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See ya, Celine. Hello, Gaga. Vegas is getting a millennial makeover

Elaine Glusac, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Travel News

LAS VEGAS -- Of all the ways to burn through cash in Las Vegas, zip lining 12 stories above the throngs at the outdoor mall known as LINQ Promenade may be the most thrilling. Next to hunting down zombies in a virtual reality game, seeing Lady Gaga in concert or hanging out at an arty day club with DJ Marshmello working the decks.

Say so long to your dad's Las Vegas of windowless casinos, showgirl revues and Celine Dion ballads. Resorts along the Strip and beyond aim to attract the next generation of hedonists -- millennials, and the likeminded -- keen on technology, contemporary art, food and the outdoors. Now that Dion's residency has bowed and Gaga's has begun, welcome to hipster Vegas.

"Forty percent of Las Vegas visitors this year will be defined as millennials," said Cliff Atkinson, the former senior vice president of hotel strategy at MGM Resorts International and current president of its Luxor Hotel & Casino. "You have to evolve and give that audience more of what they are looking for."

Two renewed resorts embody the new Vegas zeitgeist: the Park MGM Las Vegas, which replaced the Monte Carlo on the Strip; and the remodeled Palms Casino Resort, which spent $690 million on a contemporary art-filled redesign.

"The next wave of Vegas arrivals is coming in every day," said Jon Gray, the general manager of the Palms, fresh off the Electric Daisy Carnival that filled the resort with fans of electronic dance music in May. "You're seeing that shift a lot more to millennials. They are more experience-focused."

To be sure, excess is still the timeless temptation of Sin City and Vegas is a constant chameleon. But the present iteration feels fresh, with more diversions, including the following new attractions.

 

Checking into the Park MGM is like living in an Eataly. The Italian food emporium made its Vegas debut in December at the resort, occupying 40,000 light-flooded square feet with stalls devoted to pizza, pasta, panini and more under a two-story skylit ceiling that resembles an Old World train station.

Actual check-in requires mastery of self-check-in desks that spit out your keys, which MGM says is the largest automated operation in the industry (rooms from $99). Fortunately for the flummoxed, staffers mill around expediting the process.

Park MGM takes its name from the plaza it backs up to outside of T-Mobile Arena, home ice of hockey's Vegas Golden Knights. The outdoor theme is welcomingly low key in a town where the Luxor is a pyramid, and most welcome is outdoor seating at the Paris-channeling bistro Primrose and at Eataly.

Eataly is hardly the only culinary draw here. Waiters in track suits and rolled up chinos deliver sharable plates of dumplings, kimchi fried rice and elotes at Best Friend, the first Nevada-based restaurant by LA chef Roy Choi, who gave the world the Korean short rib taco (also on the menu). Chicago is represented by the elegant but unstuffy Bavette's Steakhouse & Bar in a stylish club setting. The same can be said for NoMad Restaurant, a spinoff of the New York original in a two-story, book-filled library where chef Daniel Humm serves his signature foie gras-stuffed roast chicken.

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