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April 2010 Email this to a friend


Las Vegas/us

By Michael K Lavers

Snicks, Las Vegas

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Las Vegas/us
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NOTE: This is an archive article. For an updated and expanded Las Vegas article click DailyXtraTravel

A hedonistic reputation, flashing neon lights and over-the-top spectacles make Las Vegas one of the world's most popular tourist destinations. But Sin City is constantly reinventing itself, touting its family-friendly resorts one year and its massive concert venues the next.
This year, the outreach is to the gay market. The city continues to add attractions to satisfy the ever-growing number of gays who flock there each year. Same-sex couples holding hands in the glittery casinos and well-built gay men dancing the night away at the most popular bars and clubs are increasingly common sights on the Strip.
Las Vegas does not have one gay neighborhood, but the majority of the city's gay nightlife is centered on two large strip malls -- the Fruit Loop and the Village Square Commercial Center -- off the Strip.
Mike Morse of the Onyx Theater notes that dozens of gay couples have moved into the golf course at which he and his partner live.
"We're scattered across the whole valley of more than a million people," he says.
The Strip remains the city's primary draw, but gay visitors to Sin City can experience something entirely different, and equally worthwhile, only a few blocks away.

Getting here
McCarran International Airport, is roughly three miles southeast of the Las Vegas Strip and about five miles from downtown. A taxi from LAS costs around $20, and most hotels offer a shuttle bus to and from the airport.
Another option to get downtown is the fleet of buses operated by the Regional Transportation Commission. Buses 108 and 109A provide direct service to and from the airport. Fares are $2, or $5 for a day pass.

Getting around
Frankly, the best way to take in the Strip's many attractions is by foot. A number of walkways take pedestrians over busy Las Vegas Boulevard and nearby streets. The Deuce Bus is a great way to travel between the Strip and downtown. It costs $3, or $7 for a day pass. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Las Vegas Monorail will convey you in cool comfort back and forth along the Strip.
Las Vegas itself is quite spread out, so a car is necessary for any excursions beyond the Strip, downtown and their immediate surroundings.

What to see
The majority of the Strip's attractions stretch along Las Vegas Boulevard from Sahara Avenue to Russell Road. This is where you'll find the massive resorts that feature battling pirate ships, exploding volcanoes and roller coasters that whiz around scale models of the New York skyline.
A couple of miles north of the Strip is downtown Las Vegas, a throwback to the city's early days. Here you can gawk at many of the city's original casinos along pedestrian-only Fremont Street. Now called the Fremont Street Experience, it features a four-block canopy covered with twinkling lights.
Locals are quick (and some are even proud) to point out that gays have successfully integrated into mainstream Las Vegas. Although there isn't really a gay neighborhood, the majority of the city's gay bars and clubs are clustered around the Fruit Loop, on Paradise Road near East Harmon Avenue, and the Village Square Commercial Center, on Sahara Avenue near Maryland Parkway. Crowds can be thin during the week, but the bars and clubs are usually packed on Friday and Saturday nights. Both the Fruit Loop and the Village Square Commercial Center are a short taxi ride (or a 15-20 minute walk) from the Strip.
In addition to bars and clubs, the Onyx Theater in the Village Square Commercial Center offers a variety of locally produced shows and performances. The Liberace Museum on Tropicana Avenue is another option for those with a couple of hours to kill. It offers free shuttles from the Strip to the museum and back.

Local media
Las Vegas Gay News, Las Vegas Night Beat, and Q Vegas are the valley's gay publications.

in focus
Head to the canyons
Located in the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas is within striking distance of some of the Southwest's most dramatic landscapes, and some gay and gay-friendly companies offer comfortable and convenient ways to explore them.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, west of Las Vegas on State Route 160, is so close to the city the skyline is visible from a number of overlooks. The park is famous for its sandstone outcroppings, prehistoric sand dunes and dramatic cliffs along the 65-million-year-old Keystone Thrust.
The Calico Hills, on the park's 13-mile Scenic Loop, remain a popular destination for local rock climbers and hikers. Animal lovers come for a glimpse of wildlife, ranging from rattlesnakes and raptors to ground squirrels and desert tortoises.
Red Rock Canyon's unique attractions include prehistoric pictographs, found near Willow Spring Picnic Area. Archaeologists speculate that the tribes who once lived in the canyon put their handprints on the rocks to announce births. The tribes' origins, however, remain a mystery.
A series of trails gives visitors access to the park's more remote areas. Chris Brennan of Pink Jeep Tours routinely navigates his retrofitted vehicle over the aptly named Rocky Gap Road. The three-and-a-half-hour tour includes several pauses at scenic overlooks throughout the preserve. At one stop, you can explore a dry river bed and the steep slopes along the canyon's base.
More than one million people visit Red Rock each year, but that number is dwarfed by the hordes of visitors to the Grand Canyon, one of the world's most popular national attractions. The park is a five-hour drive from Las Vegas, but a handful of companies offer helicopter tours from Boulder City that land inside the canyon, within the Hualapai Indian Reservation.
The flight from Boulder City takes roughly 35 minutes. It passes over Hoover Dam and Lake Mead before making a 3,500-foot descent into the canyon. Mischa Maliski of Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters says the National Parks Service banned scenic tours within national park boundaries nearly a decade ago, after a series of crashes. Now, flights must land just outside the park on Hualapai land. Visitors are treated to a small picnic lunch and a champagne toast before returning to Nevada.

Event planner
April
AIDS Walk Las Vegas
Aid for AIDS Nevada
World Market Center
July 4, 2010
afanlv.org

October
World Gay Rodeo Finals
Nevada Gay Rodeo Association
Laughlin, Nevada and Fort Mojave, Arizona
October 22-24, 2010
ngra.com

Pride Day
The annual nighttime parade takes place in downtown Las Vegas on April 30, 2010. The festival takes place at the Clark County Government Center, 500 South Grand Central Parkway, on May 1.

Top experiences
Art for art's sake. Sprawling City Center, a complex of casinos, condominiums, hotels, restaurants and high-end shopping, opened its doors in December. Its $55-million public art collection, however, remains one of its most innovative attractions. Look for works by Frank Stella, Nancy Rubins, Coosje van Bruggen and other artists.

Hitting the Strip. A night out on Las Vegas Boulevard is a mandatory part of any Sin City experience. Many properties throw gay parties in their lounges. One local told Guide magazine that many of her gay friends have more success hooking up at these parties than at the city's gay bars.

Yoga in the buff. Sin City is built upon excess, but David Oliphant's naked yoga studio in the Arts Factory Building (107 E Charleston Blvd) is one of the best places to detox. There are always a few out-of-towners at each of his three weekly sessions -- a Tuesday night partner stretch, a Friday night power yoga session and a Sunday morning restorative class.

Accommodations

Blue Moon Resort (2651 Westwood Dr), a gay men's oasis, sex-charged, cruisy, permissive, fun and clean, but very private, secure and discreet. Massage service, high-speed wireless internet access, 45 elegant rooms with flat-panel TVs -- and a famous buffet breakfast. Uninhibited action in the big steam room, the clothing-optional lagoon-style pool, the 10-man Jacuzzi grotto and the communal video room. Other amenities include a bar, internet cafe, a walking path, and a 10-foot waterfall. Regular poolside events include visits from guys of Rentboy.com. Day passes are available, so you can still join the fun when rooms are booked solid.

Lucky You B&B (1248 S 8th St), the oldest gay-owned B&B in Vegas is minutes from the famous Las Vegas "Strip," has Western-style hospitality and a spa with clothing-optional pool, sauna and hot tub; plus lots of in-room ammenities from full breakfast to fireplaces and book/video library. Daily rates start at just $59!

Among the big general-public resorts, some are a little more welcoming than others for gay visitors.
The Aria (3730 Las Vegas Blvd) offers shopping at the world's most exclusive retailers, dining from world-renowned chefs, and the exhilaration of a unique casino experience - not an easy claim to make in this city. A luxurious spa and the extraordinary shows of Cirque du Soleil are among their other attractions.

Bellagio (3600 Las Vegas Blvd S) has rooms decorated with plush fabrics, rich hues, and comportably furnished, with sweeping views of Lake Bellagio and their pools & courtyards. They also boast shopping, spa, a casino, and entertainment including one of the shows of Cirque du Soleil.

The MGM Grand Hotel & Casino (3799 Las Vegas Blvd S); and New York New York (3790 Las Vegas Blvd S), are two more fine options among the many resort casinos.

Click HERE for many more local lodging and resort options.

On the town

When you think of Vegas, do you imagine the glory days with entertainers the likes of Liberace, Sinatra and Elvis; or elaborate shows of Cirque du Soleil of today; the legendary mobsters, or the antics of Howard Hughes? The Boulder Dam was an original big attraction, and mushroom clouds on the horizon drew visitors to watch atomic bomb tests from their hotels in the 1950s. In the popular imagination this city always held the allure of larger than life, forbidden, unrestricted and risque experience, with just sufficient hints of danger, attracting millions from more conventional hometowns to this "magic kingdom" for adults.

Elaborate themed hotel casino resorts such as the Venetian, the Paris and Circus-Circus, with their tacky interpretations of reality, can be forgiven as appealingly over-the-top indulgences. Others, modern and high-tech, include the Wynn, a trendy celebrity hangout.

Bright lights, endless entertainment, 24-hour liquor licenses, ubiquitous slot machines or high-stakes tables of the top-end establishments are the hallmark of life here, night and day. Gambling, banned for 32 years, was re-legalized only in 1931 and marriage and divorce laws were relaxed, creating the basis for the "Sin City" allure. Despite recent attempts to introduce a more "family friendly" image, gaming remains the financial lifeblood of the region.

Prostitution, another American no-no, though permitted at state-regulated brothels in rural Nevada counties, is a misdemeanor in larger cities like Las Vegas (since 2004). But escorts reamain discreetly available in the casinos, and openly advertised along the strip.

Gay bars & clubs

While each of Las Vegas' gay bars has a unique flair to it, most have gambling and inexpensive drinks in common. There are all sorts of machines for you to try your luck on, and "busts" at nearly every club on certain days and times. You can drink, cruise and gamble here 24/7!

Back Door Lounge (1415 E Charleston Ave) with a Latin flair, hosts frequent Naked Papi Parties, muy caliente, with top DJs and special shows.

Badlands Saloon (Commercial Center, 953 E Sahara), plays country music and offers beer and liquor busts on weekends, plus domestic-drink specials Monday through Thursday.

Buffalo (4640 Paradise Rd), a longtime country & western men's favorite with a dash of Levis & leather. Lots of local guys.

Charlie's (5012 S Arville) is part of a chain with venues also in Chicago, Denver, and Phoenix. A popular country & western local hangout, they host a variety of dance classes and hoedowns plus funky disco nights. Benefits support Street Teens and the Nevada AIDS Project.

Eagle (3430 E Tropicana) leather/levi-influenced bar with game room, known for busy underwear nights: strip off for free drinks here.

A bit off the Strip Flex (4371 W Charleston) is worth the trip for their cheap drinks, game room, weekend DJ dancing, male strippers and live music nights.

In the neighborhood affectionately known as the Fruit Loop, Freezone (610 E Naples) has dancing, go-go and shot boys, drag shows and an informal scene mixing tourists and locals. Tuesdays are for women.

FunHog Ranch (495 E Twain) is a men's club for Levis & leather guys and bears. Darts, gaming, and pool and a down-home "be yourself" atmosphere. Cheap drinks attract early drinkers before they hit the dance clubs.

Gipsy (4605 Paradise Rd), one of Las Vegas's first dance clubs, has a younger crowd, cabaret shows, go-gos, top quality drag performances and tie-ins with the nearby and associated Piranha Club.

Goodtimes (1775 E Tropicana Ave), popular with a young hispanic cowboy crowd, has show nights and Papi dancers, open 24 hours, right next to the Liberace Museum.

The largest dance club, Krave (3663 Las Vegas Blvd S) has the gay and mixed late-night crowd on the Strip and world-renowned DJs. Weekly nights' entertainments include cabaret, theater, celebrity appearances, go go boys (Fridays), and amateur strippers (Wednesdays for cash prizes). Saturday is Girls Night and Sundays feature all-male revues and drag-tribute performers.

The high-energy club Pirahna (4633 Paradise Rd) has nightly hot go-go boys, and hot sweaty dancing until dawn. In the back is the 8 1/2 Ultra Lounge. Porn stars Benjamin Bradley and Roman Heart show their stuff every Friday and Saturday night.

Located right by the Strip near the Sahara monorail stop, a gay Vegas must-see is Snick's Place (1402 South 3rd St). Las Vegas' first gay bar is still among the friendliest in town, especially during their happy hours 2-4am and 2-4pm. They have wi-fi, video poker, reasonable drinks prices, Saturday beer busts, and liquor to-go too.

Spotlight Lounge (957 E Sahara) friendly and popular for their daily drinks specials, pool table and video poker games.

Restaurants

The casinos have some of the best all-you-can-eat lunch and dinner buffets anywhere. The most popular are Bellagio, Bally's, Paris, Orleans, Planet Hollywood, Mirage, and MGM -- all on Las Vegas Boulevard. For an economical buffet, try The Sahara with a choice of meats from their cavery, chicken, fish and ample cakes and desserts.

Click HERE for more Las Vegas restaurants.

Shopping

Las Vegas is a shopaholic's dream where you can buy just about anything at malls and outlet centers throughout the city. The casinos all have shops, some of the best around. Some must-sees include: Fashion Show Mall (3200 Las Vegas Blvd S), one of the largest shopping malls in the USA; Las Vegas Outlet Center (7400 Las Vegas Blvd S); and Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood (3667 Las Vegas Blvd S).

The Commercial Center (953 E Sahara), an open air shopping mall built in 1960, has over 150 unique shops & restaurants. It has plenty of parking, and several gay bathhouses, shops, bars and the community center are located here too.

Get Booked (4640 Paradise Rd) has books, videos, gifts, & magazines -- all in both hard-core & soft-core varieties, plus T-shirts and undies.

Leather Addictions (700 East Naples) has leather / fetish wear, and toys.

Shop the Rack (Commercial Center, 953 East Sahara) for many kinds of gay merchandise. One whole room is devoted to underwear and thongs with a range of styles, one with a built-in cockring! Leather, rubber and gothic gear, toys, jewelry, adult novelties, pumping accouterments, and even kilts adorn these shelves.

Saunas & playgrounds

Entourage Vegas (953 E Sahara, Suite A-19), in the Commercial Center's northwest corner, is "the hottest and safest playground in Sin City" with 65 rooms and 60 lockers, dry sauna, indoor Roman style pool, gym, Jacuzzi, dark room, sling room, and a huge, cavernous maze steam room.

Hawks Gym (Commercial Center; 953 E Sahara, Suite 35B) gets busy everyday with locals and out-of-towners, and just celebrated a 7th Anniversary as Las Vegas's only gay-owned and operated men's gym for men. On special occasions they fill fast, so arrive early. Hawk's has a state-of-the-art gym, a reputation for cleanliness, 22 rooms and a huge, well-equipped communal dungeon room.

On stage

Las Vegas offers the hottest shows on Earth -- for a price, of course, and you need to reserve ahead. The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, the Hilton, the Mandalay Bay Theater, the Palazzo, the Riviera, the Sahara, and the Venetian (which also houses the Blue Man Theatre), are some of the venues to check out.

Frank Marino superstar female impersonation shows have moved after many years. See Divas Las Vegas at the new venue, the Imperial Palace, with details at FrankMarinosDivas.com

Cirque Du Soleil has outdone itself with seven shows now being performed in Vegas: Viva Elvis at Aria; Love (celebrating the Beatles) at the Mirage, (Cirque also does a Beatles Revolution Lounge here); O at the Bellagio; Ka at MGM Grand; Criss Angel Believe at the Luxor; Zumanity at New York New York; and Mystere at Treasure Island.

For an interactive experience as part of the show head to The Rio to enjoy Tony and Tina's Wedding. In this Italian-American wedding, the action takes place with you as one of the guests! Dinner included.

The Onyx Theatre (Commercial Center, 953 East Sahara) behind the Rack has inexpensive tickets to great movies and shows that include stand-up comedy acts, and Rocky Horror Picture Show plays on first and third Saturdays with the usual dress-up shenanigans. They also host Porn Bingo to aid local charities, often hosted by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Naked Boys Singing is currently playing every Friday and Saturday at 10pm and on Sundays at 3pm.
Upcoming attractions include Confessions of a Mormon Boy, April 22-25, 2010.

Learn about sex

For the history of all things erotic, the informative and entertaining Erotic Heritage Museum (3275 Industrial Way) has art and artifacts that explore sexual trends past and present. The toilet on the first floor has graffiti covered walls with amusingly explicit jokes and stories. Early examples of peep-show booths here play porn films from many eras, but the glory hole is not intended for use!


Resources & information

The Gay and Lesbian Community Center (953 E Sahara Ave, Suite B-31), in Commercial Center, has a comprehensive calendar of events for local organizations. Sexual health clinics, film-club nights and social groups -- plus internet access.

The Sin Sity Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have a calendar of events for "hole-y worship" to benefit worthy causes. Their motto: "Comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable."

Author Profile:  Michael K Lavers

Michael K Lavers is the national news editor for the EDGE Media Network and managing editor of the Fire Island News. His work has appeared in The Advocate, the Village Voice and many gay and mainstream publications.

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