Way back in Jan. 2016, we caught wind of a new bar coming to El Cortez, the classic hotel on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas.
At last, the hotel’s current casino bar has been closed and Imbibe bar is in the works.
Yes, even if it’s just a curtain, it qualifies as a security breach. You’re quite the stickler, aren’t you?
The hotel has made no official announcement about the bar, it’s closure, any expansion
or even the bar’s name. Just go with it, anyway.
Naturally, we had to peek behind the drapes to see what’s up inside.
The future home of Captain Morgan spiced rum and possibly other kinds of liquor we care much less about.
Presumably, the new Imbibe bar will try to appeal to a younger crowd. From what we hear, there’s already a strong millennial presence on Fridays and Saturdays. El Cortez benefits from all the surrounding restaurants and bars (think Gold Spike and Commonwealth) in the Fremont East District.
Staffers say not only is the bar being renovated, but it’s expanding beyond the current casino bar’s footprint, and could potentially swallow the area where the keno parlor resides. (The keno desk would then be relocated to the hotel’s sports book area.)
Cornhole and foosball in 3…2…
We’ll keep an eye on the new bar at El Cortez, of course, but in the meantime, you’ll want to take advantage of a new promotion at the historic casino.
Here’s a thingy because we’re too drunk to relay the details.
We refuse to do math unless it directly benefits us. This is that.
So, that’s cool, right? You’re making a withdrawal from the ATM, anyway, so why not get some free slot play?
Once you make your ATM withdrawal, head to the casino cage. There, you’ll be given a certificate for free play. Take the certificate to the loyalty club desk, and the free play is put on your club card.
Vast fortunes have been won in Las Vegas with $15. Actual results may vary.
Now, win something and stick it to The Man. Winning with free play is even sweeter than the regular kind of winning, promise.
There are lots of changes happening in Las Vegas, some of which will change your experience
in a big way.
Here, we’ll take a look at three changes that could fundamentally alter how you park, drink
and eat in Las Vegas.
1. Paid Parking at Las Vegas Casinos
Free parking has long been a perk of playing at Las Vegas casinos, but no more. Starting
June 6, 2016, the practice of giving guests free parking will change for good.
There’s always something new happening in Las Vegas, and up to this point, we’ve said that as a good thing.
MGM Resorts is doing at its Las Vegas destinations what all Las Vegas hotel-casinos have
wanted to do for ages. From here on out, you’ll pay for the privilege of visiting their
Here’s how parking fees break out.
If you’re visiting an MGM Resorts hotel for a short period of time, have no fear. Your first hour in self-parking is free.
We should probably list off the hotels in the MGM Resorts family: Monte Carlo, Luxor, Excalibur, Bellagio, Aria, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Delano, Mirage and New York-New York. We tend to blog while drunk, so that may not be a complete list. You always have Google.
Parking fees, in part, will go toward enhancements like lights that let guests know if spaces are available (green light) or not (red). It’s an imperfect science.
Registered Hotel Guests
If you’re a registered hotel guest, your parking fee gives you in-and-out privileges across all MGM Resorts in Las Vegas. Your parking fee can be “conveniently charged to your room bill,” a phrase which has given us fits of giggles ever since we first read it.
Loyalty Club Members Certain members of the company’s player loyalty club program, M Life Rewards, will get parking gratis. Self-parking is free for Pearl, Gold, Platinum and Noir tier members. Valet is free for Gold, Platinum and Noir members. Players club members can just scan their player’s club card to get in and out, you don’t need a ticket.
Sin City’s newest “one-armed bandits.”
Nevada Residents Locals gets a sweet deal, at least until the end of 2016. Nevada residents can self-park up to 24 hours free until Dec. 29, 2016.
So, then, how much does parking cost at MGM Resorts hotels? We’ll different prices apply to different hotels, actually. Here’s a look.
MGM Resorts partnered with SP+ to manage the 40,000 parking spaces at its 12 Las Vegas resorts. “SP” stands for “Sucker Punch,” and that’s the story we’re sticking to.
Other Las Vegas casinos are taking a wait-and-see approach to paid parking, but we have
little doubt that by 2017 everyone else on The Strip will be onboard and paid parking will
be universal. We recently predicted paid parking will be rolled out at Caesars
Entertainment resorts (pretty much the other half of resorts on the Las Vegas Strip) by Jan. 1, 2017.
Remember, change is the only constant in Las Vegas, for better or worse. And speaking of
worse, that leads us to the drinking part.
2. Skinny Pours at Resort Bars
Not to pick on MGM Resorts, but at the moment they’re the company most focused on cost-
cutting measures, and this one’s a doozy.
It hasn’t been reported in any news outlet we’re aware of, but MGM Resorts has quietly
begun shrinking the pour in its cocktails.
Specifically, the amount of liquor in a “standard pour” (a shot) in mixed drinks at MGM Resorts casinos has always been 1.5 ounces. Now, a top-down mandate requires pours be 1.25 ounces, or 17% less.
Also of interest, and perhaps not so surprising, is the fact comped drinks have less liquor than cocktails you pay for. Comped mixed drink shots are one ounce, while paid-for drinks get the 1.25-ounce pour.
Some people say “more is less.” Some people are idiots.
While that doesn’t sound like a lot, when multiplied out by the thousands of drinks served
at casinos across Las Vegas, it adds up to a substantial amount of liquor and, by
extension, cost savings.
This change has gone virtually unnoticed, a fact partially explained by the fact the
company did extensive blind taste testing to see if diminishing the pour quantity would be
noticed by customers. It was decided most people couldn’t tell the difference, so the new
guideline was rolled out across all MGM Resorts casinos in the city.
Expect to see lots of “pour systems,” used to control liquor costs, rolling out in Vegas casinos. Word has it MGM Resorts is testing bartender-free cocktail dispensers in Mississippi to avoid union troubles.
MGM Resorts isn’t the only company tightening its grip in the hooch, of course.
Feel like you’re not getting that same buzz when you’re in Vegas? There’s a very good
reason. Paying for parking is certainly a pain, but cutting back on our inebriation level
gets us downright cranky.
Update (6/7/16): A rep from MGM Resorts sent a response to our story about the smaller pour size, stating:
“We did analysis last year across our resorts and across Las Vegas. We found that bars and restaurants at MGM resorts were not dispensing liquor in mixed drinks at uniform levels. We also did search across Las Vegas and found the standard liquor pour is 1.25 ounces at most Las Vegas resorts. As a result, we took steps in 2015 to standardize the beverage process to assure each customer receives an accurate and consistent measure of liquor in each mixed drink.”
You say “inaccurate and misleading” like it’s a bad thing!
“Our view is that universal spirits and pour size among our properties has improved the guest experience by offering a consistent product. Bartenders prepare drinks more efficiently and consistently by maximizing the use of free pour jiggers and bar guns. By also aligning these procedures we also make training and transfers between resorts efficient and more available for employees seeking to advance their careers.”
Just bask in it for a minute.
MGM Resorts added: “We expected no negative comments from our customers and have received none.”
Here’s what we learned: 1) MGM Resorts actually made its pours smaller in 2015, not recently. 2) Less liquor in drinks improves the guest experience. 3) The decision to make pours smaller was made, in part, to help bartenders advance their careers. 4) “Universal Spirits” would make a great band name.
Thanks to Gina Lazara and Channel 13 here in Las Vegas for covering this story. (Note: This blog isn’t the one that first reported MGM Resorts would begin charging for parking.)
3. Surge Pricing at Restaurants
Here’s a relatively new practice that’s equally ingenious and frustrating.
In more and more cases, Las Vegas restaurants post menus online that don’t include prices. It’s not a huge deal until you understand the reason.
The newest tactic used by restaurants, especially those at large resorts on the Las Vegas
Strip, is to change their prices depending upon demand. Surge pricing, as it’s commonly
called in the ridesharing world. Surprise!
That’s right. A given restaurant on a Tuesday might charge $14.50 for chicken parm. That
exact same dish, during a busier period, such as on a Saturday, could be priced at $17.50.
Is nothing sacred?
Because of the transient nature of a tourist-based clientele, restaurants are relying on
the fact guests will only visit once during any given stay and not notice the inflated pricing. Some Las Vegas bars have used surge pricing for cocktails for some time, and now food is subject to the same WTF.
There are teams of analysts behind the scenes calculating how to adjust pricing to make
the most of fluctuations in demand, and juggling cost and pricing to extract the most profit
possible given a host of variables.
You might say that in some cases, the bean-counters are literally counting beans, then
deciding how much to charge for them given increases and decreases in demand. It’s good
business, but doesn’t give us a good feeling.
It’s easy to be carefree when you’re a model.
So, knowing such changes are going on, it means we need to stay even more vigilant as
guests of Las Vegas casinos and restaurants. And parking garages.
The more we know about how things work, the better prepared we’ll be to protect our
bankrolls and patronize the establishments we feel are giving us a fair shake.
We’d love to hear your reaction to these new trends, as well as any tips and tricks for
getting the biggest bang for your bucks in Las Vegas!
The Mirage is cutting back on its free volcano shows, bigtime. The cost-cutting measure means you’ll have fewer chances to see one of the best free things to do in Las Vegas.
The volcano show at Mirage opened in 1989, when offering lavish free spectacles was used to lure gamblers into Las Vegas casinos. The Mirage volcano underwent a renovation in 1996, and was closed for most of 2008 while it underwent another renovation, at a cost of $25 million.
The schedule changes means 67% fewer fireballs! We’d get more upset about this, but we’re a lava, not a fighta.
The Mirage volcano was designed by a company called WET, the same firm that designed the Bellagio fountains. The all-caps company name is less annoying when you discover it stands for “Water Entertainment Technologies.”
Here’s the skinny on the new Mirage volcano schedule. The volcano will erupt at 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, there will be an additional 10:00 p.m. show.
The volcano showtimes have been cut back from happening every half hour, 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. If you hurry, you can still pretend that’s the case because the Mirage Web site’s metadata hasn’t been updated.
Thanks to our friends at Las Vegas Advisor for the tip about the change in showtimes.
The cost-cutting at Mirage is reminiscent of when Treasure Island, also in the MGM Resorts family of hotels, sent its “Sirens of TI” to Davy Jones’ Locker (read more), replacing it with a CVS. The sexiest of the pharmacies, we might add.
Even without the pyrotechnic razzmatazz, it’s still a lovely lagoon. Get used to seeing it this way.
So, why would Las Vegas resorts cut back on free attractions? Because they can. Or think they can. (We’re counting down the minutes until The Mirage claims cutting back on showtimes is done because it’s part of a green initiative to save energy.)
Mirage says it will monitor visitor reactions to the schedule change. Translation: “We’ll see if fewer shows has any impact on revenue, but switching back is about as likely as bringing back coin-operated slot machines or Siegfried & Roy.”
Las Vegas has changed a lot over the years, and resorts are relying less and less on free attractions to distinguish themselves. While casino revenue used to subsidize such attractions and spaces, now, every square inch of a resort has to make money, or it’s downsized or removed altogether. The park-like area outside Bally’s, for example, was replaced with Grand Bazaar Shops. Which will also feature, wait for it, a CVS.
The Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens have, for the first time, drawn inspiration from Japan for its spring display.
The oil-paper umbrella originated in China. Which is pretty much the same as Japan if you look at a map, from a distance, while squinting.
The Bellagio’s new spring display showcases many aspects of Asian culture, including the fact Asian visitors drop a metric ass-ton of cash at Las Vegas casinos. Wait, sorry, that wasn’t in the news release.
This is from the release, “Pairing the soothing aesthetics of Japan’s traditional gardens with Bellagio’s striking grandeur; the new display boasts a vibrant collection of more than 82,000 flowers and larger-than-life floral creations.” Back to more pretty photos!
Some of the 82,000 flowers. We’d tell you which ones, but that would involve “remembering” or “note-taking,” not our favorite things.
Flowers at the Conservatory include tulips, daffodils and snapdragons. Thank you, news release!
Live musicians (our favorite kind) perform songs on a floating platform from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. each day.
No dancing, please. You might crush a snapdragon.
In a pond, there are 75 live Koi fish (again, our favorite kind).
“Koi” is a Japanese word that means “carp.” Koi makes them sound more exotic, so just go with it.
Also on-hand is a 12-foot tall traditional Japanese-inspired tea house.
The ideal floor size of a tea room is 4.5 tatami mats, whatever those might actually be. We are a Las Vegas blog, not a foreign exchange student.
Other cultural icons at the Bellagio Conservatory include the turtle, below. In Japanese culture, turtles represent longevity and good luck. Or soup. But mostly those other two things.
The turtle on display at Bellagio is similar to Gamera, the building-crushing mutant that got its ass whipped by Godzilla. But with flowers.
There are a few elements of this year’s display that are head-scratchers. While the hotel may claim they were inspired by Japanese culture, they seem to have been inspired by, “What can we throw up there on the cheap?”
Did we mention the Bellagio Conservatory is still free? All is forgiven.
While the spring display may not necessarily be the Conservatory’s most memorable, we have to keep things in perspective. It’s free, and it could be a CVS. ‘Nuff said.
These are the rare, delicate “flowers we also didn’t bother to write down the name of.”
One of the highlights of the display is an 18-foot-tall cherry blossom tree with 300 acrylic blossoms and leaves.
Whatever happened to the Acrylic Blossoms? Loved their music.
A six-foot-tall crane stands nearby, wings outstretched as if to say, “Please, can we wrap up this blog post? I have to get busy sharing some of these amazing photos on Pinterest.” Or something.
The red-crowned crane, or Japanese crane, is among the rarest in the world and symbolizes fidelity. And in Las Vegas, it’s about the only thing that does.
Before you leave the Conservatory, make sure to check out the giant Fabergé egg fashioned from (wait for it) flowers. The egg is a clever cross-promotion for an exhibit in the Bellagio’s Gallery of Fine Art, “Fabergé Revealed.” The gallery features more than 200 objects made by a dead Russian. Although that’s probably not the description Bellagio uses in its marketing materials. They’re fancy like that. Learn more.
Despite the fact this has absolutely nothing to do with Japanese culture, it’s still a great photo op, not to mention it could make 4,800 omelets.
Even after years of Bellagio displays, we still enjoy seeing what the Bellagio’s approximately 140 horticulturists have up their sod-soiled sleeves. And like we said, it remains one of the best free things to do in Las Vegas.
Please enjoy more photos in our exclusive gallery of the Japanese and dead Russian-inspired spring display at Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens.
In the Cosmopolitan’s registration area, you’ll find a gorgeous set of columns decked out with video displays. The video art shown on the columns looks a little like this.
Visuals so spectacular, it’ll make you gawk like an Assemblyman at a sorority carwash. Feel free to use that in your ads, Cosmopolitan.
You can’t really get a sense of the gloriousness in a mere photograph, of course. So, because we have the generous nature of a Dominican nun, we snagged some video of the video for your edification and to kill some time at work.
Live dangerously and go for the 1080p high-def video.
Pretty amazing stuff, don’t you think?
The Cosmo recently upgraded the 408 video displays on its columns and behind its registration desk. Each of the columns has an astonishing 100 million pixels each. We know because we counted.
The polished floors and mirrored ceilings intensity the spectacularity. Spiced rum also can’t hurt.
The Cosmopolitan says 100 new computers send content to the bezel-less, smart displays. They are clearly smarter than we are, as this Las Vegas blog wouldn’t know a bezel if it tripped on one.
Enjoy this free showing of “50 Shades of Having Few if Any Bezels.”
The big news lately, and we probably should have put “news” in quotation marks, is the Cosmo’s video screens (including the hotel’s 65-foot digital marquee) recently began showing a video art piece by none other than Yoko Ono. Yes, that Yoko Ono.
Let’s just say you probably won’t want to make a special trip for professional coattail-rider Ono’s video art.
To get an idea of what Yoko Ono’s video art looks like, just just imagine the default computer wallpaper for the Windows XP operating system. Now, superimpose the phrase “Imagine Peace” on that in 24 languages. No, really, that’s the whole thing.
Yoko Ono’s video presentation is very calming. Then again, so is being shot with a tranquilizer dart.
Here’s a peek at some of the best work in Yoko Ono’s career, mainly because it doesn’t involve her singing.
Thankfully, most of the video art displayed at Cosmopolitan was done by an actual video artist, Yorgo Alexpoulos. The New York-based artist’s work is actually worthy of the eye-popping technology said to have 12 times the resolution of a single HD channel.
And you think it’s rough keeping up with the fingerprints on your smartphone.
The video displays in the Cosmo’s registration area are truly a feast for the eyes, and a great reason to visit the hotel. As if you needed another reason. It’s the Cosmopolitan.
See below for more photos, and while you’re exploring, check out our article about things to do in Las Vegas which has been viewed nearly 200,000 times, and we’re not even making that up. (No, really this time.)
Here’s something we didn’t know until Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh told us about it: Downtown Las Vegas is home to the world’s largest functioning fire hydrant.
Why? Vegas, that’s why.
We’re gonna need a bigger dog.
Downtown’s 15-foot-tall hydrant is attached to the Hydrant Club, a private dog park that also features daycare, boarding and training services. The Hydrant Club is across from the former Western casino.
The Internet seems to think there are other, larger working fire hydrants, but we’re going to go with what Tony Hsieh and the Hydrant Club team says. Probably because we like to think Las Vegas has the biggest everything.