The Great Las Vegas Flood Of 1999

Well, the entire Las Vegas Strip and downtown Fremont Street washed into the Gulf of Mexico. Your favorite slot machine? Gone. That friendly dealer or cute cocktail waitress? Washed away. Or so the national media practically had you believe. For the record, the heavy rains on July 8 lasted from about 11:00 AM to 4:30 PM and did cause problems for tourists. The Forum Shops and one pit area at Caesars had to be closed for 24 hours. The parking garage at Imperial Palace was closed until the rain stopped. The Strip itself had some high water, just high enough to run over the sidewalk and into Steve Wynn’s lake. A few shows were cancelled because suburban traffic snarls prevented people from getting in to work. Certainly an inconvenience for tourists who were unlucky enough to be in town, but they walked away with a story they can tell the grandkids.

The suburbs didn’t quite fare as well. 3 mobile home owners found out that they don’t float very well. 7 homes were destroyed. Somewhere around 100 homes and a couple hundred cars sustained flood damage. 2 people died: one in a weather-related car wreck just as the storm started and the other a homeless man who had been camping in the wash (our version of a creek) when the flash flood apparently washed him away. Because of mud on some streets and the general conditions from heavy rain, the evening commute wasn’t pretty and every Las Vegan out driving during the deluge has a story about how a 30 minute drive took 4 hours. But, just as quickly as it came, it was gone.

By 8:00 PM, people were playing tennis, driving around on errands (despite the occasional detour around a mud-filled road), and getting back to normal. As of this writing, it appears that FEMA probably won’t be offering much if any aid because while spectacular, the damage was not widespread. We feel deeply sorry for people affected by the loss of life and damage to property, but when you consider that this area has well over a million people (gee, you don’t all live on the Strip?), 99% of the population felt no residual effects and July 8, 1999 will just remembered as the day of the “big flood”. If you want to read the local coverage and see pictures, the Las Vegas Sun has photos online: Las Vegas Flood – July 8, 1999

This article originally appeared July 14, 1999 in the Access Vegas Insider Vibe

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

Stratosphere Las Vegas Fireworks July 4’th Las Vegas Fiasco

To those of you who took our advice last Sunday and went to the Stratosphere Las Vegas for the fireworks, we apologize. What a disaster, with a capital D. The Strat teamed with local radio station KOMP and Coors Beer to offer $1 beer all day as well as free admission to the tower. Then starting at 9:00 PM they had live music in the north parking lot until the fireworks at 11:00 PM. While this was the first 4’th of July fireworks on the Strip in recent memory, it was not the first display for the Stratosphere. Between the grand opening, anniversaries, and other occasions, they have done fireworks a number of times.

In the past, the fireworks have shot off from tower in a beautiful 360 degree cascade of fury and color. Not this time. The fireworks were shot off from behind the hotel, and shot so low that you couldn’t see half of them from the parking lot party viewing area! Neither were they visible from anywhere in front of the casino.

As much as we love promoting Las Vegas, do yourself a favor and don’t come here to see the fireworks on the Strip next year if it’s at the Stratosphere. Even if you saw a small-town display, you saw more than we did at the Stratosphere. I have heard great reports about the fireworks in the Summerlin area that were combined with a symphony concert featuring Robert Goulet, and next year we’ll give you as much advance warning as possible if a similar program is scheduled.

You would have had more fun gambling in Las Vegas instead!

This article originally appeared July 7, 1999 in the Access Vegas Insider Vibe

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas $100 Million Expansion Details

The Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas has completed their expansion, dramatically improving and upgrading the entire resort. They have added 320 new rooms and suites, the Rock Spa, Baby’s nightclub (a subterranean dance club that is a visual assault of purple, yellow, and metallic blue) and four new restaurants. They have also expanded and enhanced our world famous pool and Beach Club with a bar, grill and swim up casino.

Most notable are the addition of four new restaurants, including: NOBU, PINK TACO, AJ’S STEAKHOUSE and THE COUNTER. Along with the Hard Rock Hotel’s two original restaurants, MORTONI’S and MR. LUCKY’S, the hotel finally has the kind of variety offered by other major resorts. Here’s the rundown:

NOBU – Already open in New York and London, the opening of Nobu in Las Vegas represents one of the more interesting additions to Las Vegas’ ever-burgeoning culinary landscape. Nobu presents an unusual brand of Japanese cooking with Latin American influences. (Reader reviews are welcome — as noted, we aren’t much for Japanese cuisine).

PINK TACO – Combining Mexico and East L.A., this contemporary take on Mexican classics also features a Tequila Bar as well as an open-air taqueria adjacent to the exposed kitchen.

AJ’S STEAKHOUSE – Every casino has one. We prefer the Binion’s $3 steak special or Carver’s in Green Valley if you plan to break out the credit card.

This article originally appeared July 7, 1999 in the Access Vegas Insider Vibe

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

Review: Bay Side Buffet at Mandalay Bay Las Vegas

Can Mandalay Bay Group (formerly Circus Circus Inc.) do a good buffet? Circus Circus has been known for having some of the worst buffets in Las Vegas. Cheap feeding trough type operations (especially at Circus Circus and Excalibur) with piles of “all-you-can-eat” poor quality food.

Mandalay Bay Las Vegas is the company’s attempt to go upscale in all aspects, and for the most part, they have succeeded. The hotel is nice, and they are attracting the younger, affluent crowd they are after. They haven’t drained off all of the Hard Rock’s clientele, but they might have put a dent in it.

But the buffet …. nice try. They really did try. The quasi-oriental surroundings are soothing (unlike tradition loud colors favored for buffets to get you in and out quick), and the view of the pool area is spectacular. Service was very attentive. Even cloth napkins.

The food selection was upscale and diverse, with the regular lunch featuring all kinds of salads, fresh melons, gourmet pizza, pastas, oysters, crab legs, ribs, a wide variety of Mexican dishes, deli meats and smoked salmon and the like. The desert bar had a variety of rich, heavy deserts including rich chocolate cakes, pies, and cheesecake.

So what’s the problem? The food quality. It is painfully obvious that the entire company probably gets all of it’s food from the same supplier. This is the stuff that doesn’t make the grade at Mirage Resorts. The salad dressing is weak and watered down, the cheesecake tastes like that stuff you buy frozen at the supermarket, you get the picture.

Normally, this wouldn’t be cause for heavy complaint. Buffets exist to provide a way for everyone in the group to stuff their face with all they can eat of whatever they want with no waiting. And that’s great if dinner or brunch runs $10. (In fact, if you really want a deal, dinner at the Sahara Buffet is only $5.99 with a great variety of mediocre food).

However, the Bay Side Buffet isn’t cheap. Breakfast runs $8.50, Lunch $9.50, and dinner $13.50. Sunday Brunch costs $14.50 all day. Kids always get a $2 discount on every meal. For these prices, get yourself up to Bally’s Las Vegas, or better yet, spend about $5 more and REALLY treat yourself at the Bellagio Las Vegas buffet. Bellagio has a similar menu of upscale, more exotic food but the quality of the food is night and day.

This article originally appeared Jne 30, 1999 in the Access Vegas Insider Vibe

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

Should I Bring My Kids Children To Las Vegas?

Bringing children (kids) to Las Vegas has long been an intense debate among both Las Vegas tourists and tourism professionals. In the early 90’s, casinos thought it would be a great idea to build theme parks and try to turn the town’s image from “sin city” to “family-friendly” for the kids in Las Vegas. Then they realized that they GOOFED. Mirage Las Vegas Resorts started instituting “no stroller” policies, and hotels like the Riviera and Tropicana started advertising slogans like “Rollers, Not Strollers”. The word got around that catering to families is stupid because they use the cheap rooms, eat the cheap food, and are too busy with the kids to gamble.

While we aren’t concerned about the casino’s bottom line (our income is derived from booking rooms and rental cars), every trip to the Las Vegas Strip or downtown — made often in this line of work — we see tortured-looking parents with the mommy pushing the stroller and the daddy dragging along the 5 year old, neither of whom should have been subjected to miles of walking through this adult playground.

I’ve seen happier faces on gamblers who just lost 5 straight $100 hands at blackjack than on these parents faces, who undoubtedly have to be envious of all child-free tourist couples whom look like they are having the romantic vacation of a lifetime. And these kids that young won’t remember their first visit to Las Vegas.

If your children are old enough that you feel comfortable letting them run around an amusement park, checking in every few hours, then they will find plenty to do here. Just give them the cell phone, you keep that SkyTell pager, and have a great time. And if they are old enough to perhaps remember a supervised vacation and you can resist the temptation of parking them in the hallway or stuffing in the room while you take just one more pull or play just one more hand (let’s face it, winning seems to always happen when you don’t have the time to keep playing), then you might do fine.

But you will be happiest leaving them with the grandparents for the weekend and really enjoying your stay without your kids in Las Vegas!

This article originally appeared June 24, 1999 in the Access Vegas Insider Vibe

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

Ride The Free Las Vegas Tram Between Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur

FREE LAS VEGAS MANDALAY BAY TRAM – The free Las Vegas Mandalay Bay trams connecting the 3 Mandalay Resort Group properties (Mandalay Bay, Luxor, and Excalibur) run a very interesting configuration worth noting before you hop on board. Running side-by-side, the east tram runs one-way from from the corner of Tropicana and L.V. Blvd. (the Strip) to Mandalay Bay. This tram makes no stop at Luxor and a return trip from Mandalay to the street intersection is not offered at this time (it runs empty).

The westbound tram stops at Mandalay Bay, Luxor, and Excalibur, but does NOT serve the intersection. In addition, the tram only makes the Luxor stop northbound, which means that a ride from Excalibur to Luxor necessitates riding all the way to Mandalay and staying aboard for the ride back to Luxor.

This crazy scheme was carefully crafted to feed people from the street down to Mandalay Bay and designed to encourage you to use the walkway from Excalibur to Luxor through the (surprise) new shopping areas.

On another Mandalay Bay note, the Las Vegas wave pool is functioning properly now. It is available only to hotel guests at this time, but there is word of pending construction of a second wave pool that will be available to the general public.

This article originally appeared June 24, 1999 in the Access Vegas Insider Vibe

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

Review: Activities for Kids (And Adults) At Luxor Las Vegas

FEATURE STORY – Attractions of the Luxor Las Vegas Hotel

The Attraction Level (second floor) of the Luxor Hotel contains a
number of interesting diversions both for those under 21 and adults
who need a break from the tables and slots. I made the mistake of
going down and thinking I could do ALL of them in an abbreviated
afternoon and opted for the all-inclusive $22.95 ticket. Don’t try
this at home, folks! While the $22.95 is a good deal, doing these
adventures back to back is time-consuming and taxing. Either plan to
do everything over the course of two days or just pick a couple of
things to enjoy.

IMAX THEATRE – If you have never experienced IMAX 3D (as I had not),
you are in for a treat. Sitting with a close-up, unencumbered view of
a screen about the size of a drive-in movie theatre screen, you don
special glasses that actually have speakers built into them to
argument the surround sound. This isn’t the old-time 3D experience
with the funky glasses that make everything fuzzy. This experience
brings the images SO close to your face that you try to reach out and
touch them.

I saw the T-Rex show, which mixed educational information about
dinosaurs and archeology with a "touching" story about an archeologist
and his teen daughter. We were taken back in time throughout the
show, viewing dinosaurs and other reptiles that were literally in our
face time and time again. In addition, the walks through the woods
and terrain of the old world forests were brought amazingly to life
through 3D. The other two shows currently playing are Mysteries of
Egypt and The Olympics. Each show lasts almost an hour and is well
worth the $8.95 admission. (That’s less than a roll of quarters or a
couple of red chips when you think of it in gambling terms). Also,
the 9:00 AM showing only runs $6.50

IN SEARCH OF THE OBELISK – This $6.00 motion simulator ride is just a
little short on bang-for-the-buck. You are led into a futuristic room
where you see a video of a "security alert" which sets up the
adventure. Then to a waiting room where another 5 minute video further
preps you for the ride. This state-of-the-art motion simulator with
wrap-around screen does engulf you in the experience, which includes a
hair-raising ride through the Obelisk, trying to escape from the "evil
forces". At around 5 minutes, the ride was a little short, although
having just had lunch, I was happy to see it end. One of the better
standard motion simulator rides in town, even if a bit short and
pricey, but go on an empty stomach.

KING TUT’S MUSEUM – A $5.00 rip-off unless you are REALLY into this
sort of history, you take a guided tour of replicas from King Tut’s
tomb. Seemingly historically accurate, this tour takes about 20
minutes because of the narration you receive from the provided
headset. Otherwise, it would take 5. Interesting, but something that
should cost $2 tops.

WORLD’S GREATEST PHARAOH’S – This 20 minute movie, shown in the same
theatre as "Lasting Impressions" starring Bill Acosta, provides a
history of the Egyptian period of pharaohs that the theme of the Luxor
is based around. Interestingly historical, it’s a nice reprieve from
the bells and whistles of the casino. Not something to take the kids
too, but at $4.00 not a bad change of pace for an adult.

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

How To Die In Las Vegas – Do Not Jaywalk!

BEFORE YOU JAYWALK – a recent published report (City Life Magazine) of
the 15 most crash-ridden intersections in Las Vegas revealed the top 3
are on Las Vegas Blvd. (The Strip):

1. L.V. Blvd./Tropicana
2. L.V. Blvd./Flamingo
3. L.V. Blvd./Sahara

We mention this because a trip to the Strip (for locals) isn’t complete without
almost mowing down a pedestrian who was rushing against the light (or
outside of a crosswalk) to get to that casino across the street before
it closes. That or the bar runs out of beer. Or maybe before the
casino cage runs out of change. Before you send the hate mail,
we are NOT trying to hit you (except for maybe the taxi drivers).
But we dread the day it might happen.

On a serious note, pedestrians are hurt and killed by autos on the
Strip far more often than you’d like to know. Folks, this isn’t
Disneyland and the person behind that wheel may also unfortunately be
just as drunk as you are. Las Vegas is going to be here for a long
time. That casino you are rushing to isn’t closing. Do yourself a
favor: obey the signals, watch for traffic, and you’ll be around to
enjoy Las Vegas for many years to come.

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas