Vital Vegas Podcast, Episode 3: Derek Stevens Exclusives, Plus the 20 Best Free Things to Do in Las Vegas and More

It’s back, it’s bigger and it’s powered by Captain Morgan spiced rum.

It’s the Vital Vegas Podcast!

Vital Vegas Podcast

Notice we didn’t say “it’s better.”

This week on the Vital Vegas Podcast, we interview one of our personal Las Vegas heroes, Derek Stevens.

Stevens is the co-owner of The D Las Vegas, Golden Gate and 18 Fremont (the temporary name of the former Las Vegas Club).

Derek Stevens talks about a variety of subjects, including what’s in store at his Downtown Las Vegas Events Center and the Las Vegas Club, a casino he purchased with his brother, Greg Stevens, for $40 million.

Stevens also delves into why The D just launched a program where players can use their loyalty club points at two restaurants on Fremont East, Le Thai and Bocho. More restaurant partnerships are expected soon.

Derek Stevens

Derek Stevens cozies up to a chunk of the Blarney Stone at The D. It was recovered after being stolen by what is known in criminal circles as “a complete bonehead.” Long story.

In a telling and candid moment, Stevens also shares something few know about the casino mogul-in-the-making. It involves the personal toll of being the only casino owner in Las Vegas who can frequently be found at The D’s bar, Longbar, greeting guests and shaking hands. Lots and lots of hands.

Also on the show, we mark the third anniversary of the excellent “Million Dollar Quartet” at Harrah’s Las Vegas. The show opened Feb. 19, 2013.

We dug up an interview from 2013 with the show’s director, Eric Schaeffer. Schaeffer reveals how he helps prep his performers, and explains why “Million Dollar Quartet” is different from the typical tribute show.

Listen now! You can catch up on past episodes on iTunes.

 

Also in this episode, we answer the timeless question, “What are the 10 best free things to do in Las Vegas?”

In fact, we go the extra mile and provide the best 20. Yes, we’ve listed them below so you don’t have to suffer through the podcast. We’re proactive like that.

20 Best Free Things to Do in Las Vegas

We decided to skip the obvious choices on everyone’s list of the best free things to do in Las Vegas. That includes the Bellagio fountains, the Mirage volcano, the free circus acts at Circus Circus and the endlessly entertaining wildlife at Flamingo.

Here are our top 20.

1. Bellagio Conservatory (bonus: chocolate fountains at Jean Phillipe Patisserie, nearby)
2. Lobby video displays at Cosmopolitan
3. Berlin Wall and other curiosities at Main Street Station, including Winston Churchill’s snooker table
4. Big Elvis show at Harrah’s
5. Light shows at Fremont Street Experience, including two new ones featuring Imagine Dragons and Tiesto (bonus: free summer concerts)
6. “Ka” behind-the-scenes tour at MGM Grand
7. Flame-throwing praying mantis at Downtown Container Park
8. 107 Skylounge (formerly Level 107 Lounge) at Stratosphere
9. Gold & Silver Pawn Shop (featured in the “Pawn Stars” reality series) and the adjoining Pawn Plaza
10. Photo op with the Las Vegas sign

free things to do in Las Vegas

Sometimes, scam artists pose as “official photographers” at the Las Vegas sign. Give them a condescending look and move on.

11. Rock memorabilia at Hard Rock Hotel
12. Photo with a million bucks at Binion’s
13. Public art at Wynn Las Vegas
14. Carved woolly mammoth tusk at Treasure Island
15. Flair bartending at casinos around Las Vegas
16. Seahorses at Seahorse Lounge, Caesars Palace
17. Ethel M Chocolate factory tour
18. Craps lessons at various casinos
19. Free games (pool, shuffleboard, foosball) at places like Gold Spike, the sports book at Cosmopolitan, Encore Players Club, Beer Park and Slots-A-Fun at Circus Circus
20. People-watching

Get more free things to do in Las Vegas.

free things to do in Las Vegas

What, you thought we were kidding about the snooker table?

Of course, we couldn’t stop there. Here’s our list of the top five free Las Vegas things you should absolutely skip.

1. Swarovski light show at Grand Bazaar Shops
2. Fall of Atlantis at Forum Shops
3. Hand of Faith at Golden Nugget (it’s a stunt double at the moment)
4. Giant rocks masquerading as art at Bellagio
5. Rainstorm at Miracle Mile Shops

Also one the show is our relatively twisted review of “Twisted Vegas,” an alleged comedy which just opened at Westgate. The show pokes fun at Las Vegas, so we figure turnabout is fair play.

Twisted Vegas show

“Twisted Vegas. It’s repetitive, but at least what’s being repeated isn’t very compelling!”™

We’d love to hear what you think of the Vital Vegas Podcast, especially if you feel we should stop doing it, because we’re exhausted and these bags under our eyes are are starting to look like saddlebags. And not in a good way.

Thanks for listening, and a special thanks to Derek Stevens for being our first podcast guest that we didn’t completely make up.

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  • DanShort

    Just listened to ep 2 and downloaded three. Enjoyed two but what happened to Mee even though I disagree with the new Wynn buffet.

  • Genaro Dispa

    Keep doing it! I’m a fan! And the bags are age related, not work related, so skip that one as a excuse.

    • Thank you, sir. Tonight, someone close to me (whom you know) said, “You need to drink more water. The bags under your eyes look like dried raisins.”

  • Justin Combs

    Isn’t it the million dollar quartet?

    • Thanks for that catch. I’d say it was a typo, except I did it twice, so that just makes it boneheaded. “)

  • Chris McCleary

    Keep it up Scott. Just listened to the podcast, as you said it’s definitely in the top three!!!!

    • Thanks. That’s about the most positive feedback I’ve gotten so far, so I’ll take it.

  • I would even include that the Free Show at the Rio is worth seeing. They even throw beads without having to show your naughty bits!

    • Lewmoore

      Except, sadly, it is kaput. Another patented CET move: let’s remove an existing feature/attraction/benefit of this property and replace it with nothing.

    • Yeah, that was always worth a stop, but they pulled the plug. But soon…mini golf!

  • jammyjo

    I stopped after the Derek Stevens interview, but found him to be interesting. Haven’t been to the D, but makes me want to go. I’m amazed at his passion. Many execs have the same passion, but it’s interesting how that gets lost in the execution. Good service doesn’t define Vegas anymore, and the fun factor is gone too.

    • The D is definitely worth a visit. The vibe is different than any other downtown casino.

  • Funkhouser_1

    I enjoyed the podcast so far. I can tell you are getting more comfortable with it. You might want to try to modulate your voice slightly to give it some more bass. Also maybe you need a little background white noise or music to pep it up. Ever listen to the moth on NPR? There presentation can make the most boring stuff entertaining (yes I know the format is different). BTW glad your mixing it up, but I find Derek Stevens a lazy interview at this point. This guy has been over covered by the LV blogosphere. Your writing shows a lot of talent, go after where others have not tread. I’d love to hear Oscar Goodman, Melody Sweets, Seth Schorr, or hell even Phil Ruffin talk about Vegas over Derek at this point.

    • Appreciate your thoughts. Derek does do other interviews, but I challenge you to find one where he mentions having to ice his hand at the end of the day! I have no idea if I can get interviews with those other folks, because I don’t know them, but appreciate your spitballing a list of possibilities.

      • Bouldersteve

        Enjoyed your interview with Stevens however I wish you had asked more questions regarding the Vegas Club.

        • Thanks. I didn’t ask more because in the majority of cases, they don’t know the answers yet. Too early for any specifics…

  • mmamn

    Went to the Ethel M Choc Factory, there was very little to see as far as the tour, was disappointing. Though did get a free piece of chocolate. But the Botanical Cactus Garden right there is very nice and spent a bit of time walking through there.

  • Rooster

    Good Podcast. Great interview, also.

    If downtown had a livelier pool scene (and no, I’m not thinking dayclubs, etc.), I’d stay there other than the strip. I hope that’s what he was talking about.

    Anyway, thanks much for the blog and the podcast. Always informative.

  • Troy Swezey

    I like the picture of the snooker table. I ‘snuck’ up there one night. Didn’t know if I was allowed there or not. Nice space.
    I have front row tix to the Howard Jones OMD show. Yeah!

    • Yeah, they slipped that in after the original announcement. Like his stuff.

  • Troy Swezey

    How does one get on the free KA tour?
    Oh wait, maybe I will click the link. I best go before they start charging for parking and I boycott all MGM properties.

    • Just show up! It’s free, no tickets or reservations required.

  • Bouldersteve

    You are right with your top free things to do in Las Vegas. People watching should rank higher than photo a Binions though.

    • People-watching might out-rank everything else, actually!