The booming club scene in Las Vegas is opening up the destination to a younger audience, Robin Searle reports
If you turned the clock back five years and asked the average fan of dance music for their ultimate party destination, there was really only one answer.
Ibiza ruled the roost, boasting the biggest DJs, most famous clubs and most spectacular events.
Spin the turntable forward to the present day and ask the same question, and the response wouldn’t be as clearcut. There’s a new kid in town – and it isn’t pulling any punches.
As a regular reader of dance music bible Mixmag, I remember scoffing at an interview with the DJ and producer Paul Oakenfold in 2008, in which he predicted Las Vegas would soon be the place to experience the world’s best clubs and biggest DJs.
But as your aircraft makes its descent into the city’s McCarran airport today, the faces adorning the exteriors of the mega resorts are no longer just tiger-petting magicians or legendary crooners.
Where the oversized visages of Siegfried and Roy, Barry Manilow or Celine Dion once gazed down on to the Strip, now it’s just as likely to be DJs such as Calvin Harris, Tiësto or David Guetta.
Traditional entertainment still dominates, of course, with Cirque du Soleil remaining ubiquitous.
But the resorts are also investing massive and increasing amounts in their nightclubs and poolside dayclubs, as well as the superstar DJs who are paid big bucks to entertain the growing number of visitors who are coming specifically to pin their colours to the electronic dance music (EDM) flag.
For old-school clubbers, the Vegas nightlife experience is an odd one – sanitised, polished and mainstream with an oddly ‘unclubby’ dresscode of smart shoes and collared shirts for men.
But that doesn’t seem to bother the thousands of Brits heading over for a taste of a growing dance music powerhouse.
Where once the Virgin Atlantic flight from Gatwick would have been filled predominantly with older customers with a high disposable income and a penchant for the craps tables, now it’s chock-full of youngsters happy to bypass the flashing lights of the casino for their more blinding equivalents behind the velvet ropes of the club entrances.
This is particularly notable in mid-June, when the annual three-day Electric Daisy Carnival festival caters for 350,000 clubbers at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. But it’s an increasingly year-round phenomenon.
For the resorts looking to fill a growing number of hotel rooms and the tourism bosses trying to establish the destination as more than a gambler’s paradise, this popularity with a new demographic is manna from heaven.
And crucially, they’re not just one-off visitors; the group behind us on our flight were chatting with the voices of experience about which clubs they’d be hitting and which were the best bars for pre-dancing drinks.
With research showing that many young people are tiring of the breadth of options on the internet and increasingly turning to the ease and comfort of an agent or operator – particularly for long-haul travel – the younger market to Las Vegas has enormous potential for the trade.
And this new opportunity is being recognised by operators such as Virgin Holidays, which has added a section on the best club nights and how to secure tickets to its Welcome to Vegas booklet.
While the ease and cost of heading to Ibiza means it is likely to retain its lofty position for UK clubbers for some while yet, there’s no disputing the fact that more and more young people are looking to the desert of Nevada for their DJ kicks.
Where to recommend
Encore Beach Club, Surrender, Tryst and XS at Wynn and Encore Las Vegas
The Wynn Las Vegas was one of the first resorts to recognise the potential of the EDM scene, and recently completed a £6.6 million redesign of its flagship club XS. Exclusive DJs include Avicii, David Guetta and Martin Solveig.
Drai’s Beach Club
Caesars Entertainment turned to nightclub owner and film producer Victor Drai to create Drai’s Beach Club at The Cromwell, which opened in 2014. The club features DJ sets and live concerts with a first-class view from the centre of the Strip.
Omnia at Caesars Palace
Taking over the site of the former PURE nightclub, Omnia opened in March and was followed by the VISTA cocktail lounge in May. The multi-level venue spans 75,000sq ft and features a rooftop garden.
Delano Beach Club
Delano Beach Club at Delano Las Vegas claims to boast a new pool experience that creates a “South Beach-inspired paradise”. Sixteen private cabanas offer bottle service and 46-inch HD TVs.
LAX Nightclub at Luxor Hotel and Casino
The LAX Nightclub at the Luxor Hotel and Casino reopened its doors after an extensive ‘remodelling’. New features include a larger dance floor and state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems, as well as refreshed decor.
Hakkasan at MGM Grand
Fans of big-hitters Tiësto and Hardwell, and Scottish geek-turned-underwear model Calvin Harris, will find them on the decks at Hakkasan, a multi-storey venue at the MGM Grand.
Marquee Dayclub, the Cosmopolitan
Bottle service has been taken up a notch at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ Marquee dayclub, with drones delivering bottles to tables. Those keen to splash the cash can have champagne delivered from the sky for a $20,000 minimum spend.
If clubbing isn’t your clients’ thing, there is still a wealth of new entertainment options in Las Vegas
Blue Man Group at Monte Carlo Las Vegas Resort and Casino
The Blue Man Group has updated its Las Vegas production with new instruments and set pieces inspired by the city.
Superstar soloists at Caesars Palace
Three titans of the music world – Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and Elton John – have all confirmed new or extended residencies at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. Enrique Iglesias will also play two shows on September 12 and 13.
Reba, Brooks & Dunn: Together in Vegas at Caesars Palace
Country music stars Reba McEntire, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn will play 30 of their greatest hits during their Las Vegas residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace.
Frank The Man. The Music. at The Palazzo
The stage show celebrating the music of Frank Sinatra opened earlier this year in the run-up to celebrations surrounding what would have been Ol’ Blue Eyes’ 100th birthday in December.
Showstoppers at Wynn Las Vegas
Bucking the trend for less traditional shows, the new production at Wynn Las Vegas is a collection of hits from Broadway musicals, performed by 66 singers, dancers and a full orchestra.
Jennifer Lopez at Planet Hollywood
Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino has confirmed that Jennifer Lopez will begin a headlining residency in January 2016, with a show created for the Vegas stage.
Virgin Holidays offers four nights in a Deluxe Resort King Room at Wynn Las Vegas from £1,125 a person. The price, based on two sharing, is for departures from Gatwick on November 11.
Attraction World offers a VIP Club Crawl + free Party Pass package for £56. The package offers entry to an ‘ultra-lounge’ and three clubs with transport in between, plus bonus entry to a club the following evening.
Do Something Different offers a VIP Rockstar Night Club Tour for £48. The price includes entry to an ‘ultra-lounge’ and three clubs with transport in between on a ‘party bus’ with a bar tender and free drinks.
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