5 LGBT winter travel picks for 2015

By on December 17, 2014 

WinterTravel2015

Winter travel can often be hectic with the potential for weather delays. But with so many great options awaiting, it’s worth taking the risk (and maybe buying some travel insurance). The upcoming season brings such fun opportunities as popping champagne in Sin City and cruising to Aussieland. Here our are 5 top picks.

Las Vegas

When it comes to amazing places for ringing in the New Year, Las Vegas is among the leaders. And this year, gay travelers from around the world can take part in Evolve Vegas NYE, a three-day over-the-top celebration, from Tuesday, Dec. 30, to Thursday, Jan. 1. The schedule of events includes exclusive performances of Zumanity by Cirque du Soleil and Frank Marino’s Divas Las Vegas, multiple parties and opportunities to tour Sin City’s many attractions. The main New Year’s Eve party is being held at Havana Nightclub, with the evening to include special appearances by Jujubee and Raven from RuPaul’s Drag Race, viewing of the Strip’s iconic fireworks show at midnight, and music by the Abbey Los Angeles resident DJ Casey Alva. The MGM Grand, which recently completed a $175 million renovation, is serving as the host hotel. For more information, visit lasvegas.com.

SEE WHO ELSE MADE THE LIST! 

Same-sex marriage welcomed by Strip resorts, tourism officials

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At the Aria’s wedding chapel, spouses-to-be can choose from two lounges in which to prepare themselves for the big ceremony: one for grooms and another for brides.

Their layouts evoke traditional gender expectations, with the guys getting a pool table and the larger bride’s lounge boasting plenty of mirrors.

Now that same-sex marriage is legal in Nevada, the lounge layout might give pause in how to separate the spouses. But Colleen Kestel-Raidmae, the chapel’s director, has had some experience with this — her chapel has been offering same-sex commitment ceremonies since it opened last year.

“We leave it up to the couple,” she said about which partner gets which room. “Whichever one prefers to play pool over having a larger mirror, we let them decide that among themselves. Sometimes — and this goes for all wedding couples — they’ll choose to both be in the larger room because they’re okay with seeing each other before the wedding.”

A federal appellate court ruling allowing same-sex marriages in Nevada is ushering in some changes at the Aria chapel, however. Kestel-Raidmae said she’s trying to organize chapels across MGM Resorts International’s properties on the Strip to receive training from the Gay Wedding Institute to help them better cater to same-sex customers.

In the meantime, the Aria chapel is introducing same-sex wedding promotions, making paperwork gender neutral and including photos of same-sex couples on marketing materials.

“It’s actually a fairly extensive process to make all of the changes,” Kestel-Raidmae said. “But I think everyone’s very excited. It’s something that Nevada should have done years ago.”

Since Nevada’s ban on same-sex unions was lifted last week, about one in 10 calls about reserving the Aria chapel has been from same-sex couples, Kestel-Raidmae said. To attract more, the Aria chapel is offering 20 percent off any wedding package and 10 percent off food and beverage packages to same-sex couples who book before the end of the year.

One package that includes a limo from the marriage license bureau to the hotel, 90 minutes of chapel time, the officiant, live Internet broadcasting of the ceremony and one night’s stay, regularly goes for $3,300 on a Saturday.

Similarly, Caesars Entertainment announced that same-sex couples can receive 15 percent off wedding ceremonies or vow renewals at any of its chapels through March 1. MGM and Caesars hosted same-sex weddings on Saturday, at Mandalay Bay and the Flamingo, respectively.

The embrace of legal same-sex marriage by these and other casino-resorts in Las Vegas fits into the industry’s generally strong track record of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

Caesars, MGM, Wynn Resorts and the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas — companies which, taken together, account for most of the Strip resorts — have all scored 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. It is based on a survey that companies complete measuring their policies and practices relevant to LGBT employees.

Additionally, when the Nevada Senate considered a constitutional amendment last year to legalize same-sex unions, representatives from Caesars and MGM spoke in support.

What’s in it for them? Aside from cashing in on a chunk of the millions of dollars that same-sex marriage will bring to Nevada, they see it as a way to improve their relationships with customers.

Gwen Migita, vice president of sustainability and corporate citizenship for Caesars, said legalizing same-sex marriage makes a “significant difference” to guests and employees by making their Las Vegas experiences more “whole and fair.”

Phyllis James, executive vice president and chief diversity officer at MGM, said her company tries to create a welcoming atmosphere for LGBT guests.

“There’s a distinct difference in an environment that treats you on an equal footing with other customers who are not like you, and having a staff that is going to be comfortable and respectful in the way they interact with you, having a comfortable environment to walk around in which people are not … acting like you’re strange because you’re a same-sex couple and you’re walking down the hall holding hands,” she said.

Las Vegas regularly ranks among the top LGBT travel destinations as surveyed by Community Marketing Inc. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has been marketing to the LGBT demographic for years, famously this year with a commercial called “The Check In.”

As a whole, the Las Vegas tourism market may have even better luck attracting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender tourists as same-sex marriages become legal in every state, said Mya Reyes, president of the Las Vegas Gay Visitors Bureau.

Until then, some couples will face the prospect of not having their marriage recognized when they return home.

“Once same-sex marriage is legalized nationally, that will change the entire scenario,” Reyes said. Still, she stressed that when it comes to the current ruling, “Undoubtedly, it will have a positive effect. I’m certain of that.”

Like the resorts, Reyes’ company is wasting no time trying to attract same-sex wedding tourism. The gay visitors bureau is revamping its website to accommodate wedding services, she said, and it’s encouraging guests to tie the knot when they come for Evolve Vegas NYE, a gay New Year’s event produced by the bureau.

SOURCE: VegasInc.com

Evolve Vegas NYE announces headliners and new package options!

Vegas, Las Vegas. Gay Vegas, MGM Grand, Jujubee, Raven

Evolve Vegas NYE, the first International New Year’s Eve event of its kind in North America, takes place December 30 – January 2 in the city recently named Favorite American City to by OutTraveler.  The Ultimate Package provides accommodations in the luxurious MGM Grand Hotel & Casino and admission to all events.  The Party Package allows you to book your own accommodations but still “EVOLVE” with the crowd!  And the single EVOLUTION ticket promises a night full on fantasy and excitement.
Headlining the Main Event, appropriately entitled ‘EVOLUTION’, will be Jujubee & Raven from Ru Paul’s Drag Race, just one of many OMG! Moments you’ll experience throughout the night.  This will be the most exciting NYE party of the year as we welcome guests from more than 30 countries and provide entertainment and experiences that only happen in Vegas.  Come “EVOLVE’ with us when the clock strikes midnight and you dance your way into the New Year with DJ Casey Alva, the Abbey’s resident DJ in Los Angeles.  You’ll also experience the Iconic Las Vegas Fireworks from a private EVOLUTION viewing area.
Transportation will still be provided from the host hotel the MGM Grand and VIP packages are available! Tickets on sale now at www.EvolveVegasNYE.com

“PUCKER UP for your chance to see Britney Spears on New Year’s Eve!”

NL Evolve Kiss Contest LargeWe’re asking people to #EvolveKISS the one you love or even SMOOCH your POOCH and KISS the competition goodbye!
There are many ways to enter! Upload to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram a kissing photo and tag #EvolveKISS!  You can also upload your photo directly to our Facebook and Website! http://bit.ly/KISSLV
Get creative and practice for the special KISS at midnight at Evolve Vegas, the first International Gay New Year’s Eve Celebration in Las Vegas!
Grand Prize Winner will receive 2 tickets to the New Year’s Eve performance to Britney Spears and tickets to all 3 Evolve Vegas parties taking place December 30th– January 2nd.  Second & third place photos receive American Express Giftcards!
Our main NYE Event: “EVOLUTION” will take place at the Havana Nightclub in The New Tropicana with special guests Jujubee & Raven from Ru Paul’s Drag Race.  Package and individual tickets on SALE now at www.EvolveVegasNYE.com

Reyes expanding Las Vegas’ gay tourism market

Sitting in her modest office at The Lakes, it occurs to Mya Reyes that her career path has led her to one of the boldest tourism initiatives the city has ever seen — a massive three-day New Year’s Eve celebration for gay men from 30 countries in mainstream resorts on the Strip.

Reyes’ new year’s event, called Evolve Vegas NYE, is 20 months in the planning and has been about all her four-person staff has worked on since the doors of the Las Vegas Gay Visitors Bureau opened in mid-2013.

“I feel that everything I’ve done in my life has brought me here, all the international travel I’ve done and the languages I have,” said Reyes, president of the bureau and founder of Evolve Vegas NYE. She is fluent in English, Spanish and French and speaks some Italian.

Reyes fully expects that the 700 Evolve packages will be sold for the inaugural event, which includes three days of shows, receptions, parties, dining experiences and shopping tours planned Dec. 30 through Jan. 1.

It’s being hosted at the MGM Grand and the highlight of the event will be a New Year’s Eve celebration at the Havana nightclub at the Tropicana.

Reyes has been a long-time advocate for gay tourism in Southern Nevada, so she didn’t need a sales pitch to convince her that the gay market is a lucrative one.

San Francisco-based Community Market Inc. has years of research explaining why the market is so robust: For gay men and women, the average household income is $81,500, about 80 percent higher than the average American household income.

About 40 percent of gay men have household incomes in excess of $100,000.

An estimated 83 percent of gay men and women have a passport compared with 34 percent of the adult U.S. population.

Gay men and women travel more widely than their mainstream counterparts, domestically and internationally, especially for leisure purposes.

Las Vegas is consistently one of the top markets for gay travel, usually No. 2 behind New York City.

Reyes has always known that the gay market has been and will be good for Las Vegas, but the difference maker for Evolve is the international component.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has made the attraction of international guests a priority. The organization that markets Las Vegas to the world and McCarran International Airport have recruited airlines to provide nonstop intercontinental flights to the city.

Reyes believes the combination is a can’t-miss opportunity.

Reyes got her first taste of the international scene while studying French at UNLV. She received a degree in 1978 and got an opportunity to study abroad in a program at Paris-Sorbonne University.

She loved it.

“When I was about to leave, on my last day in Paris, I saw a sign recruiting for the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization,” she said. “I had heard that foreigners could work there relatively easily and that it wasn’t too hard to get a work card to be there.”

She ended up getting hired as a liaison between UNESCO and its member nations, and she worked directly with people from African countries.

When in Europe, she met her future husband, Bill Collins, a professional basketball player that had been drafted by the Boston Celtics and who opted to pursue a professional career in Italy. She spent her early career living in France, Spain and Italy.

She recalled once being transported to a hospital in a boat while living in Venice when she gave birth to one of her children.

Wanting to be a stay-at-home mother, she published a parenting magazine for 12 years and eventually moved back to Las Vegas.

But one thing Reyes continued to do in her last years abroad was to keep in touch with her international contacts. It was a move that would prove invaluable to her future.

Back in Las Vegas, MGM Resorts was completing a merger with Mirage Resorts International, and the new company announced its commitment to diversity.

When then-CEO Terry Lanni announced the program, Reyes was hired as director of supplier diversity. It turned out to be a golden opportunity to get in on the ground floor of MGM’s award-winning diversity program and work with Lanni.

“It was primarily about ethnic diversity and women and really didn’t encompass anything for the LGBT market,” she said.

But that came later.

She left MGM and went to work for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority as it began exploring the prospect of marketing directly to the gay market.

“I had talked with the LVCVA about being a part of that and decided that I wanted to become better educated about the market,” she said.

As a part of the agency, she became active in the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, serving two terms on its board of directors. With members in 83 countries, Reyes was able to re-establish international contacts and make new ones.

“It was a great opportunity to expose our destination to various markets all over the world,” she said. “And, as it turned out, they were all really great people, and not only were we business partners but great personal friends.”

When Reyes retired from the LVCVA, she knew she wanted to continue to work in the industry, so she formed the Gay Visitors Bureau and went to work developing Evolve.

She hired Donovan Kaneshiro as creative strategies manager, Matt Engh as creative design manager and Fabrice Tasendo to assist with global outreach.

The bureau has travel agency contacts in 30 countries, including 500 American Express agencies in Mexico, and the Evolve website is available in Spanish, German, French, Dutch, Portuguese and Chinese as well as English.

The inaugural Evolve will include a reception with performers from Cirque du Soleil’s “Zumanity” as a preview to the show. Following the show will be an opening reception at the Strip’s first gay nightclub, Liaison, at Bally’s.

The second day offers an assortment of Southern Nevada day trips and shopping excursions and the final day includes a performance by Frank Marino followed by the New Year’s Eve celebration at the Havana club.

Packages also include an optional two-day trip to West Hollywood, Calif.

Reyes said the side trip is particularly important for international visitors who like to expand their itineraries when making a trip to the United States.

Marino, whose Strip Divas are presenting their 25,000th show this year, is excited about performing for an all-gay audience.

“This will be the first time in my 30-year Las Vegas career that I will be performing for an all-gay audience,” Marino said. “Finally, I can do pop-culture jokes that everyone will get.”

Britney Spears Extends Las Vegas Residency to 2017

Britney Spears
Kevin Mazur, Getty Images

by Thomas Chau September 28, 2014 4:03 PM

Good news for Britney Spears fans who are hoping to catch her Las Vegas show at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. Spears has renewed her ‘Piece of Me’ residency for another two years, which means she will be performing in Sin City well into the year 2017. Her original contract was to have ended in 2015.

The pop star confirmed to Good Morning Britain (quotes via Digital Spy) that she has enjoyed her Vegas stay and likes being grounded, saying, “The way I used to travel all around the world and do a different show every night, I’m like, ‘How did I do it?!”

“Promotion is a different story, and going to a different city every day, like what I’m doing now, it’s really hard,” she continues. “But being based in Vegas and having one show that you just keep going back to, the consistency of that is really grounding and really cool.”

Meanwhile, Spears has also revealed that she is hard at work on a new studio album.

SOURCE: PopCrush.com

LAVERNE COX ON HER VEGAS NIGHTCLUB GIG, NETFLIX STARDOM AND MORE

Orange Is the New Black actress Laverne Cox hosts Liaison’s Grand Opening Celebration this weekend.

You’re hosting a grand opening on the Las Vegas Strip this weekend, joining the likes of Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton. Now that Orange Is the New Black is a huge hit, are you being hired frequently for celebrity appearances at events like Saturday night’s at Liaison? This is my first time hosting an event like this. I am very excited about the historic nature of the first LGBT club in a casino in Vegas.

Do you find subtle, if not overt, ways to educate those types of audiences on the transgender rights movement and community, like you do with your speaking engagements? Or is a party not the place for that? Well depending on the context, sometimes just my presence, living openly, is enough.

The transgender community experienced a couple of mainstream media milestones this year when you appeared on the cover of Time and were nominated for an acting-related Emmy award, both firsts for a transgender person. How important is it for us to see the transgender community in the mainstream media? I think when people get to know people as human beings, that goes a long way to change hearts and minds about people who are different. I think it also inspires trans people to believe that their dreams are also possible.

When you’re out in public and fans of the show stop you to talk, are they respectful with their language and questions? Our fans are amazing. They love the show and show me so much love. They are amazingly respectful.

Have you been to Vegas before? Any crazy or fun stories to share from past visits? I have been to Vegas twice, both times with my mother. We ate at buffets, saw shows—theJubilee show was a kiki. The crazy stuff I can’t talk about, ’cause what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

How long are you in town? What are you excited to see and do while in town this weekend? I am only in town for a day. I think I will just get to present at [the] iHeartRadio [Festival] and host at Liaison. But I might be able to squeeze in more fun. It’s Vegas after all.

What’s your go-to cocktail? What will we see in your hand at Liaison Saturday night? I am not a big drinker. I might have a glass of champagne. As a true Sex and the City fan I love a good Cosmo as well.

One of my favorite Orange Is the New Black episodes is the mock job interview episode (you looked fabulous!). Any idea of what you’ll be “showing off your assets” in Saturday night? I am not sure what I will be wearing yet. But my stylist Christina Pacelli is excited about pulling looks for me. I can’t wait to see the options.

Are you still filming Season 3 of Orange Is the New Black? Can you divulge any details at all for fans of the show? I am still shooting season 3 of Orange. Nope I can’t divulge anything. NEXT! LOL

I saw you were tweeting about your upcoming role on MTV’s Faking It. Aside from Season 3 of Orange Is the New Black, what other projects are you working on right now? I also have a guest spot on the new Bravo show Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce. I am executive producing a documentary for MTV called Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word. I am also hard at work on my memoir which will be out in the fall of 2015.

LIAISON GRAND OPENING WITH LAVERNE COX September 20, doors at 10 p.m., $20. Liaison, 702-737-5225.

SOURCE: Las Vegas Weekly.com

Seven striking things at the SLS Las Vegas

Vegas hotels are like babies. Although easy to conceive, they are hard to deliver. And each arrival is greeted by clamoring crowds, all eager to check out the newborn on the block.

Well, there’s been a recent birth at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip: SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino.

The resort debuted with a bang last Friday night. Not only was there an eye-popping fireworks display, but the grand opening celebration was a visual treat as well. Celebs were spotted at the event. Food and drinks flowed copiously and tasted every bit as good as it looked. And a backdrop of pulsating lights and music fed the nonstop party atmosphere.

This extravagant evening was a long time in the making. Sam Nazarian, CEO of the nightlife and hospitality empire SBE, purchased the historic yet rundown Sahara Hotel & Casino in 2007. Since then, he’s hung on tight to his vision – through an economic downturn and top-to-bottom renovations – of giving the property new life.

So was the SLS Las Vegas worth the wait and all the fanfare? We think so. And here’s what we love about it.

Monkeys at SLS Las Vegas

The monkeys

That’s right, the monkeys. Everybody loves monkeys. Tall monkeys. Small monkeys. Dinner jacket-wearing monkeys. Monkeys are just fun.

You’ll see four simians scampering about with a fork, a mirror and two goblets in the SLS logo. You’ll see them around the property – in a chandelier, in artwork that hangs above the casino floor and on the resort’s white sedans. And you’ll see them at the Monkey Bar, across from the registration desk. Framed black-and-white photos of monkeys in suits line its back wall.

The bottom line: Monkeys set the perfect tone – because the SLS Las Vegas, though stylish, is far from being stuffy and conventional.

Digital effects at SLS Las Vegas

The digital art installations

Don’t go looking for an erupting volcano, dancing fountains or a Lake of Dreams at SLS Las Vegas. This resort hasn’t got them. Instead there are seven different digital art installations created by KT Corporation from Korea. At the main entrance, you’ll walk across LED color-changing floor tiles that are triggered by your feet. A digital “cloud” hovers over the Center Bar. You’ll discover the north side of the parking garage forms a canvas for 3-D video mapping at Foxtail Pool Club. (This one is sure to blow you away.) There are also striking digital screens behind the front desk and near the valet entrance off Paradise Road. And captivating LED installments also come to life in LiFE nightclub.

Décor at SLS Las Vegas

The décor

Except for the bones of the building, the former Sahara has been completely made over. But in a nod to the past, Nazarian has had custom carpets created from photographs of the legendary property at its prime. On other carpets you may catch sight of iconic images – like Sean Connery as James Bond – by British photographer Terry O’Neill.

There are oversized brass birdcages for dancers at the Foxtail lounge, and the walls bear the lettering of French graffiti artist Tarek Benaoum. No stencils were used. He did all of this freehand.

Inside restaurants such as Katsuya by Starck, a pair of giant eyes reminds you that it’s all about seeing and being seen at SLS Las Vegas.

Bazaar Meat and The Griddle Cafe

The food

All of the dining venues at SLS Las Vegas are standouts – from the Mediterranean delights at Cleo and the dumplings at Ku Noodle to the scrumptious spread at The SLS Buffet. But The Griddle Café and Bazaar Meat belong on your must-visit-ASAP list.

SLS Las Vegas is the only place outside of Hollywood where you’ll find The Griddle Café. Breakfast is served all day here – including pancakes, French toast and waffles loaded with goodness. Red Velvet panCAKEs, anyone? They’re topped with cream cheese icing. Once you’ve tasted The Griddle Café’s sweet fare, you’ll want more and more and more. Ah, what a heavenly sugar high.

Then there’s Bazaar Meat. As its name suggests, this carnivorous restaurant is a cut above traditional steakhouses. Decorative red glass is suspended from a white domed ceiling over the bar, much like falling drops of blood. There’s a display of scary-looking handmade knives (you can actually purchase them) outside the entrance. And a butcher shop-esque arrangement of exotic, top-quality meats is on exhibit inside. Created by culinary innovator José Andrés, you’ll enjoy watching your meal prepared to perfection in Bazaar Meat’s open kitchens on wood-burning grills, in charcoal ovens and on rotisseries. If you’re a meat lover, it just doesn’t get any better than this.

Nightlife at SLS Las Vegas

The nightlife

Nazarian and his team are kingpins in the nightclub industry. So it’s a safe bet the club scene at SLS Las Vegas will be ranked among the best in Sin City.

Hollywood favorite The Sayers Club opened its second location at the resort. This small live music room is a cool place to grab a drink on any given night. But what’s better is that you never know who might show up to perform. At the grand opening party, Lenny Kravitz became the first artist to take the stage. Swedish pop star Tove Lo will appear on Aug. 28. Who else will be there? Bruno Mars? Stevie Wonder? John Mayer? You’ll just have to stop by to find out.

While The Sayers Club is intimate, the multilevel LiFE nightclub is enormous. Surrounded by LED installations and HD projections along the walls and DJ booth, it will feel like you’ve entered a sensory playground – especially when aerialists descend from the 60-foot-high ceiling. In addition to VIP balconies and the artists’ green room on the second floor, the open-air Beach LiFE pool is located on the third floor.

Unami Burger, Beer Garden and Sports Book

The beer garden

It’s common knowledge that a good burger will enhance any sports viewing experience. And a burger always tastes better when it’s accompanied by a cold beer. So combining all three on an outdoor patio would be the best of all worlds. Drumroll, please, for Unami Burger, Beer Garden and Sports Book. It stretches alongside Las Vegas Boulevard near Sahara Avenue. The people watching here is already great fun and it’s only going to get better, thanks to developments on the other side of the street, like Rock in Rio (arriving in 2015) and Resorts World Las Vegas (debuting in 2016).

Fred Segal shopping experiences at SLS Las Vegas

Fred Segal

Hermès. Check. Louis Vuitton. Check. Chanel. Check. You’ll find all of these big brands at resorts on the Strip. What you couldn’t get – until now – was Fred Segal.

Established in the ’60s, this iconic retailer from Southern California has made his first foray into Sin City. Segal has created and is curating a shopping experience that spans more than 10,000 square feet at SLS Las Vegas. His seven boutiques offer a broad range merchandise including jeans, jewelry and bathing suits.

“This retail experience is really interesting and different. It’s an authentic experience and not a version of anything else that’s been brought here,” said Segal at a press conference held last week. “I think it’s a truly individual experience for Las Vegas.”

And we think SLS Las Vegas – where luxury meets playfulness, and high-tech wonders meet a vibe of relaxed simplicity  – is a truly unique addition for the city too.

SOURCE: Blog.Vegas.com

History Made in Las Vegas – First International Gay New Year’s Eve Celebration!

Press ReleaseGuests from Six Continents Celebrate on the Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas, recently voted Favorite American Destination by OutTraveler Magazine, is the host city for an exciting new event, Evolve Vegas NYE (New Year’s Eve).  #EvolveVegas is a 3-day gay New Year’s Eve experience that will bring men from more than 30 countries, on six continents, to the city that provides non-stop fun, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Hosted at the world famous, MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, Evolve Vegas NYE takes place December 30, 2014 – January 1, 2015 and offers shows, receptions, parties, dining, shopping, tours and more.  And for those who want to continue the fun, a weekend in West Hollywood, California, one of the hottest gay meccas in the U.S., takes place January 2-4, 2015.

“I am so excited, as this will be the first time in my 30 year Las Vegas career that I will be performing for an all gay audience.  Finally, I can do pop-culture jokes that everyone will get!  This night is going to be one Big Party!” says Frank Marino headliner of the Divas Las Vegas. Celebrating the 25,000th show this year, Frank Marino’s Divas is one of the most spectacular production shows in the city, and is just one of the many events included in the Evolve Vegas NYE experience.

The event will kick off with a private VIP reception, featuring Zumanity performers and champagne, followed by the sensual Cirque du Soleil performance that offers a seductive twist on reality.  Zumanity makes the provocative playful and the forbidden electrifying and allows you to leave all inhibitions at the door and let loose as this adult-themed production takes you on a sexy thrill ride full of sensational acrobatics and naughty fun.

After the show, guests will party at the official opening reception at Liaison Nightclub at Bally’s Hotel & Casino.  With unrivaled décor, a top-tier sound system and impeccable service, Liaison, the first gay nightclub in a Las Vegas Strip resort, offers guests an elegant experience with hot entertainment and DJs spinning until the wee hours of the morning.

Day Two is a free day to shop, explore the city or experience the beautiful landscapes of Southern Nevada including the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Red Rock, Valley of Fire, even Mt. Charleston which features snow skiing….yes snow in Las Vegas!

New Year’s Eve will kick off with another VIP party, before opening up to the main celebration at the Havana Nightclub on the Las Vegas Strip.  This event will also welcome local gays, as well as hot DJs, exciting entertainment, special guests, seductive dancers, complimentary cocktails and a private VIP fireworks-viewing from the patio of the club.

If that’s not enough, Day Three offers the Mob Museum in Old Vegas, The High Roller at the Linq, the VooDoo Zipline at The Rio, or Madame Tussauds at The Venetian. There are many more to choose from and the activity of choice is included in the package.  That evening a historical first is taking place with the private showing of Divas Las Vegas, only available to Evolve Vegas NYE guests. This energetic show starring Las Vegas’ longest running headliner, Frank Marino, features an all-star cast of superstar female impersonators who not only recreate, but almost uncannily duplicate the likenesses of stars ranging from Liza Minnelli to Britney Spears.  After the show, the festivities will continue at Share Nightclub, a gay ultra lounge with a hip nightclub downstairs and a private Ultra Lounge and bar on the second floor.

CONTINUE THE PARTY IN WEHO

For those who would like to extend their stay, a limited number of tickets are available for a weekend in West Hollywood, California.  Transportation will be provided on luxury motor coaches for the short 4-hour ride through the Mojave Desert, and luxury accommodations have been booked at the Sofitel Hotel at Beverly Hills, a stunning property offering elegant European accommodations and dramatic décor.  On Friday night, guests will have the opportunity to sample all of West Hollywood’s gay nightlife and festivities with special offers for Evolve Vegas NYE participants.

Shop along Rodeo Drive, visit the Santa Monica Pier, experience the West Hollywood scene or relax in your room on Saturday afternoon and enjoy a blowout party at the Here Lounge at night.  After a tasty brunch on the patio of the Sofitel, guests will head back to Las Vegas on Sunday afternoon for one last fling, or fly home from Los Angeles and start the New Year pumped up from an amazing week on the West Coast of the USA!

According to Evolve Vegas NYE President and CEO Mya Reyes, “Evolve Vegas NYE has been very carefully designed to provide a unique experience for our guests from the USA, as well as those coming in from Amsterdam to Australia and everywhere in between.  There has never been a New Year’s Eve event like Evolve Vegas NYE in North America, and we are excited to bring this first-of-its-kind experience to Las Vegas.”  Reyes has spent more than 14 years marketing to the LGBT consumer, is one of only 13 gay travel specialists in the U.S. and speaks to marketing and tourism entities around the world on developing an effective marketing campaign to address and serve the needs of gay consumers.

Evolve Vegas NYE packages are inclusive of hotel, land transportation and all events.  Remaining availability is limited, book your package by visiting http://www.EvolveEvgasNYE.com, which is available in seven languages.  You may also contact Evolve Vegas NYE at donovan@evolvevegasnye.com for more information.

PHOTOS – http://bit.ly/PressReleasePhotos

Contact:  Mya Reyes
Telephone:  702.763.7363 x700
Cellular: 702.334.1516
Email: mya@lasvegasgvb.com

A Weekend in Downtown Vegas

BY NEAL BROVERMAN

Ten miles from the Strip lies a much-different Las Vegas, with parks, performance spaces, and even history.

I love Vegas: the messy drunks, ersatz cityscapes, cigarette smoke, even the douchey bros and packs of shrieking sorority girls are strangely familiar and reassuring. All of it just means I’m near blackjack, fancy meals, gay pool parties, and Cirque de Soleil. But it’s easy to forget that people power this adult Disneyland; that a real city exists beyond the neon and plastic.

Maybe that’s why Downtown Vegas fascinates me, since it’s the closest thing to a real city that Las Vegas, home to 2 million souls, can claim. I’m not the only one interested in this once-thriving, long-derelict, now-back-from-the-dead collection of densely-packed casinos, high-rises, and restaurants. Led by Zappos’ young CEO Tony Hsieh, which relocated his shoe empire to the city center, the area is now seeing new investment, development, and young residents. A nascent art scene is headquartered in a downtown hospital-turned-JCPenney-turned-coffeehouse/art gallery. A mini-Coachella debuted in downtown last year, winning praise for its organization and street art. A cultural district is establishing itself around the gorgeous Smith Center, which in September debuts the first performance of Kinky Boots outside Broadway.

My boyfriend is not a Vegas fan. He doesn’t gamble, barely drinks, and house music gives him migraines. So, I lured him to downtown with a promise of a different Vegas experience, complete with a Book of Mormon matinee at the Smith. We stayed at the cabana suites of the 73-year-old El Cortez, the city’s longest operating casino. Recently renovated to look like a Miami Beach resort, the cabana suites are across the street from the actual El Cortez, with its mix of seniors and hipsters (more of the former for now) playing poker and slots. A room key is required to enter the lobby of the suites, which is staffed by a 24-hour attendant and filled with a mega-TV, plush coaches, and constantly-rotating bowls of fruit and candy. Decorated in black, white, and turquoise, the actual rooms are imminently comfortable, with a huge bed we had trouble getting out of every morning. Our view over Ogden Avenue provided a clear view of the curious, but mostly sad, gamblers making their way into the El Cortez; we couldn’t help but guess at their stories.

We didn’t spend much time in the room, with the lights and music beckoning. Unlike the half-mile of crowds and elevated sidewalks separating Strip hotels from Las Vegas Boulevard, downtown’s pleasures are always easily accessible. We made a habit of stopping at The Beat coffeehouse, which occupies the ground-floor of the aforementioned former hospital, now known as the Emergency Arts Center. The coffeehouse is surrounded by a record shop and performance space, while a tiny burlesque museum sits across the agave and soy milk. Above, several floors of galleries and shops occupy old examination rooms, and the whole space holds some of that antiseptic hospital odor.
Passing meticulous murals of zombies and lost souls on nearly every downtown building, we ambled to the city’s container park. Guarded by a praying mantis that spits fire (a remnant of the Life is Beautiful music festival), dozens of giant storage containers are now filled with burlesque boutiques, barber shops, and a BBQ place described by fans as the best in the west. Climb to the third floor for dramatic views of the Las Vegas valley and desert mountains, and peer down at the giant playground or watch the live music that’s a regular feature. A dark tunnel connecting two sides of the park is a perfect makeout spot.

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is a bit removed from the action on Ogden and Fremont. We planned on walking to the show, but the heat and a chronic inability to be on time to anything forced us to drive. After nearly locking the keys in the car, we started to race for the front door, but a Smith Center golf cart picked us up so we wouldn’t have to break a sweat. There was enough time to take in the two-year-old arts center, which holds a jazz club and two theaters. Architect David Schwarz designed the Smith to recreate elements of the nearby Hoover Dam, creating an homage to 1920s Art Deco that’s stunning, not schmaltzy. The grounds are pristine, the lobby massive and the show packed. Robbie and I took pictures in front of The Smith’s winged god, which decorates a stairwell landing and mimics the Dam’s angelic guardians. Inside, the main theater is as grandiose as Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, where the Oscars are staged.

It was almost time to gamble (my favorite past time anywhere), but Robbie’s hunger couldn’t wait, so we settled into a table at the Triple George Grill, a favorite pre- and post-show stop that serves San Francisco-flavored fare. Filled will well-dressed locals and in-the-know visitors, the Triple George is very old-school Vegas, with lots of steaks, martinis, and dark wood. Robbie questioned my decision to order salmon in the desert, but it was just as good as anything in North Beach. The TGG’s happy hour is worth checking out, as is their sidewalk dining when the sun isn’t punishing. 

We had a short streak at theDowntown Granduntil someone spilled a drink on the blackjack table. We headed to Fremont Street, a long pedestrian promenade in the heart of downtown. Cheap but legendary casinos like the Golden Nugget dot its sides, and kiosks and live music surround you at every turn. It’s hard to not feel awestruck by the stimuli; next to you is a moving mass of humanity, in front is flashing neon, and above zip-liners cut through the air. Even if the crowd is not as polished as the privileged masses populating the Strip, they’re more entertaining. We danced and held hands as a raggae band played.

We won, we lost, we won, we lost, we came back. We thought we’d pick up something quick to eat on the walk home, but couldn’t resist the temptation of Insert Coin(s), a video arcade/bar that occupies a prime spot in the small, but busy, Fremont East District. After kicking ass on “Terminator 2” — is there a better bonding experience than shooting robots with your boyfriend? — we headed to Nacho Daddy, another local favorite, just off Fremont. Daddy’s barbeque chicken nachos effectively soak up a liquor-filled gut, and my vegan nachos were just as satisfying.

Scarred by the traffic getting to Vegas (a seven-hour+ trip, of which it’s usually four), we decided to leave the next day after brunch. Being no newbie to downtown, I knew I had to take Robbie to Eat. Another walkable spot, Eat has the best brunch, and people-watching, in the city. Musts: cinnamon buiscuits with warm strawberry compote; truffled egg sandwich; shrimp po boy. We drank too much of their mothership roastwork coffee, even if we managed to make it back to L.A. in just under four hours.

I won’t lie. We did slip away from downtown for just a bit. It being summer in Vegas, we had to hit one of the city’s two amazing gay pool parties (we made it to Temptation Sundays this time, but hope to hit Xposed!before the summer’s out). While we never felt singled out as being a gay couple while in Vegas, there is something wonderful about being around other gays and getting affectionate without judgmental eyes. So, when downtown gets its own LGBT pool fiesta (just wait), it may just lure us away from the Strip for good.

See more images of downtown on the following pages. Photos by Robbie X Pierce.

Outside the container park

The Smith Center

Grounds of the Smith