Remember all those “Roaring Twenties” parties last year? Seems so long ago, doesn’t it? Las Vegas usually has a hell of a party on New Year’s Eve. The Strip shuts down and fireworks erupt from rooftops of the biggest resorts. Well, due to coronavirus concerns, most (but not all) fireworks shows are cancelled and the Strip is toning things down in a major way. But there’s still fun to be had, whether masking up and hitting the town or celebrating on a virtual basis at home. Here’s the rundown on how to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas and say goodbye to the 2020 shitshow once and for all.
Make the most of a night on the Strip
The Strip Even though the fireworks are cancelled, the Strip will still be closed to traffic for New Year’s Eve, although only from Russell to Spring Mountain this year. Bouncing around from casino to casino may be fun, but keep in mind-things won’t be nearly as busy as usual, and most bars and restaurants will require table reservations to enter. Don’t forget to bundle up. We may be in the desert, but it gets cold in late December. Cost: Free
Online To make up for the lack of fireworks, Las Vegas is putting together a virtual countdown this year. Log on to the LVCVA webpage, Facebook, or YouTube for a party live-streamed with a DJ and a “2020” sign that’s demolished Vegas-style at midnight with confetti, streamers, and fireworks. Watch and celebrate from home with no need for a designated driver. Cost: Free
Downtown The only official New Year’s Eve fireworks show erupts at the stroke of midnight from the rooftop of the Plaza hotel. To accommodate the crowds, a portion of Main Street out front will be closed to traffic during the show. For an even better view, book a hotel room with VIP access to the rooftop pool deck. Use code NYE2021. Cost: Free to watch.
The Strat The thrill rides near the top of The Strat are lots of fun, make for a great date idea, and will stay open on New Year’s Eve from noon until 1 am. One person will be chosen to take the leap into the new year at the stroke of midnight on the bungee-like SkyJump-effectively being a human “ball drop” for Las Vegas and earning a bunch of other perks, including a free stay, food, and booze (enter the contest on Instagram). Otherwise, the Top of the World restaurant has a series of seatings for celebration dinners throughout the evening. The views from the restaurant or SkyPod observation deck are great for seeing the Plaza fireworks or whatever people are shooting off from their backyards throughout the valley. Cost: SkyPod admission $25 (10 am–6 pm) and $50 (7 pm–1 am) with add-on options for thrill rides; Top of the World dinners begin at $125 per-person minimum.
Order bottle service at one of two Downtown parties
Downtown The Living Room inside the Gold Spike is hosting a New Year’s Eve party with giant projection screens, a midnight countdown, and limited capacity. Table reservations include a premium bottle of liquor with mixers and a bottle of champagne. A similar party happens the same night a few blocks away at sister venue Inspire, with table reservations available on three floors. Cost: Tables begin at $500.
Off the Strip One of the few good things about 2020 was the opening of the AREA15 art, entertainment, and dining complex. See what it’s all about with an “Illuminate 2021” party at 8 pm where guests are welcome to wear white, neon, or anything else that brightens up the atmosphere and fits the theme. General admission includes a socially distant table reservation, bottle service, appetizers by Todd English, and unlimited access to AREA15 attractions. Upgrade to VIP admission for a seat inside The Portal with 360-degree projection mapping. Either way, you’ll enjoy roaming performers, live music, and a toast at midnight. Cost: Reservations begin at $300 for two people.
Home Have your own intimate New Year’s Eve gala at home and let Piero’s handle the catering. The Italian restaurant is teaming up with Secret Burger for a special takeaway package of four cocktails and seven appetizers (like oysters rockefeller, shrimp cocktail, and stuffed dates). Go bigger with filet mignon, lobster tail, truffle mashed potatoes, and other add-on options. Yet the ultimate add-on is a Louis XIII decanter with a virtual guided tasting experience. Cost: $99 per person with optional add-ons (Louis XIII decanter $575 to $3,250).
Off the Strip How familiar are you with the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack? The Front Yard at Ellis Island is throwing a ’70s-themed New Year’s Eve celebration with a steak and lobster dinner, all-you-can-drink packages, and all the disco and classic rock you can handle. Dress up in your best vintage outfit and book a reservation in 90 to 120 minute blocks. The 10 pm seating includes a midnight balloon drop and champagne toast. Email Ellis Island if you want to buy individual tickets but sit as a group. Cost: Tickets begin at $95.
Pretend like it’s the old days at a nightclub
The Strip New Year’s Eve is traditionally a huge night for Vegas nightclubs with celebrity guests, open bars, and wall-to-wall crowds. Things are a little different this year. Some clubs remain closed, while a few have reopened in a lounge format with masks and table reservations required to encourage social distancing. Tao at the Venetian, Marquee at the Cosmopolitan, and XS at Wynn Encore all have live DJs, light bites, and a midnight champagne toast. Just keep the dancing confined to your table. Cost: Tables begin at $1,500 for Tao, $1,000 for Marquee, and $1,000 for XS.
Multiple Locations The local PT’s Taverns chain really wants you to stay up late on New Year’s Eve. Everyone will get noisemakers, party hats, and a free champagne toast at midnight, followed by happy hour from 12–2am with 50% off wines by the glass, premium spirits, and all craft and import beer. A Tito’s Bloody Mary is just $3 on January 1 to help take the edge off all that drinking the night before. The offers are good at all 66 locations under the PT’s umbrella. Cost: Free admission
Downtown All five blocks of the Fremont Street Experience are typically reserved for ticket holders on New Year’s Eve, but there won’t be any live entertainment this year. However, you can still take a ride (vertical or horizontal) on the Slotzilla zipline. The Viva Vision overhead video canopy is skipping the traditional midnight year-in-review presentation (’cause who really wants to re-live this year again?) in favor of a 25th anniversary show. Follow and tag the Fremont Street Experience when posting a photo on Instagram and it will appear on the canopy. The midnight fireworks at the Plaza are just outside the west entrance. Cost: Admission $25, Slotzilla rides begin at $29.
Sahara Join a bar crawl with live music at the Sahara, where your wristband is good for champagne at Paradise Lounge, Old Fashioned and Manhattan cocktails at the Tangier, martinis and gin & tonics at Casbar, and wine and desserts at Bella Bistro. It’s all-you-can-handle from 7pm until your champagne toast at midnight. Cost: $59
Miracle Mile Shops If you have a big appetite, a Brazilian steakhouse isn’t a bad place to be on New Year’s Eve. Pampas is putting a New Year’s spin on its Holiday Rodizio with seatings from 4 pm to midnight. Feast on unlimited servings of fried shrimp, sides, and meats sliced tableside plus a lobster tail and one hour of unlimited beer, wine, or well drinks with a dessert and champagne toast. Cost: $119 per person ($79 for steak and shrimp rodizio only)
The LINQ The High Roller welcomes guests for a spin on the world’s tallest observation wheel, beginning at 9 pm for a 30-minute ride that includes a champagne toast. For a more high-speed experience, hop on FLY LINQ, the only zipline on the Strip, which soars over the LINQ promenade from 2–10 pm. Refuel with a special Surf n’ Turf at Off the Strip Bistro with a 16 oz ribeye and shrimp scampi with fingerling potatoes and other vegetables. Cost: High Roller $75 ($50 if booked by December 28), FLY LINQ $40, and Off the Strip Surf n’ Turf $55.
Celebrate at an LGBTQ-friendly bar
Multiple Locations A couple of the most popular LGBTQ bars in Vegas will be partying late to celebrate the arrival of 2021. Doors open at 9 pm at Piranha Ultra Lounge with guest hosts, live DJs, and bottle service (call 702-379-9500 for reservations). The Garden is encouraging black tie at its NYE 2021 Ball in the Arts District. Request reservations by email. Cost: Contact venues directly for the latest prices and minimums.
Downtown The Nerd at the Neonopolis is a fun bar that celebrates geekdom and pop culture-and it has a bowling alley! Capacity is limited to ticket holders with a five-hour open bar of well drinks and a contest to raffle off a Sony PlayStation 5. Cost: $100
The Cosmopolitan If celebrating New Year’s Eve is all about having a great dinner, indulge in omakase at Zuma. The premium selection includes sushi, sashimi, Alaskan King crab, Ribeye, pork belly, tuna tartare, and more. The Dom Perignon exclusive omakase adds in A5 Japanese Wagyu, Iberico pork, and other one-night-only dishes to pair with all that champagne. A room reservation at the Cosmopolitan is required to book a dinner reservation. Cost: Premium omakase $250, Dom Perignon exclusive omakase $400.
Off the Strip During any other New Year’s Eve, the tall floor-to-ceiling windows at Panevino would provide a great view for watching fireworks on the Strip. With the show cancelled this year, you can still enjoy killer views of the Vegas skyline and planes landing at the airport while playing around with party favors and munching down a four-course meal of Italian cuisine with a plant-based version available. Cost: $99 per person.
The Strip Eat, drink, laugh, repeat. The Hard Rock Cafe has a dinner and comedy show, featuring Derek Richards, with seatings 7–9 pm and 10 pm–midnight. The event includes a three-course prix fixe meal and open bar. Cost: $150 per person.
Off the Strip The Stirling Club is throwing a party with food stations prepared by Executive Chef Dan Rossi. Score seafood, caviar, hand-carved meats, sushi, and other bites while enjoying the entertainment of The Immersive Group and Cameron Dettman of The Voice. Cost: Tickets for non-members are $275 per person or $500 per couple.
Venetian The Venetian Cocktail Collective of The Dorsey, Rosina, and Elektra, are serving up elevated bottle service options (featuring vodka, tequila, and/or champagne) in sophisticated settings. If you’re more about the food than the booze, Venetian restaurants like Bouchon, Buddy V’s, Chica, Matteo’s, Sixth + Mill, and Yardbird will have special multi-course New Year’s Eve menus available. Cost: Bottle service packages begin at $575, restaurant prices vary.
Miracle Mile Shops Two-hour table reservations come with party favors, a midnight champagne toast, and a five-course meal of clam chowder or lobster bisque, caesar or wedge salad, grilled shrimp bruschetta or crab cakes, a main course of filet and lobster tail with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus with creme brulee or lava cake as dessert. Think of the convenient outdoor location on the Strip as a bonus. Cost: $100 per person.
Home/Downtown Most of the local news stations are keeping relatively quiet about their New Year’s Eve coverage plans, but KLAS Channel 8 is broadcasting live from the Stadium Swim rooftop pool deck at Circa-not just to homes in Las Vegas, but 12 other West Coast markets. The presentation begins at 8:58pm with midnight countdowns in four different time zones, lasting well past midnight local time. Expect celebrity appearances and music by longtime Vegas favorite Zowie Bowie. Cost: Free to watch on TV.Sign up here for our daily Vegas email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.
Rob Kachelriess has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than six years. His work has also appeared in Travel + Leisure, Modern Luxury, Leafly, and Luxury Estates International’s seasonal publication. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelries.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.