It is 11:11 AM on January 25th and I am at a cell phone re-charging station at the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas waiting on David to arrive so we can get to the Riviera for check-in.
The Airport is clean and quite spread out. Of course there are slot machines everywhere! I, however, don’t hear any bells going off anywhere, not a good sign.
I have been here before, and I couldn’t resist another trip to this desert paradise. We are staying at the Riviera, which is not the fanciest place in town, but it’s where I stayed before and they offered me a great rate on my room as a returning guest. They have shows, a pool, and located in a convenient spot at the end of the strip. They actually filmed part of the movie “Casino” here.
It is now 1 AM and I am in the Luxury room at the hotel, I admit that the term Luxury is used loosely, but it is clean, comfortable and quiet. I have, of course, come down with a cold so we went to Walgreens which luckily is only a block away to get some tea and honey. This cold is wrecking my voice! I’m sounding more like Joan Rivers than even celebrity impersonator Frank Marino…
Today we went to the Fashion Show mall and I bought a cutie pair of sneaks at the “TopMan” store… no joke, that’s what the store was called…loving it! Fashion Show Mall is right in the middle of the strip and features a runway show daily at 5:00 PM. There is usually something for everyone.
Dipping in and out of the casinos and resorts is a big part of the fun here. The fountains and pyro shows are awesome! It’s pretty crowded on the strip which makes for good people watching.
We rounded out the evening at the slots in our hotel and killed off a quick $20, and then up to bed… there is always tomorrow!
On our second day we awoke to a beautiful desert sunrise. Being Sunday naturally we headed out for brunch. The Tropicana has been a Vegas hotspot for years, but they have recently been renovated, and it looks fantastic. We were greeted for brunch by a lovely hostess and were told that we could choose the buffet or order from their brunch menu. They had a full service omelet bar, which was amazing, and a buffet filled with breakfast and lunch items. I was told that the items change daily, but today’s selection was filled with fresh fruit, bacon, eggs, chicken with mushroom sauce and a choice of pastas.
After brunch we walked through the Tropicana and had some laughs as we played some slots. Winnings: Zero! Geesh…
We then started walking back up the strip. The Tropicana is at the complete opposite end of the strip from our hotel. Our first stop on the way was at Excalibur, which looks more like Disneyland than a Las Vegas gambling resort. Right across the road is New York, New York. You can smell the NY style pizza and the pretzels from the doors. We went into a few other places on the way back to the hotel where we decided that a good afternoon nap was in order.
We had dinner reservations at Serendipity 3 which a lovely place at the huge Ceasar's Palace. There are a few locations in the US, but tonight we are eating Vegas style. The room is filled with pink, black and white. Large chandeliers are hung from the ceiling and the walls are very colorful. The staff was friendly and attentive and their menu was huge; both literally and selection, with almost 100 items on the list. I went old school and had the “Don’t be Afraid of my Alfredo with Chicken” and David had the “Don’t Drop your Skirt Steak Frites”. Both dishes were delicious. There even had a yummy Nashville themed cocktail, which, of course, featured Jack Daniels; I think it was called the Nashville Lemon Sipper.
After dinner we had tickets for a show. The show was literally right outside of the restaurant. Absinthe was the name of the show and it was amazing! Walking into the tent style theatre, I was instantly reminded of the fairy nightclub from True Blood. The place was amazing with cool décor, art and high wires strung throughout. The seating was setup in the round and special booths were along the back wall. The show started with a man dressed all in white taking his shot of absinthe and being introduced to the Green Fairy. Her amazing voice instantly brought the show to life. Through the shows program we were dazzled by comedy with the co-hostess Penny (who’s character could totally be played by a drag queen…just saying) to tap dancing with a half naked girl in a balloon, to several amazingly talented artists of the tightrope and trapeze. There was also an amazing duo of German roller skaters who did crazy amazing things on the skates. They made me lose my breath more than once. At one point in the show the other host selected a woman from the audience and two hot guys to give her a lap dance. She chose the black guy…lol. Getting back to the show, the evening was filled with non-stop entertainment and lasted over an hour. All of the performers were yummy to look at and not one had a flaw in their routines. I would recommend this show to anyone visiting Vegas (18 and up).
After the show we went into Ceasar’s, which is huge! They were having a performance of Shania that night and the gift shop was packed. The walls are filled with merchandise from Shania, Celine, and Elton John. I bought a thing or two to bring home.
We rounded out the evening with some more shopping and slot paying. Winnings: Zero!
We were able to sleep in Monday, which was nice. After getting ready we took a taxi to historic Downtown Las Vegas and The Freemont Street Experience. Our Driver, Kathy, was wonderful (if you get to Vegas look her up, contact me for the number). Downtown Vegas is really pretty cool, and nothing like the strip. It was more of an old school feeling with a more low-key vibe. The Freemont Street Experience includes a huge overhead light show. They say it’s the largest screen in the world, and it just might be. The light show is set to music and video. The show starts on the hour after sunset. For lunch we ate at the Golden Nugget and the food was pretty good. After lunch we went to “The Center.” This is their version of OutCentral. It is a beautiful place with a café, basketball courts outside and a safe-zone for youth. I was able to get some Q&A time with them:
The Location of the center, is that a key to your success?
Our location is really a function of the building and site we purchased. Unlike many other cities, Las Vegas doesn’t have a ‘gayborhood’ like Hillcrest in San Diego or West Hollywood in LA or Halsted in Chicago. What our location does is place us close to the redevelopment efforts of the Downtown Project and also puts us squarely in a vulnerable neighborhood that is primarily Latino and African American.
You are open till 10 PM, is there really foot traffic that late for you?
Yes, there is some, but most of the traffic is vehicular with folks coming to The Center for events.
The list of corporate sponsors is amazing. How did the center get them signed on?
Mostly by leveraging the personal and professional networks of staff and board members. Corporate sponsors provide annual unrestricted operations funding. Additionally, we have had a number of corporations contribute to our capital campaign, some of whom are not listed on the website as sponsors.
Do the Sin Sity Sisters play a big role at The Center?
Sin Sity Sisters’ role at The Center revolves mainly around supporting our events – through volunteering at events, like selling raffle tickets at the Honorarium and serving food to youth at our community Thanksgiving event.
The Bronz Café, do you suggest it to other centers like yours?
Yes, it’s great in so many ways – the healthy and delicious choices of food and beverage and its increasing visibility across the Las Vegas valley brings in many folks with whom we would not otherwise connect.
I noticed there are two TN natives on staff: Cory Burgess and Arlene Cooper. Does the southern charm help out in the desert?
Unquestionably. Both Cory and Arlene are well-known and well-respected in the community. In fact, Arlene was named Humanitarian of the Year in 2013 by the Imperial Royal Sovereign Court of the Desert Empire and received the Heart of the Community Award from SNAPI (the LV Pride org).
After we got back from The Center we found ourselves back on Fremont St, but this time we went to the Vegas Club to play some Black Jack. Ok, so we didn’t win, but we had a great time at the tables and the dealer was a lot of fun. After the tables we played in a few more casinos downtown before heading back to our hotel. Winnings: Zero…again!
Alas, all good things must come to an end, but before they do we wanted to get in one more attraction. We went to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. I hadn’t been to one before, but I totally suggest it to anyone that will be traveling anywhere with one. After buying our tickets, which we got a great deal on, we were greeted on the red carpet by the first wax celebrity, Joan Rivers… how fitting! The first room was filled with all the a-listers, Clooney, Brad Pitt and Angelina, and even Lindsay Lohan! There are lifelike figures everywhere, and at the end they had a Marvel SuperHero 4D Experience. That was pretty fun too.
We then grabbed a burger for lunch and headed back to the hotel for one last free drink and some more slot play, and yeah you guessed it… Winnings: Zero! After my last pull on the machine I called my taxi driver Kathy and she picked me up promptly to take me to the airport. The line at check-in and security wasn’t bad at all and I was at my gate within 30 minutes or so. The airport had re-charging stations and plenty of fun things to keep you entertained while you wait for your flight.
As I am writing these last paragraphs I am sitting in seat 8A on Southwest non-stop back to Nashville I am looking back on my short, but fun trip to Vegas that I wish didn’t have to end. I loved the Strip, the shopping, Downtown and The Center, but I think that it’s the idea of just getting away that I love the most. I have been told that the Tropicana will be hosting some fun LGBT events this Spring, I may just have to go back to check it out! Look at O&A online for more details!