Last-minute Deals and Tips for New Year’s Eve


You still have options galore but don’t wait one minute more…

Very few cities aside from New York can match the outlandish excitement of a New Year’s Eve in Sin City. With all of the dining, entertainment and nightclub options, there is something to appeal to every taste.

Be aware, though, that restaurants fill up quickly and most require reservations. Same goes for hotels, and the closer to the actual date, the more prices will skyrocket. Many resorts prohibit checking in on December 31st and require a minimum two-night stay. So if you haven’t reserved your lodging yet, prepare for quite a bit of sticker shock. Prices will fluctuate frequently, often several times within a single day, so this article is only meant as a guideline. Check prices often and lock them in if something meets your budget.

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When it comes to searching for hotel deals, this writer is partial to Kayak.com. Entering dates for a stay from December 30th through January 1st, you’ll see that the best deal out there (at the time this article was written) is at Downtown’s El Cortez. Priced at a non-refundable rate of $126.00 per night (plus taxes and fees) for a double suite, the El Cortez is a great last-minute option. It also puts you within walking distance of the wild street party held under the Fremont Street Experience canopy.

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If you’d like to take in the Strip’s beautiful fireworks shows at midnight but want to avoid the insane crowds on Las Vegas Boulevard, consider two nights at Gold Coast Hotel Casino. Situated across from PALMS on Flamingo Road, Gold Coast has an assortment of wonderful restaurants and recently-updated rooms. Parking is free and you can easily walk to a number of nightclubs…even Voodoo Rooftop Nightclub at RIO for an unbeatable view.

Priceline.com is currently listing several room options at Gold Coast from $202 to $212 per night (plus taxes/fees) and free cancellation if you find a better deal elsewhere.

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For those who absolutely must stay on the Strip to chime in 2019, the best price going right now is at LUXOR for $207, You’ll notice the inclusion of Westgate Hotel Casino in the photo above. Even though it’s not technically on the Strip, having its own dedicated monorail stop makes Westgate an absurdly convenient option to get around with ease.

Speaking of the Las Vegas Monorail, it’s truly the best way to traverse the city during this holiday. The monorail runs continuously from 7 am on December 31, 2018 through 2 am on January 2, 2019. Single rides are $5 and a 24-hour pass is $13. The track runs from MGM Grand on the south end to SLS Las Vegas on the north. Stations are in the rear of casinos and automated ticketing kiosks accept credit cards, cash and Google Pay. Click here for a guide to monorail resort stops.

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Luxury hotels are available at press time and still not priced as outrageously as in previous years. Amoma.com is listing rooms at Wynn Las Vegas starting at $679 per night. With all of the nightclubs at the Wynn/Encore complex, this is certainly one worth considering for a high-end celebration.

Remember that the entire Las Vegas Strip is closed to all vehicles on New Year’s Eve starting at around 4 pm. Traffic is a nightmare and cars, buses and taxis will be squeezing onto the smaller back roads to get around town. So it’s highly advisable that you stay near where you plan to play, get situated early in the evening and have a plan to get around and back. You might also want to carry a fully-charged phone, a back-up battery and choose a meet-up point in case you get separated from your companions or have some kind of emergency.

Even though Vegas is in the desert, this is still winter. Plan on the possibility of cold weather and dress accordingly. You’ll also want to remember that crowded events pose issues of personal security. Keep your valuables as secure as you can, men should keep wallets in their front pockets, don’t accept drinks or food from strangers, etc. A little common sense will go a long way…and be especially careful of letting your guard down once the bubbly starts flowing.

There will be a significant increase in police presence on New Year’s Eve. Strollers, coolers, luggage, over-sized purses and backpacks will be prohibited on the Strip. Downtown’s Fremont Street Party is a ticketed event ($35 until Christmas Day, $45 after) and only those 21 and older are permitted. Click here for tickets to Fremont’s “America’s Party Downtown”.

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Expect security to be aggressive at nightclubs, too…along with hefty cover charges. Voodoo Nightclub at RIO has a $100 admission but includes open bar from 9 pm through 11 pm. Marquee Nightclub‘s admission at Cosmopolitan is $75 for women and $150 for men (say what?). Price includes hors d’oeuvres and open bar starting at 9 pm and a complimentary champagne toast at midnight.

Over at Caesars Palace, overhyped DJ Calvin Harris will be the hot draw for OMNIA Nightclub. Tickets cost $150 for women, $225 for men and include….absolutely nothing. Your dollars will go much farther at Aria‘s JEWEL, where admission is $52/$104 and gets you two hours of open bar and music by Tyga. You can add a four-course dinner at Herringbone for $175 per person, good from 7 pm through 11 pm.

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For the best view in all of Las Vegas, consider the Skyline Spectacular NYE Party at Stratosphere. For $250 per person you get the works:

Party in the Sky for a New Year’s Eve you won’t forget! Enjoy 3-hours of unlimited premium brand open bars, specialty drinks, martini luges and award-winning chef’s specialty food stations from around the world as you celebrate New Year’s Eve 800 feet above Las Vegas Boulevard in our iconic Tower’s indoor Observation Deck. Take in the spectacular Las Vegas New Year’s Eve Firework Show at Midnight with our signature champagne toast. Mingle and dance to live DJs and go-go dancers, and ring in 2019 in style.

Click here for tickets to Stratosphere’s Party in the Sky.

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Yours truly will be spending his first NYE as a Las Vegas resident in a somewhat conservative style. Just like last year, I’ll be enjoying great food, music and cocktails inside the cavernous ballroom of Westgate Las Vegas. Last year’s SUNDAY NIGHT FEVER costume party was a 70’s theme. This time they’ve jumped a decade ahead:

REVENGE OF THE 80s NYE PARTY: Pop your collar and jam out to music from the Spazmatics, celebrating the decade that gave us puzzle cubes, 8-bit obsessions, synth rock, shoulder pads, and other unforgettable fashions. You’re welcome to wear your sunglasses at night as you moonwalk your way out of 2018! $150 includes 3-course seated dinner and open bar.

The Westgate Revenge of the 80s party begins at 6 pm and is framed around an east-coast time zone ball drop (their home offices are in Florida). So you’ll have the opportunity to ring in 2019 at 9 pm…then do it all over again three hours later. Click here for tickets. Here’s a sample from last year’s entertainment:

There are a number of other inclusive events that’ll give you significant bang for your buck. For instance, Sugar Factory/Chocolate Lounge at Fashion Show Mall has a package deal for $99 via Groupon which in my opinion is the best NYE deal in the city. Here’s what you get:

  • General admission
  • What’s included: guest’s first goblet, free unlimited signature cocktails, unlimited champagne toast, buffet-style dinner, party with a DJ in the Chocolate Lounge, fireworks show at midnight, 20% discount off any retail purchase.
  • Bottomless signature cocktails to choose from: Peace, Love, Harmonie, Grape Crush, Lemon Drop, Watermelon Burst.
  • Buffet style dinner: chicken fingers, mini-burgers, fries, bruschetta, Caesar salad, mixed green salad, scalloped potatoes, green beans, chicken satay, grilled shrimp skewers, rigatoni marinara, meatballs, sandwiches, mini-cheesecake, chocolate cake, red velvet cake, assorted sundaes, brownies, cookies.
  • Time: 10 p.m.

While you won’t get the elevated views that Stratosphere or Voodoo Nightclub offer, it’s still a scenic and pretty sweet venue. The price on one Goblet Signature Cocktail by itself is upwards of $35 on a typical afternoon, so wrap your mind around the savings here.

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Neighborhood bars are a great way to drink in the Sin City vibe without feeling like your wallet has been stolen. Personal favorite The Golden Tiki on Spring Mountain Rd. will be featuring YouTube sensation Marc Rebillit with one of his offbeat musical performances. There’s no cover, complimentary hats/noisemakers and a free champagne toast at midnight.

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For the LGBTQ crowd, The Garage on E. Flamingo Road makes the perfect locals’ NYE spot for guys who like guys. There’s a masculine auto-service theme, never an admission charge and the cheapest top-shelf drink prices in the city.

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Across the street and down one block from The Garage, Hamburger Mary’s is offering $50 open bar from 9 pm-midnight (well&draft), Champagne Bottles $25, Skyy $75 and Absolut for $100. Entertainment from7 pm-Midnight and a countdown with entertainer Kenneth Blake. Complimentary champagne toast while watching the fireworks on their Strip-view patio.

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The most unusual NYE party for this season has gotta be the one at Spiegelworld’s hit show at ABSINTHE at Caesars Palace:

For an all-inclusive celebration, The Gazillionaire has a huge package for you. Arrive from 8.30pm for a complimentary glass of champagne in the Absinthe forecourt. Then enjoy a performance of ABSINTHE from 9.30pm to 11.00pm. After the show, you will have exclusive access to a private outdoor party in the Absinthe forecourt, on Stripside at Caesars Palace, which includes an open bar, light hors d’oeuvres, DJ and one of the best views of the fireworks. The party will conclude at 1am.

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The all-inclusive Show & Party ticket prices are $599 for VIP seating, $499 for Category A seats and $299 for Category B seating, which is one hell of a deal for a Sin City party and show. Click here to reserve your tickets and party admission.

Be sure to stay safe this holiday and don’t drive while impaired. LYFT rideshare service is offering a NYE discount to get you there and back. “Whether you are celebrating on the Strip, bar hopping, or partying at a friends house, we want everyone to get home safe on New Year’s Eve and other holidays throughout the year”, says Yacob Girma, Lyft Nevada’s general manager.

The Las Vegas Coalition for Zero Fatalities has donated $200,000 in ride credits to LYFT. Access your discount by using code “LASNYE10”. Have a wonderful time and a spectacular 2019.

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Photos: Sam Novak, Stratosphere, Fremont Street Experience, ABSINTHE, Westgate Hotel Casino, The Golden Tiki, The Garage LV

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Pride, Prejudice and a “Pitchfork”


Choreographer Glenn Douglas Packard redefines coming-out dramas with a genre-bending slasher film…

People who run on creative energy frequently have a passion project tucked away deep inside their mind. It lives there, growing and taking shape until it finally breaks free and becomes reality. For Emmy-nominated dance man Glenn Douglas Packard, that secret desire has been the creation of his own horror epic.

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Glenn and I first connected in the cyber-world a few years back when a mutual friend posted a review of a movie thriller. As my longtime Florida buddy (who also happens to be named Glenn) and I were discussing the merits and shortcomings of the film, Packard chimed in…and I was like “Hey…aren’t you the guy from Men of the Strip?”.

Being a fan of MOTS frontman Jeff Timmons (98 Degrees), I’d had the good fortune to pen numerous Vegas Chatter articles about the show. Packard and crew had just wrapped up their splashy showcase at Mandalay Bay’s House of Blues and it seemed surreal that we were now debating slasher films from far-flung corners of the country.

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Packard, Timmons and Foland at Men of the Strip rehearsal…             

Fast forward to summer 2017, and once again I’m in Las Vegas, shadowing Timmons, show financier “Money” Mike Foland and Packard for a relaunch of Men of the Strip. One evening after rehearsals, Glenn and I (along with his associate and right-hand man David Mayorga) headed over to LGBTQ locals’ gem The Garage for cocktails…and to discuss how they turned Packard’s imagination into a silver-screen reality.

Pitchfork was created in the spirit of 70’s and 80’s franchises that, like their titular villains, refuse to stay dead. But the film’s tagline “Every Generation Has Its Monster” cuts a bit deeper. In our era of political turmoil, where LGBTQ citizens view the White House with concern and suspicion, one might ask who the true monster is.

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At the home of main character “Hunter”, that answer is even more complex. Returning to his family’s sprawling rural dairy farm and estate, Hunter is about to face a stern father who recently learned of his son’s homosexuality. Hunter’s not coming back alone though, as his art-school classmates have packed into a van for the weekend to throw him a coming-out party of sorts.

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Pride Prejudice Pitchfork

Sexual dynamics are front and center in most slasher films. Those barn-loft trysts and back-seat hookups inevitably lead to a bloody demise. In Pitchfork, sex and sexual subtext permeate nearly every sequence, especially as the story reaches its outrageous climax.

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It’s no accident that Pitchfork‘s maniac is a muscular, shirtless man…abs and pecs on display as he slices his way through the cast of characters. Under other circumstances he might be considered hot…in a kinky kind of way. But there’s the issue of a farm tool in place of his left hand. That’s one detail you’d probably leave out of your Grindr profile.

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Both Hunter and “Pitch” have daddy issues and highly involved mothers. Each views himself as an outsider, desiring acceptance from his respective family. How they deal with being different, the way they were raised…and how they turn out as adults…offer a strong metaphor for “growing up gay” in today’s volatile and ever-changing society.

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When dreaming up the concept for Pitchfork, it’s unlikely that Packard envisioned he’d one day be acting as its producer, director, casting supervisor and choreographer, too. Yes…choreographer. Would you seriously expect a bunch of vacationing art students to NOT have a barn dance on their gay buddy’s farm?

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Pride Prejudice Pitchfork

Did someone say “Barn Dance”?                         

Despite this being his directorial debut, Packard fills Pitchfork with plenty of style and memorable imagery. The camera swoops in and around each scene, accentuated with glorious aerial shots and starkly-lit night sequences by cinematographer/editor Rey Gutierrez. It boggles the mind that the film was recorded with a single camera in 21 days on the director’s own family farm.

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                  Men of the Strip’s Keith Webb gets a sticky facial…                                              

Like most passion projects, family and friends offered their time and energy to make Pitchfork a reality. Dancer Keith Webb, who also worked with Packard on Men of the Strip, amps up the cast’s hunk quotient as an ill-fated jock.

Plenty of Sin City DNA infuses the heart and soul of Pitchfork. Vegas resident Mayorga from Zombie Burlesque and Men of the Strip served as Assistant Director. Darryl F. Gariglio of Grand Adventures Tours Las Vegas was its Executive Producer/writer. Chris Arrendondo, who creates the eerie creatures and characters for Circus Circus Fright Dome, did the stunning make-up work.

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Packard and David Mayorga (back row) clown around with the cast….                         

During filming, Packard revealed a rather moving detail in the film’s making-of documentary: the lair where “Pitch” brings his victims is the actual shack that the director retreated to when he was bullied as a child.

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Growing up as a gay person, especially in a rural community, can leave scars that never disappear. In Packard’s case, he used his own safe haven as a symbol for the damage that society can inflict on a developing psyche. His courage to face those memories and channel them into something positive is echoed in a soul-baring “It Gets Better” video from 2010.

Packard told me in our conversations that the effort that went into filming Pitchfork was crazy and intense, yet everyone seemed to have a great time. One would assume that the cast of eager young actors found it cool to be in a horror movie.

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Since its release, Pitchfork has won accolades and awards throughout the horror-film universe. Now that Halloween season has arrived it’s finding a new legion of fans, especially within the LGBTQ community.

Glenn continues to promote the film via conventions and screenings. And there’s even a new comic-book novelization by actor/artist Andrew Dawe-collins (“Pa Hollister” in the film) that you can check out here.

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Any worthwhile slasher entry teases a sequel, even when the killer seems to be dead and dismembered. In Pitchfork, the unpredictable left-field denouement will leave you gasping…and clamoring for more. Luckily, Glenn told me that ideas for Pitchfork 2 and 3 are already swirling in his semi-twisted mind.

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That’s great news for chiller-thriller fans, because every generation needs its monster-movie king. Like John Carpenter and Wes Craven before him, Glenn Douglas Packard is on his way to becoming the next Master of Horror.

Pitchfork is available on a Special Edition Blu Ray/DVD and streaming services like REVRY, YouTube Movies and Amazon Prime.

Photos: Pitchfork, David Mayorga