Las Vegas

The Best Events to Celebrate Black History Month in Vegas

Black History Month in Vegas is a hotspot for celebrating Black Resistance in 2023.

Springs Preserve
Springs Preserve
Springs Preserve

The story of Las Vegas, Nevada is incomplete without the history of Black Americans in Las Vegas. From boundary-busting headliners like Lena Horne and Sammy Davis Jr. to history-making hotels like the Moulin Rouge, the history of Las Vegas is deeply intertwined with the history of Black American life and the Civil Rights Movement. The city’s Historic Westside was once known as the “Black Las Vegas Strip,” a Black business district and neighbourhood that formed due to segregation and then thrived with its own businesses and rich social and cultural life that catered to Black clientele. When the Moulin Rouge opened as Sin City’s first desegregated hotel, it did so in West Las Vegas.

Currently, plans are underway to develop an African American Museum and Cultural Arts Center in the Historic Westside to honour and celebrate the deep roots of African American history in Las Vegas and the legacy of Black business leaders, artists, architects, and activists here. But there are many other cultural institutions in Las Vegas where you can learn more about local Black history. Here are some events, exhibitions, and educational series happening around town this Black History Month.

The Neon Museum/Flickr
The Neon Museum/Flickr
The Neon Museum/Flickr

Learn about the legacy of Black architect Paul Revere Williams and more highlights of Black history in Las Vegas at the Neon Museum

Ongoing
The Neon Museum, Downtown Las Vegas
The Neon Museum is a hotbed of Black history in Las Vegas from the moment you arrive. The Neon Museum’s Visitor’s Center is located within the former lobby building of the La Concha Motel, an iconic shell-shaped building designed by pioneering African American architect Paul Revere Williams. He also designed Berkley Square, a housing development in West Las Vegas listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Williams is also featured on the Neon Museum’s Las Vegas Luminaires Mural, a 101-foot-long mural along the museum’s North Gallery wall that features historical figures, performers, and leaders like Delcenia Boyd Jones, the first chorine dancer to work at the Moulin Rouge, and Sammy Davis Jr., Las Vegas performer and member of the famed Pat Rack. On Saturday, February 18, at 10 am, the museum’s monthly STEAM Saturday hands-on family educational series will celebrate Williams’s life and work.

Beyond the spotlight on the work of Paul Revere Williams, the Neon Museum is home to many other artifacts of particular significance to the history of Black Americans in Las Vegas. The Moulin Rouge Hotel was the first desegregated hotel in Las Vegas and one of the country’s first desegregated hotels. It was also the site of a pivotal civil rights meeting in 1960 that marked the beginning of the end of segregation in hotels and casinos. It was a national sensation when it opened-Moulin Rouge dancers even graced the cover of Life magazine-and became a catalyst for civil rights reform in Las Vegas, a place where many people who would become prominent players in the civil rights movement first connected.

A later owner of the hotel, Sarann Knight-Preddy, was the first (and only) African American woman in Nevada to receive a gaming license. While the building itself is no longer standing, the fully restored Moulin Rouge sign located in the museum’s Neon Boneyard continues to tell its story night after night, some 70 years later.

Other signs found in the Neon Museum with particular significance to Black history in Las Vegas include:

The Riviera Hotel: African American singer, actor, and activist Harry Belafonte headlined the Versailles Room; he became deeply involved in the civil rights movement and was one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s closest confidants.

The Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel & Casino: Dancer, actress, and singer Lena Horne took her lounge act to Las Vegas in 1947, performing at the Flamingo. She is widely credited with integrating the dancers in the Flamingo chorus line. She was also the first Black performer to receive the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award and a high-profile civil rights activist.

Fitzgerald’s Casino and Hotel: Owner Don Barden was one of the few Black casino owners in the country.

Silver Slipper Casino: This casino was the site of a 1950s NAACP program for Black History Month when it was almost impossible for a Black event to rent a room inside a Strip or Downtown casino.

Caesars Palace: The hotel was the home of D.D. Cotton, the first Black cocktail waitress on the Las Vegas Strip.

Cost: STEAM Saturdays are $5 for children ages 7 and older and adults; advance registration is required here. Tickets to the Neon Museum start at $20 for adults ($16 for Nevada residents).

Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas
Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas
Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas

Take a look at “Through the Lens: Honoring the Legacy of Paul Revere Williams in Nevada

Friday, February 17, 2023 from 4 to 6 pm
Nevada State Museum, Springs Preserve
During this symposium, historians, curators, artists, and scholars will discuss the architectural legacy of Paul Revere Williams in Nevada. Guest speakers include Brooke Hodge, independent curator and former Director of Architecture and Design at the Palm Springs Art Museum; Nevada historians Dr. Alicia Barber and Claytee White; and contemporary photographer Janna Ireland, whose photography work documenting the architectural contributions of Williams is currently in exhibition at the Nevada State Museum through May 30, 2023.
Cost: Free; advanced registration is required here

Enjoy a Paul R. Williams Berkley Square Tour hosted by the Nevada Preservation Foundation

Saturday, February 18, 2023 at 11:30 am
Berkeley Square, West Las Vegas
The Nevada Preservation Foundation will lead a walking tour celebrating Williams’s residential architecture featured in Berkley Square, the first housing development on Las Vegas’s Historic Westside.
Cost: $5; advance registration is required here.

Take part in the Black History Month Celebrations at Nevada State College

Ongoing
Nevada State College, Henderson
Nevada State will celebrate Black History Month with films, panel discussions, talks, and cultural events held on campus throughout February. The Black History Month Kick-Off Event is on Tuesday, February 7. Other events include the Early Black Films Festival on February 20 and Gospel Fest on February 23. You can find a complete list of events here. Also on display at Nevada State College is the pictorial-essay installation “Obsidian & Neon: Building Black Life and Identity in Las Vegas,” an annual travelling exhibition of Black leaders in culture, business, politics, and community outreach. This exhibition will be on display through June 30, 2023.
Cost: All events are free and open to the student body, faculty, and public.

Check out the new murals on the city’s Historic Westside

Ongoing
West Las Vegas
The City of Las Vegas has revealed the first three murals of its¬†Historic Westside Mural Project, part of the city’s significant investment efforts in this historic neighbourhood that was once known as the “Black Las Vegas Strip.” Led by multidisciplinary artist Chase McCurdy, artists landry Randriamandroso, X Darvi, and Michelle Graves contributed their work on the exterior wall of the West Las Vegas Arts Center, located at 947 W. Lake Mead Blvd. This mural project will continue at the Obodo Collective.
Cost: Free

Go shopping at the BLACK OWNED market at Fergusons Downtown

Saturday, February 25, 2023 from 11 am to 4 pm
Fergusons Downtown, Downtown Las Vegas
BLACK OWNED is a market curated by Tofu Tees, a Black youth-owned business located in Fergusons Downtown. This market provides a safe space for local Black-owned businesses to blossom and connect with one another. Guests are invited to shop Black while enjoying activities, photo opportunities, food from local vendors, and more.
Cost: Free

Partake in Cultural events at the Winchester Dondero Cultural Center

Ongoing
Winchester Dondero Cultural Center, Winchester
Visit the Winchester Dondero Cultural Center, a Clark County Parks & Recreation division, for one of their Black History Month celebrations. First, on Saturday, February 18, Drum Master Harold Akyeampong will lead an open drum circle from 5 to 6 pm. Then, on Saturday, February 25, at 2 pm, the Eddy Sarabia Quintet will perform a variety of swing, mambo, and modern jazz music.
Cost: Participation in the open drum circle is free; tickets to the Eddy Sarabia Quintet are $10

Las Vegas Philharmonic
Las Vegas Philharmonic
Las Vegas Philharmonic

Hear the work of a history-making Black composer played by the Las Vegas Philharmonic

Saturday, February 11, 2023 at 7:30 pm
The Smith Center, Downtown Las Vegas
During Black History Month, the Las Vegas Philharmonic will perform the comedic Symphony No. 2 by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier De Saint-Georges, a Creole composer, concertmaster, and conductor who was a contemporary and friend of Mozart’s. He is widely known as the first European musician and composer of African descent to receive widespread critical acclaim; a biopic called Chevalier will be released by Searchlight Pictures later this year with Kelvin Harrison Jr. in the title role.
Cost: Tickets start at $29

Get informed at Black Weekend 2023: Kemet in the Desert Lecture Series 10th Anniversary Celebration

Friday, February 17 and Saturday, February 18, 2023 from 6:30 to 9:15 pm
West Las Vegas Library
The 10th Annual “Kemet In The Desert” (KITD) Black Weekend Lecture Series will be held at the Clark County West Las Vegas Library Theatre, where it all began. This year’s series will include talks from researcher Sister Merira Kwesi, who studies female personas who have played an integral role in the history of Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast; and Dr. Umar Johnson, a clinical psychologist, author, educator, and descendant of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Each event will begin with a jazz set by the Kemet In The Desert Orchestra under the direction of Mr. Woody Woods.
Cost: Free

Enjoy the glitz and glamour of the 5th Annual African Fashion Showcase

Sunday, February 26, 2023 from 1 to 4:30 pm
Paris Las Vegas
The Las Vegas Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. presents the 5th annual African Fashion Showcase on Sunday, February 26, inside the Champagne Ballroom at Paris Las Vegas. The theme is “Celebrating the African American Image Through Education, History, and Fashion.” The event will feature fashion boutique owners, African garb designers, and the latest trends in “glitz and glamour.” Attendees are encouraged to come dressed in their finest African attire, and prizes will be awarded to the best-dressed male and female.
Cost: Tickets start at $75

Springs Preserve
Springs Preserve
Springs Preserve

Celebrate at the 14th annual Black History Month Festival at Springs Preserve

Saturday, February 18, 2023 from 10 am to 4 pm
Springs Preserve, Las Vegas
The 14th annual Black History Month Festival returns to the Springs Preserve with a family-friendly celebration of Black history and culture in Southern Nevada, including educational activities, live music and dance performances, arts and crafts, historic photo exhibits, and authentic African American cuisine. This year’s theme is “Black Resistance.”
Cost: Adult tickets start at $8; reservations are required in advance here

Listen to Black Swan Radio Hour presented by Vegas City Opera

Saturday, February 18, 2023 3 to 4 pm
West Charleston Library
The Vegas City Opera will celebrate the first Black-owned-and-operated record companies and America’s first historic classical record of Black classical artists through musical performances done “Radio Hour”-style.
Cost: Free

Attend the Reception for “Reverence: Celebrating Black Cultural Heritage”

Friday, February 24, 2023 from 6 to 8 pm
Rotunda Gallery at the Government Center, Downtown Las Vegas
Clark County Public Arts has installed an exhibition called Reverence: Celebrating Black Cultural Heritage at the Government Center Rotunda Gallery, which will be on display until March 2. The catered reception will be held at the Rotunda on February 24 from 6 to 8 pm with live music.
Cost: Free

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Nicole Rupersburg¬†is a freelance writer covering food, travel, arts, culture, and what-have-you. She winters in Las Vegas and summers in Detroit, as does anybody who’s anybody. Her favorite activities include drinking beer and quoting Fight Club.

Las Vegas

A Fresh Take on Italian Dining Opens in Southwest Las Vegas

A first look at Basilico Ristorante Italiano.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

You can’t be all things to all people. Yet a new Italian restaurant strikes an intriguing balance between authenticity and inventive touches while helping to shape the identity of a new community in the booming Southwest Valley of Las Vegas.

Basilico Ristorante Italiano is now open at Evora, a master-planned apartment development still under construction that won’t be finished for at least five years. The 160-seat restaurant follows the vision of chef Francesco Di Caudo, a Sicily native who draws on his heritage and experience throughout Italy to build a compelling menu based on traditional techniques and modern ingenuity.

“I come from a country where farm-to-table is nothing new,” says Di Caudio, while emphasizing the importance of ingredient sourcing and simple, straightforward flavor combinations.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

Just look at the appetizers. Americans are used to eggplant parmesan that’s breaded and fried without restraint. Di Caudo sticks to a traditional Sicilian recipe with the vegetable sliced thin, sizzled in a pan, and layered with tomato and basil. No mozzarella. On the other hand, the Smoked Cigar is destined to be a signature showstopper. Duck, foie gras, and porcini mushrooms are packed inside a thin, cracker-like shell, presented in a box, and dipped into a glass ashtray. The “ash” in the centre is a black sesame and truffle mix. Don’t be shy about double dipping.

The risotto is bound to be another conversation piece. The recipe uses Carnaroli rice, a starchy grain from North Italy that produces a creamy texture, balancing the saltiness of a parmesan broth with a sweet splash of chestnut honey. The real surprise is the inclusion of Lavazza espresso, manipulated to crackle in your mouth like Pop Rocks candy.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

All pastas are made in-house, from a parsnip cavatelli to a lamb and thyme tortellini in a broth filtered from braised prosciutto. Some dishes have a subtle Asian influence, including a hamachi crudo with pomelo (similar to yuzu), Hokkaido scallops with oxtail, and a planned octopus braised in dashi. The flavours come to life inside a sharp, contemporary dining room with deep red chairs and stone, wood, and marble touches. The wine collection is dominated by Italian labels, with a few California and Oregon picks thrown in to round out the list. Bottles are on display near the front entrance and inside illuminated square shelves. “It looks like a fancy restaurant, but when you sit down, I want you to have fun,” adds Di Caudio.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

The bar is the heart of the restaurant, ready to serve up to 16 people inside and dozens more via accordion-style windows that open wide to a covered patio. The outdoor space, temperature-controlled with overhead fans and heaters, effectively extends Evora’s open-air plaza with dramatic water and fire features. It’s a natural spot for tastings and special events with a covered stage for live music. Evora is rolling out in four phases, with the first 342 apartments ready by fall. There could be as many as 1,400 when it’s all said and done. Rent begins at around $1,800 for studios and one-bedroom units and goes up to $4,000 for two-story top-floor residences with a loft and Strip views. The community will include swimming pools, pickleball courts, a putting green, a dog park, firepits, EV charging stations, and pavilions equipped with audio and video features.

“Basilico matches the demographic for our apartments,” says Danny Sorge of Digital Desert Development, the company behind the community. “The term ‘youthful sophistication’ has been thrown around about the restaurant and Evora as a whole. It brings something new to the area.”

Rendering courtesy of Evora
Rendering courtesy of Evora
Rendering courtesy of Evora

The development follows a deliberate strategy to have the commercial tenants in place before the first residents move in, occupying a stand-alone building that strikes a commanding presence on the corner of Patrick Lane and Buffalo Drive. Lemon Tree Cafe & Market is already open as a European-style grocery store with plenty of room to sit down with a sandwich and glass of wine. Keep your eyes peeled for Taps & Barrels (a self-service beer hall), Tachi Ramen, and EVOQ hair salon in the months ahead, with more businesses to come. The timing couldn’t be better. The Southwest Valley is on fire right now, with the Durango hotel and casino and UnCommons mixed-use development taking shape as new attractions in 2023. The Bend, a long-promised shopping and dining district, has been in a holding pattern for years but holds promise in an area where everything is getting bigger and better.

Meanwhile, the team behind Evora is staking a claim with Di Caudio running the kitchen at Basilico. The chef’s recent collaboration with Chef Oscar Amador helped Anima by EDO score a recent James Beard Award nomination and reputation as one of the best new restaurants in Las Vegas. Di Caudio first came to Las Vegas to work at Zeffirino at the Grand Canal Shoppes-a gig he expected to last about six months before returning home. Instead, he stuck around and continued to build his reputation at culinary destinations like Sinatra at the Wynn and Ferraro’s off the Strip.

Ultimately, Basilico will be a restaurant to keep an eye on as it develops under Di Caudio’s guidance. The menu will shift and evolve based on the chef’s preferences and the availability of seasonal ingredients. Di Caudio is also planning a smaller menu and social hour for the bar area and a reasonably priced tasting menu with around 10 dishes served family style.

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Rob Kachelriess¬†has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than nine years. In addition, his work has appeared in¬†Travel + Leisure, Leafly, Supercall, Modern Luxury, and¬†Luxury Estates International’s seasonal publication. Follow him on Twitter¬†@rkachelriess.

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