Category Archives: Things to Do in Las Vegas

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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Bonnie Springs Ranch Reportedly Sold, Set to Close

A popular Las Vegas attraction, Bonnie Springs Ranch, has been sold and will close.

Upon news of the sale, we contacted the Bonnie Springs Motel and were informed while employees haven’t been officially notified of the sale, the motel won’t take reservations beyond Feb. 2019.

Bonnie Springs Ranch

Bonnie Springs Ranch was a portal to another, much sweatier, time.

According to sources, Bonnie Springs Ranch will be leveled by April, including its zoo and buildings.

Bonnie Springs Ranch is touted as a replica of an Old West town and is located in the Red Rock Canyon area, 20 miles west of Las Vegas.

The ranch spans 63 acres.

Bonnie Springs Ranch

Let’s just say Bonnie Springs Ranch has a lot of old-timey charm.

The “Bonnie” in Bonnie Springs Ranch comes from Bonnie McGaugh, the woman who purchased the ranch in 1952.

McGaugh, a one-time dancer and showgirl, passed away in 2016.

While she purchased the ranch in 1952, the ranch’s history dates back to 1840, or approximately “like a bajillion years ago” in Millennial years.

Fun fact: The zoo at Bonnie Springs Ranch started when the owner took in two two pygmy goats from (wait for it) Wayne Newton.

Bonnie Springs Ranch

Tweren’t nothing fancy, but people seemed to like it.

Wikipedia mentions speculation Bonnie Springs Ranch is haunted, but we won’t elaborate because ghosts don’t actually exist and there’s already plenty of stupidity in the world.

Here’s us talking about the rumored sale of Bonnie Springs Ranch on Channel 8, because we sort of always have to make things about us.

Bonnie Springs Ranch

Racial sensitivity, be damned, we’re having a rootin’-tootin’ good time!

It’s unknown what plans the buyer of Bonnie Springs Ranch might have for the sprawling site, or its zoo animals or Old West artifacts.

Update (1/8/19): A source tells us Bonnie Springs Ranch was sold for $25 million. Following our scoop, NevadaCurrent.com shared plans have been filed with Clark County to divide up the ranch into 22 parcels for residential housing. Documents show the buyer of Bonnie Springs Ranch is Joel Laub, former CEO of Astoria Homes.

Update (1/9/19): Our story has been confirmed by a number of sources. It’s expected the sale will be finalized in March 2019 when demolition will begin, but the buyer has agreed construction will not start until the zoo animals are relocated. Plans call for 20 homes to be built (each 2-3 acres), as well as a 25-room motel and 5,400-square foot event barn, whatever that might actually be.

Update (3/12/19): When will Bonnie Springs close? March 17, 2019. This was shared on the Bonnie Springs Ranch Facebook page.

Bonnie Springs Ranch

Bonnie Springs Ranch is riding off into the sunset.

Las Vegas 51s Renamed Las Vegas Aviators

The Las Vegas 51s minor league baseball team has a new name, the Las Vegas Aviators.

The team was purchased by the Howard Hughes Corporation in March 2017.

Along with the announcement of the team’s name change, the company also unveiled a new logo.

Las Vegas Aviators logo

Just screams baseball, doesn’t it? And possibly Ant-Man. But mostly baseball.

While the Internet was underwhelmed by the logo, let’s face it, the Howard Hughes Corporation has a bajillion dollars and doesn’t need the Internet’s approval.

The Aviators are set to play in a shiny new stadium about 15 minutes west of the Las Vegas Strip, in the master planned community of Summerlin. Which, we should say, was a genius thing to call it, because just calling it a “community” wouldn’t have helped the marketing department one iota.

The new Aviators stadium, called the Las Vegas Ballpark, is set for completion in April 2019.

Upon reflection, they probably should’ve called it the Master Planned Las Vegas Ballpark. Because marketing.

According to a news release, the team’s name change pays homage to the company’s namesake, Howard Hughes.

Howard Hughes, of course, was a noted business magnate, pilot, film director, racist and crazy person. No, really, super racist.

Among his many accomplishments, Howard Hughes is credited with helping turn Las Vegas from a den of inequity run by organized crime to a den of inequity run by bean counters.

Hughes owned six Las Vegas casinos: Desert Inn, Castaways, Frontier, Sands, Silver Slipper and Landmark. Howard Hughes had an uncanny ability to choose casinos which would someday no longer exist.

There’s no word yet on what the Aviator’s mascot will be, so here’s our suggestion.

Las Vegas Aviators mascot

Note: If they don’t use “Wowie Howie” as a mascot name, cannabis is now legal in Las Vegas. Just saying.

The Las Vegas Aviators name was presumably chosen from “hundreds of names submitted by the general public.” David R. Weinreb, CEO of The Howard Hughes Corporation, said, “The Aviators was a popular name nominated by many Southern Nevadans.”

Back in Howard Hughes’ heyday, that assertion would’ve been described as “malarkey.” Or possibly “bunk.” Or even “hooey.” Adorable, nevertheless.

Still, it was time Las Vegas’ Triple-A baseball team got a makeover.

There’s been an inexplicable explosion of interest in sports in Las Vegas recently, including rumors of efforts to bring a Major League Baseball team to Sin City. We should know, they were our rumors.

Adios, Las Vegas 51s. Hello, Las Vegas Aviators.

Please get the hot dogs right.

Wynn Plaza Shopping Complex Opens Sans Hoopla

After months of keeping us in suspense, Wynn Las Vegas has opened its Wynn Plaza shopping promenade with virtually no fanfare.

The 70,000-square-foot Wynn Plaza made its under-the-radar debut on Oct. 11, 2018.

It’s a beauty.

Wynn Plaza

Wynn Plaza has been teasing us for months, now we finally get to be all up inside it.

Wynn Plaza boasts a new must-see piece of artwork, Smiling King Bear by Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel.

Smiling King Bear is 16 feet tall and is done in the artist’s signature prismatic style, which is definitely something we didn’t just copy and paste from a news release.

Wynn Plaza

Do not try this at home. We just told you the thing is 16 feet tall.

While Wynn Plaza is slated to have about 25 tenants, it’s worth noting the shopping center opened with about half that number. We trust that’s the reason for months of delays, and the aforementioned lack of flair around the mall launch.

Remember, Wynn Plaza is part of Wynn Las Vegas.

Back in the day, the former CEO would’ve not only insisted all the stores be in place when the mall opened, he’d have arranged for fireworks or a parade or something over-the top to mark the occasion.

Back when Steve Wynn opened Mirage, there was an erupting volcano.

When he opened Bellagio, there were dancing fountains.

When he opened Wynn Las Vegas, the whole world was watching.

But times have changed. Steve Wynn is no longer at the helm of Wynn Las Vegas due to a cavalcade of sexual misconduct allegations, and not only that, Wynn Plaza isn’t even the sole owner of Wynn Las Vegas.

Wynn Resorts sold half (49.9%) the ownership of Wynn Plaza (and other retail space at Wynn and Encore) to Crown Acquisitions in late 2016.

Wynn Plaza

Vegas is so cool, even our shopping malls are a feast for the eyes.

Does the co-ownership or half occupancy explain why there was no celebration around the opening of Wynn Plaza? Who knows. We’re not even entirely sure we care. It’s shopping.

Still, we love shiny new things in Las Vegas, and Wynn Plaza is certainly that.

Wynn Plaza

There’s even a nod to the Parasol Up and Parasol Down bars inside Wynn. We have no idea if it’s a nod, but using the word “nod” serves to make us sound smarter.

Beyond the multi-colored bear, there’s another piece of high-profile art at the other end of the mall, Arrows and Flower Neon Sign by Takashi Murakami and Virgil Abloh.

Takashi Murakami is known, of course, for revitalizing traditional narratives of transcendence and enlightenment. The Internet, it seems, has a lifesaving news release for every occasion.

Wynn Plaza

Three million bucks! With that, you could get upwards of six handbags at Wynn Plaza.

The security guard said the artwork is valued at $3 million. We are clearly in the wrong line of work.

Did we mention it moves?


There are currently two dining options at Wynn Plaza, the highly-regarded Cipriani and Urth Caffe.

Wynn Plaza

Urth Caffe is a top, Cipriani is a bottom.

We can’t wait to give Cipriani restaurant and bar a try, not only because of the warm, welcoming decor, but also because they didn’t kick us out for taking photos of the place.

Wynn Plaza Cipriani

There’s a lot to love about Cipriani, and we didn’t even look at a menu.

Urth Caffe looks appealing as well, and not just because it has a metric ass-ton of desserts on display.

Wynn Plaza

Urth is described as a “European-style coffee shop,” which we assume means it doesn’t shave its legs.

We weren’t kidding about the desserts.

Wynn Plaza

When you’re wealthy, you can just order the calories to not adhere to your thighs.

Wynn Plaza has a number of luxury brands, approximately zero of which we’re the target audience of. To make things even more awkward, no one that shops at Wynn Plaza would ever end a sentence with a preposition.

Wynn Plaza also has an indoor cycling center, SoulCycle. Which is just sort of weird. Partially because it’s in a mall. But also because it sounds like people may voluntarily exercise.

The folks at Wynn Plaza have obviously taken a lot of time and care in both designing the space (credit for that goes to longtime Steve Wynn collaborator Roger Thomas) and selecting tenants.

Here’s an interview with the Wynn Las Vegas retail guy.

While we’re not a shopping person (we own a total of one blazer), we suspect affluent shoppers will appreciate the stunning design of Wynn Plaza as well as the brands offered, a number of which are new to Las Vegas.

Wynn Plaza

It’s not that Celine, but the brand confusion could work in the store’s favor.

Despite the fact half of the stores aren’t open yet, things should pick up moving into the holiday season, and Wynn Plaza is well worth a stop.

Eventually, people are going to notice if you only have one blazer.

Wynn Plaza

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Sigma Derby is Done at MGM Grand

A popular, old-timey horse racing slot machine called Sigma Derby has finally been put down for good at MGM Grand.

Sigma Derby has a passionate following, and until recently, there were just two in Las Vegas (and possibly the country).

And then there was one.

An MGM Grand rep confirmed to us Sigma Derby won’t be back. The company said it has “done everything possible to prolong its active lifespan but that’s simply no longer possible.”

Sigma Derby MGM Grand

MGM Grand’s Sigma Derby was in its Level Up lounge for a minute. Guests were less than whelmed. It was moved back to the main casino floor for the remainder of its life.

That leaves just one Sigma Derby standing, the one at downtown’s The D Las Vegas.

Sigma Derby has built a fan base for a number of reasons.

There’s a communal element to the game, because up to 10 players can join in the fun. The cheering at Sigma Derby is about the only sound louder than a dice table in a Las Vegas casino.

Also, the machines only take quarters, so guests can play for an extended period of time (while enjoying free beverages) for relatively little cost.

The game is easy to understand as well. Players wager on two horses in each race. The horses they pick must finish first and second, in any order.

Sigma Derby

One of the great things about Sigma Derby is, no matter how much you drink, it’s hard to screw up too badly.

Noting the popularity of Sigma Derby, a company called Konami attempted to make an updated version of the mechanical horse racing game, Fortune Cup.

It’s fine. But it’s no Sigma Derby.

While fans of Sigma Derby will bemoan its passing at MGM Grand, we have to believe the casino is relieved to have it off the floor once and for all.

The machines break down frequently, and parts are nearly impossible to get, and many of the parts have to be fabricated from scratch.

Sigma Derby

Sigma Derby isn’t so much a slot machine as a cult.

In addition, casinos have moved away from coins to TITO (ticket in, ticket out) systems because of the cost of labor and maintenance involved.

Sigma Derby

You never know what people will grow attached to. Welcome to Sigma Derby.

It’s unknown how long the sole remaining Sigma Derby might last. The D installed Fortune Cup right next to the classic machine, possibly hoping customers would migrate to the new game so the old version could be retired.

That didn’t happen, and now there’s an additional incentive to keep Sigma Derby around. There’s major P.R. value in being the only game in town.

Downtown Grand Lends a Hand to Make Downtown Gateway a Thing

It doesn’t happen often, but when we get something wrong, we admit it. We got the downtown gateway wrong, it’s actually a thing.

“What’s the downtown gateway?” you ask, impertinently. It’s this.

Downtown gateway sign

The original Las Vegas sign may not be in Las Vegas (it’s in Clark County), but this one is. Long story.

The new downtown gateway was built by the City of Las Vegas to the tune of about $400,000. It replaces another welcome sign, inspired by the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign on the south end of The Strip, smashed to bits by a bonehead in a truck in 2016.

When we first saw the gateway display, we thought it was fairly lame. All due respect, City of Las Vegas.

While it featured some of our favorite gambling things—dice, chips and a roulette layout—it very prominently featured two cartoon showgirls.

Downtown gateway

On the bright side, Googie stars. They’re the things floating over the “a.” You can never go wrong with Googie stars.

Not that there’s anything wrong with showgirls.

It’s just that showgirls are a somewhat antiquated symbol of Las Vegas, the last true showgirl show, “Jubilee,” having closed in 2016. The same year the “Welcome to Downtown Las Vegas” sign was destroyed. Las Vegas has no shortage of metaphors. Or ironies. Or analogies. Take your pick. We can never keep those straight.

Googie stars

If anyone ever asks what Las Vegas ninjas throw, now you know.

There was also a location problem.

The gateway was built where it was impossible to take a photo without getting a billboard in the background with an ad for a restaurant in the background. It was akin to the power lines at the welcome sign on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Downtown gateway showgirls

All the meh.

And we should also mention the fancy “Las Vegas” typography was taken from a logo the City of Las Vegas abandoned less than a year after it was unveiled.

Anyway, we figured the backward-looking display would be ignored by visitors, but over time, we’ve rarely passed the corner of Main and Las Vegas Boulevard without seeing tourists snapping selfies with the sign.

Hey, we can’t be right about everything.

Downtown gateway display

Great perk of this sign over the other Las Vegas sign: No lines.

In a completely cool move, Downtown Grand even changed up its billboard to enhance the photo op.

Props where they’re due, Downtown Grand took one for the team and made advertising secondary to giving downtown Las Vegas a much more “Grammable” photo.

Downtown Grand billboard

We actually don’t have an adequate supply of props to give to Downtown Grand for this classy move.

The gateway cost about $400,000 to construct, and morons are already finding ways to make it so we can’t have nice things.

Somebody stood on the “L” in Las Vegas and broke it. Word is the City designers are looking for ways to make the display elements more “durable.”

Downtown gateway sign

Please, people, it’s only been there three months.

We suggest the City of Las Vegas buy the billboard from Downtown Grand and swap it out with this one.

downtown gateway Vegas

Seriously, we know a guy who could make this billboard happen.

And, naturally, asshats wasted no time tagging the display.

Former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman once got into hot water for suggesting people who do graffiti should have their thumbs cut off. We knew there was a reason we’re such a big fan of Oscar Goodman.

downtown gateway

We checked all the pips on the dice. They’re good.

The City of Las Vegas isn’t done with its welcoming efforts, either.

The City recently started taking bids for an 80-foot-tall “double arch gateway” to complement the existing welcome display.

The location of the arch hasn’t been determined yet (it’s shown in two different locations in two renderings released by the City), but it’s expected to cost $2 million.

Downtown gateway arch

This seems the most likely location, at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara.

The call for bids says construction of the arch will start in June 2019 and be completed by the end of 2019.

While downtown’s welcome display won’t ever be as iconic or popular as the Las Vegas sign known around the world, maybe it doesn’t need to be.

Downtown Las Vegas doesn’t aspire to be The Strip, and its welcome sign has a distinctive vibe all its own.

If you don’t have a chance to stop at the downtown gateway for a photo, we’ve got a back-up plan. This gem outside the new marijuana museum at Neonopolis might do the trick.

Downtown White Castle photo op

You’re welcome.

No visit to Las Vegas is complete without a metric ass-ton of photos, so get busy.

Make sure to check out our list of 25 Offbeat Las Vegas Photo Ops.