With little fanfare, downtown’s SlotZilla zipline recently surpassed half-a-million riders.
The number of riders is actually more than 540,000, but when has this blog ever been bogged down by “facts” or “accurate information”?
During the build-up to the long-awaited and much-delayed opening of SlotZilla, we covered the
progress of the project closely on this blog. Then, we got a day job marketing Fremont Street
Experience and SlotZilla, so we thought it was weird writing about it. Now that SlotZilla has blown by 500,000 riders, you bet your ass we’re doing a story.
Roughly 540,000 riders, divided by four lines on top, four on the bottom. Oh, screw it. We are a blog, not an abacus.
In case you haven’t heard of it, in which case we suck and should probably be fired immediately, the SlotZilla zipline is a downtown attraction that looks like a giant slot machine.
Riders have the option of two lines, a lower “Zipline” and an upper “Zoomline.”
We did this with Photoshop because we don’t have time to sit around for hours waiting for both levels to have riders. We have lots of appointments with bartenders and craps dealers.
On the Zipline (77 feet up), riders go in the seated position, while on the Zoomline (114 feet
up) they take flight like a superhero, prone.
The Zipline ($20) goes halfway down the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian plaza to a landing platform between Four Queens and the Fremont casino.
The SlotZilla Zipline is the largest provider of wedgies in the contiguous United States.
The Zoomline ($40, pictured below) goes all the way to the west end of Fremont Street Experience, between Golden Gate and the now-closed Las Vegas Club.
In the desert, you don’t get bugs in your teeth! They should put this on their billboards.
SlotZilla sort of has two opening dates, one for each line level.
SlotZilla cost about $17 million to build. Construction began in November 2012.
Trivia: Some of the earliest SlotZilla riders were Imperial Stormtroopers.
It’s been fascinating to watch the completion, opening and growing success of the SlotZilla zipline from inside the company. The more we learn about the engineering and technology involved, the more we’re astonished it ever got built in the first place.
Here’s a look at the view from the SlotZilla Zoomline.
Reactions to the SlotZilla structure itself remain mixed. Some say it’s cheesy (mainly because
they mistakenly believe cheesy is a bad thing) and creates a physical separation between Fremont East and Fremont Street Experience. Others think it makes a larger-than-life photo op, one befitting the spirit of Las Vegas.
Oh, just the world’s largest slot machine, glistening in the afterglow of being ridden by 500,000 people.
Most seem to acknowledge SlotZilla has brought a new energy downtown, not to mention a wave of younger visitors, which has had a positive ripple effect for downtown businesses and the casinos.
For those who work at Fremont Street Experience, it’s a source of pride that through the
company’s SlotZilla Charity Challenge series, more than $125,000 has been given to Las Vegas
nonprofits. More fundraising events are planned for 2016.
We would typically congratulate SlotZilla on its 500,000 rider milestone, but given that we take
all the credit for its success, that would be slightly awkward.
Instead, we’ll just say thanks to everyone who’s helped make SlotZilla a reality. They’ve given
hundreds of thousands of downtown visitors a one-of-a-kind rush and an experience they’re guaranteed to never forget.
There was a time when comedian Carrot Top was considered a joke. As the prop comic hits 10
incredible years of success on the Las Vegas Strip, Carrot Top is the one having the last laugh.
Carrot Top, whose real name is Scott Thompson, began his run in Las Vegas on Nov. 28, 2005, at
Luxor Las Vegas.
Ticket tip: Book your Carrot Top tickets a week or more in advance, get 20% off. Details.
What accounts for Thompson’s longevity in Las Vegas? First and foremost, his show is really,
really funny. If you set aside the snobbery sometimes related to prop comedy, his act is built on
solid comedy writing, and his delivery is masterful. His material shows exceptional cleverness, smarts (Carrot Top’s father was a rocket scientist for NASA, by the way) and imagination, and Las Vegas visitors consistently give his show rave reviews.
Oh, and his show isn’t all props. About 30 minutes of his show is intentionally prop-free.
Scott “Carrot Top” Thompson at age 13. He recently told Esquire magazine, “I used to be the youngest guy in the room, now I’m the oldest.”
Carrot Top has described his show as being “like show and tell, but with liquor.” Carrot Top is
the only comic we’re aware of who gives out shots of Crown Royal to audience members during his show.
Thompson also continues to add new material to his act, which is not always the case with Las
Vegas performers who have long runs. There’s no autopilot for Carrot Top.
The word “carrot” from the Indo-European root for “horn,” because of the vegetable’s horn-like shape.
Along with the strength of his act, Thompson gets a lot of mileage out of being in on the joke.
His self-depricating humor helps contribute to his reputation as a genuinely nice guy, including
a recent involvement in anti-bullying efforts.
Thompson is also a dog lover, which goes over well with a certain Las Vegas blog. The one you’re reading. Please try and keep up.
Carrot Top has said his greatest fear is standing onstage and hearing silence. We have the same apprehension about lovemaking.
Carrot Top has frequently been the subject of parody—including on shows like “South Park, “King of the Hill” and “Family Guy”—but he takes it all in stride. The mountains of cash might soothe the sting. Ten years as a Las Vegas headliner means Carrot Top has amassed quite the fortune.
The 50-year-old comedian has taken hits for his physical appearance, too, including accusations of excessive plastic surgery and steroid use. He seems to take it all in stride. Success remains the best revenge.
A scene from the short-lived Yahoo Web series, “Sin City Saints.”
Thompson has appeared in innumerable films and TV shows over the course of his career, and is often spotted on red carpets in support of his fellow Las Vegas performers.
Maybe after a decade in Las Vegas, Carrot Top can finally get the respect he deserves.
Update (12/7/15): In December 2015, Luxor announced it would extend Carrot Top’s show for five years, through 2020.
Carrot Top’s is a must-see comedy show in Las Vegas, and congrats to Scott Thompson for his
decade of success on the Las Vegas. Or as the kids say, suck it, haters.
The rumor mill has kicked into high gear about the future name of the under-construction Las
Vegas Arena. At the moment, it appears T-Mobile has clinched the naming rights, so the new arena could very well end up with the name T-Mobile Arena.
Estimates about the cost of a Las Vegas Arena naming rights contract vary widely, from $2 million to $10 million.
Sort of just sings, doesn’t it?
The Las Vegas Arena construction is moving at a brisk pace, with an opening expected in April
The Las Vegas Arena, no matter what it’s called, will soon be home to both an NHL expansion team and the ultimate Las Vegas selfie.
This won’t be the first T-Mobile Arena. T-Mobile once had naming rights for an arena in Prague, Czech Republic. It’s now the Tesla Arena.
T-Mobile is the world’s fifteenth largest mobile phone service provider, and the company has a
long-standing business relationship with MGM Resorts.
Check out this video about the MGM Resorts and T-Mobile relationship, including adorable phrases like “distributed antenna systems,” “duel device scenarios” and “push-to-talk solutions.”
If the $350 million Las Vegas Arena becomes T-Mobile Arena, T-Mobile will join Toshiba and Coca-Cola as the arena’s major sponsorship partners. Toshiba Plaza sits outside the arena and will be an entertainment space with three stages.
If the T-Mobile Arena naming rights deal comes to fruition, it would be a dramatic turn. Since
October 2015, it’s been rumored UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) was champing at the bit to have the shiny new arena on The Strip bear its name. UFC Center appears an unlikely outcome now.
All that money to build an arena, then you slap somebody else’s name on it. ‘Merica.
Already booked to play the T-Mobile Arena are Garth Brooks (July 2016), Janet Jackson (May 2016), George Strait (April and September 2016) and Dixie Chicks (July 2016). The Professional Bull Riders World Finals will also call the T-Mobile Arena home starting in November 2016. See the schedule.
After spending some time pondering all this, we’ve come to the conclusion we don’t really care who gets the naming rights for the arena. It’s the Las Vegas Arena, and that’s what we plan to call it. We totally get the reason for naming rights. It’s a big chunk of change. So, the people who get the cash can call it what they want.
The rest of us, however, can call the arena what it is: The Las Vegas Arena. If T-Mobile would like to throw a little cabbage this way, however, we are nothing if not flexible.
Update (1/7/15): T-Mobile and MGM Resorts confirmed the name of the Las Vegas Arena will be T-Mobile Arena. Here’s the rendering.
How’d we know this would be the name? Somebody got a phone call!
Well, there’s a new game in town. You and your brain and going to love it.
Your brain’s about to do a decathlon.
Live escape games are all the rage at the moment, despite the fact we didn’t entirely know they existed until recently.
What are live escape games? They’re interactive puzzles, where you and friends are locked in a
room and you have to follow clues to escape.
While there are several live escape games in Las Vegas, we heard great things about Countdown Live Escape Games, so that’s the one we tried. And conquered. Hard.
We now have to wonder how many Las Vegas things are things without us realizing they are. Things, that is.
Countdown Live Escape Games is located a few minutes off the Las Vegas Strip, in what amounts to an industrial park. Finding it is the first of many puzzles you’ll encounter.
The address is 2959 Westwood Drive, Las Vegas. Again, the address is 2959 Westwood Drive, Las Vegas. We are repeating this because as we start talking about the escape game we tried, we won’t be able to share specific clues (we don’t want to ruin your experience), but we can say it’s really, really important you remember this address: 2959 Westwood Drive, Las Vegas. Just saying.
We’re sharing this photo for no particular reason, so feel free to either commit this number to memory or not, completely up to you.
Once you arrive at Countdown, you and your friends or co-workers, or possibly strangers, sign a
waiver which, since this blog is a male, we didn’t actually read.
Then you’re locked in a room. Don’t have a freak-out. Yet.
At Countdown, there are three themed rooms to choose from, two-thirds of which are horror-
inspired. We played, anyway.
The easiest room is the Sherlock room, which is also family-friendly. There’s also the Chop Shop and the Atelophobia room. “Easiest” is a relative term here, because the Sherlock room has a mere 27% escape rate. Chop Shop has a 21% escape rate and the Atelophobia room has a 24% escape rate.
The Sherlock room. Top tip: Write absolutely everything down on your dry erase board. If you want to escape. And you want to escape. Please try and keep up.
The Chop Shop room (pictured below) is super creepy, so wear clothing you’re willing to get blood on. Ditto the Atelophobia room. Fair warning.
Once locked in your room, the adventure begins. A clock counts down (hence the name of the
place), and guests have 60 minutes to solve their puzzles and escape the room.
There are props strewn about the room, some relevant to the potential escape, others not.
Seriously, though, what in the hell is wrong with people?
The Atelophobia room is based upon a horror movie of the same name. “Atelophobia” is the fear of not being good enough. Which we’re pretty sure everyone feels once they’ve begun a live escape game.
The time pressure adds to the excitement of the game, but the real thrill comes from each part of the overall mystery being solved.
As we said, we can’t really talk about the specific clues. Especially any that related to the
address of the place. You’ve forgotten already, haven’t you? Well, we still have hope for your
live escape game success.
It’s time to get your McGruff on. Or some other, more current, reference along those lines.
The puzzles in the horror-themed rooms are punctuated with elements of an interactive haunted house. Pay no attention, you have puzzles to solve.
We will say the clues are ingenious, and one has a true sense of accomplishment as each piece of the puzzle falls into place. Some of the most enjoyable moments come from the fact clues are sometimes presented out of order, useless until later in the game.
Inside these enigmas you’ll find riddles wrapped in conundrums. Look, we’ll say it, bring an Asian.
Staffers at Countdown Live Escape Games observe the game from outside the room, both to ensure the safety of guests and, at one point in the game, to offer assistance. The offer of help (think “phone a friend”) can be declined, but nobody declines.
We’re pleased to report our intrepid team of players escaped the room with 11 minutes and 53
seconds to spare.
The feeling of collectively solving all the puzzles and escaping the room was surprisingly fun,
and the buzz lasts long after guests emerge from the room.
If you haven’t done a live escape game before, it’s a must-do in Las Vegas!
Question everything. Remember everything. Connect everything. No pressure.
Countdown Live Escape Games cost $35 a person. If you try another room on the same day, it’s $25. Save $5 with the exclusive VitalVegas.com discount code “COUNTDOWN” when you’re booking a ticket. And by “exclusive,” of course, we mean “We sound important when we call things exclusives.”
Oh, and check in on Yelp and get a free soda or water. Hydration is important when you’re problem-solving.
Don’t be surprised if the rooms available during your visit differ from the ones there now. Room
themes are changed out to keep things interesting, and we hear a science fiction-themed room is set to replace the gory Chop Shop. We are so going back to try that one. Who’s with us, nerds?
The fake blood is rumored to be edible. Probably best to just take their word for it.
Rio Las Vegas was the setting for the 2015 “Headliners Bash” to benefit local nonprofit Win-Win Entertainment, an organization dedicated to connection great causes with Las Vegas entertainers.
They did a bash. It was a monster bash.
Win-Win Entertainment was started by our buddy Jeff Civillico, star of Comedy in Action at Flamingo Las Vegas. Civillico’s comedy-juggling show recently re-located from the Linq Hotel & Casino.
Jeff Civillico can’t not be Jeff Civillico. Oh, and never let him anywhere near your ladder or unicycle. Just saying.
At the Rio, a cavalcade of Las Vegas entertainers performed to help raise funds for Win-Win Entertainment. Not coincidentally, Win-Win works behind the scenes to match Las Vegas performers to help nonprofits raise funds. Ah, the circularity of the universe.
If Penn Jillette loses any more weight, people are going to mistake him for a swizzle stick. And atheist swizzle stick. Which should actually be a thing.
The “Headliners Bash” included an appearance by Penn & Teller (the event was held in their theater, after all), the very talented Martin Kaye of “Million Dollar Quartet” (Kaye portrays Jerry Lee Lewis) at Harrah’s Las Vegas, Travis Cloer of “Jersey Boys” at Paris Las Vegas, Britney Spears impersonator Derrick Barry of “Divas Las Vegas” at the Linq (below, center) and magician Mat Franco, also of the Linq.
For the record, Derrick Barry of “Divas Las Vegas” is not only sexier than the actual Britney Spears, he’s also a bajillion percent better at dancing. Ballpark.
Comic Matt Kazam got onto our radar with a strong stand-up set.
He most recently performed at the now-closed Riviera, but announced he’ll soon have a new gig at Treasure Island. No, not behind the counter at the CVS, smart aleck. Rude.
We’ll be checking out your show at Treasure Island, Matt. No pressure.
The cast of the “The Rat Pack Is Back” of Tuscany Suites also appeared at the event. They were easily the best Rat Pack tribute group we’ve seen that neither looks or sounds like anyone even remotely related to the Rat Pack. Then again, charity!
One of our favorite tribute shows, Excalibur’s Australian Bee Gees, closed out the show as they do in their own showroom, by getting everyone on their feet, dancing to crowd-pleasing disco hits.
This isn’t the Bee Gee we remember from the show, but he nailed it, anyway.
The “Headliners Bash” was a wonderful reminder that Las Vegas truly has a big heart. These entertainers devote countless hours to worthy nonprofits, and that generosity creates a ripple effect across the city.
Another of the Bee Gees. They’re all our favorite, mainly because we can never keep track of who’s who.
We realize we can’t not share a photo of the third Bee Gee, given how many of this blog’s readers have OCD.
He actually plays his instrument. And in this very specific instance, we don’t mean that as a euphemism.
At the heart of the Win-Win Entertainment effort is Jeff Civillico, who we consider our best friend, but mainly because he makes everyone feel like they’re his best friend.
In all seriousness, Civillico works tirelessly to help the community, and we applaud his efforts and those of his Win-Win Entertainment family.
All right, enough with the seriousness.
Jeff, seriously, you thought we’d let this slide? Your giant mug is on the cocktail tables. And yet we still like you. Go figure.
Oh, and Jeff’s show at Flamingo is one of the funniest, most entertaining family-friendly shows in Las Vegas, and we’re not just saying that because he’s a friend. Probably.
Like we said, Jeff can’t not Jeff, and that’s just one of the reasons we love him.
Full disclosure: We personally were, at one time, on the Win-Win Entertainment Board of Directors. Unfortunately, we were unable to continue with the organization because of our snark and security breaching commitments.
It’s been a long time coming, but the Smashed Pig Gastropub is open on Fremont East in downtown Las Vegas.
Smashed Pig joins a spate of restaurant openings, due in no small part to the fact we’ve been looking for an excuse to use “spate” in a sentence.
No pigs were harmed during the making of this logo.
The Smashed Pig Gastropub is the brainchild of husband-and-wife owners Martin Swift and Linda Rodriguez.
The charming and completely unassuming couple previously trained with Nobu Matsuhisa, a famous chef you’ve probably never heard of, because let’s face it, chef-famous is different than regular famous.
The Smashed Pig holds about as many people as your living room, but the food’s a lot better, all due respect.
While one might assume the name Smashed Pig derives from the fact the restaurant is “smashed” between Flippin’ Good Burgers & Shakes and the Griffin bar, “smashed” refers to the state of intoxication, something downtown’s Fremont Street is intimately familiar with.
This tiny restaurant makes a very big impression. Feel free to use that in your ads, Smashed Pig.
The Smashed Pig opened Nov. 20, 2015, serving dinner only at first, but has now rolled out a lunch menu.
While the Smashed Pig menu features some British fare, including what we’re declaring the best fish and chips in Las Vegas, Swift and Rodriguez are quick to point out the menu is varied and includes Asian-influenced dishes as well.
The fish and chips will dance upon your lips like the Argentine tango. Assuming you’d consider that a really enjoyable experience.
While the food is delicious, the price point of a $14 fish and chips dish for lunch and $16 for dinner may make some downtown denizens flinch, but it’s on par with the quality, as well as some of the other nearby restaurants like Therapy across the street and Carson Kitchen around the corner. This ain’t your grandpa’s Uncle Joe’s Pizza. (That was next door, by the way.)
Here’s a look at the full Smashed Pig menu, which we hear will be tweaked as the restaurant finds its groove and customers voice their opinions about the selections.
The lunch menu is expected to change even more frequently, but the offerings were being well-received by diners during our visit. Sorry, visits. We took an immediate liking to the place.
This lunch menu is a sample only. It was being updated while we were taking the photo. Probably.
The Smashed Pig has a full bar, of course. Didn’t we mention it’s on Fremont Street?
You have to love downtown Vegas, where often half a restaurant’s floor space is bar.
We heard great things about the Down Town Pimm’s, which we promptly ignored, because this blog does not live by society’s rules.
Highly recommended is the Smashed Pig’s epic panty-dropper, the Crown Jewel. The cocktail has Skyy Pineapple vodka, Luxardo Maraschino (a liqueur originally from Croatia), fresh lemon, cinnamon vanilla syrup (a liquid originally from our daydreams) and bitters.
If you’re given the choice between sex and the Crown Jewel, remember, sex will be there tomorrow. So will the Crown Jewel, honestly, but let’s not get bogged down in details.
Given the Smashed Pig was done in partnership with Downtown Project, there are the requisite Millenial charging stations beneath the bar.
Providing charging stations is actually a clever way of getting people to plug in their phones and have actual conversations. Remember those? Related: Please remove yourself from our lawn.
The Smashed Pig Gastropub is just 110 feet deep and a mere 15 feet wide, so the seating capacity is small.
Seriously, our sister dated more people than this just last week.
This makes for an intimate atmosphere, and the staff is “chockablock” with friendly, attentive people.
Thanks for enduring our bajillion questions, Cisco.
The Smashed Pig Gastropub is a welcome addition to the booming restaurant scene in downtown Las Vegas.
We love the quirky, eclectic menu (translation: dishes this blog can’t always pronounce), and expect to visit the Smashed Pig frequently to further explore the menu. By which we mean we’re probably going to just order the fish and chips over and over, along with copious Crown Jewel cocktails, because if you find perfection, why muck with it? We’re looking at you, Pasquale Rotella. Long story.