Monthly Archives: January 2016

Bellagio Conservatory Pitches Wu to Asian Customers With Chinese New Year Display

The Conservatory & Botanical Garden at Bellagio Las Vegas is once again beckoning Asian visitors (translation: gamblers) with its Chinese New Year’s display.

Bellagio Conservatory Chinese New Year

Let the cavalcade of pinnable photos begin!

The Conservatory’s elaborate display features a range of symbols of significance to Asian cultures, including monkeys since 2016 is the Year of the Monkey in the Chinese zodiac.

Bellagio Chinese New Year

Monkeys are one of the five major animal styles used in Chinese martial arts. The others are Tiger, Crane, Leopard and Panda.

Much of this year’s Chinese New Year display will be familiar to Las Vegas regulars, but Bellagio always makes sure to add new elements to keep things interesting. And, of course, there are always thousands of fresh flowers.

Well, they couldn't very well call it a Botanical Garden without some botanicals, could they?

They couldn’t very well call it a Botanical Garden without some botanicals, could they?

We haven’t seen the annual Chinese New Year display news release this year, so we’re winging it on the Conservatory & Botanical Garden factoids.

The costumes of the children in the display are made up of about 1,800 flowers.

Bellagio Chinese New Year

Worst. Goalkeeper. Ever.

It’s adorable that children appear in the Bellagio display, because the Chinese New Year actually began with a mystical creature called Nian that would devour villagers, especially children.

The legend says Nian was afraid of the color red, which explains why celebrants hang red lanterns, use red firecrackers and wear red clothing during Chinese New Year festivities. Red represents virtue, truth and sincerity.

Bellagio Chinese lanterns

Red is also the color Wesley Snipes advised not bet on in “Passenger 57.”

Chinese New Year goes by a number of names, including New Year Festival, Lunar New Year and Spring Festival.

The Chinese New Year display features lots of the aforementioned Chinese lanterns, Ding pots and a metric ass-ton of peaches. Peaches, it turns out, are a symbol of wealth, abundance and a long, healthy life.

There are also a lot of lucky coins, several hundred of which form a lucky coin tree.

Bellagio Conservatory Las Vegas

Round coins with a square hole were first introduced in China around 350 B.C., at approximately the same time as bad driving.

There’s even a koi pond. Koi are more sort of a Japanese thing than a Chinese thing, but let’s not get bogged down in details.

Bellagio Chinese New Year

Koi played a major role in a recent kabuki production on the hotel’s Lake Bellagio. Check it out.

The Bellagio Conservatory remains one of the most stunning free attractions in Las Vegas. While most of the displays reflect a season (spring, summer, fall and winter), the Chinese New Year display is specifically intended to woo Asian visitors.

Chinese players have long been a lucrative source of revenue for Las Vegas casinos. They also have some of the most interesting gambling superstitions, including the belief one should never have sex before hitting the casino. See more fascinating Chinese superstitions.

Bellagio Chinese New Year

We are especially fond of the streams of water that leap from one part of the display to another. Yes, we are capable of whimsy, thank you.

The Chinese New Year display at Bellagio runs through March 12, 2016. The spring display runs from March 18 to May 14, 2016.

The actual Chinese New Year is celebrated Feb. 8, 2016.

Bellagio Conservatory Chinese bridge

Fortune cookie say: Fortune cookies are Japanese, not Chinese.

See more things to do in Las Vegas in our seemingly boundless archive of such things.

Bellagio Conservatory flowers

Imagine all the bees doing the walk of shame after pollinating the 140,000 flowers used in Bellagio’s Chinese New Year exhibit.

Enjoy more photos of the Chinese New year display at Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Garden, several of which are close to actually being in focus.

Bellagio Chinese New Year 2016

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Kiss Mini Golf to Close and Relocate to Rio Las Vegas

The Kiss Mini Golf attraction just off the Las Vegas Strip will close on Feb. 7, 2016.

The popular, glow-in-the-dark Kiss Mini Golf will relocate to, of all places, Rio Las Vegas. The new location is expected to open sometime in April, 2016.

Kiss Mini Golf

The Kiss Mini Golf party isn’t over, it’s just going on the road.

Kiss Mini Golf will take up residence in the space formerly occupied by the Rio’s Village Seafood Buffet. The Rio’s seafood buffet was recently combined with the hotel’s Carnival World Buffet. Read more.

The Kiss Mini Golf at Rio will be a monster at 13,000 square feet. Appropriate, since the company operating the venue is Monster Mini Golf. There will be a quiz.

Rio seafood buffet

The Rio’s shuttered Village Seafood Buffet will be transformed into a buffet of rock. Or something.

No official announcement of the move has been made, but that makes spilling of the beans even more fun.

Kiss Mini Golf at Rio

A peek over the curtain at the entrance of the former seafood buffet.

Kiss Mini Golf is a family-friendly blast, and should provide some much-needed energy to Rio Las Vegas. The current Kiss Mini Golf location boasts a wedding chapel, and there’s no word yet on whether the new Rio location will offer that amenity. The Kiss memorabilia and gift shop will certainly make the move.

Kiss Mini Golf Las Vegas

The original Kiss Mini Golf had its grand opening on March 15, 2012. While it has some groupies, the location (in a strip mall) has been challenging.

Also livening things up at Rio will be “Rock of Ages,” opening Jan. 25 in the newly renamed Rock of Ages Theater (previously Crown Theater). Guy Fieri’s new restaurant, El Burro Borracho, also opens soon in the former Buzio’s Seafood space.

Honestly, Rio could use a boost. Remember, this is the same resort that devotes a large swath of its casino floor to timeshare sales. Not near the casino floor, or just within sight of the casino floor. It’s on the actual casino floor.

Rio Las Vegas timeshare

Don’t let your head explode. You’ll never get the stain out of your clothes.

Kiss Mini Golf is a surprising but refreshing choice for the Rio, and we look forward to seeing and sharing more.

El Cortez Casino is On the Right Track With Pizza Lotto Restaurant and Upcoming Imbibe Bar

If you haven’t heard about the new Pizza Lotto Italian restaurant at downtown’s El Cortez, you’re in the majority. The new dining option at this classic hotel is in a soft opening phase, but it’s already won us over in a big way.

Pizza Lotto El Cortez

Interestingly, “Lotto” rhymes with “blotto.” So, yeah, a great fit for Fremont Street. (Please explain the definition of “blotto” to the nearest Millennial, thanks.)

How good is Pizza Lotto? We’re annointing it the Pizza Rock of Fremont East. Which is a pretty big deal given the fact Pizza Rock is pretty much the greatest restaurant in the history of, well, ever.

Here’s Pizza Lotto, in the space previously occupied by Cafe Cortez.

Pizza Lotto El Cortez

If you want fancy, go have fancy. If you want full and happy, go here.™

At one time, it was rumored El Cortez would open a nightclub in the Cafe Cortez space, but cooler heads prevailed.

Instead, the consulting company behind El Cortez’s Siegel’s 1941 restaurant has been given the reins of Pizza Lotto, and have brought delicious, affordable Italian food to a hotel that can only benefit from a new dining offering.

The star of the show at Pizza Lotto, not surprisingly, is the pizza.

Pizza Lotto Las Vegas

A solid, satisfying pizza. In other words, one of the things that makes life worth living.

The slices are excellent and priced to move. A New York-style slice is just $3 (not the biggest slice in town, but tasty and filling), a slice of white pie is $4, the Sicilian slice is $4 and a “Grandma slice” is $4.

Why, here’s the Chicago-style Grandma slice now.

Pizza Lotto Italian restaurant

Like grandma used to make. Well, somebody’s grandma. Ours preferred to have Chinese food delivered.

Here’s the New York-style slice.

Pizza Lotto restaurant

What makes it New York-style? It’s always in a hurry, never makes eye contact in public and gives you the finger for no apparent reason. We kid, New Yorkers, because we love.

Here’s a look at the pizza selection at Pizza Lotto.

Pizza Lotto menu

A bona fide pizza gamut. And while we’re at it, Pizza Gamut would make a great band name.

Although the name of the joint implies otherwise, Pizza Lotto has much more than pizza.

The menu ranges from soups and salads to sandwiches, meatballs to sausage, chicken wings and chicken parmigiana.

Here’s the full Pizza Lotto menu.  You’re welcome.

Easily the favorite item we tried at Pizza Lotto were the garlic rolls, soon to become The Official Snack of Overserved People on Fremont Street.

Pizza Lotto Las Vegas

Fair warning, you’re gaining weight just looking at these bad boys. Seriously, keep scrolling. Move it, wide load!

The rolls alone would be incredible, but they rest atop a pool of extra virgin olive oil mixed with garlic. Every roll on Earth should be served this way.

Pizza Lotto

This is so much better than having some lame oil on a side plate. Trust us on this one.

The “Lotto” in Pizza Lotto refers to the restaurant’s plan to give scratcher cards to guests ordering any full-sized pizza.

Every scratcher card will have a perk of some kind, either a food or drink discount or freebie, but the cards may also have free slot play and other casino-related goodies.

The restaurant will have beer and wine, although they aren’t available during the soft opening.

Also in the works is a portion of the restaurant (against the back wall) where guests can play slots machines. Pizza and slots? These are a few of our favorite Vegas things.

Word hasn’t gotten out about this great new restaurant yet, so there’s absolutely no waiting, especially at the six-chair counter. That’s sure to change.

Pizza Lotto

Our new home at El Cortez. When we’re not on one of the casinos two high limit machines.

Pizza Lotto’s hours are 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. weekdays and 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. on weekends. They’ll stay open later if things are hopping.

Here’s the official Pizza Lotto Web page.

During our visit, we learned Pizza Lotto is among a number of changes being made at El Cortez to court younger, more affluent customers. The typical customer at El Cortez tends to be on the low-roller side of the spectrum, and older.

One tidbit of news hasn’t been made public yet, but we snagged the exclusive word El Cortez will be remodeling its casino bar.

It will re-open as Imbibe, what’s described as a “Gold Spike-inspired” bar along the lines of Commonwealth and other trendy bars downtown. (Gold Spike, of course, was a beloved but crappy casino which was purchased by the Downtown Project. The gambling was removed, and the hipsters and cast of Real World Las Vegas cast moved in. Long story.)

El Cortez casino bar

The casino bar at El Cortez has pretty good video poker, but no energetic Fremont East vibe. Yet.

Imbibe Bar is a dramatic departure for El Cortez, and its unveiling will be accompanied by other enhancements to the hotel’s exterior doors. Doors with yellowing glass will be replaced, and customers will be able to see into the casino, directly at the slick new Imbibe bar. Hello, Fremont foot traffic.

El Cortez

Adios, doors installed in 1941.

Expect a bit of a culture clash as these new offerings come online at El Cortez. For example, Pizza Lotto is already reprinting its menu because regulars were frustrated by menu items in Italian.

El Cortez seems intent on balancing its desire to attract new customers without ticking off its core audience. Time will tell.

El Cortez Las Vegas

In 2013, El Cortez was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, mainly to impress the ladies.

In the meantime, downtown denizens and bar-hoppers have an enticing new restaurant to discover. Pizza Lotto is officially in our lunch and dinner rotation, and we’re happy to give it our highest honor, the “We Don’t Give Awards, But We Probably Should” Award.

Let us know what you think, and for once in your life, fill up on bread.

Under Cover of Darkness, Bourne 5 Car Chase Revs Up the Las Vegas Strip

Jason Bourne may have tried to stay incognito during his first few weeks in Las Vegas, but he’s out in the open now.

The new Bourne movie, cleverly titled “Jason Bourne,” starring Matt Damon and Tommy Lee Jones has begun filming one of its trademark car chases on The Strip.

Bourne 5

Witness 17,350 pounds of Jason Bourne nemesis. The chase is on!

We’ve been sharing Bourne scoops since the production arrived, and now we’ve had our first legit Jason Bourne encounter.

Filming of Bourne 5 is taking place in the driveway of Aria Las Vegas (Jan. 18-19, 2016). Thanks to one of our earlier reports, picked up by local news stations, lots of fans braved chilly weather to see Bourne in action.

Fans lined the pedestrian bridges overlooking the scene.

Bourne 5

Some of the best views of the Bourne 5 filming are on The Strip’s pedestrian bridges. Please keep your hand on your wallet. Just saying.

Seeing the action being shot, pieces of the Bourne 5 puzzle are falling into place.

Earlier scenes took place inside Aria at a made-up tech convention, Exocon 2016. At the conference, speakers include CIA Director Robert Dewey (played by Tommy Lee Jones) and the founder of a company called Deep Dream, Aaron Kalloor (played by Riz Ahmed).

Accounts inside the shoot say someone is assassinated at the conference, and since it’s not Matt Damon’s character, and it’s probably not Tommy Lee Jones’ character, we’re betting it’s Riz Ahmed’s.

As happens in Bourne movies, a chase ensues.

Matt Damon Bourne 5

That’s Matt Damon in the passenger seat. Surreal.

Police and rescue units respond to the emergency, and Bourne takes off after a SWAT vehicle. That’s the scene we saw being filmed on Jan. 18, 2016, and it was awesome. And repetitive. But awesome.

The crew did many, many takes with the SWAT truck and Bourne’s Dodge Charger zipping down the Aria driveway.

Dozens of cars lined the entrance, all manned by extras. For at least six hours. Sitting in their cars. Movie making is so glamorous!

Bourne 5

Hope you have some good tunes because you’re going to be here awhile.

At one point, there was a potentially dangerous mishap between the Charger and the SWAT vehicle. The SWAT vehicle stopped short and changed lanes, and the Charger narrowly missed slamming into the back of the SWAT van. Here’s video of the tense moment, uneventful take first.

There were no injuries, other than to the bumper of the Charger, and the shoot continued into the wee hours.

All the chase scenes are being filmed at night, including upcoming sequences in the center of the Strip and at Riviera.

Here’s a list of the best places to watch the Bourne 5 chase on the Las Vegas Strip.

The chase sequence is expected to end dramatically at the Riviera. The exterior of the building has been lit for several days in preparation for the sequence’s climax.

The gutted casino’s interior will be dressed with slot machines and table games, and we hear at least one vehicle will crash into the casino. Which sounds so cool, our limited vocabulary isn’t adequate to describe how excited we are.

So, back at Aria, another sequence was being readied, a collision between a limo and another SWAT van. (It was an exact duplicate, so only one will appear onscreen.)

The production had three limos ready to go for three takes of the collision.

Bourne 5

A movie stunt is sometimes called a “gag.” “Gag” is also a term for what happens when you see the price of gummi bears at a movie theater.

The expectation was that Matt Damon wouldn’t be around for the filming of these action sequences, as those are typically done by a film’s “second unit.” But at 2:30 a.m., the “Jason Bourne” star jumped into the Charger and did a test run down the ramp with his stunt driver.

Matt Damon Bourne 5

Matt Flipping Damon. Probably not his actual middle name.

Shortly thereafter, Damon did the drive on his own. Not the most dangerous stunt, but it was pretty thrilling seeing Jason Bourne peeling out in pursuit of the bad guys.

While there are long stretches of not-a-whole-lot on movie sets, it was a blast being in such close proximity to what is likely to be a huge hit, especially for Bourne fans (this blog is that, in case that wasn’t obvious).

We’ve got more Bourne 5 scoop than most humans can handle, including spoilers and pics inside Aria and a security breach from an earlier location, the Greyhound depot downtown.

Enjoy more photos from the set of “Jason Bourne” in Las Vegas, and if you capture pics or video of the Bourne 5 production in Las Vegas, send them our way!

Bourne 5 in Las Vegas

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The Best Places to Watch the Bourne 5 Car Chase on the Las Vegas Strip

There’s been lots of excitement about “Jason Bourne” filming in Las Vegas, but you ain’t seen nothing yet.

The film’s climax is rumored to be an action sequence that starts at Aria, where scenes were filmed last week, and ends at the shuttered Riviera.

Riviera Las Vegas

The Bourne shoot has brought the Riviera’s famed neon back to life, even if only temporarily.

From what we hear, a large scale car chase will happen this week in the center of The Strip, and you’ll need to know the best places to watch. We’ve got this.

The filming is likely to take place late at night, so it’ll be important to get a good vantage point. It’ll also be cold, so bundle up. Movie making involves a lot of waiting around for something to happen. The same goes for watching movies get made.

Buzz around the climactic “Jason Bourne” car chase leads us to believe it will happen center Strip, between Aria and Flamingo Blvd. That means guests of Bellagio, across the street, should have a bird’s eye view of the action. Those in the hotel will be quite far away, however, so a spot on the sidewalk outside Bellagio should provide a good view of the fun.

Two of the best spots for viewing the Bourne 5 chase should be pedestrian bridges. Our first choice would be the overpass between Cosmopolitan and Harmon Corner.

Las Vegas pedestrian bridge

There is much weirdness on The Strip’s bridges, so the Bourne shoot won’t be the only entertainment going on.

Another good spot will be the bridge between Bally’s and Bellagio.

Vegas pedestrian bridge

This is the pedestrian bridge that makes it easy for people to leave the Grand Bazaar Shops at Bally’s. It goes without saying this is a very popular pedestrian bridge.

Both these bridges provide a sweet view down, or up, Las Vegas Boulevard.

Other prime viewing points are the restaurants at Planet Hollywood and Paris Las Vegas. They include Mon Ami Gabi and Hexx at Paris and Cabo Wabo Cantina at Planet Hollywood. The Eiffel Tower Restaurant should also provide a great view of the stunts.

Cabo Wabo Cantina

Front and center. And space heaters don’t hurt, either.

The only problem with viewing the chase from a restaurant is they often close before filming is likely to begin (late). Mon Ami Gabi at Paris closes at 11:00 p.m. during the week. Cabo Wabo closes at midnight (but you shouldn’t go there, anyway, because of the joint’s CNF charge). Eiffel Tower Restaurant closes at 10:30 p.m.

Hexx, however, is open 24 hours a day.

Hexx Las Vegas

Bonus: Here’s an update on progress at the Beer Park at Paris! Opens soon.

Arguably the best view of the Bourne 5 car chase will be from the Cosmopolitan. Guests on their balconies should be able to feel the revving engines and take in any pyrotechnics.

The very best spot at Cosmopolitan, though, would have to be on the pool deck. This view is stunning anytime, but when Jason Bourne is evading bad guys, it will be truly epic.

The new Bourne film hasn’t been given a name yet, but if we had to make a bet, we’d take “The Bourne Betrayal.” The movie comes out July 29, 2016.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

Nab a spot up here and you’re golden.

If you’d like to get caught up on all the Bourne news, you’re in the right place. We security breached the Bourne set downtown, served up some character and plot spoilers and spilled about other Bourne goodness.

Here’s a peek at James Bourne in action during a sequence in the Aria casino.

Expect a flurry of pics and video of the “Jason Bourne” movie car chase this week, because word has it there will be many, many extras involved. The production is sure to ask extras not to take or share photos, but enthusiastic fans won’t be able to help themselves.

Road closures are expected, and police presence will be strong, so expect to be herded if you’re near where the production is taking place. You’re allowed to be on public sidewalks unless they’re inside the production footprint, but the police will want to avoid crowds gathering. Remind the cops you have rights. They love that.

It’s unknown if Bourne 5 stars Matt Damon or Tommy Lee Jones will be on hand for the Strip chase, but it seems unlikely. Such large-scale stunts are done by stunt teams, assistant directors and doubles (referred to as the film’s “Second Unit”), as opposed to the stars and director (the “First Unit”).

The Riviera portion of the chase scene could happen next week. We hope to have more details soon.

Thanks to our moles, and keep the tips coming! Every time you share a “Jason Bourne” tidbit, an angel gets its wings.

Hasbro Announces Las Vegas Monopoly Edition Will No Longer Have Free Parking

Board game maker Hasbro announced it will remove the “Free Parking” space in all future releases of its Las Vegas version of Monopoly.

Las Vegas Monopoly update

The Las Vegas version of Monopoly is about to get a revamp.

The Las Vegas-inspired version of the game is a favorite with Sin City enthusiasts, and has been one of the most successful specialty Monopoly games made by Hasbro.

Other variations include a James Bond Monopoly, NASCAR Monopoly and M&M’s Monopoly, as well as dozens of others.

The decision to revise the “Free Parking” space in the Las Vegas Monopoly came in response to news MGM Resorts will soon charge for parking at its Las Vegas resorts.

Las Vegas Monopoly

“Players may not even notice the change,” stated a Hasbro official. “But Las Vegas visitors will.”

“While ‘Free Parking’ has always been popular with Monopoly players, we must be nimble enough to change with the times,” says Hasbro’s news release. “We’ll also be adjusting the custom ‘Hotel Tax’ space to better reflect the overall trend of Las Vegas resorts finding creative new ways to screw over their guests.”

Las Vegas Monopoly

Fun fact: The 2009 Monopoly World Championships were held in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace. The winner took home $20,000 in prize money.

Hasbro also says it will update at least one of its custom pewter tokens.

The existing tokens are a stack of money, a showgirl, blackjack cards, a roulette wheel, poker chips and a wedding chapel.

“Based upon a decline in the number of Las Vegas weddings in recent years, we’re retiring the wedding chapel,” says Hasbro. “Instead, due to the new parking fees being instituted at MGM Resorts hotels on The Strip, a new token will be added to the game, a bottle of personal lubricant.”

Las Vegas Monopoly

Before 1935, playing pieces weren’t included in Monopoly games. Players used objects around the house like buttons and charms.

Hasbro is rushing updated Las Vegas Monopoly games into production because the new MGM Resorts parking fees will go into effect mid-2016.

It’s unknown if the price of Monopoly Las Vegas will go up with its new release, but given what’s happened in Las Vegas recently, that’s a pretty safe bet.