While it might not be a novelty to people who spend their days in meat lockers or hiking across a frozen tundra or stuck in one of those offices where the thermostat is set so low your teeth chatter (we've all been there), for everyone else, Minus 5 at Mandalay Place is definitely an innovative concept.
The Sin City version of the bar/lounge/experience is actually the sixth in the world, but the first in the United States (founder and owner Craig Ling hails from New Zealand and started up there). And what better place to put an ice palace (think Superman 2 and the Fortress of Solitude, but done as a place you'd actually want to go) than in a desert?
The intimate lodge only holds a maximum of 150 and it's a destination worth adding to your itinerary. That is, again, unless you pass the time in 23-degree Fahrenheit (minus 5 Celsius, of course) temperatures often.
The experience goes a little something like this -- you check in and pay your admission, which includes one cocktail and the use of cold-appropriate clothing -- parkas, gloves, everything you'll need. You don the duds and head into a room about as cold as a grocery store freezer section. In that room, you watch a little video, learn some stuff you'll need (stuff like, you break it, you buy it, etc.) and then it's on to the main event through an air-locked door (we told you about the Fortress of Solitude thing).
Inside the main room, where the bar is, there's ice every where. Huge bricks of ice that weigh in at the triple digits make up the bricks and walls of the room, while elaborate ice sculpting adorns everything. This is a room made of ice. That might sound like a concept you can wrap your head around, but it's really something that has to be seen (and felt) to fully understand.
The tip of your nose goes red and everyone around you, all your buddies, your family, your coworkers, whomever, are all reduced to awestruck kids, everyone happy and laughing and drinking. Common sense should dictate that there are mostly vodka-based drinks in a room where temperatures are so low, but the Minus 5 folks are constantly tinkering with other drinks to get them to stay in liquid form in the frigid air.
The drinks are served in ice glasses made of (obviously frozen) New Zealand water and if you have more than one drink, you're encouraged to reuse the glass, as it belongs only to you, ever, before it melts. And be mindful of where you set that glass by listening to your mom's old advice and using a coaster. If you don't, you could find your drink has fused to the bar.
Once you're done, you're ushered into a much, much warmer room to reacclimatize yourself and strip back down to whatever clothes you came in with.
All told, the whole Minus 5 thing is a pretty good accompaniment to whatever else you've planned for the day and if it's the first thing you do, it'll be all you talk about during the other stuff. If it's not the first thing? Well, somebody's going to make a joke about how "cool" it was anyway.
-- Review by Jamie Helmick