10 New Reasons to Visit the Strip

Just when you think you’ve seen, done, and eaten it all in Las Vegas, more firsts await
What happens in Las Vegas may stay there — but thankfully this Nevada hotspot never stays the same. There’s always something new to do on the Strip that never sleeps. Last year, a record 39.7 million visitors flocked to The Entertainment Capital of the World to see its newest shows and restaurants. For Arizonans, restaurants, such as American Fish, and top productions, like Blue Man Group, are just a weekend road trip away. Here are our 10 favorites, listed in no particular order:
 
1. Bacchanal Buffet. Sometimes you just can’t decide what you’re in the mood to eat. Happily, Caesar’s Palace’s newest brunch, lunch, and dinner spot provides every option under the sun — and around the world. What starts as a feast for your eyes with an ultra-modern ambiance, quickly reveals well-organized sections for Mexican, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, American, seafood, pizza, and desserts. The chefs behind the pristine displays make pleasant conversation while custom-preparing your made-to-order items, including omelets, crepes, and street-style tacos. Eager eaters are distractedly drawn from one mouth-watering display to the next, so I recommend fully surveying the scene and its nine open kitchens before willy-nilly filling your plate.
 
2. Rock of Ages. It’s the story of a small town girl, living in a lonely world, and a city boy, born and raised in south Detroit. Well, sort of. Rock of Ages, at the Venetian, tells the story of a young couple chasing their dreams in the music business on L.A.’s famous Sunset Strip in the late ’80s. Attendees are handed battery-operated “lighters” with their programs, to wave like at a true rock concert, during such classic rock hits as “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” “I Wanna Know What Love Is,” and “Don’t Stop Believin’”. It’s a silly, feel-good love story that pokes fun at hair bands — and nobody cares if you sing along at the top of your lungs. Or at least nobody said anything to me.
 
3. American Fish. Chef Michael Mina’s fifth Las Vegas restaurant, located in ARIA Resort & Casino, features a menu that is uniquely divided by cooking method: Poached in ocean water, griddled over cast iron, baked in sea salt, and wood-grilled and smoked. These rustic techniques allow the fresh fish (such as ono, Skuna Bay salmon, wild sturgeon, branzino, and black cod) and simple flavors to stand on their own. Don’t miss the salmon tartare and Thai beef carpaccio appetizers or the truffle macaroni and cheese side dish. American Fish also offers an impressive cocktails menu, from which I ordered my first (and second) Moscow Mule.
 
4. Zarkana. Cirque du Soleil’s newest fantasy world, Zarkana at ARIA Resort & Casino, features everything you already love about its sister shows: gravity-defying acrobatics, sure-footed tightrope walking, and extravagant trapeze-flying. But it adds in new elements, such as an artist using a light table to tell a story through images she has drawn in sand, and a woman who tap dances up stairs while simultaneously juggling. As always, the colorful characters, music, and costumes help tell the story, this time of a magician, Zark, who seeks to find his lost love.
 
5. Jaleo. Spanish tapas restaurant Jaleo, at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, is a José Andrés concept (the chef credited with bringing the small plates dining style to the United States). The golden rule of tapas is sharing, so my best friend and I order a smorgasbord of delicious bites: oysters with lemon, gin, and tonic; a sliced apple and fennel salad with Manchego cheese, walnuts, and a Sherry dressing; grilled skirt steak with piquillo pepper confit; and shrimp sautéed with garlic. Of course, no tapas meal is complete without paella — this one made with the ribs of the black-footed Ibérico de bellota pig and cooked over a large wood-burning grill. 
 
6. Blue Man Group. This longtime favorite show featuring a trio of playful music-making blue mutes, who previously performed at the Luxor and then the Venetian, moved to the 1,200-seat Monte Carlo Theatre in October 2012. If you’ve seen previous iterations of this show, you’ll recognize some of their signature skits (paint drumming and gumball/marshmallow canvas spitting) alongside new acts (including their amusing interaction with enormous iPads) to help keep the show fresh. You can’t help tapping your feet to the catchy beats — or wondering how they get that glossy blue grease paint out of their nostrils post-performance.
 
7. Sensi. At this Bellagio restaurant, which features Asian and Italian specialties, the glass-encased kitchen takes center stage. After ordering a pear blossom cocktail, I turn my attention to the man making naan just a few feet away. A minute later, the hot naan arrives to my table in a bread basket with two dipping sauces. The fresh-shucked West Coast oysters, yellowtail sashimi, and wood-roasted mussels and clams made for delicious starters. The TLC roll (tempura, lobster, and crab) with whipped avocado and siracha aioli may well be the best sushi roll I’ve ever had. And though my eyes were bigger than my stomach when I ordered, the little room I saved for the porcini-rubbed ribeye with black truffle béarnaise was well worth the indulgence.
 
8. Hyde. The indoor/outdoor venue Hyde Bellagio is billed as a nightclub, but if you get there before the sun goes down (opens nightly at 5 p.m.) it’s much more of a swanky lounge complete with a mixology program and appetizers. The terrace backs up to the Bellagio fountains, which is the best free attraction in Vegas. The patio’s partial glass enclosure blocks you from the spray — unless, like me, you’re there on a windy night, in which case some light mist will find its way to you. In the summer, this would no doubt feel refreshing, but during our winter visit, Hyde’s heat lamps kept us toasty.
 
9. Tetsu. From the communal counter in Aria’s Tetsu Teppan Grill, my eye quickly lands on the day’s produce, meat, and seafood proudly displayed on ice in the center of the room. Michelin-decorated Chef Masa Takayama’s menu changes daily to ensure you are served the freshest ingredients. Our chef offers us an inspection of each item before cooking it in front of us — including an unexpected meet-and-greet with the poor blue lobster that was about to lose his life. He was, by far, the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten. The filet mignon, Wagyu garlic fried rice, caviar, Teppan vegetables, and soba ice cream amounted to an extraordinary dining combination: the best meal of my life — a rare find for this foodie.
 
10. Absinthe. Performed in-the-round in a small tent on the Caesar’s Palace forecourt, Absinthe is a racy over-18 variety show. Initially, I was disappointed with our last-row seats, but then I realized there are only a handful of rows in this intimate theatre and the stage is close enough to see the sweat glistening on the performers. With aerial acts, a seductive tap dance, some off-color comedy bits with plenty of audience participation, and a roller-skating duo’s fast-paced spinning routine that left me gripping my friend’s arm and praying they didn’t accidentally fly into the audience, I was thoroughly entertained. If you’re not easily offended and enjoy being thisclose to the action, Absinthe is a night to remember.