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Best burger

Happy Hour Burger at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House

We know that dining at this chain of expense-account steakhouses isn’t as hip as hollering your fusion-flavored burger order through a food truck window and then scarfing it standing up, but Del Frisco’s classic vibe is just as Instagram-worthy. And the burger? This superior version is as traditional as they come, ground in-house from aged USDA Prime beef and crafted into exactly what every burger should be: rich, flavorful, juicy and satisfying. Garnished with your choice of cheese and paired with a side of either fries or house-made chips, it’s only $7 at happy hour. It’s no surprise the barstools fill fast. 3925 Paradise Road, delfriscos.com JPR

Best pizza

Naked City Pizza

We love pizza. Round, square, thin, deep. New York, Detroit, Naples, 7-11. Given the varieties — and their vociferous defenders — we know we’re stepping into a minefield here. That’s okay, because we’re fueled by the fantastic foodstuff cranked from the ovens of Naked City. There’s something special about how perfectly balanced this rectangular, Buffalo-style pie truly is. The crust, at once chewy and firm, is neither thin nor thick. The ingredients are top-shelf (you’ll taste it in the Italian sausage and pepperoni), and the sauce leans more spicy than sweet, just how it should be. Naked City elevates mere pizza to something that’s a joy to eat from beginning to end, and even before that: The joy starts when you open the box and inhale deeply. Four locations, nakedcitylv.com JPR

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Best Italian food

Portofino Ristorante

Chef Michael LaPlaca is a dark wizard. How else can you explain the transformation of the standard red-sauce spot Onda into the valley’s best Italian restaurant? The magic is everywhere on the menu. LaPlaca’s riff on chicken Alfredo incorporates foie gras and chicken cracklings, the grilled onion gnocchi is accompanied by crispy frog legs, and he’s even got a pasta of his own making, in the jagged-edge ripatelli. Score one for sorcery. The Mirage, mirage.com JB

Best Japanese food

Raku

Sea Urchin with poached egg at Raku

Sea Urchin with poached egg

This once tiny, under-the-radar grill now delivers its widely celebrated wood-fired Japanese delights in a much larger space. Raku hits all the hipster high points: Off-Strip, late hours, chef-driven, small plates, authentic cuisine, a daily specials board that is simply beyond and menu items that have achieved cult status, like “potato corn” (just order it) and a take on caprese that replaces mozzarella with house-made tofu. With multiple James Beard nominations and more than a few mentions right here in Desert Companion, Raku keeps generating buzz for a reason. 5030 W. Spring Mountain Road #2, raku-grill.com JPR

Best Chinese food

Chengdu Taste

Known for its spice factor, Szechuan cuisine isn’t for everyone. But subtlety is a virtue at Chengdu Taste, where dishes are spiced for flavor and scent rather than as a test of strength. Ranging from sweat-inducing toothpick lamb with cumin to the literally mouth-tingling “numb taste” wontons, the menu is rich with peppers of all varieties, with a heavy emphasis on Szechuan peppercorns. Chengdu brings a flavorful heat with each and every dish. 3950 Schiff Drive, 702-437-7888 JB

Best Mexican food

El Fresco’s Cocina Mexicana

El Fresco’s isn’t much to look at — assuming you can even find it. Tucked away near the airport in a motel-turned-office building surrounded by rental-car parking, this postage stamp-sized place is anything but picturesque. But their shrimp tacos are outrageously addictive, as is the hearty cochinita pibil and housemade salsa verde, while the Super Fresco Max Burrito can feed a small family. There are no avant-garde dishes at El Fresco’s, only simple Mexican classics, done superbly. 5030 Paradise Road #B110, elfrescos.com JB

Best chicken wings

Carmine’s

Surely Carmine’s, the bastion of Italian fare served in enormous portions, can’t have the valley’s best chicken wings? They do: Carmine’s spicy scarpariello wings really are that good, marinated for more than a day, dipped in the fryer and served swimming in a butter-laden, white wine sauce tinged with Tabasco. These labor-intensive wings are made with love.
In the Forum Shops at Caesars, carminesnyc.com JB

Best noodle dish

Spicy clams with green tea ramen at Fish N Bowl

Green tea is all the rage these days. And now it’s in your noodles, too. At this compact but innovative Japanese eatery in the southwest, one of the menu highlights is ramen soup with emerald green matcha noodles. They’re accompanied by chunks of clam meat in a fiery red broth; little rice puff floaties and shreds of scallion make for visual accents. 7225 S. Durango Drive, facebook.com/fishnbowlvegas GT

Best Thai food

David Wong’s Pan Asian

There might be as many Thai restaurants in town as there are all-you-can-eat sushi joints. Most are indistinguishable from one another when it comes to staples such as rad nah and pad see yew. But David Wong allows his noodles to loiter in the wok just a bit longer than others do, letting them develop a sweet balance of caramelization and smoke. It makes all the difference. David knows that perfect flavor is in the details. 2980 Durango Drive #101, davidwongspanasian.com JB

 

Lotus of Siam

Why is timeless only ever thrown around for steakhouses? With waves of excellent Asian cuisine opening faster than you can cram noodles down your gullet, perennial classic Lotus of Siam endures as a testament to Thai. Plus, you know you’re in good hands when you order your dish level-10 spicy and the waiters laug. Personal favorite: the house special nua nam tok (beef with green and red onion, cilantro, chiles, lime and rice powder). Super-hearty and crazy-hot, but the lime and cilantro kick it this fresh, acidic vibe. 953 E. Sahara Ave., lotusofsiamlv.com JS

 

Chada Thai and Wine

 

Bank AtcharawanBank Atcharawan’s Chada Thai and Wine is still one of the only places in town to get some of the regional deep cuts of Thai cuisine so many overlook. The standards such as tom kha gai and pad Thai are here, sure, but the adventurous will dive into authentic dishes such as kang tai pla (spicy fermented fish curry), lo-ba (braised and fried pig ear, heart and tongue), or one of Chada’s rare curries that blurs the borders between Thai, Indian, and Szechuan Chinese cuisines. 3400 S. Jones Blvd., chadavegas.com MW

Best tacos

Taco Tijuana

Get the best tacos in town at either Taco Tijuana location: on east Tropicana or at the Broadacres Swap Meet in North Las Vegas. The adobada, sliced directly from the spit while you wait, is equally as flavorful and crisp at either, while the accompanying piña is just as sweetly acidic. But there’s a certain allure to eating tacos al fresco while browsing luchador masks and (allegedly) counterfeit Coach bags. And you can’t do that on east Tropicana. 2554 E. Tropicana Ave. and Broadacres Swap Meet, 702-547-9163 JB

Best bar food

Owl

When even something so pedestrian as garlic fries makes you sit up and take notice, you know a joint’s bar food is running good. Unassuming Russell Road watering hole Owl brings the thunder with entries like bulgogi-marinated Korean sliders and vegan deviled “eggs.” Plus those fries, with shockingly tender steak and full cloves of garlic. 3990 W. Russell Road #100, owllasvegas.com JS

 

Best late-night diner

The Lakes Lounge

A Vegas diner should have a good story. The Lakes? It’s in the family genes. Owner Jamie Holcombe’s dad owned and operated Pogo’s, a Vegas institution celebrated for its jazz night back in the day. Although it’s technically a 24/7 video poker bar, The Lakes has a bustling kitchen that serves everything from Texas chili to fish & chips to an $8.99 turkey dinner on Sundays. (A separate dining room ensures smoke-free meals.) The menu has helped make The Lakes an institution itself; it celebrates 30 years in 2017. 2920 Lake E. Drive, thelakeslounge.com MY

 

Best beer selection

Pub 365 at Tuscany Suites and Casino

Pub 365Find a veritable calendar year of suds in this inviting beerstravaganza in the Tuscany. The liquid menu is a compendium of craft classics such as Deschutes Black Butte Porter and esoteric hop-head fetishes like Evil Twin Molotov Cocktail Imperial IPA. The handcrafted, wooden “Unicorn” books list rare brews in stock. Plenty of beer shows up as ingredients, too, in the gastropubby food offerings. 255 E. Flamingo Road, tuscanylv.com/restaurantpub-365 GT

 

Best daily specials

Flock & Fowl

Flock & Fowl is best known for introducing Las Vegans to poached Hainan chicken rice. But a well-kept secret is that chefs Sheridan Su and Travis Silva are regularly creating daily specials that are just as incredible, from hearty Indonesian fried rice to an amazing katsu sandwich. And if you see duck on the daily special board? Don’t think, just order. 380 W. Sahara Ave., flockandfowl.com JB

 

Best appetizers

Mezza platter at Khoury’s

Multitudinous small plates unite and become mighty with the mezza platter at Khoury’s, the fine Lebanese-inspired eatery on the west side. Once arrayed on your table, it’s more than a dozen samplings ranging from haloumi cheese and dolmades to baba ganoush and falafel. The loubieh (green beans in a garlicky tomato sauce) elevate the humble legume. And then there’s the fresh, puffy pitas served hot and inflated straight from the oven. Tearing them apart is a joy. 9340 W. Sahara Ave. #106, khouryslv.com GT

 

Libertine Social

Chef Shawn McClain’s Libertine Social is a drinking and dining extravaganza where you could easily make a night of simply starters. Begin with Desert Companion’s Signature Dish of 2016, the silky, rich Modern Fried Egg, and wander from there between savory Parmesan churros, fresh tuna cones and playful Scotch olives. Don’t overlook tequila-kissed raw oysters, the hearty oxtail crostini or the pretzel with cheddar and raclette fondue. Mandalay Bay, mandalaybay.com JB

 

Best tasting menu

Other Mama

Since opening Other Mama in 2015, local dining circuit darling Dan Krohmer has delighted guests with innovative Asian fare and a ridiculous oyster happy hour. Not content to rest on his laurels, he recently unveiled a tasting menu focused on the ingredients du jour, with each course prepared by Krohmer himself. A recent trip treated me to soy-marinated eggplant topped with creamy monkfish liver, king crab salad with sweet potato croquettes, and duck drizzled in port sauce and sprinkled with kabocha squash fritters. 3655 S. Durango Drive #6, othermamalv.com JB

 

Best buffet

Bacchanal Buffet

BacchanalReinventing the iconic Las Vegas culinary hallmark in 2012, Caesars Palace turned a moribund casino buffet into a dining destination with Bacchanal. Like the infamous Bacchanal Room it’s named after, the buffet is completely over the top, offering everything from Jonah crab claws and made-to-order pastas to peach wood-smoked brisket and Cuban fried rice. With the endless bubbly option, you may never want to leave. Caesars Palace, caesars.com JB

 

Best brunch

Bardot Brasserie

In a city where brunch is an industrial science of competitive decadence, this is a hotly contested category. Bardot’s tack is decidedly simple: Provide the rich, satisfying brunch classics with the same refined aplomb and sophistication as they do with the dinner menu. Besides waffles with duck confit, crepes with crab, and possibly the best croque madame this side of the Arc de Triomphe, all-you-can-drink rosé sweetens this heavenly weekend morning recuperation. Wear a tie, if your hangover permits.
In Aria, aria.com MY

 

Echo & Rig

Since opening in 2013, Echo & Rig has established itself as a top-tier steakhouse and upscale butcher shop, but the brunch offerings deserve accolades too. The spinach and goat cheese quiche is the perfect balance of fluffy and gooey with a nice, flaky crust, and meat lovers will love the short rib hash or steak frites. With outdoor seating, affordable prices, and bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys, this is a spot for classic brunchists. (9a-3p Saturday & Sunday) Tivoli Village, 440 S. Rampart Blvd., echoandrig.com MY

 

Best coffee

Vesta

VestaLas Vegas loves its chains, but after decades of being palate-smacked into submission by the bitter, burnt roasts of FourBucks, Downtown’s newish Vesta is a refreshing reprieve. Housed in a bright Arts District renovation with concrete floors, roll-up doors and a working bean roaster as a centerpiece, Vesta’s full-bodied roasts remain surprisingly mellow. Rather than gulping down a triple-shot like medicine, it’s an invitation to savor.
1114 S. Casino Center Blvd. #1, vestacoffee.com JPR

 

Desert Wind Coffee Roasters

Whether it’s a nutty blend from Peru or something with a floral finish from Burundi, every coffee bean is roasted in-house at Desert Wind. With more than 15 bean-producing countries to choose from for a personalized pour-over, the west side coffee house makes relishing caffeinated pleasures easy (or, if you’re indecisive, hard). It’s got its stateside pop culture cred, too: The Breaking Bad-inspired espresso menu features a proprietary grind and a side of blue rock candy stick. 7772 W. Sahara Ave., desertwindcoffee.com MY

 

Shops & Services

Best clothing store

TOPSHOP/TOPMAN

When famed Brit high-street retailer TOPSHOP/TOPMAN opened its doors in Las Vegas in 2012, it shook up the shopping scene with a fusion of style, affordability, service and sheer scale. The scale: a 20,000 square-foot floor packed with fashion, a dramatic 180-foot-long storefront that invites and excites. The stellar service includes personal shopping suites and a valet with a private entrance. The style: For the men, everything from three-piece suits to hip jeans and tees, all oozing British cool. For women, everything from slinky night-on-the-town dresses to athleisurewear. Fashion Show Mall, topshop.com CM

 

Best beauty products

Sephora

With locations dotting the valley from Summerlin to the Strip to the south valley, Sephora is truly the go-to expert on all things beauty. And when we say “all things,” we mean it. Sephora carries just about every product in the beauty alphabet, from AERIN to Yves Saint Laurent, with a staff of trained experts ready to help navigate you to the perfect shade or scent. They even schedule makeup appointments for special events such as proms, weddings and parties. Multiple locations, sephora.com CM

 

Best budget spa

Euphoria Salons & Day Spas

With packages starting at $80, Euphoria transforms the spa experience from a quarterly splurge to an anytime indulgence. With more than 22 years of experience keeping Las Vegas beautiful on a budget, little wonder that Euphoria Salons & Day Spas is the locals’ choice for spa treatments, facials and massages. Go in for a quickie 15-minute, blemish-busting Breakout Emergency treatment, or spend the day before a big night out with Platinum Spa Package. And with three locations across the valley, it’s easy to get an appointment seven days a week. Multiple locations, euphoriasalons.com JH

 

Best luxury spa

Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars Palace

QuaAn opulent oasis since its opening in 2007, Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars Palace is the Las Vegas Boulevard destination for an otherworldly spa experience. Luxury relaxation takes a holistic approach with grand traditional Roman baths, Ayurvedic herbal treatments and even chakra balancing. One-of-a-kind amenities like their Arctic Ice Room (where heated benches make the indoor snowglobe a peaceful escape) and their exclusive Nobu Nagomi Ritual are just a few of their luxe offerings worth making a trip to the Strip. Caesars Palace, caesars.com JH

 

Skaught GibsonBest hair salon

Josephine Skaught Hairdressing

When veteran hair artist Skaught Gibson dreamed up his salon concept, he envisioned a place that was artsy, sophisticated and welcoming all at once. Named for his grandmother, Josephine Skaught Hairdressing is just that, an inspired and innovative salon/art gallery now in its fifth year at the heart of the Arts District. Gender-neutral by design, services center on high-quality cuts, color, smoothing treatments and grooming with a comprehensive line of Bumble and Bumble products to make the best of every coif. (And if your own locks aren’t luscious enough, the salon offers long wear/gentle application adhesive Hot Heads extensions.) 1025 S. First St. #165, josephineskaught.com JH

 

Best waxing service

The Wax Genie Stacey Torres

Stacey Torres is much more than her title The Wax Genie suggests. Of course, she’s a consummate professional in the field of hair removal, with a knack for sensitive skin epilation and soothing the fears of first-timers. She’s also a state-certified advocate through the Gender Justice organization and makes her locally sourced vegan zinc and titanium-based, fragrance- and dye-free waxes available to everyone, with absolutely no gender bias. 515 Rose St., thewaxgenie.com JH

 

Best accessories shop

Alex & Ani

Charmed, we’re sure! A national brand with real local roots, Alex & Ani is the accessories shop for meaningful personalized pieces that speak to your aesthetics, aura and altruism. Stacking is the current trend, with glimmering crystal bangles layered between chic wire bracelets that showcase your hopes, dreams and inner truths in symbolic charms. Made in America from recycled materials, these baubles give back, too, with 20 percent of the proceeds from their Charity by Design line donated to a variety of causes, totaling more than $37 million since 2011. Fashion Show Mall #1335, alexandani.com JH

 

Best used bookstore

Amber Unicorn Books

This unassuming bookshop is home to an extensive, Ruth Reichl-approved cookbook collection that includes impractical but utterly charming first-edition titles like Flowers as Food. No petals? No problem. Food lit aside, all genres are well-represented, and the owners offer discounts when you bring a Trader Joe’s bag — or even if you don’t. 2101 S. Decatur Blvd. #14, amberunicornbooks.com KT

 

Best Vegas gifts for your odd uncle with the turntable

Frankie’s, Golden Tiki

We all know one: The uncle with the classic car and the retro pad. The turntable. The Converse Chuck Taylor kicks, worn with ... everything. What can you possibly gift that meets his hyper-curated stylistic standards? Not vinyl (he has it all). And the Dive Bar Shirt Club? Please. Instead, go native at one of our city’s fine tiki bars (Frankie’s Tiki Room, The Golden Tiki) with a real-deal T-shirt and one of their killer collectible tiki mugs. Bonus Round: At Frankie’s, fill the mug with branded swag (swizzle sticks and matchboxes), and watch uncle crack a smile. Frankie’s, 1712 W. Charleston Blvd., frankiestikiroom.com; Golden Tiki, 3939 Spring Mountain Road, thegoldentiki.com JPR

 

Best place for Vegas kitsch

Bonanza Gift Shop

Elvis sunglasses? Check. Clear acrylic toilet seats filled with coins? Check. Dice clocks, card dealer visors, roulette wheel ashtrays, boxing aliens? Check, check, check, and, believe it not, check. Bonanza Gifts is one of the few remnants of a dying breed of road trip souvenir shops, 36,000 square feet of awesome where ridiculous keepsakes jive with jerky and gemstones. Visit now — or blink and it’s a high-rise. 2440 Las Vegas Blvd. S., worldslargestgiftshop.com JPR
 

Best weirdly specific specialty store

Jewelry & Mineral Las Vegas

Need a specific crystal to cast that spell? Or just a pretty stone to admire? This rock shop has you covered. Featuring a vast selection from around the world, it’s a great place to find a gift for someone who has everything … except a 250-pound geode … until now. Plus, there are dinosaurs on the roof. 410 E. Sahara Ave., jewelryandmineraloflv.com KT

 

Best vintage stores

Patina 

PatinaPatina is a virtual Midcentury wonderland — but the wonders hail from plenty of other stylish decades, too. This friendly Main Street vintage shop is like a concentrated dose of Palm Springs on steroids, a place where the furniture, art, lighting and clothing range from the kitschy to utterly opulent, and make for some of the best vintage shopping in Vegas. 1300 S. Main St. #140, patinadecorlv.com CM

 

Exile On Main Street

Focusing on preloved fashion with character, Exile on Main peddles the best vintage clothing, jewelry and accessories around — particularly if you’re a fan of patches, buckles, boots, denim, concert tees, flairs, fringes and other bad-ass stoner gear. 1235 S. Main St. Las Vegas, 702-823-3957 CM

 

Best outlet stores

Etro at Las Vegas Premium Outlets North

Elegant, exclusive and eccentric, Etro is the definition of Italian-made finery. At full retail, prices for their handmade pieces often reach into the thousands, but the Etro Outlet boutique is your chance to collect signature-brand pieces at a steep discount. Owned and operated by the Etro family since its 1968 inception, Etro offers distinctive designs, custom fabrics and finely tooled accessories, all of which still originate from Italy, hand-crafted by tailors and artisans. It’s not the kind of logo-heavy luxury brand that rappers boast about, but their signature Arnica paisley print is legendary, and their collections are coveted by stylish celebrities and adventurous fashion enthusiasts all over the world. 795 S. Grand Central Parkway #2211, etro.com JH

 

John Varvatos Company Store at Las Vegas Premium Outlets North

Stress-free retail therapy awaits at the John Varvatos Company Store at the Las Vegas Premium Outlets North, where the signature Varvatos rock ‘n’ roll style — streamlined, sleek, urban and urbane — is available for half (and sometimes a third of) the price of the goods in the mainline stores. The beautiful setting (gorgeous wood floors, curated rock ‘n’ roll paraphernalia) and helpful staff complete the therapeutic escape. 555 S. Grand Central Parkway #3473, johnvarvatos.com CM

 

Arts & Culture

Wendy KveckBest local artists

Wendy Kveck

Artist Wendy Kveck has been blowing our minds for years with her rich, painterly works of women portrayed in color palettes of excess, in which the medium is most definitely the message. Her portraits both observe and challenge expectations and portrayals of women in media and in society. Often grotesquely beautiful and alarmingly real, the color-rich messy compositions never fail to engage and intrigue. wendykveck.com KP

 

Gig Depio

First, respect the skills — Gig Depio can flat-out paint. Second, he’s not shy about filling his canvases with topicality, a caustic wit and a gimlet-eyed take on history; his pieces wrestle with more than purely aesthetic concerns. Third, he uses purely aesthetic concerns — size, style, materiality, complexity — to bolster the oomph of his message (see “A Requiem for the Outsiders” for confirmation). An indispensible artist of this moment. depio168.wixsite.com/gigdepio SD

 

Joan Pereira

This Cuban émigré made a bold entrance into the local art scene with his debut show at peaceNart Studio in the Arts Factory last fall, introducing his distinctive approach to portraiture: Oversized oil paintings that capture the joy and struggles of his native country’s residents. The large canvases are somehow lifelike and dreamlike all at once. Cuba’s loss is Las Vegas’ gain. Facebook.com/joanpereiraartist PP

 

Best local photographer

Mikayla Whitmore

Mikayla Whitmore is a quiet storyteller with an adventurous soul who’s willing to stalk light, like the time she waited for the early morning glow that peeks through Seven Magic Mountains. Her recent images also reclaimed her North Las Vegas roots, and as artist-in-residence for the Neon Museum, she guided others to fearlessly find beauty in old signs. Her photojournalism often reads as fine art. When she shoots a photo essay, it’s often more than gathering images to support someone else’s editorial. She is coauthoring cultural observations. Look closely at her work. Details about local people and landscapes are whispered in your ear. mikaylawhitmore.com EF

 

Best local sculptor

Luis Varela-Rico

Public art is dicey, equal parts celebration and lamentation, often requiring years, if not eternity, for communities to fully appreciate. Artist Luis Varela-Rico breaks the sentiment by balancing fine art with broad appeal. His giant suspended steel hand two years ago at the Clark County Government Center; guerrilla installations of metal origami dotting the Arts District; a large-scale minimalist homage to Paiute culture slated for the Main Street Improvement Project — all have received healthy applause. Next up: a large steel human head as part of the county’s median project, “Centered.” varelarico.com KP

 

Best mural

Piñata Motel by Justin Favela

The ephemeral expression of street art is fitting for a transitory town, which is ironic when you consider how murals from the Life Is Beautiful Festival have a long shelf life. In comes Piñata Motel by Justin Favela, the local who, in 2016, matched the cleverness of the festival’s visiting international artists by covering a Downtown motel and with strips of tissue paper. For a few days, Favela’s temporary sculpture reconciled the Latino mural tradition with contemporary street art. justinfavela.net EF

 

Best addition to the arts scene

Seven Magic Mountains by Ugo Rondinone

Seven Magic MountainsIgnore the minor tinnitus of dissent from people who say this thing mars the desert’s beauty — folks, there’s a shooting range like a mile away — and groove on any of its multiple virtues: the levitating dissonance between its riotous colors and the drab desert; the way it distills the essence of Vegas (bright frivolity in a place it doesn’t belong); its selfie-ready joie de vivre. Thousands have, resulting in a priceless boost of tourism-enhancing social-media exposure. sevenmagicmountains.org SD

 

Best public art program

Centered: Clark County Median Art

New ZAP! boxes and Wayne Littlejohn’s Dream Machine at Siegfried & Roy Park highlight Clark County Public Art programming under former Public Art Specialist Michael Ogilvie. His masterpiece is Centered, the site-specific sculptures in the middle of county roads. The idea is not new, but it was deftly adapted for Southern Nevada. As the curator for Centered, Ogilvie made the project goals clear, saw different districts were included and shows how local artists can think outside the utility box. Centered allows the median be the message. EF

 

Best museum

The Barrick

BarrickAs it enters its 50th year as a UNLV institution, the Barrick added two simple words to its formal name: The UNLV Marjorie Barrick Museum … wait for it … of Art. Since joining the College of Fine Arts in 2011, the Barrick focused on being a contemporary art museum that gathers work from local artists to join a growing collection, and where contemporary artists around the U.S. can exhibit and lecture. The transition was shaped by former director Aurore Giguet and has not lost a step under the interim direction of Alisha Kerlin. unlv.edu/barrickmuseum EF

 

Winchester Cultural CenterBest place to encounter culture

Winchester Cultural Center

The Winchester Cultural Center is easy to forget about, tucked away as it is between UNLV and Downtown. What its location obscures, however, its calendar reveals: a rich variety of cultural events from ballet to gallery installations to heritage festivals. Here is a hidden cultural gem that neatly defies the “cultureless Vegas” stereotype. 3130 McLeod Drive, clarkcountynv.gov/parks/Pages/winchester-cultural-center.aspx MO

 

Best live music venue

Brooklyn Bowl

Another year has passed, and, as per the usual in Sin City, many new things have been built. But the Brooklyn Bowl has yet to be supplanted as the best place to see live music in town. With a great sound system and loads of room to catch a glimpse of one of the great bands in their well-rounded lineup (from Jim James of My Morning Jacket to George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic), it’s still really hard to beat the Bowl. 3545 Las Vegas Blvd. S., brooklynbowl.com/las-vegas MO

 

Best local rock artist/band

All-Togethers

The All-Togethers’ self-described brand of “hillbilly jazz” is as enjoyable and down-to-earth as it sounds, but it’s a lot more interesting than that tagline suggests, too. Rocking a style that is at once retro and new — think 1950s Sunday best meets West Coast hip — the All-Togethers are down-home Southern (banjo) with highbrow highlights (cello). But their tunes run the gamut, at times making you feel like you’re strolling the Quarter in New Orleans and at times energizing you with freight train speed. This versatility is part of what makes them altogether wonderful.
thealltogethers.com MO 

 

Best annual concert

Las Vegas Hardcore Punk Rock Reunion Show

While the history of Las Vegas’ music scene might seem like a footnote compared to a New York or Chicago, within the punk and hardcore world, the valley has been ripe with talent for decades, and has even spawned notable national acts such as Faded Grey and Curl Up and Die. Once a year, organizer Danny Breeden offers the faithful an excuse to dust off the old spiked jackets and beat-up Chucks for one more spin in the pit. Past evenings have featured reappearances by distinguished locals including Subterfuge, Tomorrow’s Gone, M.I.A., Self Abuse and Boba Fett Youth. Start reapplying your straight-edge Xs now — the 2017 date is already set for the fifth annual event: November 4 at Fremont Country Club. CB

 

Best musical trend

The Residency

Once the quintessence of Strip entertainment, the residency helped put Las Vegas on the map by attracting legendary acts like Elvis, Liberace and The Rat Pack for extended stays in the desert. Surprisingly, outside of The Colosseum, the model fell out of style, and the number of recurring musical options on the Strip evaporated. Recently, as artists’ income continues to trend almost entirely toward live performance revenue, the residency is back, offering artists a break from the more grueling aspects of life on the road and allowing fans to travel to them. And where better than Las Vegas? New theaters, venues and an arena have sprung up, with more in the works, and existing spaces are swapping production shows for concerts. The Axis Theater at Planet Hollywood jumped from relative nonexistence to the number two 10,000-seat venue in the world last year. Expect even more major names to hunker down in 2017 as Las Vegas’ musical surge continues. CB

 

Best local jazz band

Jazz Workshop

With one foot anchored in the great jazz tradition and another (much stranger) foot dancing toward the infinite abyss, Jazz Workshop thrives in both worlds. Featuring a Superfriends-like level of Las Vegas jazz talent, JW skillfully balances experimentation with soulful, smooth licks. Catch them late Thursday nights at Ferraro’s from 11p-2a. facebook.com/jazzworkshopthursdays CB

 

Best local singer-songwriter

Halsey Harkins

One of the strongest voices among the recent wave of young local talent, native Las Vegan Halsey Harkins is making ripples on and off the Strip. The pianist, singer, and songwriter performs frequently in production shows and has built a following for her brassy, torchy original tunes. Her style is inescapably rooted in jazz, but the LVA and UNLV grad has never abandoned a pop sensibility. Keep an eye out for more music videos online and a slew of performances around town. facebook.com/halseyharkinsmusic CB

 

Best local DJ

DJ Ikon

Arguably the biggest local name in the club scene, Aaron White, a.k.a. DJ Ikon, has conquered the Strip, frequenting nearly every room across the boulevard. Catch the Blackout Artists member spinning open-format sets that pull heavily from hip-hop remixes while you can; he’s planning increased touring and festival appearances in 2017. djikonlive.com  CB

 

Best new local band

We Are Pancakes

This breakfast-adoring quintet took 2016 by storm, making it to the finals of the Road to Life is Beautiful, popping up on a slew of big local shows and releasing debut E.P. Cookies and Mimosas. As their name might suggest, they’re not afraid to get weird, but don’t dismiss without a listen. Their off-center pop is infectious, and they’re a tight live band. But most importantly, they seem to have offered the scene a lightning rod to coalesce around, hosting open-mic nights, collaborating with other local bands and always celebrating their peers. facebook.com/wearepancakesband CB

 

Best category-busting musical act

Sabriel

Las Vegas native Sabriel Hobart makes music that defies her tender age and desert upbringing. Best displayed on her aptly (and helpfully) named debut EP, shä bre el, the mononymous singer-songwriter blends funk rhythms, jazz textures, hip-hop beats, retro-futuristic synths and soulful vocals into a sound that’s deceptively smooth, unexpectedly urban and distinctively all hers. sabrielmusic.com PP

 

Best theater company

A Public Fit

A Public Fit burst onto the scene in 2014 and won the Valley Award for Best Play right out of the gate. Billing itself as “professional theatre for Las Vegas,” in a combination of staged readings and full productions, this company pays close attention to every minute detail and presents quality work time after time. 2016 proved to be no different. 100 S. Maryland Parkway, apublicfit.org PA

 

Best theater director

Christopher V. Edwards

If the sheer genius of Bomb-itty of Errors to expose young audiences to The Bard wasn’t enough, Christopher V. Edwards helmed a production good enough to convert a purist. From casting to utilizing the Bayley theatre deck to grid, and curtain to house, from attention to detail in movement, to props, costumes and timing, he turned out an excellent production worthy of sold-out performances. unlv.edu/nct PA

 

Best actress

Maythinee Washington

Few actresses can evoke emotion from an audience the way this actress did with her role of Marianne in Constellations earlier this year. Real tears flowing one moment, heartfelt laughter the next — Washington’s performance was an honest, committed portrayal. If it’s true that acting is reacting, she embodied the meaning of consummate performer over the 90-minute play. PA

 

Best actor

Glenn Heath

The man is a chameleon, plain and simple. He can step on stage as a skeevy child molester, as he did with How I Learned to Drive, then, months later in Casa Valentina, sit at a vanity to slowly transform himself into a woman — movements, gestures, expressions and vocal tones altering in smooth, tiny stages. Then he took on an iconic role this year in A Few Good Men and made it his own, fully personifying the role. PA

 

Best movie theater

Galaxy Green Valley Luxury

Some movie theaters in town have started offering luxury amenities like reclining seats; even Downtown is getting into the act with the recently opened Eclipse. Galaxy Theater, however, is the original. They’ve been at it a while — and it shows. Here, your little extra goes a long way with wine glasses that remind you of Riedel, and superior sound, seats, and screens. Netflix is wonderful, but if you want an upgrade on your living room experience for something that deserves a big screen, check out Galaxy. 4500 E. Sunset Road #10, galaxytheatres.com MO

 

Best local TV personality

Sherry Swensk

The weather in Las Vegas is rarely surprising. So the best meteorologist has to bring something to the table aside from “it’s sunny.” Sherry Swensk on Channel 8 brings it. Her personality is as sparkling as her wardrobe, and she always offers helpful tips (like the best time of day to see the Neon Museum) that are as worthwhile for locals as they are for tourists. lasvegasnow.com/sherry-swensk-bio MO

 

Best strip show

KaYes, Cirque is well-established as offering amazing shows, but Kà is the most amazing of the amazing. What other show has a three-dimensional set that transforms from a stage to a ship — at one point, astoundingly allowing for a bird’s eye view? Aside from the set, Kà still offers the most athletic and action-packed repertoire of all the shows on or off the Strip. If “wow” is what you want, then no need to look for new. MGM Grand, starting $69, cirquedusoleil.com/ka MO

 

Family & Leisure

Best staycation spots

Downtown Grand

The casino floor is charming, the hotel decor sleek and modern. Downtown Grand is the Cosmo of Downtown, but what sets it apart for a staycay is an unbeatable two-fer: rooms that are (a) dirt cheap and (b) huge. A recent stay on a Saturday in early December was around $150 for a room that dwarfed most Strip contemporaries. That staying Downtown offers a choose-your-own-adventure of nighttime activities (Fremont tourist? Barhopping hipster? Cheapo Lyft to The Smith Center or Frankie’s) is pure icing. 206 N. Third St., downtowngrand.com JS

 

Lake Las Vegas

Did you know there’s a recreation-friendly body of water just east of Henderson perfect for overnight getaways? No, not Lake Mead — the more compact Lake Las Vegas. The Great Recession neutron bomb left it a nearly vacant Italianate-styled village, but the area is on the rebound, and two hotels — the Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa and the Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa — are worthy lodgings. The Hilton is elegant and relaxing; the Westin has a huge pool complex and beach for paddleboards and beyond. lakelasvegas.com GT

 

Vdara Hotel and Spa

VdaraWhen you staycation, you want to be close to the Strip, but not quite on the Strip. You want to be at a spot like Vdara Hotel and Spa. The rooms and spa are lavish, you’re steps away from Bellagio, The Cosmopolitan and CityCenter. But the hotel, which has no casino, is blissfully mellow. It’s a nice shot of privacy in the middle of the action. 2600 W. Harmon Ave., vdara.com TRW

 

Best place to take a selfie

Bellagio Conservatory

Let’s say you just did something big — like propose to your significant other — and you want a take a quick selfie to announce it to the world and celebrate. There’s no better backdrop than Bellagio’s elegant conservatory, with its light and airy glass roof, vibrant seasonal flowers and stunning themed displays. You may even find yourself popping the question to a complete stranger. bellagio.com TRW

 

Best place to show visitors the real Las Vegas

Casa de Shenandoah

Wayne’s Newton Casa de Shenandoah is a sweetly earnest spectacle, kind of like Las Vegas. Where else are you going to see 60 Arabian horses, a garage full of vintage Bentleys, a Fokker F-28 jet, an 8,700-square-foot Seventies-tacky mansion, a menagerie of swans, peacocks, parrots and wallabies, and a museum full of memorabilia from Mr. Las Vegas’ countless USO tours, as well as fan mail from presidents and celebrities? All this is set in a surreal and enchanting 52-acre Vegas pastoral, filled with green meadows, mountain views and no trace of the city itself. 3310 E. Sunset Road, $18-$95, casadeshenandoah.com TRW

 

Best place to get away from it all (in town)

Springs Preserve

The Springs Preserve’s verdant core, paths and informative exhibits are usually filled with strollers (both the kind with feet and those with wheels), but beyond the amphitheater lie nearly four miles of nature trails that are visited by many fewer soles. You can amble out to the far west side, where there’s a tranquil, reed-
ringed pond; often nobody else will be around. 333 S. Valley View Blvd., springspreserve.org GT

 

Best place to get away from it all (out of town)

Flagstaff, Arizona

Sometimes you need to flee the Silver State — in a direction other than to Cali. And while most of us view Arizona as nothing more than Las Vegas’ hotter cousin, we often forget a sleepy college town in its northern reaches. In Flagstaff, “chill” takes on multiple meanings, from the weather to the vibe to the temperature of craft beers in the downtown bars. Less than four hours away, Flagstaff is the perfect overnight destination where you can recharge those big city batteries. flagstaffarizona.org MJ

 

Best casino for people watching

Wynn/Encore

From floor to ceiling, Steve Wynn’s post-Bellagio masterpieces offer a sort of sensory overload at every turn, but the casinos continue to be the main thoroughfares through which traffic flows at each property. Next time you’re in the neighborhood, pull up a chair at one of the bars, lounges or restaurants that line the casino perimeter and take in the human artwork in perpetual motion. wynnlasvegas.com. MJ

 

Best casino to enjoy losing your money

Golden Nugget

Old Vegas versus New Vegas has been beaten to death, but one aspect that never gets enough play is the suburban sprawl of the modern casino floor. The Nugget keeps its quarters tight enough to elbow the player next to you on a particularly zealous dice throw. Pack such a room full of people in a risk/reward fugue, and you’re going to get the kind of vibe usually reserved for the frozen orange juice scene in Trading Places. You might be blowing through your bankroll, but you’re doing it in the middle of a pure, old-school gambling frenzy. 129 E. Fremont St., goldennugget.com/lasvegas JS

 

Best poker room

The Venetian

The Venetian poker room might not have the variety of games and overwhelming number of players of Bellagio, or the sleek, modern look of Aria, but it’s both incredibly comfortable and profitable for the average $100-$500 buy-in player. That’s because you’re going to get a steady diet of tourists, especially the wannabe pros around events like the Deep Stack Extravaganza. No need to fade the grizzled, flinty vets trying to grind out meager gains at the off-Strip joints, The Venetian continues to be the top spot for balancing aesthetics and plump opposition. 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S., venetian.com/casino/poker.html JS

 

Best parking

Tie: Boyd properties, Hard Rock Hotel, Hooters, Lucky Dragon, M Resort, Venetian, Silverton, SLS, Stations properties, Stratosphere, Tropicana, Treasure Island. (List depressingly subject to rapid and frequent change as more independent operators announce, as The Cosmopolitan did in mid-December, they intend to begin to charge for parking.) JS

 

Best sports book

Green Valley Ranch

Always lively and clean, it was slightly redesigned recently (gone are several rows of long, low tables that had small TVs on them — very impersonal — replaced with lots of cocktail tables). Also: upgraded big screens with high-quality HD sets. And the sports book bar still has some of the most personable and efficient bartenders in the city. greenvalleyranch.sclv.com MJ

 

Best sports venues

Fertitta Field at Bishop Gorman High School

Fertita field

We’re not sure if the taxpayer-subsidized football stadium that a couple of billionaires want to erect will ever come to pass. But if it does, the would-be architects could do worse than cribbing design elements from Fertitta Field. Opened in 2012, Bishop Gorman’s 5,000-seat football stadium and adjacent Fertitta Athletic Training Center are as state-of-the-art as they come, rivaling facilities found at most universities. As striking as Fertitta Field is visually, perhaps the best part of the estimated $10 million complex is that it was funded entirely through donations. Gee, imagine that: a privately financed football stadium. 5959 S. Hualapai Way, BishopGorman.org MJ

 

Cashman Field

In the near future, once the Knights bring pro sports to the city, the T-Mobile Arena will likely rule this category for the foreseeable future (until Sandoval’s Folly gets built for the Raiders, anyway). Until then, Cashman Field will still be the king of sports venues. Can it match the hype of a big fight at MGM Grand Garden Arena? Of course not. But it can offer Dollar Beer Night, pitting you in the eternal struggle between a $20 bill in your pocket and your better judgment. 850 Las Vegas Blvd. N., lv51.com JS

 

Best Knights

Silver

Silver. The correct answer was “Las Vegas Silver Knights.” The city’s newbie NHL club had three whacks at the piñata, and they went with the name option that both ticked off local nomenclature martinets and got the team in a trademark brawl with The College of St. Rose, a Division II school in Albany, New York. The Silver State? It was right there. nhl.com/goldenknights JS

 

Best place for some low-cost fun

Lake Mead National Recreational Area

Yes, the water level at Lake Mead is low (frighteningly so), but no, that doesn’t mean the lake is unusable — far from it. You’re very much encouraged to enjoy our manmade wonder, so pool your money with some family and/or friends, and rent a ski, fishing or houseboat for the day. Or try your luck at paddle boarding, kayaking or scuba diving. Want to go even cheaper? Load up your bicycle or simply slip on your favorite hiking shoes and explore the nine designated wilderness areas spread across the recreation area’s 1.5 million acres. By land or by sea, our beloved national park continues to offer lots of fun ways to escape city life. nps.gov/lake MJ

Best place to have fun by yourself (almost)

Exotics Racing

When’s the last time someone tossed you the keys to a six-figure Lamborghini or Ferrari and said, “Take her for a spin … on a seven-turn, 1.2-mile racetrack … at speeds above 100 mph … and there’s zero chance you’ll get pulled over by a cop”? Never? Well, at Exotics Racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, you can do all this — in fact, if you have the desire (and budget), you can do it all day long in a variety of supercars (the fleet also includes Porches, Audis and Aston Martins, among others). Now for a brief clarification: You won’t exactly be by yourself; a racing expert will ride shotgun as you speed around the course. Still, it’s all about you — until your passenger gets on your case for driving too … slow! 7065 Speedway Blvd., ExoticsRacing.com. MJ

 

Best attraction

The Park

Why did it take six decades for a legitimate outdoor gathering place to be built on the fabulous Strip? You can’t just blame four months of infernal summer heat — there’s shade, misters and sunset, right? More likely, it was the casino’s old-school keep-’em-inside mentality of no windows, no clocks, no outside world. Well, the MGM powers-that-be finally realized that modern-minded folks embrace the outdoors. Hell, they’ll even pay good money to eat and drink in it! So, now we all can amble through The Park, take in some gigantic scuplture, waterworks and Nevada skies. Plus beer, sushi, Belgian waffles and more in the eateries that line the concourse. Located between New York-New York and the Monte Carlo, theparkvegas.com GT

 

Best place to introduce kids to art/culture

Neon Museum Boneyard

Art can sometimes be a stuffy proposition: Walk around serious rooms, look but don’t touch, keep your voice down. But the outdoor boneyard of vintage signs at the Neon Museum is, if not quite hands-on, still a blast, a fun and casual atmosphere to introduce kids to art, to craftsmanship and to the unique culture that makes their hometown special.
770 Las Vegas Blvd. N., neonmuseum.org TRW

 

Best place to get kids away from screens

Spring Valley State Park

Sometimes it’s worthwhile to be a little draconian. Spring Valley has no cell signal and no electricity. Screens become a lot less interesting when they’re dark. What Springs Valley does have is a reservoir jam-packed with fish; a campground with great amenities, including free showers, flushing toilets, and a fish-cleaning station; and the kind of quiet that will let a parent and child actually talk to (gasp!) each other. Oh, and the night sky ain’t bad, either. parks.nv.gov/parks/spring-valley AG

 

Best family hike

Clark County Wetlands Park

Clark County Wetlands ParkThe underappreciated Clark County Wetlands Park, on the far eastern edge of the valley, is the perfect spot to enjoy a family hike. The short and easy trails meander through green wetlands. There are plenty of plants, insects and wildlife to enjoy — including migratory birds — and the Sunset Mountains look close enough to touch. When you need a break from the outdoors, take the kids inside to the Wetlands Nature Center and Exhibit Hall for videos and exhibits. 7050 E. Wetlands Park Lane, free, clarkcountynv.gov/parks TRW

 

Best intermediate hike

The Muffins

The Muffins are named for a distinctive rock formation atop Blue Diamond Hill, across the highway from Red Rock. Starting from the stables at “Cowboy Trail Rides,” hikers lope across open desert to the foot of the mountain, then make a steady ascent to the top of the ridge. The hike up has great views of Red Rock, and the view of Vegas upon reaching the Muffins is one of the best around. As an added bonus, the limestone rock of Blue Diamond Hill is rich in fossils dating back to at least the Mesozoic Era. AG

 

Best advanced hike

Kraft Mountain Loop

In snug Calico Basin, the namesake Calico Rocks get most of the visitor attention by being strikingly ruddy and roundly eroded. The adjacent Kraft Mountain, a lofty rhomboid rampart, gets less love — except from rock climbers and hikers in the know. You can ring the rumpled ridge that looks like a petrified, multilayered raspberry-vanilla pudding via a 3.5 mile trail. Some guidebooks rank the hike as moderate, but a high saddle hump on the west end and the scramble over a streambed clogged with mini-van-sized boulders on the remote north side make it a bit more of an advanced experience. It’s the gnarliest route next to city limits that doesn’t require a rope or driving the Scenic Loop. Avoid during rain, and be sure your pooch is hardy if you hike with a furry friend. Trail head north of Red Spring Picnic area, located just off State Route 159 on Calico Basin Road. GT

 

Best places for a leisurely stroll

City farmers markets

Whoever says Las Vegas lacks a sense of community has never spent an afternoon amidst the fruits, vegetables, breads, sauces, flowers, arts, crafts and generally festive company of the city’s numerous farmers markets. These are great public spaces to stretch your legs and connect with your fellow citizens. The city runs markets at Bruce Trent Park (Wednesdays), Gardens Park (Thursday) and at Tule Springs (first and third Saturdays of the month). Various addresses, free, lassvegasfarmersmarket.com TRW

 

Peccole Ranch

Sure, Red Rock Canyon is close by, a majestic natural treasure and all that. But sometimes you don’t want to hike; rather, a brisk jaunt down a leafy, shaded suburban path is the preferred ambulatory ticket. The curving corridor trails that run through Peccole Ranch on the west side are a peregrinator’s prize, complete with grassy areas, xeriscaping, and scenic tunnels under roads. So get walking! Between Charleston Boulevard and Sahara Avenue north to south, Fort Apache Boulevard and Hualapai Way east to west. GT

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KNPR's State of Nevada
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KNPR's State of Nevada