Walking the Las Vegas Strip Super Bowl Weekend


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On any other Super Bowl weekend, the Las Vegas Strip would be packed with tourists and rabid sports fans. Normally we would have upwards of 300,000 tourists in town. But as we all know, this was not your normal Super Bowl weekend in Las Vegas.

Most businesses are capped at 25% occupancy. Even with the capacity cap, the Las Vegas Strip was a lot busier than it has been the last few months. And that was a really nice thing to experience!

So today was the perfect time for me to get out and shoot a little teaser video of what it’s like walking the Strip. And maybe put out a little plug for my walking tours.

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Walking The Vegas Strip

Walking the Strip is always fun. I like to say that people-watching is a sport here in Las Vegas. and so when you walk the Strip for the enjoyment of the walk, you really see it all! The people dressed in every kind of style imaginable. Doing things they would never get to do back home. The excitement, the strange, the unusual. You also see a lot of the history and experience the development of how Las Vegas became the city of entertainment.

Walking the Strip is fun and entertaining. That is true. But there is a lot here that most people never get to see. Even if they walk right by it. And that’s where a walking tour comes in. You get to see it and hear the story behind it. How it came to be what it is. As your knowledgeable and entertaining guide, I fill in the blanks! I answer your questions! And I have had some really strange questions!

My Love for Doing Vegas Tours

When I moved here in 2001, my first gig was as a chauffeur on the Strip. In 2001, Vegas was still booming, still hoping and a lot of things were going on in all areas of town. Driving the limousines, I got a front-row seat to a lot of the action. Either driving the people who were making it happen or watching as it was happening!

That all fed into my love of Modern American History. I found that this little town in the middle of the desert packed a lot of history into its short lifespan. Being founded in 1905, it is one of the few desert towns that refuse to die. And every time you think it’s down or dead, it springs back up in a new form with new opportunities.

When I was burned out from driving the Las Vegas Strip and seeing everything I saw (don’t ask!)and I wanted my sanity back, I switched over to being a tour guide. At first, it was just a job that paid the bills.

But once I sank my teeth into trying to answer the biggest question anyone had on a tour, I was hooked. That question was asked in several different forms, but it always came down to basically this: “Why is (whatever) here?”, In trying to answer that, I found my passion and my calling.

I’m not talking just about Las Vegas. The surrounding area is filled with some amazing history. From the small towns and ghost towns to the abandoned mines, the backroads, the National and State Parks. This little corner of America is alive and kicking with a lot of stories to tell and places people need to see. And I love showing people all that there is out here to see and experience.

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Tours and Touring

So as we now start the climb back to whatever the “New Normal” will be, traveling and touring is changing. Thanks to technology, you can see things like never before. You can take a tour without having to be on the big bus with 50 other strangers. You can even take a tour without leaving home.

Walking Tours

These are fun. Usually two to three hours long. I know, sounds like a long time., but it isn’t. You will think it was too short at the end. Most of my walking tours are on the strip or Downtown. But I’ve done walking tours at Hoover Dam, Death Valley, or even the Grand Canyon and gave my guests a walking tour they will never forget!

It’s private, personal, and an up-close look at things you may have always taken for granted to things you never knew existed. They are fun and tailored to your interest. I have done walking tours of the Strip to show off movie locations, Mob-related events, art and science tours. Yes, there is science on the Strip! I work it around your desires.

Virtual Tours

This is a new area for me. I like to talk with my hands, so getting used to holding a camera is a little strange, but I am adapting!! Being this personal, intimate even (?) has a fun vibe to it. You get a shorter tour, but still informational and educational. Tailored to your desires of course.

Doing a virtual tour is a smart and affordable way to see someplace without having to travel there. You get to experience it before making a commitment to travel there.

Some people who have never been to Las Vegas (shocking, I know) want to see what’s here to experience before making the big commitment to traveling here. I know at least one of my last 10 virtual tours, was like this and they book their first trip to Las Vegas right after our tour!

Another Virtual tour I did last week, all the guests wanted was their “Vegas Fix” so I turned the camera to the strip as we walked and we talked about almost everything from sports to grandkids to how much snow will fall in Minnesota this year. They just wanted to sit back in the living room and “see Vegas Live!”

Private Tours

Imagine, you, family, friends, and a Professional Guide!
Where do you want to go? What do you want to see? By the day, the week? I am pretty knowledgeable on most things Southwest Desert. I love the National Parks, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Bryce, Zion, etc… Hollywood? No problem, old movie buff and love to see the ocean! Let’s talk…

Let’s Do This. Book It Danno!

Walking tours of the Las Vegas Strip are two to three hours long and are $35 per person. The time depends on how much fun we are having and how much of the Strip you really want to see! Also available for Downtown/Fremont Street Experience!

The Virtual walking tours are 75 to 90 minutes long and are $49. Same price for the Fremont Street Experience.
Hit the contact button if interested.

For this clip, I walk through the Shops at the Venetian and out to the Strip. Past the Mirage, Caesars, the Linq Promenade, and down to the Bellagio, plus a dip into the Wynn. I know, it’s not inthe proper order, but the video works!

Resorts World Taking Shape (Updated)

The spot that was once home to the legendary Stardust Resort has a new owner and new resort.  The Stardust resort and its history were imploded in 2006.   For almost the next 10 years, it sat vacant, except for some remnants of the failed Echelon project built after the Stardust implosion.  Then news came in 2013, that the site had new owners.  The Gentine Group from Malaysia purchased the site, skeleton structures and all.  The best part was that they actually had the experience and the funds to do what they wanted to do with the property.

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Their original plans were to build an Asian-themed Resort on the site.  Complete with a live panda bear exhibit and an exotic flower garden.  They told us that it would be opened by the end of the year 2016.

Yea, as we know, the world economy had other ideas.  Come to find out, the Genting Group also had other plans for their Resorts World Las Vegas project. Not that anyone was in a hurry to complete the project. So for the next five years, there was work on the site, then there wasn’t, it changed weekly.  Then this changed and then that changed.

Resorts World Las Vegas Hilton Brand

Resorts World Resorts with a video screen on the tower

 

Now, in late 2020, it looks like it will be all thumbs up for a summer 2021 Grand Opening. Minus the Asian theme and minus the panda bear exhibit. Looking at it today, we see nothing that resembles the original drawings. In fact, the current design resembles a wannabe Wynn or Encore resort.  And that new look did not go unnoticed by their neighbor, Steve Wynn, and that caused a little legal issue since the designs of the Wynn and the Encore are trademarked. Steve Wynn and company went to court and settled out of court in 2019.

The $4 billion, 3,500 room 57 story resort hotel will become the new standard that any future resort will be measured by and what the older ones will have to aspire to.  This is like when the Mirage opened in 1989. It changed everything about the Las Vegas experience.  The Mirage set the new standard for Las Vegas resorts. Now Resorts World will set the standard.

What makes it so unique?  The use of technology.  Resorts World will be an ultra-high-tech Hilton Branded resort.  Actually, it will be three Hilton brands, each with its very own entrance!

Three Hiltons in One Property

Resorts World las Vegas Hilton brand

Resorts World Las Vegas and the three Hilton brands

Hilton Resorts Tower

The main tower, the one on the left, the one that will have a video screen on the front of it, will be the Hilton Resort. At 1774 rooms it will be the largest of the three brands.

This will be the first time in several decades that the Las Vegas Strip had an actual Hilton Resort on it.

The last time we saw the Hilton brand on an actual Las Vegas Strip resort was with the Flamingo Hilton from 1972 to 2000. It’s still the flamingo, just not a “Hilton” Flamingo.  The first Hilton brand was actually behind the Strip.  Kirk Kerkorian built the International Hotel in 1969. This is where Elvis Presley played. He sold the property to the Hilton corporation in 1970 and it was renamed the Las Vegas Hilton. It stayed as a Hilton branded resort until 2012. Now it’s known as the Westgate.

The Tropicana Resort is advertised as a “Hilton” resort. That’s kind of splitting hairs here.  In the new world of Las Vegas Real Estate, it’s the land that was sold to Hilton in April and it is a “DoubleTree by Hilton” property. The resort is still managed by its previous owner,  Penn National Gaming.

  • The currently projected room rates for the new Hilton resort is under $200 a night.

The Conrad

This brand will occupy the majority of the second tower. The one on the right.  1496 rooms.

This is an example of what marketing people like to call a “lifestyle” brand.  It’s more about the experience and the service.  As for service and prestige, it’s in the middle of the three. They focus on the services, the atmosphere.  What they like to say “The “Escape”.  Named for the founder of the Hilton brand, Conrad Hilton.

  • The currently projected room rates for the new Conrad resort is $300 to $400 a night.

XLR by Hilton 

The top of the second tower, the one on the right, will be 230 rooms/suites for the new and exclusive Hilton brand called the XLR. Currently, there are only three other such resorts in the world (Habtoor Palace Dubai; The Biltmore, Mayfair; and Zemi Beach House, Anguilla).

  • The currently projected room rate for the new XLR resort is about $600 a night.

Having this Hilton brand and this level of clientele next to the Wynn and the Encore, famous for catering to the big spenders, we may see some interesting changes (upgrades?) to the Wynn franchise. Too bad Steve Wynn is no longer in charge there.  It would have made for some interesting competition with marketing, interviews, and social media posts. Steve Wynn knew how to get free PR when someone tried to muscle in on his territory!

Resorts World Offerings

Resorts World Las Vegas

The Delay Was a Good Deal

In a twist of irony, all the delays that occurred in bringing this project to development have actually helped the resort in some very unique ways.

As they started to close in the project and get the glass on the building, they would start to lay the cables and the electricals.  Yes, it would normally have planned for some onsite internet access and interactive video screens. Maybe even the keyless doors and in-room Alexa inspired connectivity.  But as they were shaping everything up, the world changed. For the better for Resorts World.

In the last six months, people were getting locked-down due to the virus and having to get used to using technology in places where people used to serve us.  Resorts World was able to take advantage of this sea of technology change and was able to build it into the infrastructure of the resort. What they have built-in today, will be the new features guests will soon be expecting from the other resorts who will have to quickly build it into their current structures as part of a remodel.

Technology All The Way

As I got to see at a special meeting held for people in the Las Vegas tourism community, last month. A representative from Resorts World gave us a sneak peek into the way you will interact with the new resort. Yes, I said that you will interact with the resort itself.  Not so much the people at the resort as in the resort itself. Make sense?

Let me explain.  It starts with reserving your room online.  I really do mean reserving YOUR room. From their website, from what I gathered at the presentation, you will be able to check to see what the view is from your room before choosing it. Want a better view? Check the view of the rooms on a higher floor or maybe on a different part of the current floor you are looking at. Want something with more of a scenic view?  Check out the views from the rooms on the backside of the tower.  You choose the room you want then you book it.

Once the plane touches down and you are heading to baggage claim, check-in online, let them know you are here and things start to happen behind the scenes.  Get your rental car, Get to the hotel, flash your QR code on your smartphone at the front kiosk, and head straight to your room. At the door, flash your smartphone again and the door opens up.  No waiting in line to check-in, no room keys, no card. Totally social distancing!

This goes for the meeting rooms as well. From a small cubicle for one with video/satellite connections to larger conference rooms with stages and satellite uplinks for worldwide visual learning or open discussions.

 

Resorts World Tom Donoghue

Resorts World Photo by Tom Donoghue & Maverick Helicopters

People Mover Location

In August, Resorts World Las Vegas was cleared to move ahead with plans to build an underground station for The Boring Company’s people mover, also called the Vegas Loop.  The supposed replacement for the failing monorail.  The Resorts World stop will first move guests from the Las Vegas Convention Center to the hotel.  Later, as it is projected, the project will expand the entire length of the Strip, including the new Stadium and downtown.

Entertainment and Food

As we get closer to the new year, new restaurants and entertainment venues are being announced for Resorts World. And they will take advantage of this built-in technology. From video screens in every possible location to artificial intelligence in letting you order and have almost anything delivered to almost any part of the resort. The property-wide wifi will allow you to check out seating and reservation availability at the restaurant of your choice. Check on the app to see if there is a wait and if so, how long?  Then place your order before arriving. Drinks, food, and appetizers will be ready when you arrive.  This means you can have it all done before leaving your room, the pool, or the blackjack table! ( or have it delivered right ot where you are on the property!)

The Video Wall

 

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For those of you who are curious about the video screen on the west tower, we were assured, that besides having all the new high-tech goodies inside the room, your view looking out will not be disturbed by the full-scale video screen on the outside of the tower. We were told this is made so it doesn’t block or interfere with your views of the Las Vegas Strip below.

Room For More

In a surprising change from what other resorts are doing, Resorts World is using only about 70% of the available property. Leaving plenty of open space for outdoor social and business activities.  About 50 acres of the property’s 80 acres are currently being developed. Yes, it’s not all concrete, asphalt, steel, and glass!

All in all, this looks to be an amazing resort and will really make the other resorts step up their technology game.  What are your thoughts?

 

Related Links

Other Interesting Links

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Is The Tropicana For Sale?

So what is the real scoop on the “Sale” of one of the most iconic and historic resorts on the Las Vegas Strip? Is it for sale? The Short Answer? Yes and No.

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The Tropicana first opened in 1957 and for most of its life was owned by if not operated by the mob.  It wasn’t until 1979 when it was sold to the hotel chain Ramada Inn, that it finally became a “legit” resort.

Tropicana resort las vegas

The Tropicana Resort Las Vegas Postcard. Early 1960’s (?)

 

The Tropicana was always a low-rise, bungalow-style hotel resort. Then in 1986, they added the 21-story Island Tower. Ramada wanted to be a “legitimate family friendly” hotel operator, so in 1989, they spun off all of its gaming properties, including the Tropicana. The name of the new company was The Aztar Corporation.

For the next twenty years or so, the resort changed hands multiple times. You needed a scorecard to keep up with the change of ownership.  As Las Vegas started to really bloom and flashier resorts started to come online, the Tropicana was just holding its own. Keeping it fresh looking with a new coat of paint and occasionally changing the towels.  The various owners were all out-of-town operators who just liked to cash the checks.   Why change anything if the bank account is full?  It was making money, who wasn’t back then?  But any profits seemed to find their way back to the new owners, nothing for the resort itself.

In 2008, everyone was over-extended on credit.  The Tropicana owner at the time was Columbia Sussex Gaming, they filed for bankruptcy. They had used the Tropicana as collateral for a $440 million secured loan that was bought by its creditors in 2009.  This buyout was led by Canadian private equity firm Onex Corporation and former MGM Mirage CEO Alex Yemenidjian, who took over as CEO.

Moving Forward.

In August 2015, Penn National Gaming purchased the Tropicana for $360 million.

April 2020 Penn National sold the property to its spin-off real estate holding company called Gaming and Leisure Properties for $307 mill in rent credits. So the Tropicana resort property is now owned by Gaming and Leisure Properties who are leasing the property to Penn National Gaming who run it as The Tropicana Resort. Got all that?

Penn National has two years of rent credits as well as the option of three one-year extensions.  They have the same deal with its sister property, The M Resort at the south end of the Las Vegas Boulevard.

 

Resort Property Leasing?

The idea of the resort leasing the building from a real estate trust is nothing new for most of the resort and travel industry.  Most hotels do not own the land or buildings but lease them from a development company.  That Holiday Inn Express down the street from you? It can quickly become a Comfort Inn or a Motel Six without much more than a different lease agreement and some new signs.

In Las Vegas, this is kind of a revolutionary idea. Up until about five years ago, the resorts owned and operated it all. The buildings, the land, and the resort were all one company.  Then the CEO’s and Board of Directors, in a hot streak of profitability and multi-million dollar bonuses came up with the idea to do the same thing here. Create a Real Estate Trust (RET) and let the big shots get the first option to “buy-in” to the RET.. Then the resort company leases the property from the trust. The resort now has to pay rent each month.

This new arrangement has helped fend off a few hostile takeovers and other issues they thought they were having over who had control of the Las Vegas Strip.

This new way of operating works now because gaming is no longer the breadwinner of the resorts.  In what many people call “the good old days” of Las Vegas, it was the casino profits that paid for much of the resort’s upkeep and guest perks.  That’s what kept the dinner buffets cheap and the drinks and lounge acts free.  But now gaming is only about 30% of the income for your typical Las Vegas resort.  The other areas of the resort are now required to pay their share of the expenses.

Tropicana Las Vegas open land

The Tropicana Benefits

The trust owning the land the Tropicana sits on has recently let the world know they are looking at offers for the property. With the potential new boom coming to the south end of the Las Vegas Strip, this corner could be a great deal given the right circumstances.

The Tropicana is a very historic resort.  The name carries some great history as well as some possible baggage.  It was here that you can say the real takedown of the Las Vegas Mob really began. When in 1979, the Kansas City Mobster Carl “Tuffy” DeLuna, had his home raided by the FBI, they found copious notes on who got what from each of the skims at the Tropicana.  Yes, that scene in the movie Casino took its cue from the real event.  Although in real life, he lived and was entenced to 30 years in prison, DeLuna was released in 1998 and died 10 years later.

It sits on one of the busiest corners in America, if not the world. Hundreds of thousands of cars (and people) from all over, (normally) pass that corner every week. Across the street sits one of the largest hotels in the world, the MGM Grand.

Why The Interest in Selling?

The Tropicana Resort property has one thing few if any other resorts on the Las Vegas Strips have: OPEN LAND! Lots of it! If, say, the Hard Rock wanted to get back on the Strip fast, this would be a great place for them to open. No real downtime.  Take it over, change names, and keep the doors open.  As you operate the resort, use the open land to start rebuilding as well as expand.No time lost.

Personally, I would hate to lose the Tropicana name from the Strip. It has a legacy there that could be tapped for some great marketing for the right owner.

 

The Answer to the Question

Recently, the real estate trust and the operators of the resort have made fresh comments regarding the potential of the sale of the resort.  With the possible opening of the new stadium a few blocks away, with the potential for the new businesses that are also in planning stages for the south part of the Strip, they were sending out signals out to evaluate the potential of any sales.  Not needing to actually find new owners right now, but to see what the interest was(?).

However, if such a deal had made them go to the next step, this was the idea.  The Tropicana property is for sale. The 31 acres and all structures on the land (Gaming and Leisure Properties) are what’s offered for sale.  The Tropicana Resort operator (Penn National Gaming) has to years’ worth of rent credits, plus potential extensions that would be passed on to the new owner of the land.  OR the new landowner could purchase the land and purchase the resort rent credits and take over the resort as well and start new.

Did That Make Sense??

 

Las Vegas in Pictures at Night from the Air

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The COVID 19 shutdown of Las Vegas has given people a once in a lifetime opportunity to see and experience The Las Vegas Strip without the traffic!! Social media has been eating up the photos and the videos of the people who have taken advantage of this chance of a lifetime.

Our photographer friend Tom Donoghue, was on assignment with Maverick Helicopters last week to capture their version of the experience. From the air and in photographs. He has allowed me to post some of the photos he shot and put them in a video. Enjoy the visuals in the video above!

The Strip is Bright and Empty

Las Vegas Strip at Night

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We all have seen the photos of the Las Vegas Strip and the bright lights and all the people.  thinking it was a pretty cool sight.  well now, we get to see the same thing from the air, minus the large crowds! Las Vegas is a different place when you see it like this in the raw, no people element.  It’s just all the unique architecture and the lights that make us famous.  You are almost hypnotized by the lack of people and the beauty of the bright lights.

Fremont Street Experience Unreal

Fremont Street Experience at night
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Looking from above, you really don’t notice the emptiness, just the bright lights from under the canopy. Giving that “unreal” look. As if this was a model at some travel show.  We do know that the count down to opening has begun.

The New Stadium Glows

Alligent stadium light sup
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If you are going to shoot the city lights, you now need to include our newest attraction to the skyline.  The Allegiant  Stadium.  The $2 billion home to the University of Nevada Rebels football and an NFL team formerly from California (yea, I know, the Raiders!)  I have to say, it is an impressive piece of architecture!  Even more impressive in the glow of the night lights.  The Allegiant Stadium is on schedule to open up later this year. Garth Brooks concert will be the first event held there. Followed by Las Vegas Raiders preseason game than a University Las Vegas Rebels football game.  They have a lot of events planned for the first couple of years besides football!

Related: Las Vegas Allegiant Stadium Update

 

 

Driving the Las Vegas Strip North to South

Today just seemed like a good day to do a reverse Las Vegas Strip video and show whats all happening on the west side of the las Vegas Strip

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From the North

When coming down las Vegas Boulevard, focusing on the western side, you get a different perspective. A lot of the old with a good chunk of the new and improved.

The Stratosphere used to be kind of “up there”. Just inside the city limits and just past some seedy older joints that left a lot to be desired.

But with recent investments and some new blood, most f the dilapidated motels along that road are either gone or in the middle of a rehab project to make them “boutique” hotels, apartments, and offices.

Once we pass the Sahara Avenue and into the township of Paradise, we start to see more of a revival than a rebuild.  The Sahara on the left has new owners and a switch back to the original name.  The lot to the right is the Las Vegas Festival Grounds. Part of the Circus Circus resort now.  It was home to the original EL Rancho Las Vegas.  The very first “resort” on the original LA Highway.  It burned to the ground in 1961 and never recovered. Nothing ever succeeded on that plot of land.

From there, we start to see the Hilton Grand Vacations on Las Vegas Boulevard.  A timeshare/hotel.  Across from there is The Drew. That should open in late 2023 as a Marriott hotel.  I tagged it “The Big Blue Silo” because it looked like one and has sat vacant for over a decade.
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Next up on the right would be Circus-Circus.  That was recently sold to Phil Ruffin.  The same man who bought Treasure island and is half owner and operator of the Trump Tower.

The Mirage is next, followed by some of the most expensive retail shops on earth, other than Rodeo Drive, of course!  That would be The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Attached to the Coliseum where we were serenaded by Celion Dion for a decade or so.

Caesars Palace, considered to be one of the most recognized names in the world.  For us, its the most famous resort we have.  Started out as the largest resort int he world, now its one of the top ten.