Purple Roofs Travels: Three Nights in Gay Las Vegas

Author: , September 18th, 2010
by Scott & Mark, Purple Roofs

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Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas

Caesars, Las VegasIn early August of this year, we visited Las Vegas once again. Frequent readers of this blog will know that we go to Las Vegas typically several times a year – and we especially love it in the summertime – perfect for lounging by the pool with a handsome waiter bringing cool fruity drinks. :::grin:::

The Venetian, Las Vegas

We got lucky with the weather this year – the temperatures were only in the mid – 90s to low 100s for the three days we were there. However, we were not so fortunate with the prices.

Not the hotel prices, which were fantastic – everyone seems to be hurting economically here, just like the rest of the country.

But everything else seem to be more expensive. On the cab ride in, our driver told us that many fares now ask him to stop at a grocery store before taking them to their hotel. It’s cheaper to buy groceries and make breakfast and lunch at the hotel and go out to a restaurant in Vegas these days.

Venetian, Las VegasHe told us the story about a passenger who went to Caesar’s for a drink, bought a beer, and when the bill came, the charges $18. For single beer. And another story about a casino with an ATM that charged a $14 ATM fee.

Everyone’s scrambling here. Real estate prices in the area are half what they were at their peak, and many homeowners are underwater.

Apparently the casinos have not been immune to downturn. While there were many people here, the pool area at the Venetian was less than a quarter full. And because of the low hotel rates, the casinos seem to be charging more for everything else to try to make up the difference.

Venetian, Las VegasWe discovered this personally on several occasions. The first was at lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Postrio, at the Venetian. I ordered what looked like a wonderful ravioli dish – typically, I’d expect to pay $12 – $14 for this dish at a nice restaurant. The menu offered the dish for $19. The raviolis were very good, although there were only a few of them, but when the bill came, we were charged $21 for this dish.

We called the manager over and asked about it–two dollars isn’t that much, but it’s the principle of the thing. He apologized, and said that they had just raised the price, but the menus are not yet been changed. So was already overpriced dish went up in price by 10% while we were sitting there.

The other example was the gelato prices. I remembered gelato being expensive here from previous trips but this time, when we ordered two single scoop gelato’s, with waffle cones, the price was $15. We thought this was highway robbery, but had already accepted the cones, so we went ahead and paid this outrageous price. Being gelato lovers, we spent the rest of the trip pricing gelato at other places, and it turns out that this price is not so out of line, at least for Vegas. The best we found elsewhere for a comparable size was $6.50 each, or $13 total.

So this is a great time to go to Las Vegas, because you can get some fantastic deals on lodging, but be aware that restaurants and other “luxuries” may cost you more, and plan and budget appropriately.

Hitzville Show, Las VegasWe always like to take in a show while we are in Las Vegas, and this time was no exception. We really wanted to see Frank Marino’s new show at the Imperial Hotel, but Frank, you start too late! When Frank was at the Riviera Hotel, they used to have an earlier show, and hey, I know it shows my age, but 10 o’clock is just too late.::: sigh:::

Hitzville, Las VegasBut we did go to the (earlier) show “Hitzville” at Planet Hollywood. Hitzville is a fantastic Motown review, covering hits from Gladys Knight, Mary Wells, the Drifters, the Temptations, the Supremes, the Four Tops, and Tina Turner. We got VIP tickets, which got us in at the front of the line, and got us a copy of the soundtrack at the end of the show.

Hitzville Show, Las VegasHitzville was full of songs that everyone knows, and the cast was fantastic, as was the backup band. The four male leads did a great job with songs from the Temptations and the four Tops among others, and the girls were fantastic as the Supremes.

Hitzville Show, Las VegasBut the standout performer in the show was Jin Jin Reeves. Ms. Reeves was great as Diana Ross at the head of the Supremes, but when she returned to the stage to sing primary, this woman was Tina Turner. Full of boundless energy, blessed with an amazing, rough voice, she was perfect for the role, and brought the audience to its feet for a rousing standing ovation at the end of the show.

Hitzville is unusual in that it you are allowed to take photographs throughout the show, and we took full advantage of this. We hope you enjoy the pictures, and we highly recommend the show for your next trip to Vegas.

City Center, Las VegasWhile we were in town, we also did little shopping, returning to a few of our favorite places and to one new place.

The new place, city center, is supposed to be the jewel of Las Vegas’s crown. Rising a large parcel of land adjacent to the Bellagio Hotel, Crown Center is truly in the heart of the strip.

City Center, Las VegasWhen it is finished, it will include a casino hotel, condominiums, office space, and shopping–the whole shebang.

Part of city Center is now open, and from the outside, the place looks fabulous. The architecture is funky, from the chunky blocky building that faces the strip, to the two Towers that lean toward each other at odd angles. There are geometric lines, beautiful curves, and a playground of fanciful architecture here.

Aria, City Center, Las VegasGetting to it, however, is another matter. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, and hope this will be improved in the near future, as more of the center opens up. But for now, to get into the shopping center, you have to wind through a bewildering series of stairs, walkways, and alleys, and there seems to be only one way in and one way through.

Restaurant, City Center, Las VegasIf you’ve ever been to an IKEA store, you know exactly what I mean.

The shopping center here does feature what has to be one of the most spectacular looking restaurants in the world – it’s surrounded by this amazing, beautiful, organic, curvy structure that starts at the ground floor, wraps around the restaurant floor like a pod, and extends up into the heavens. Can’t tell you if the food is any good there, but it looks fantastic.

The Forum, Caesars, Las VegasWe hope to get things ironed out here, because city center has the potential to be a fantastic addition to the Las Vegas strip.

While we were in Vegas, we made several trips to our favorite shopping center on the strip, the Forum at Caesars Palace. Talk about an IKEA floorplan!

Caesar's Palace, Las VegasHunting for a new place for dinner one night, we walked the forum, and it just reached the end when the cheesy Atlantis show began, trapping us between the show and the cheesecake factory.

Aquarium at The Forum, Caesars, Las VegasSo we made the best of it and enjoyed the beautiful aquarium wraps around the center of this plaza. My favorites here were the rays, and we got a few great pictures of them gliding serenely back and forth in the aquarium.

Trevi Restaurant, The Forum, Las VegasOn the way back, we settled on the restaurant in the main plaza, behind the large, gaudy, yet somehow beautiful fountain that dominates the space. The restaurant is called Trevi, and has “outdoor” seating that’s perfect for people watching.

I had a margherita pizza here that was absolutely divine, the perfect combination of mozzarella, basil, and sauce. As an unexpected bonus, the paper this restaurant uses its bread baskets is a mockup of an Italian newspaper.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you may know that Mark and I are studying Italian, and have been for two and half years, so this opportunity to read a bit of Italian at dinner was welcome.

The waiter was kind enough to give us a clean copy of this “newspaper” to take with us to our Italian group. Although this newspaper was dated 2010, the waiter told us they’ve been using the same ones since sometime last year, and he joked that he should have made a bet on one of the sports games listed in the paper – he might’ve won a lot of money.

Max Brenner, The Forum, Caesars, las VegasSpeaking of Italian, and sort of roundabout way, we’ve got a fantastic chocolate shop here as well.

Chocolate Pizza, Max Brenner

The place is called Max Brenner, and Mr. Brenner is an Israeli chocolate maker who is starting to open restaurants here in the States.

It’s a full – service restaurant, but focuses on chocolate, and even had a chocolate pizza in the case at the front of the store, which looked amazing, but a little scary too.

Italian Hot Chocolate, Max BrennerBut I say Italian because this is the first place, outside of Murano, where I found a true Italian drinking chocolate. For those who’ve never tried it, this Italian drink is a fantastically thick version of hot chocolate that is so thick that it skims over, like pudding, if you don’t drink it quickly enough.

Drinking a cup of this rich, decadent, beverage took me back years to when we were sitting in a café in Murano, a small island in Venice where they make the famed glass, after a ferry trip from the main Venetian Islands, when I first discovered this wonderful drink.

Canonita, Venezia, Las VegasWe also visited three great restaurants in the Venetian/Palazzo complex–one of the largest if not the largest hotels in the world.

First, we returned to Canonita, a Mexican restaurant along the canal in the Venetian’s beautiful shopping area. Canonita has always offered wonderful food, and this time was no exception, with the skirt steak dish that was simply divine.

Grand Canal, The Venetian, Las VegasContinuing the theme of a quieter than usual Las Vegas, we had no trouble getting a table right by the rail overlooking the Grand Canal–this is a great place to watch and listen to the gondoliers as they pass by, usually pausing to turn their boats and sing a song in Italian.

Every time we’ve come to visit the Venetian, there have been more female gondoliers, and we recently heard but the first woman gondolier was just accepted in the real Venice, Italy.

The only downside to our meal here was the unexpectedly slow service – service in the past has always been exceptional.

Entertainers, The Venetian, Las VegasAnother favorite, the aforementioned Postrio, is one of Wolfgang Puck’s many restaurants here in Vegas. We like this one because it’s in the heart of St. Mark’s Square at the Venetian – ask for a table by the rail facing the raised entertainment platform, and you may be treated to music, dance, juggling, or even a living statue.

The food is usually very good, and this time was no exception, whether only hesitation at recommending this place being the rising prices.

Table 10, The Palazzo, Las VegasWrapping up our restaurant reviews, we revisited Table 10, one of Emeril’s restaurants.

If he hadn’t been to Las Vegas for a while, you may be surprised at how many celebrity chef restaurants there are here. There are probably more celebrity – run restaurants here per square foot than there are Starbucks in Seattle.

Table 10, at the Palazzo, has a casual welcoming atmosphere, and the lunch food there is light, well seasoned, and wonderfully flavorful. We haven’t tried dinner here, but highly recommend it for lunch.

He is GayFinally, a few “things that make you go hmmm” photographs. This first one we captured at a store window in the Venetian–not quite sure what this means but it might be a new take on the old “I’m not gay but my boyfriend is” shirt. But the mannequin sure scared the hell out of us.

The second one was taken outside the theater where we saw Hitzville, and is for both a lesbian friends and our gay friends who appreciate oversized kitsch. We think she speaks for herself.

Vegas also has one gay bar on the strip, also at Planet Hollywood – called Krave, it’s supposed to be quite a scene, but once again note the late opening time. ::: big sigh:::

So if you’re careful, it’s possible to get some great deals in Vegas these days. There is a gay resort hotel just off the strip called the Blue Moon Resort–if you’re looking for a gay friendly environment with a fantastic pool, check this place out.

And of course, the hotels on the strip are offering great deals as well.

But budget carefully and pay attention to the prices when you’re eating out or shopping, and above all, have a great time!