(CNN) – More than a year after the Covid-19 pandemic began, this desert city looks bigger, bolder and better than ever.
New casino resorts, innovative restaurants, expanded meeting rooms and unique cultural destinations characterize the latest version of Las Vegas, which is reinventing itself again and again despite the adverse circumstances.
Heck, Elon Musk even built an underground tunnel and transportation system that will be opening soon.
“Not only is there pent-up demand for travel, but there is pent-up demand for the unmatched Vegas experience,” said Lori Nelson-Kraft, LVCVA senior vice president of communications. “We expect the visits to Vegas to get stronger every month.”
Virgin Hotels Las Vegas opened this March.
Courtesy Virgin Hotels
Pandemic casino boom in Vegas
Any discussion of the newest and greatest in Las Vegas needs to start with the city’s newest casino resorts.
This property has more than 1,500 rooms, a 60,000 square meter casino, a concert hall with 4,500 seats and an extensive pool area with a resort pool, a Mykonos-themed day club and an event area. While keeping Nobu and some of the same restaurants as its predecessor, the resort also added a number of new ones, including One Steakhouse by brothers David and Michael Morton.
If those aren’t enough reasons to visit the new resort, Richard “Boz” Bosworth, President and CEO of parent company JC Hospitality, noted that Virgin has no resort fees, free parking and free WiFi, all rarities in the market.
“We wanted to establish ourselves as something completely different from the start,” he said. “I think we achieved that goal.”
The pool at Circa Resort & Casino is called Stadium Swim.
Rum Tongue Media / Courtesy Circa Resort & Casino
This 35-story, 777-room resort is the first new downtown Las Vegas casino in more than 40 years. The highlights: an iconic steakhouse, one of the largest and most spectacular sports books in town and a pool terrace with stadium-style lounge terraces. (The pool is actually called “Stadium Swim”.)
Circa is the brainchild of Derek Stevens, a casino magnate who also owns the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino on the other side of Fremont Street and D Las Vegas a few blocks east. Stevens was the first local hotelier to set up a Bitcoin ATM on his casino floor (in D). He was one of the first casino operators to open sports books around the clock. Most nights he puts on a shiny blazer and spends a few hours hanging out with customers at his bars.
When the pandemic led to the closure of Las Vegas last March, Stevens said his lenders were concerned about how the closure would affect the progress of the project. Then, in April, his project manager presented him with an unexpected choice.
“Downtown was a ghost town, no one was around, and [the project manager] comes to me and asks, “We can probably work on this thing day and night and open it early. Is that something we should do? ‘”Stevens remembered.” Of course I said yes. And we did it. We were able to open two months earlier than planned, get the cash flow going and solve operational problems. All in the middle of a pandemic. “
The new West Hall significantly expands the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Other new attractions
While new casinos represent the most exciting developments in Las Vegas over the past year, the city has also unveiled other attractions during the pandemic.
First, in December LVCVA completed a $ 989 million expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center that adds 1.4 million square feet of new space to the existing 3.2 million square foot campus.
The new excavation, dubbed West Hall, is on strip-side properties formerly inhabited by the Riviera and Landmark hotels and has 328,000 square feet of pillar-free space, the largest such space in North America. The facility will officially open to the public this June at World of Concrete, the first major convention to return to Las Vegas since its closure.
The Las Vegas Convention Center Loop is an underground shuttle with all-electric Teslas.
Stephen Morgan / Courtesy LVCVA
The pedestrian shuttle takes congress participants from one facility to another in two one-way tunnels 40 feet underground. The Chariots: All-electric Tesla vehicles that travel at 35 miles per hour.
The city has approved plans to expand the loop throughout the destination and connect the convention center to the strip resorts and the airport. No schedule has been announced yet.
Area15 is a new entertainment district on the west side of I-15.
Peter Ruprecht / Courtesy of AREA15
Put another way, Winston Fisher, AREA15 CEO, said he viewed his new venture as a “content box” where visitors can come for “memory creation” and an excursion they cannot get anywhere else in town.
“We created this imperfect space with a mix of incredible art and interactivity that comes together and just hums,” he said. “Originality is important these days and that’s something we do well.”
Growth of the restaurant scene
Surprisingly, the Las Vegas food scene grew during the pandemic.
Trees, a James Beard Award finalist last year for his work at Esther’s Kitchen in the city’s Arts District, opened Al Solito in the suburb of Tivoli Village as a venue for Las Vegas residents to sample classic Italian dishes like chicken parmesan and rigatoni alla vodka, which you might find on the east coast.
Al Solito Posto is Chef James Trees’ newest restaurant.
“For many of my customers with connections to the east coast, that’s the food [at Al Solito] is like the stuff your grandmother made, “said Trees.” In many cases these are people who haven’t gone to a restaurant in a year. You are ready. You are resilient. They are hungry to go back to the life they had before. “
Even more new restaurants are on the way.
In May, when the Las Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame moves to the Las Vegas Strip north of the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, there will be a Food Truck Park.
Later that year, head chef and (sometimes polarizing) restaurateur Nusret Gökçe is slated to open a Las Vegas outpost of his Salt Bae steakhouse in the park between New York-New York and Park MGM.
At the horizon
The trend of development in Las Vegas is not stopping anytime soon.
Located northwest of Wynn and Encore, this property is slated to open this summer and has an Asian theme. It will also feature several standout food and drink options, including a Singapore-style hawker food market (with a restaurant by Trees) and an outpost of Wally’s Wine and Spirits, a popular wine bar with locations in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.
The lesson here is simple. No matter what the world throws at humanity, never bet against Las Vegas.
Top photo by Daniel Slim / AFP via Getty Images