This is going to be a huge year in Las Vegas.
As of November, the last month for which records have been released, the city was on the verge of breaking its all-time records for both total visitors and convention goers, with well over 40 million people dropping in (the final numbers will look to be around 43 million). It’s going be tight, but if 2019 outshines 2018, it would be the fourth consecutive record-breaking year, and regardless, a great one for Las Vegas. But 2020 looks to be even better.
The biggest addition dramatically changing the city’s landscape is the new Allegiant Stadium, opening behind Mandalay Bay and home to the city’s first ever NFL team, the Raiders, which will kick off here this fall. A couple of years ago the debut of NHL play on the Strip brought a big surge of energy and made Las Vegas a magnet for traveling sports fans, and this will be even bigger, since the NFL is America’s favorite spectator sport. For many fans, if they are going to see their team on the road, even once, Vegas is the obvious choice, combining a big game with a great vacation.
The state-of-the-art domed stadium will also host the UNLV Rebels college football team and other major sports and entertainment events, including the Las Vegas Bowl beginning this year, which will feature a Pac-12 football opponent versus either a Big Ten or SEC opponent, as well as the 2020 and 2021 Pac-12 Football Championship Games.
But that’s just the most obvious highlight among many new openings, from shows to restaurants to casino hotels, along with a whole lot of major upgrades, expansions and renovations occurring city wide. Here’s a quick recap of the top 2020 changes coming to Las Vegas.
Virgin Hotels Las Vegas: The former Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is being reborn this fall as the first Virgin property in the city, part of the edgy travel giant’s robust global expansion. This major renovation and rebranding is the biggest thing in the Strip area this year (other major expected Vegas openings have been pushed back into 2021), with 1,504 rooms, including luxe penthouse suites, all featuring Virgin Hotels’ ergonomically designed and patented beds and in-room technology. Virgin Hotels Las Vegas will feature 60,000 square feet of casinos, over five acres of luxe outdoor spaces and pools, and new world-class restaurants, lounges and bars.
Circa Las Vegas Casino Hotel: The first all new Downtown Vegas casino hotel build in 40 years, the glass wrapped structure is the tallest tower north of the Strip and easily the biggest opening for Downtown Las Vegas this year – and maybe ever. The Circa is another project from Derek Stevens, the mastermind of much of the Downtown renaissance of recent years, who also owns the D Hotel and Golden Gate. Circa is all new on the site of the former Las Vegas Club, on Fremont and Main streets. It will feature a “lucky” 777 rooms, a two-level casino, several restaurants, the longest outdoor bar in Vegas, and a massive 4,000-person rooftop pool deck with half a dozen pools and giant screen for viewing sporting events. The gaming centerpiece is a vast three-story sports book that claims to be the largest ever in Vegas. As Stevens told the Las Vegas Sun, “This isn’t the best pool downtown or the best pool on the Strip. What we’re doing is developing the best pool in the history of America. We’re building the best sportsbook in the history of America.” Circa is more than halfway through its 22-month build, on track for a December opening.
Convention Center Expansion Phase Two: Las Vegas is already one of the world’s most popular convention cities, but a massive reimagining of its “convention center district” includes upgrading existing facilities with state of the art technology, while the biggie is a $935 million expansion adding 1.4 million square feet, including an outdoor plaza and grand atrium, to be completed by the end of the year. One uniquely high-profile part of the project is a new tunnel and people mover being installed under the 200-acre campus by Elon Musk’s Boring Company. The $52 million transit project will quickly whisk attendees around the huge facility through two vehicular tunnels, each a mile long.
Fremont Street Viva Vision Canopy Upgrade: Ever since Fremont Street was closed to traffic in 1994 and turned into a pedestrian thoroughfare as the centerpiece of the first Downtown revival, its distinguishing feature has been a high-tech sound and light show canopy, Viva Vison (as in Viva Las Vegas!), the world’s largest video screen. But high-tech is an everchanging game, and following a $17 million 2004 reboot, the latest iteration is a new $32 million renovation of the canopy, with a dramatically upgraded screen, which debuted on New Year’s Eve. With 50 million energy-efficient LEDs, the new Viva Vision screen is seven times brighter with four times greater resolution.
Area 15: The biggest entertainment news of the year is the opening of this hard to describe retail and entertainment complex anchored by the Vegas home of Meow Wolf, am experiential art and performance collective based in Santa Fe, NM, where its immersive, interactive experiences have become a very prominent tourist draw. Area 15 will have a retail bazaar, food and bars, lots of ever-changing art and sculpture displays indoor and out, and just announced a partnership with celebrity chef Todd English, long prominent but recently unheard from in the Las Vegas culinary scene. English will do a food court, which joins other food and beverage offerings from Hakkasan Group and several others. Area 15 claims to be “the world’s first purpose-built, experiential art, retail and entertainment complex.”
New Restaurants: Vegas being Vegas, there will undoubtedly by dozens of eateries debuting in 2020, but these are some of the highest profile ones from the city’s biggest resort players.
Wynn Las Vegas, with one of the Vegas’ best dining portfolios, is adding its first high-end Mexican concept. Elio’s opens in March from ATM Group, the company behind acclaimed restaurants Cosme and Atla in New York City and Pujol in Mexico City. Expect Mexico’s best hand-selected agave-based spirits, in addition to regionally and seasonally focused cuisine.
MGM’s big addition is The Mayfair Supper Club, overlooking the iconic Fountains at the Bellagio. It opened New Year’s weekend and reinvents the retro Las Vegas “dinner and a show” concept with live entertainment every night and flashy American classics such as prime rib carved tableside by white jacketed waiters, along with decadent twists such as the Wagyu Caviar Roll. It’s a new take on Old School, a little bit New York, a little bit London, and whole lotta Vegas. In addition, an outpost of Din Tai Fung, Taiwan’s most famous eatery, world renowned for its soup dumplings and once named one of the World’s Top 10 Eateries by the New York Times, is coming to the ARIA Resort & Casino later this year.
Not to be outdone, Caesars Entertainment is opening (soon) Bugsy & Meyer’s Steakhouse in the Flamingo. The $10 million steakhouse occupies the former Center Cut steakhouse location and features a display dry aged meat cooler. It will pay homage to the iconic hotel’s 70-plus year history, opened in 1946 by Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Meyer Lansky. Flamingo Las Vegas Regional President Eileen Moore-Johnson explained, “we want our guests to feel as if they’ve traveled back in time to when the Flamingo Las Vegas first opened, with glamour, class and intrigue, but positioned in today’s world with modern touches. This steakhouse will be a destination dining experience complete with statement menu items, classic dishes, and unexpected finds you may need to ‘know a guy’ to order.” It has a main bar, raw bar, patio dining, main dining room, and three private dining rooms. Expect classic offerings such as saddle of lamb, steak Diane and baked Alaska. There is also a throwback, luxurious speakeasy lounge, “The Count Room,” with an expanded specialty cocktail menu that can be exclusively tasted here.
Entertainment: Recent years have seen Vegas staples such as Donnie & Marie and Celine Dion retire from the glamour of the Strip, but there are plenty of new options coming. Just a few 2020 highlights include rock legends The Who with six dates in May at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, while ZZ Top does a five-show engagement in March at the Venetian. Country star Shania Twain kicks off an ongoing residency of her “Let’s Go!” show at the Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in March.