Much of Spokane is focused on – and even empties out during – the annual West Coast Conference Championships at The Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. That’s even more the case this year with the Gonzaga men’s basketball team ranked No. 1 in the country and the Zags women at No. 14, making both teams the No. 1 seeds in the 2019 edition of WCC Tournament.
If you’re one of the lucky ones leaving the cold and heading to the sun in Sin City, where it actually isn’t that sinful, here are some picks – OK, a lot of picks – from this Gonzaga alumnus and arts and entertainment journalist who has called Las Vegas home since 2008.
If you are arriving early and staying at The Orleans or its nearby sister Boyd Gaming property Gold Coast, there are great dining options at both locations.
Dining at The Orleans
Alder & Birch: This American steakhouse is one of the city’s best. Don’t miss happy hour (4 to 6 p.m. daily) that includes an Old Fashioned garnished with candied bacon.
Bailiwick All-American Pub + Eatery: Bailiwick offers specialty cocktails, 40 beers on draft, craft bottled beers and happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. daily. Also: March Hoopla specials.
Big Al’s Oyster Bar: Oysters, clams, pan roasts, bouillabaisse and pasta. Enough said, right, seafood lovers?
Copper Whisk Cafe: Open 24/7 for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Convenient!
Medley Buffet: The AYCE option – yep, that stands for All You Can Eat – at The Orleans, Medley Buffet features eight cooking stations: Italian, barbecue, American, seafood, Mexican, Asian, deli and desserts.
Ondori Asian Kitchen
Ondori Asian Kitchen offers Chinese and Japanese cuisine for those who can’t choose between the two popular Asian cuisines.
Prime Rib Loft
It’s fine dining at its Prime, and this journalist loves his prime rib for dinner.
For lounge entertainment, there’s Bailiwick and Bourbon Street Lounge during the tournament.
Dining at Gold Coast
This classic American steakhouse also offers a solid happy hour and prime rib, as well as a Whiskey Tasting Flight from the extensive Whiskey Library.
Ping Pang Pong
Named one of the top 10 Chinese restaurants in America by Travel + Leisure, Ping Pang Pong serves the best dim sum in Las Vegas, IMHO, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
If you venture away from The Orleans and toward the mothership, Las Vegas Boulevard, aka the Las Vegas Strip, and adjacent areas, there are options aplenty. The abundance of choices is overwhelming, so let’s hope that the following picks are helpful – and keeping convenience of location in mind:
There are buffets everywhere. Vegas is famous for them. But you want the good ones.
• Bacchanal Buffet (Caesars Palace)
• The Buffet at Bellagio (Bellagio)
• The Buffet at Wynn (Wynn Las Vegas)
• Wicked Spoon (The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas)
These are the four best buffets on the Strip: Bacchanal is one of the world’s largest with more than 500 items; Bellagio Buffet includes caviar; Wynn sets the standard for luxury; and Wicked Spoon is a “foodie buffet” inside what is still one of the coolest casino resorts on the Strip.
Concerts and shows
This was probably the most difficult to keep at a small list because there are so many solid and varied options, and I’m listing only headliners who have dates during the tournament.
• Cirque du Soleil (there are six CdS productions in Las Vegas)
• Gwen Stefani (Planet Hollywood)
• Le Reve (Wynn Las Vegas)
• Mat Franco (The Linq Hotel)
If you’ve never seen a Cirque du Soleil production, Las Vegas is the place to do it. Every production is a marvel in artistry and athleticism. Ditto for Le Reve, which is gorgeous. Stefani’s resident show is high-energy and fun, and the charming Franco is the Season 9 champion of America’s Got Talent.
Tickets also aren’t as expensive as you think, though you might have to work at it a bit. You’ll see various places on The Strip offering half-price tickets. Some of the Cirque shows will be available, but it’s not a surprise for most of the Strip’s biggest shows to become available. When that happens, the cheaper tickets will sell out fast, so the best advice is to head over to one of those ticket booths before tip-off.
• Hyde (Bellagio)
• Mr. Coco (Palms west of the Strip)
• The Chandelier (The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas)
• The Dorsey (The Venetian)
If nightclubs aren’t your thing, lounges are a better option if you still want a night out with libations. Hyde has breathtaking views of the Bellagio Fountains; the new Mr. Coco just might be the most elegant lounge in Las Vegas; you’re sitting inside a three-story chandelier at Chandelier; and The Dorsey (and nearby Rosina) boast top-notch mixology.
• Drai’s (The Cromwell)
• Hakkasan (MGM Grand)
• Omnia (Caesars Palace)
• XS (Wynn Las Vegas)
If nightclubs are your thing, these four are not to be missed. No place in the world does nightclubs the way Vegas does. Drai’s sits atop The Cromwell and has beautiful Strip views; Omnia and Hakkasan from Hakkasan Group are the epitome of state-of-the-art megaclubs; and XS offers indoor-outdoor nightlife revelry.
• Catch (Aria)
• Cleaver (east of the Strip)
• Mott 32 (The Venetian)
• NoMad Restaurant (NoMad Hotel at Park MGM)
• Vetri Cucina (Palms)
These were five of my favorite new restaurants in 2018. Catch has an Instagram-worthy entranceway and “vibe” dining; Cleaver has great steaks and cocktails from mixology guru Nectaly Mendoza; Mott 32 is Asian fine dining at its best (order the duck); NoMad’s stunning Old School New York dining room includes 25,000 books; and Vetri, atop Palms, has gorgeous Strip views and hearty Philadelphia-style Italian fare.
• Andiamo Italian Steakhouse (The D Hotel downtown)
• Bavette’s Steakhouse (Park MGM)
• MB Steakhouse (The Hard Rock Hotel east of the Strip)
• Top of the World (Stratosphere)
So many excellent steakhouses in Las Vegas, so little time. Andiamo is Old School ambience in downtown Las Vegas; Bavette’s, a Chicago transplant, was one of the top restaurant openings in 2017 alongside another Midwest mainstay, the Morton Brothers’ MB Steakhouse; and Top of the World has elevated its menu to complement the panoramic Las Vegas Strip and Valley views.
• Lakeside (Wynn Las Vegas)
• Masso Osteria (Red Rock Resort)
• Sterling Brunch (Bally’s)
What all three have in common is that they are luxurious AYCE brunches with options for limitless champagne. Lakeside is, well, lake-side luxury; Masso is an Italian dream; and Sterling is the quintessential Old School classic Las Vegas brunch.
Also: Bellagio is home to two free fabulous attractions, the iconic Bellagio Fountains and Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, which is open 24/7; the Instagram-worthy Yayoi Kusama exhibit at Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art; and the new cafe Sadelle’s, a New York transplant.
And worth a final recommendation: Eataly, the Italian megamarket, opened at Park MGM in December following in the footsteps of locations in New York (where there are two), Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.
The men and women’s WCC games are obviously the focal point and the reason you are in Las Vegas. Check the start times and plan accordingly, giving about an hour before and after the games for travel time. There is certainly free time to work in breakfast, lunch, happy hour, dinner, shows and/or attractions around the all-important games. Suggested game-day itineraries, with a nod to staying near The Orleans Arena for the games.
Monday, March 11
• Breakfast at Copper Whisk Cafe at The Orleans.
• Gonzaga women’s semifinal game at noon.
• Dim sum at Ping Pang Pong at Gold Coast or Medley Buffet at The Orleans if dim sum is too adventurous
• Happy hour at Alder & Birch at The Orleans
• Dinner at Alder & Birch or a Strip restaurant (reservations recommended)
• Sightseeing to walk off dinner (Bellagio Fountains and Bellagio Conservatory) and a show – any show!
• Gonzaga men’s semifinal game at 6 p.m.
Tuesday, March 12
• Breakfast or early lunch Copper Whisk Café, Ping Pang Pong or Medley Buffet
• Women’s WCC title game at 1 p.m.
• Happy Hour at Alder & Birch or Cornerstone
• Men’s WCC title game at 6 p.m.
• Dinner at Alder & Birch, Cornerstone or a Strip restaurant (reservations recommended)
• Sightseeing to walk off dinner and a show – any show
Reservations are recommended when available. Again, double-check times and other information, as they are subject to change. Enjoy your time in the Entertainment Capital of the World, WCC attendees and fellow Gonzaga fans and alumni. GO, ZAGS!
Questions, comments or concerns? I have many more recommendations, so shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll respond as quickly as possible.
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