The Las Vegas hospitality sector didn’t just survive the pandemic, it came roaring back in 2023 with new and upgraded products designed to lure ever more visitors to the city’s accommodations, food-and-beverage outlets, casinos, shows, and attractions. And because there were so many outstanding products spawned by the continuous innovation that defined the Las Vegas tourism sector this past year, this story will run in two parts. Part II coming soon.
Best Magic Show - Shin Lim: LIMITLESS at the Mirage
For years, I’ve considered Penn & Teller’s magic act at the Rio to be best-in-class in Vegas. It was, and still is, the thinking person’s magic show. So it’s rather ironic that my current Best Bet for magic in Sin City is Shin Lim’s “LIMITLESS” show at the Mirage, because it was he who fooled Penn & Teller twice on their “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” TV show. Featuring bits so beautifully choreographed that they seem like ballet, Shin Lim’s intricate, slow-motion moves seem almost effortless in execution, proving once again that the hand is quicker than the eye - especially when those hands belong to the most skilled magician in Las Vegas.
Best New Restaurant - Stanton Social Prime at Caesars Palace
Once known primarily as the Strip’s nightclub/dayclub juggernaut, Tao Group Hospitality has also become a major player in the city’s high-end restaurant scene. Beginning with Tao Asian Bistro at the Venetian, the group has since expanded its dining repertoire with Hakkasan, Lavo, Beauty & Essex, and the stunning Cathédrale. But the company’s latest venture, Stanton Social Prime at Caesars Palace, features the enviable combination of creative and delicious cuisine, professional service and drop-dead gorgeous decor. Dishes featuring theatrical and dramatic presentation complement chef Chris Santos’ innovative culinary skills, with standouts being his Famous French Onion Soup Dumplings and Movie Theater Sundae.
Best Immersive Experience - Omega Mart at AREA15
Walking through Meow Wolf’s alternative world of Omega Mart is akin to being inside a video game - albeit one conjured up by your wildest dreams. It’s heady, heavily nuanced, and for those who wish to explore behind the scenes, incredibly deep. And then there’s the art, created by 325 unique artisans. In fact, Omega World is the epitome of immersive art: art that also tells a story, with a complex narrative driven by clues hidden - and in plain sight - among the grocery store-cum-museum’s shelves and displays. It’s beautiful, sometimes a bit creepy, but always stimulating. And it’s safe to say that there isn’t anything else like it - even in Las Vegas.
Best Room Refresh - Spa Tower at Bellagio
Luxury properties that operate in the top end of Vegas’ hospitality segment tend to refresh their accommodations on a more frequent schedule than those in lower categories, primarily due to intense competition. So it’s no surprise that when MGM Resorts’ execs decided to reimagine Bellagio’s Spa Tower rooms and suites, they went all out. The $110-million project introduced decor and furnishings in soft colors inspired by Northern Italy, while adding a twin-sink marble bathroom with oversized shower, plush bedding, soft uplighting, custom TV armoires and room-control technology - all in a successful effort to ensconce their demanding, upmarket guests in a comfortable, luxurious setting.
Best Guilty Pleasure - "ROUGE - The Sexiest Show in Vegas" at the STRAT
When producer Hanoch Rosenn set out to create a sensual, topless alternative to his family-friendly “WOW - The Vegas Spectacular,” he wisely incorporated some of WOW’s signature elements, including impressive acrobatics and attractive visuals. But the similarities end there because the 19 talented and beautiful performers in “ROUGE - The Sexiest Show in Vegas” turn up the heat in a series of fantasy vignettes introduced by an emcee with an unusually dirty mind. And this show isn’t just a riff on the classic Vegas strip club. On a recent visit, when ROUGE played to a room full of couples looking to add a little spark to their relationship, some may have gotten a little more spark - fire, maybe? - than they expected.