New Year’s Resolutions: Vegas Style

So you’ve made a resolution to get fit, stay fit, or at least visit a gym in 2017… but then you came to Las Vegas – a city made to destroy any resolutions. Fear not. Tucked amongst the bars, the gourmet restaurants, and the world’s biggest candy shops, are some of the best hotel gyms you’ll ever find, and below we’ll tell you about three of our favorites [Pro-tip: If you go at dinner time, you may just have the place to yourself.]

CAESARS PALACE:

We’ve had some pretty great workouts at the Caesars Palace fitness center. Located in Caesars celebrated Qua Baths and Spa, the 5,500 sq ft fitness center has a $25/day fee unless you are Diamond or Seven Stars with Total Rewards so keep that in mind. Caesars Palace features state of the art cardio and weight lifting machines [including a Smith machine], as well as an array of free weights. They, like the other fitness centers on this list, also feature bikes, however, they have them arranged in a circle so that you’re facing each other which is good if you’re with others so you can chat, but bad if you’re awkwardly facing a bunch of strangers as sweat pours down your face – if you care about things like that. They also have stretching/flexibility machines which is really rare in hotel gyms. Be sure to cap off your workout with a chilled towel [!!!] and a piece of fresh fruit.

THE COSMOPOLITAN:

The Cosmopolitan boasts two fitness centers – one in each of their towers, one is 5,250 sq ft and one is 2,087 sq ft… oh, and one has a boxing ring. The sleek fitness center is very swanky, just like Cosmo itself – with dark wood floors, wall sconces illuminating dark-ish [at least for a gym] corners. They have a large selection of cardio and weight machines, as well as the aforementioned boxing ring. If you’re more of a group fitness buff, you’ll definitely want to check out Sweat 60 – it’s a 60 minute  HIIT class that they offer twice a day Tue-Sat which includes plyometrics, strength training, core stability exercises, and of course, boxing. It’s only $15 for 60 minutes. They also offer private tennis lessons if that’s more your thing. After you sweat it out, be sure to grab a piece of fresh fruit on your way out!

ARIA:

Bright, airy, spacious, and packed with nearly every machine [including a Smith machine] you could want, we’ve had some of our best workouts at the Aria fitness center. The 6,000 sq ft fitness center overlooks the pool so you have a great view and plenty of natural light. But here’s the thing, Aria’s fitness center offers more than any other hotel gym we’ve ever seen – and we’ve seen a lot.

In addition to their array of cardio and weight machines, medicine and stability balls, and free weights, Aria offers group and individual training as well as specialty workouts including combat cardio, kettlebell training, TRX, yoga, pilates, strength training and body sculpting, barre, spinning, as well as full body composition testing, and a full wellness program.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL. If you prefer to get your sweat on while not being confined to a gym, check out their “Indoor Hike” which will get you moving and sweating while exploring some of the scenic areas of Aria. Seriously, the best hotel gym ever. If we could buy a full-time membership there we would.

[Photo cred: aria.com]

Best New Show of 2016: The Bronx Wanderers

2016 took a lot of things from us: Prince, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Alan Thicke, Florence Henderson, and here in Las Vegas, it took the Broadway show, Jersey Boys. While we were still mourning the loss, a little show opened up at Bally’s just one month later that helped ease the void in our souls. The Bronx Wanderers is, in our [obviously not that expert opinion] the best new show in Las Vegas for 2016. And the best part? It features A TON of Frankie Valli’s songs in a couple different medleys.

 

bronx-2
Vinny Jr., Vinny Sr., and Nicky Adinolfi. [Photo via The Bronx Wanderers]
Founded by Bronx-born patriarch, Vinny Adinolfi [a former record producer] and his two sons, Vinny Jr, and Nicky, The Bronx Wanderers tells the stories behind the songs that have inspired the elder Adinolfi through a musical journey of high energy, just try not to sing along, hits by pop icons including Dion and The Belmonts, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Elvis, Billy Joel, The Beach Boys, Queen, and Bruno Mars.

 

While Vinny Sr. is clearly the leader and de-facto emcee of the show, it’s Vinny “the kid” who really shines. A true showman; he can sing, he can play a few different instruments, and his personality and showmanship just radiate from the stage. If Las Vegas is looking for the “next Wayne Newton,” this kid is it. His version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” is perfection.

The Bronx Wanderers is part oldies, part rock ‘n roll, but 100% entertaining. It’s such a great time that we’ve seen it twice in the three months it’s been running.

The Bronx Wanderers play nightly at Bally’s in the Window’s Showroom – go check it out in 2017.

New Year, New Vegas

Happy New Year! New Years are all about optimistically looking towards the future and anticipating all the [good] changes and things to come. While people love to muse about becoming a new version of themselves, Las Vegas as a city embodies that mentality on the regular.

No other city in the world experiences as many changes as this neon paradise does every year. Hotels, restaurants, shows, nothing is safe, nothing is sacred; it could all be completely changed tomorrow – as evidenced by the pile of rubble that the iconic Riviera became in 2016 – but like the mighty phoenix, something new will swiftly rise up. With that said, let’s look to some of the new changes and additions we’re most looking forward to in 2017!

Backstreet Boys: Oh my God, they’re back again. It was music to nearly every millennial girl’s ears when Planet Hollywood announced that the original, the best, boy band of the late 90s, early 00s would be the latest stars of yesteryear to embark on a residency at The Axis at PH. The Boys join a rotating roster of 90s super powers including Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Lionel Richie. Backstreet Boys: Larger Than Life begins rocking your body in March.

In-N-Out at The Linq: In a city overflowing with amazing restaurants, the number one restaurant Lyft riders requested rides to using the service in 2016 was In-N-Out Burger. For decades travelers have either cabbed, called an Uber or a Lyft, or [gasp] made the trek to walk to the In-N-Out on Tropicana, but those days are finally over. In-N-Out is slated to open their very first Strip outpost on the Linq Promenade in January 2017. Can you say late night Animal Style everything?!

Chik-fil-A: While we’re on the subject of fast food, let’s talk about this earth-shattering news: VEGAS IS GETTING CHIK-FIL-A. The southern staple is slated to open it’s first outpost in Henderson on January 26. This may not be as exciting to travelers but Vegas locals are counting down the days until they can get those chicken tenders and waffle fries.

Pro-Sports Hit the Strip: Professional sports have long stayed far away from Las Vegas due to the perceived risks associated with legal sports betting. All that changes this year when Las Vegas gets it’s first professional sports team to rally behind with the newest NHL expansion team: the Vegas Golden Knights. The Golden Knights will train in Summerlin and play their games at the brand new T-Mobile Arena at The Park.

NoMad Las Vegas & Park MGM Grand: As hotel nerds, we love any new or renovated hotel news. 2017 will see MGM’s Monte Carlo Hotel split into two hotels, Park MGM Grand, a luxury resort which will anchor The Park, and a Las Vegas version of the Sydell Group’s New York City hotel, NoMad Hotel. The space will also house a Vegas version of the celebrated Italian food market concept, Eataly.

Blue Ribbon Brasserie: Another New York to Vegas concept, Blue Ribbon Brasserie is slated to take over the space in Cosmopolitan currently occupied by Blue Ribbon Sushi. Blue Ribbon Brasserie is a late-night (but really, anytime) industry favorite in Manhattan with the best duck club sandwich ever.

Las Vegas is constantly evolving and these are just a few of the changes 2017 will bring, they just happen to be a few that we are most looking forward to. Well these, and the re-opening of the pedestrian bridge outside of the Tropicana – seriously, how long does it take to complete a pedestrian bridge?!

HOTEL REVIEW: THE PLAZA

If someone told me that my first hotel review on Palm Trees & Neon would be of The Plaza in downtown Las Vegas, I’d have thought they were nuts. My favorite hotels include Aria, The Cosmopolitan, Delano, and Caesars. I used to do public relations for luxury hotels. I like nice hotels, really nice hotels. Some may even call me a hotel snob. But alas, we had a Groupon that was about to expire for Banger Brewery (review forthcoming) and a Hotel Tonight promo code for a free night at The Plaza, so we decided to give it a spin rather than pay for an Uber or Lyft. After all, it was only one night.

So first things first. When you stay at a hotel like The Plaza, or pretty much any of the downtown hotels, you have to adjust your expectations. These are older hotels, they cater to a different clientele, and they are exponentially cheaper than the top Strip hotels so you can’t go in expecting the Bellagio at The Plaza rates – which can be as low as around $20 a night in the slow season.

That being said, I went in with really low expectations and was pleasantly surprised.

Since 2010, The Plaza has been working steadily to update and renovate various aspects of the property. Most recently, they added a 50,000 sq ft pool deck expansion – which I did not see because I was only there briefly, and it was cold. The biggest coup for the hotel, which for years endured a reputation as something of a bargain basement type hotel, came in 2011 when it purchased brand new furniture – enough for all 1,037 rooms, as well as fixtures, at auction for pennies on the dollar from the failed Fountainbleu project on the Strip. Because Fountainbleu had been designed to compete against the top Strip resorts, that meant that the furnishings were an enormous step up from The Plaza’s former room stylings.

When we checked in there was absolutely zero line, however, I have seen the line at the check-in get very, very long, so I would definitely try to avoid peak check-in times. We were able to check-in early, but it was off-season. The lobby has been re-done and is clean and shiny, however, the scent that they pump through the ventilation system [as most Strip resorts do] is definitely not my favorite.

Our room was extremely spacious, clean, and overlooked the famous Fremont Street. The view would have been a lot better had they not erected the zip line tower smack in the middle of Fremont, but what can ya do, it’s not the hotel’s fault. Our room had one king bed, and then it had a little sitting area with a settee by the window. The bathroom had a closet bar/rack, a wall safe – which also came from Fountainbleu, and a vessel sink – which I’m just going to go out on a limb and assume was also from the failed Strip resort. The toilet and bathtub were separated by a door – which is not so in many hotels these days, so never take it for granted.

room-main

plaza-deskAmazing hotels stand out for one reason: the details. Details in service, details in amenities, details in design. The Plaza is not quite there on the details. There’s a charming black and white picture of the historic hotel in the room which I loved because it is one of the oldest properties in town – not a hard feat, but still. But many times, the details weren’t there. The bed was a little hard, and the plaza-bathroompillows were a little lumpy; it took FOREVER for the water to get hot in the shower, seriously, I could probably have gone down and had a drink at the bar and come back up before it got hot; and there were no convenient outlets. I get that the hotel was built in 1971 but adding outlets is a VERY easy thing for most maintenance teams to do. There weren’t any outlets by the bed, and the only one by the desk was only accessible when I literally climbed over the desk to plug my phone charger into the wall. It’s almost 2017, virtually no one travels without at least a cell phone that requires charging. Anyways, those are my issues with the room.

 

hash-house
This was not even the biggest breakfast entree…

Back downstairs, The Plaza has a lot going on in terms of dining and entertainment. Las Vegas institution, Hash House A Go Go [technically it started in San Diego, but they’ve taken over Vegas with multiple locations], has an outpost just off the lobby and is the place to go if you’re REALLY hungry, and I mean REALLY REALLY hungry. They are famous, or maybe infamous?, for their larger-than-life, over the top creations. Hash House’s enormous, creative food sculptures will fill you up for days. If you’re looking for something late night, Pop Up Pizza is located just off the casino floor and serves up a solid thin crust, New York style pizza perfect for absorbing some of that alcohol you’ve no doubt ingested – did I mention there’s also a cute beer garden on the other side of the lobby – complete with cornhole sets.

 

 

beer-garden
The beer garden

But every good Vegas hotel offers entertainment and The Plaza has recruited some of Vegas’ finest, longstanding acts. The Scintas hold court in the showroom and present a classic Vegas-style show with some comedy, some singing, and a dose of patriotism. The Scintas are a family act that has been performing in Vegas for a long, long time but they slightly adapt their show each night depending on the audience – the mark of true entertainers. After each show they head up to Oscar’s Steakhouse and meet guests and take pictures – they are extremely gracious with their time.

 

In the “lounge,” which is really just a corner off of the casino, you will find Wonder Boogie, bringing disco back every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. They are a fantastic cover band that has been performing in Vegas for years as well and they mix things up with audience participation and games – they even taught me the hustle once. I’m not typically what you would call a “willing participant” in things like this, but they really make it fun.

I’ve seen both, The Scintas and Wonder Boogie, more times than I can count – and ALWAYS have a great time with them.

All in all, The Plaza has really worked on transforming itself into a solid little property that packs a lot of bang for your buck. It’s far from perfect, but it will definitely show you a good time.

The Plaza – 1 Main Street Las Vegas – plazalv.com 

 

THE HOLIDAY SEASON SKATES INTO THE PARK

park-xmas1Thanksgiving may still be a few days away, but tonight kicked off the Christmas season at The Park with the lighting of a 60 ft Christmas tree. This year marks the first year the dining and entertainment district, which opened last spring, has been open for the holidays.

The Park, and specifically Toshiba Plaza at the base of the T-Mobile Arena, has been transformed into a winter wonderland for the holidays. Guests enter the district through oversized ornaments and continue along the path beneath festive sparkling branches, dripping with icicle lights.

At the Toshiba Plaza, the aforementioned Christmas tree is anchored by a fairly spacious ice skating rink where guests can practice their axels and spins for the 2018 Winter Olympics. If skating’s not your thing, or you’re worried about broken bones[!!] there’s a bevy of tents surrounding the rink serving up their finest winter offerings from cupcakes to candy apples – and don’t forget the hot chocolate to warm you up!

You can lace up your skates for two hours for $15 – there’s a 20% discount for locals and military. The rink is open limited hours 4pm- 10pm [except on the weekends] until Dec. 10, and from Dec. 10-31 it opens at 10 am. and closes at 10 pm daily, with the exception of New Year’s Even when it closes at 12:30am.

park-xmas-3

 

park-xmas-2
Santa’s home at The Park?

So Santa. In what looks like it’s straight out of a Christmas season Coca-Cola commercial, the jolly guy in the red suit will be available [I’m pretty sure in a Coke tent with an assortment of props because it’s 2016 and no one poses in a photo booth without props anymore, right?] during the same hours as the rink – except yesterday apparently, when I was there, of course. Pictures are $20 for a 6×8 photo.

 

But my favorite part, which I also have yet to see because I was there before 5pm [or because they were hanging out with Santa, I guess we’ll never know] is that they will have Christmas carolers strolling throughout Toshiba Plaza, The Park, as well as the NYNY bridge, and Monte Carlo Plaza. I’m a sucker for some good old fashioned Christmas carols. Seriously. So stay tuned for more on that one.

And if you were expecting a warm desert winter [like those who enjoy the pool in the winter] socks and gloves are available for $4 each.

Go forth and be festive!

 

FIRST LOOK: LUCKY DRAGON OPENS EARLY

dragon-1Lucky Dragon, the Strip’s first property tailored specifically for the ever-growing Asian market, quietly opened it’s doors last Saturday- two weeks ahead of it’s Dec. 3 scheduled grand opening. The casino, which is coupled with a boutique hotel, is the first to be built from the ground up in Las Vegas since The Cosmopolitan opened six years ago.

Small, yet mighty, the circular casino offers an authentic Asian, primarily Chinese, experience in everything from the gaming  [no poker room, few blackjack tables, lots of baccarat] to the cuisine which takes its cues from the street food found in Taipei and Beijing. The 27,500 sq ft casino is anchored by a stunning 2.5 story, 1.25 ton glass dragon sculpture which floats above the center bar.

The 9-story boutique hotel [where rooms are currently going for $499/night but are expected to fall after the Dec. 3 grand opening] is accessible via a sky bridge from the casino as well as directly from the outside. The ground level features a tea garden with the city’s only tea sommelier to guide guests in their choices.

 

dragon-6
No fourth floor.

What you won’t find at Lucky dragon is a fourth floor as the number four is seen as unlucky; conversely, you will find the number eight hidden throughout – such as the eight-sided center bar, as the number eight is proposed to bring good fortune.

 

Gorgeous as it is, Lucky Dragon certainly doesn’t feel like a typical Strip property. The intimate casino feels more like a locals casino, and that’s probably on purpose. Despite the fact that mere days before scheduled December opening, Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport will begin receiving direct flights from Beijing thanks to Hainan Airlines, Lucky Dragon’s target customers are more likely to drive in from Southern California or the Las Vegas Valley than they are to fly in from Asia. Indeed, their target customers are the more than 200,000 Asians already in Las Vegas, as well as those in other immigrant communities in Southern California, Northern California, as well as Vancouver.

dragon-5

dragon-4Lucky Dragon will still “officially” open it’s doors on Dec. 3 with an extravagant series of Asian demonstrations, including a firecracker show, which according to Asian custom is a way of driving away evil spirits, as well as a traditional lion and dragon dance to bring good luck and good fortune to all. In addition, the world’s largest Kung Fu tea service will run throughout the hotel during the day.

Lucky Dragon is located just off the north end of the Strip at 300 W. Sahara Avenue.

 

IT’S ALWAYS POOL SEASON IN VEGAS… SORT OF

Las Vegas is a land dotted with palm trees and endless sunshine, but buyer beware, all that shines is not necessarily warm. If your plan is to lounge by a glamorous Vegas pool and soak up the rays, you may want to plan your trip wisely. While Las Vegas is in fact in the desert and the sun does show itself around 300 days out of the year, it does get cold. Like really cold. I mean seriously, I’ve seen it snow.

That being said, many of the pools here stay open year round. I guess if you’re from Canada maybe what my thin blood considers “down jacket weather,” you consider pool weather? Ergo, in this beautiful desert land, I can wear my winter coat and you can wear your bikini and we can all coexist – although you will have fewer options.

If you’re looking to get your polar bear swim on, here are some of your options:

Stay warm by the fire with a s'more or two or three.

A post shared by Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino (@mandalaybay) on

Moorea Beach Club at Mandalay Bay: Usually “toptional” during warmer months, this day club turns into an all-ages pool after October. For those of us who think it’s a little chilly to take a dip, they also offer reservable firepits and S’mores packages. Open 9am-5pm.

What a blissful way to spend a Sunday! Photo by @worldtraveladventurers

A post shared by Bellagio Las Vegas (@bellagio) on

Bellagio Pool: If you really want to get in the water without going into shock, the pool at the Bellagio is probably one of your best bets as they keep the main pool warmed to a toasty 80 degrees all winter. The Cypress Pool is closed for the season, but the hot tubs are open. Open 9am-5pm.

#VenusPool is waiting…

A post shared by Venus Pool Club (@venuspoolclub) on

Venus Pool Club at Caesars Palace: Like Moorea Beach Club, this typically adults only day club welcomes guests of all ages in the colder months. Open 9am-6pm.

Escape from the ordinary. #HowManyDays until you're here?

A post shared by MGM Grand Hotel & Casino (@mgmgrand) on

MGM Grand Pools: Guests staying at MGM Grand have a choice of two pools during the winter- the Academy or the Producers pools. The Producers Pool is nice for those avid swimmers as they typically have three lap lanes blocked off. Open 9am-6pm.

Time to dive into some relaxation! The view isn't half bad either. #vegas

A post shared by Paris Vegas (@parisvegas) on

Soleil at Paris: The Soleil Pool at Paris has a couple things going for it – the first is that it is a relatively small pool so maybe, just maybe the sun will warm it faster. The second is that it is IN. THE. SUN. There’s not really a spec of shade at this pool so that sunshine will definitely help keep you warm. There is also a hot tub – sadly, that’s in the shade. Open 10am-4pm. 

Our pool is heated and open all year long!😎💙#LINQLife #TheLINQPool

A post shared by The LINQ (@thelinq) on

Linq Pool: The Linq pool is a rectangular little party pool that is in the shade nearly all day – BUT it is HEATED. They have games and floating beer pong tables for those die hard, winter pool partiers. Open 9am-5pm.

I'm ready for some Sunday Funday action at @marqueelv Dome today! I go on at 3 🙌🏽🙌🏽

A post shared by Vice (@djvice) on

Marquee Day Club at Cosmopolitan: If you’re really looking to step up your pool party game, the Marquee Day Club puts up their #dayclubdome and keeps the summer party going every  Saturday, Oct. 29- March 13, and on holiday weekend Sundays. Open 11:30am-sunset. 

It's a perfect day for the pool. When are you arriving?

A post shared by The Palazzo Las Vegas (@palazzovegas) on

Palazzo Pool: The Palazzo Pool is open to guests at the Venetian and Palazzo and is an expansive pool deck surrounded by tropical foliage. The Venetian/Palazzo pool complex is one of my favorite pools during the summer because of their labyrinth of little pools. Open 10am-4pm. 

This is by no means an inclusive list of all the open pools in Las Vegas and the hours are subject to change so please verify with the hotel before your visit.