USA Today has assembled a list celebrating Las Vegas that gives equal attention to the Fountains of Bellagio, Las Vegas Premium Outlets and Spearmint Rhino.
Out today is the second installment of the publication’s “best of” Las Vegas series. USA Today travel writer Kitty Yancey recruited a panel of Las Vegans who spend time surveying the city, even subconsciously.
Those taking part were Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, Las Vegas Magazine Managing Editor Jack Houston, LasVegasAdvisor.com founder Anthony DeCurtis, Las Vegas Weekly Editor Sarah Feldberg, Vegas Magazine Editor Abby Tegnelia, Vegas.com Marketing VP Dan Hippler, R-J gossip columnist Norm Clarke and myself. I understand I was asked to join primarily because USA Today readers would stick with the story if only to sort out the pronunciation of my surname.
Best Casino: Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. (Cosmopolitan is a strong enough draw that the once-inviting entrance off Harmon Avenue has been jammed to the point that southbound traffic has backed up on the Strip.)
Best Shopping Center: Premium Outlets at Symphony Park. (Now I know where to find my fellow panel members when they’re looking for something appropriate to wear to Thursday’s White Party opening at Club Nikki and Nikki Beach.)
Best Buffet: Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan. (But I understand buffet diners have been making off with the eatery’s distinctive table wear at an alarming rate.)
Best Family Pool: Mandalay Bay Beach. (Home of the summer beach series, where Ringo Starr once said while looking down at fans knee deep in water, “We’ve played some strange gigs before, but this one takes the cake.”)
Best Golf Course: Shadow Creek. (The course opened to the public for the first time for the Michael Jordan pro-am in late March, and it is as beautiful as any piece of scenery in the valley.)
Best Resort: Wynn Las Vegas and Encore. (But the Wynn sports book charges slot players for drinks, even if that drink is non-alcoholic, in a needless bit of fleecing.)
Best Strip Club: Spearmint Rhino. (I’ve been in the Rhino twice, and each time it seemed the dancers outnumbered the patrons 5 to 1 … which, for most patrons, were great odds.)
Best Show: The Beatles Love at Mirage. (The rare show that has matched sky-high expectations, the show turns 5 years old next month, and that’s when I’ll see it a personal-record 10th time.)
Best Nightclub: Tao at Venetian. (This is where one of the greatest sightings in Vegas history was reported: Stephen Hawking at the club.)
Best Bar: The collection of taverns on Fremont East. (DCR owner Michael Cornthwaite recently shared a prediction about the mayoral election I promised to share after the new mayor is elected.)
Best Fine-Dining Restaurant: Joel Robuchon at MGM Grand. (Robuchon has never forgotten the fulfillment he enjoyed when serving food for nuns as a young boy.)
Best Locals Value Dining: Firefly on Paradise Road. (But that wait staff loves to try to snap up your plates before you’re finished with the tapas.)
Best Attraction: The Fountains at Bellagio. (Could also be named Best Traffic-Halting Attraction; the Fountains have been snagging cars on the Strip for more than a decade.)