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Ultra-Cool Things to Do in Las Vegas

Dorian Issock, July 2011

In this article, we'll cut a swath across the unbeaten path to guide you through Sin City like you've never seen her before. Don't expect Bellagio water fountain show suggestions here; instead, we'll give you the real skinny on places, things and events that any self-proclaiming urbanite should discover in Las Vegas.

First Fridays
On the first Friday of every month, the downtown Las Vegas scene comes alive with amazing art, fascinating culture and cheap drinks, not to mention a decidedly cool vibe no matter the city's sweltering desert temperature. You'll find a slew of avant-garde local artists that consistently push the artistic envelope, and you'll find some of the friendliest urbanites sharing and celebrating a like-minded passion for the Arts with a capital "A".

The Cosmopolitan
Hands down, The Cosmopolitan, the newest hotel to open up on the Strip, is Las Vegas Boulevard's hippest hotel. Imagine Andy Warhol and Dali collaborating on a hotel's design, and you'll begin to get the drift. At The Cosmopolitan, they take their art seriously, and we're not talking about paintings and sculptures. The hotel encourages art that's made to touch, feel and hear; in other words, experience. The hotel's 65' marquee is put to innovative use with cutting-edge digital media created by prominent LED artists such as Leo Villareal, and you'll also find a treasure trove of video art from artists such as Yoko Ono and TJ Wilcox.

Proof positive that art isn't just a passing fancy at The Cosmopolitan? The hotel also boasts an "Artists In Residence" program?

View from the Roller Coaster
The Stratosphere Hotel
There are two good reasons to visit the Stratosphere Hotel in Vegas: first, with the very recent closing of the Strip's Sahara Hotel, The Stratosphere is now one of the last historical landmarks on Las Vegas Boulevard that begins the official gateway to what's known as Naked City, the section of the Strip that's—well—for heartier urbanites; the second reason for visiting The Stratosphere is so you can get high on The Stratosphere Tower (not "high" in that sense, but hey, we know it's been done, too). The Stratosphere Tower is the tallest free-standing observation tower in the United States—and in true Las Vegas fashion, that claim to fame wasn't enough. The Stratosphere Tower also boasts a rollercoaster at its top, along with a reverse bungee jump, the Big Shot, that will catapult you 160 ft into the air at 45 mph, screamin' for your mommy. And if that doesn't loosen you up, Insanity the Ride, a mechanical arm that will extend you 65 feet over the edge of the Tower, spinning you with a force of 3 Gs, certainly will.

Double Down Saloon
The Double Down Saloon—on Paradise Road—has to be one of the most laid back dive bars you're likely to find in Vegas. It's dark, cool, cavernous and adventurous. Try the Bacon Martini or the Ass Juice; the latter is sweet and cheap, but it's probably best not to ask what its key ingredient is.

Pinball Hall of Fame
Chances are, any self-respecting urbanite is a geek at heart (and on the subject, make sure to check out the wonderful new book by Alexandra Robbins, The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School. If you've embraced your inner nerd, go to The Pinball Hall of Fame Museum (1610 E. Tropicana) and check out over 250 working pinball machines that span several eras. You'll be treated to pinball machines going as far back as the 1950s, and, as a bonus, will be able to waltz down memory lane playing classic video games from the 1970s, 1980s and beyond.

Go ahead, geek out, you know you want to.

Dining Specialty Section

We're not going to lie: we love two things in life; good food and a good bargain. One of our greatest pleasures lies in discovering something that fits both bills. Here below, we'll direct you to some of the best meal deals you can find in Las Vegas.

Best Breakfast Specials:
There was a time—oh, twenty years ago—when you could find a steak and eggs special in Vegas for $1.99. Now, the closest you'll get is the $3.29 sirloin steak and eggs special at Arizona Charlie's Boulder's Sourdough Café. Not too shabby, consideration the price of inflation.

Best Surf and Turf Specials:
We'd recommend the New York Steak, pan-fried shrimp, soup or salad potato or rice and garlic or French bread special at Jerry's Famous Coffee Shop. All those choices for only $7.85.

If you really want to supersize your surf special, try the $11.99 Steak and Lobster Special at Tony Roma's on Fremont.

For all the bells and whistles, and if you're undecided between shrimp OR lobster, you can opt for the holy trifecta of surf and turf specials: the $19.99 Shrimp, Steak & Lobster Trio at Pasta Palace located inside Boulder Station.

Dorian Issock; photo by P199