Since the 1950s, Las Vegas has been where Casino Culture meets sin city style; where white trash overweight Americana let it all hang out amidst camera-clicking Japanese tourists and where jet-setting Euro punters go club crashing for their favorite DJ transplants.
Honky Tonk Angels country tributes are juxtaposed to the likes of world class DJs such as Paul Oakenfold.
It's Disneyland on steroids -- and a lot more family oriented than it used to be. No longer on the cutting edge of music, but Vegas no longer caters only to an aging clientele, swooning for the likes of Wayne Newton and John Cougar Mellencamp. Yes, they're still there, but Vegas is getting ready to catch up with the times, at least a little.
In the '50s and '60s, it was the Dunes, the Desert Inn, the Sands, the Tropicana and the Flamingo. In the '70s and '80s it was Harrah's, the Mirage, the MGM Grand and Circus Circus.
The 1990s saw the overhaul of the classic '50s and '60s Rat Pack-era Swingers hotels into grand new monstrosities that epitomize this gambling Mecca's access to excess image.
Hotel listings (all area code 702)
3667 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
4455 Paradise Rd.
3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South
4321 W. Flamingo Rd.
3300 Las Vegas Blvd. South
3355 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
EATING AND DRINKING
Did somebody say something about eating? You might leave Vegas with lighter pockets, but if you've had the full experience you'll be a few pounds heavier, at least. Here one finds the highest quality food from all over the world in a panoply of upscale restaurants. Chain eateries from New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles have all set up shop here, from Nobu's sushi to Spago's pasta.
Table loads of carbs, fats and proteins are waiting in that order. But it is the lure of sizzling meat, of top-notch steak houses, that dominates the Strip's culinary scene. It used to be Ruth Chris's buttered down richness that was the rage. Now, there are a slew of upstarts.
Nine (inside the Palms, 933-9800) is the best; it even got the decor futuristically right; in addition to checking out the ceiling that changes colors, try the wet-aged New York strip. No kidding, this beef melts in your mouth. Toothless epicureans could gum this meat down it is so tender. Accompany this with crisp potato pancakes topped with avocado relish.
Prime Steakhouse (inside the Bellagio, 693-7111) is another top-notch steak joint. Its filet mignon is thick as a brick and succulently one of the best in town. Other choice bets for superb steak bliss can be found at Alan Alberts (3783 Las Vegas Blvd, 895-4006) and Charlie Palmer Steak (inside the Four Seasons, 632-5120).
Place only the locals know
The 50+ year-old Battistas Hole in the Wall (4041 Andrie St., 732-1424) is still going strong, where the owner sings while serving you home cooked Italian fare. Bob Taylor's Ranch House (6250 Rio Vista St., 645-1399) is a classic steakhouse that opened in 1955.
COCKTAIL & CLUB CULTURE
With its non-stop gambling, 24-hour drinking culture and other liberal policies such as legalized prostitution in nearby locales, Las Vegas is vying with Miami to play second fiddle behind New York as the club capital of America. Superstar European DJs have been attracted to this desert-style Ibiza. The likes of Timo Maas, Paul Oakenfold and John Digweed have all played here, to name but a few.
For the latest happenings, pick up a copy of free weeklies the Las Vegas Weekly or CityLife, or go to eternalbeats.com for rave reports.
Curve (in the Aladdin's London Club) is new and soon to be as achingly hip. On Saturday, headlining DJ Bad Boy Bill will play there. For info on future acts, go to
The Foundation Room (at the top of the Mandalay Bay Hotel) is the House of Blues' members only club that is among the latest trendy hipster bars. If you aren't a member, stay at the Mandalay Bay hotel or have dinner at the House of Blues.
Ghostbar (inside the Palms) is the DJ bar of the moment. Next door is Rain (at the Palm) a superclub venue with fire flames and 21st century style exotica decor.
For hip-hop look no further than Glo (1650 E. Tropicana, glogloba.com), which is the place where B Boys and girls go to break on Fridays and Saturdays.
The recently reopened Club Utopia( 3765 S. Las Vegas Blvd.) is a superclub to hit on Saturday nights for its roster of international world-class talent behind the decks. Donald Glaude is one of the rotating resident DJs.
V Bar (at the Venetian) is a Euro-Modern marvel with industrial chic yet romantic decor with sleek lines touched by bright red glows and a candle-lit free-standing DJ booth.
Randy Gerber's (of L.A.'s Skybar fame) Whiskey Sky (at Green ValleyRanch, 2300 Paseo Verde Hwy.) is another place to be at the moment, with its outdoor couch beds in which up to 20 people can lounge upon and chill out.
Underground local talent can be found at the Cooler Lounge (905 N. Decatur Blvd.) and Hush (3745 Las Vegas Blvd), where eclectic sounds can be heard from the Las Vegas-based Bargain DJ Collective.
The swanky Drai's (at Barbary Coast) is the ultimate after-hours spot. Light (in the Bellagio), is also a trendy new venue that's soon to be all the rage with the post-3 a.m. crowd.
Beyond Casino Culture
Las Vegas has long been a city marked by change; whenever any establishment lost its luster, it was merely blown up (usually on New Year's Eve) to make way for a newer, grander establishment.
During the mid to late '90s, the Dunes blew up to become the Bellagio, the Sands blasted way to the Venetian and the Hacienda gave way to the Mandalay Bay.
It wasn't until after the implosion of the Desert Inn, the last remaining Rat Pack-era hotel, late last year that a preservation mentality really started to kick in. Main Street in old downtown Las Vegas is in the process of being revamped into an artist district, while still preserving its post Bugsy Siegal-style kitsch.
Check out the Arts Factory (101 E. Charleston, between Main Street and Casino Center), a collection of local artists plus DJ shop, and then the slew of downtown thrift stores.
While you're checking all of this out, pay attention to those brand edifices on the Strip, because they'll be gone when their day is over, just like their predecessors.