Strip the Light Fantastic: What’s New Inside and Outside Las Vegas



Some 23,000 retailers and 2,300 exhibitors will gather at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino May 31–June 6 to discover new jewelry designers, scout hot trends, and buy and sell to their hearts’ content at LUXURY and JCK Las Vegas. But that’s just during business hours!

We say to the adventurous jewelry entrepreneur: Put down your spreadsheets, lookbooks, and calendars and check out what’s new in Vegas…because there’s always something new in Sin City.

Home to cinematic casino break-ins, hangovers, bachelorette parties—and, of course, the famous “whatever happens…” motto—the city never seems to grow stagnant, thanks to hoteliers, entrepreneurs, and entertainment executives who continue to be bullish about the resort town’s economic prospects. 

There has been consistent reinvestment since the recession in 2008, and last year Las Vegas set another new record by surpassing 42 million visitors, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. That breaks 2014’s record of 41.1 million—the first year the city topped 40 million. 

Count yourself, JCK showgoer, one reason Vegas has fared so well during the last few years. Aside from the addition of several new nonstop flights, business travel saw an uptick in 2015. Of the nearly 20,000 conventions and business meetings held last year—and that was a 5.9 percent dip—the actual percentage of people who came to those events rose 12.3 percent, or 5.7 million people. 

As a result, there has been a new influx of cash dedicated to convention centers, in particular. ARIA Resort & Casino announced a $154 million, 200,000-square-foot expansion of its convention center, and construction is expected to begin in May with a completion date of 2018. 

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As part of Mandalay Bay’s $100 million remodel, the Resort King rooms are framed by onyx-inspired walls.
 

Mandalay Bay 2.0

That comes on the heels of the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s just-completed $70 million, 350,000-square-foot expansion of its convention center as of January 2016. The hall now boasts more than 2 million square feet, including 900,000 square feet of exhibit space. In addition, the center has added state-of-the-art Wi-Fi (perfect for all that mid-show tweeting and Instagramming!) and a rooftop solar photovoltaic array that can generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 1,300 homes. 

“Everything we’ve been implementing is pretty amazing,” says Brittany Harris, public relations manager at Mandalay Bay’s parent company, MGM Resorts International. 

Mandalay Bay is also in the process of completing its $100 million remodel of more than 3,000 guest rooms and suites. If you haven’t yet booked your room, consider the following: Resort King rooms feature beds framed by a mural onyx-inspired wall; flat-screen high-definition TVs; tableside recharging pods; and views of the mountains, skyline, or the 11-acre pool and beach oasis. One- or two-bedroom Suites are decorated in jewel tones accented by natural wood and stone, with multiple seating and dining areas perfect for business meetings. Luxury Suites, with one to four bedrooms, feature floor-to-ceiling windows as well as dining and bar areas.

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Get your drink on at the Delano’s new Skyfall Lounge.
 

Park It!

Off of the Mandalay Bay property, just west of The Strip, one of the biggest things expected to hit Vegas this year is the T-Mobile Arena, a $375 million, 20,000-seat indoor sports and entertainment venue that should be in full swing by the JCK show. From UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) events, boxing, hockey, basketball, and even bull-riding to award shows and big-name concerts, the arena promises to be the destination for live events. On April 6, the city’s native band The Killers will kick off the arena’s opening night along with special guest, “Mr. Las Vegas” Wayne Newton. Other acts to follow include the Harlem Globetrotters, George Strait, Garth Brooks, the Dixie Chicks, and Janet -Jackson. (While the arena’s luxury suites have been sold, at press time, a limited inventory of Opera Boxes, Club Seats, and Bunker Suites were still available.)

In recent years, Las Vegas has seen an indoor-to-outdoor migration—as visitors shift their focus from the casinos, malls, and restaurants to experiencing the desert clime. “People want to get out and explore and want to people-watch,” Harris says. “They don’t want to be confined between four walls. It’s really only two and a half months of really terrible heat, but the rest of the time it’s nice weather with next to no humidity.”

As such, on April 4 Las Vegas will debut The Park, which is indeed an actual park as well as a dining and entertainment district that will connect New York–New York, Monte Carlo, and T-Mobile Arena. Taking inspiration from (what else?) New York’s Central Park, Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, says, “We are literally taking down the walls and opening the doors at our resorts to develop a unique dining and entertainment district that complements its lush new surroundings.” By day, visitors can bask in sun or shade beneath the trees and enjoy water walls that will stretch 100 feet along the entrance, as well as listen to acoustic guitarists and street performers. Outdoor dining includes New York City’s beloved burger joint Shake Shack, waffle house Bruxie, Japanese spot Sake Rok, and Beer Garden, which will offer bocce ball, darts, and -outdoor table tennis.  

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Mr. Chow chef Kam Kwan Chee
 

Chow Down

On a culinary note, Las Vegas has long been a destination for world-class dining, and there are a number of notable newcomers this year. Delano Las Vegas, whose sister hotel is the Delano South Beach in Miami, unveiled its Rivea restaurant and Skyfall Lounge by Michelin-decorated celebrity chef Alain Ducasse in October. “Every detail transports guests to those endless summer nights in the South of France,” Ducasse says. Rivea highlights simple, fresh Italian and French cuisine using West Coast seasonal ingredients. Think artichoke and spinach ravioli, line-caught striped bass, and beef and olive jus. Meanwhile, the Skyfall Lounge, which offers 180-degree views of the desert, is decorated in sunset colors of purple, red, and honey gold. 

The famed Mr. Chow is now ensconced at Caesars Palace—making it the seventh location of the celebrity-studded Beijing cuisine eatery (joining outposts in Beverly Hills and Malibu, Calif.; Miami; midtown and downtown Manhattan; and the original location in London). And, inside The Shoppes at Mandalay Place, Minus5° Ice Bar will double its original size with all-new material. By that, we mean 120 tons of fresh 100–percent-pure Canadian ice—earning it the title of the largest permanent ice bar in the world. A 1,300-square-foot ice bar and ice sculptures such as the Las Vegas Skyline and the Iron Throne from HBO’s Game of Thrones make this a must-see desert-based winter wonderland.  

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Mandalay Bay’s Sea Monsters
 

Mob Scene

As for things to see and do, if you have ever been interested in Gunther von Hagens’ human anatomy exhibition Body Worlds, you will love Mandalay Bay’s “Sea Monsters Revealed,” the world’s largest exhibition of preserved sea creatures. A polymer preservation technique known as plastination allows guests to see the outside and the inside of various creatures, including an 18-foot, 3,000-pound whale shark. The exhibition is open to the public and runs through October.

The Mob Museum, the national museum of organized crime and law enforcement, celebrated its 1 millionth visitor in December, and if you’ve never visited, you’re missing a key part of Vegas history. From G-Men and made men, the exhibit tells the story of the Mob and the town that it regarded as an “open city”—meaning no single crime syndicate could dominate it. In other words, Las Vegas was a great place for mobsters to launch new “business” ventures.

While we are on the subject of American history, Las Vegas recently announced it will host the final 2016 presidential debate Oct. 19 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ Thomas & Mack Center. The event is expected to draw 2,500 media reps, millions of viewers, and valuable publicity for the university. 

Months after JCK wraps up and the jewelry industry gets back to business as usual, Vegas will keep doing what it does best: putting on the best show on earth.

 

Inset: Rivea’s Provence-style vegetable caponata

 

Best in Shows

Top headliners to catch while you’re in town. 

Matt Goss: Backed by a swing band and dancers called The Dirty Virgins, singer Goss brings audiences back to vintage Vegas. (May 27, 28, 29, 31; June 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 11, 12; caesars.com/las-vegas)

Jennifer Lopez: Aren’t you dying to see how many costume changes J. Lo can possibly pack into her 90-minute show, All I Have? (May 22, 25, 28, 29, June 1, 3, 4, 8, 11, 12; caesars.com/las-vegas)

Celine Dion: The French-Canadian chanteuse recently returned to resume Celine, her residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. (May 24, 27, 28, 31, June 1, 3, 4; caesars.com/las-vegas)

Boyz II Men: The four-time Grammy-winning R&B group returns to The Strip, fresh from a stint on Grease: Live as the Teen Angels for the new generation. (June 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12; mirage.com)

Mariah Carey: Last May, the singer-songwriter and artist formerly known as Mimi, who has sold more than 200 million albums, debuted Mariah #1 to Infinity at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. (June 7, 10, 11, 14; caesars.com/las-vegas)