Las Vegas, seemingly in a constant state of change, is steadily reasserting itself as an adult playground. In recent years, the trend was to include more family-friendly environments and even some mega-attractions for kids. Now the "play areas" are more likely to emphasize spas, golf courses, conference space and the most popular adult attraction this side of a casino: motion-simulator rides.
Circus Circus, the perennial kid-friendly hotel-casino, has two new attractions in its Grand Slam Canyon theme park that are both adult-friendly. The Fun House Express, an Imax motion-simulator ride, opened in March. The new Xtreme Zone, featuring a four-story rock climbing wall and bungee trampoline, makes its debut this weekend.
The Luxor and Caesars Palace both opened Imax 3-D motion-simulator rides in December. The Luxor's two 3-D productions, "L-5: First City in Space" and "Into the Deep," screen daily in the new seven-story theater. At Caesars, "The Race for Atlantis" is a jolting 3-D ride that takes place in the new Forum Shops area. Also in the new wing is the free Atlantis show, an animatronic spectacle similar to the long-running Festival Fountain in the original shopping wing, but more advanced with fire, smoke and a sunken continent.
Debuting today at Caesars Palace is a new Omnimax feature, "The Living Sea," a film that earned an Oscar nomination in 1995 for best short subject documentary. The current film, "Everest," runs through Sept. 13.
The newly renovated Sahara goes head-to-head in the race for best virtual reality ride. Its eight-minute adventure puts visitors in the cockpits of individual NASCAR racers, competing side by side on a big-screen track.
If it's real motion you're after, visitors to the Rio can pay $9.95 and ride along on a "flying float" during the Masquerade Show in the Sky. The attraction is free to spectators and operates every day except Wednesday in the Masquerade Village.
Also at the Rio is a new 18-hole golf course 12 minutes from the hotel. The course joins the newly remodeled Desert Inn in opening its golf facilities to the public. These two hotels, like most of the major resorts in Vegas, are also opening or remodeling spa facilities. But Caesars Palace sets the standard with its new 23,000-square-foot Roman spa, which opened in April. Caesars offers everything from aerobics to aroma therapy, weight rooms to massage suites.
Even MGM has scaled back its Grand Adventures theme park (although there's still plenty to do) to make way for five new pools, a spa and conference center.
This re-emphasis on adults seems to be coinciding with the development of four new hotels on the Strip. The Bellagio (opening in October), the Paris, Venetian and Mandalay Bay (all scheduled to open in 1999) are setting their sights on the high end, targeting a mature clientele.
But that's not to say there will be fewer alternatives to the gaming tables. Dance clubs and beach parties are popping up all over town. In June, the Hard Rock Hotel's summer evening parties will feature swing music on Wednesdays and live reggae bands around the pool on Fridays. The season kicks off with a free concert by the Wailing Souls on May 29. (The rest of the parties are $10, which includes two drinks and hors d'oeuvres.)
The new Ra club at Luxor features fire-breathing bartenders and funk bands, with cage dancing contests on Thursdays. On May 28, Studio 54 at MGM hosts a benefit auction of millionaire bachelors. Three free special events this summer featuring live bands, interactive games, food and drinks are planned by the Fremont Street Experience, the pedestrian promenade in downtown Las Vegas. First up is the Spring Fling this Friday and Saturday, featuring Edgar Winter, Pablo Cruise, Joe's Band and the Kokomo Beach Band. Two more free concerts follow in June: Disco Mania, June 12-13, and Summer in the City, June 26-27. (Headliners are unscheduled.)
Junefest, a daylong music festival sponsored by KKLZ-FM (96.3), returns to Silver Bowl Park on June 6 with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Kansas, Loverboy, REO Speedwagon, Billy Squier, BTO and Gregg Allman and Friends. Tickets charged by phone, (702) 474-4000, are $17.96; at the gate $24.
Last but not least, for those headed to Vegas to tie the knot, Excalibur has opened the Canterbury Wedding Chapels. The place is patterned after European cathedrals--and medieval duds are available for faire maidens who want to literally be swept away by a knight in shining armor, Vegas-style.
Showroom headliners (subject to change):
May 21-27: Gladys Knight; MGM Grand.
May 21-24: Liza Minnelli; Bally's.
May 22: Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues Band; Hard Rock Hotel.
May 22-23: Jerry Vale; Boulder Station.
May 22-24: Andrew Dice Clay; Bally's.
May 22-24: Al Jarreau; Desert Inn.
May 22-24: Air Supply; the Orleans.
May 22-24: Rosie O'Donnell and Billy Porter; Caesars Palace.
May 23: Leslie Gore; Sunset Station.
May 23: Michael Crawford; MGM Grand.
May 23: Dio; Hard Rock Hotel.
May 23: Juice Newton; Palace Station.