Written by Steve Kleine
Las Vegas is infamous for everything from shotgun wedding (Britney Spears, anyone?) to bad hangovers and even worse buffets. But until recently there has not been much to attract the gay tourist, especially on the Strip itself. (Liberace memorabilia and Siegfried and Roy kitsch do not count!) And let’s face it: The “fashion” of all those overweight Middle American tourists is enough to drive any sensible queen crazy.
Well, prepare to change your mind. With the Colosseum at Caesars Palace hosting gay icons Celine Dion, Elton John, Bette Midler and Cher, many gay boys have been trekking to Sin City. And there is nothing gayer than those hot Cirque du Soleil shows; there are currently eight to choose from. Some of the major casino hotels are going directly after the gay market. The Paris hosted a gay weekend heavily advertised in gay media. The Cosmopolitan recently opened with a very pansexual advertising campaign. Planet Hollywood hosts Krave – the only gay nightclub on the Strip.
Producer Eduardo Cordova is now doing Sundaze at the JET Nightclub inside The Mirage. With top names like DJ Tracy Young, dance divas like Kelly Rowland, acts imported from Ibiza and dozens of “go-go gods,” these events are guaranteed to bring the boyz to the city. And then there are all those sinful treats to be had along the crowded Strip!
As for lodgings, Blue Moon Resort is a gay hotel inspired by the clothing-optional resorts of Palm Springs, offers day and night passes, and hosts a series of events and barbeques. The gay Vegas tourist has a bevy of bars to choose off the beaten path of the Strip. Many are located in the “Fruit Loop” along Paradise Road. If you don’t find a hottie in the bars and Grindr is down, there are two bathhouses.
The celebrity chefs who have opened outlets along the Strip have transformed Vegas into a gourmet destination. But there are plenty of locally grown eateries that offer quality food without the “foodie” price – many notably gay friendly that play host to the town’s colorful and creative GLBT locals. (Remember: This is one town where drag really is a viable career and a highly respected profession.) Then there is the legendary shopping. Most of it lies along the Strip; every major designer and brand has an outpost in Vegas.
If you are tired of seeing retreads of Broadway musicals, the Onyx Theatre Company puts on a variety of well respected performances including original productions, drag shows and traveling gay productions such as Steven Fales’ Missionary Position and David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries.
There is also the natural side of Vegas. The Colorado River and the Grand Canyon are only a short distance away. It is easy to get away from the party and chill out with Mother Nature.
With a little advanced planning it is a snap to create a gay ole Vegas experience. And if you catch a nasty trick using a videophone to post to Facebook, remind him “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”
WHERE TO DRINK
Piranha Nightclub &
8 1/2 Ultra Lounge
4633 Paradise Rd. (Fruit Loop)
The line by 1:30 a.m. at this good-sized “two clubs in one” complex stretches to the street, although it claims to stay open “till the sun comes out,” so you’ll have plenty of time once inside. Go-go boys grinding to the beats of local and Circuit DJs ring the medium-sized dance floor. And yes, there is a fish tank filled with real piranhas behind the bar. It’s Vegas, baby!
Planet Hollywood Hotel
3663 S. Las Vegas Blvd. (enter on Harmon Ave.)
The first gay nightclub to open on the Strip offers a variety of theme nights in a big room. Check their site or call ahead to see who’s spinning and the themes. Currently, on Sundays, you can play “Dirty” by dancing with your favorite porn stars.
Secret Nightclub & Cabaret
3750 S. Valley View Blvd.
The newest entry to the scene is a 15,000-square-foot space that “marries the alternative lifestyle with the adult fantasy world to create a playground unlike any other in Las Vegas.” Major porn stars, hot DJs, innovative shows and a promise to let you “play out your most erotic fantasies” keeps the spot packed with a diverse and fun crowd.
610 E. Naples Dr. (Fruit Loop)
If you are in the mood for seriously strong drinks served up by hot, friendly bartenders in a low-key setting, then stop here. With a mix of drag, karaoke and dancing, there is something for everyone.
4640 Paradise Rd. (Fruit Loop)
Only in Vegas would you find a leather bar that is open 24 hours a day. Buffalo offers up a friendly space for leathermen, bears, otters and their admirers to get their kink on, no matter what time of day or night.
495 S. Grand Central Pkwy.
The menu at the first upscale Mexican restaurant downtown honors the long and flavorful history of Mexican cuisine. Its décor celebrates Old World Mexico and the glam of Las Vegas. Be warned, the margaritas are sure to get you into trouble!
3900 Paradise Rd. (Fruit Loop)
Known for yummy tapas, other favorites at this hipster joint include marinated and grilled octopus, ahi tuna skewers in mustard-ginger glaze, and chicken and chorizo stuffed mushrooms. The boys really go for the paella. It also features an excellent drink menu featuring mojitos, martinis and sangria marinated for three days.
8125 W. Sahara Ave.
This local favorite about 20 minutes off the Strip draws from a variety of culinary influences to create French-inspired, creative American cuisine with regional twists from New Orleans, the Deep South and the Midwest.
La Scala Restaurant
1020 E. Desert Inn Rd.
A varied Italian menu, reasonable prices and well-trained staff make it a great off-Strip experience.
Samosa Factory Indian Cuisine
4604 W. Sahara Ave., Suite 6
Non-meat eaters should try the wide selection of vegetarian Indian dishes, which graze alongside a range of traditional fare for the hungry carnivore.
Hash House A Go Go
6800 W. Sahara Ave.
Known for its ginormous portions and “Twisted Farm Food,” this is the place gay locals and tourists alike head to for a satisfying recovery brunch, especially the award-winning Bloody Marys.
Osaka Japanese Bistro
7511 W. Lake Mead Blvd.
Osaka features the best fish selection of any sushi bar in Vegas. This location in particular is popular with the gay crowd (there is also one on the Strip.) Don’t miss their happy hour (5 to 7 p.m.) or late night menu for great half-priced sushi specials.
Where to Stay
With over 150,000 hotel rooms, Vegas offers an amazing range of crash pads. You can choose from seedy roadside motels to some of the most elegant, expensive and over-the-top resorts in the world. Here are a few options that will appeal to your queer travel sensibilities.
Blue Moon Resort
2651 Westwood Dr.
Why not base your stay in Vegas in the comfort of the only gay, all-male, clothing-optional hotel? They also offer guest passes, so the scene by the pool can get quite festive. Check out their website for special events, some of which get pretty wild. Add in a frisky steam and sauna and you’ve got yourself a naughty good time.
Paris Hotel and Casino
3655 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
With the tag line “Here, you are welcome with open arms,” Paris is at the forefront of targeting the GLBT market. The resort offers packages tailored to us and encourages you to “flirt and play and seduce and go overboard.” So feel free to hug your partner when you win the jackpot or make out on top of the replica of the Eiffel Tower. As if it could not get any gayer, Barry Manilow currently headlines.
3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Just the name – “THE Hotel” – has given this Mandalay Bay property a big gay following. Its minimalist décor, 750-square-foot suites, gorgeous spa (called “The Bathhouse” – seriously!), and non-casino entrance are some other reasons. And if you don’t mind partying with the straight crowd, check out Mix, their nightclub on top of the 64th floor. The restrooms have individual stalls that have their own floor-to-ceiling windows – need we say more?
129 E. Fremont St.
After a recent major renovation, the Golden Nugget now offers a chic and fabulous place to stay downtown at a decent price – some nights as low as $49. Ask to be in the Rush Tower, which has the biggest rooms and the best views. Happy hour in the Chart House offers amazing prices on top-notch food and drink. Fill up on ahi tuna nachos, $4 Skyy drinks and marvel at their 75,000-gallon tropical fish aquarium. Make sure to check out the amazing lights over historic Fremont Street.
Where to Shop
The Forum Shops
3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Versace, Gucci, Bulgari, Ferragamo … you name your favorite designer and odds are you’ll find him or her in this massive complex.
3200 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Just up the Strip from the Forum Shops is this 250-store complex. It is less boutique-y and more shopping mall-y, but has some heavyweights like Saks, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. The end-of-season clearance sales are legendary.
953 E. Sahara Ave., #16
Pick up a hot bottom at the Eagle, but forgot to bring your flogger? No problem. The Rack has an extensive array of kink and fetish gear to make your trip to Vegas just a bit more sinful.
Premium Outlet Mall
875 S. Grand Central Pkwy.
You don’t have to head miles out of town to take advantage of outlet mall savings. The Premium Outlet Mall, conveniently located in between the Strip and Downtown, makes it easy to blow your winnings on discounted merchandise.
Where to Play
953 E. Sahara Ave., Suite 35B
You can call it a gym or a “gay men’s club,” but at the end of the day this is a place where men come to play with men. Billed as the only gay-owned business of its kind, it gets packed on weekend nights.
Entourage Las Vegas
953 E. Sahara Ave., Suite A-19
The former Apollo Spa has been updated and offers the usual bathhouse aMENities with 60 rooms, an indoor pool, massage service and a Manhunt lounge – as if you need to be online here.
What to See
Fremont Street Experience
425 Fremont St.
The Fremont Street Experience blends vintage Las Vegas with high-tech wonderment, live entertainment and more to create a mind-blowing alternative to the Strip. The main attraction is the Viva Vision canopy and light show. The canopy towers 90 feet above the ground and spans the length of five football fields. Featuring more than 12 million LED modules and a 550,000-watt sound system, the canopy hosts a variety of shows that rotate throughout the year. This is known as the “real” Vegas and is any glowstick boy’s dream.
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
3377 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
This legendary spot just unveiled Lady Gaga in wax. ‘Nuff said.
When it all gets too much…
The glitz, glitter, glam and grit get to you? There are plenty of natural wonders just a short drive away to help you find your inner bliss: the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and Red Rock Canyons. Kiosks on the Strip offer tours of these areas; however, best to have your hotel concierge recommend a tour operator.