Tropicana Las Vegas’ Nikki Beach – A Niche Of It’s Own

I’m bullish on the Tropicana Las Vegas remodel. I can’t believe the “bang for the buck” they are getting for the $165 million they are spending. It is night and day. People who have not set foot in the Trop in years (or perhaps never at all) will check it out and be impressed. I’m not suggesting that it will Bellagio, Palazzo, or Wynn Las Vegas, but the redo will zing them well up the pecking order.

The biggest announcement has been the addition of a Nikki’s Beach for their pool area.

I continue to hear the “how is Nikki Beach going to do in a city awash in daylife” and (with all due respect), I don’t think anyone has researched Nikki Beach enough. They have a worldwide reputation and a built in clientele. They aren’t trying to be Rehab. And they will be more “boutique” than Encore Beach Club.

This is not exactly Rehab — further into the video you see the laid back side — (although some may deem it NSFW):

From their Nikki Beach Miami page:

Nikki Beach Miami is the hidden jewel of South Beach, located at One Ocean Drive along the beautiful Atlantic Ocean amid swaying palms trees and warm sunny breezes. Nikki Beach has established itself as the landmark for ultimate parties, celebrations, and entertainment and always lives up to it’s reputation as a party playground for jet setters, celebrities, VIPs, guests and visitors alike.

I think the key words there are “hidden jewel”. This is where you go when you want to chill with hundreds, not rage with thousands.

If they peel off people from neighboring hotels that have a lousy pool area, it will be a success. And I don’t see it appealing to the Jersey Shore wannabes.

If the Tropicana pulls off this whole South Beach thing like I believe they will, they’ll be successful. Surprisingly enough, no one has grabbed that theme yet (and people still love themed hotels). Recouping $165 million isn’t like trying to recoup what CityCenter cost. At the end of the day, they didn’t tank the $70 million cost of Encore Beach Club into Nikki Beach here, so modest results will be very acceptable and deemed successful. If it catches fire, it will just be a bonus.

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

Fewer Free Drinks In Las Vegas Not Just Your Imagination

According the the Associated Press, Las Vegas resorts comped $310.7 million in free drinks in 2009, a 2% drop from 2008. The resorts note that they sell more liquor when they give less away, and that no doubt is true. But at what cost? The entire idea about comping drinks is the keep the players PLAYING (and keep them lubricated up enough to keep playing). If you are on a losing streak and you have to go hunt down your own drink, aren’t you more likely just to leave the table (or machine)? Especially with machines where you can’t have a dealer watch your chips while you are gone.

This is unfortunately further evidence that some of people running the resorts have no clue about Las Vegas or the culture that made it famous (and made piles of cash from happy visitors). They get tighter with the free booze, then wonder why gaming wins are down? DUH. Sure… right now they are blaming it on the economy. But when the economy bounces back and gaming wins stagnate, maybe they’ll actually get back to taking care of the players.

I think it should be mandatory for ALL resort upper management to go on an “every-man” bender: 24 hours on the Las Vegas Strip drinking, eating, and gambling with no VIP status or access and their own money at stake. They would learn volumes. Instead, they are too busy cleaning their pocket protectors and doing calculus for amusement and often seem to have no clue what you guys — the real Las Vegas visitors — want and enjoy.

At the very least, reading our blog should be mandatory for resort management on every level. We print the stuff you guys are emailing us — the stuff you really care about. I am amazed (perhaps shocked is a better word) about how out-of-touch some of the resort decision makers are with you guys. And we aim to correct that. One letter and one comment at a time. Feel free to make your voice heard by commenting below:

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

New Walgreens On The Las Vegas Strip – Needed, Great For Everyone

Wallgreens recently announced that they’ll be building a 3 story Walgreens location on the Las Vegas Strip across from CityCenter. Many have been wondering why? After all, that part of The Strip has an ABC store, CVS, another Wallgreens just a short distance south, and a 7-11.

This is a no-brainer. That part of the Las Vegas Strip now has a heavy concentration of both condo and condotel (one room condos that are basically glorified hotel rooms) accommodations that have kitchen facilities. In additon, CityCenter has permanent residents but is a city without a shopping center of any kind.

Especially in this economy, visitors are preferring to save by buying food and booze and eating/drinking in their room. (The “kids” have been calling this pre-gaming for years — you booze it up in your room, kicked back while you get ready for a night on the town — and saving money on expensive bar and club drinks). Add a kitchen to the mix and you can make some light meals, microwave frozen dinners or pizza, refrigerate some milk for cereal and similar.

Tip: Even if you don’t have a fridge or kitchen in your unit, you can still keep your beverages (milk, or course) cold. Buy a cheap, Styrofoam disposable cooler. Keep it filled with ice. Leave it in the room when you check out.

This Walgreens will be larger than a typical location and I suspect will have enhanced grocery and other offerings perfect for the Las Vegas visitor.

Here’s what everyone else who is only looking at the tourist aspect of this is missing:

The neighborhood around Harmon between The Strip and Hard Rock is actually pretty substantial. Aside from hotels, you have a large rent-by-the-week/month apartment complex. Not to mention the high rise condos and time shares. PLUS a significant number of old-school (2 story) condos hidden back in the neighborhoods south of Harmon.

I’m guessing that the new Walgreens will have a back entrance from Harmon and be easily accessible to that neighborhood, which otherwise has nothing similar. (The nearest grocery store is way over at Maryland and Flamingo or Maryland and Tropicana). I’m also guessing that it will be built in a way to easily turn it into a casino or restaurant or other similar “Las Vegas Strip” facility if the Walgreens does not meet expectation.

However, I’m betting they will.

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

How Did and Access Vegas Insider Vibe Newsletter Get Started?

People always like to ask why our brand and newsletter has been so successful when most independent efforts to tout Las Vegas end up as no more than a glorified hobby. One thing truly did lead to another, but the core was 1) A real, true love for Las Vegas and everything Vegas and 2) Lots of hard steady work and the willingness to starve in the early days to do it full-time (kind of like being in a band) and 3) Getting it going in the early days of the internet.

Step by step, here’s how it all happened:

I got my first computer in 1995. AOL was getting to be a hot item and I was logging on through a friend’s computer (thanks, Howard). I wanted my own. I became the proud owner of a green Acer desktop. I think the screen was 15 inches. The computer’s hard drive was 100 MB.

I discovered the alt.vacation.las-vegas internet newsgroup — basically a public, unmoderated message board available to virtually anyone on the internet — and started chiming in with my Las Vegas adventures and opinions. I was regularly out on The Strip and Downtown Fremont Street and always had something new to post.

Unfortunately, unmoderated message boards open to the entire internet can get messy. People who don’t like each other start “flame wars” (where people snipe back and forth). And the fact that I was out and about so much and posting new Vegas info 2-4 times a week started to rankle some of the longstanding newsgroup posters who thought that they were “the stuff” when it came to Las Vegas.

Note: I didn’t set out to overshadow anyone. I was just this guy going out and having fun, keeping my ear to the ground, following closely Vegas news and (when you live here) sometimes ending up getting deeper information on things than the newspapers published. Las Vegas was still a small town in many aspects back then. Seemingly everybody knew everybody and word of just about anything traveled quickly.

Meanwhile back at the ranch…

In 1996, I purchased the name just to put some Vegas info and links up at. No idea where it would go and at the time, no real way to make any money off of it. (Affiliate programs were brand new and Google Adsense did not exist). I learned some basic HTML and put four pages of Vegas links up.

In 1997 I got tired of people mistaking the name of the site (don’t buy a site with a dash in it) and found that was available. ( was also available but at $35 each, I made the foolish decision to only buy Money was tight, but I should have spent it anyway). The internet was booming, more and more people were searching for Las Vegas information online, there was a way to sell rooms and shows for a cut of the action, and I decided to build it out as a comprehensive Las Vegas travel site.

I continued to contribute to alt.vacation.las-vegas as much as ever. I’d now end my posts

Now, a handful of the “I’m Mr. Vegas” guys (especially this one guy who went by Chuck K and claimed that Access Vegas would never amount to anything) who also posted there started calling me a spammer and trying to make life rough for me. Here I’d spend 30 minutes typing up a post that was full of first-hand info from what I was out doing and seeing. I simply put my website name after my sig (no other promotion for it in the post), and they were just throwing flames at me.

I started to realize that I’m producing tons of content, seeing nothing for it, not even putting it on my site, and getting darts thrown at me in the process. So… I took my marbles and went home.

In 1999, I posted that I was going to start up a weekly Las Vegas email newsletter. It would include the exact info that I had been posting to alt.vacation.las-vegas newsgroup, that it would be free, and that I would keep my subscriber list confidential. And… that for the most part, the info would not be posted to the newsgroup. Only one way to get it.

Over 400 people emailed me to subscribe. While that is now a drop in the bucket compared to present numbers, it sure shocked me. I was hoping for maybe 30!

The first issue went out to subscribers on May 20, 1999 and was simultaneously posted online. I was blogging before the term existed.

Since then, we’ve found our niche. I’m very proud that 26% of our readers are international (from outside the U.S.) with around 11% from Europe alone. When you have the interest and trust of those coming that far and spending that much money to get here and they are depending on vacation information, that is very gratifying.

I’m also pleased that about 25% of our readers make over $100k per year and another 25% or so make over $60k. We always carry information for people on every budget (and I’m not immune to enjoying some of the great cheap specials, especially downtown) but when you can appeal to an upscale clientele, that never hurts.

I’m also proud that my modest crew has (mostly) been with me for quite a while. I believe Robert (our IT guy from has been a partner for 10 years and continues to build great, custom behind-the-scenes stuff for us as well as keeping us running “on the cloud”. Amy Rayner-Cooley has been compiling and editing newsletter information for over 5 years and also plays a big part in our content. Prior to Amy, Rick Ziegler played a major role there. Mark Jacobs has been doing various work wherever needed for about 3 years. I’ve had some great interns over time, and now we’ve taken UNLV grad Jennifer Miller (who has an impressive intern resume in local media) and hired her on as Junior Managing Editor. You’ll see and hear a LOT more from her starting in the fall.

What is next? Minor redesign of and complete redesign of all our blogs and sister sites to match. Also, we’ve recently acquired Access Reno, Access Laughlin, Access Biloxi and Access Atlantic City and we plan to meld them all into an network of “Access” sites featuring American’s top gaming cities. We also own Access Phoenix (not sure what we’re doing with it yet) and Access New Orleans (which may just get melded into the gaming resort cities network).

We also have some other major projects (and excellent domains) but were keeping those under wraps. We’ll let you know if they see the light of day. One thing at a time!

Past that, who knows? We’re not owned by a newspaper or TV station or other media conglomerate. I have no outside investors (we grow out of profit). We get $0.00 in public funds or convention authority funds or help of any kind. We simply do what we feel is best for you, our loyal readers!

I do know this: It is going to continue to be a lot of fun. So thanks for reading, keep telling your friends, and keep hanging out with us. It’s going to continue to be a fun ride!

Ted Newkirk
CEO/Managing Editor

A New Las Vegas Arena – On The Strip Next To The Sahara?

Controversial Las Vegas blogger Vegas Rex recently noted the following:

Not only would this benefit me from an entertainment standpoint, but property values in my neighborhood would almost certainly go up, more businesses would sprout to serve stadium visitors, and transit options would probably increase as well.  At the very least, the monorail would be re-tooled and probably even expanded.  I am so excited about this arena, that if they want me to, I’ll use my own cock as a shovel to break ground.  Hell, I might even do this without even being asked.

Now, with everything above noted, I have to unequivocally concede that my excitement over this stadium is purely selfish.  Deep down, I know that there exists no demand in Las Vegas for a new stadium.

I’m not even convinced that the “10,000 new jobs” being touted by the developers are a good thing.

First of all, when you build something solely to create jobs, then the assumption should be that whatever being built is not needed.  Jobs should not exist for the sake of jobs, they should exist because they fill a needed void.

Second, once the stadium has been completed … then what?

This location is the front-runner because of the involvement of Sue Lowden. (If her name does not ring a bell, google it). Worst location for everyone would be on the FAR south Strip down by South Point. Great area, lived there until 1.5 years ago. But a new arena needs to be tourist accessible.

Hate the Harrah’s idea simply because parking would be a mess. We don’t need a Madison Square Garden. (CityCenter is showing us how well New York concepts work here). I guess people could park at various hotels that serve as monorail stops and then use the monorail to get to the Harrarena. (Hey, guess what, I coined a new word. Kind of like WynnCore. I’m sure that every podcaster and out-of-town blogger will immediately pick up on it and start using it. NOT).

A downtown one would really help revitalize that area, and the central location to freeways leading in four directions is a big help.

At the end of the day, though…

The only reason for a new arena is to get us a major league sports team. I don’t want a pro sports team. Don’t get me wrong: I love sports. But sports teams are for cities like Cleveland and Detroit. Or Sacramento. They give people with no other reason for living who live in an otherwise mundane city a chance to bond together and get all excited.

Hell, half of the spectators at each game would be rooting for the opposition! And as someone who promotes tourism, I guess it would be nice to give people even more excuses to visit Las Vegas. But here, we don’t like anything mediocre. (Look at the support UNLV football gets). We are winners and will not tolerate anything less. And a Las Vegas franchise of a sports team that doesn’t kick ass every year isn’t going to get much community support. (Plus, most people living here retain loyalties to their “home” teams. I’m one of the few people I know living here who has really become loyal to all things Vegas).

On a selfish note: Building it south of The Sahara would assure no high-rise going there. The Strip used to have open spaces with short buildings and you could see the beautiful mountains from many spots on The Strip. Now it is becoming a corridor of high-rises, taking away the stunning desert terrain views that visitors from other places love.

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

Four L.A. To Las Vegas Trains Proposed – Which One Is Best?

Four trains are competing to be the first new trains in years to travel from Los Angeles, CA to Las Vegas, NV.

The maglev is not going to happen. The concept is barely out of sci-fi and WAY too expensive.

The DesertXpress is not going to happen. Building a separate high-speed rail line to Victorville is ridiculous. Las Vegas locals (including myself) believe it will make the Las Vegas monorail folly look small in comparison.

Z-train is going to try to be much too upscale. Art and fashion shows on the way to Las Vegas? Trying to rival private jet service? Good luck.

X Train has the best chance of success. Gambling or not, technology unavailable in the 90’s will keep people amused during the trip. Watch TV, go to the bar for a few “Pre-Vegas” drinks, relax in seats more comfortable than airplanes. I imagine they will have free wi-fi so you can actually finish up your office work on the way to Vegas then Twitter and Facebook and surf part of the trip away. On your departure day, place a sports bet before you leave town and watch the game on the train on the way home.

The biggest hurdle is working with the Union Pacific to make sure the train has priority over freight trains. Push comes to shove, someone might have to pony up some money to double or triple track certain sections of the route. But, that is far cheaper than building an entirely new railroad.

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

MGM Las Vegas Lion Habitat Review

mgm las vegas lion habitatMGM LION HABITAT – The free lion habitat at the MGM is now open daily from 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM. It’s a walk-through display, with plexiglass on all 4 sides of you, theoretically allowing the lions to get inches from you. It is more of a display than anything else, given that you could walk through the plexiglass tunnel in about 10 seconds (and straight into the gift shop to guy a $14 lion coffee mug). The display is located near the main casino entrances from The Strip and Tropicana. The plexiglass walls front a large casino area, allowing you to enjoy the display from a number of angles.

Our 6:00 PM weekday visit revealed 2 lion cubs in the display, each working with a trainer who was teaching them to sit, stand, etc. not unlike one would a dog, and then rewarding them with raw hamburger. You can take a photo with a live lion cub for $20, although this feature was closed during our visit. While this display isn’t worth going well out of the way for, it is a must-see when in the area. Note: the MGM has the worst parking garage in the city. It sits about 1/4 a mile from the front entrance, has extremely narrow spaces, and is difficult to even get to. When visiting the Monte Carlo, New York, New York, MGM, Gameworks, or the All Star Cafe, we strongly suggest parking in the Holiday Inn Boardwalk garage. This under-used structure sits right on the strip and is short, enjoyable walk to the above casinos and attractions.

This article originally appeared July 28, 1999 in the Access Vegas Insider Vibe

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

Makino Todai Asian Las Vegas Restaurant Review

A friend of mine receives your Las Vegas newsletter and told me about Makino Todai restaurant. I’m a Japanese-American and always looking for a great sushi place, especially buffet.

My family had a reunion in Las Vegas last week (July 21 – 26) and I decided to try this restaurant. I can’t say enough about it! It’s the best Japanese restaurant I’ve ever been to. Everything on the buffet was excellent, the sushi was fantastic, and service was very good. Atmosphere was good – for a buffet restaurant.

I told my relatives about it and about 40 adults tried it last week with several of us going twice….needless to say, all family members enjoyed it as well. One uncle said he would even fly into Vegas just to eat there as he was finishing his fifth plate.

So the 10 minute drive from the Strip is well worth it. Update on the prices: lunch $12.95, dinner $21.95 with 10% discount for seniors 65 and over for dinner.

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The Makino Todai is advertised as a 160 foot royal Japanese seafood buffet at 3965 S. Decatur, #5 (Decatur near Flamingo) featuring 40 kinds of sushi, fresh oysters, tons more.

David Cassidy Replaces Danny Gans In Las Vegas

The Rio Suites Las Vegas just announced the hiring of David Cassidy to produce and perform in a show effective January 2000 after their contract with Danny Gans runs out. It has been no secret for months that the popular Gans would be moving on in light of his open frustration at the pricing of his shows. During his tenure there, The Rio raised prices from their original sub $40 to the near $100 of now.

As a tip-of-the-hat to locals who were priced out of his show, Gans did a basically free concert last New Year’s Eve downtown at Fremont Street (it was included with the other festivities and bands in the $10 ticket price). Gans is purported to be moving on to The Mirage, where Mirage boss and Gans’ fan Steve Wynn is to build him his own 1200 seat theatre and ink him to a multi-year deal (a la the Lance Burton arrangement at Monte Carlo).

This article originally appeared July 28, 1999 in the Access Vegas Insider Vibe

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

So You Want To Move To Las Vegas? Real Advice From Someone Who Did!

Few visit Las Vegas without having some thought of what it would be like to live in Las Vegas. Typical comment in the summer is “I wouldn’t be able to stand the heat”. Others are tempted by the inexpensive new housing and escaping the cold winters of many parts in the country.

For whatever reason, thousands move hear each month. In fact, the suburb of Henderson, NV (which includes the Green Valley area) is the nations fastest growing city with a population of 100,000 plus, and the resort / retirement city of Mesquite, NV (one hour north of Las Vegas) is the nation’s fastest growing city.

According to DMV records, the top 10 states (in order of how many new residents that come from each) that new NV residents come from are:

1. California
2. Arizona
3. Texas
4. Illinois
5. Florida
6. New York
7. Hawaii
8. Colorado
9. Washington
10. Ohio

We have a guest column this week from Las Vegas resident Eric Simandl about his experiences and advice for those considering that move to Las Vegas. Eric notes that “two years after writing it, I still feel it’s an accurate list of preparations to make for a successful move to North America’s Greatest City”.

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We’re a late-40s couple who sold everything and moved here from Upper Michigan in March 1996. Here’s what we’ve learned in those 13 months:

1. Good jobs are tough to get for any newcomer, even for experienced talented intelligent people like you and us. They say some 6,000 people move here each month. They don’t always mention that some 2,000-3,000 also LEAVE each month. Because Las Vegas is and always has been such a transient area, employers are very leery of newcomers. People move here, give it a couple months, and bail. Employers want stability. Best bet is to register with every temp agency you can find, take every temp assignment you get and try to parlay it into a permanent position. (And in some ways, “juice” still counts in LV: job-hunting would be much easier with a couple good local references.) Anyway, make sure you’ve got enough money put away to ride it out on temp jobs until you get a decent position. May take a while.

2. When you arrive here without a job, it’s not easy to get a decent place to live. Since you can’t demonstrate any source of income, landlords tend to ask for hefty deposits or several months’ rent in advance. Hey, it’s a transient area, and they’ve been burned. Make sure you’ve got enough money to get a decent place for your family to live, furnish, cover utilities, and eat for a few months while you’re getting established.

3. If you don’t have a local residence and phone, how can you get a job? Or, for that matter, a bank account, driver’s license, license plates, voter registration, school enrollment? You want to look like a fully documented local on your job applications. Become one; get all this stuff and more.

4. It’s your life, but I wouldn’t want to raise a kid in Las Vegas right now. The Las Vegas schools are overcrowded; some run year-round schedules. Which means that Yale and Princeton are not exactly flying out here begging for LV HS graduates, which is exactly what your kid will be. The school system needs to add a classroom a day to keep up with the growth, and they aren’t. Are you sure the city’s ambience is any good for youngsters anyway?

5. Traffic problems are overrated. The traffic is not much worse than what Chicago or Detroit or LA or even Green Bay sees. Old-time locals complain; but it’s really typical urban North American traffic. Auto registration and insurance might be higher than what you’re used to back home. There’s a smog certificate. Gas is probably comparable. Repairs seem to cost more, but that’s subjective. Probably costs more to maintain a car here, but that’s offset by free or valet parking most everywhere. You’ve got 30 days after arrival to insure your car, pass smog, get a NV driver’s license, and buy plates. The cops are cracking down on non-registers, because it’s easier to deal with them with than to go solve that Tupac Shakur thing.
Despite all this, you’ll move here anyway.

We did. And we’re glad we did.

We (our grown daughter lives out East) did exactly what you’re doing. Sold everything (except the house in Negaunee which still hasn’t drawn an offer–and, oh by the way, sir, CAN you handle a year or more of making two house payments every month? It’s a crunch!), loaded the Ryder truck and split for Vegas.

[Well OK, we HAD flown out for three days a week earlier (on a cheap Fitzgerald’s gambling package), didn’t gamble (well, not too much), rented a car, leased an apartment, ordered the utilities, registered at several temp job agencies (with our newly-acquired LV address and phone number); flew back, sold or gave away everything that wasn’t going to go west in the Ryder.]

It’s been great. We’ve loved living here from the outset; but it’s taken the whole year to get our income back up to an equivalent “back home” standard of living (and Upper Michigan standards are pretty damn low), and to begin to focus on career advancement. Fortunately, we had some decent cash reserves to fall back on, and frankly, a pretty strong marriage to handle the stress.

Because there WILL be stress when you do this sort of thing…

Once here, you will notice that there are a lot of people living here who are about one paycheck from being homeless and broke. Maybe they’re next 2,000 to leave. This town sure does sort them out.

If you can handle the initial sacrifice, work hard, and are semi-lucky, you’ll be glad in the long run that you made the move.

We call Las Vegas the Warm Silly Place: it is GREAT to live here once you get established. It may be the quintessential North American city for the 2000s: vibrant, growing, shallow, flashy, and never taking itself too seriously.

But…if you did happen to have a few thousand acre-feet of water, could you bring them along when you come? You’ll make a few bucks.

This is really long and preachy. Maybe I should write one of those How To Move To Las Vegas books.

Maybe I just did.

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Eric Simandl can be reached at [email protected] and we thank him for this contribution.