Jackpot of Attractions

After a day at the show, plenty of distractions await in Sin City.

By  Erik J. Martin, CSP Correspondent

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Are you a glitter heavy hitter? Want to destress to excess? Feeling hot to slot? Then it’s time to punch your ticket to Sin City, better known as Las Vegas—the entertainment capital of the world and site of the 2012 NACS Show.

New York is often called the city that never sleeps, but Vegas can easily contend for that title. That’s because there’s never a shortage of things to do, see or experience.

Consider that 17 of the top 20 hotels in the world are located here, with 150,000 total rooms available—more than any other place on earth. Nearly 39 million people visited Vegas last year, and a record-breaking 40 million are expected to visit in 2012. And for the 18th straight year, the city was the top trade show desti­nation in the country, hosting 4.9 million convention attendees in 2011.

From high-kicking showgirls to America’s fifth-tallest building (The Stratosphere) to the world’s largest mechanical neon sign (Vegas Vic) and Celine Dion exclusive concerts (she’ll probably never break Elvis’ record of 837 consecutive sold out shows at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel), this is a place that has it all. You could even choose to get hitched—more than 100,000 couples tie the knot every year on and off The Strip—because a marriage license here sets you back only $60 and 10 minutes.

But with so many entertainment choices and so little time to indulge, planning a party-hearty itinerary can be hard. That’s why we’ve created this handy hotspot guide, which highlights some of the best of the new, time-tested, on-the-house and edge-of-your-seat attractions in and around town, hap­pening before, after and evenings of the NACS Show.

FRESH AND FUN

There’s a lot to explore in Vegas for 2012, with an array of all-new or improved sights opening recently, including:

  • Absinthe at Caesars Palace

(3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-731-7110)

It’s back! The production the Las Vegas Sun called “the most inventive and daring show to open on the strip in years” has returned to Caesars Palace. “Absinthe” promises outrageous comedy and a cast of wild and outlandish acts performing amazing feats of virtuosity within mere feet of the audience. Call for show dates and times.

  • Dr. Entomo’s Palace of Exotic Wonders at The Springs Preserve

(333 S. Valley View Blvd., 702-822-7700)

Step right up and behold the devil with two heads! Witness scorpions that glow in the dark! Experience the offending stench of the giant vinagaroon! Resem­bling an old-fashioned circus sideshow, this exhibit explores the truth, myths and mysteries surrounding some freaky bugs and creepy crawlies, including Madagas­can hissing cockroaches, African milli­pedes, emperor scorpions, giant Sonoran centipedes and goliath bird-eating taran­tulas. Exhibit opens Oct. 6 and runs daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

  • Insert Coin(s)

(512 Fremont St., 702-477-2525)

Indulge your inner child—you know, the one who likes to play video games as well as consume libations—by visiting the Fre­mont East Entertainment District’s newest entertainment venue. Insert Coin(s) has 45 arcade cabinets with more than 60 TVs and videogame consoles with all the clas­sic titles you grew up on: Tron, Frogger, Donkey Kong and more. Video DJs create a nightclub atmosphere on the dance floor, and the adjacent Beta Bar is stocked with the best beers and top-shelf liquors. Open daily from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m.

  • Jersey Boys at the Paris Theatre

(Paris Las Vegas, 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 877-603-4390)

While Broadway’s runaway smash hit “Jersey Boys” isn’t new to Vegas, it moved from The Palazzo to the Paris earlier this year. Set to the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, this Tony Award-winning Best Musical of 2006 will keep you tapping your toes and snapping your fingers. Call for show dates and times.

  • Mob Museum

(300 Stewart Ave., 702-229-2734)

The brand-new Mob Museum showcases both sides of the notorious battle between organized crime and law enforcement. High-tech theater presentations, iconic one-of-a-kind artifacts and interactive exhibits help you discover the whole truth (and nothing but the truth). Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

  • The Smith Center for the Performing Arts

(361 Symphony Park Ave., 702-982-7805)

This state-of-the-art venue, which opened in March and is the home of the Nevada Ballet Theatre and Las Vegas Phil­harmonic, presents the highly acclaimed musical “Wicked—The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz.” Catch the final shows Oct. 5 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 6-7 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

  • Surf the Musical at Planet Hollywood

(3667 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 800-745-3000)

Take a nostalgic journey of sight and sound while grooving to the hits of The Beach Boys in this all-new musical extravaganza that began in June. Call for show dates and times.

FREE AND FABULOUS

They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas—except perhaps for your cash. But not everything in Sin City will drain your

wallet. You can visit the following gratis attractions and have extra cash in your pocket for blackjack later.

  • Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

(3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S.)

Every day, more than 22,000 people visit this complimentary attraction, featuring breathtakingly colorful and exotic foliage. Open 24/7 all year long.

  • Flamingo Wildlife Habitat

(3555 Las Vegas Blvd. S)

The Flamingo resort is home to a flock of live Chilean flamingos that continue to fascinate visitors. You’ll also find swans, ducks, koi and turtles populating the grounds, which are enhanced by spar­kling waterfalls and lush foliage. Open daily 8 a.m. to dusk.

  • Fountains of Bellagio

(3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S.)

One of the most beloved no-cost attrac­tions along the strip has changed its tune in the past year. Enjoy the world-famous water show timed to the music of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood, and The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” Show repeats daily every 15 minutes from 7 p.m. to midnight.

  • Mirage Volcano

(3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S.)

The erupting landmark you know and love has changed. The volcano show now incorporates the talents of Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, Indian tabla sen­sation Zakir Hussain and Fountains of Bellagio design firm WET, and the result is an audio/visual spectacle you’ll never forget. Begins at 8 p.m. and runs hourly on the hour until midnight.

  • Saturday Night Jazz on the Lake Aston MonteLago Village Resort

(30 Strada Di Villaggio, Henderson, Nev.)

Cool down after a hot day with a free jazz concert at Lake Las Vegas from 7 to 10 p.m. Oct. 6.

  • Sirens of TI

(3300 Las Vegas Blvd. S.)

This isn’t your father’s free Treasure Island show. The 2012 edition boasts enchanting temptresses who lure a band of renegade pirates into their cove with irresistible melodies. Evening showtimes at 5:30, 7, 8:30, and 10 p.m.

ACTION FACTION

There’s more to do in Vegas than crank slot handles, satiate your palate at fine restau­rants and park your posterior to partake in live performances. Thrill seekers, daredev­ils and adrenaline addicts alike can choose from plenty of options, including:

  • Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway

(7000 Las Vegas Blvd. N., 800-644-4444)

Learn to race like a NASCAR driver, find the line, pass and take on the banks of Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a professional driving instructor for four, eight, 18, 28, 60 or 80 laps. Feel the adrenaline that keeps the professionals coming back for more. Call for bookings available Oct. 5 or 6.

  • Dream Racing at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway

(7000 Las Vegas Blvd. N., 702-599-5199)

Ever wish you could be a racecar driver for a day? Take a track-ready Ferrari F430 GT for fast laps, just like a professional, at Dream Racing, Las Vegas’ newest wish-fulfillment attraction, which opened in March. Call for private bookings.

  • Flightlinez

(425 Fremont St., 702-410-7999)

Experience downtown Vegas from the sky, as you glide along a zip line across Fremont Street Experience’s Viva Vision canopy at speeds of up to 30 miles an hour. Open daily from noon to midnight Sundays to Thursdays, with extended hours until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

  • The Roller Coaster at New York New York

(3790 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-740-6969)

If being lifted up 203 feet and dropped down 144 feet, leaving you coasting at 67 miles an hour, sounds like a hoot, then take a ride on the Manhattan Express. Featuring the world’s first “heartline” twist-and-dive maneuver, this is one of the best-known coasters west of the Mississippi. Open daily 10:30 a.m. to midnight.

  • Sky Combat Ace

(1420 Jet Stream Drive, Henderson, Nev., 888-494-5850)

Learn the art of aerial dogfighting from a carefully trained fighter pilot instructor, who will put you at the controls of a real plane that you will fly and maneuver. No real bullets are used, of course, but your plane employs a state-of-the-art optical targeting system that gives you instant feedback when you get “the kill.” Not for the faint of heart. Call for private bookings.

  • SkyJump Las Vegas at the Stratosphere Tower

(2000 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 800-998-6937)

The Stratosphere’s newest hair-raising attraction, SkyJump Las Vegas, is a con­trolled free fall that sends you jump­ing off the 108th floor of the tower at a scream-inducing speed. Or choose from other thrills offered at the Strat, includ­ing X-Scream, Big Shot or Insanity. Open daily 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. and until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

MUST-GO SHOWS

While there are dozens of top-notch acts in Las Vegas that you can check out every night of the NACS Show, you can’t go wrong with these prime picks:

  • Rod Stewart: The Hits

(Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-731-7110)

More than 40 years and 100 million record sales later, Rod Stewart is still belting ’em out with the best of them, crooning clas­sics such as “Maggie May,” “Stay With Me,” “Reason to Believe” and “Tonight’s the Night.” (Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m.)

  • Le Rêve—The Dream

(Wynn Las Vegas, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-770-7000)

This intimate aqua theater-in-the-round show boasts aerial acrobatics, provocative choreography, daring feats of strength and agility, and live music and special effects that will immerse you in a world of fantasy and intrigue. (Oct. 8 at 7 or 9 p.m.)

  • Criss Angel: Believe—by Cirque du Soleil

(Luxor Hotel and Casino, 3900 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-262-4000)

You’ve seen him on the small screen. Now experience Criss Angel on the big stage, in the guise of a Victorian noble who will mystify and astound you with myriad amazing illusions. (Oct. 9 at 7 p.m.)

  • Penn & Teller

(Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, 3700 W. Flamingo Road, 702-777-7776)

Illusion meets comedy in this eye-open­ing show starring the world-famous Penn & Teller, who have been perform­ing their sly pranks and provocative tricks together since the late 1970s. (Oct. 10 at 9 p.m.)

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