Vegas Restaurant Will Suspend Diners 180 Feet In Air

Courtesy of Dinner in the Sky Las Vegas

In a city like Las Vegas, dreaming up new gimmicks to attract visitors is no easy task. Adrenaline-seekers can already bungee jump off the Stratosphere or drive a racecar around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but soon a new thrill will come to town: the ability to eat dinner at a table suspended in the air.

The aerial dining concept is simple. A steel tower with a pair of lifts raises two dinner tables 180 feet above the Las Vegas skyline. Chefs prepare food in the center of the table, while up to 22 guests surround them strapped into amusement park-style chairs. From high above the city, guests will take in 360-degree views of the Strip and the surrounding area.

Dinner in the Sky might be new to Vegas, but it’s not an entirely new concept. Similar attractions have popped up in recent years across the United States and internationally, usually on a temporary basis. In Las Vegas, the company has been doing its own trial run. Here’s what one diner said about the experience:

“My husband thought it would be romantic to take me to dinner overlooking Vegas at a height of over 150 feet. What he didn’t know is that I would completely freak out and be terrified when I saw what we were going to do … So here I was terrified in the beginning and once we got going I realized it really wasn’t going to be bad at all. In fact, I really enjoyed myself … Only one person was super terrified the entire length of the dinner.” – Yelp user Lauren H.

Ground broke on Dinner in the Sky Las Vegas yesterday, and it plans to officially open in late summer. The experience will start at $290 per person, including a three-course meal with wine pairings and a souvenir photo. Eight nightly seatings that last about an hour, including the ascent and descent, are planned. Let’s hope nobody loses their lunch in the middle of the ride – or has to get up to use the bathroom.

Upscale Cruise Line Offers Something Sinful

cruiseCruise lines are looking for new, different and exciting entertainment options to keep passengers occupied at night. Some have added Broadway shows, others offer interactive audience participation programming, all focused on their target audience and what they want. Celebrity Cruises took a look at what their passengers are looking for in the way of late-night entertainment too. The result: Sin City Comedy.

If the thought of “Sin City” has you thinking raunchy, tasteless entertainment that we might not see from the (normally) upscale Modern Luxury line, think again.

Described as, “funny and a little bit sexy,” Sin City Comedy will tap comedians with tasteful acts for the late-night show offered on Celebrity Reflection and Celebrity Silhouette, rotating to Celebrity Solstice in May, said Celebrity Cruises in a recent statement.

Think of comics who have appeared on Comedy Central, VH1, HBO, (sort of raunchy) “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “Conan,” Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” (less raunchy).

That sort of sin.

Actually a product of Sin City Comedy at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, the cruise line version of the show will mimic a two-time winner of the Best of Las Vegas award.

Surprised? Remember, this is the same cruise line that sports a sea-view shower in its top end Reflection Suites. Those allow passengers to bare all to the world but come with an option to turn glass from transparent to frosted to reveal less.

Celebrity’s Sin City Comedy shows are presented at varying late-night time slots in the Celebrity Central venue on Celebrity Reflection and Celebrity Silhouette. 18 and older please. Thank you.



[Image credit - Flickr user STEVENJOHNSELLER]

Landmarks Worldwide ‘Go Green’ For St. Patrick’s Day

Did you know the color originally associated with St. Patrick was blue? The saint was said to have used the three-leaved shamrock, a green-colored clover, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish. Today, the symbol and its color have become ubiquitous features of the holiday, which is celebrated worldwide by the Irish and their diaspora … plus anyone else looking for an excuse to consume copious amounts of alcohol, corned beef and cabbage.

Some famous landmarks have been “going green” for the holiday, including Las Vegas’ famous welcome sign (above), the Chicago river, the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Niagara Falls, the London Eye, the Empire State Building in New York and the Sydney Opera House in Australia, among others. This year, for the first time ever, the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx in Egypt even changed their hue to celebrate the holiday.

Check out more images of landmarks bathed in green for St. Patrick’s Day after the jump.


Las Vegas’ welcome sign ringed in green bulbs for St. Patrick’s Day. [Photo credit: Courtesy the Las Vegas News Bureau]


In Chicago, the city’s namesake river has been turned green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day for more than 50 years. [Photo credit: AP Photo/Paul Beaty]


The London Eye lit up in green. [Photo credit: CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images]


[Top photo credit: SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images]

Finding My Inner Speed Demon At Indy

Never knew I had a taste for speed. Never chewed up Jersey Turnpike miles singing “Born to Run,” never flipped the bird at the drivers I left in the dust. Nope. Though I drive a traffic-cop-magnet red car, I have never gotten a speeding ticket; I just go with the flow of traffic.
But something happened when I arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Anticipation. Excitement. Something new was about to happen at this place where racing rules, where drivers and their zillion-dollar cars roar around the 253-acre oval, and where 40 million fans worldwide scream for their favorites. Yes, I’m one of those who love to watch, but today wasn’t about watching; today I would actually see and feel what it was like to be in an Indy car, barreling around the track at speeds I’ve never experienced.

My warm-up would be a ride in an Indy pace car with superstar Sarah Fisher, who retired as a driver in 2010 after competing in her ninth and final Indy 500 – the most number of starts for a woman in the 94-year history of the event. To me, Fisher is an icon, the first and only female team owner in the IZOD IndyCar Series – and the first female team owner to win an IZOD IndyCar Series race. My pulse quickened as I walked toward the pace car, a modified Chevy convertible. Introductions out of the way, I asked how fast we would go, hoping I didn’t sound too much like a wuss who feared getting car-sick. About 120-130 mph, she replied. This sounded, well, fast, for an open car. “Girls drive smoother than guys,” she said by way of reassurance. Okay, superstar driver trumps doubts.

I belted myself into the passenger seat. Removed scarf, jewelry, sunglasses – anything that could be whipped off my person. Engine starts, we peel out – and OMG, my hair stands straight up on end, the G force plasters my body to the seat as we round the first turn. I’m forced to the right and stay stuck there until I’m pushed to the left. My eyes shut; my jaw clenched. But OK, the ride was smooth.

As we went round and round, I opened my eyes. Fisher was relaxed, smiling, enjoying the drive. And suddenly I was, too, energized by the experience of going really fast, yet feeling safe in her expert hands.

Still, when the ride was over, my legs wobbled a little as I got out of the car. I thanked Ms. Fisher for the experience. Yeah, it was really smooth, I said, and she smiled.

And then came the main event. For the Indy Racing Experience, I was going to climb into a two-seat IZOD Indy Car for the ride of my life. And “my” driver would be IndyCar Series veteran and two-time championship runner up, Davey Hamilton.

I’d had to sign a whole bunch of releases that said if something bad happened, it would be on me and not the track. Fair enough, though it did feel funny to give my medical information, the name of my doctor, the name of the person to be contacted in case of emergency. Then I had to suit up, just like the drivers do. I got myself into a way-too-big fire suit that wasn’t made for a small woman, but OK, it was protection. Fire gloves, too. My head was bound in a knit balaclava and on top of that came an enormous helmet with a face shield.

All this stuff was wearing me; I felt like the little kid in “A Christmas Story” who complained he couldn’t put his arms down. By the time I came face to face with Davey Hamilton, I couldn’t speak – and I couldn’t lower the big fat package I had become into the very skinny and low-slung seat. Someone’s arms lifted and pushed me into the car, strapped me into a harness so tight, I felt as if I had become part of the car. It was actually a good feeling – snug and secure with no room to move.

And then with a thunderous roar, the car shot forward and was soon hurtling around the track at 180 miles an hour. But this time I was one with the car, no shifting from side to side, no lurching stomach, no feeling the push and pull of G force as we rounded the oval.

Eyes wide open, I watched empty grandstands fly by, imagined them crowded with screaming people and pulsing with life on race day. I laughed aloud inside my face mask, high on the thrill of speed. So this was what it was all about. This is what makes professional drivers risk life and vehicle time and again, what makes crazy teenagers take crazy risks on hot summer nights at the Jersey Shore. This was a fantasy I’d never had, but living it felt great! And much too quickly it was over.

Drivers do 200 laps around this track during the Indy 500; the Indy Racing Experience, which I’d just sampled, costs $499 for a three-lap ride. The rides need to be booked months in advance as they’re offered only on select dates for people 18 years of age or older, under 6’5″ in height, and under 250 lbs.

Is the ride worth five hundred bucks? If you can afford it, hell, yes. If my check book were fatter, I’d do something like this regularly, step outside my comfort zone, jump out of a plane like George Bush did every year on his birthday.

Experiences like this are available all over the country. The Richard Petty Driving Experience puts you in a NASCAR race car at more than 20 venues, including such celebrated tracks a Bristol, Daytona and Talladega. Or, you can do a ride-along. Prices range from $159 to $3,499, depending on the length and complexity of the driving experience.

At the Mario Andretti and Jeff Gordon facility, prices range from $129 to $2,299. Prices at the NASCAR Racing Experience start at $129 for a NASCAR ride-along and go to $364.99 for driving a race car that had once been driven by such NASCAR favorites as Jimmy Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr.

For speed lovers with big budgets, the Richard Petty Fantasy Racing Camp in Las Vegas (March 10-13, 2013) is four full days in Las Vegas; it starts with meeting Richard Petty and Dale Inman and includes getting behind the wheel of a 600 HP NASCAR race car, learning short track driving skills, road course driving skills and participating in a speedway challenge at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Spring Mountain Motorsports Racetrack Road Course. The price is $10,500, with a limit of 12 participants.

As for me, I’m back to just watching and driving with the flow – for now.

[Photo Credits: Lillian Africano]

Top American Destinations To Avoid In 2013

Just as useful as a list of top tourist destinations for the upcoming year is one that gives advice on where in the world you should avoid. The truth is, we’ve all had bad experiences, and they can really affect our perceptions of a place. When I solicited social media users for suggestions on domestic destinations to avoid this year, many lively conversations were sparked – and several individuals audibly spewed their disdain for certain cities across the country.

Here’s the thing, though: I’m a pretty open-minded traveler. I’ve had plenty of unpleasant run-ins, transportation failures and otherwise terrible experiences – it comes with the territory. But I’m also not one to throw an entire city into the negative category. Instead, I took the most complained about places and looked into why they have a stigma, and conversely, wrote about what might make the social media users change their minds. Maybe the bad taste in these travelers’ mouths will never go away, but hopefully this will end up changing some perceptions.Detroit, Michigan
Complaint: “just plain depressing”
The Point: Once one of America’s most prosperous cities, today Detroit seems more like a post-industrial ruin. Corrupt city officials, economic decline and budget mismanagement have caused law and order to break down in the city. In October, the Detroit Police Officers union went so far as to warn visitors to enter the city “at their own risk,” and ALT (Alternative Luxury Travel) travel agency called Detroit the “Most Dangerous U.S. City to Visit for Gay Travelers” because of its increase in crime and the shuttering of a high number of landmark gay bars.
The Counterpoint: If you’re looking for trouble in Detroit, you can easily find it – but that doesn’t mean it will find you. The city still has a thriving music, art and theater scene, drawing creatives from around the country and world to live and visit here. And if you like cars, you can visit museums dedicated to both Ford and Chrysler, take a tour of the former estates of auto barons, or check out one of the many automobile-related annual events. There is still a lot of hope for this city, and earlier this year Gadling even wrote about it as a sustainable city to watch.

Reno, Nevada
Complaint: “ZERO attempt at a culture”
The Point: Reno makes the list of cities to avoid because, as one Twitter user put it, “it felt like where old gamblers go to die.” It bills itself as the second largest tourist town in Nevada, and can’t seem to shake the runner-up epithet of a tame, rundown version of Las Vegas. Most people sell the city by pointing out how close it is to Tahoe, which isn’t really a reason to stay in Reno at all.
The Counterpoint: If you don’t like casinos – Reno’s number one tourist attraction – it might seem you are in trouble. The truth is, this city has the same good eats, music, nightlife and boutiques you find in any other major metropolitan areas – you just have to search a little harder to find the gems. The Nevada Museum of Art also has a surprisingly prestigious collection and is well worth a visit (even if it’s just to kill some time during your layover to another destination). Yes, the pace of life is slower here than other major metropolitan areas, but many visitors might find that a redeeming quality instead of a negative one.

Daytona Beach, Florida
Complaint: “dodging trucks that were allowed to drive on the beach”
The Point: When you imagine a day along the shore, you probably don’t conjure images of laying your beach towel next to cars and trucks. On parts of Daytona Beach, automobiles are allowed to park in the sand during select hours of the day, making the beach vibe turn from tropical to tailgating party.
The Counterpoint: Here’s the thing: Daytona Beach is the home of NASCAR, so if you’re visiting for a racing event, you probably don’t mind a few cars on the beach. In fact, you might even enjoy the novelty of it. If you’re not into it, that’s OK too: there are plenty of other stretches of sand in for you to discover.

Salt Lake City, Utah
Complaint: “boring and flat”
The Point: Salt Lake City doesn’t top many travel bucket lists, mostly because the local culture isn’t too supportive of those who like to imbibe. Just a few years ago, the capital of Utah lifted a prohibition that limited the number of bars on each city block to two, but the city can’t seem to escape the conservative stigma.
The Counterpoint: Fostered in part by the Sundance Film Festival, Salt Lake City has a growing film and art scene. Summer visitors can watch live bands outdoors during the annual Twilight Concert Series, and those who come in winter should know that the city is known for its close proximity to the slopes – 14 ski resorts are within an hour of Salt Lake City. Year round, the city has many small businesses worth seeking out, which makes it a great destination for those looking to skip chain restaurants and big box stores. And if your complaint is that the city is flat, take a trip to the nearby Bonneville Salt Flats, and you might be surprised to find out how beautiful a flat landscape can be.

Los Angeles, California
Complaint: “smoggy and snooty”
The Point: Los Angeles is notorious for its smog, a haze produced by millions of vehicles operating in a low basin surrounded by mountains. It’s also an expensive place to visit, and the people who live there have a reputation as struggling actors, models and rock stars who will do anything to get ahead.
The Counterpoint: Multiple California government agencies have been working to reduce smog. It’s still a major problem, but it’s not a reason to avoid the city’s numerous landmarks and other attractions. Besides, the nearly 4 million people who live there don’t seem to be too turned off by it. And that sheer number of people discredits the “snooty” point. Choose your company wisely and you can avoid self-important people with stars in their eyes – or at least learn to roll your own eyes and walk away.

Do you echo these social media users’ sentiments, or can you get behind one of the cities above? Similarly, if you had a bad experience in a U.S. city and think it should be on the list, let Gadling readers know in the comments below.

Editor’s note: In an earlier version of this article, the population of Los Angeles was incorrectly identified. The article has been updated to accurately reflect the current population of the city.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Ben Amstutz]