By Mike Cohen with files from Ilana Spector
LAS VEGAS – Is Las Vegas (www.lasvegastourism.com) truly the most exciting and entertaining city in the world? Consider the fact it is home to luxurious casino hotels, fine dining, wonderful live entertainment and state-of-the art convention and trade show facilities and it probably deserves such a ranking.
Recognized all over the world for its famous Las Vegas Strip, visitors can get a glimpse of amazing world famous re-creations like erupting volcanoes, the Eiffel Tower and the Sphinx of Egypt in front of the various hotels and casinos. There is top quality entertainment, including headliner shows and concerts, attractions, shopping and world-renowned resorts. Las Vegas nightlife is known to keeping visitors up until dawn.
WHERE TO STAY: Looking for a place to stay? We took the advice of Mitch Garber and chose the fabulously located Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino (www.planethollywoodresort.com) to make reservations. Garber is the President and CEO of Caesars Acquisition Company (CAC). He oversees the entire operation, which includes their group of hotels and casinos. Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino is one of the newest additions to the Caesars Entertainment family in Las Vegas and is a full partner in Total Rewards™. It has 2,500 beautifully designed guest rooms and suites showcasing some of the best views in town and encompasses more than 100,000 square-feet of gaming, several lounges, 10 restaurants, including Gordon Ramsay BurGR, KOI, Strip House, the award-winning Spice Market Buffet and LA’s Pink’s Hot Dogs and the Planet Hollywood Spa by Mandara. The resort is also home to one of pop music’s biggest superstars Britney Spears and her show, “Britney: Piece of Me.” The property is encircled by Miracle Mile Shops with more than 170 specialty stores and restaurants.
Previously known as Aladdin Resort & Casino, Caesars officially acquired the property on February 19, 2010. The property features a three-acre casino floor full of traditional gambling machines like slots, table games and The Playing Field Race and Sports Book. This features 33 plasma screens, two jumbo screens and a section for VIP. Planet Hollywood is the first Las Vegas resort to offer table games dealt by young ladies in “chic lingerie.” The Pleasure Pit is a section of the table games where this happens with go-go dancers entertaining the gamblers at the side.
The Mezzanine can be accessed by taking an escalator in the casino or the elevator. Here, guests can relax on comfy chairs overlooking the casino. The space was designed to be quieter than the main areas of the casino, where guests come to lounge and smoke. The area is rather spaced out with room to walk and includes a place for shooting basketball hoops. It includes a “Living Room” with sofas to be accessed by the guests.
The Planet Hollywood showroom is located on the mezzanine. It features several different live shows.
Accommodations here are fit for the celebrity A-List, and perfect for Hollywood buffs. Every one of its rooms and suites features one-of-a-kind movie memorabilia set against a backdrop of stylish, modern luxury.
If you’re a hardcore Hollywood fan, the Panorama Suites will truly feel like heaven on earth. Measuring 1,255 square feet and offering a 180-degree view of the Strip, each Las Vegas room features its own Hollywood theme which vary from James Bond, Marilyn Monroe, Batman, Star Trek, Will Smith, Back to the Future, The Wizard Oz and much more. Ours featured actress Demi Moore. The 1,255-square-foot floor plan includes a master bedroom with a 36-inch plasma television and separate living area, a master bathroom with oversized soaking tub, a separate dining area with refrigerator and wet bar, and a 52-inch plasma television in the living area. An additional bedroom and bathroom with 500 square-feet can be added to any Panorama Suite –something we opted for. Our party of three really appreciated the individual privacy this arrangement facilitated. In fact we could have fit more than double the amount of people comfortably. There were three, count them “three,” bathrooms. You can connect two WiFi devices at no charge. There is a fee if you go over that amount. The connectivity is fast and reliable.
While The Pleasure Pool is closed for the winter season, the Paris Pool next door remains open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., weather permitting. Located on the resort’s rooftop, Pleasure Pools offers two separate pool decks, two pool bars, live DJs, 15 cabanas with poolside bottle service, daybeds and a pool café.
Right outside the door you can go on an all-out Las Vegas shopping spree at Miracle Mile Shops, featuring the glitz and glam of Hollywood. Located inside Planet Hollywood Las Vegas, the 1.2 mile retail mecca is beyond amazing. Here, you can have your retail therapy and a workout.
Featuring 170 specialty stores, Miracle Mile Shops includes live entertainment at the Saxe Theater and V Theater, plus mouth-watering dining at 15 restaurants ranging from quick and casual to gourmet.
Shops at Planet Hollywood Las Vegas include coveted brands like GUESS, GAP, DC Shoes, Urban Outfitters, Steve Madden, H&M, White House/Black Market and more. Dining options include Pampas Brazilian Grill, La Salsa Cantina, Todai Sushi Buffet and more great Las Vegas restaurants.
BOOKING A SHOW: My family has become a big fan of Viator (www.viator.com). Their team of travel insiders are obsessed with finding the best things to do everywhere folks travel. From Paris to Phuket to Perth, from traditional tours to once-in-a-lifetime experiences, they have something for every kind of traveler. They have been around for 17 years now. From their offices around the globe, a team of travel insiders handpick the best local tour and activity providers. Viator officials pre-vet them all to make sure you always have an exceptional experience.
Over three million people have traveled with Viator and they have opinions you’ll want to hear. With Viator you can get the royal treatment, including behind-the-scenes access, private viewings, VIP tours – with no lines and no crowds! If you want to pre-book your trips at home from a laptop or do so on the go, with Viator you get insider access.
Viator has evolved from its founding in Sydney in 1995 as a technology company building websites for other travel companies, to emerge as the leading insider resource for researching and booking destination activities around the world. At the time when other companies were honing in on airline tickets, hotels and rental cars, Viator focused on an untapped niche in the young online travel market—destination activities—or the “things you do when you get there.” Today, Viator is the industry leader in the tours and activities space, with an unprecedented portfolio of thousands of hand-picked tours and activities, and unmatched relationships with a global network of local tour operators.
Viator is not a paid listing or advertising site nor a simple aggregator. Viator’s team of travel experts around the world has built close relationships with local tour operators over the past 10 plus years. Each operator is pre-vetted for quality and service so only the best and most memorable experiences are featured on the site, and the steady stream of verified customer reviews (500,000 and counting) keeps them honest; providers that don’t meet expected service levels are removed. Through a collection of more than 60 consumer-facing websites, mobile apps and mobile sites, Viator reaches more than nine million travelers a month. Its global affiliate network of more than 2,000 active partners expands the company’s reach to even more travelers through affiliate sites like American Airlines, British Airways, Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor and AAA.
We discovered Viator last summer while in Europe and took advantage of its amazing list of options, so when it came to booking a trip to Vegas we turned them again. Viator made our job of selecting a live show so easy. There were simply too many options and going through their website really helped us narrow down our choice which was the Cirque de Soleil’s incredible Michael Jackson ONE (http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/michael-jackson-one/show/about.aspx), a sonic, tonic fusion of acrobatics, dance and visuals that takes the audience on an immersive journey through the music and spirit of Michael Jackson. Shows take place at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino Friday, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and Sundays at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dark days are Wednesdays and Thursdays. Driven by the late King of Pop’s powerful, multi-layered music – heard like never before in a riveting, state-of-the-art surround-sound environment – ONE takes the audience through a series of seamless visual and musical tableaux, at the heart of a world that is in turn majestic, playful, magical and heart-warming. Jackson’s spirit is channeled through the vibrant energy of the cast of 63 dancers and performers, underscored by aerial performance, driving acrobatics, and vivid choreographies that use the urban/hip hop idiom as a springboard for exploration.
This new show captures the essence, soul and inspiration of the King of Pop, celebrating a legacy that continues to transcend generations. You’ll be captivated by an array of aerial acrobatics and special effects during this unforgettable performance, which incorporates Jackson’s most popular songs and iconic dance moves.
Cirque du Soleil strives to make it as easy as possible to purchase accessible seating tickets for venues across the country. Availability and the type of accessible seating will vary based on each venue’s policies and/or the type of event taking place. Go to the Viator website and book your tickets and at the same time check out all of the other Vegas options they offer. When the day comes for a return trip, we are eager to experience some of the other live shows they offer, helicopter tours, big bus and city tours, monorail tickets, airport transportation in style, Grand Canyon adventures and much more. Log on to http://www.viator.com/Las-Vegas/d684-ttd.
EIFFEL TOWER EXPERIENCE: The Paris Hotel, right next to Planet Hollywood, is also a Caesar’s property. Each member of our party had been to Paris, France and went to the top of the real Eiffel Tower. We just had to do the same in Las Vegas. An icon of the city skyline, the high-altitude Paris Hotel Eiffel Tower Experience attraction is located 46 stories up and is a half scale replica of the world-famous Paris landmark. The observation deck features 360 degree city views and knowledgeable ambassadors point out Las Vegas landmarks. A popular spot for weddings, the Eiffel Tower Experience is especially romantic at night. The views of the bright, colorful lights and the lit water show are unmatched. Double the romance with dinner a few stories down at the 11th floor Eiffel Tower Restaurant. This place is known for marriage proposals. You can stop by Kodak’s Total Snap Shot kiosk to purchase a commemorative photo of your “France in Vegas” experience in the sky. Admission prices range from $10 to $19 depending on the day and time you visit. This was a surreal experience to be sure. Close your eyes for a moment and you will truly believe you are in Paris, France. The Tower is open Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. You can call 1-888- 266-5687 for more information or log on to http://www.parislasvegas.com/things-to-do/eiffel-tower.
This attraction is handicapped accessible. Individuals in wheelchairs who wish to visit the Tower are escorted to the elevators on the Casino Floor and are either taken to the Bridge for pictures or straight to the top.
While on site check out The Arc de Triomphe, The Louvre. The Paris Opera House and Hôtel de Ville.
HELICOPTER JUST MAVERICK: Here is an experience we strongly recommend. The Eiffel Tower is one way to see Las Vegas. Climbing aboard a helicopter is another. Maverick Helicopters (www.maverickaviationgroup.com) offer an unforgettable 12 to 15 minute ride, departing from the Las Vegas terminal. A complimentary shuttle provides transportation to and from hotels within five miles of the Strip, so that was incredibly convenient for our party. Make sure to bring a camera, photo ID (for anyone 18 years or older). The cost is $124 a person. Upon arrival you will enjoy a fabulous glass of champagne. Their big draws are trips to the Grand Canyon, something which is at the top of our “to do” list for any future visit.
Guests are treated to the plush interior of Maverick’s ECO-Star helicopters, as well as personal narration by highly qualified pilots. We have high marks for Jonathan, our man in the sky. “Our pilots serve as your concierge/tour guide in the sky and,” says Bryan Kroten, Maverick Aviation Group’s vice-president of marketing. “They are there to narrate, answer questions and make sure you have a good time.”
Maverick attracts customers from around the world. For the busiest six months of the year, summer and fall, they literally have to turn customers away. Says Kroten: “Most people in the world have not been on a helicopter. So in Las Vegas people have the chance to take a 15 minute flight on a $3.3 million helicopter over one of the most exciting cities in the world or a 45 minute trip to the Grand Canyon, one of the seven wonders of the world.”
The helicopters are equipped with seven leather passenger seats plus one for the pilot. The seating arrangement is determined by the pilot based on the passengers’ weights. Maverick’s VIP check-in lounges are located on the Strip, only minutes away from the hotels, and at the Henderson Executive Airport, just 15 minutes from the city.
Each helicopters has an exterior camera, as well as an audio system that captures the pilot’s narration and the interaction between guests during the flight. This video keepsake is a great way to share your experience with friends and relive your excursion for years to come. Photographs are also taken prior to departure and are available in a custom plaque. Photo and DVD packages are available only on the same day of your trip and can be purchased before or after your flight.
Those in wheelchairs can enjoy this experience To fly and be accommodated, you will need to have a collapsible wheelchair with removable wheels. You must also be accompanied by someone who can assist you with boarding and disembarking the aircraft. Maverick is ADA compliant. Guest in wheelchairs fly with Maverick often.
Maverick Helicopters was recently named Concierge Choice Award winner for Best Tour Company in Las Vegas by the Southern Nevada Hotel Concierge Association (SNHCA). The 2014 win marks the fifth consecutive year that it has received this prestigious award.
“We are thrilled to receive this award from the Southern Nevada Hotel Concierge Association,” said Greg Rochna, CEO of Maverick Aviation Group, parent company of Maverick Helicopters. “We strive to provide first class helicopter experiences for our guests. Receiving this award means our team’s hard work is paying off.”
Maverick is in expansion mode, opening a new division in Maui, Hawaii in the spring of 2015.
For more information you can call 1-888-261-4414, 702-261-0007 or log on to www.flymaverick.com.
BODIES AND TITANIC EXHIBITIONS: We strongly recommend you take the time to visit two spectacular visits at the Luxor in Las Vegas: Bodies and the Titanic.
Experienced by more than 15 million people worldwide, Bodies…The Exhibition offers an intimate and informative view into the human body. Using an innovative preservation process, the Exhibition allows visitors to see the human body’s inner beauty in educational and awe-inspiring ways. The Exhibition features over 200 actual human bodies and specimens meticulously dissected and respectfully displayed, offering an unprecedented and wholly unique view into the amazing body.
The Exhibition takes visitors through galleries providing an up-close look inside the skeletal, muscular, reproductive, respiratory, circulatory and other systems of the human body. Many of the whole body specimens are dissected in vivid athletic poses, allowing the visitor to relate to everyday activities. In addition, authentic human specimens illustrate the damage caused to organs by over-eating and lack of exercise. A healthy lung is featured next to a black lung ravaged by smoking in a vivid comparison more powerful than any textbook image. The Exhibition will change the way people see themselves. It is designed to enlighten, empower, fascinate and inspire.
The human body specimens in the exhibition are preserved through a revolutionary technique called polymer preservation. In this process, human tissue is permanently preserved using liquid silicone rubber that is treated and hardened. The end result is a rubberized specimen, preserved to the cellular level, showcasing the complexity of the body’s many bones, muscles, nerves, blood vessels and organs. The full-body specimens can take more than a year to prepare.
There is also a more sensitive section of the exhibition showing fetal development. Guests can see different stages of a baby’s development, from eight weeks old to eight months, as well as fetuses with various birth defects, such as conjoined twins. This exhibit is located in its own private area, so those who feel uncomfortable viewing it can skip to the next section.
It is both startling and informative to see so many body parts and inner organs out in the open when they are usually tucked safely away under your skin. One wouldn’t expect such an intricate part of the nervous system, like the spinal cord, to resemble a clump of seaweed. The tongue, meanwhile, looks a bit like a small, thick cut of steak (Would you like that medium-rare or well-done?).
One of the more startling sights in the exhibit is the display of a smoker’s lung in the respiratory section. Visitors can see and compare a healthy lung to a blackened smoker’s lung. There is also a brain on display here from a person who suffered a stroke — ironically it looks a bit like the inside of an ashtray. After reading some scary, mind-opening facts (like a single pack of cigarettes takes three hours and 40 minutes off your life), you may think twice about puffing. For the guests’ convenience, there is a cigarette disposal bin nearby.
This is a definite lesson in authentic learning and we would strongly advise parents to bring their children of a proper age. They will be able to go back to school and tell their teachers and classmates what they saw.
Meanwhile, if you loved the 1997 movie “Titanic,” then the Titanic exhibit at the Luxor will blow you away. Featuring more than 300 artifacts, as well as breathtaking replicas from the famous ship, the Titanic exhibit truly brings history to life. The exhibit features 20 never-before-seen artifacts including gaming chips, passenger papers and even decorative sections from Titanic’s famous Grand Staircase. In addition, there are many personal pieces within the exhibit. Our party was completely blown away by the fact they could mount such a large exhibition indoors. For anyone who has seen the movie, this is a “must,” visit. If you have not seen the film, this will prompt you to do so.
One of the most heartfelt elements of the exhibit is the personal stories of the passengers. During the tour, the exhibit’s staff shares personal tales from the passengers. Some stories have a tragic, yet romantic ending. For instance, some wives chose to stay behind with their husbands instead of climbing onto the lifeboats.
At the beginning of the exhibit, patrons receive a boarding pass of an actual passenger on Titanic. On the back of each boarding pass is the age and the itinerary of that person. At the end of the tour, patrons find out if he or she survived the Titanic by finding the name on the wall memorial. The exhibit also includes passenger quotes. One of the most poignant sayings came from Jack Thayer, a first-class passenger: “There was no moon and I never seen the stars shine brighter,” he said. “It was the kind of night that made one feel glad to be alive.”
In addition to the passengers’ stories, other fascinating details include their belongings. From a diamond and sapphire ring to a platinum pendant with diamonds, some of the most beautiful pieces recovered from the Titanic are sparkling jewelry. The jewels were conserved — not restored — and many of the dazzling gems managed to keep their original luster.
Aside from jewelry, plenty of the Titanic passengers brought their own china and silverware. Each cup, plate, pitcher and bowl has its own interesting, distinct look. One of the exhibit’s unique pieces discovered is the au gratin plates set, stacked neatly in rows. The au gratin dishes were found lined up inside of a wooden crate that had deteriorated over time — an image that is recreated in the exhibition. Other artifacts include ship tools, postcards, currency, a pipe, a spittoon and playing cards.
While the tiny pieces leave behind a lasting impression, The Big Piece — a huge piece of the ship’s hull — definitely stands out. This piece is currently the largest Titanic artifact ever retrieved. It weighs an astounding 15 tons and measures more than 26 feet long. Bringing it inside was a 48-hour process, involving cranes and a special team of people. It’s considered the crown jewel of the collection and something one must see to believe.
In addition to the artifacts, the exhibit also features amazing replicas from the Titanic. One of these includes the staircase replica. Most remember the staircase scene from the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. This is where first-class passengers met, mingled and admired each other’s outfits. The intricately-detailed staircase replica includes iron, bronze and even the stained glass dome. Visitors have the option of having their picture taken and purchasing it at the end of the tour.
Other noteworthy replicas include the promenade deck (which features the sounds of waves crashing and a starry sky) as well as an iceberg, which guests are more than welcome to touch. Since the iceberg was specifically created for the exhibit, it contains its own cooling system to prevent it from melting.
Make sure to stop and take a look at the third-class and the finely decorated first-class sleeping quarters. Adorned with burgundy colors, elegant décor and mahogany accents, the first-class suite was considered more luxurious than any hotel room on land in its time.
From young to old, visitors of all ages will enjoy this exhibit. There is also gift shop for those who want to take a piece of Titanic home with them. Visitors can purchase everything from T-shirts, stuffed animals, captain hats for kids, cups, key chains and much more. Hours of operation for both exhibits are daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at a cost of $32 per person. The last admission is sold at 9 p.m.
WHERE TO DINE: Having previously experienced TAO Restaurant in New York City, our party had only one dining spot in mind for Las Vegas and that was the 40,000 square foot, $20 million design-driven dining and entertainment complex TAO at The Venetian-Resort-Hotel Casino (www.taolasvegas.com). TAO opened in New York City in 2000 and has retained its status as a hot spot, attracting celebrities and sports figures and catapulting the restaurant and lounge to iconic status. TAO Las Vegas, which debuted in 2005, is a multi-faceted and multi-story “Asian City” housing a restaurant, banquet facilities, ultra-lounge, nightclub and a seasonal beach.
The restaurant features a twenty-foot Buddha that “floats” peacefully above an infinity pool complete with Japanese Koi. It is a frequent hot spot for A-list celebrities and culinary connoisseurs.
Corporate Executive Chef Ralph Scamardella showcases a menu incorporating culinary components from China, Japan and Thailand, along with a full sushi bar and perfectly paired cocktails to complement the authentic Asian cuisine. Signature dishes include offerings from sea, sky and land, including Chilean Sea Bass Satay with Wok Roasted Asparagus, a preparation of Peking Duck that consistently receives accolades and Kobe Beef Shabu Shabu along with a full sushi bar. TAO Beach offers an abbreviated version of TAO Asian Bistro’s dinner menu throughout the day, as well as a brunch menu that boasts specialties like Sesame Berry Pancakes with tempura banana and mandarin butter, Fortune.
Service starts when the server delivers two china bowls, one empty, and the other filled with chilled edamame. The edamame is tossed with mustard oil, thinly sliced shallots, and black sesame seeds.
Our group considered this to be beyond exceptional, sampling a good portion of items on the menu. We recommend the following: Roasted Shishito Peppers with Yuzu; Edamame; Satay of Chilean Sea Bass, with Edamame Hijiki Salad (shitake mushroom plus seaweed); Spicy Tuna Tartare on Crispy Rice; Chinese Five Spice Short Ribs (beef); Salmon Sashimi, with Avocado and Crispy Onions and Sweet and Spicy Sesame Sauce; Shrimp Tempura; Spicy Tuna; Avocado and Soy Paper Roll; Yellowtail Sashimi, with Jalapeno and Ponzu Sauce; Crispy Snapper in the Sand; Vegetable Fried Brown Rice; Spicy Hoi Yin Eggplant; a Giant Fortune Cookie (white and dark chocolate mousse); and Yuzu Sugar Dusted Doughnuts with a trio of dipping sauces. As for alcohol, consider the TAO-tini , Orchid and Sake flight. Our waiter Yorke convinced us to try the restaurant’s three most popular sakes: DY-50; Drunken Snapper; and Demon Slayer. A big shout out to Assistant General Manager Name Eli Micaiah and his extraordinary team.
At TAO Beach, they offer a range of frozen cocktails, like the signature Par-Tee with Tito’s, iced tea and frozen lemonade, in addition to updated classics like the Citrus Blossom Mimosa with Ketel One Citroen, sparkling yuzu sake and lemongrass.
Guests are transported from the City of Sin to the Pacific Rim with TAO’s lush velvets and silks, waterfalls and century-old woods and stones. A Monk Bar is decorated with a wall of almost 300 hand carved monks and candles. TAO Beach’s outdoor oasis features luxury cabanas, daybeds and a 30-foot bar within its 18,000 square foot space.
Since its opening, TAO Asian Bistro and Nightclub has garnered worldwide acclaim as the hottest restaurant, lounge and nightclub in Las Vegas. TAO Beach’s debut in April 2007 increased capacity to over 60,000 square feet of space to host both indoor and outdoor events. The venue consists of seven full service bars, four fully equipped DJ booths, and multiple areas that can be utilized both separately and collectively for corporate parties, product launches, weddings, birthday celebrations, bachelorette/bachelor parties, CD Release Parties, holiday receptions, movie premieres and more.
Co-owners of TAO Las Vegas are Scamardella, Marc Packer, Richard Wolf, Noah Tepperberg, Jason Strauss, Paul Goldstein, Bill Bonbrest, Kim Kurlanchik Russen and Louis Abin.
There is complete wheelchair access at TAO Las Vegas.
For reservations call 702- 388-8588 for special events email firstname.lastname@example.org. The restaurant, which is wheelchair accessible, is open Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight and Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.