Las Vegas

People in Las Vegas Are Paying $15 Just to Look at the Sphere

A parking garage is suddenly Sin City's most unlikely tourist attraction thanks to its unobstructed views of the Sphere.

Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

You know something is a big deal when people are forking over cash just to take a good photo of it. The Sphere has reshaped the Las Vegas skyline in dramatic fashion, and while tickets are required to see U2 or Darren Aronofsky’s Postcard From Earth inside, the show on the venue’s massive dome-shaped exterior is absolutely free. You just need a good vantage point to check it out-and for some, that’s worth paying a few dollars.¬† ¬†

Four parking garages at the neighboring Hughes Center just happen to have the best up-close, unobstructed views of the Sphere. Most of the spaces are reserved for tenants who work on campus throughout the day, but operator LAZ Parking has opened up the lots to the general public after 6 pm, taking advantage of the sudden interest in the new attraction. 

“Once the Sphere was almost fully done, we started getting a ton of extra vehicle traffic in the area,” LAZ Parking Regional General Manager Brandon Myers said. “And once they turned the lights on, it just became a spectacle in the middle of the desert. We were getting endless lines of people offering to pay to park, just to stand on top of the garage and take a picture of the Sphere, so we just embraced it.”

LAZ Parking staffed up and now has a small army in yellow safety vests to take payments with digital handheld devices and direct traffic with illuminated red batons. The northernmost garage, which has the best views, fills up first. 

“It was worth it,” Marcos Gomez said after paying to park at the garage last week. “Even better than I thought it would be.” Gomez has a personal connection to the Sphere. He’s one of the union ironworkers who helped build it after the ground was broken more than five years ago. “The whole structure is 90% iron,” he said with pride. “From the core all the way to the top.”

Most nights, parking is $15 (or $16.50 with a fee added). The price jumps to $30 on nights U2 performs-in line with what the Sphere-adjacent Venetian charges, but with a much shorter walk. Another perk is that you can reserve a spot online with a space guaranteed, and refunds available if you cancel with at least 24 hours notice. There are about 4,500 parking spaces at Hughes Center. LAZ Parking operates 2,300 of them for Sphere visitors and another 1,000 for Sphere employees.

Rick McArthur, a tourist from Salt Lake City, was at the garage the same night as Gomez. He parked there for the convenience of seeing Postcard From Earth but couldn’t help lingering afterward, soaking in the sight of the Sphere and taking a few photos. “It’s well worth the money,” he said. “It was amazing, almost eerie what the technology is.”

The exosphere is an astounding presence, stretching 366 feet tall and 516 feet wide, covered in LED panels that show off innovative, high-definition designs. It’s also the world’s most expensive billboard, with recent programming dedicated to Disney’s latest superhero flick, The Marvels, and Coca-Cola’s new Y3000 Zero Sugar campaign, featuring the Jonas Brothers and Marshmello.

Another much-discussed new attraction, the Formula 1 Heineken Silver Las Vegas Grand Prix, takes place this week, with the Sphere playing a major role in the event. The illuminated exosphere will provide an attention-grabbing backdrop with grandstands and viewing areas to watch cars roar down the track as it wraps around the landmark. If you plan to attend, parking at the Hughes Center begins at $50, Sphere views included.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Rob Kachelriess¬†is a full-time freelance writer who covers travel, dining, entertainment, and other fun stuff for Thrillist. He’s based in Las Vegas but enjoys exploring destinations throughout the world, especially in the Southwest United States. Otherwise, he’s happy to hang out at home with his wife Mary and their family of doggies. Follow him on Twitter¬†@rkachelriess.

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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