly, purified water dispensers are located on each floor and the entire resort is smoke-free. And the most innovative thing of all? NO RESORT FEES!

Reno Old Vegas

Whitney Peak doesn’t have a casino…but it does have its own excellent restaurant called Roundabout Grill. Despite the top-notch service, excellent ambiance, live music and delicious cuisine, the prices aren’t a dollar more than you’d expect to pay in your own home town. And I dare say that Whitney Peak is LGBTQ-friendly, as we were treated with the utmost respect.

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Reno Old Vegas

The hotel offers a selection of Club Level rooms on the fifteenth floor. An accompanying lounge provides a small breakfast buffet, private sitting areas, computer access, board games and a happy hour every evening.

Reno Old Vegas

Reno Old Vegas

   Atlantis Casino (above) evokes an underwater city theme with large domes…

Reno Old Vegas

Reno Old Vegas

Reno Old Vegas

   Peppermill is Reno’s most luxurious resort and features a rich Tuscany flavor…

If bigger resorts are your thing, the town is surrounded by modern, larger casino hotels. The Atlantis rivals most anything you can find on the Vegas Strip. Reno does Sin City one better by turning Peppermill Restaurant into an epic casino resort. The signature bright pinks, purples and ultra-high-def visuals of the popular north-Strip diner are amplified to the Nth degree at Peppermill Reno. It’s blinding, dazzling…and delicious.

Reno Old Vegas

For nostalgic moviegoers, the beloved West Wind 6 Drive-in Theater of Las Vegas has its own twin in Reno. Operated by the same company, West Wind El Rancho 4 offers four screens of first-run double-features (yes, two new films back-to-back) for only $7.50 per person ($5.50 on Tuesdays). Compare that to the typical price of a film at Century Theaters Orleans Casino, where a single evening movie costs $11.00 or higher.

Reno Old Vegas

Reno Old Vegas

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If watching films, enjoying great shows or gambling aren’t your thing, Reno has plenty of outdoor activities to relish like skiing, boating, hiking, camping, golfing, mountain biking and more. Gorgeous and glorious Lake Tahoe is a short day trip away and Tahoe has its own collection of hotel casinos like Harvey’s, Hard Rock, Biltmore and of course, another Harrah’s.

With all these positives, it’s no surprise that Reno is starting to get renewed media attention…and population growth. Vegas ABC affiliate KTNV-TV recently reported that the city outranks Las Vegas as a great place to live, citing cultural events, outdoor activities and job opportunities.

As you can see, there’s a whole lot to enjoy in Reno. A vacation there won’t drag your wallet through the mud and you’re sure to have a blast. There’s still nothing to replace the actual Las Vegas. But as the city you love continues to re-invent itself ad nauseam, you can still get your nostalgic “old Vegas” fix in Nevada’s other Sin City.

Reno Old Vegas

You may find yourself returning to Reno again and again.

Photos: Sammasseur, LaughlinNevada.net, WhitneyPeaks.com