In the Entertainment Capital of the World, headline acts, lavish theatrical shows, nightclubs and spectacular visual displays define the culture. From Jennifer Lopez, Brittany Spears and Elton John to Cirque du Soleil’s seven permanent shows to the Fountains of Bellagio and the mesmerizing lights, holographics and puppetry of the Lake of Dreams at Wynn Las Vegas, it’s showtime all the time in larger-than-life Las Vegas.
Vegas also offers a compelling collection of more traditional artistic and cultural venues. Both significantly contributing to the revival of Downtown Las Vegas, the Neon Museum and Mob Museum are the best known examples, along with other diverse options for broadening the cultural agenda.
As Tarissa Tiberti, executive director of Bellagio’s Gallery of Fine Art, recently told MGM Resort’s M Life magazine, “Art is entertainment in its own right—cultural entertainment, specifically.” Located in the Promenade Shops across from the resort’s main pool entrance, the gallery offers daily docent-led tours along with private tours for groups of 10 or more.
Hailed by one art publication as a “cultural destination of worldwide significance” and “a benchmark for enlightened corporate involvement with the arts on a global level” when unveiled in 2009, the $40 million collection of fine art at CityCenter is a ready option for self-guided tours. More ambitious delegates, meanwhile, can take the Spa at ARIA’s intensive 60-minute Indoor Hike/Art Walk program.
Art continues to play a major role in the expanding renaissance of Downtown Las Vegas, where The Las Vegas Arts District offers distinct visitor appeal. Also known as 18b, this 18-plus block neighborhood features an eclectic mix of galleries, boutiques, bars and restaurants.
Groups seeking a break from the Strip—and broader exposure to the Vegas scene—can head to the district’s Arts Factory and Art Square. Comprising three updated vintage buildings and an outdoor art garden, this dynamic hub of studios, galleries and creative business incorporates unique venues such as the Cockroach Theatre Company for plays, and laid-back venues including Artifice and MINGO Kitchen & Lounge.
Featuring a growing collection of murals and outdoor art, the Arts District is also home to the First Friday festival. Launched in 2002 and held on the first Friday of every month, the event, now attracting more than 20,000 people, features food, drink, music, visual performances and art for sale. Preview Thursday, held the day before, offers a focused opportunity to see and buy artwork. Also in the district is Antique Alley, a collection of more than 20 independent antique and vintage stores.
Just beyond the district lies Symphony Park, the 61-acre master-planned neighborhood anchored by the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and its attached Keep Memory Alive Event Center.
Also here is the $450 million Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Opened in 2012, this Art Deco-inspired, two-stage venue features year-round programming ranging from Broadway shows to rock, cabaret, classical music and jazz. Versatile rental facilities include the 2,050-seat Reynolds Hall, the Grand Lobby, Upper Lobby and conference rooms.
Public art can be found across the city, such as artist Marco Cochrane’s Bliss Dance sculpture in MGM’s new The Park district. Standing 40 feet tall, the stainless steel mesh figure of a dancing woman is LED-illuminated at night. Downtown, The Las Vegas Signs Project, launched in 1996 by the Neon Museum and the City of Las Vegas, features nine restored vintage signs along a stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard. Highlights include the Hacienda Hotel’s “Horse and Rider” and “Silver Slipper” signs.