The reports of the demise of Las Vegas are highly exaggerated. Visitors to the glittering desert oasis will find that it still has a comfortable hold on the title, Entertainment Capital of the World. In fact, Las Vegas, once known only as a gambling mecca, keeps reinventing itself to draw gamblers and non-gamblers alike to its famous Strip.
All the rage today in Vegas are Broadway shows, which sometimes can be even more enjoyable than the originals. A case in point is Phantom of the Opera at the Venetian. With a theater constructed specifically for the show s special effects, I liked it better than when I saw it on the Great White Way. Other shows packing them in are The Lion King at Mandalay Bay and Jersey Boys at the Palazzo. And these aren t rinky dink road companies either. Many of the performers are Broadway veterans and some even played in the original productions.
Also popular are the ubiquitous versions of Cirque du Soleil, which now has about a half-dozen different productions in the city. One Cirque with a different take is the magician Criss Angel s BELIEVE at the Luxor. And packing them in at the Venetian is another quirky show, Blue Man Group. Las Vegas has now moved up to offering cultural programs as well. Two exceptional programs are BODIES " The Exhibition, and TITANIC: The Artifact Exhibition, both at Luxor.
But the type of show that made Las Vegas famous can still be found. An eye-popping risqu revue at the Flamingo is the X-Burlesque show. Also at the Flamingo is comedian Vinnie Favorito, who gets on the audience with rapid-fire zingers in the tradition of Redd Foxx and Don Rickles. More mainstream are comedian Wayne Brady at the Venetian and impressionist Terry Fator, winner of America s Got Talent, at the Mirage. In a more intimate setting at the Royal Resort, impressionist extraordinaire Larry G. Jones does everyone from Johhny Cash to Tina Turner. You can top off your nights at the shows at the Las Vegas reincarnation of the famous New York niteclub, Studio 54, at the MGM. Visitors walking the strip also enjoy free extravaganzas like the volcano eruption at the Mirage and the fountains at Belaggio.
Shopping is also an experience in Las Vegas. At the high end there s the Miracle Mile Shops, a 170-store shopping and entertainment center adjacent to the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. Coming in December is City Center, a 67-acre retail, entertainment, casino, hotel, and condominium complex that will be the country s largest commercial development. As a sign of what s to come, the Louis Vuitton sign is already up.
For those who d like to take a day off from the glitter of the Strip, there s Pink Jeep Tours, which offers all-day or half-day trips to scenic attractions near Las Vegas, such as the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Mt. Charleston (www.pinkjeep.com).
Dining is delectable in Las Vegas. A New York-style steakhouse, The Strip House in the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, is an out-of-this-world experience. Also extraordinary is Emeril s Delmonico Steakhouse at the Venetian. To enjoy Las Vegas cuisine like a local, go a bit off the Strip to Ricardo s on Flamingo Boulevard, voted the city s best Mexican Restaurant.
Accommodations are plentiful and luxurious in Las Vegas. And in today s economy, the deals offered by even the top hotels are hard to pass up. To be really pampered, try Hotel 32, a boutique hotel-within-a-hotel on a special VIP concierge floor of the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino (www.hotel32lasvegas.com). They ll even pick you up at the airport in a limo.
For more information on The Entertainment Capital of the World, contact the Las Vegas Convention and Tourist Authority at www.visitlasvegas.com. Enjoy!