Monthly Archives: January 2019

Chinese New Year Means Days of Swine and Roses at Bellagio Conservatory

The newest seasonal display at the Bellagio Conservatory is up and this time it celebrates The Year of the Pig in honor of Chinese New Year.

Or, as Chinese New Year is known in Las Vegas, “The season of kissing up to Asian gamblers.”

Bellagio Chinese New Year

Yeah, it’s a weird one. Just go with it.

Bellagio’s Chinese New Year motif has one of the quickest turnarounds of all the seasonal displays as it’s right on the heels of Christmas.

Because of the fast turnaround time, many of the items in the Chinese New Year display are more statue than plant, but it’s still impressive and one of the best free things to do in Las Vegas.

Bellagio Chinese New Year

In China, red symbolizes fortune and joy. Fun fact: Fortune and Joy are two of the most popular stripper names in Las Vegas.

Bellagio’s horticulture staff of 120 people go to great lengths to research every inch of the Conservatory’s 140,000-square-foot display to ensure the accuracy of a lot of things we have no clue about.

For example, part of the Conservatory features a representation of the grounds at the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees, a Buddhist temple in Guangzhou, China.

Bellagio Conservatory

Warning: Saying “Guangzhou” out loud is likely to hemorrhage your larynx. And not in a good way.

There’s also flower pagoda guarded by two Chinese Fu dogs (“Foo” in English) that appear to have left in their hair curlers too long.

Bellagio Chinese New Year

Not even remotely a dog, bro.

Chinese Fu dogs are a giant scam because they’re not dogs, they’re lions. They’re also very good luck, so we’ll give them a pass.

How meticulously do the wizards at Bellagio research their displays? Well, if you screw up the position of the Fu dogs, you’re out of luck.

According to feng shui, when looking at the lions, the one with a ball (male) is on the right and the one with a cub (female) is on the left. Bellagio nails it.

Bellagio Chinese display 2019

You’re going to need more storage space on your smartphone.

The entryway to the Conservatory features a giant jade decoration.

Jade is said to represent the six virtues in Asian culture: Benevolence, righteousness, wisdom, bravery, Grumpy and Sneezy.

Bellagio Conservatory

What an awesome entrance to the Bellagio buffet this would make.

On the north side of the Conservatory stands a replica of a bronze sculpture, “Lotus Flower in Full Bloom.”

The original stands in Golden Lutus Square in Macau, China.

Bellagio Conservatory

It’s important to note this statue in no way resembles an attachment for the Magic Wand massager.

Given it’s the Year of the Pig, the star of the show is a massive pig, or more accurately, an “Earth pig.”

The pig is 22 feet long and 12 feet tall and is far more adorable than a 22 foot long slab of bacon. We trust you are feeling an appropriate amount of shame and regret right now.

Bellagio Chinese New Year

Sorry. Didn’t mean for you to hear that buffet comment.

As always, the Bellagio Conservatory is a feast for the eyes and remains a Las Vegas must-see.

We’re honestly astonished the Conservatory is still around. Other free attractions have either gone away (like “Sirens of TI” at Treasure Island and Rio’s “Masquerade Show in the Sky”) or cut back on their hours (like the volcano show at Mirage), but the Conservatory at Bellagio keeps delivering the goods.

Conservatory Chinese New Year 2019

Just as Fu dogs are lions, so too are these, although people sometimes mistake them for dragons. Bonus: Eyelashes are on fleek.

The hard fact is such free attractions don’t really provide much value to a casino. Back in the day such attractions would draw crowds, and many in those crowds would stay and gamble.

Today, not so much.

The vast majority of people who visit the Conservatory are just there to look. It’s a loss-leader for Bellagio (and its parent, MGM Resorts) that’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify as MGM Resorts and other casino companies become more and more focused on the bottom line.

The takeway: Get your feng and your shui in gear and enjoy the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden while you can.

Chinese New Year Vegas

We never got why Asian travelers would want to see things they could see back home until we ate at a Burger King in Paris.

The Chinese New Year display runs through March 9, 2019. Next up is the spring display, Mar. 16 to June 1, 2019.

If you’re a fan of the Bellagio Conservatory, as we are, avail yourself of our massive collection of Conservatory photos covering the last six years of eye-popping displays.

Bellagio Conservatory Chinese New Year 2019

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Christina Aguilera’s Las Vegas Residency Is a Lock

Christina Aguilera will start a Las Vegas residency on May 31, 2019 at Zappos Theater inside Planet Hollywood.

The official announcement of the residency was made Jan. 29, 2019, but that’s not when fans knew it was happening.

Christina Aguilera

We like this version of Christina Aguilera more than the flashy one.

One of the more interesting aspects of Aguilera’s residency announcement is the fact vigilant fans caught a post on the singer’s Web site listing her 16 performance dates prior to the official announcement.

The schedule was swiftly removed from the site, but the Internet never forgets and the word was already out in a big way.

Christina Aguilera

Don’t worry, Web intern. Hopefully, you find a gig working for someone relevant next time.

Christina Aguilera’s Las Vegas residency follows on the heels of successful residencies at Planet Hollywood by her fellow pop princesses: Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Gwen Stefani.

A planned residency by Britney Spears at Park MGM resort was recently canceled due to family issues.

Fans even caught wind of the show’s artwork.

Christina Aguilera

You go, fans.

Here are her 2019 show dates for Planet Hollywood.

  • May 31
  • June 1, 5, 7, 8, 13, 15, 16
  • Sep. 20, 21, 24, 27, 28
  • Oct. 2, 4, 5

While we’re sure the folks at Caesars Entertainment, owners of Planet Hollywood, and some in the media (“You promised us an exclusive, Xtina!”) are pulling their hair out about somebody on Aguilera’s team jumping the gun, buzz is buzz and the gaff generated as much or more publicity than the actual announcement.

Social media goofs are an ongoing headache for performers. Obsessive fans never miss a thing. Just ask Celine Dion.

Aguilera’s Vegas residency is further evidence, as if we needed more, A-list entertainers no longer see Sin City as a place where careers go to die. For those who do it right, there’s big money to be made in Las Vegas.

Time will tell if Christina Aguilera gets it right.

Our suggestions: 1) Price it right. 2) Make it good (as few backing tracks as possible, please). 3) Don’t overstay your welcome.

Bobby Flay’s Next Restaurant to Land at Flamingo

While it hasn’t been officially announced, word is celebrity chef Bobby Flay will bring at new dining concept to Flamingo Las Vegas.

Flay’s rumored new restaurant will take up residence in the space currently occupied by Center Cut Steakhouse.

Bobby Flay

It’s time to plan your next Flaycation. All due modesty, Bobby Flay should use that line to advertise his new restaurant.

Center Cut Steakhouse opened in March 2012. Prior to that, it was The Burger Joint.

Center Cut Steakhouse

With all the amazing steakhouses in Vegas, Cut just didn’t make the, well, you know.

Center Cut is an adequate steakhouse, but Caesars Entertainment (owner of Flamingo) no doubt sees greater opportunity in a restaurant with a recognizable name associated with it.

Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill has done well at Caesars Palace for its impressive 14 years of existence.

Mesa Grill Las Vegas

Mesa Grill. The place with a logo that appears to have been vandalized.

Flay’s Bobby’s Burger Palace is a forgettable effort at The Shoppes at Crystals, and he also has a restaurant in the works for Palms, Shark. That venue will focus on seafood and opens March 2019.

Caesars Entertainment has had some stellar successes when it comes to celebrity chef collaborations.

Gordon Ramsay’s numerous Strip outposts, most recently Hell’s Kitchen at Caesars Palace, are making everyone involved wealthy.

As is common with these celebrity restaurant deals, the chef gets five percent of gross sales up to $10 million in revenue, and more if the restaurant exceeds that threshold. Learn more.

Giada’s at Cromwell has been another smashing success for Caesars, and is a must-try in Las Vegas. There’s also a fast casual offering from Giada De Laurentiis at Caesars Palace, Pronto By Giada.

Giada

Any excuse to share a Giada photo will do.

Caesars has also partnered with Guy Fieri for restaurants at the Linq and Rio. Both Vegas Kitchen & Bar at Linq and El Burro Borracho at Rio are far better than you might suspect.

Guy Fieri dessert

Any excuse to share a photo of this Guy Fieri dessert will do.

The only constant in Las Vegas is change, and possibly regret, but mostly that first thing. So, we welcome a change-up in Flamingo fare.

Expect official word of a Bobby Flay joint at Flamingo soon, and remember you heard about it here first. As if we’d let you forget you heard about it here first.

Demolition Sets Stage for New Downtown Grand Tower

It’s taken awhile, but there’s finally some construction activity at Downtown Grand in preparation for a new hotel tower.

Technically, it’s deconstruction, but let’s not get bogged down in details. Things are happening!

Downtown Grand construction

We can’t find a “before” photo, but trust us, it didn’t look like this before.

Downtown Grand’s porte cochere structure is being demolished, with plans to erect a hotel tower with 495 rooms.

The new hotel tower will sit at the corner of Ogden Ave. and 4th Street, just across from Gold Spike, a place we used to visit until they took out all the slot machines.

Here’s a rendering of the new hotel tower, because renderings are life.

Downtown Grand tower

The new tower will have three presidential suites, as if one president weren’t already far too many.

While Downtown Grand has struggled to become profitable since it opened in 2013—it’s rumored the resort loses about $4 million a year—the resort’s hotel is a strong revenue driver, so it makes sense the owners (CIM Group) would try and exploit that asset.

The demand for accommodations downtown exceeds capacity. Downtown accounts for only about five percent of the rooms in Las Vegas, despite an estimated 24 million-ish people visiting downtown each year.

Downtown Grand hotel tower

Sorry, we can’t share this photo because a guy at the site, clearly an expert in both demolition and constitutional rights, said, “No photos.”

The new Downtown Grand hotel tower is expected to open in 2020, as is everything ever announced in the history of Las Vegas.

Some of the things expected in 2020 include Raiders stadium, the new Circa resort, the Las Vegas Convention expansion, The Drew (don’t hold your breath) and MSG Sphere.

The start of construction at Downtown Grand is a welcome relief from untold delays since the project was first announced in July 2017.

Downtown Grand

Never before have so many taken so many photos of so little.

It should be noted there were also plans for an entertainment complex at Downtown Grand, complete with a tavern, fitness center and outdoor climbing wall. The project was apparently scrapped at some point. The fact the project was to be called “The Quad” did not bode well, anyway. Long story.

Beyond Downtown Grand’s mellow casino and appealing pool deck, we’re a big fan of its restaurants, especially Triple George Grill and Pizza Rock.

It’s great to see Downtown Grand playing to its strengths, despite a tricky location. More hotel guests means more gamblers, more restaurant patrons and more hope this boutique casino resort can turn its fortunes around.

Update (1/24/10): Boom, gone.

Downtown Grand demolition

Downtown Grand seems to have a handle on demolition, now let’s see how it does at building.

Tracking the About-Face of SLS Las Vegas

The overhaul of SLS Las Vegas is underway.

Despite the fact we were summarily given the boot for taking photos during our last visit, we’re determined to keep you apprised of developments, so here’s the latest.

Summarily, it should be noted, is the worst kind of boot to be given. By far.

Grand Sahara Las Vegas

SLS is in a state of flux. We just hope they know what the flux they’re doing.

The new owner of SLS, Alex Meruelo, has said he’ll invest $100 million in “revitalizing” the former Sahara. That’s a whimsical number, but there’s no question a dramatic facelift is taking place in the resort’s casino.

There’s been a dramatic shift in the look and feel of the perennially under-patroned casino, including new carpeting and a rethinking of the dark, unfinished industrial ceiling of SLS.

Grand Sahara SLS

They’re apparently going for the classic portobello mushroom look.

The interior design of SLS was distinctive, but SLS was an unmitigated financial flop, having never made a profit since the day it opened.

Was the decor a contributing factor? Hard to say.

Alex Meruelo and his team clearly believe so, hence their decision to try a more traditional vibe.

SLS Grand Sahara Las Vegas

Nothing new or edgy here, but SLS was new and edgy, and we know how that went.

While changes in the SLS casino are most visible, Meruelo has been chipping away at the resort’s challenges behind-the-scenes as well.

Cost-cutting has been a big priority, with a number of departments pared down to shore up the bottom line.

SLS Grand Sahara lounge

In most casinos, chairs don’t generate nearly as much money as slot machines. This chilling area’s days may be numbered.

The restaurant line-up at SLS has also been scrutinized. Holdovers from the SBE Entertainment era of the resort, Cleo and Katsuya, are unlikely to survive the summer from what we hear.

Look for the introduction of new dining concepts, including a food hall concept, expected to be a welcome addition for value-seekers.

We’ve also heard a buffet could be in the works. SLS had a buffet on the hotel’s second floor when it opened, but it was underwhelming it didn’t last long.

SLS Grand Sahara Vegas

Low ceilings in casinos fosters intimacy. We are always on the lookout for intimacy in casinos, which is one of the reasons we have a bailbondsman.

When the time is right, SLS will presumably get a new name: Grand Sahara Resort. (Alex Murelo also owns the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno.)

It remains to be seen if the changes at SLS will help turn the struggling casino around.

SLS

Anybody seeing a Park MGM influence here? Just saying.

The resort’s location continues to be an undeniable challenge, as a number of north Strip projects are on hold (Wynn West), dead on arrival (Lucky Dragon) or plodding along at a snail’s pace (The Drew, Resorts World, All Net Resort).

Little foot traffic means the casino needs to get creative with marketing. Easier said than done.

SLS Grand Sahara

Casino carpets typically have busy patterns to better conceal stains. Now you know.

A casino refresh at SLS can’t hurt. Ultimately, though, casino resort fundamentals need to be in place for a venue to succeed.

Loosen up those machines. Give loyal customers generous perks. Pour liquor from the bottle (rather than the gun). Provide value. Keep parking free. Dump the goofy statue out front. Bring back the awesome video screen that was above the casino bar. (That’s the plan, by the way.)

Oh, and let people take photos.

SLS Grand Sahara

Las Vegas casinos resemble its roadways more with each passing day.

We’re rooting for you, SLS.

Sorry, Grand Sahara.

That may take some getting used to.

Shocker: Celine Dion Could Move to Park MGM

Did the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority just drop a huge entertainment bombshell?

If it’s not a monumental gaff, it seems Celine Dion isn’t done in Las Vegas when her show at Caesars Entertainment ends on June 8, 2019. She’ll jump ship to the competition, Park MGM.

Here’s the premature post to the LVCVA’s Instagram account.

Celine Dion Park MGM

Let’s hope whoever posted this gets a raise, not a pink slip.

Note: The post on Instagram has since been deleted.

A Celine residency at Park MGM hasn’t been officially announced by Celine’s people or Park MGM, but the LVCVA might know something the rest of us don’t.

You’ll recall Britney Spears couldn’t announce her plans for Park MGM until her contract ran out at Planet Hollywood (Caesars Entertainment).

The cancellation of Spears’ residency at Park MGM leaves a gaping hole in the Park Theater schedule, and Dion’s move would send shock waves through the world of Vegas entertainment.

We were the first to share Jennifer Lopez has also been poached by Park MGM.

The pattern has been Park MGM (MGM Resorts) making lavish offers these performers can’t refuse. Britney Spears was going to make $500,000 per show, and Lady Gaga is reportedly making $1 million per show.

Celine

Define “final.”

Celine’s run at Caesars Palace has resulted in the two highest-grossing residencies in Las Vegas history, but it’s entirely possible she’s not done yet.

It’s worth noting Celine attended Lady Gaga’s premiere at Park MGM. It was thought she was merely being supportive of her fellow diva, but if Dion is making the move to Park MGM, lots of pieces of the puzzle fall neatly into place.

It’s also rumored Celine Dion is building a new house in Las Vegas. That doesn’t sound like somebody who’s hanging it up.

At this point, Celine Dion’s move to Park MGM hasn’t been officially confirmed, but if it is, remember you heard it here first.

Thanks to @Celiniacs for pointing us to this scoop.

Update (1/15/19): The LVCVA says their post was a goof. They didn’t go so far as to say Celine won’t be doing another Vegas residency, however.

We’ll take them at their word, but trust and verify (in June 2019).