Monthly Archives: March 2015

Downtown Container Park’s Praying Mantis Breathes Fire, Also Has Rhythm

If you haven’t been to the Downtown Container Park in (wait for it) downtown Las Vegas, you’re in for a treat.

It’s a quirky collection of about 30 bars, restaurants and shops, all residing in giant shipping containers. Oh, and there’s also a treehouse playground suitable for kids and their adults.

But most nights, the Container Park’s fire-breathing, praying mantis is the star of the show.

Container Park mantis

The giant mantis is build on a 1983 GMC dump truck, so it’s mobile and street legal.

The larger-than-life mantis was originally created for the Burning Man festival by aerospace engineer and artist, Kirk Jellum. Jellum said the mantis is a 150:1 scale replica of a female mantis he found in a field. That one probably didn’t do the fire thing.

The mantis took 3,000 hours to build.

The mantis is 40 feet tall and 30 feet wide, and it burns about 50 gallons of liquid propane each day. The flames from the mantis reach about six stories high.

Fire-breathing mantis

Better pack some big-ass marshmallows.

As if that weren’t awesome enough, the mantis has a 4,000-watt sound system. Which means from time to time the music gets cranked up and the mantis gets down.

The praying mantis stands at the entrance of the Downtown Container Park, so you can’t miss it. It operates from sundown until the Container Park closes. See details.

If you visit Downtown Container Park with friends or family, you might want to keep the fire-breathing aspect of the mantis to yourself. One of the more entertaining free things to do in downtown Las Vegas is to stroll by the mantis and watch the reactions when the fire blasts up into the sky, as in our video, accompanied by a shock wave of sound.

Even if you know it’s coming, you’ll jump, too. Just play it off like you were goofing around for the benefit of your companions. We’ll never tell. Because in Las Vegas, we know how to keep secrets. (Your results may vary.)

If you’re looking for more fun things to do in Las Vegas, we’ve got you covered. Several of them are even legal.

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Linq Hotel Just Keeps Whipping Out Happy Surprises

The Linq Hotel & Casino, for many years the Imperial Palace and for a minute The Quad, has come a long way. A recent visit revealed more new surprises. Nothing too Earth-shattering, but along with room renovations and other upgrades, the Linq Hotel is slowly shedding its “meh” reputation and turning into a hotel-casino worthy of your Las Vegas to-do list.

Here are some recent surprises at the Linq Hotel & Casino, both big and small.

The first surprise would seem small, but to this Las Vegas blog, it’s huge. For the first time in recent memory (at least eight years, by our estimation), the Linq has pressure-cleaned the floor of its self-parking garage.

Linq Hotel & Casino

Don’t laugh. It was starting to look like the floor of an adult movie theater. If those still exist.

Off to an encouraging start!

Next, the doors of the long-neglected elevators in the self-parking garage have been repainted. Again, small to some, but a sign of a renewed commitment to getting the Linq hotel out of TripAdvisor purgatory.

Linq Hotel & Casino

The door colors don’t yet match the color coding inside the elevators, but we’re not quibbling at this point.

The surprises continue inside the hotel.

The hotel’s shopping promenade, which has been empty since the renovations began, has suddenly sprung to life. Or sprang. Springed? Stupid public education!

Linq Hotel & Casino

Look! There’s stuff! Which the Linq Hotel & Casino should totally use as their advertising tagline.

There are multiple shops in the revamped shops area. They aren’t going for flashy. That’s outside at the Linq shopping and entertainment district. Here, it’s the basics.

Linq Hotel & Casino

Las Vegas trivia: Did you know many casino gift shops don’t sell gum? That’s because casinos got tired of cleaning up the discarded gum. (Ditto at Disneyland.)

Within the collection of shops is a spacious new tattoo joint, Club Tattoo.

Club Tattoo

Club Tattoo was created by Linkin Park’s frontman Chester Bennington. A “frontman” is like a lead singer, but blogs sometimes use the other term because they want to distract readers from the fact they can’t think of a Linkin Park joke.

Next surprise? Remember when they closed Fat Tuesday, the slushy drink place? Well, it’s been replaced with a new slushy drink place!

Outside in the Linq shopping mall is a Purple Zebra featuring both the slush and a wide variety of drink receptacles. In Vegas, you can never have too many slushy drink outlets, so there’s a petite version in the Linq Hotel’s shopping area.

Linq Hotel Purple Zebra

Fat Tuesday, third party operator. Purple Zebra, operated in-house by the hotel’s owner, Caesars Entertainment (where we worked at one time). Smart move, Benjaminwise.

A few feet away is a new walk-up snack shop, Nook Express, with all the usual hotel snack shop goodness like coffee and pastries.

Nook Express

The Nook Express has been open a couple of weeks and heralds another surprise at the Linq Hotel. You have to love heralding. Much better than portenting. A portent is like a herald experiencing PMS, if you ask us.

There’s a reason they call it “express.” That’s because the Nook Express will soon have a full-fledged sister eatery, Nook Cafe. The Nook Cafe will be in the back of the shopping area, in the space formerly occupied by Betty’s Diner and Cyber Cafe.

Here’s what it looks like at the moment, so there are obviously still some surprises in store.

Linq Nook Cafe

You can’t be a Las Vegas hotel without a hotel cafe. It’s the law.

Great news for anyone who spent time waiting for the old elevators in the former Imperial Palace, the elevators have been overhauled, and our recent visit was the first-ever when we didn’t see a crowd of surly people sighing deep sighs of frustration at the excruciating elevator wait times.

Nobody’s winning any interior design awards here, but faster elevators beats out fanciness any day.

Linq Hotel & Casino

Thanks to that security guard for reminding us not to take photos or video. Like the video below, for example.

This seems like a good juncture to share a slick video we took from one end of the Linq Hotel’s shopping area to the other. It should be noted that by “slick” we mean “we don’t claim to be a videographer, so keep your feedback to yourself.”

So, are you all surprised out? Because we haven’t even shared these new direction signs with the pointy hands yet.

Linq Hotel & Casino

You might notice nothing at the Linq Hotel & Casino has Linq branding on it. That’s because the last hotel name didn’t stick. Apparently, this blog isn’t the only one with commitment issues.

Heading into the casino, the 3535 Bar has turned out to be a striking centerpiece to the renovated casino. Another pleasant surprise. (By the way, the hotel’s address is 3535 Las Vegas Boulevard, thus the bar’s name.)

Linq Hotel & Casino

The vortex shape at 3535 Bar echoes the distinctive exterior of the Linq Hotel. We probably should’ve taken a photo of that.

Here’s a photo of the distinctive exterior of the Linq Hotel, which we’re pretty much saying to see if we can make you feel like you’re having déjà vu.

Linq hotel las vegas

Yes, the Linq Hotel & Casino is just happy to see you.

One of our favorite surprises at the Linq Hotel, however, has to be the new restaurant, Off the Strip. Yes, that’s the name, and it’s on the Strip. Get past it.

Off the Strip restaurant

Off the Strip is accessible through the hotel or via the Linq shopping district. Both entrances lead to some damn fine eats. And drinks. And TVs, but we enjoyed it, anyway.

Off the Strip is a great new addition to the already plentiful collection of dining offerings at the Linq.

If you’ve ever read this blog before, you know how much we obsess over chicken parm. Well, we’re thrilled (and surprised) to say Off the Strip serves what we’ve deemed the best chicken parm on the Las Vegas Strip.

Off the Strip chicken parm

This chicken parm is second only to downtown’s Triple George Grill in the Las Vegas chicken parm pecking order, and that’s saying something.

A meatball sub appetizer was similarly delicious, just make sure to request a side of sauce.

Off the Strip meatball

Hitting these at the bar will send your drunchies home to their mommy.

The Sweet Chili & Bacon Prawns were quite the happy surprise given prawns and bacon are natural enemies in the wild.

Off the Strip prawn bacon

That slaw isn’t just for decoration. Delicious.

So, that’s quite a few surprises, and there are more on the way, including the re-opening of the hotel’s pool. The Linq shopping district is struggling at the moment, but somebody’s paying attention to the Linq hotel, and it shows. More, please.

In time, we’re hopeful the Linq hotel might start exhibiting some character all its own, but in the meantime, we’ll take the energy of O’Sheas, the fun and food at Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar, the family-friendly unicycle stylings of Jeff Civillico and welcoming vibe of Tag Bar.

Know what we just started wondering? How has the list of things we like at the Linq hotel gotten so long without us noticing? And when did we start asking so many rhetorical questions?

More photos below, and let us know if you stumble upon other surprises at the Linq Hotel & Casino Las Vegas. Because you’ll be stumbling, right? Otherwise, you might be doing Las Vegas wrong.

Linq Hotel Rolls Out Surprises

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Yahoo’s New Comedy, “Sin City Saints,” Debuts March 23

“It’s tough to be a Saint in Sin City” says the trailer for a new Las Vegas-set comedy series, “Sin City Saints.” Yahoo’s streaming comedy makes its debut March 23, 2015 and we’ll be watching. Because Las Vegas.

The trailer for the new online series about a pro basketball team is a mixed bag of sitcom tropes and edgy comedy, but the show appears to have promise, despite the participation of Tom Arnold.

Sin City Saints

“Sin City Saints” comes from Mandalay Sports Media. No relation.

The show’s executive producer is Mike Tollin, who also produced “Smallville,” “Varsity Blues” and 2005’s “Coach Carter.” The producer and director of “Sin City Saints,” Bryan Gordon, has a fairly solid pedigree, too, having worked on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Office” and a billion other shows, some of which we actually recognized.

“Sin City Saints” is scheduled for eight episodes, and stars Andrew Santino as a tycoon (presumably a mash-up of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and dipshit former Clippers owner Donald Sterling) who buys a basketball franchise because, in the character’s words, he’s bored.

There are some familiar faces in the trailer, including cameos by longtime Vegas performer Penn Jillette and Carrot Top (see below).

Carrot Top

Carrot Top’s show at Luxor is a must-see in Las Vegas. We were as surprised as you are.

Former NBA players Rick Fox and Baron Davis are also in the cast, as well as Malin Akerman (“Watchmen”), B.K. Cannon, Justin Chon and Keith Powers.

Here’s a look at the trailer for “Sin City Saints.”

Yeah, we’ve watched the trailer 20 times and still can’t figure out what joke they’re going for with “Nun Control,” but there’s enough potential to keep us watching just to see what locations are used on the show and which Las Vegas performers turn up.

“Sin City Saints” will show on Yahoo Screen, an on-demand streaming service. Other popular Yahoo originals have included “Burning Love” and “Community.”

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Even Yoko Ono Can’t Ruin Glorious Video Art Display at Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

Here’s something to add to your list of things to do in Las Vegas, and be sure to bring along your eyeballs. All of them.

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.

Cosmopolitan video art

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.

Cosmopolitan video art

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.

Cosmopolitan video

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.

Cosmopolitan video art Yoko Ono

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.

Cosmo Las Vegas lobby

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.)

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Video Art

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Three Shows Circle Linq Hotel Residency, Magician Mat Franco Lands the Gig

The changes they are many at the Linq Hotel (formerly The Quad and Imperial Palace), but the one that interests us most is the one still under wraps, of course.

Three shows have come dangerously close to becoming the new resident show at the Linq, but “America’s Got Talent” alum Mat Franco is rumored to have snagged a coveted headliner gig at the ever-evolving hotel.

Update (4/2/15): Caesars Entertainment has confirmed our story. Mat Franco will begin his headlining gig at The Linq Hotel & Casino on June 24, 2015.

Mat Franco Las Vegas

Mat Franco is such a good magician, he could even make the period disappear at the end of this sentence if he wanted to

Mat Franco was the winner of the ninth season of the television competition show, “America’s Got Talent.” The program also spawned another Las Vegas headliner, season two-winning ventriloquist Terry Fator (who performs at The Mirage).

Franco was the first magician ever to win “America’s Got Talent,” and that’s probably because he’s got some serious magic chops.

Here’s Mat Franco’s official site.

About his headlining stint at Linq Hotel, Franco’s site says he’ll offer a “fresh, fun, and feel-good twist on magic that defies all expectations. In a full-scale production built on brand-new, never-before-seen material, the 26-year-old magician delivers his most spectacular performance yet, but still keeps his love of getting up close with the crowd at the heart of every show. With his signature brand of breezy humor, Mat mixes his amazingly inventive and always stunning magic with crowd-guided improv to create a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that’s completely unique to each audience and entirely unforgettable.”

Given his mastery of public relations speak, Franco should fit right into the Las Vegas entertainment community. (Mat, we kid because we love.)

And here’s a look at Mat Franco in action. This Las Vegas blog has done magic. This isn’t magic. It’s sorcery!

Nearly as interesting as this news is which shows almost ended up at the Linq.

Producers of the stage version of “Magic Mike” (the movie featuring Channing Tatum) were interested in the Linq’s showroom as a possible venue at one point, but the deal was thwarted by a contractual hiccup related to the “Chippendales” show at Rio.

An agreement with “Chippendales” and Caesars Entertainment, the company that owns both the Linq hotel and Rio Las Vegas, precludes Caesars Entertainment from having another male revue at its Las Vegas resorts. So, no-go.

The other show in contention for the Linq showroom was a rebirth of “Peepshow,” which once ran at Planet Hollywood and closed on Sep. 1, 2013. No word on whether Holly Madison would reprise her titular role as Bo Peep if the show resurfaces at another Las Vegas hotel.

An announcement about Mat Franco’s residency at the Linq is expected soon, and is likely to coincide with news about a retooling of the Linq’s showroom, home to Frank Marino’s “Diva’s Las Vegas,” Jeff Civillico’s “Comedy in Action” and previously “Human Nature” and “Recycled Percussion.”

The theater will be converted into arena seating (adios tables and booths). From the looks of Mat Franco’s act, the Linq showroom will be going through a lot of seats!

Soon (translation: when we sober up), we’ll share updates about the latest developments in the Linq’s shopping promenade as well as the opening of the new Purple Zebra frozen drink shop (formerly Fat Tuesdays) and Nook Express snack shop, as well as details about the new hotel cafe that will replace the former Betty’s Diner, the Nook Cafe.

More. Better. Different. We flipping love Las Vegas.

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