By E.C. Gladstone
While Las Vegas has always been known as an “anything goes” town, it doesn’t always get top billing as a destination for LGBT travelers. And that’s an oversight, especially since the passing of Nevada’s Domestic Partnership Act. Vegas is actually a very gay-friendly town if you know where to look; but since I’m not in that category myself, I consulted with my friend and colleague Steve Friess, author of the Gay Vegas travel guide. Here’s Gay Las Vegas at a glance:
ACCOMMODATIONS & WEDDINGS
While none of the major Las Vegas Hotels are unfriendly to the Gay community, some are friendlier than others. Wynn Encore and Paris Las Vegas in particular have regular promotion packages aimed towards same-sex couples, Luxor and Mandalay Bay both hosted Gay pool parties over the summer, so are certainly friendly. Other good choices include the Venetian/Palazzo with three Broadway shows under one roof (Jersey Boys, Phantom and Blue Man Group), Planet Hollywood, adjacent to the Krave club, as well as the Bellagio, Flamingo, Caesars Palace, the Palms, Hard Rock Hotel and the Mirage.
And then there’s the intimate Blue Moon Resort, the only dedicated Gay hotel—and certainly the only one with a clothing optional pool!
For Domestic Partnership ceremonies, see my Best Wedding Chapels blog for some places that may host, though the best, says Steve, is the gay-owned Viva Las Vegas chapel. You can even attend the free Vegas LGBT Wedding Expo this Nov, 15 at JW Marriott.
CLUBS & BARS
Virtually every night of the week there is at least one gay event on the Strip: Closet Sundays at the psychedelic Revolution Lounge (Mirage); Tuesdays, it’s Elevated at Foundation Room (Mandalay Bay), House of Blues’ exotic lounge with a stellar Strip view; Wednesdays, Mirage’s Rhumbar hosts Captiv8. The Strip’s longstanding gay venue Krave hosts club nights Tuesday through Friday, with Candybar Saturdays for gay women.
Steve likes the Qvegas magazine-sponsored Tuesday evening mixers at various restaurant lounges on the Strip. For more information on that, check Sincitysocials.com
Off-Strip bars that are well-established include those in what’s known as the “Fruit Loop” (hey, they call it that themselves) around Paradise Road and Naples Drive, including FreeZone, Gipsy, 8 1/2 and Piranha. Also popular are Charlie’s, Escape Fun Hog Ranch, Flex, Goodtimes and the Las Vegas Eagle.
ENTERTAINMENT & ATTRACTIONS
While LGBT travelers are likely to have as varied interests as anyone else (see last week’s Strip Stars A-Z blog for a rundown of recommendations), some of the more popular options with gay travelers include the Wynn’s fantasmic Le Reve, Cirque Du Soleil’s Mystere (TI) and darkly adult Zumanity (New York New York) as well as the Broadway shows mentioned above and The Lion King (Mandalay Bay). Of the exotic revues, director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell’s Broadway-caliber Peepshow (Planet Hollywood) is probably the most gay-friendly in more ways than one, though the Bob Mackie-costumed Jubilee (Bally’s) remains a must see, and Chippendales (Rio), says Steve, is known as the most gay-friendly male revue.
You probably know already about headliners Bette Midler, Cher (both at Caesars Palace) Barry Manilow (Hilton-through Dec. 30) and Donny & Marie (Flamingo). When it comes to magicians, Penn & Teller are not only the smartest, they’re also the strongest gay supporters, though magician Cashetta brings new meaning to “quick change artist” with Magic’s a Drag at the Harmon Theatre. And speaking of female impersonators, the queen of them all, Frank Marino’s new show, Divas Las Vegas, is at Imperial Palace.
Two off-Strip destinations deserve special mention: the Liberace Museum, not only a tribute to the campiest entertainer ever (as if that isn’t enough), but the cabaret here also showcases Broadway-caliber entertainers. In the other direction, literally and culturally, check out the Erotic Heritage Museum.
Steve points out that within one complex at the Commercial Center (953 E. Sahara), just off the Strip are three popular gay bars: Backdoor, Badlands and Spotlight; the Onyx Theater (now appearing: “Naked Boys Singing”); The Rack adult-goods shop; Hawks and Entourage spas; and the Gay and Lesbian Center of Nevada. If you’re hungry, it’s also the location of Lotus of Siam, considered one of the best Thai restaurants in the country.
Vegas loves to dress up and pretend so much that Halloween could be a national holiday here. Some of the many club events and shows: Nicky Hilton hosts and judges the costume contest at PURE (Caesars Palace); Veuve Clicquot’s Yelloween is hosted by Twilight’s Ashley Greene and Kellan Lutz at Tao (Venetian), with True Blood’s Sam Trammell and Rutina Wesley at Lavo (Palazzo); Nightmare on 54th Street returns to Studio 54 (MGM Grand); Krave hosts the 43rd annual Beaux Arts Ball; Wasted Space has a Dead Celebrity Costume Party (Hard Rock Hotel); At the Pearl at Palms, Rob Zombie performs on Oct. 30 and Slipknot on Oct. 31.
Fright night activities include the massive Frightdome at Circus Circus with five haunted houses, scare zones and freak shows featuring the nationally recognized Lizardman and others; a Haunted 4d FX theater/ride in addition to Adventuredome’s standard rides and attractions. Playing up the horror legacy of the iconic House of Wax, Madame Tussaud’s After Dark brings new afterlife to the attraction (Venetian); Texas Screams at Texas Station brings together the Asylum and Hotel Fear haunted houses; Downtown, Binion’s has a Haunted Casino while German magician Jan Rouven appears nightly at the Fremont Street Experience through Oct. 31 (and it’s free!); “Tricks & Treats” at Montelago village, Lake Las Vegas combines trick-or-treating with a haunted house and BMX demonstration (also free). Midnight on mischief night (Oct. 30) sees a Rocky Horror Picture Show screening and costume contest at the Regency Tropicana (3330 E. Tropicana); And even Lawry’s The Prime Rib (4043 Howard Hughes Pkwy) is doing a Top Chef-spoofing murder mystery dinner on Oct. 29.
Insider Tip: Madame, the outrageously caustic puppet of Wayland Flowers (R.I.P.) is appearing for one night only, Oct. 28 at Town Square’s Stage Door Theatre.
Veteran entertainment and travel writer E. C. Gladstone writes regularly for Las Vegas Magazine and the Las Vegas Weekly, also interviewing top Strip entertainers, restauranteurs, moguls and behind-the-scenes players for other local and national publications and websites. Like many Las Vegans, he sleeps only when absolutely necessary.
Steve Friess is author of the only gay travel guidebook to Vegas, “Gay Vegas,” ($10, http://www.shoplva.com/products/gay-vegas) and a blogger at VegasHappensHere.Com who Tweets at @TheStripPodcast.