Secrets to Vegas: Entertainment
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We don't live in hotels. Not all Vegas women are showgirls. No one wants your kidneys. Now that we've dispelled those little misconceptions, find out more of what we locals know about the real Las Vegas.
Lounge shows: You walked around the Strip all day. You spent all of your entertainment money at the tables, so seeing a Cirque du Soleil show is out. Suddenly, you remember that you're in Vegas -- Lounge Band Capital of the World. It's not the official slogan, but true nonetheless. Every hotel has a lounge with a variety of acts, and about 99 percent are free. The Bar at Times Square in New York-New York is truly unique, with New York Piano Duos nightly, free during the weekdays and with a cover charge on weekends and holidays. Request a song and watch the two piano players try to outdo each other. Just plop yourself down in any casino lounge to enjoy the band, the ambience and the realization that you probably can't see this back home.
Free shows: Las Vegas offers free drinks when you gamble, free lounge acts, free parking and a few free shows. Fremont Street is always bustling with activity, including free live concerts on the two main stages. Past entertainment has included everyone from Howard Jones and Survivor to Eddie Money and the Marshall Tucker Band.
What to Wear: Back in the day people wore gowns and tuxedos when it came to dressing up to see a show. Today, it's much more laid back. You're not going to see every audience member at a show dressed in their finest attire, but you will see some. None of the theaters have a dress code other than the basic, shoes and a shirt are required. However, if you like to dress up, we say go for it. Vegas is all about doing want you want and having fun.
On with the show: Many people complain (locals included) that Vegas stage shows are getting too expensive, but most of them are worth it. Besides, how could you face the folks at home without having seen a honest-to-goodness Vegas show? Buy the tickets in advance, as many shows sell out, especially during busy holiday weekends. However, don't be discouraged if a show is sold out. It may be worthwhile to check for tickets the day of the event as unclaimed tickets, either for a production show or one-night event, may become available. Here are some other show tips:
- If a showroom offers table seating and booth seating, you might want to spend the extra money for the booth. There is nothing worse than sitting at a table and craning your neck for a better view.
- Some shows offer general admission tickets, so guests are seated on a first-come-first-served basis. Be sure to get there early if you prefer to be up close and personal with the entertainers.
- If price is an issue, but you really want to see a specific show, ask for limited-view seats. Some shows on the Strip offer these seats; however, keep in mind that your view may be partially obstructed at various times during the performances. Also, save your money and consider grabbing a drink before the show, as the most expensive drinks in Vegas are sold in the showroom. Unless the show requires a minimum drink purchase, it's best not to buy any beverages, be it alcoholic or not, in the showroom if you are visiting Vegas on a budget.
- There are plenty of afternoon shows from magic revues to tribute acts that are are a great way to take a break from all that sight seeing and see a show without paying the hefty ticket price of many of the evening shows. They are also a good way to still fit seeing a Vegas show into your itinerary without taking away from your time indulging in the city's notorious nightlife.
A long bay: Seeing a show at the Mandalay Bay Events Center or the MGM's Grand Garden Arena? Good choice. They're fine venues, attached to two of the hippest hotels ever to hit the Strip. But if you charged your tickets by phone, you had better plan on being there an hour before showtime -- to avoid standing in the longest will-call line you've ever seen in your life.
Where to stand: If you happen to be in town when your favorite band, or even one you think is mediocre, is playing at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay or The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel, go! Sometimes the tickets seem expensive, but both of these venues are rather small and most concerts are general admission. That means you get a fair chance to fight to the front like everyone else. Our recommendation: Don't stand in the back by the bar. The ceiling is a lot lower back there and the sound doesn't carry very well. Grab a drink fast and fight your way back to the front!
Rock over London, rock on Vegas: Las Vegas grants a lot of liberties, but it doesn't give you license to be a complete jerk at concerts. Rock shows are barely managed chaos, even here in the World Capital of Swank, and any order that exists should be brought with you.
- Call ahead: A quick phone call to the box office is advisable for any show with opening acts, for the box office knows what you do not: the time the headliner is expected to take the stage. A 30-second call will tell you how much time you have for dinner and drinks (there is always time, friend). And we can count on one hand all the occasions a band has gone onstage before the start time we've been given. Call three hours in advance of the time listed on your ticket for best results.
- ID please: Check for age restrictions before purchasing tickets. Some shows are all ages, while others require guests to be 21 and older. Be prepared to show ID, as some security officers will check to make sure you are age appropriate.
- Snap happy: You may want to document every minute of your trip to Sin City, but most showrooms won't allow flash photography. Some venues even require you to check your camera at the door, so check with the venue before loading up on film.
- Wear what you will: But count on it reeking of tobacco, beer and maybe even cannabis after the show -- unless you already reek of all those things -- in which case, please wear one of those pine tree-shaped automobile air fresheners around your neck.
- Bundle up and be comfortable: Although the weather may be scorching outside, that doesn't mean the showroom will be hot as well. Be prepared and bring a sweater, chances are you might need it. You might also want to consider wearing comfortable clothing, especially shoes. Most parking garages and valets are quite a trek from the showrooms, and once the lights go down nobody will care if you are wearing Jimmy Choos or your Birkenstocks.
- Get the plugs: It's better to have and not need than need and not have earplugs. The best over-the-counter plugs I've used (you can get them prescribed -- recommended if you go to a lot of shows) come from the good people at Flents. Seal-Rite soft silicone plugs block out up to 21 decibels -- ideal for those situations where you stumble into a Rob Zombie show hung over, only to find the old ghoul has schlepped in a stack of amplifiers taller than Dennis Rodman's stacked legal briefs. Do not mock tinnitus.
- Valet when possible: Nearly every Vegas venue offers valet parking -- use it, but get there early. The time you'll spend waiting for your SUV to come up is equivalent to the amount of time you'll spend in bumper-to-bumper combat in parking-structure hell, leaning on your horn and screaming "Oh, (double expletive)."
- Everybody knows: Don't vomit in good company. Don't mosh unless you're prepared to help anyone who falls down. Don't even get near mosh pits if you're over 30. Don't bring your stupid laser pointer. Don't use the festive atmosphere to justify bad behavior. Don't scream in anybody's ear, no matter how cute that Monster Magnet guy looks in his coordinated vinyl. You follow these tips, Virginia, and we promise that you will come out of the gig unscathed -- and you just might have a good time.
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