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Travel and Leisure

What Happens in Las Vegas...

As they say, "What Happens in Vegas..." well, what doesn't happen here? With 17 of the 20 largest hotels in the U.S. and 39 million visitors annually, Las Vegas is truly a 24/7 mecca of palatial accommodations, pampering spas, fabulous entertainment venues, world-class dining, year-around golf and, of course, glittering casinos. Where else on the planet can you tour King Tut's Tomb, climb the Eiffel Tower, glide along the Venetian canals on a gondola, and dine at a street cafe in Manhattan's Little Italy?

Where better to mingle with Hollywood starlets and major league sports celebrities than at Sin City's non-stop nightclubs? Las Vegas offers a variety of top-rated Broadway shows ranging from the "Blue Man Group" (pictured) and Circ du Soleil's "Ka" and "O" to "Phantom of the Opera" and "Mamma Mia!" to name a few. Entertainers Celine Dion, Toni Braxton, and Barry Manilow have made Vegas their home, and you can be amazed by the magic of David Copperfield, Lance Burton, or Penn & Teller; dazzled by showgirls in feathers and sequins; or broken up by the antics of Louie Anderson or Carrot Top. We also have year-around golf on more than 40 courses, boxing and Ultimate Fighting, star-studded poker tournaments, NASCAR racing, rodeos, rollercoasters, and just about anything else you can imagine.

Blue Man Group

Best of all, Las Vegas is fast becoming the culinary capital of the nation, with the influx of new restaurants by the icons of international gourmet dining including Thomas Keller (Bouchon), Jean Georges Vongerichten (Prime), Guy Savoy (Restaurant Guy Savoy), Joel Robuchon (The Mansion and L'Atelier), Alain Ducasse (Mix), Todd English (Olives), Paul Bartolotta (at Wynn Las Vegas), and Charlie Palmer (Aureole).

The Stardust Bites It

One of the more remarkable things about living in Vegas is "Sin City's" constantly changing skyline and its energetic growth. The Stardust Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip was imploded March 13, 2007, at 2:30 am to make way for Boyd Gaming's $4 billion 5300-room, Echelon Las Vegas complex, opening in 2010.

For history buffs, when the Stardust opened (July 2, 1958) as the largest hotel in the world. It boasted $6 per day rooms, the spectacular French production show "Lido de Paris," a 105-foot long Big Dipper swimming pool, and the world's largest electric sign (now retired to the Neon Museum on Fremont Street).

Famed recluse Howard Hughes (who lived at the Desert Inn Hotel Casino so long that management finally asked him to leave, so he bought the hotel) attempted to buy the Stardust for $30.5 million in 1966, but was unsuccessful because government officials said it could be a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Siegfried & Roy got their Las Vegas start at the Stardust with the help of mob associate Frank Rosenthal. Wayne Newton signed a 10-year deal with the Stardust in 1999, for a reported $25 million per year, the largest entertainment contract in Las Vegas at the time, but ended his run in April 2005. Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme were the last to perform at the Stardust Theatre, which closed last October.

Broadway Meets Paris

LA's own David Hasselhoff has shed his "Baywatch" Speedo in favor of an Armani tux to star of Mel Brook's outrageous musical comedy, "The Producers" (Broadway's Tony-winningest show ever), now running at Paris Las Vegas. For tickets, call 888.727.4758. While at the Paris, experience authentic French bistro cuisine and vintage wines at Mon Ami Gabi, where you can dine indoors or a fresco overlooking Las Vegas Boulevard (our version of the Champs Elyseé) and enjoy the dancing Fountains of Bellagio as a backdrop. For haute cuisine and a stunning view of the Strip, take the Eiffel Tower elevator to the Eiffel Tower Restaurant. Both fine dining venues are the creations of Chicago restaurateur Rich Melman, CEO of Lettuce Entertain You, whose empire also includes Joe's Seafood, Prime Steaks and Stone Crabs (in Caesar's Palace Forum Shops) and Cafe BaBa Reeba. Melman was recently nominated for a prestigious James Beard "Restaurateur of the Year" award.

Electra-fied Magic

Tickets are on sale now for "Hans Klok-The Beauty of Magic," an exhilarating show combining the illusions of European sensation Hans Klok (AKA "the fastest magician on the planet") with international star Carmen Electra that opens at the Theater at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. Call Ticketmaster at 877.307.8667 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.

Hef's New Digs

No he hasn't quit his LA mansion, but Playboy founder Hugh Hefner celebrated his 81st birthday March 24th in Las Vegas at his new Playboy Club (the only one in the world) inside Palms Casino Resort. Hef's three girlfriends - Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson - stars of E!'s top-rated show "The Girls Next Door," hosted a weekend-long celebration along with dozens of other Playmates and Bunnies at the Playboy Club and Moon nightclub (with a retractable roof). "The Palms is really my new Playboy Mansion away from home," says Hef, whose two-story 9,000-square foot Sky Villa rents for $40,000 a night when he's not in residence. Also new at the Palms is the Pearl Theatre, a $50 million multi-media stage and concert center.

Wedding Bells

June traditionally marks the season for weddings and renewals of vows. Whether a formal affair or a quick ceremony before a judge or a rhinestone-studded Elvis impersonator, more than 122,000 couples obtain marriage licenses each year in Las Vegas, making it the marriage capital of the world. No blood tests or waiting periods are required to tie the knot. Licensing fees are $55, but civil ceremonies and chapel fees vary. For marriage license information call the Clark County Marriage License Bureau (702.671.0600) or visit www.co.clark.nv.us/clerk/marriage_information.htm.

That's what's happening. Where? Only in Vegas, baby. - Rob Sandler


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