Why You Shouldn’t Miss a Trip to Las Vegas This Year

Highlights for 2024 include new restaurants at Fontainebleau Las Vegas and micro-residencies at the art house Beverly Theater.

Multiple pools with blue and white umbrellas

This year, hit the pool at new spots like Fontainebleau Las Vegas.

Photo by Connie Zhou

The city that bills itself as the Entertainment Capital of the World is living up to its name, having hosted its first-ever Super Bowl in February and its first Formula One race in November 2023. Add to the mix several new hotel openings plus a bevy of new restaurants, bars, and other new attractions, and it seems like Las Vegas has some serious momentum.

Those good vibes are set to continue well into the summer and beyond. Sin City is careening into pool party season, and several major music festivals are on the upcoming schedule. The Arts District, on the southwest edges of downtown, continues to evolve as the city’s most popular and most creative neighborhood. And railway company Brightline just broke ground on a high-speed train that will deliver visitors from suburban Los Angeles to the South Strip in about two hours.

Here are some of the most exciting openings, changes, and must-dos across Las Vegas this spring and summer.

Skyscraper and white building with the word "Fonatainebleau" at night

Fontainebleau Las Vegas is the sister property of Fontainebleau Miami Beach.

Photo by Mark Mediana

New hotels to check into

Fontainebleau Las Vegas

The 2023-opened Fontainebleau Las Vegas, on the Las Vegas Strip between Encore and Sahara, has 3,644 rooms and cost about $3.7 billion to build. The hotel opened last December and includes 76 suites—collectively branded as Fontainebleau Fleur de Lis—which occupy the top five floors of the 67-story tower and feature billiards tables, wellness rooms, and custom Italian bedding. It has nearly two dozen restaurants, including Alan Yau’s Chyna Club and Ethan Funke’s Mother Wol; its swanky pool deck, LIV Beach, opened in April.

Durango Casino & Resort

On the outskirts of the Las Vegas Valley, in the rapidly developing Durango neighborhood on the southwest side of the city, Durango Casino & Resort has proven to be a huge hit with the locals, who visit in droves every weekend. The 15-floor hotel tower has 209 modern and spacious rooms. The real draws, however, are the casino floor and the top-notch food choices, which include Nicco’s Prime Cuts & Fresh Fish steak house, upscale Mexican joint Mijo, and a food court named “Eat Your Heart Out” (it goes by EYHO) with several cult-favorites, such as the Ai Pono Hawaiian street food café.

Its pool deck, Bel-Aire Backyard, has proven to be an even bigger hit than anticipated. “The pool has morphed into something we didn’t think we’d see,” Durango Casino & Resort general manager Dave Horn said. “People love hanging out back there. It’s a place to be seen.”

The restaurants to plan a trip around

For Esther’s Kitchen’s first six years, chef James Trees operated the Italian eatery out of a tiny space on California Street. But in March 2024, Trees moved the fan-favorite joint around the corner to an anchor location on the corner of California and Main streets in the Arts District. The new spot is nearly three times the size with a new-and-expanded menu—thanks to a significantly larger kitchen—and has a private second-story cocktail bar that is expected to open this summer.

Elsewhere around town, the Las Vegas outpost of Brooklyn-born Peter Lugar Steak House in Caesars Palace has gotten rave reviews since it opened in November 2023. Mandalay Bay’s Orla, a Mediterranean restaurant from Michael Mina that opened in January, seems to be on everyone’s list for best meal of the year, with dishes such as sizzling king crab legs and filet mignon kebab. And for some authentic escargot, head to French restaurant LPM at the Cosmopolitan, which opened in November 2023.

Two restaurants of note opened in February 2024 inside Fashion Show Mall: Emmitt’s and Happy Camper. The first, owned by former NFL running back Emmitt Smith, serves steak and seafood in an upscale, business casual environment. Happy Camper has a more laid-back vibe; the entire restaurant is designed to look and feel like a campground, and giant portions of pizzas and wings come out on platters intended to inspire sharing.

Large dome with a ripple effect displayed at night

The Sphere is the world’s largest spherical structure.

Photo by ByDroneVideos/Shutterstock

New art and other attractions

Las Vegas lacked an art-house cinema until the Beverly Theater, located on the outskirts of downtown, opened in March 2023. The space functions as a traditional movie theater showcasing independent films (complete with a sophisticated projector and sound system), as well as an intimate performing arts and live music venue. In April the Beverly launched shorter artist-in-residence sessions called “micro-residencies” with three weekends of performances by Australian singer/songwriter Julia Jacklin.

Kip Kelly, the theater’s founding creative director, described the theater’s programming as “grassroots” and said there’s nothing else like it in the city.

“Whether it’s a first-run indie release, an old movie we think will be fun to watch with friends again, a concert, or an author reading, we make all the [programming] decisions from right here in downtown Las Vegas,” he wrote to Afar in a text message. “We make sure our finger is always on the pulse of what’s happening, and we build our program around that rhythm.”

Other new attractions revolve more squarely around the Strip. The Sphere, the giant entertainment venue wrapped in 1.2 million LED lights behind Venetian Las Vegas is home to several new concerts this summer, including Phish and Dead & Co. (the latest iteration of The Grateful Dead). At City Center, a digital art installation space named the Arte Museum opened in 2023. Exhibits here include a room with a giant crashing wave; in another room, guest drawings of animals come to life in a digital jungle.

And at the Luxor, on the South Strip, two new attractions are revitalizing a property that had fallen into obscurity. Play Playground, which opened in January, is a bar with Double Dare-style games and obstacles. The other is immersive show Particle Ink, which kicked off earlier this month and combines real-live human actors with amplified reality characters projected on objects and walls.

Essential cultural happenings

First, sports. The WNBA season kicks off in June and the Vegas team—the Aces—come in as two-time defending champions. Formula One is back again in November. And on the distant horizon, there’s baseball: The city is razing the Tropicana to build a new stadium for the relocating Oakland A’s.

On the festival front, fans are already gearing up for Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC), the largest electronic dance music festival in North America. The annual show, organized by promoter and distributor Insomniac, attracts about 100,000 people each year and is held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in mid-May. September will see two separate music festivals: the two-day I Heart Radio, held at T-Mobile Arena; and the three-day Life Is Beautiful, held in the heart of downtown. Neither festival has announced lineups for 2024, but both strive to put together eclectic and pop offerings: Last year’s performers included Lenny Kravitz and Foo Fighters at “I Heart” and Cigarettes After Sex, ODESZA, and Kendrick Lamar at “Life Is Beautiful.”

In October, drive 45 minutes southwest of Las Vegas to Jean Dry Lake Beds in Sloan, Nevada, for the Rise Lantern Festival. The weekend-long homage to spirituality and wellness is celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2024; it ends with participants lighting thousands of lanterns aloft into the night sky.

Nightlife must-sees

Several new watering holes in Las Vegas are worth a visit. Status, a new minority-owned champagne lounge, opened at the Grand Canal Shoppes inside the Venetian in late April of 2024. Stray Pirate opened in October 2023 and is designed to feel like the inside of a pirate ship, complete with (digital) “wildlife” swimming past fake windows. November 2023 brought the arrival of Liquid Diet—the bar opened in an old garage, and its sparse decorations and animal skulls feel like a setting from Breaking Bad. The night’s menu is written on brown butcher paper and hung from a clothesline behind the bar.

Elsewhere in town, behind Resorts World Las Vegas and attached to the Thrive cannabis dispensary, a bar named Smoke & Mirrors opened in March and is Las Vegas’s first cannabis consumption lounge. Guests can choose among flower (served with a bong or rolling papers), prerolls, or cannabis-infused mocktails; drinks can be made with 2.5 mg, 5 mg, or 10 mg of THC in every order.

Fly into . . .

Terminal 3 at Harry Reid International Airport (formerly known as McCarran). The Vegas home of United and Alaska Airlines is the newer of the two terminals (it opened in 2012), featuring wider walkways and amenities such as cupcake vending machines and seating benches with USB ports. Travelers can take an underground train to the expanded Centurion Lounge from American Express, which opened in Terminal 1 in 2020.

Matt Villano is a writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. To learn more about him, visit whalehead.com.
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