5 Can’t-Miss Ideas for Entertaining Yourself in Las Vegas


What pandemic?

If you’re bound for this year’s JCK show, opening May 31 at the Venetian Expo in Las Vegas, you will likely come away from the event wondering how a city built on massive in-person experiences ever survived the lockdowns and crowd-avoidance strategies of just a few years ago.

Matt Villano, a freelance writer and longtime JCK contributor who covers the Las Vegas beat, has a few theories.

Matt Villano
Matt Villano

“Vegas has put COVID very squarely in its rearview mirror,” Villano says. “The city is back to where it was in the middle part of the last decade: a place where new stuff was opening all the time, restaurants were consistently rebranding, and there was a bunch of stuff to talk about.”

The biggest development, according to Villano, is Sin City’s emergence as an international sports destination. “It started with Formula 1 in November and continued with the Super Bowl in February, and now it looks like—although there’s no formal agreement—the Oakland A’s will play in Vegas in 2028. The NBA is next. Vegas is coming of age as an international sports town, and that’s driving a lot of development in the city.”

We asked Villano to highlight the top five experiences for JCK attendees to keep in mind as they make their plans for the 2024 show. We’re partial to the Arte Museum, the Sphere, and Smoke and Mirrors. See you there?!

Here’s what Villano told us when recommending how to fill your entertainment time in Vegas.

Interactive art

One of the best things to do in Vegas is tap into the city’s unique art vibe. The art in Las Vegas is definitely more immersive than it is in other places.

Particle Ink is a great example. It’s this augmented reality immersive theater project that started in a sketchy warehouse in the Arts District and has now moved to a theater at the Luxor. The show is a mix of humans performing and VR characters who interact with the humans, and it’s projected on to the wall.

Particle Ink
Particle Ink

The Arte Museum is another. These are screen-oriented places where you see digital art, but it’s different in Vegas because it’s bigger and cooler. The Arte Museum has this room where anyone can go in and draw an animal, and you scan it and there’s an AI interface that animates the animal and plops it into a digital jungle. It’s one of those things you have to see to believe. The coolest thing about the AI that’s running this exhibit is that people’s art works interact with each other. This is how Vegas is doing art.

The Sphere

The Sphere has obliterated people’s expectations for how cool it looks and also how cool it is. In less than a year, it’s become the world’s most recognizable billboard. It really is like an IMAX theater on steroids. That’s Vegas, and that’s what it should be. There are haptics involved: Seats move, there’s air blowing on your face. It’s really great.

The Sphere Las Vegas
The Sphere in Las Vegas (photo courtesy of the Venetian)

And the experience between the security booths and your seat is unlike any arena experience I’ve ever had. They have robots that interact with people. The concessions area is oddly futuristic. It’s like you’ve stepped into The Jetsons. It’s expensive AF, but it’s worth it. There really is nothing like that anywhere else. Even if you can’t see the concert, just seeing the movie is an experience worth having.

Liquid Diet

Lost Spirits is closing. It was my favorite place in Vegas. My new favorite place is this gothy, no-frills cocktails bar in the Arts District called Liquid Diet. It’s run by these crazy mixology nerds. There’s no menu. Every night they write down the names of their drinks on a sheet of brown butcher paper and pin it to the wall. It’s an old garage; the glassware is all from local antique shops. It’s incredible.

It’s so antithetical to everything Vegas is on the Strip. And they have a really strong mocktail program. It’s rare to get a mocktail that costs you $12 and is actually good. I went with friends who don’t drink, and their drinks were as good as mine.

Buzzy restaurants

There are lots of new attractions in Vegas, but not so many new restaurants. A few are worth noting. The new Esther’s Kitchen is amazing. They’ve moved into a bigger space. But locals and tourists are so on top of it that it’s difficult to get a reservation.

Esther's Kitchen
Esther’s Kitchen

Orla, Michael Mina’s newest restaurant at Mandalay Bay, is wonderful. Amalfi, Bobby Flay’s newish restaurant at Caesars, and the new Peter Luger steakhouse, also at Caesars, have gotten a lot of attention.

Cannabis lounges

Cannabis consumption lounges are coming to Vegas. Smoke and Mirrors is adjacent to a dispensary called Thrive, located behind Resorts World. Another one [recently] opened at Planet 13. You can get flower or pre-rolls—they have rolling papers and bongs at these places. They’re capitalizing on this push for nonalcoholic beverages. Both lounges have programs set up to make mocktails, and you can choose how much THC-infused beverage you want to add to your drink. You pay for the milligrams.

Smoke and Mirrors
Smoke and Mirrors

It’s such a different way to experience going out in Vegas. And what’s really cool is that in just a few months people have started changing the way they pregame—many people going to a Cirque du Soleil show, for example, are planning their pregames around these consumption lounges.

It’s an interesting trend of travelers leveraging something brand-new to the Vegas scene in a way that makes the Vegas experience really different. For JCK readers, consider planning your night around swinging through one of these lounges. But keep in mind that you’ll need a reservation. Demand is very high—no pun intended.

Top: The Sphere in Las Vegas (photo courtesy of the Venetian)

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By: Victoria Gomelsky

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