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Gay Vegas

Gay Vegas


With a new slate of casino-free hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants, and amped-up shows, Las Vegas is once again beckoning the world to its (reinvented) party, and this time it's inviting the gays. Take a look at what's new in Sin City.

Where to Stay Much to the gay visitor's advantage, the hotel one-upmanship along the Strip continues as properties try to out-wow one another with luxed-out rooms, over-the-top shows, and splurge-worthy restaurants. Perhaps no resort is reaching out to gays more than Paris (3655 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 877-796-2096,; rooms from $119), which is owned by Harrah's Entertainment, the first casino operator to receive a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. The company's gay hospitality includes health benefits for same-sex partners of employees and active support of prominent LGBT organizations like the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

Hovering over the sunny 24-acre grounds is a replica of the Arc de Triomphe and a half-scale Eiffel Tower, getting visitors of all orientations in the mood for romance. The French theme is continued inside, where armoires replace closets in rooms and guests can choose from 11 French-inspired restaurants -- including Mon Ami Gabi (, one of the few spots on the Strip where guests can brunch on a sunny terrace and watch the Bellagio's dancing fountains across the street. Mandalay Bay (3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 877-632-7800,; rooms from $99) is so popular with the gays it's nicknamed Mandalay Gay, but be sure to also check out its adjacent property THEhotel, housed in a separate casino-less 43-story hotel wing with 1,000-plus tastefully designed modern suites that whisk you a world away from the clang and smoke of the casinos but keep you within easy reach of the action.

In the same vein, MGM Grand's three new casino-less Signature towers (145 E. Harmon Ave., 877-612-2121,; rooms from $249) feature comfortable and stylish suites with modern kitchens, complimentary valet, free wireless, and flawless concierge service, making it one of the best values in Las Vegas and a welcome oasis from the harried pace of many other hotels. It's located within walking distance of MGM Grand's lobby, the gay nightclub Krave, and a handful of other nightlife destinations.

Not to be outdone by rivals, The Flamingo (3555 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 888-902-9929,; rooms from $95) has not only booked Toni Braxton as a headliner but created the bright and mod Go Rooms, with iPod docking stations, in-mirror TVs, and remote drapes.

On the gayer side, the clean but drab-looking roadside property Blue Moon (2651 Westwood Dr., 866-798-9194,; rooms from $149) is the only all-gay men's resort in Las Vegas, which is what keeps the property's occupancy rate high. Its 45 rooms and suites are clustered around a clothing-optional lagoon, grotto, and steam room.

Smaller but just as gay, the Lucky You Bed & Breakfast (1248 S. Eighth St., 702-384-1129; rooms from $59) -- located in the private home of Ole Borresen, a friendly Dane who was once Liberace's executive chef--has a pool, hot tub, indoor sauna, and fireplaces.

What to Eat According to a 2006 survey conducted by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, dining has surpassed gambling in Las Vegas as its number 1 tourist draw, a trend no one could have predicted a decade ago. In a surprise turn, the new Michelin Guide Las Vegas, released in November 2007, logged more stars than the Michelin Guide Los Angeles, so you'd be remiss not to splurge on at least one meal in Las Vegas. MGM's Joel Robuchon (702-891-7777, leads the way with three stars--and a plush purple-and-lavender art deco interior by Pierre-Yves Rochon. The ambience transports diners to a dreamy 1940s penthouse, an idyllic setting for finely wrought cuisine you can't get just anywhere: smoked eel and celeriac sushi wrapped with large, pungent black truffle shavings; wild-oat veloute with roasted almonds and chorizo; and ornate bread and pastry trolleys.

Not to be outdone, Wynn's esteemed Alex and Daniel Boulud restaurants (702-770-9966, each scored Michelin stars and are honorable splurge contenders.

Overlooked NobHill (702-891-7777,, from Bay Area chef Michael Mina, and the newly opened burlesque CatHouse (702-262-4591,, run by chef Kerry Simon, are also candidates for maxing out the credit card.

Though the city does both high and low cuisine well, mid-level dining options are noticeably lacking. Burger Bar (702-632-7777, and Tom Colicchio's 'wichcraft (702-891-7777, are two great on-the-go spots. For foodies who've exhausted the options along the Strip, there's an entire Chinatown worth exploring, not to mention the Thai food at Lotus of Siam (953 E. Sahara Ave., 702-735-3033), which was dubbed the "single best Thai restaurant in North America" by Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold. The authentic Mexican fare at Lindo Michoacan (2655 E. Desert Inn Rd., 702-735-6828) receives high praise too.

Brunch is a true measure of success in Las Vegas. There are fancy brunches with savory waffles, smoked salmon, and aromatic French-pressed coffee at places like Thomas Keller's Bouchon (702-414-6200, There are campy lowbrow hangover-cure brunches with crispy heaps of fries, greasy burgers, and big crunchy salads at 1970s neon-festooned diners like Peppermill (2985 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-735-4177,

And there are venerable old-school brunch buffets with free-flowing Perrier Jouet, briny chilled oysters on the half shell, salty caviar, roasted Maine lobster, and a laundry list of imported luxury victuals whose allure is reflected in the mooning faces of diners visiting the chef-staffed carving stations for seconds and thirds. At $75 per person, Bally's Sterling Brunch (702-967-4930, is just that sort of spread.

What to See Seeing a show in Vegas is another must. Though the new generation of shows like Wynn's Le Reve and Bellagio's O dazzle audiences with death-defying aquabatics, the old guard of shows is not to be missed. If Showgirls starlets Nomi Malone and Cristal Connors were in a real show, it would be Jubilee! at Bally's. The elaborate production has over 1,000 extravagant costumes, primarily designed by Bob Mackie, and opens with 40 perfectly coiffed men singing about their love of girls. The 45 "girls" they're singing about are topless, of course, and the cast proceeds to act out scenes from a sinking Titanic and the story of Samson and Delilah. Going strong more than 25 years, the show still delivers pure entertainment.

Cirque du Soleil's theatrical epics Ka, Mystere, and Zumanity are of queer interest, as is the aforementioned Le Reve, created by former Cirque creative director Franco Dragone. The Phantom of the Opera has been scaled down to 95 tightly choreographed minutes, renamed Phantom, and directed in lavish Vegas style in a theater in the Venetian custom-designed by Andre Lloyd Webber himself, with multiple chandeliers.

Male revue shows like Rio's Chippendales (v), the Stratosphere's American Storm, and Excalibur's Thunder From Down Under were produced for women and are generally filled with bachelorette party crowds, but they officially welcome gay men -- who "add a little excitement to the show," according to Alex Schechter, director of operations for the latter two.

A much anticipated boy burlesque show called Ivan Kane's Stormy Monday will be coming to Forty Deuce at Mandalay Bay (3930 Las Vegas Boulevard South, 702-632-9442) on Monday nights. For smaller treats, Little Legends at the popular gay nightclub Krave (3663 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-836-0830, is a must-see, featuring "little-people" impersonations of pop stars such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, and Cher. The show manages to be entertaining without being exploitative -- a feat Las Vegas often pulls off with acumen.

If you just can't get enough glitz and entertainment, make a pilgrimage to the King of Bling's shrine, the Liberace Museum (1775 E. Tropicana Ave., 702-798-5595,, where Wes Winters's spirited costumed tribute matinee thrills visitors of all ages. Browse around the oddball exhibit afterward for a surprisingly candid and emotional look at the iconic musician's strange but endearing life.

Where to Party The bars never close in Las Vegas and nightlife can go on all night long, so the Vegas Passport: Gay Travel Edition ( comes in especially handy. It may sound like a lame PR scam, but it's a great money-saving packet with a ton of free drink tickets, comped club admission passes, line-cutting passes, and other valuable coupons, many of which can be redeemed at clubs in the "Fruit Loop," an area with a high concentration of gay bars.

Freezone (610 E. Naples Dr., 702-794-2300), Buffalo (4640 Paradise Rd., 702-733-8355), and Backdoor Lounge (1415 E. Charleston Blvd., 702-385-2018) are friendly bars that are ideal for early-evening starter drinks.

Gipsy Nightclub (4605 Paradise Rd., 702-731-1919) together with Piranha Nightclub and the 8 1/2 Ultra Lounge (4633 Paradise Rd., 702-379-9500) make up a triple dance and drinks complex that peaks later in the evening.

Backstreet Saloon (5012 S. Arville Rd., 702-876-1844) and Badlands Saloon (953 E. Sahara Ave., 702-792-9262) are queer cowboy-themed bars worth poking around in. If you meet the right man, you might even want to visit the Gay Chapel of Las Vegas (1205 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 800-574-4450,, the city's only gay-owned and -operated wedding chapel, where you can swap vows in bell-bottoms at a disco ceremony or arrange a memorable $1,000 wedding (with limo, photographer, and champagne) at Red Rock Canyon. A honeymoon getaway at Caesars Palace's Qua Baths and Spa (, 866-782-0655) is an ideal way to cap off the romance.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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