LAS VEGAS — You don’t have to gamble and go clubbing to fill a Vegas vacation agenda. There’s always something new to do in the desert city that never sleeps.
Here are five new things to check out when you visit in 2019:
1. Fly Linq zipline
The first decision you have to make at Las Vegas’ newest zipline is a big one: seated or superhero style. I had only done seated ziplines in the past and was hesitant to try the prone position, in part after a Google search turned up a TV report of a man who ended up with staples in his head after a hard landing shortly after this one opened in November. Superhero rides have since been recertified by county safety regulators.
So i channeled my inner child and picked superhero, a $10 upgrade that was seconded by the ticket agent (“If you’re going to do it, you might as well do it”) and worker at the pre-ride weigh station (“Oh, superhero, I love superhero.”) Only one worker called me crazy.
The verdict after a 35 second ride that traveled 12 stories above the bustling Linq Promenade, past Sprinkles cupcakes, Brooklyn Bowl and Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips toward the towering High Roller observation wheel: It’s a little unnerving getting into position and the landing is less than graceful, but I had no regrets flying head first.
Fly Linq isn’t going to set any speed records or put ziplines in the lush Costa Rican rainforests out of business. It’s a short, fairly leisurely ride but you can leave saying you rode the first zipline on The Strip. Not the first zipline in Vegas, of course. There’s the VooDoo zip-line at Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino just off The Strip, and Slotzilla at the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas.
Pro tip: Look for discounted Fly Linq tickets on deals sites like Groupon. Regular prices are $25-$35 during the day for seated and $35-$45 at night. I rode during the day but, like The High Roller, the views are probably best at night, when Vegas sparkles.
2. The Underground at The Mob Museum
There are no signs on the green side door outside The Mob Museum. Visitors push a buzzer and a narrow slot in the door opens to reveal a pair of dark eyes. “Baloney,” I say, and the door is unlocked.
Inside, a combination speakeasy, distillery and Prohibition exhibit. It’s called The Underground and, like the Mob Museum itself, is a must-see in downtown Las Vegas.
The attraction, which opened in April 2018 in the basement of the museum, is a great stop on its own or after a tour of the museum. Entrance is free with Mob Museum admission or free on its own after 5 p.m. through the side entrance with the weekly password posted on Instagram.
The small distillery makes corn-mash moonshine and you can get a free sample, buy a bottle to take home or order a drink at the bar with moonshine in it. The 30-minute distillery tours, which include samples of moonshine, vodka and Jamaica ginger infusion, are popular and offered daily from noon to 6 p.m.
The speakeasy’s specialty is Prohibition-era cocktails, suitably stiff drinks delivered, in some cases, in a glass flask hidden inside a hollowed out book. That’s how The Marlow, a $14 Bourbon and sherry drink recommended by the bartender, arrived at my spot at the bar on an early Friday evening in early January. I didn’t notice the “book” initially and wondered why she gave me an empty glass with ice and a rosemary sprig.
“Raise a glass to the past, drink what they drank and remember — you were never here,” the cocktail menu says.
Exhibits include a look at the sunken rum runner, the tugboat Lizzie D, ticket stubs from illegal bars in the 1920s and black-and-white photos galore from the era when booze was banned.
Pro tip: Ask a bartender to let you peek into (or reserve) The Fitting Room, a hidden private lounge for 12.
3. Block 16 Urban Food Hall
It’s easy to call Block 16 a food court, as the lady behind me on the escalator up to the new food hall at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas did in early January.
But visitors won’t find Nathan’s, McDonald’s or other fast food on the menu at the latest addition to the chic hotel with the trademark crystal chandelier. The Block 16 takeout bags playfully scratch out fast in “fast foodies.”
The collection of food counters, next door to the Marquee nightclub on Cosmopolitan’s second level, features niche restaurants beloved around the country.
The valet at Cosmopolitan said he was already a frequent visitor, singling out Pok Pok Wing, featuring Vietnamese fish sauce wings from James Beard Award-winning Chef Andy Ricker in Portland, Oregon, and the burgers at District, a New Orleans favorite known for its burgers, donuts and coffee, as his favorites.
My favorites: The pork belly gyro from Lardo, a Portland sandwich shop, hot chicken and fries from Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, a Nashville staple. For “dessert’: a gooey chocolate and peanut butter donut from District called Parent Trap
Block 16 is tiny and easily overlooked with the arrival of Eataly, the grand new Italian food hall that opened in late December at Park MGM hotel, but it is a great addition to the Las Vegas food scene and Cosmopolitan’s already stellar restaurant lineup. (For another quick option, try Cosmo’s secret pizza on the same level.)
Pro tip: Take a cruise around the place before ordering and bring friends so you can try a bunch of options.
4. NoMad Bar
Cocktail enthusiasts flock to the swank new NoMad Bar at the new NoMad Las Vegas hotel for its pedigree. The NoMad Bar in New York was named best bar in North America in 2018 and fourth in the world in the Oscars of bar competitions, 2018 World’s Best Bars. It’s been in the top 10 for three consecutive years. NoMad Bar’s creative director, Leo Robitschek, is a James Beard Award winner, nabbing the 2014 prize for outstanding bar program.
I was entranced by a rooster. The bar, which opened in October and has a vintage vibe, is really a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night snacks, in addition to cocktails. On the cocktail menu: drinks for two in a giant copper rooster. You can’t miss ’em behind the bar.
The rooster is a vessel for NoMad’s Coq-Tail, a $32 drink with Absolut Elyx (they make the oversized copper bar ware and sell some versions online) sherry, lime and yuzu. NoMad is also famous for its “explosion” drinks that serve four to eight people and come with an Instagram-worthy show, but they were an expense account buster at $125.
Pro tip: Las Vegas is the only place where you will find a NoMad slot machine. A few are stationed at the entrance to the NoMad Hotel off the casino floor at Park MGM hotel.
5. Hard Rock Cafe guitar and Tim Burton at the Neon Museum
The Neon Museum, another downtown Las Vegas gem where old Vegas signs go to die, will add a high profile neon sign to its boneyard in early March . It is adding the giant guitar from Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas, which closed in 2016 after a nearly 30 year run.
The sign owner, Young Electric Sign Company, donated the guitar to the museum, which launched a $350,000 fundraising campaign in 2017 to transport, restore and maintain the sign.
The Hard Rock guitar will be lit in a lighting ceremony on March 4. Donors will have their names at the base of the guitar.
Coming this fall and running into February 2020: An exhibition from director Tim Burton. The museum says it’s first exhibit of his original fine art in nearly a decade. Ticket sales have not begun.