ActivitiesEntertainmentFood / DiningLists

Best of Las Vegas 2021 – Part One

A roundup of the year’s best shows, events, entertainment, restaurants, trends, and more.

When it comes to writing about Las Vegas, nothing is more fun than doing our end-of-year wrap-ups. No matter what your tastes and interests, Sin City has offered a veritable cornucopia of treasures all year long. Sadly, the Worst-Of list is often quite as lengthy, but sometimes even more entertaining. We’ll get to those sour apples in an upcoming column, but for now, let’s salute the BEST OF LAS VEGAS 2021.

Best New Show – RATED RED

When you set out for a wild weekend in Las Vegas, a sexy show should certainly be on the to-do list. AREA 15 gave us something new to get excited about with RATED RED, a sexy modern extravaganza. Packed with hot women, hot men, hot musicians, and REALLY hot choreography, RATED RED was one of those out-of-nowhere surprises that blew us to the back of the room (no pun intended).

Packed with talent from an assortment of other noteworthy productions, the immersive dance spectacle surrounds you with driving beats, overwhelming visuals, and a desire for the show to continue long after the final bows. With so many burlesque acts promising cutting-edge entertainment, it’s a relief to find one that actually delivers. RATED RED only performs one evening per week, so pin it to the top of your itinerary. See our full review here.

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Best Tribute Show – QUEENS OF ROCK

Tribute shows can run the gamut from lackluster impersonation to full-fledged spectacle. Then there’s QUEENS OF ROCK, a unique experience that deftly walks the line between sound-alike entertainer and star-making concert experience. Featured performer Elyzabeth Diaga has gathered an astonishing collection of musicians to back her on a journey through decades of female-powered anthems. The powerhouse opening of HEART’s “Crazy On You” makes it clear that this will be no ordinary production. For the next 75 minutes, you’ll be on your feet, out of breath, and very eager to see QUEENS OF ROCK again and again. For showtimes and tickets, head over here.

Best Nostalgia Trip – THE JETS 80s & 90s EXPERIENCE

The island nation of Tonga produced this famous sibling band, which roared up the charts in the 80s with hit after hit. Now they’re the stars of THE JETS 80’s & 90s EXPERIENCE, a production which truly lives up to the name. The show opens with a lengthy medley of The Jets own favorites and those made famous by C + C Music Factory, Grammy winner Jody Watley and Madonna. Barely pausing to catch a breath, they dance through the material of Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, TLC, Fugees, Will Smith, Destiny s Child even Vanilla Ice.

If you want your kids to know what it was like to grow up during the STRANGER THINGS era, then take them to see THE JETS. You’ll have a hard time deciding who had more fun….them, or you. Head here for showtimes and tickets.

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Best Comfort Food – VICKIE’S DINER

One look at the photo above and you’ll understand why comfort food is so satisfying. Combine those wonderful tastes with a welcoming atmosphere, great service, and very reasonable prices….and you must be at Vickie’s Diner. Once a victim to the pandemic, the legendary coffee shop rose from the ashes of an ancient White Cross Drugstore to reappear in a sparkling new home at the historic Commerical Center (off East Sahara Avenue).

Along with delicious food, there’s plenty of eye candy to please the senses. The large dining room is mirrored by a recreation of their original dining counter. Whimsical decor fills walls and nooks, much of it with nods to both vintage Vegas and the White Cross birthplace. Elvis is featured near the entrance (naturally), and one wall displays “That Painting”, an Eastwood-inspired curiosity with its own fan page. Learn more about Vickie’s Diner in our full review here.

Best New Restaurant – SUPERFRICO at Cosmopolitan

Our original review of SUPERFRICO called it “Dinner With a Side of Insanity”. So if you’re in the mood for an ordinary meal, you might want to head elsewhere. SUPERFRICO is a culinary extension of OPIUM, the sci-fi comedy production by Spiegelworld (Absinthe, Atomic Saloon Show). It’s not quite a supper club, but there is plenty of entertainment. It’s not quite a bar/restaurant, but you’ll leave satiated, and most likely tipsy. Quirky fare like Lamb Ragu Babbaluci and Pistachio Mortadella Pizza go down nicely between sips of your Pizza Party Negroni or an Under The Host Martini. Allow at least two hours to take it all in, then head next door to OPIUM where the lunacy continues.

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Best Comeback – BARRY MANILOW

After a year and a half of COVID-imposed hiatus. the true king of headliner acts returned to Westgate Las Vegas. I’m talking about Barry Manilow, the ageless, one-of-a-kind wonder who unites young and old, gay and straight, all ethnicities, and every lover of wonderful music. It’s very clear that Manilow loves his fans, otherwise, he’d be sipping cocktails around a pool (or at the Copacabana). Hundreds showed up to cheer Barry’s return on September 21st with a splashy outdoor gala. He appeared to be very touched.

Manilow is the biggest name on the Westgate entertainment roster, which includes superlative Soul of Motown, Magic of Jen Kramer, upcoming Kool and the Gang, and these guys:

Best Comeback Part 2 – THE BRONX WANDERERS

Early this year, over a dozen productions fell victim to “The Great Caesars Entertainment Massacre”. Theaters were permanently closed and acts were shown the door. Wayne Newton, Dionne Warwick, and even the Chippendales lost their shirts (albeit temporarily). One band that refused to go down was The Bronx Wanderers. Their loyal fans would never have allowed it….neither would patriarch Vinny Adinolfi, whose dream of a Vegas residency began on a childhood trip to Westgate (known as the International Hotel at the time).

Read all the details about the sexy, hard-rocking Bronx Wanderers family band and their latest production right here.

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Best Overall Resort – WESTGATE LAS VEGAS

Photo by Westgate President/GM Cami Christensen

Once again, Westgate Las Vegas has set itself apart as a shining example of what Sin City used to be…and can become again. Their respect for guests, entertainers, and the people of Las Vegas has naturally landed them a coveted spot as Best Overall Resort. So ask yourself…what do you want in a mid-priced destination? Whatever the answer, you’re likely to find it here. Reasonable room rates, free parking, superlative dining (including one of the city’s few remaining buffets), a great pool, award-winning spa, beautifully-maintained facilities, a fully-vaccinated staff, dedicated monorail station, an aggressive sanitation program, huge convention facilities, the world’s largest sportsbook….shall I go on?

Best Luxury Resort – VENETIAN/PALAZZO

You might be surprised to find Venetian/Palazzo ranking higher than Bellagio, Aria, Wynn, or Cosmopolitan as “Best Luxury Resort”. The winning edge comes down to atmosphere. There’s an undefinable “something” about the massive Italian-themed destination that feels special. Perhaps it’s the unique fragrance that wafts through the air or the entertainers who wander around, breaking into beautiful songs in unexpected places. Or the lengthy list of dining options to satisfy every possible craving.

Spread out over two distinct resorts joined by Grand Canal Shops, Venetian/Palazzo is much like a self-contained city. You’d never have to leave and your Vegas vacation would still be more than satisfying. A superb near-central location offers free parking and easy in/out access. Biggest plus: every room is an expansive suite with step-down living areas and lush details. First-class all the way.

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Best Drag Production – FAAABULOUS! The Show

Yes, we’ve blatantly said in this feature that drag is coming out of our ears. Nevertheless, it’s here to stay, at least for the time being. Out of all the drag shows on varying scales, only FAAABULOUS! The Show features totally live singing, piano playing, professional choreography, and classic female impersonation. RuPaul’s Drag Race Live might be bigger and more popular, but let’s face it….that type of drag is just a gaggle of glorified circus clowns. RuPaul might sell more tickets but has turned a classic form of entertainment into a sideshow. Stick with “Edie” and the “girls” at FAAABULOUS! Click here for showtimes and tickets.

Best Drag Brunch – THE GARDEN

If you embrace the absurdity of the Drag Brunch concept, it can be really fun…especially when the mimosas are unlimited. Senor Frog’s Drag Brunch at Treasure Island has held top honors in this category for many years, but they’ve now been bested by The Garden. Located in the Arts District, The Garden is a classy and high-end recipient of our “Best Gay Bars” awards. It’s known for its hot male and female staff, popular deejays, and excellent service. What pushes The Garden to the forefront of our drag brunch wars is the food, which is absolutely glorious. We could have included a photo of their menu selections, but Lilian (above) is even more photogenic. Click here for tickets and performance times.

Click HERE for more of our Best of Las Vegas 2021 Round-up…

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