GOMAG.COM
A Weekend In Las Vegas
by Sharyn Jackson
July 10, 2008
What To Do
If the first thing you think of when you hear “Las Vegas” isn’t the casinos, you’re lying. But even the most gambling-averse have plenty of recreational opportunities that guarantee a return on your money (you know, in those wealthy-with-happiness kind of ways). And since Las Vegas ranks as one of the top 10 gay-friendly destinations in the United States, according to a national survey conducted by the Travel Industry Association in 2006, you’ll never even have to set foot in a casino to get lucky.

Get your first taste of the enormity of Las Vegas by strolling The Strip (a four-mile stretch of Las Vegas Blvd S), where a pirate ship, a Roman coliseum, a volcano and a fairy tale castle are some of the sites to adorn this adult-Disney-style corridor where each hotel has a façade more over-the-top than the one before it. There’s the Eiffel Tower at The Paris, the Empire State Building at New York New York, the 30-story pyramid at The Luxor or the flashing fluorescent pink bird at The Flamingo. If that doesn’t bring you to complete sensory overload, step inside one of these skyscraper playgrounds for more than just visual treats.

The amount of high-quality entertainment in Vegas is dizzying. Celine Dion is finishing up her eons-long run at Caesar’s Palace, but Bette Midler is taking over this month for what is sure to be the raunchiest show Vegas has seen in years (and that is saying a lot!). Broadway musicals like The Producers (The Paris) and Spamalot (The Wynn) find welcoming audiences here. Belgian-born magician Hans Klok (Planet Hollywood) treats us to trickery, but the real reason to see his show is his bodacious sidekick—none other than Pamela Anderson. Pam’s magic aside, the true queen of The Strip is Cirque du Soleil, which currently has five shows mounted. We loved Zumanity (New York, New York)—the edgiest of the lot. NYC-based drag star Joey Arias emcees a variety of weirdos and sexual deviants as they suggestively contort, heightening the mostly straight-laced, middle-American audience to near orgasm by the end. It’s a thrilling experiment to witness. If you’re looking for a little more of your mama’s Las Vegas, snag a seat at Donn Arden’s Jubilee, one of the longest-running topless revues on The Strip, where glittering showgirls re-enact scenes from history, notably Samson and Delilah and the sinking of the Titanic. Vintage Vegas at its very finest.

For more old-timey fun, head downtown to Fremont Street, where hotel-casinos like The Golden Nugget and Binion’s lend old-Western charm to a 175,000-square-foot pedestrian area showcasing a four-block-long canopy out of approximately 16 million lights, making it one of the largest LED screens in the world. Or, get out of town completely. Take a ride in a Pink Jeep to nearby Red Rock Canyon ($89, pinkjeep.com) for extra-ordinary scenery and an interesting view of development communities sprouting along the way.

After a good hike, head back to your megahotel and unwind with a scrub or a rub at one of the many luxurious spas on The Strip. We highly recommend the warm and cool stone massage at Bathhouse (THEhotel) followed by a dip in their women-only herbal tea bath ($200 for 80-minute massage, $65 for 25-minute tea or mud bath). Or, take a swim in one of the deluxe pools quickly becoming main attractions at some of Vegas’s hotels. For an exclusive adults-only take on a pool party, check out the European-style (aka topless) Bare (Mirage), where you can lounge with a cocktail like a high priestess in her lair. (Note: none of the European-style pools in Vegas are women-only.)


Where to Eat
Food, like entertainment, is an attraction eclipsing the old perception of Vegas. Sure, you can still find a $5.99 steak buffet, but you’d really be missing out on some of the best high-end grub known to man. The greatest chefs in the world (and pretty much every chef with a TV show) have homes here: Flay, Batali, Lagasse, Boulud, Keller and Vongerichten make up just a portion of the men’s club, so Susan Feniger’s Border Grill (Mandalay Bay) is especially welcome for us lady-lunchers. The out lesbian and former co-host of Food Network’s Too Hot Tamales heads this affordable and satisfying southwestern spot overlooking the newly renovated (for multi-millions) pools of the Mandalay Bay.

New York’s hip pan-Asian eatery Tao (The Venetian) recently opened a Las Vegas outpost, and the food is just as exciting as the original, improved upon only by the expansive layout, complete with a lounge, nightclub and “beach.” TI’s swank Social House also offers eclectic Asian dishes, in slick geometric corridors lined with drawers or newspaper stacks likened to Kafkaesque office mazes. Their sake selection is unrivaled. Wolfgang Puck’s contemporary-American Postrio (The Venetian) has “outdoor” seating on the faux-St. Mark’s Square, as well as a more formal dining room. If the waiter offers you a tender Maine scallop (FedExed to Vegas that morning), do not pass up what will be the most memorable appetizer of your life. 

For a less formal bite, stop in for simple French and Italian cuisine at Le Provençal (The Paris), or skip the meal entirely and go right for dessert at the adjacent La Creperie. One of their delectable sweet or savory crepe inventions with a cup of the best coffee in town (trust this New Yorker, The Paris wins flat out) makes the perfect bite on the go.

For the daring souls willing to venture outside of The Strip in search of some local flavor, a visit to Mexican joint Agave (10820 W Charleston Blvd) is a must. Their black bean and smoked cheddar soup and barbecue duck quesadilla both give new, heavenly meaning to the term “comfort food.” The lengthy margarita menu makes a meal at Agave turn into an all day affair, entirely sans (fellow) annoying tourists.

 
Where to Party
If it’s a local experience you’re after, delve into the cozy lesbian scene and find your special cowgirl. She probably isn’t from Vegas originally, but then, who is? Service jobs on The Strip are abundant, so beautiful (no, really—stunning) fresh faces are always arriving. But the scene still retains a small, everybody-knows-your-name feeling. Many wo-men escape to L.A. (four hours by car) on the weekend to shake things up, but those who stick around go out of their way to make a newbie or out-of-towner feel welcome.

The most popular party for women is the Saturday night Girl Bar at gay club Krave (behind Planet Hollywood off The Strip). Ever since L.A.’s renowned party came to Vegas, approximately two-hundred gorgeous, diverse, friendly lesbians have packed the sensual, red-draped lounge without fail each week.

Dykes looking for divey-er digs will love Free Zone (610 E Naples Dr), a 24-hour watering hole with video poker built into the bar and a ladies’ night each Tuesday, presided over by none other than GO’s own April ’07 cover model, bartendrix Gigi. Freezone is one of a handful of gay bars along Paradise Road that make up the “Fruit Loop”—Las Vegas’s unofficial gayborhood. To stay up to date on ladies’ nights in the Fruit Loop and other gay happenings around town, pick up a free copy of QVegas magazine (qvegas.com).

Back on The Strip, you’ll see lesbian couples walking hand-in-hand in mixed surroundings without any reservation. If all-girl environs are not a concern and it’s a multi-story nightclub with an internationally renowned DJ that interests you, you’ll have your pick of venues in each of the resorts.


Where to Sleep

Vegas’s hotels come in all shapes and sizes. From the “fun, not fancy” Excalibur (from $61 per night) and the simply elegant Paris (from $99) to the newly renovated Venetian (from $399) and the five-star five-diamond salon suite at the Wynn (from $750) pretty much any price range can be accommodated on The Strip. If for some crazy reason you can’t find what you’re looking for, chances are you will in a month or two; new properties are being erected all over Vegas, literally overnight.

Look downtown for lower prices and small-town charm. Binion’s (128 E Fremont) offers rooms from $50 per night, and The Golden Nugget (129 E Fremont) offers rooms from $59.

The best thing about Vegas is the sheer number of choices. You can see the city on a budget and have a stellar time. On the other hand, sell your first-born for the opportunity to experience the most luxurious weekend of your life. You just might win it all back. After all, luck be a lady.
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