Monthly Archives: September 2016

Insiders Say “Tournament of Kings” is Closing at Excalibur

It’s great news for Cornish game hens, but bad news for dozens of knights and maidens at Excalibur’s “Tournament of Kings.” Word is the beloved dinner show will soon close.

There’s been no official announcement of the end of the long-running, King Arthur-inspired show, but rumors and speculation are a lot more fun than news releases, don’t you think?

“Tournament of Kings” made its debut when Excalibur opened in 1990.

Tournament of Kings

It’s estimated “Tournament of Kings” serves up about 45,000 Cornish game hens each month.

The show employs a hefty 30 cast members, making it one of the more expensive productions to produce on the Las Vegas Strip.

Rumors suggest ticket sales for “Tournament of Kings” have been soft, made worse by the fact many shows and retail businesses at MGM Resorts hotels have been hard-hit by drops in patronage due to the implementation of paid parking across the city.

One source said that while MGM Resorts officials vehemently deny it, many shops at Excalibur have suffered a staggering 30% drop in business because of a de facto boycott of the hotel resulting from controversial paid parking policies.

Don’t be surprised if MGM Resorts adjusts its parking fees downward to ward off further hits to the bottom line. There’s also talk that MGM Resorts will tweak its loyalty club tier requirements so it’s easier to attain Pearl status. Parking is free for Pearl members and higher. Get details.

Could cancellation of “Tournament of Kings” lend credence to the rumor Excalibur will be rebranded, just as Monte Carlo (also owned by MGM Resorts) will? Monte Carlo will soon become Park MGM and a boutique hotel-within-a-hotel, NoMad Hotel.

Excalibur Dick's Last Resort

Since about 2006, many of Excalibur’s medieval elements have been removed or changed. One of our least favorite changes was the replacement of Merlin with an ad for Dick’s Last Resort. Keep it classy, Excalibur!

Some suggest MGM Resorts also has its eye on Luxor as another aging hotel in need of attention, although what that might entail hasn’t been spelled out.

There’s no word on what might replace “Tournament of Kings,” or what changes the show’s very specialized, circular, 900-seat theater might undergo once the show is shuttered.

We hope the show’s horses get to move on to greener pastures. News “Tournament of Kings” will close is especially surprising given the show recently invested in upgrading and expanding its stables for the show’s nearly 30 horses.

If “Jubilee!” was the end of an era in Las Vegas, the end of “Tournament of Kings” marks another. Shows are being scrutinized, and have to earn their keep, as opposed to the early days of Las Vegas when production shows were a loss-leader, intended to draw customers to the slot machines and table games where the real money was made.

Excalibur Las Vegas

Fun fact: The Excalibur site was originally supposed to be a project called Xanadu Resort. Awesome renderings here.

As far as we know, “Tournament of Kings” is the only show in Las Vegas where guests are encouraged to eat with their hands.

If you want to see “Tournament of Kings,” book your ticket. You’re likely to see it joust in the nick of time.

What, we were supposed to write an entire post about “Tournament of Kings” and not make a stupid pun? Go home, you’re even more drunk than we are. Allegedly.

Update (9/16/16): Responding to our story, MGM Resorts released a statement saying rumors about “Tournament of Kings” closing are untrue. MGM Resorts was, perhaps not surprisingly, mum on the issue of whether businesses are taking a hit because of the new paid parking policies.

Transformation of The California Continues With Opening of Sports Book Bar

There’s been a steady stream of changes and renovations at downtown’s California casino,
including the unveiling of a new sports book bar.

Emphasis on bar.

California hotel sports book bar

A new place for dog players, futures, exotics, chalk eaters and other terms we don’t know the meaning of.

The new sports book bar includes a relocation of The Cal’s, wait for it, sports book. The sports
book was previously on the casino’s second floor, and it was sad. The former sports book is
expected to become additional meeting and banquet space.

The just-revealed sports book is shiny and new and happy, and is just inches away from a new casino bar, complete with eight video poker machines, comfy seating and hooch.

California sports book bar

It’s like the den you’d have if you had an uncle named Sheldon.

The Cal’s new sports book lounge has 18 video screens, with wiring telegraphing plans for two

The new sports book bar is easily accessible, right on the casino floor.

We’re putting this among the best sports books downtown, right up there with Golden Nugget’s. Despite the fact we don’t do sports. Hey, nobody’s perfect.

The Cal sports book bar lounge

We are not keeping track of all the remotes.

The new sports book bar is part of a major overhaul of the California, which opened in
1975. Estimates of the hotel’s renovations put the investment in the $40 million range. The Cal cost $10 million to build.

The sports book bar follows the opening of another casino bar, the Holo Holo Bar, in the
space previously occupied by the San Francisco Pub.

Holo Holo Bar at California

Holo Holo means “to go out and have adventures” in Hawaiian. About 80% of guests at The Cal are from Hawaii.

The Cal’s entire casino has undergone a renovation over the last year or so. Read more
about the “mystery pillar” that no longer qualifies as a mystery.

The casino has gotten a serious facelift, including new carpeting, new lighting fixtures,
new detailing and paint. The whole place, described as “Hawaiian colonial,” looks brighter
and more modern.

This is where the transformation of The Cal’s casino began.

California casino renovation

Out with the old, in with the colonial.

Upstairs at the California, Aloha Specialties restaurant also got a refresh.

Aloha Specialties

Nothing too flashy, but new is new.

The hotel’s Redwood Bar & Grill, pictured below, has closed for a renovation, too.

Redwood Bar & Grill

Only in Vegas do we renovate things that don’t really need renovating.

Signs on the Redwood Bar & Grill encourage guests to visit a temporary home, at the Pullman
Grille inside Main Street Station. We haven’t tried it, but we have tried a relatively new restaurant at The Cal, California Noodle House, which gets ridiculously high praise from us, so save yourself some walking.

California Noodle House

We’ve yet to find anything we don’t like at California Noodle House, and we hate everything.

Chances are if you haven’t been to the California in awhile, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the breadth of the changes.

The Cal is one block north of Fremont Street Experience. (Full disclosure: We work in marketing for Fremont Street Experience, and The Cal is one of its partner casinos. Our opinions are our own. Except for the ones we got from 1990s sitcoms. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Prices for food and drink at The Cal are downright cheap, even by downtown standards, so with all the newness, it’s a great time to stop by and check it out.

California hotel casino Las Vegas

Bonus: No resort fees. Unless you’re into the kind of thing.

While you’re there, of course, don’t forget to grab a cone at Lappert’s Ice Cream on the second
floor. Yes, they recently cut their ice cream selection in half (our beloved chocolate chip fell victim to the downsizing), but what’s left is still some of the best ice cream in Las Vegas.

Lappert's Ice Cream

If only [bring back] subliminal messages [our damned chocolate] worked [chip].

If you drop by The Cal, we’d love to hear what you think. Leave a comment, Tweet us or send a message via carrier pigeon. Note: We only mentioned that last thing to confuse the Millennials.

California Newness

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Gold Coast Trades Cortez Room for Cornerstone Steakhouse

Gold Coast isn’t the most glitzy casino in Las Vegas, but it has a loyal following, and now it boasts a steakhouse, Cornerstone.

Gold Coast Cornerstone steakhouse

You want flash, hit The Strip. You want value, hit this.

Cornerstone steakhouse replaces Gold Coast’s Cortez Room, a reliable offering that’s been around for decades.

Cornerstone is described as a classic steakhouse, “sporting a tuxedo-inspired decor” with “bold splashes of cerulean blue accents.”

A highlight of the venue is the bar. Then  again, bars are the highlight of any venue. New decorative flourishes have given the bar and restaurant a much-needed refresh.

Cornerstone Steakhouse

The ladies love a man with a cerulean blue accent.

The lounge has its own menu and cocktail menu.

Gold Coast steakhouse Cornerstone

Drunchies handled.

Find the lounge, dinner and dessert menus on the Gold Coast site.

Gold Coast is just off The Strip (near Palms and Rio Las Vegas), and is priced accordingly. Standard dishes are about 25-30% less expensive than Strip steakhouses.

Appetizers are in the $10-12 range, heavy on the seafood and include escargot, steamed clams, crab cakes, Oysters Rockefeller and a traditional shrimp cocktail.

Steaks are what you’d expect at your local steakhouse, except much better because it’s Las Vegas.

Gold Coast Cornerstone steakhouse

Cornerstone will feel familiar to Cortez Room fans. The layout’s about the same, with a few new decorative touches.

There’s a good variety of “favorites” as well, like roasted garlic chicken, Cedar-planked salmon and lobster tails.

There are about a dozen sides, all in the very reasonable $6 range. We expect to be back to try one of everything, except for the spinach and brussel sprouts. We’re drunk, but not that drunk.

Gold Coast

We sort of just dig the font.

Cornerstone steakhouse has been open about three weeks, so it’s likely to take some time for word to spread about this new eatery.

The lounge and dining room were mostly empty during our brief visit, in stark contrast to the filled-to-capacity (including a fairly long line) at the nearby Ping Pang Pong restaurant.

Ping Pang Pong

If you want to see Lucky Dragon’s target customers, by the way, look no further than Ping Pang Pong. Local Asian players are prized by casinos.

Cornerstone offers a traditional menu at good prices, so we’ll definitely be back to test drive the menu. If that’s something you can do to a menu. Put it through its paces? Run it up the flagpole? Make it wear a wig and lederhosen? Oh, we give up. Just try the place and let us know what you think.

Vital Vegas Podcast, Episode 25: Real Bodies at Bally’s is Creepy, Enlightening Good Fun

Real Bodies, a new attraction at Bally’s, is so weird, we’re devoting an entire episode to it.

Real Bodies at Bally's

Real Bodies at Bally’s is, among other things, a great reminder to stay hydrated when you’re in Las Vegas.

In this installment of the Vital Vegas Podcast, we take a stroll through Real Bodies with Tom Zaller, President and CEO of Imagine Exhibitions.

While Zaller provides fascinating insights into his Real Bodies exhibit, we suspect he’d be interesting just reading the phone book.

Assuming phone books still exist.

Real Bodies at Bally's

It’s people! People are made of people! Hey, it made sense when we started typing it.

The Real Bodies attraction has about 20 preserved human bodies and about 200 body parts.

Real Bodies is a carefully curated journey through not only physiology, but also psychology and philosophy. It’s creepy, jarring, amusing and downright astonishing.

Real Bodies at Bally's

You’ll experience a range of emotions at Real Bodies. Just like the ones you’re feeling now.

If you’re looking for unusual things to do in Las Vegas, add Real Bodies to the list. When you’re done with your visit, you’ll know more about science, medicine, your own body and even the meaning of life.

Real Bodies at Bally's

We wanted to stay longer, but we had to split.

Tickets run $27.70 for general admission, $17.75 for children 3-12, and kids younger than three are free. Your kids will love this attraction, by the way. Because let’s be honest, kids are freaks.

Enjoy more photos from our time at Real Bodies at Bally’s, and check out the official site for more information.

Real Bodies at Bally's

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Now, take a listen to our interview with Tom Zaller.

Better yet, listen to the podcast while you’re looking at the photos. You’re multi-talented like that.

Demolition Begins at Downtown’s La Bayou Casino

We’ve said it a lot, but the only constant in Las Vegas is nipples. Sorry, change. Well, all right, they’re both constants, but right now we’re talking about change, so get your mind out of the gutter for once in your life.

La Bayou casino closed on June 27, 2016, along with its sister venues Mermaids and the Girls of Glitter Gulch. Demolition of La Bayou is now in the works, and isn’t expected to take long given the petite footprint of this former “grind joint.”

La Bayou demolition

The scaffolding around La Bayou’s facade reveals it’s no longer around a facade.

La Bayou, Mermaids and the Girls of Glitter Gulch strip club were purchased by Derek and Greg Stevens, owners of The D and Golden Gate.

The pair also purchased Las Vegas Club on Fremont Street, with plans to open a new resort just across from the La Bayou site. The new project is being referred to as “18 Fremont” informally, until a name is chosen.

La Bayou demolition

La Bayou was a mere 130 deep and 25 feet wide. So, yeah, about a two-day demolition job.

Derek Stevens shared some details about the Las Vegas Club project on our Vital Vegas Podcast. (This was the same episode where Stevens revealed he shakes so many hands during the course of an evening at The D, he has to ice his hand on the drive home.)

Specific plans for the La Bayou space haven’t been announced, but given that it is adjacent to Golden Gate, it’s likely the site will be used for a casino expansion.

La Bayou demolition

That second floor bulletin board, though.

Here’s a better look at the bulletin board, including a note titled, “Scripts,” that says, “Welcome to La Bayou. The next drawing will be in a few minutes. What can I get you to drink? Have a seat anywhere and I’ll be right out with your order.”

La Bayou (French for “don’t touch anything or you’ll contract human papillomavirus”) was perhaps best-known for being the casino where this Las Vegas blog had one of its first strawberry daiquiris in Sin City. Well, that’s how we best know it, anyway.

Others enjoyed Lay Bayou’s free Mardi Gras beads, distributed by women in costumes stitched sometime around the Carter administration.

La Bayou operated under several names since it opened in 1913. It opened as the Las Vegas Coffee House, and was followed by Northern Club, Monte Carlo Club and Coin Castle. The Northern Club is notable because it was granted the very first gaming license in Nevada. Which is doubly notable because at the time the owner was a woman, Mayme Stocker.

La Bayou demolition

Hopefully, someone checked for gold dust under the floor boards. Hey, that might have been a thing back in the day.

La Bayou suffered from neglect in recent years, so it was about time the old girl be put out of her misery.

It’s expected building on the La Bayou site won’t happen until 2017.

La Bayou demolition

Reverse shot of La Bayou’s facade. And, yes, we’re fully cognizant we need to get a life.

The Stevens brothers have breathed new life into The D, formerly Fitzgerald’s, and Golden Gate, the oldest casino in Las Vegas, so we look forward to seeing their much-needed revitalization of the west end of the Fremont Street Experience (where this blog works in digital marketing, by the way).

We’d love to hear any La Bayou memories you’d care to share. Especially if they involve blacking out or hooking up with a stranger. Because Vegas.


Update (9/1/16): Holy crap. Yes, that’s the update. Holy crap.

We thought the demolition of La Bayou was moving quickly when we saw half the casino gone overnight. Well, after a second night, La Bayou is virtually gone.

La Bayou demolition

Remember the building that was here yesterday? Today, not so much.

Demolition experts have deconstructed La Bayou in record time, two days to be exact, to make way for a Golden Gate expansion. Demolition of the Riviera, by comparison, took upwards of six months.

La Bayou demolition

That’s all that’s left of La Bayou. Should take about 20 more minutes to finish the job.

Here’s a last peek a the former La Bayou site.

La Bayou demolition

Crews had to take care not to damage the adjacent building, the Viva Las Vegas gift shop.

What’s left of the structure could pretty much be cleaned up with a dust pan.

You know we’ll keep an eye on what’s next. The bigger. The better. The Vegaser. Which may not be a word, but probably should be.