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Unconventional: SEMA

What do a 7-foot-tall tire, a trunk with a fish tank, etc., and an alien-themed motorcycle have in common?

They are all part of the eclectic and creative mix of modified vehicles you'll find only at the annual SEMA Show at Las Vegas Convention Center. A bumper car turned into a real working car? Yep, there was one of those, too. There were shocks that looked like a complete chemistry set, tire rims that would look at home in any fine art gallery, and about everything else you could imagine. While these things seem unusual to find in an everyday setting, here at SEMA, they are as commonplace as the Vegas showgirl.

Every year, millions of people visit Las Vegas. Last year, the destination welcomed over 40 million visitors to be exact. Each one of these visitors comes for his or her own reasons. Some need a vacation, an adventure and a break from their everyday life, others are hoping to beat the odds in an effort make a few bucks, while another large majority are here for business rather than pleasure. 

According to P.J. Burchett, a Tennessee local, it was a six pack of beer, the potential he saw in an old Metro Van and a shed that brought him here – well, figuratively speaking of course. While these three things didn’t actually get him here, they are where his Vegas story begins.

P.J. was just one of the 140,000 people who attended this year’s Specialty Equipment Market Association show, better known as SEMA. It’s a trade show built from the business of modifying all types of motor vehicles, which includes everything that runs on land, water, snow and dirt. The show draws in buyers, sellers and manufacturers from 130 different countries and features over 2,400 exhibitors. The international draw is so extensive that there are separate registration areas based on country and language spoken. This year marked the show’s 49th consecutive year and its 38th year in Las Vegas.

On the outside, SEMA may seem like a normal trade show but for those who attend, it’s the biggest thing to happen each year in the industry. If you’re not there, you’re considered an outsider − just like being in high school all over again. According to P.J., “This is the biggest thing on the planet in the automotive industry in my mind. If you’re not here, you’re not in the clique.”

This trade show is seen as the ultimate showroom. Just as many people view Las Vegas as the destination where you can wear whatever you want, be whoever you want and act however you want – a red carpet of sorts for all those that visit. To the attendees, SEMA is their red carpet, but instead it’s the cars that are the stars.

It’s here where no paint job is too glitzy, no design is too over the top and no accessory is too gaudy. It’s because these people see their vehicles as an extension of themselves and they put it all on display during this week in true Las Vegas fashion.

Step outside the main doors of SEMA and you would find yourself greeted by Kellie DeFries, a woman who calls herself the Crystal Ninja. Kellie is known for producing the most outrageous crystal designs using all Swarovski Crystals. She has crystalized everything from a lift elevator in London, to 30 pairs of UGG Boots and even the roof of a Mini Cooper.

But it is here on this Vegas-style red carpet where she decided to show off one of her biggest designs to date, expressing her true creative nature − in the destination known for its creative freedom. Finishing the crystallization of a 1956 Porsche 356 Speedster, a car that, once completed, would showcase both her passion and artistry profession in life. A car rightfully meant to be on display in Las Vegas for its imaginative nature and over-the-top design.

For SEMA first-timers, the event can be quite overwhelming. Just imagine stepping off the monorail on the south end of the Las Vegas Convention Center, only to look down from the platform and see a welcoming committee of crowds, cars and monster trucks that fill 2 million square feet of convention space. Not to mention the first thing seen by most attendees − the custom-built speedway in the Silver Parking lot of the convention center, meant for professional riding, including a few drifting performances.

Ride down the escalator from the monorail platform to the convention center and you’ll find yourself engulfed in a mix of cars that look like they are straight off the set of The Fast and The Furious, or teleported out of the 1950s. In fact, it was rumored that the designer of the cars for The Fast and The Furious was at the show but he remained elusive.

What I did track down was a 7-foot-tall tire, a bumper car turned into a real working car, and an SUV with a fish tank in the trunk complete with actual fish. There were also shocks that looked like a complete chemistry set, tire rims that would look at home in any fine art gallery, and a green motorcycle with a black spiked chair and alien-themed front. While these things seem unusual to find in an everyday setting, at SEMA, they are as commonplace as the Vegas showgirl.

In essence, that’s the draw of coming to Las Vegas as opposed to any other city – it’s unusual in the sense that it offers a little bit of everything for everyone. SEMA does the same, whether you’re an artist, a car fanatic, someone looking for an alien-themed bike or lack all knowledge when it comes to cars − even how to change a tire (like us) − there truly is something for everyone. When it comes to modifying your vehicle, there is no stop sign, no yield sign and no speed limit. It really is the ultimate version of creative freedom just like Vegas.

Gary Wales bought a 1915 La Bestioni fire engine that had been abandoned for 50 years and decided to rebuild the car. After 12 months of work, he completed “Rusty Two,” a replica of the previous 1917 La Bestioni he had remade, which he named “The Rusty One.” Upon seeing this car, you’ll realize instantly that there is nothing else out there quite like this. This car is one of a kind. It looked like a cross between an old fire engine, a farming tractor, a classic Jaguar and the Bat Mobile.

Yes, you heard that right.

This vehicle was stunning in design, but one of the most unique items on the car were the different types of badges adorning it.

According to Gary, “The badges are an extension of heraldry. I collect these badges. … It’s for clubs, it’s for countries (and) it’s for all sorts of things. (It) is to distinguish you from the other individuals, the mere mortals. I put them on the car because these are my ladies and this is their automotive jewelry.”

And what lady doesn’t want to show off her jewelry, especially in Las Vegas.

So you’re probably wondering, why did a six pack of beer, an old van and a shed bring P.J. here?

Put simply, to hand out ice cream out of his ice cream truck. Of course, that makes sense. It’s not like he came 1,500 miles or anything.

P.J. Burchett discovered an old, abandoned 1950 Metro Van in a field near his house. Unfortunately, for him, the yard belonged to a man who didn’t want to be bothered, owned a shotgun and had no desire to sell the old Metro Van. But P.J. heard a rumor that if he were to show up with a six pack of beer, then the man might listen to him and he might not chase him off his property with his shotgun. Knowing he needed that van, P.J. took the chance. After much hesitation and only a wave of the shotgun, it was agreed that if he built him a shed he could have the van.

P.J. showed up at SEMA to display his remodeled Metro Van that he decided to turn into a 1950’s-style ice cream truck, complete with a built-in working cooler with ice cream to serve.

Be it P.J., Kellie or Gary and the many others in attendance, it’s clear this event attracts people from all different parts of the world, each with a different background and reason for attending. It’s a trade show unlike any other trade show, where you can expect to find the strange and unusual. Where you can show off your creative nature in any fashion you want. We like to think there’s a reason SEMA never left Vegas after it moved here. Frankly, where else in the world can something like this be held?

Don't sit on the sidelines ... Vegas is the place to watch the big game!

Pro football's biggest game's is drawing near, and Las Vegas is your homefield to an amazing weekend, complete with parties galore, celebrity appearances and more. 

Catch every big play in Las Vegas' luxurious sports books and lounges and restaurants - and even lavish nightclubs - with arena-style seating. 

Hyde Bellagio

CLUBS: Enjoy a slice of Las Vegas nightlife during the day and watch the title game at Hyde inside the Bellagio. The Big Game Viewing Party (21 and over) begins at 2 p.m. with lots of HD plasma and VIP big screen TVs and plenty of seating.


You can also enjoy the game from high above the Strip as Chateau at Paris Las Vegas converts into big game headquarters, complete with a tailgate-style buffet. 


Reserve a table for the championship game at Blondies Sports Bar & Grill inside the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. For a great view of the Las Vegas Strip, as well as a place to enjoy the game and some good food, check out Twin Peaks

SPORTS BOOKS: See every score at any of Las Vegas' luxurious sports books, including the theater-style atmosphere of Football Central at Westgate Las Vegas or the comfort of Red Rock Resort. It's the next best thing to being at the game. At Caesars Palace, groups of eight can request a special "man cave" for a VIP feel.

RESTAURANTS: BAM! Kick it up a notch when you watch the big game at Lagasse's Stadium at The Palazzo. You can also indulge in football bites from the specialty tailgate menu at La Cave inside Wynn Las Vegas

Both Hard Rock Cafe locations are offering a variety of viewing packages for fans, each with food and drink specials of their own. 

Make Las Vegas your home for pro football's biggest weekend!

Vegas Weekend: Rise Against, Heart, Jay Leno and more take the stage

The holidays are almost upon us, but Las Vegas is in the spirit of giving year-round, with concerts, comics and club performances you won't find anywhere else. Check out the list below or see our full lineup of shows.


Friday, Nov. 20



Rise Against

Saturday, Nov. 21




Take a ride on Slotzilla Zip Line Las Vegas, 12 stories above the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas. For more 360 content, visit GeoVegas here: http://spr.ly/6188BustA

Posted by Visit Las Vegas on Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday, Nov. 22



Book rooms and get show tickets, club passes and more at LasVegas.com!

7 Places In Vegas To Walk In Sinatra's Footsteps

Just picture it: Frank Sinatra in his prime, as one of the most celebrated and iconic entertainers of all time, christening the brand-new Theatre Ballroom (now the Gordie Brown Showroom) inside the Golden Nugget in 1984. What’s more, it’s right in the heart of Downtown Las Vegas, a town he had become synonymous with for decades.

 Las Vegas News Bureau

Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau

The pomp. The pageantry. The electricity of opening night.

And Sinatra prepared for this momentous show - in the freight elevator.

The room where Ol’ Blue Eyes headlined from 1984 - 1989 was originally never intended to be a showroom, and once the resort inked Sinatra to the deal, it scrambled to convert the room into a theater. But one thing wasn’t ready in time - Sinatra’s dressing room.

Eventually the dressing room was completed, and part of it remains the same as it was more than a quarter of a century ago. But despite the temporary inconvenience, the late Sinatra – who would have been 100 years old on Dec. 12 – would look fondly on those days.

Sinatra headlined at the Golden Nugget from 1984-1989. Some of his dressing room, which wasn't built until after the show opened, remains intact from when he performed there.

His distinctive voice still resonates today, whether it’s listening to “Luck Be a Lady” while watching the Fountains of Bellagio, or reliving it through tribute shows such as The Rat Pack Is Back.

Sinatra and his legacy will also be honored at a huge made-for-TV gala at Wynn Las Vegas Dec. 2 (airing Dec. 6) in celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Las Vegas was Sinatra’s playground, and he loved to play here. The trail that Sinatra blazed through the city covers a variety of dining hot spots, showrooms, lounges and more all over the valley. Here’s a guided tour down some of that path:


It’s no coincidence you’ll find vintage pictures of Sinatra and his closest friends adorning the walls of the historic Golden Gate at the end of Fremont Street.

A quick stop for a drink at Bar Prohibition will definitely give you that vintage Vegas feeling. After all, it's where Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. and the rest of the Rat Pack were said to have had drinks together. 

Sinatra and friends are said to have shared a few cocktails at Golden Gate where Bar Prohibition is today.


Heading south from downtown on Las Vegas Boulevard and making a quick right at Sahara Avenue will take you to the Golden Steer Steak House. This iconic Las Vegas dining destination for celebrities has been around for a half century, and music icons from Ol’ Blue Eyes to Elvis to to B.B. King were consistent patrons of the cozy and intimate steakhouse and lounge.



Sinatra often dined at the Golden Steer Steak House - so often that he had
a private booth where people can still make reservations to eat today.

In fact, Sinatra was such a frequent visitor, that he had a booth named after him – even while he was still coming to dine there. That was his spot, and you can still make reservations to eat in the Sinatra booth to this day.


East a few blocks on Sahara, south on Maryland Parkway and you’re not far from Champagnes Café. This otherwise unassuming dive bar is rich with Las Vegas history, as both a popular hangout for the Rat Pack back in the day, but also Tony Spilotro’s infamous Hole in the Wall Gang.

Champagnes Cafe was a favorite hangout of the Rat Pack. 

Check out the red velvet and pictures of Sinatra and Co. The nostalgia alone makes it worth a visit.


Photo: Michael Groth

If you hop back on Maryland Parkway southbound and hang a quick right on Twain Avenue, you'll be heading toward the fabulous Strip. Twain Avenue eventually becomes Sands Drive and when it reaches Las Vegas Boulevard, you’re at The Venetian/Palazzo. This is the former site of the Sands, where Sinatra and the Rat Pack headlined at the Copa Room in the 1960s.

Sinatra backstage at the Sands' Copa Room, circa 1965.

Sinatra backstage at the Sands' Copa Room, circa 1965.


If you’re looking for an existing venue where Sinatra played on the Strip, keep heading south to Flamingo Road and pay tribute at Caesars Palace, Sinatra’s home in the latter part of the decade.

Sinatra began headlining at Caesars Palace after Howard Hughes' 1967 purchase of the Sands led to a heated dispute with Sands management over Sinatra's credit at the casino.


Just across the street is the Flamingo hotel. Sinatra never headlined there, but if you’re a fan of the original Ocean’s Eleven, here’s a neat piece of nostalgia: The Flamingo is the only remaining hotel from that classic film.


The places Sinatra hung out were classic, but Sinatra’s resonance extends far beyond these locations. He represents a vintage style, a culture that is still embraced by fans today.

Vintage music isn't the only sign of the times at the Las Vegas Church of Sinatra meetings.

A visit to any monthly meeting of the Las Vegas of the Church of Sinatra will confirm that the culture of the Rat Pack days is alive and well, even in 2015.

“That’s really the foundation for it – the vintage culture,” says Donny Jacobs, the bishop of the Vegas chapter. Jacobs first attended a Church of Sinatra meeting in 1998 in San Francisco and is responsible for creating a branch in Las Vegas.

“It started as an excuse for friends to dress up, listen to old music, have some fancy cocktails and enjoy a piece of that lifestyle, and it just grew from there,” Jacobs explains. “They are all over now and when I came here from Houston, I was encouraged to start one here in Las Vegas.”

“This used to be a town where, after 6 p.m., if you went to Caesars Palace (another venue where Sinatra regularly performed in his heyday), it was always black tie. Nobody wore shorts and sandals and T-shirts. There’s such a decline in style over the years and I think that’s what people enjoy the most here – getting dressed up,” he said.

Attendees at Church of Sinatra meetings love to dress in that vintage Sinatra style.

Las Vegan Eric Foemmel opens his home up to meetings, which range in attendance from seven to 75, as frequently as possible.

“I turn the pool into a ‘dive-in’ theater and we project old movies on the wall in the back yard .… We have the best time enjoying music and a few drinks with friends. That’s what this party is really all about.”

In many ways, Sinatra’s life was all about the same things. We may be celebrating a century since his birth, but the memories he created in Las Vegas will live forever.

Happy 100th, Chairman.

Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau

Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau 

Get into the holiday spirit in Las Vegas!

'Tis the season to get into the holiday spirit in Las Vegas! 

Start with a little holiday shopping. With everything from extravagant malls to specialty shops, you're sure to find something for everyone on your list. Bring along our shopping passport for even bigger savings!

Las Vegas is a shopper's paradise, and great buys are in store throughout the holiday season. Navigate the cobblestone streets of The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian | The Palazzo or visit The Forum Shops at Caesars with its roster of more than 160 specialty shops and restaurants. Enjoy the cooler and browse Town Square Las Vegas, an open-air center less than 2 miles south of Mandalay Bay on Las Vegas Boulevard. You'll find an eclectic collection of shops including A|X Armani Exchange, Sephora, Swarovski and many more!


You can also indulge in shopping elegance at The Shops at Crystals ARIA Las Vegas, which houses more than 500,000 square feet of sophisticated retail and dining, and the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood that includes 170 specialty stores and 15 restaurants within its 1.2-mile corridor. For more unparalleled shopping, check out  the Fashion Show Mall on the Strip, and Las Vegas North Premium Outlets downtown and Las Vegas South Premium Outlets south of the Strip.

For a unique collection of boutique shops, dining and more, head over to the Downtown Container Park, made completely of stacked shipping containers, For more retail therapy, Downtown Summerlin is about a 20-minute drive from the Strip or Fremont Street. You're sure to find something for everyone on your list!

Then enjoy a little gift for yourself - experiencing the festive displays you'll only find in Las Vegas, including the Ethel M Chocolates and Cactus Garden, the Conservatory at the Bellagio and the Waterfall, Atrium & Gardens at The Palazzo, which feature hand-designed snowflakes suspended midair in the three-floor-high atrium. 

Hungry? You'll find special holiday menus at many Las Vegas restaurants, including the spiked egg nog bread pudding as part of a three-course holiday prix fixe meal inside TAP at MGM Grand, and the delicious holiday brunch at Border Grill inside the Forum Shops at Caesars.

Looking for some activities in which you can participate? Lace up your skates and prepare for the return of The Ice Rink at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. This year, the winter wonderland overlooking the heart of The Strip will be bigger and better than ever with 4,200 square feet of real ice, snow showers every half hour between 6 PM – 10 PM Wednesday through Sunday, holiday movie screenings and festive culinary offerings including curated cocktails and roasted s’mores over a fire pit.  

If you prefer something in more traditional footwear, how about dressing up in a red and black suit and white beard and joining a few thousand other Kris Kringles on Dec. 5 in the Las Vegas Great Santa Run at the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas. 

Of course, there are plenty of holiday-themed shows to see in the Entertainment Capital of the World. This season marks the debut of  “ ‘Twas the Knight!” - the Tournament of Kings holiday show at Excalibur. The area will be transformed Nov. 25–Dec. 28 into a winter wonderland as guests are greeted by carolers singing seasonal tunes. Prior to the performance, Royal Heralds will play games and inspire guests with renditions of their King’s adventures. While experiencing the merry show, guests will enjoy a three-course holiday-inspired meal, sans utensils, complete with a festive dessert and egg nog as they cheer on their king! 

Another must-see classic performance is The Nutcracker, performed by Nevada Ballet Theatre Dec. 12-20 at The Smith Center. Accompanied by a live orchestra, this beautiful production is guaranteed to get you into the holiday spirit.

Looking for more holiday enjoyment? A trip to Opportunity Village's Magical Forest will certainly instill the holiday spirit. Wind through the holiday tree forest adorned with whimsical decorations featuring nearly three million lights, or hop on the Forest Express passenger train and Enchanted Carousel.

If you're a sports fan, you can catch two of college football's top teams at the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 19 or some spirited college hoops action at the Holiday Hoops College Basketball event on Dec. 18-23 at the South Point.

This holiday season, Las Vegas is the place to be jolly!

Vegas Weekend: Whoopi Goldberg, Godsmack and more take the stage

The holidays are almost upon us, but Las Vegas is in the spirit of giving year-round, with concerts, comics and club performances you won't find anywhere else. Check out the list below or see our full lineup of shows.

Whoopi Goldberg

Friday, Nov. 13




Saturday, Nov. 14




Having #Vegas withdrawals? See the city in a whole new way with GeoVegas: The Virtual Experience: http://spr.ly/6186BPU14

Posted by Visit Las Vegas on Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sunday, Nov. 15



Book rooms and get show tickets, club passes and more at LasVegas.com!

Vegas Weekend: R. Kelly, Diana Ross, Soulfly and more

From country and rock icons to pop starlets, you'll find entertainment for every taste this weekend in Las Vegas. Whether it's comedians, concerts or clubs, it's all happening here. Check out the list below or see our full lineup of shows.

Diana Ross

Friday, Nov. 6



R. Kelly

Saturday, Nov. 7



Sunday, Nov. 8



Book rooms and get show tickets, club passes and more at LasVegas.com!

16 things to do in 2016 in Las Vegas

Sadly, 2015 has come and gone and so has the much anticipated opening of Omnia Nightclub, Rock in Rio and the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight. But with 2016 ahead of us brings a new year with many new openings and events in Las Vegas. These are the 16 biggest things happening in Las Vegas in 2016 that you should check out.

1. 2016 Presidential Debate: It may come as a shock to some that the final presidential debate of 2016 is going to be held in Las Vegas, but this city is known for much more than just partying and gambling. Its ability to host high-profile events throughout the years has helped to put this city on the map as a serious place to do business. Las Vegas has even been ranked No. 1 for the place to hold meetings and conventions in North America. We’re certain this is likely to be one of the biggest events of the year in Las Vegas. (October 16, Thomas & Mack Center, 4505 S. Maryland Pkwy., Las Vegas, NV 89154)

2. Guy Fieri’s El Burro Borracho: Yes, that’s right. Guy Fieri is bringing a second restaurant to Las Vegas, El Burro Borracho, which translates to the Drunken Donkey. If you think the name is crazy, then you’ll be shocked to find out that the dishes are just as crazy. Restaurant goers can expect to see food items such as drunken fish tacos, lava rock shrimp and Acapulco gold salad. (Opening 2016, Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, 3700 W. Flamingo Rd., Las Vegas, NV 89103)

Route 91 Festival

3. Return of Music Festivals: This year, Las Vegas welcomes the return of the Electric Daisy Carnival (June 17-19), iHeart Radio music fest (TBD) and Route 91 Harvest Festival (Sept. 30-Oct. 2). Be sure to get your tickets before they sell out!

4. Jennifer Lopez - All I Have: It’s no surprise that Jennifer Lopez would bring her first ever headlining residency, All I Have, to the Entertainment Capital of the World. Starting in January, fans will have a once-in-a-lifetime experience seeing her like they never have before. The show runs from January until June and includes a total of 20 performances. (Begins January 20, Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, 3667 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89109)

5. Vegas Uncork’d Returns for Its 10th Anniversary: If you love food, then this is your chance to try some dishes from the world’s best chefs − and at no better time as Vegas Uncork’d celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. This event features a one-of-a-kind experience and you can expect the celebration to be bigger and better than last year. (April 28−May 1)


6. JEWEL Nightclub: It was only a matter of time that a new nightclub would replace the now closed Haze. In its place, ARIA plans on opening, JEWEL, which will be part of the Hakkasan Group family. It will be a multilevel venue and feature five unique suites above the dance floor, each one with its own entryway. (Opening spring, ARIA Resort and Casino, 3730 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89158)

7. Caesars Palace 50th Anniversary: This year, Caesars Palace celebrates its Golden Year anniversary, and in celebration, it will be unveiling its new Julius Tower, which includes 587 newly designed hotel rooms. Throughout the rooms, guests will be able to view artwork of showgirl costumes hand drawn on Roman statues. (Begin stay on January 1)

The Killers will open Las Vegas Arena

8. The Las Vegas Arena: With opening performances from hometown legends such as The Killers, Wayne Newton and Shamir (April 6), along with concerts by George Strait (Apr. 22-23, Sept. 9-10, Dec. 2-3), Garth Brooks (June 24-25, July 2-4) and The Dixie Chicks (July 16) already lined up, the Las Vegas Arena is going to be home to huge events throughout 2016. The 20,000-capacity arena was built to house everything from sporting events such as basketball, boxing and hockey, to concerts and large performances.

9. Intrigue Nightclub: Intrigue will be a nightclub expected to be like no other in Las Vegas, not because of its design, but because of its concept. Wynn Las Vegas wants to redefine the nightclub experience with the opening of Intrigue. While the concept isn’t fully unveiled yet, it’s been mentioned that the club won’t be centered on the typical EDM DJ playing, and there will even be a private social media free zone section of the club. (Opening April 28, Wynn Las Vegas, 3131 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89109)

10. Billy Idol: Forever: Billy Idol’s first-ever residency will be at the House of Blues where fans have a chance to catch one of his 12 upcoming performances. The Generation X rocker will be playing all of his past hits and will even be accompanied by guitarist, Steve Stevens. (Begins March 16, Mandalay Bay, 3950 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89119)

Beer Park

11. Beer Park by Budweiser: This baseball-style atmosphere bar and grill, which features both picnic tables and green grass, offers over 100 styles of beer both bottled and on draft. Customers can enjoy classic games such as darts, pool and cornhole while they lounge. There will even be roaming carts that feature various concession stand food items. (Opening early 2016, Location: Paris Las Vegas, 3655 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89109)

12. Topgolf Flagship location: This is not your typical Topgolf. In fact, there’s never been a Topgolf created like the one that’s coming to the MGM Grand. The venue will be four levels, and will include a restaurant, bar, stage for concerts, cabanas, water features and, of course, climate-controlled hitting bays. The location even plans on staying open until the early morning hours. (Opening spring, MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, 3799 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89109)

13. The W Hotel: The Lux tower at SLS will be transformed into The W Las Vegas. Hotel guests who stay at The W hotel will have their own private check-in and lobby area, referred to as The W Living Room. The hotel will also feature a W-branded spa and pool bar area known as WET. (Opening September, SLS Las Vegas, 2535 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89109)

14. Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino: While we’re not certain it’s set to open in 2016, we've been so eagerly awaiting it that we’re adding this to the list in the hopes that it does. The Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino plans to be a 10-story Asian-themed resort decorated in a ruby-red color. It promises that visitors can expect an “authentic Asian cultural and gaming experience” inside the hotel. They’re offering everything from high-end dining, bars and lounges, to a pool complex and fashion boutiques sourced from Asia. Even the signage will be written in both English and Chinese. (Potentially opening 2016)

15. Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips: This will be Gordon Ramsay’s fourth restaurant in Las Vegas and its opening has been rumored for over a year now. Those who visit the restaurant will be greeted by two London-style, red telephone booths at the entrance, as well as a Union Jack-patterned fish that hangs over the doorway. On the menu, you’ll find hearty items such as bangers and mash, and chicken planks. (Opening in summer, The LINQ Hotel & Casino, 3535 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89109)

16. Beauty & Essex: Not only is this a restaurant and a lounge, but it’s also a pawn shop. This multitiered dining experience was developed by a partnership of TAO Group and restaurateur Chris Santos. There’s no menu yet, but chef Santos is particularly known for creating innovative share-plate dishes. (Opening in 2016, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, 3708 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89109)

Unconventional: World Gay Rodeo Finals

Las Vegas is no stranger when it comes to bull riding, hosting the National Finals Rodeo for upward of 30 years along with the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) event. But this year brough a new type of rodeo to Las Vegas - the World Gay Rodeo Finals, and it's unlike any other rodeo you've ever been to.

It’s an event created 29 years ago specifically for LGBT members of the rodeo community to be able to compete in a safe environment. It was built on a philosophy of nondiscrimination. Be it sexual preference, gender, race or nationality – they don’t care. Both men and women compete in all events from rough stock events to horse events to camp events.

Ready to come out of the chute!

It’s hard to believe that after 29 years, this is the first year they were able to host the event in Las Vegas, after eliminating the bidding system. “We knew we needed to move something and change some things and that’s when South Point and Las Vegas came up. It’s a destination rodeo now,” said Robert Thurtell, rodeo director of the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA). To the rodeo directors, having the event in Las Vegas and the chance to host at the South Point was the big time – a dream they were waiting for.

And who could blame them? It’s a destination with so much to offer, home to one of the largest rodeo circuits and built on being whoever it is you want to be.

Benny Binion would tell you: The World Gay Rodeo Finals in Vegas? That's pure gold.

Benny Binion would tell you: The World Gay Rodeo Finals in Vegas? That's pure gold!

Even if you want to be that someone who puts underwear on a goat. And these competitors know they’re free to do so without being judged by anyone – well, except for the actual judges of the event. After all, it is a competition.

The only person judging anybody was this guy.

The only person judging anybody at the World Gay Rodeo Finals was this guy.

The gay rodeo doesn’t stray too far from the events you might find within your typical rodeo. You can still witness bull riding, barrel racing, steer riding, team roping and so on. But what really makes this unique is its Camp Events, the IGRA Royalty Show, and the sense of community that exists between spectators and riders.

Well, all of that and the team drag costume contest.

We’re going to go out on a limb here, but there are probably not very many times you can say you saw Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman struggle to bring what is most likely a 400 lb. steer across a 70-foot line. Only to then watch Batman and Superman miserably attempt to lift Wonder Woman in her silver platform boots onto the back of the steer. All while battling to pull the steer and Wonder Woman back across the line. But as unreal as it sounds, it happened.

This is referred to as Wild Drag Racing and the objective is simple. (Although, moving 400 pounds of anything really can’t be considered simple – can it?) Essentially, a team of three; a man, a woman, and either a man or a woman dressed in “drag,” must move a steer 70 feet past a chalk-dusted line. Once over the line, the person in drag mounts the steer while the other team members attempt to get the steer back over the line that was just crossed. The person in drag must be fully on the steer as they cross the line for the time to count.

Getting these animals to cooperate can be quite a drag sometimes.

Getting these animals to cooperate can be quite a drag sometimes.

This is part of the unique Camp Events series. These events are meant for both rodeo riders and spectators. It’s seen as a way to give those who are interested in participating in the rodeo, but may not be actual rodeo competitors, a chance to join in the events. 

As with any good rodeo, once the daytime events conclude, the nighttime events begin, complete with beer, dancing and country music – the rodeo trifecta. But first, the Royalty Show: a long-standing tradition where the 2016 Mr., Ms., MsTer and Miss Rodeo are crowned.

Contestants compete in the categories of Western wear, horsemanship, interviews, public presentation and entertainment. But what’s truly a sight to see is the Step Downs. This is where past winners and runners-up take the stage and put on their greatest musical performance.

All of the women are dressed to the nines in their best formal attire while all the men are dressed in their best Western wear. Past winners, whether on stage or in the audience, proudly wear their glamorously decorated sashes for all to see. The audience was even lucky enough to witness a winner from the early years of the competition take the stage: a Las Vegas native, Chili Pepper, who was Miss IGRA 1993.

Past years’ IGRA royalty

Past years’ IGRA royalty.

To say their performances were powerful would be an understatement. Don’t ask us if we cried. We’ll lie. But with the lights dimmed, spotlight on the performer, music turned up and a huge audience, it really was breathtaking. Even more so, to watch rodeo members, past winners and spectators approach the stage in support and respect to donate money. All proceeds received from the Step Downs are used to support the IGRA and a number of LGBT focused charities.

But what was most shocking about the entire rodeo was the sheer sense of admiration felt by all. Yes, that’s right – love − at a rodeo, and not the kind of love one feels for their horse after winning a race or their beer after they lose a race. We’re talking genuine, heartfelt love.

IGRA leadership poses for a group shot.

Arena Crew Volunteers pose for a group shot.

Amanda wasn’t able to last six seconds on the bull in the last event on Saturday night. (In the Gay Rodeo, a rider must stay on for six seconds as opposed to eight in the professional rodeo circuit.) But what followed was truly unexpected for her. When she looked up after being thrown off the bull and into the dirt, there was her boyfriend, there to help her up, along with all of her friends, family and fellow riders gathered around.

After confessing his love to what he referred to as his “crazy bull-riding girlfriend,” her boyfriend got down on one knee ready to propose, and the audience cried, laughed and applauded in their joy as she said yes. “I think we’ve experienced marriage equality or something like that,” joked the announcer. Because, that’s right, in the Gay Rodeo, even straight riders are able to compete.

From gay proposals and straight proposals, drag queen performers and even goats wearing underwear, the entire weekend really was a sight to see, whether you’ve been to a rodeo before or not. If you haven’t, you should go. To some, Vegas is a dream. To others, Vegas is a place to be who you want to be. And for others, it’s a chance to do what you want free of judgment.

Vegas Weekend: Catch Madonna, Korn, Bill Maher and more

From country and rock icons to pop starlets, you'll find entertainment for every taste this weekend in Las Vegas. Whether it's comedians, concerts or clubs, it's all happening here. Check out the list below or see our full lineup of shows.


Friday, Oct. 23




Saturday, Oct. 24



Rick Springfield

Sunday, Oct. 25



Book rooms and get show tickets, club passes and more at LasVegas.com!

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