Jerrod Carmichael
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Las Vegas Keeps Its Cool

Vegas retired sign with martini

If there’s any place ready to put troubles in the rearview mirror, it’s Las Vegas. Adept at forgetting the past, the tourism mecca is all about moving forward, not looking back. It was one of the first destinations to reopen with safety protocols, and later reluctantly imposed new indoor mask mandates. But even amid all the whiplash of the last year and a half, Vegas has seen numerous openings that make slipping on that face-covering well worth it.

Downtown Las Vegas’s first new ground-up hotel-casino in over 40 years cut its ribbon in late 2020. Adding to an already resurgent downtown, Circa Resort & Casino opens right onto the quirky and entertaining Fremont Street Experience, a five-block pedestrian promenade. Circa touts huge sports betting facilities and an expansive pool stadium, but we found its restaurants the biggest draw. Don’t miss 8 East, a fantastic Asian fusion from the guys behind the city’s iconic Le Thai restaurant. Meanwhile, Saginaw’s Delicatessen, open 24 hours, has some of the best latkes, lox, and pastrami outside of New York City.

Vegas Vickie Bar

 

Circa owner Derek Stevens has a deep love for old-school Vegas, apparent in the resort’s retro steakhouse, Barry’s Downtown Prime, and the salvaged iconic Vegas Vickie neon sign, which now hangs over an eponymously named cocktail lounge (above). Circa’s rooftop Legacy Club boasts 360-degree views of the city.

Circa, being more modern than other DTLV resorts, feels more welcoming to queer travelers than some dingier downtown casinos, but your Grindr or Tinder may not be popping off like it does on the Strip (below view from aerial tour).

Vegas from the air at night

 

Move south, to the city’s Arts District, and explore The Garden from Vegas nightlife legend Eduardo Cordova. Elegant and sexy, this indoor/outdoor bar has filled a niche in a city that has lost many of its major gay nightclubs in the past few years. There’s food, a drag brunch (Coco Montrese performs there), and bottle service on Friday and Saturday nights. Celebrities (including Cher) are known to swing by, but most attendees dress casual yet chic.

Keep moving south and you’ll hit Resorts World. The new mega-resort that opened this year counts Las Vegas Hilton among its 3,500+ rooms and a myriad of restaurants, including an Asian street food dining hall. Celine Dion, who decamped from Caesars Palace, will be the resort’s first residency in November, followed by Carrie Underwood and Katy Perry. Lady Gaga will return to Park MGM for her acclaimed Jazz & Piano.

Area 15

The unforgettable Area 51 is an art experience that has to be seen to be believed. Inside are Meow Wolf and Omega Mart, immersive experiences with giant neon creations and virtual reality opportunities. It is a fantastic commentary on consumerism that is thought-provoking not preachy.

Luxor’s Temptation Sundays is the city’s longest running LGBTQ+ pool party. Sipping a cocktail while surrounded by smiling queers from around the world — that you can actually see and possibly touch — will make you forget both the pandemic and the desert heat.

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