Kristine McKenzie, Vegas Insider

Kristine McKenzie
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Q & A with Kristine McKenzie

It’s not that warm in Minnesota. I know this from spending half my life freezing in the northern part of the state. So 20 years ago, I decided to thaw out and traded in scarves and mittens for tank tops and flip-flops. I swapped snow for 300 days of sun a year. I may not have been born here but there are hotels that haven’t lasted in Vegas as long as I have. The Sands, Hacienda, Aladdin, Desert Inn and the Stardust too. I've been to my fair share of implosion parties. (Yeah, that’s a thing.) Before joining I worked as a writer for a tourism magazine and for the local newspaper.

Why/when did you move here?
I moved to Las Vegas in 1994. Why? I've got two words for you: Polar vortex. I hate being cold and shoveling snow isn't all it's cracked up to be, so I decided to switch gears and move to one of the hottest places on the planet instead.

When did you start at, and what does your job entail?
I started working here in 2001. As a writer for, I've applauded hundreds of shows, explored every major hotel in town and raised a few glasses at most of the city's bars and clubs. Now I'm the resident foodie here. I write about all things dining — from $3.99 shrimp cocktail at the Golden Gate to the finest sushi at Nobu, and everything in between.

What are your hobbies?
Movies, going to concerts, reading, skiing. Is shopping a hobby?

Give us a random fact about yourself
I can speak French pretty fluently. It once came in handy when I ran into a group of French tourists on the Strip who were on a scavenger hunt and needed to find an English-speaking person to sing "La Marseillaise" with them. My high school French teacher would be so proud.

Give us your top insider tips about Vegas

  • What's the one thing you want late at night after you've been out drinking and partying? A nice big slice of gooey, cheesy pizza always hits the spot. There's no signage to direct you to the Secret Pizza place at The Cosmopolitan, but I'll let you in on the location. Look for the nondescript hallway near Marquee nightclub that has a line of people streaming out of it. They are already in on the secret: This walk-up counter serves amazing New York-style pizza. You can get it by the slice or you can take a whole pie with you to go. Bonus: it's usually open until 4 or 5 a.m.
  • The days of 99-cent shrimp cocktail and $10 buffets may be history but there are still great dining deals to be had in Las Vegas. One of the best is at Mr. Lucky's at the Hard Rock Hotel. It's not on the menu so you'll need to ask your server for the Gambler's Special. The meal includes steak, three grilled shrimp, a choice of potato or broccoli and a salad. It's only $9.99 ($7.77 with a player's card) so both your wallet and your stomach will thank you.
  • When you think of fine dining you don't always think of downtown Las Vegas but there is a really great hidden gem you should try, Joe Vicari's Andiamo Steakhouse at the D Las Vegas. It has romantic ambiance, amazing food and reasonable prices. Not only will you find a large selection of steaks and seafood and a nice wine list, but Joe Vicari's also serves handmade pastas and classic Italian desserts.
  • If you have a big group of friends or are looking for a restaurant with private rooms for a party, try Carmine's at the Forum Shops at Caesars. This legendary New York eatery serves massive family-style portions of classic Southern Italian-style food. By massive I mean one dish serves three to five people, which is a really economical way to go if you're looking to save some money for bottle service at the club after dinner. If you're celebrating a big occasion there are several private rooms including a bridal room for wedding receptions that features a private restroom, sink, couch and television.


  • Bellagio Fountains and Conservatory 
  • You've seen them in TV commercials. You've seen them in movies like "Oceans Eleven." There's a reason the Bellagio Fountains are such an iconic symbol of Vegas. They're one of the most beautiful sights to see in the city. The dancing water accompanied by music that changes for each show is simply breathtaking. Then you can head inside to the hotel's Conservatory, which features an amazing seasonal display of flowers and plants. The best part? Both of these attractions are totally free.

  • Tea service at the Mandarin Bar at Mandarin Oriental
  • Want to pretend you're British for a day? Head up the elevators at the Mandarin Oriental to the 23rd floor. The elegant tea lounge and Mandarin Bar have floor-to-ceiling windows offering a stunning view of the Strip. Tea service is from 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. daily and you can choose from some of the world's finest teas, coffee, juices and cocktails. Pair them with delicious confections like scones, cupcakes and macaroons. You can also opt for classic English afternoon tea service, which includes pastries, sandwiches and loose-leaf tea. There's even an option to pair your tea with a glass of champagne. Too sophisticated for you? Grab a tea cocktail instead. My favorite is the Royal Tea, made with Absolut Mandarin, homemade simple syrup, chilled Oolong tea and a splash of fresh lemon juice.

  • Red Rock Canyon 
  • I know it's hard to believe, but Las Vegas is more than just neon and casinos. Take at least a few hours to tear yourself away from the penny slots and venture off the Strip. Red Rock Canyon is a gorgeous National Conservation Area about 40 minutes from Vegas with a scenic drive, wildlife, hiking trails, rock climbing and, as the name suggests, brilliantly-colored red rock formations.