According to a 2006 survey by Las Vegas City Life http://lvcitylife.com/, check it out. And for the hottest Vegas pics and information, check out: http://vegas.napkinnights.com/
NOTE: for our favorite place to find ALL THINGS VEGAS: www.American LowLife.com
Enjoy LV City Life's Best of the Valley poll, whether you take it as harmless fun or as a serious guide to the city.
Best Live Music Venue
House of Blues
3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South
For 2005, House of Blues Las Vegas continued to put on every kind of show under the sun -- from Blood Brothers (screamo) to Tenacious D (comedic butt-rock), from Rainer Maria (alternative) to Black Dahlia Murder (black metal). Which probably explains why, year after year, this casino-encased club wins in this category. And with more than a few concerts going at the two-for-one price these days, you can sometimes wait to buy your tickets until the week before and save money. Walloping sound, dynamic lighting and pretty bartenders? That's what we like to call in this business a "plus three."
Best Local Band
It's hard to say who should be most proud of this distinction -- local music fans, who finally have a globally beloved band to call their own, or The Killers, who have often wondered aloud if they're truly appreciated in their own hometown. On one hand, the quartet is an obvious choice, given its penchant for writing crossover pop hits, its open celebration of all things Vegas, its willingness to play here as often as possible and it being a local act even your mom can name check. And yet, one might understandably ask: Are The Killers too big to be a "local" band? Perhaps, but given the distance that can come between a multiplatinum band and its home base, it's still endearing to see how well connected the two remain.
Pure (inside Caesars Palace)
3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South
No matter how critical of the megaclub we've been, there's one thing we can't take away from it: People fucking love this place. Just check the line, an undulating mass of looky-loos and eager-beavers dressed to impress -- or just to show off their pecs and tits. Lorded over by resident DJs Hollywood, AM and Frank Richards, Pure continues to attract a rich tapestry of rich celebs to its pearly gates, while maintaining a Tuesday night soiree dedicated to us golden locals, a tough balancing act the club manages with a surprising ease.
Worst Club Line
To our mind, all club lines suck the holy life shining inside your body out your anal pore. Seriously, have you seen Body English on a Sunday night? What about Tao on a Thursday? Both are, like, nine people thick in spots. Still, we sympathize with your anointment of the Caesars Palace megaclub's heathen gathering outside its doors, if for no other reason than there's more than one line. Last count, we spotted three -- one of which was devoted exclusively to women. So, yeah, Pure's line sucks. But so does everyone else's.
Best Club Event
Rehab (inside Hard Rock)
4455 Paradise Road
While not technically a club event, the Hard Rock's feral poolside luau has all the makings of a nightlife soiree. Only it's outside. During the day. And people are half-naked. Unhinged though it may be for revelers, "Rehab" is actually a well-oiled money-machine run by Chad Pallas, Jack LaFleur and Adam Nixon, a trio of promoters-innovators whose suntanned baby is often imitated but never duplicated. Lots of tweaks were made this year to the pool area's layout, with possibly even more coming next year, says LaFleur. Adding of the Sunday party, "It's an entirely different animal. Vegas people understand that about it." As do a lot of others.
Best After-hours Party
Drai's (inside Barbary Coast)
3595 Las Vegas Blvd. South
We might as well not even ask readers to vote on this category next year. Despite increased competition in the blue-dawn hours party market from Empire Ballroom and Seamless, the basement club still holds a special place in the blackened hearts and addled minds of local late-nighters. Although Jesse Waits, the longtime face of Drai's, has been spending the bulk of his time at Tryst, the rowdy yet cozy joint keeps banging. Your eardrums. Your fists. Your synapses.
Best Strip Club
3344 South Highland Drive
What to say about the Rhino, as it's known far and wide across the valley to any and all who enjoy lap dances and lurid tales of strippers' ex-boyfriends, except that you, sprung readers, can't pull yourself away long enough to visit one of our city's many other gentlemen's clubs, like Scores, Minxx or, oh hell, any one of the other houses of unholiness dotting our roadways and back alleys? We guess the answer is simple: Once you fall in love, no matter how many times you're rebuked, the feeling is always strong enough to make you drop another $20 at the same place you did last week.
Best Sex Club
The Green Door
953 E. Sahara Ave.
See a pattern? Bigger is better, at least in the Vegas-ized minds of CityLife readers. Five hundred beers in their favorite bar, 39 tables in their favorite pool hall and 18,000 square feet in their favorite safe haven for consenting adults -- take your forced and coercive sex somewhere else -- to "meet with friends or make new ones." Making friends can be hard, but as the largest sex club in the country, The Green Door boasts a slew of fetishy rooms -- the "Doctor's Office" and the "Pussywhip'd Dungeon" included -- that can help smooth the process a little for new members who are shy, yet know what they like in a person when they see it.
Best Local MySpace Page
Green Door www.myspace.com/greendoorlv
Judging by the MySpace page for the Green Door, the place is just exploding with pure fuck! OK, it isn't quite that naughty, but, judging by the comments and pics posted by would-be regulars (and regularettes), swing culture has come a long way from being dominated by swarthy '70s porn gorillas in bath towels. The site's not just, er, intriguing, but useful, too, offering generous pics of the swing club's various rooms and all their glossy, easy-to-clean surfaces. So that's what's behind the Green Door!
Best Place for Men to Pick Up Women
953 E. Sahara Ave., Suite B-27
Here you can meet a genuine Suckling White Tigress, fellas. According to her testimonial on the Green Door's online forum, she learned the ancient sexual art from Madame Hoang the Immortaless in Vietnam. It's a rosy practice, to be sure, but, unfortunately, the environment in which she trained wasn't always so. "Often, for days on end, the only nourishment I had was the semen of the Green Dragons I was able to seduce," she writes of her life during the post-American invasion period. Although she may not be on the verge of starvation anymore (at least so her picture indicates), her need for Green Dragons and their pearly gifts probably hasn't subsided. Which has gotta be why the Green Door took this prize.
Best Place for Women to Pick Up Men (too!)
Your husband is fat and hairy, his penis flaccid and wrinkly. You need a real man, one who knows how to treat a lady. So you go to the Green Door and find an abundance of well-trained sex-mechanics ready to service you, not the remote control. Your oil needs changing, your brake fluid needs replacing and your headlights need turning on -- now. Not when he discovers that Internet porn isn't interactive. Oh, yeah, it's always ladies night at the Green Door.
Paymon's Hookah Lounge
4147 S. Maryland Parkway
Your days of taking a rip of kind bud out of an old liter bottle of Coke may be over, but not that old-timey urge to fill your lungs with flavored smoke. So you go to Paymon's Hookah Lounge. Once there, you collapse into a plush couch or post up on a soft stool, order a beer and pretend to be a wealthy sheik by inhaling the pure goodness of burnt cherry or ... whatever. Given that the place is connected to Paymon's Mediterranean Cafe, you're actually performing your old smoking ritual in reverse. You inhale your humus and pita bread, and then you inhale your smoke. No, it ain't the good ol' days, but it sure is good.
4700 S. Maryland Parkway
Adam Carmer's place across from UNLV is expanding. Again. The hydroponics shop next door is gone now, along with the interior wall that once kept it separate from the Freakin' Frog, a locally beloved hipster haunt featuring 500-plus beers from around the whole drunken world. New plasma screen TVs, neon, a grand piano, frequent live music and the enigmatic, retro-austere Whisky Attic upstairs (featuring the biggest whisky selection in the United States) make for a scene that, if it gets any more eclectic, may become intolerably disorienting even without help from a sea of exotic booze.
Double Down Saloon
4640 Paradise Road
Sometimes you wanna go where everybody doesn't know your name. Where the Ass Juice and Bacon Martinis flow freely. Where there's really only one rule: "You puke, you clean." In addition to being Las Vegas' official Beer Napkin at the End of the Universe, the Double Down Saloon is also this year's Best Dive. When there's not a hardcore band like, say, Vlad & the Impalers skewering your eardrums, you can always opt to slip a buck into the chock-full-of-punk-rock jukebox, punch in a Link Wary rumbler and stare at the demonic murals on the walls until your eyes roll back into your skull. Ah, Vegas.
Best Brew Pub
3987 Paradise Road
Being stalked by a Nevada GOP gubernatorial candidate? You know where to go -- into the warm, comforting embrace of Gordon Biersch where, unlike other dining establishments, flirting is just flirting and not an invitation for a parking-garage grope. GB's food is awesome. The Meatloaf is a yummy blend of ground beef and Italian sausage; the Cornmeal Dusted Crab Cakes will make your tongue slap your brains out; and the Barbecue Salmon is fresh and seared just right. The beers -- Golden Export, Hefeweizen, Märzen -- are tasty and never "over-hopped." Chrissy Mazzeo knows where to run, and so do you, dear readers.
Best Place to Shoot Pool
Las Vegas Cue Club
953 E. Sahara Ave., #A15
The best game you'll ever have will still be the one you shot on some nameless dive's solitary Pabst-stained table and witnessed only by an affable semi-autistic named Ronnie, but you can still tell that tale in the most receptive environment around for all things pool. Cue Club features a bar, cafe and 39 tables, including a snooker version and one of those monster slabs made for three-cushion billiards. That's an intense way to play; only three balls are used, but the shot angles require an advanced physics degree -- either that or Ronnie's monotonal, mathematically precise coaching.
Ellis Island Casino & Brewery
4178 Koval Lane
Singing over canned music never sounds as good as it does every night starting at 9 p.m. inside Ellis Island. The casino's karaoke scene consistently wins the Review-Journal's "Best of Las Vegas" distinction, and a lot of that is due to master of ceremonies Timmy Welsh, who never flinches or shows any sign of grief, no matter how out of tune some fat dude's caterwauling rendition of a Swing Out Sister song might be. This place gets packed on weekends, when you're more likely to find talented singers. Sure, there are other flashier karaoke experiences on the Strip proper, but for a good time, it's hard to beat Ellis Island.
Best Gay Bar
3663 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Showtime's groundbreaking series Queer as Folk featured a gay club called Babylon that was so celebratory and creatively envisioned in each episode, it was too good to be true. Even Los Angeles and San Francisco can't claim a gay fantasia like Babylon -- but Vegas can. The Krave experience is different from night to night, whether due to its DJ talent -- the best of any gay nightspot in town (and apparently, you agree; see the DJ winners above) -- its varied local and touring stage performers, its creatively themed Saturdays, or its demographic-spanning attendees (most of which are easy on the eyes). The one thing that remains consistent, however, is how much fun you'll have there.
Best Lesbian Party
If you've ever been on the local lesbian party circuit -- or know someone who has -- you know Krave's oft-packed Saturday party is a slam-dunk choice over its Fruit Loop competitors. Girlbar, imported from L.A. but made local in Krave's intimate lounge (separate from the main club), boasts both a contagious, jubilant vibe and a babe-heavy patronage that even elicits stares from the homos next door. The party is also refreshingly welcoming; straight couples are occasionally spotted and gay men are (usually) tolerated. That said, Girlbar is first and foremost a ladies' night, and that's probably why you voted for it.
Either gay men and straight women banded together to bestow the only Strip-side gay club this well-deserved honor, or there just aren't enough women bartenders staffed at mainstream clubs. No matter -- anyone who's been there knows Krave employs some of Vegas' most beautiful human specimens, and its bar staff is no exception. Some locals have grumbled about the club's drink prices, but given that Krave's hunky booze mixers pour drinks far stiffer than their chief competitors while also providing (often shirtless) eye candy, we think the extra buck or two a cocktail is entirely worth it.
You might catch SnakeBabe, a.k.a. Maria Gara, performing at your favorite jiggle joint, but make no mistake: She's no stripper. Call her instead an erotic performance artist who employs live reptiles and magic into her non-nude show. Different? Yes. Hot? Definitely. And that was more than enough for her to slither to first place in this category. It all gives new meaning to the request, "Take off the boa!"
Best Non-Chain Restaurant
Otto's Malt Shop
4440 S. Maryland Parkway
Our readers and our staff certainly see eye-to-eye when it comes to Otto's. Between the retro sci-fi décor, random bowling memorabilia and great grub, this tiny UNLV area hangout has garnered plenty of fans here in our offices, and clearly many more out in the real world. In all honesty, it's a concept that seems ripe for being spun off into a soulless corporate chain. But there's no way to reproduce the friendly service and cool stories provided by proprietors Otto Miller and Ruthie Cosgrove, which is why Otto's will likely remain one of a kind -- just the way we like it.
Best Cheap Eats
Otto's Malt Shop
4440 S. Maryland Parkway
Once again you're throwing your support behind Otto's, and once again we couldn't agree more. Jut try spending $10 at Otto's and managing to finish everything on your plate. Alexander Hamilton is more than enough to purchase a monstrous baked beef patty infused with eggs, breadcrumbs, milk and spices and drenched in the toppings of your choice, along with a baked potato loaded down with another huge batch of toppings and one of Otto's incredible hand-dipped malts. Being broke never tasted so good or felt so filling.
Best Place to Take a Date When You Really Want to Get Laid
Otto's Malt Shop
OK, we've already made it clear we love Otto's just as much as you do. But if a cheap burger and a malt is all it takes to get lucky these days, college girls must be a lot easier than they were when we were in school. That's good to know. Rock on, Otto's!
Best Pricey Eats
Ruth's Chris Steak House
3900 Paradise Road
4561 W. Flamingo Road
We have to admit it's a little confusing to see Ruth's Chris take the prize for Best Pricey Eats while the more expensive N9NE beat it out in the Best Steakhouse category. But apparently, Ruth's is where plenty of you like to indulge when you've got some money burning a hole in your wallet. And with great cuts of steak served in a pool of melted butter, it's understandable. Better yet, their west side location offers the full menu until 3 a.m.
N9NE (inside The Palms)
4321 W. Flamingo Road
Packed with celebrities virtually any night of the week, N9Ne is clearly the place for the Hollywood set to grab themselves a slab of beef when they're partying here in Las Vegas. But apparently its high energy, cool décor and great steaks have struck a chord with you as well. None of that comes cheap, however, which makes us wonder how N9NE was beaten out by Ruth's Chris steakhouse in the Best Pricey Eats category. But apparently when you're partying at the Palms, you're not thinking about the price tag.
Best Mexican Restaurant
2655 E. Desert Inn Road
Need a reason to support organized religion? Just try some of the incredible recipes Lindo Michoacan's owner Javier Barajes learned from the nuns while studying at a seminary in the Mexican state of Michoacan. Running the gamut from the familiar to the exotic, they're good enough to land the restaurant the top spot in this category for the second year in a row. And all we ever got from the nuns at our Catholic school was an introduction to the business end of a ruler.
Best Chinese Restaurant
In most major cities, the idea of seeing a huge national chain take the Best Chinese Restaurant honors would be scandalous. But you just can't seem to resist P.F. Chang's familiar cuisine, honoring it in this division once again. To be honest, we thought about chastising you on this one, but we were so happy to see that you've finally moved beyond The Olive Garden in the Italian category that we decided to let you slide. This time.
Best Italian Restaurant
6020 W. Flamingo Road
Last year's choice of The Olive Garden in this category prompted us to demand you get off your asses and find yourself some real Italian cuisine, and apparently you took that advice to heart and discovered Nora's. That might explain the long wait for a table the last time we decided to stop by. But with great food that ranges from basics like lasagna and veal parmiagiana to sublime creations like Crazy Alfredo, topped with chicken, sausage, shrimp, porcinis, roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and jalapenos, word was bound to get out.
Best Thai Restaurant
Lotus of Siam
953 E. Sahara Ave.
Located in a sprawling commercial center on East Sahara better known for its collection of sex clubs than for fine dining, Lotus of Siam might not look like much. But its incredible selection of Thai food has garnered it plenty of national press over the years, and apparently a large local following among our readers. Make sure you request the Northern Tai menu, which contains some of the chef's best dishes.
Carnival World Buffet (inside the Rio)
3700 W. Flamingo Road
With a buffet full of all-you-can eat goodness in every casino in town, you might expect the competition to be intense in this category. But year in and year out, you put the feast at the Rio at the top of the list. Make sure you get there early, however, because as the monstrous lines testify, the place certainly isn't a well-kept local's secret.
3200 Las Vegas Blvd. South (inside the Fashion Show mall)
Just in time for its two-year anniversary, it seems this Fashion Show mall hotspot has finally caught on among the locals. It might have something to do with the attractive wait staff, cool décor and DJs spinning hot music seven nights a week. But in the end, the great raw fish and Japanese fusion cuisine are probably what keep you coming back for more. If you haven't been there for a while, make it a point to check out the brand new menu, with choices like mango ceviche, salmon skewer salad and king crab dynamite.
Best Looking Wait Staff
Forget about Hef and his overly-hyped bunnies at the Playboy Club. Your tastes clearly run a bit more lowbrow. Once again the ladies in the bright orange shorts have won your hearts. And now Las Vegas has an entire casino dedicated to their blue-collar appeal, so once you've finished your Buffalo wings and beer, you can continue drooling over them while playing a few hands of blackjack.
Best Wine Selection
Aureole (inside Mandalay Bay)
3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South
While some wine may be displayed traditionally -- underground, with plenty of brick and oak, the way it's done at The Wine Cellar at the Rio -- it's the presentation that wows guests at Aureole. Wine is stored in a multi-story, transparent vertical shaft that "wine angels" ascend and descend to retrieve your choice. (See? It's a restaurant and entertainment, all at once!) The computerized wine list on notebook computers is also cool: Search by name, region, vintage or match the wine to your food. Aureole gets rave reviews for its selection, which is huge. If you can't find it there, you can safely consider yourself a fan of the extremely rare.
Best Un-Vegas Spot
Sure, Mount Charleston is unlike Las Vegas. Our biggest fear, however, is that may soon change. As development sprawls to the north (and south, east and west), the highest peak in the Spring Mountains range is becoming more and more threatened by growth and overuse. In fact, the mountain was recently included on Scenic Nevada's "13 Last Chance Scenic Places" list, which spotlighted places that are being compromised by neglect, development, bad public policy and a lack of funding. The goal of the list, said Scenic Nevada Chairman Doug Smith, is to protect these places. A noble goal, indeed. Let's help them achieve it.
Best View of Las Vegas
If nothing else, our readers are nostalgic. They tend to cling to tradition like Gov.-elect Jim Gibbons to a cocktail waitress (allegedly). For example, they continue to vote the Stratosphere as the Best View of Las Vegas -- despite newer and more dynamic entries, including Mix, the Foundation Room and the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas. But, we have to admit, there's something to be said for the Stratosphere's panoramic and straight-down views. Who knew the "Naked City" could look so pretty at night?
Best Reason to Flee Las Vegas
Located in the heart of the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas is devastatingly hot and dry. Its average high temperature in the months of June, July and August is 102 degrees. It once suffered through 66 consecutive days of triple-figure temperatures. And its average yearly rainfall is only 4.5 inches. Indeed, the city is hotter than hell's kitchen. So what's a person to do? Well, our readers recommend Mount Charleston (see Best Un-Vegas Spot) and San Diego (see Best Road Trip Destination). See you there.
Best Road Trip Destination
San Diego has won this category, like, 20 years in a row -- and it's easy to see why. It has awesome beaches, cooperative weather and it's a short distance from the donkey shows of Tijuana. SeaWorld and the Gaslamp District are pretty interesting, too, though not nearly as interesting as the donkey shows. We also recommend L.A., Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon and Death Valley (but not in the summer, of course).
Best Place for Outdoor Sex
Red Rock Canyon
There's just something about nature -- sunshine, vast blue sky, desert flora, the majestic red earth -- that seems to make you, dear readers, very horny. Perhaps it's the refreshing trip away from stucco cities in the valley that does it for you. Or maybe you are just that desperate to get a little dirt where the sun don't shine. It seems a bumpy spot, but Red Rock wins every year.
Best Place to Spot Celebrities
4321 W. Flamingo Road
Not much of a surprise here. We're not sure but at this casino it seems like they must require a TV show deal just to guarantee a lease agreement. Celebrity publicists probably have the Palms number on speed-dial for just those times when they need to get their client a little gossip column mention or magazine ink. It's all about the buzz. And all those TV show deals and movie premieres don't hurt. (and the new Playboy Club doesn't hurt either!)
Best Strip Hotel-Casino
3600 Las Vegas Blvd. South
It's no surprise that Bellagio takes this category -- when it opened in 1998, it marked the second revolution Steve Wynn had instigated on the Las Vegas Strip. Easily one of the most luxurious hotels anywhere, Bellagio actually encourages the fanny-pack set to get culture. Beautiful music scores the dancing water fountains fronting the Strip, the hotel is home to some of the city's best restaurants and an art gallery has featured works from Ansel Adams to Claude Monet. When Wynn finally opened his signature hotel, Wynn Las Vegas, one wag remarked that the mogul had built a "Bellagio-themed casino." The fact is, competing against Bellagio for luxury in Las Vegas is going to be difficult, even for the man who built it.
Best Art Gallery
3600 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Only in Las Vegas can a small grouping of rooms buried deep in the belly of a Strip casino be considered the best art gallery in town. If you want to see a small traveling collection of famous art works that have been turned into easily digestible culture nuggets like coffee mugs and T-shirts (available in the gift shop, of course), then the Bellagio is the place to get your fix. No offense, dear readers, but have you ever been downtown? Even the small galleries in downtown Henderson have more varied and interesting work on display. True, it's not all diamonds, but the gems you do find are far more precious and often made right here.
Best Downtown Hotel-Casino
The Golden Nugget
129 Fremont St.
Why are we not surprised? It turns out, the Golden Nugget is, has been, and will probably always be, the nicest hotel downtown. That's thanks to Steve Wynn, who before he made and re-made the Strip with The Mirage and Bellagio, turned the downtown spot into a real-life nice hotel. Not only is the Carson Street Cafe a see-and-be-seen hangout for the city's power elite (it's the unofficial courthouse cafeteria) the place still exudes the Wynn touch, although it's been through a succession of owners since he was bought out by MGM, and that company dumped the Nugget. Add the final historical footnote -- it's actually expanding, which is almost unheard of in downtown -- and you've got yourself a winner.
Best Neighborhood Hotel
Red Rock Casino
11011 W. Charleston Blvd.
Ah, readers. So fickle. And so enamored of the new. But why not? Station Casinos' Red Rock Casino is a property so nice, you could plunk it down next to Mandalay Bay and it would be right at home. (Plunk it down next to Excalibur, and they'd be calling the demolition experts to get rid of the castle.) Not only does the hotel feature a beautiful and striking interior design, it blends with its natural environs -- nearby Red Rock Canyon -- perfectly. Toss in a bevy of great restaurants (the Salt Lick is a must for any barbecue fans), a Randy Gerber club (Cherry), and a beautiful pool area, and its little wonder why Red Rock Casino has captured the fancy of readers.
Best Sports Book
3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South
You can install all the high-tech gadgets you like. You can put more screens up on the wall than in NORAD. You can make a sports book so vast, a telephone call from one end to the next would require punching in a new area code. But you can never shake Las Vegas' firm belief that Caesars Palace has the best sports book in town. We're not saying you're wrong about that. This is a very sweet sports book. We are surprised, however: With all the neighborhood casinos in town, you'd think a new kid on the block could wrest this title away among local CityLife readers. Not so much. Caesars, you're still the Olympus of sports books.
Best Hotel-Casino Theme Not Yet Used
On the contrary, dear readers. This theme was used, by one Bob Stupak, in a casino formerly known as Vegas World. Who could forget the cheesy space man floating on the side? (Apparently, readers.) Alas, the bad news is this: It's time to retire this category, because the days of "themes" for hotels are long gone. Now, it's all about fine dining, high-end shopping, clubs, pools and luxury stays at nice places. Blame Steve Wynn: He started the themes with The Mirage, and ended them with Bellagio. It's Wynn's Strip, people. We just get stuck in traffic on it.
Best Lounge Band/Casino Act
Zowie Bowie is "purely a state of mind, [an] explosion of joy, fun and good times," says one-half of the singing duo, Chris Philips, on the group's website. And that explosion happens every Friday and Saturday at the Red Rock Casino in Summerlin, where the group plays, in addition to a gig at the Sunset Station on Thursdays. A Scottsdale, Ariz. transplant, Zowie Bowie has four CDs, all titled Hit It. They sure look like they're having a good time in photos posted on the site. And we've learned never to second-guess our readers (or Station's talent bookers, for that matter).
Best Amusement Rides
New York, New York
3790 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Oh, yeah, baby. The Manhattan Express is one of the wildest roller coasters ever, with huge, sweeping curves above the Las Vegas Strip, loops and that stomach-lifting, 144-foot main drop right out of the gate. (For thrills similar to this, you'd have to trek down to Primm, home of the Desperado, reportedly the highest coaster anywhere.) But even Desperado can't boast -- as the Express does on its website -- of "negative Gs." We're not sure what that means, but it took us awhile to regain our footing after we tried this bad boy for the first time. It's a great time, and hey, when you're done, you'll certainly appreciate the proximity of Nine Fine Irishmen, the upscale pub that fronts onto the Strip. Just remember: Coaster first, then drinks. Write it down if you must.
Best Casino Shopping
Forum Shops at Caesars Palace
3500 Las Vegas Blvd. South
We're not entirely sure, but we think it might be possible to live at this mall. There's plenty of food (ranging from upscale eateries like Spago, The Palm, Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab, and Il Mulino New York), clothing (Gap, Polo Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers and Tommy Bahama's), and diversions (Brookstone, Callaway, Field of Dreams, not to mention Casa Fuente) that you'd never need to leave. While things are a bit more pricey than say, the Fashion Show or Galleria malls, this is what high-end Las Vegas shopping is supposed to be. And despite the fact that every new casino these days seems to come with a mall attached, the barbarians have yet to sack this mall from its perch.
Best Hospitality to Locals
Station Casinos (multiple locations)
Technically, a neighborhood casino doesn't really have to be nice to you. It's either their way, or a long trip down to the Strip. But Station bucks the trend, having long ago ringed the valley with player-friendly spots. Whether its the new upscale Red Rock Casino, the equally nice Green Valley Ranch, or older entries like the Sunset or Boulder stations, this company seems to offer what people like: Someplace close to home, with plenty of free parking, good restaurant choices, perhaps a movie theater, bowling alley or both, a sweet sports book and -- most important of all -- a place for the mother-in-law to stay that's not your house. Score!
Best Tattoo Parlor
Studio 21 Tattoo Gallery
6020 Flamingo Road, 2B
Locals have a wealth of places to choose from but for the past two years the winner has been family-owned Studio 21. The ink shop and art gallery has moved to a new location this year from its old digs on Arville Street. While fads come and go ink lasts forever and at Studio 21 tattoo art is as meaningful and important as art you can hang on the walls. Thankfully, here you can get both.
Best Play/Theater Company
Flamingo Las Vegas
3555 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Screw hanging out on the sidelines -- our entertainment-saturated readers like to be part of the show! This year, the improvisational impresarios over at the world famous Second City Las Vegas have risen from last survey's red ribbon status to take the blue among our vote casters. And why not? Who doesn't dig a cocktail-friendly, lounge act featuring clever wit, zappy political zingers, and Saturday Night Live-style sketch comedy? The Strip version pokes plenty of fun at Vegas cliches, and, given its improv nature, depends on each audience to help provide a different show every time. Do your part and come equipped with clever contributions.
Best Movie Theater
Brendan Theatres (at the Palms)
4321 W. Flamingo Road
Not enough beautiful people in your cinematic experiences? Head over to Brendan at the Palms and you'll get your fix. The Maloof brothers have done everything they can to turn their little piece of Las Vegas into a mini-Hollywood. Playboy Bunnies? Check. Hilton sisters? Check. Movie premiers? Check. A-listers and heartland tourists alike have devoured the goods like so much catnip. And you can be a part of it any night of the week and catch a flick, too.
Best Place to Buy or Rent Porn
Las Vegans have one of the best kinds of super stores on the planet and they are plentiful as well. Day or night, you can find your bachelorette party supplies, favorite porn movies and general kinky shit at the Adult Superstore. The stores are well-lit and their staff are knowledgeable. Go ahead, you know you want to.
Worst Strip Attraction
Circus Circus, Sirens of TI, Excalibur (tie)
OK, we get Circus Circus. (You know, how the whole hep world would spend Saturday night if the Nazis had won ... you've heard it? Right.) And we get Excalibur. (Gaudy even when having a casino theme was cool.) But Sirens of TI? Hot pirate chicks leaping to and fro on ships? Who couldn't love that? We'll make you a deal: Take Circus Circus. Other than its well-regarded steakhouse, that place has been begging for implosion for years. Take Excalibur. MGM Mirage can think of something cool to put in its place. (We're thinking .... um, condos?) But leave us the sirens, people!
Worst Lounge Act
Big (Fat) Elvis, Clint Holmes, the Scintas (tie)
What an interesting development! Two of the three winners in this category no longer perform on the Strip. Bloated Elvis left the building many years ago, and Holmes recently ended his six-and-a-half-year run at Harrah's. But the Scintas continue to -- judging from the ballots -- plague audiences with their blend of music, impressions and comedy. What did siblings Joe, Frank, Chrissi (and "adopted" brother Peter) ever do to you, CityLife readers? Did they break your mind with a Jerry Lewis bit? Crush you soul with a soulless version of "The Way We Were"? We take it back; maybe we don't want to know.