Tourists are returning to Las Vegas, otherwise known as “Sin City,” and it has slowly been coming back to life. January saw 1,294,800 visitors, up from 1,247,200 in December, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), though that is still a 63.5 percent decrease from the same period last year.
When Las Vegas’ nonessential businesses closed their doors last March to help curb the spread of coronavirus, it was the first time the world-famous Strip had shut down since President John F. Kennedy’s funeral in 1963. The usual 24-7 roll out of tourists and traffic jams was replaced by pedestrians and families on bicycles, and LED marquees offered well-wishes to the community rather than flashing ads for blockbuster shows and other Sin City excitement.
After months of midweek closures, some of Las Vegas’ big resort-casinos — including Mandalay Bay, Park MGM and the Mirage — returned to 24-7 operations in early March. LINQ Hotel + Experience reopened for full-time business on March 22. Many hotels are offering low (yet rising) room rates and are maintaining their COVID-19-related health and safety protocols, including signs about proper hygiene, mask wearing and social distancing, and strict sanitation measures.
*With coronavirus cases on the decline, capacity limits on casino floors rose from 25 percent to 50 percent on March 15. Gaming tables have been rearranged to accommodate their reduced capacities and social distancing, sometimes with plexiglass between players.
Despite the pandemic, new resort-casino development has continued: The city has its first adults-only luxury casino-resort, Circa, which opened in October with 777 rooms in swank vintage style, and the world’s largest sports booking stadium. The stylish Virgin Hotels Las Vegas opens March 25 with the new motto of “Everyone leaves feeling better”, in place of the old Hard Rock Hotel.
Most of Las Vegas’ hot spots have reopened for dining at 50 percent capacity. Reservations are no longer required, up to six people are allowed per table, and tables are spaced out to allow for social distancing. Many offer touchless to-go service and/or digital menus for ordering. Guests are asked to wear masks while walking to and from tables.
Buffets, that staple of Las Vegas dining, remain closed. Visitors can go to Vegas bars, taverns, wineries, and breweries, but capacity is capped at 50 percent. Pool parties like Encore Beach Club and Liquid at Aria have reopened, but tweaked from high-energy parties into low-key hangouts with socially distanced seating, reservation requirements and no cover charge.
The curtain was finally lifted for Las Vegas entertainment in October, but capacity limits kept many theaters dark. Now they can open at 50 percent capacity, and some shows are planning returns. And yes, lovebirds can still book the classic Vegas shotgun wedding, but it, too, has been transformed: The Graceland Wedding Chapel’s Elvis-themed ceremonies now require face coverings and temperature checks for all in attendance. More cautious lovebirds can marry (though not legally) with the chapel’s help online for $279, while accompanied by an Elvis impersonator singing “Love Me Tender.”
Area 15, full of new food offerings, as well as Electro Roll, a pop-up retro roller-skating rink that is open through March. It also has Five Iron Golf, “an indoor golf experience,” with golf simulators, and Emporium Arcade Bar, aglow with arcade games, specializing in craft cocktails. And opened last year — but without fans in the stands for its inaugural season — is the sleek, nearly $2 billion, 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium, home to the city’s new NFL team, the Raiders.
Special precautions for visiting Vegas are:
• Always double-check opening hours of restaurants, bars, and attractions, which may have changed during the outbreak.
• Carry your own hand sanitizer and hand-sanitizing wipes. While sanitizer is widely available inside hotel-casinos, you might not find any public dispensers when you are out on the town.
• Do not drink from the cups and glasses in your hotel room. While sanitizing has been amped up at many hotels, there is no guarantee the glasses have been cleaned or replaced (this is true in any city’s hotel rooms).
My personal favorite hotel in Vegas remains to be the Bellagio, with its wonderful fountains! Other favorites are The Venetian, Caesar’s Palace, Mandalay Bay, Aria, Wynn, Cosmopolitan, Paris, Trump, and Four Seasons.
*Disclaimer: These are the restrictions at the time of this writing (May 3rd) and are subject to change by the time of printing.
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