THE WILD BUNCH
Hippo & The Wild Bunch, across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel on the corner of Harmon and Paradise, is a new 24-hour restaurant and bar with an animated tropical atmosphere. The cartoon-like ambience is like something out of Disney’s version of “The Jungle Book.”
Dining under Binion trees, guests can choose from an extensive menu of coconut shrimp, mussels mariniere, gourmet pizzas, fresh pastas, BBQ ribs and famous Hippo burgers. There is also daily karaoke and live entertainment.
And there is a bonus to spending those casino winnings here: Part of the proceeds from some Hippo purchases is donated to wildlife conservation efforts.
The mouth-watering crepes served at this quaint French eatery are an unbelievable find in Las Vegas.
The owners of Crepes Pierrette, Pierrette and Alan Larrieu, have transported this authentic cuisine straight from their home in Paris and created a unique restaurant for the Strip weary at 4794 Eastern Ave.
“We wanted to bring to Las Vegas this French-country-style cuisine, between fast food and gourmet, and teach the locals and tourists what French cuisine can be,” says Alan.
The decor is similar to a French bistro, down to black wrought-iron chairs with striped cushions.
Pierrette — the master behind the savory cuisine — whips up crepes, crepes and more crepes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. The most popular is the Normandy, stuffed with chicken, mushrooms and gruyAre cheese, but the Pierrette, named after the chef and filled with scallops, shrimp, imitation crab and lemon herb butter, is also delicious. On the lunch menu crepe prices range from $4.45 to $5.45. The dinner menu also includes traditional dishes such as sandwiches, pasta dishes and grilled steak and shrimp. Dinner prices range from $13.95 to $18.95.
To get the full flavor of a French bistro, the less squeamish shouldn’t pass up the sauteed frog legs in garlic butter and the escargot appetizers.
EYE IN THE SKY
If you are looking for a bird’s eye view of the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam, or would like to try a new chapel in the sky, Las Vegas Helicopters has the answer.
The company offers tours to the Grand Canyon, giving passengers the opportunity to experience its grandeur from the air. The pilots act as tour guides, and stereo headphones provide the rest of the history.
A deluxe flight for $199 per person includes a tour of the 60-year-old Hoover Dam, Fortification Hill — an extinct volcano — Lake Mead and finally, the Grand Canyon.
There is also a “VIP” champagne flight, which includes all of the above and a more extensive trip around the canyon.
Finally, the company turns a luxurious jet helicopter into a wedding chapel in the sky for those who want to marry at 10,000 feet.
The launch pad is located on the Strip at 3724 Las Vegas Blvd. South.
ON TOP OF THE WORLD
Las Vegas has outdone itself again. Developers have literally taken the prevailing theme-park atmosphere and pushed it into the Stratosphere — a 135-story tower, featuring a $400 million hotel, casino and entertainment complex. Scheduled to open in April, the colossal Stratosphere, which is located at 2000 South Las Vegas Blvd. and stands three times taller than any other building in Las Vegas, will feature indoor and outdoor observation decks, the world’s highest roller coaster and thrill ride, a 360-seat revolving restaurant and a 220-seat cocktail lounge.
Definitely not for those suffering from vertigo, the tower’s “High Roller” roller coaster zooms around the 12-story pod, which begins at the 771-foot level, at over 100 stories above the Strip. If that isn’t enough, the more daring can try “The Space Shot,” a ride that shoots you 160 feet into the air at 45 mph, then lets you free-fall back to the launching pad while experiencing G forces from less than 0 to over 4 Gs.
Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Stratosphere will be equipped with a special lighting system designed to provide a spectacular light show nightly.
The complex will also feature several new restaurants, a retail mall built by the designers of the Forum Shops at Caesars and three wedding chapels for those who feel that the chapels on the Strip aren’t elevated enough.
TAKING A DIVE
For those who start to feel gravity’s pull after too many 24-hour Las Vegas revelries, Flyaway Indoor Skydiving can help lighten the load. At the indoor skydiving simulator, participants learn to test their skills of human flight in a vertical wind tunnel during a single-flight session or in a personalized “Learn to Fly” coaching program. These programs can even take a group through an actual skydive.
As a first-time flyer, you attend a 25-minute safety training class and learn body control techniques and safety procedures. A flight suit and all protective equipment is included in the first-time price of $24. Subsequent flights are $19.50.
In full gear, the wind tunnel has a fan that blows up to 125 mph, but beginners rarely ever fly more than eight feet off the ground.
The company claims to give people skydiving skills in one weekend that would normally take three months to master at the drop zone.
CYBER CHATS AND COFFEE
Joe Kendall, a former power-plant manager with a love of computers, has capitalized on a new way to communicate globally over a cup of java.
He is the brain behind Cyber City Cafe, at 3945 East Flamingo Rd., Suite A, which serves up coffee and smart drinks to customers who pay $12 for an hour on the Information Superhighway. To open an e-mail account, the cost is $10 a month for four hours of use and a one-time $20 setup fee. He also charges $6.50 per half hour to surf the Net and $3.75 for 15 minutes.
Kendall says customers as young as six and as old as 80, from students to businessmen, have stopped by to access the Internet and its unlimited information.
On it, people can read almost any newspaper around the world, play computer games, confirm travel information and communicate with users on the other side of the planet.
“What’s happening with cyber cafes is that we are almost a tribe that attracts people from around the globe,” says Kendall.
The cafe, which serves a light lunch and offers a full amino-acid smart drink bar and espresso bar, has a dozen high-powered computer terminals that will soon be doubled, according to Kendall. The decor features black tables and chairs, a checkered floor, movie and rock star posters and television monitors linked to satellite for 900 channels of reception.
The cafe also stocks gifts, T-shirts, mugs and greeting cards, as well as hard copy periodicals on topics ranging from fashion to computers.
“There is so much information out there that it would take you 67 lifetimes, 24 hours a day, to see it,” he adds.
Current hours are 6 a.m. to midnight daily, but Kendall plans to turn it into a 24-hour operation sometime this year.
GOTHAM GOES WEST
They have brought the Nile and Caesar’s Rome to Las Vegas, but no one expected New York City in the heart of the desert.
Slated for a late fall opening, the New York-New York Hotel & Casino, on the Strip at the northwest corner of Tropicana and Las Vegas Boulevard South will give homesick New Yorkers a dose of the Big Apple.
After traipsing across a 300-foot-long replica of the Brooklyn Bridge, visitors will come face-to-face with a 150-foot-tall Statue of Liberty.
The hotel will offer 2,119 rooms in 10 connected high-rise buildings — approximately one-third the actual size of their Manhattan counterparts — that duplicate one of the world’s most famous skylines.
The structures include the Empire State Building at 525 feet, the 55 Water Tower, the Century Building, the Lever House Soap Co., the Seagram’s Building, the Chrysler Building and the AT&T Building with its famous grandfather clock face, among others. A roller coaster styled after Coney Island’s famous Cyclone will wrap around the resort and the porte-cochAre entrance will replicate the New York Public Library with its distinguished Beaux Arts design of exposed metal and glass-domed construction.
THE TASTE OF ITALY
Franco Nuschese has taken Las Vegas by storm with his newest restaurant, Tre Visi, at the MGM Grand.
Nuschese, known for his distinguished Cafe Milano in Washington’s Georgetown section, has created an eclectic mixture of Italian cuisines from the north and south, including Tuscan and Piemonte style, and serves them in a modern Roman decor.
The restaurant features homemade pastas, chicken and veal entrees, fresh fish, pizzas and breads baked on the premises.
In the main dining room, La Scala — modeled after the famous opera house in Milan — guests dine in booths that emulate a theater balcony. A full-service bar styled in an old Roman motif features a 2,000-bottle wine rack.
To complete the meal, Tre Visi serves a different flavor of gelato every day, including such flavors as basil and parmesan.
LIBERACE LIVES ON
It only takes a minute inside The Liberace Museum to get a sense of the showman’s flamboyance and the appropriateness of Las Vegas as the museum’s home.
The museum, a couple of miles off the Strip at 1775 East Tropicanna, has two parts. The main museum houses the piano, automobile and celebrity galleries, while the annex showcases the costume and jewelry galleries and a re-creation of Liberace’s office and bedroom from his Spanish-style hacienda in Palm Springs.
Liberace’s famous sequined costumes, designed by Michael Travis, feathered capes and million-dollar fur collection are all on view. The celebrated entertainer had costumes for every occasion. His Neptune costume, for example, weighs 200 pounds and is adorned with drop pearls and silver and pink bugle beads. The matching cape features a standup sell-motif collar with an undersea scene, embroidered beads, sequins and jewels.
The dazzling collection also features the gold and diamond rings that once could be seen only by fans in the front-row seats at his concerts.
Liberace didn’t stop there. Hill Rolls-Royces were designed to match his pianos, capes and costumes. One is covered with mirror tiles.
His favorite Baldwin grand piano, laden with thousands of etched mirror tiles, is set on a revolving stage in the costume gallery and recently appeared in “The Winner,” a film starring Rosanna Arquette.
FREMONT STREET EXPERIENCE
Glitter Gulch is trying to redefine itself.
It has taken $70 million to polish the tarnished image of this old section of Las Vegas and reposition it as a must-see attraction for the 21st century.
Banking on the world’s largest computer-driven light show, the Fremont Street Experience Co., a private and public partnership, has invested in a 90-foot-high electronic sign above five blocks of Fremont Street. Each night, a show of colorful animation and graphics explodes across the giant sign accompanied by music.
Thousands of people turned out for the opening night in early December and stood in awe as animated characters danced to holiday tunes across the canopy, which connects 10 of the oldest casinos and hotels in town, including Binion’s Horseshoe, Fremont and the Golden Nugget.
On the sign’s surface, 2.1 million lights come to life in a computer-generated, multisensory display backed by 540,000 watts of music. Sound and animated images are controlled by 30 computers.
The Fremont Experience, conceived by architect Jon Jerde, whose credits include Horton Plaza in San Diego and City Walk in Universal City, Calif., has transformed the original gambling district into a pedestrian mall where families and tourists can stroll safely and enjoy the sparkling displays.