Scorching summers can't stop Las Vegas' 24/7 party. But with no new hotels scheduled to open on the Strip until later this year -- when the first Nobu Hotel hits Caesars -- the city has shifted some of its focus to something for which it isn't often known: culture. Downtown's Art Deco-style Smith Center for the Performing Arts (361 Symphony Park Ave.) opened its doors in March with a gala featuring Jennifer Hudson; Steve Martin and his bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers are due to appear Aug. 22. And Sin City recently got its first legit museum about -- what else? -- illegitimate activity: The Mob Museum (300 Stewart Ave.) is located in the historic 1933 Post Office and Courthouse building.
Post-museum, there might be no more appropriate meal than a blood-red rib eye. At the Paris' new Gordon Ramsay Steak, waiters preview photos of cocktails on iPads and the prime beef is dry-aged in a Himalayan salt room, while New York's classic Old Homestead is Caesars' addition. "It was packed during CinemaCon," says Universal international distribution manager Katie Powell. "The 22-ounce Gotham rib was delicious."
Other entrants include the Strip's first gastropub, Public House at the Venetian, which has lured Jennifer Love Hewitt and is where the city's only cicerone (beer sommelier) oversees 200 brews, and the Wynn's flashy Japanese restaurant Mizumi (try the spicy king-crab roll and reserve the table near the dramatic waterfall). In late June, Mediterranean eatery Bagatelle Beach will bring its trademark party-atmosphere brunch next door to the newly renovated Tropicana. Late at night, Happy Endings star Adam Pally recommends the "secret pizza place" in the year-old Cosmopolitan, open until 5 a.m. weekends: "You have to walk down an alley like you are going to a Vegas restroom. It's about the best pizza I've had on the West Coast."
Rock of Ages debuts at the Venetian next winter, but guests can go '80s hair band now and catch Motley Crue videos at the casino's new Bourbon Room, inspired by the show's fictional Sunset Strip club. Or go back two decades earlier and see the beach blanket musical Surf, created by Rock of Ages director Kristin Hanggi and featuring the music of the Beach Boys, which started previews June 11 at Planet Hollywood.
Still reigning as Vegas' party meccas are the Cosmopolitan's Marquee nightclub and the Encore's duo of dance spots Surrender and XS (where Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger partied the weekend after they sold their company for $1 billion to Facebook). But there is a new way to deal with a headache the next morning. The controversial Hangover Heaven, a mobile unit started by a board-certified anesthesiologist, picks up at casinos and administers IV drips of saline and vitamins (starting at $90). Not hurting? Relax poolside and enjoy Moet Ice Imperial and house-made pastries at the new Bubbles & Brunch at the Overlook Grill at the Cosmopolitan, which recent visitor John Polson, founder of short-film festival Tropfest, says is still "the hottest hotel in Vegas."
PSST! CAN YOU SEE IT? No illusion: David Copperfield's private Vegas museum is becoming a magnet for Hollywood VIPs
One of Vegas' hottest attractions is closed to the public, and perhaps that's partly why A-listers are securing invite-only personal tours of legendary magician David Copperfield's International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts. Created in 1992 and located in an unmarked two-story warehouse near the Strip, the museum has seen recent visitors such as Paranormal Activity producer Jason Blum, Hugh Jackman, Taylor Swift and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone director Don Scardino and producer Chris Bender (doing research for their magician-themed 2013 New Line release). The Smithsonian-grade 80,000-item collection, the world's largest, includes Harry Houdini's original Water Torture Cell, magician Robert-Houdin's early 1800s automatons and the rifle that ended Chung Ling Soo's life when his famous bullet-catching feat failed. "It's a walk through the history of magic," says Bender. "You feel like a little kid seeing your first trick." Copperfield also recently acquired a trove of illusionist/filmmaker Georges Melies' sketches and photos. After a performance at the MGM Grand, where he's in residence for 2012, Copperfield, who has no immediate plans to open to the public, gave THR a two-hour tour. What struck this reporter was how he sees his life as part of a larger tradition. "The more I learn about all of the masters," says Copperfield, "the more respect I have for them." -- Degen Pener