According to an advertising slogan, Hollywood is the “Entertainment Capital of the World.” But consider for a moment the sheer number of shows, headliners, bars, nightclubs, lounges, and other forms of entertainment and nightlife in Las Vegas. Your options are almost limitless: Cirque du Soleil has more than a half-dozen permanent shows here; virtually every hotel has at least one showroom, if not four; Mariah Carey, Elton John, and Bruno Mars are among the big names who perform regularly, and sometimes exclusively, in Vegas; most bars are open 24 hours a day; 7 of the top 10 grossing nightclubs in the U.S. are in Vegas, accounting for over half a billion dollars in revenue in 2015; and yes, there are even a few showgirls left. Hollywood may have the slogan, but Las Vegas is the real capital.
You certainly won’t be lacking in things to do; in fact, the opposite may be true in that there are simply not enough hours in your vacation to do all the things you may want to do. The key is to cover the basics—a Cirque show if you’ve never seen one; a headliner, if one is in town; a fun bar; a high-energy nightclub—and then start layering in the off-the-beaten-track, the one-of-a-kind, and the less-high-profile shows, clubs, and entertainment offerings that will make your trip more memorable.
You also won't lack for things to do before 11pm. There are shows all over town, though traditional variety and magic shows have largely given way to Cirque du Soleil. The showgirls remain, topless and otherwise, but the current trend is toward big-name headliners and big Broadway productions. Every hotel has at least one lounge, usually offering live music, and while most are no-name cover bands some of them are really good no-name cover bands. Many lounges and bars have replaced live music with DJs.
Admission to shows runs the gamut, from about $25 to $250 and more for top headliners.
To find out who's performing during your stay and for up-to-date listings of shows (prices change, shows close), you can call the various hotels, using their toll-free numbers. Or call the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (tel. 877/847-4858 or 702/892-0711), and ask them to send you a free copy of Showguide or What's On in Las Vegas (one or both of which will probably be in your hotel room). You can also check out what's playing at www.visitlasvegas.com. It's best to plan well ahead if you have your heart set on seeing one of the most popular shows or catching a major headliner.
The hotel entertainment options described in this here include information on ticket prices, what's included in that price (drinks, dinner, taxes, and/or gratuities), showroom policies (whether it's preassigned or maitre d' seating), and how to make reservations. Whenever possible, reserve in advance, especially on weekends and holidays. Although it's almost extinct, if the showroom has maitre d' seating (as opposed to preassigned seats), you may want to tip him to upgrade your seat. A tip of $15 to $20 per couple will usually do the trick at a major show, less at a small showroom. Whatever you tip, the proper etiquette is to do it rather subtly -- a kind of palm-to-palm action. There's really no reason for this, because everyone knows what's going on, but being blatant is in poor taste. Arrive early at maitre d' shows to get the best seats.
If you buy tickets for an assigned-seat show in person, you can look over a seating chart. Avoid sitting right up by the stage, if possible, especially for big-production shows. Dance numbers are better viewed from the middle of the theater. With headliners, you might like to sit up close. All these caveats and instructions aside, most casino-hotel showrooms offer good visibility from just about every seat in the house.
If you prefer alternative or real rock music, your choices used to be limited, but that's all changed. Most touring rock bands make at least one stop in the city. But otherwise, the alternative club scene in town is no great shakes. If you want to know what's playing during your stay, consult the local free alternative papers: the Las Vegas Weekly (biweekly, with great club and bar descriptions in its listings; www.lasvegasweekly.com), and City Life (weekly, with no descriptions but comprehensive listings of what's playing where all over town; www.lasvegascitylife.com). Both can be picked up at restaurants, bars, record and music stores, and hip retail stores. If you're looking for good Alt-culture tips, try asking the cool staff at Zia Records (tel. 702/735-4942); not only does it have bins dedicated to local artists but local acts also play live in stores on the weekend.
Be aware that there is a curfew law in Vegas: Anyone under 18 is forbidden from being on the Strip without a parent after 9pm on weekends and holidays. In the rest of the county, minors cannot be out without parents after 10pm on school nights and midnight on weekends.
The nightlife scene in Vegas is almost constantly changing, balancing atop the shifting tastes and moods of the club crowd as carefully as some women navigate their way to the bar in 5-inch heels. Although the details of coming attractions are often a closely guarded secret, we have some info on what the future has in store for the dance floor.
Mandalay Bay's rumjungle was part restaurant/part nightclub and a heck of a lot of fun. It closed after disputes and lawsuits between the club owners and the hotel. So what will replace it? No one is saying for sure, but the Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil production is probably going into the showroom here and they have said there will be a themed nightclub accompanying it. Hmmm . . . Visit www.mandalaybay.com to find out what they decide to do with the space.
Planet Hollywood used to have what we considered to be the best nightclubs in Las Vegas. Prive, based on the Miami club of the same name, and The Living Room were low-attitude, high-fun places that made us want to put on our dancing shoes and let down our hair. Unfortunately, some people let their hair down a little too far and the clubs lost their liquor licenses due to what was called "illegal activity" (use your imagination). After paying a record $750,000 fine, the hotel has moved on and is reinventing their nightlife scene by bringing in two new nightclubs and a branch of the Pussycat Dolls Lounge. None of these were open at press time but should be by the time you are reading this. Visit www.planethollywoodresort.com for more information on their nightlife scene.