The Las Vegas Strip isn’t for everyone. Even people who love it feel the urge to take a break from it occasionally. We happen to know of a perfect off-Strip getaway: Reflection Bay at Lake Las Vegas.
Let the decompressing begin.
Lake Las Vegas is an intriguing part of Las Vegas. It’s an artificial lake about 20 minutes from The Strip, with resorts, golf courses and upscale residences. Oh, and a casino. But that’s for another time.
Our hidden Las Vegas gem is a little-known white sand beach at the Reflection Bay Golf Club.
There are a few reasons to love this particular diversion. Primary among those reasons, though, is virtually nobody is there.
It’s a little oasis all to yourself. You’re welcome.
Lake Las Vegas has had its ups and downs over the last few years, and it was especially hard hit during the financial downturn. Golf courses turned brown and hotels shuttered. Happily, the golf courses are green again and businesses are doing much better, but Lake Las Vegas has never been overrun with visitors, so that means much of what you’ll do at Reflection Bay can be done in relative solitude. So, sort of the opposite of the Las Vegas Strip.
Reflection Bay is on the opposite side of Lake Las Vegas as its charming MonteLago Village Resort. So, it’s a step removed from what is already a laid-back place to dine, drink and relax.
The Reflection Bay Golf Club is a bright, welcoming building with plenty of free parking.
Reflection Bay has clearly cornered the market on palm trees.
Inside, you’ll find the usual golf stuff (like a pro shop), but also a cafe. The food is awesome, reasonably priced and because nobody’s there, the service is quick. The cafe serves up the expected collection of salads, wraps and burgers.
It’s difficult to overstate the value of having no one around speaking far too loudly on their cell phone.
Out back is an adorable man-made bay, complete with 28,000 tons of white sand and lots of palm trees.
The main attraction for non golfers are the kayaks, pedalboats and stand up paddle boards. Equipment and instruction are provided by the friendly folks at Watercraft Rentals at Lake Las Vegas. Get details.
You’ll find the paddle board rental office inside that first doorway. No, there are no signs. That’s part of what makes it a hidden gem! Bonus: Lockers are provided.
It was refreshing no to have to worry about the availability of paddle boards or kayaks. Just show up and take your pick.
The prices for kayak (singles or doubles) and paddle board rentals were very reasonable, $25 an hour or $40 for two hours.
Stand up paddle boarding feels like exercise, so we went with a kayak.
An artificial lake provides lots of benefits for those doing water sports. First, no sharks. Second, there are no rogue waves or rip tides. Third, it’s impossible to get lost.
The center of Lake Las Vegas is one of the quietest, most relaxing places in all of Las Vegas.
Some of our favorite words: “No reservations required.”
After your paddle boarding adventure, there are snacks and beverages readily available at a beachside snack bar. Bonus: A large selection of liquor served in those little bottles you get on airplanes. Everything’s ridiculously cheap, especially in comparison to Strip prices.
Fair warning: Hidden gems don’t tend to stay hidden for long.
Kayaking and paddle boarding at Reflection Bay is a highly-recommended family-friendly activity if you’re looking for fun things to do in Las Vegas that don’t involve showgirls, timeshare salespersons or the din of slot machines.
At Reflection Bay, there are no lines, just reasonably-priced sun and fun in a tropical setting.
Of all the various food groups, Italian is our favorite.
So, when the popular Nove Italiano restaurant at Palms recently rolled out a menu refresh, we were all over it like gremolada on braised ossobuco, whatever those might actually be.
Nove is Italian for “nine,” inspired by the company that originally managed the restaurant, N9NE Group. The restaurant celebrates its ninth birthday in October 2015.
This was our first visit to Nove Italiano at Palms, despite it getting solid word-of-mouth since it opened in 2006. Special thanks to our significant other, who works at Palms, for hooking us up so we got to sample a wider variety of dishes than we’d typically order. We are not made of money, we are a blog.
Our meal began, as most great meals do, with hooch. The cocktail menu has some new offerings, too, of course.
The Franc & Jean Martini has Tanqueray gin, Pama (pomegranate-flavored liqueur), passion fruit and Cabernet Franc.
Cabernet Franc a black grape used for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style. Which we knew off the top of our head, and that’s the story we’re sticking to.
To start, we had an item from the “Bar Bites” portion of the menu, the Arancini Balls. Arancini are stuffed rice balls coated with breadcrumbs and fried, as are most of the great things in life.
There’s a chance “Arancini Balls” is redundant as we have been unable to find them in any other shape.
A selection of complimentary breads followed shortly. The kids call these amuse-bouches, or “mouth amusers” in French. They’re gratis with your meal.
The most-ignored phrase in all of Italian cuisine: “Don’t fill up on bread.”
Next, we tried the Candy Striped Beet Carpaccio, with peaches, candied pecans and goat cheese.
Yes, we eat salads occasionally, and it’s rude for you to suggest otherwise.
While we’re not a big seafood person, we quite enjoyed the Shrimp Francaise appetizer.
The menu describes the Shrimp Francaise as “the best you ever had.” Which was true, mainly because we’d never had it before.
Time for another cocktail, don’t you think? A question we always, always ask rhetorically.
The Exotic Margarita got our attention because of its distinctive yellow color. The drink features Don Julio Silver tequila, Liqueur 43 (a Spanish liqueur made with citrus fruit and botanicals), passion fruit and organic blue agave nectar.
We are especially fond of organic blue agave nectar because it almost makes it sound like the Exotic Margarita is a health drink.
On to the entrees. There were several, so pace yourself. We certainly didn’t.
First, the pan-seared salmon. Again, we’re not a seafood person, but you wouldn’t know it from our empty plate.
Consider this the “before” photo.
Also delicious was the Pomegranate Chicken Bake, with panko-crusted chicken stuffed with spinach, mushroom and mozzarella, drizzled with aged balsamic. You would think that in such a nice restaurant they’d be able to find some new balsamic, but even the old stuff was pretty good.
We’ll be here all week.
We don’t entirely know if Nove’s signature ravioli is new to the menu, but it was new to our face, and was one of our favorites.
The ravioli had truffles, pancetta (Italian bacon) and lemon butter sauce. If we ever have sexual intercourse with entree ingredients, those would probably be the ones.
While not inexpensive at $65, Marlon’s Surf ‘N Turf was also a stand-out. It has an eight-ounce filet mignon and Maine lobster.
Las Vegas decadence, thy name is Marlon.
Marlon is Marlon Simbulan, the restuarant’s Executive Chef. Whom we would like to adopt us as soon as possible.
Of course, we couldn’t leave Nove Italiano without trying the chicken parm. While it didn’t resemble any other chicken parm we’ve had, it didn’t disappoint on the flavorfulsomeness side, assuming that’s even remotely a word.
The chicken parmigiana had spaghetti, pecorino and pomodoro sauce. Pomodoro is “tomato” in Italian, but “pomodoro” just makes it sound fancier.
Heading into the home stretch, it’s time for a final cocktail, the Tiramisu Martini. It wasn’t our favorite, but liquor is liquor, and it made for a pretty photo.
Nothing personal, Tiramisu Martini. We’re not a coffee person.
Dessert was gratuitous at this juncture, but the bread pudding is the first we’ve ever enjoyed at any restaurant, and not just because of the ice cream.
Another widely-ignored phrase: “Don’t fill up on bread…pudding.”
We also tried the Biscotti e Gelato Italiano, just so we could share a photo, of course. It had
pistacchio, honey almond and chocolate biscottis and a choice of stracciatella, vanilla, chocolate, espresso, or dulce de leche (a high falutin way of saying “caramel”) gelato.
Edible advertising is easily our favorite kind.
Other new menu items include Veal Milanese, Zesty Pea Tortellini, Spaghetti Carbonara and Potato Gnocchi, among others.
Beyond the tempting menu, Nove Italiano is undeniably romantic and has an impressive view.
There’s also an adorable little wine room with a table for two.
No idea if anyone actually dines in here, but in Las Vegas, gratuities make all things possible.
Marketing materials say Nove Italiano is on the hotel’s 51st floor, but we didn’t stop to confirm. Las Vegas hotels often skip floors numbered in the forties due to superstition. (Rio Las Vegas has 41 floors, rather than its publicized 51, for example.)
See the full Nove Italiano menu at the official Palms Las Vegas Web site, and thanks again to the Palms for their hospitality. While we were not charged for our meal, our opinions are our own, despite our significant other’s claims to the contrary.
Enjoy more photos from Nove Italiano at Palms Las Vegas, and let us know what you think if you visit.
The Bonanza Gift Shop at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip, long billed as the “World’s Largest Gift Shop,” has been sold and is under new management.
Don’t even get us started about the feud between gifts and souvenirs about who gets top billing.
The name of the store’s new owner is PRE Sahara Square LLC. Here’s more.
Confirmation of new ownership at Bonanza comes a year after rumors of a sale were first floated by this very Las Vegas blog. It was originally believed the gift shop would end up in the hands of MGM Resorts because it sits adjacent to the company’s event site that hosted the Rock in Rio USA music festival, but that aspect of the story hasn’t panned out.
When we first heard rumors Bonanza would be sold, the then-owner Lynn Morris vehemently denied the store was for sale.
We spend a lot of our free time ignoring official denials.
Some of the confusion about who owns what at the Bonanza Gift Shop, or what’s been “sold,” comes from some confusing terminology.
Apparently, the owners of the property upon which the Bonanza Gift Shop sits has been in the same hands for many years, that of the W.S. and Marjorie L. Robinson family. Lynn Morris was the “owner” of the lease for the last 50 years, and that lease recently changed hands as well.
Details of the change in management are few, but from what we hear there was quite a bit of drama behind the scenes and many of the previous staff members are now gone.
One of the only signs of the management change was the posting of signs. Several “Grand Opening” signs now adorn the Bonanza Gift Shop.
Not much is known about the new lease-holder, New Bonanza LLC, other than the fact it’s a foreign limited-liability company. The new management company of Bonanza Gift Shop also runs gift shops on Fremont Street.
The most visible change has been the removal of the gift shop’s “Naughty Town,” a portion of the sprawling Bonanza Gift Shop devoted to adult-oriented gifts and toys. Naughty Town has now been replaced by “Kidz Town.”
The Bonanza Gift Shop has gone from naughty to nice, just in time for the holidays.
We’ve been most sorry to see new management has removed the gift shop’s funny “If it’s in stock, we have it” signage.
The new tenants don’t appear to have a sense of humor, but whatever.
Update: Yeah, it’s sort of been confirmed the new owners and lease-holders lack a sense of humor. Here’s what replaced the classic “If it’s in stock, we have it” sign.
Eye-catching wordplay this ain’t.
Plans for the Bonanza Gift Shop haven’t been made public yet, but according to Las Vegas Weekly, a store manager says it will become “more like a shopping center,” including the addition of food options.
Numerous calls to the gift shop and e-mails to the former owner have not been returned. So, while we can’t be sure, it appears the gift shop will remain in operation for the foreseeable future.
Business activity has been building on the north end of The Strip. SLS Las Vegas is trying to find a formula for success, and two new casinos are set to come online in the next few years, Lucky Dragon and Resorts World.
Insiders suggest the current Bonanza Gift Shop property owners are just waiting for the right offer to sell off the Las Vegas landmark. The Bonanza Gift Shop sits in an ideal spot for further development down the road.
Update (10/24/16): The Bonanza Gift Shop was apparently sold again on Oct. 21, 2016, for $50 million. Read more.
Rumors have surfaced, as rumors tend to do when they’re not swirling, the 31st season of MTV’s “The Real World” will be shot in downtown Las Vegas.
We’ve not only confirmed the rumors, but have exclusively learned the location of the upcoming installment of the show will be the Gold Spike hotel. No official announcement has yet been made by “The Real World” or Gold Spike.
“The Real World” was first broadcast in 1992, or right around the time most Gold Spike customers were emerging from their respective wombs.
“The Real World,” of course, is the once-groundbreaking reality show featuring a group of strangers who move in together and proceed to drink excessively, get it in and learn important life lessons about tolerance and pretending to be gainfully employed.
Production of the new season will take place staring in late October 2015 and is expected to take about three months. You’ve been warned, Metro.
Let’s just say Gold Spike is unlike any other Las Vegas hotel. This beauty sits out back. Oh, and Gold Spike is also llama-friendly. Long story.
The production team for “The Real World: Las Vegas” (presumably, still a working title) has already commenced construction at Gold Spike to create spaces suitable for the filming of the show. Gold Spike rooms tend to be on the small side and don’t typically have hot tubs. Just saying.
We hear most or all of the Gold Spike’s seventh floor is being taken up by the production.
Gold Spike was once a low-roller casino, but was purchased by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and his Downtown Project and turned into a boutique hotel in 2013. Without a casino. So, no, we don’t personally spend much time there anymore. Let’s just say it tends to skew hipster.
Technically, the name should probably be Gold Spike Boutique Hotel and Student Union. Because cornhole.
This will be the third season of “The Real World” that takes place in Las Vegas. Previous locations included the Palms (2002) and Hard Rock (2011) resorts.
The “Real World” production team considered other Las Vegas hotel-casinos—including SLS Las Vegas—but because of controversy surrounding past seasons of the show, many resorts declined. Suits, it turns out, aren’t always thrilled about the prospect of shenanigans associated with their brands.
Try and wear a suit at Gold Spike, by the way, and you’re likely to be summarily tossed out by a really laid-back security guard.
Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts, for example, do not even consider such shows unless they will appear on the major TV networks, and even then have strict rules about what kinds of shows are allowed to film at their hotels.
It’s likely the show’s producers (Bunim/Murray Productions) purposefully avoided choosing a hotel with a casino this go-around as it limits where and when a show can film due to gaming regulations.
Bit of advice, Gold Spike. Invest in some black lights and upholstery cleaner.
Back in the day, “The Real World” was a boon for the Palms, and to a lesser extent Hard Rock.
While recent seasons of “The Real World” haven’t made the pop culture waves it once did, the show should provide some great exposure for Gold Spike and its adjoining Oasis at Gold Spike, as well as other downtown offerings.
We look forward to tracking the production, sneaking unauthorized photos of the show’s cast and crew, and seeing the finished product when “The Real World: Las Vegas” (or whatever it ends up being called) hits the air.
Guests first arrive at a shiny new Visitor Center.
Gird your loins for the long-awaited, immersive Wayne Newton experience.
From the moment you enter the Visitor Center, it’s clear serious bucks have been invested in this new enterprise. It’s reportedly cost $100 million to turn Casa de Shenandoah into a tourist attraction.
Wayne Newton’s visitor center has more floor space than a Costco. There must be a lot of pent-up Mr. Las Vegas demand out there.
According to our buddy Norm Clarke, the financial investment came from bajillionaire and philanthropist Lacy Harber. Read more.
Harber and Wayne Newton have come to an agreement, with Harber a majority owner of the endeavor. More on this. Harber says he’ll donate his portion of the profits to a local charity, Opportunity Village.
The visitor center boasts two classic blackjack tables from the Stardust (where Newton performed). Talk about winning over Vegas fanatics from the moment they arrive.
The new Visitor Center is decked out with a bar, theater and far more Wayne Newton-inspired merchandise than we could ever have imagine exists.
The visitor center theater seats approximately as many people as their are seats for. We hate taking notes.
After a 15-minute film in the Visitor Center theater, guests are shuttled approximately 30 feet to the gate of Casa de Shenandoah. It’s complicated, but we suspect this arrangement was made so visitors didn’t disrupt traffic or the sometimes touchy neighbors nearby. Oh, and there’s the aforementioned merch, of course.
Once inside the estate, guests arrive at a building which has been converted into the Wayne Newton Museum.
The museum features Wayne Newton’s Fokker F-28 twin-engine jet.
Meet the Fokker.
It was in the museum where we caught up with “Mr. Las Vegas” himself, flanked by cast members from Luxor’s “Fantasy” and schmoozing members of the media.
It’s good to be Mr. Las Vegas.
It was our first time meeting Wayne Newton, but we found him to be entirely charming, which is why, to be honest, you’ll find this blog post almost entirely bereft of snark.
Newton exuded class and graciousness, and seemed genuinely appreciative of, and humbled by, the fact everyone was making a fuss over him. Strange qualities given his decades in the international spotlight.
Also in the museum were a virtual fleet of vintage vehicles, including Rolls Royces formerly owned by Johnny Cash, Steve McQueen and Liberace.
This is how Wayne Newton rolls.
Liberace will come into play once we hit the mansion, as Newton’s tastes seem to run in the same vein. But we’re not there yet. Between the museum and the mansion, it’s all about the horses.
It’s like a country club for equines.
Wayne Newton has long been known to have a fondness for Arabian horses, and Casa de Shenandoah remains a working Arabian breeding ranch. Newton himself has personally delivered more than 90% of the horses on the estate (that’s a lot of latex gloves), and there have been more than 600 foals to-date.
Newton’s horses are pampered beyond belief, and guests are treated to exercise sessions and even a couple of laps in a private pool. Take a look.
Tours of the grounds are self-guided, so guests can wander at their leisure. There are plenty of attendants to answer questions and keep visitors pointed in the right direction.
Moving toward the mansion, there are enclosures with exotic animals including a monkey, penguin and wallabies. And the bird, below. Which was the only exotic animal we photographed because the sun was going down and we didn’t want to freak any animals out with our flash.
We have no idea what kind it is. We are a Las Vegas blog, not an ornithologist.
The mansion is the centerpiece of the estate, having served as Newton’s personal residence for more than 40 years. Now, he and his wife live in another mansion about a mile away. Which works out well, because it would be awkward walking in on Mr. Las Vegas as he was using Mr. Shower Massager.
Here’s Castle de Danke Schoën.
The doors are literally open to the public.
Guests are invited to explore the first floor of Wayne Newton’s former home. First up is the living room, wall-to-wall with pre-owned furniture. We should probably mention the furniture was previously owned by King Louis XV and King Louis XVI.
Eat your heart out, Liberace.
The over-the-top decor isn’t something you see too often these days, but it’s eye-popping. Strolling around Wayne Newton’s mansion is like stepping into a Las Vegas time machine (you knew we’d get around to revisiting that reference, eventually). It’s this delicious mixture of opulence and indulgence and gaudiness we truly wish our grandmother could’ve stayed around long enough to see, because it would have been the best thing she’d ever seen.
Next, the Red Room. Red is Newton’s favorite color.
The desk once belonged to Franklin D. Roosevelt.
There’s also the billiard room, wherein resides a 200-year-old billiard table made largely of crystal that was made for the royal family of India.
Purchased from Indians. From India. Unrelated: Wayne Newton is part native American, dealt with bigotry in his youth. He was referred to as an “apple,” red on the outside, white on the inside. Seriously.
The home is packed with Wayne Newton memorabilia galore.
You’ll want to stick around until the sun goes down, because only then does the synchronized water fountain outside the mansion shine. Behold what it possibly the most Las Vegas thing, ever.
All-in-all, the Casa de Shenandoah tour lasts as long as you’d like it to, but figure on at least two hours.
Casa de Shenandoah operates Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., with tours starting at 9:30 a.m. and ending at 5:30 p.m. Tickets start at $35. Expect to see discounts cropping up soon.
An intriguing “VIP experience” is also available, where guests get a meet-and-greet and guided tour with Wayne Newton himself. The price being quoted for Wayne Newton’s VIP “Mr. Las Vegas” experience and guided tour is a whopping $5,000. Which might not be outrageous for hardcore Mr. Las Vegas fans, but seems steep for normal humans unless you get to swim with an Arabian or Wayne personally dankes your schoen, if you get our drift.
Random celebrity sighting ahead!
We met Tyson Beckford during our visit. Sorry, ladies, not part of the regular Casa de Shenandoah experience. Beckford currently guests hosts at “Chippendales” at Rio Las Vegas.
The journey to the opening of Casa de Shenandoah has definitely not been an uninteresting one.
Hopefully, Wayne Newton’s financial dramas are behind him (investor Lacy Harber says the Casa de Shenandoah project involves “not a nickel of debt”), and guests can enjoy learning more about this iconic star who once represented the quintessential Las Vegas entertainer, and who for many still does.
A little something for the “Vegas Vacation” fans.
We’re always happy to see an investment in the history and culture of Las Vegas, and the opening of Casa de Shenandoah as a tourist attraction qualifies.
Even if you’re not a die-hard “Wayniac,” we suspect you’d enjoy a visit to Casa de Shenandoah. As advertised, it’s a one-of-a-kind look at a world we rarely get to see and a Las Vegas phenomenon that’s a little hard to explain.
Wayne Newton’s Casa de Shenandoah is truly the house that nostalgia and optimism built, and we hope it defies the odds (our in-house oddsmakers have the over/under at one year) and becomes a smashing success. Learn more at the official site.
For years, Las Vegas casinos have designed and issued collectible chips. Why? Because if you buy a chip and take it home without cashing it in, that’s gravy for the casino!
We have lots of these special edition chips in our chip collection, so we thought it was high time we whipped up some casino chip designs of our own. Here, then, are 10 casino chip designs we’d like to see. Patent pending. Or whatever.
First up in our chip design gallery, it’s the Stratosphere.
Tone set, bar lowered.
While we’re on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip (motto: “Business is So Slow Here, We Can’t Afford a Motto”), may as well hit SLS Las Vegas, too.
This statue is an artistic interpretation of Sam Nazarian, founder of SBE, the company that owns 10% of SLS Las Vegas. Alternatively, it’s Patrick from “SpongeBob SquarePants.” In either case, WTF.
Speaking of lapses in judgment, don’t even get us started about the Grand Bazaar Shops at Bally’s Las Vegas.
This is what happens when a rainbow falls into a wood chipper.
Let’s head back downtown for a minute, to the world headquarters of craps.
That sound you hear is every dealer in Las Vegas saying, “Seriously.”
While some of our chip designs are meant to be playful jabs, others are based upon a deep-seated antagonism parading as playful jabs. This would be one of that.
This is not intended to be a slam against all Parisians, especially the two tolerable ones.
Meanwhile, Downtown Grand.
Conundrum: If you can only pick on one thing, how do you decide which thing?
Are we having fun yet?
The next casino chip we’d like to see puts the spotlight on a Las Vegas artist who has endured endless barbs from moronic blogs just like this one.
That’s putting us in our place.
Now seems like a good time to highlight the Las Vegas resort we recently voted “Most Likely to Send This Blog a Cease-and-Desist Letter.”
Then again, it’s not libel if it’s true.
And now, torn from today’s headlines, which we should probably be writing rather than making fake casino chips, it’s another puerile pun!
If you were not aware Palms Las Vegas now has the world’s biggest Hooters, you need to visit certain Las Vegas blogs far more frequently. Ahem.
And, finally, a chip we’d purchase dozens of to give as presents during the holidays. If they actually existed. Or if we ever gave gifts during the holidays.
Pharmacies are to Las Vegas as lemons are to paper cuts.
Please, Las Vegas casinos, make these collectible chips happen. Set aside your “self-interest” and your “dignity” and, perhaps most importantly, your “teams of lawyers who insist upon blogs ceasing and desisting.”
Can you think of other casino chips you’d like to see? Leave a comment and let us know. Before sharing your idea, though, you should probably patent it first. Or whatever.