Tag Archives: las vegas

The Missing Thirteenth Floor

One of my favorite things to do while staying in a hotel is look for quirky attributes. I always enjoy seeing where a hotel or residential building has chosen to omit the 13th floor – labeling-wise anyway. This is very commonly done in the United States due to many travelers’  triskaidekaphobia, or fear of the number 13. In my experience, hotels with a 13th floor most often just label their 13th floor as the 14th floor. Here is an example from the restored Mather Tower in Chicago, currently home to the Club Quarters and River hotels:

I added a black-and-white filter to the photo to help reduce the glare from this shiny gold elevator panel.

Check out the bottom row. I added a black-and-white filter to the photo to help reduce the glare from the shiny gold elevator panel.

Hotels in the gambling mecca of Las Vegas cater to more than just domestic travelers’ superstitions. A sign of the city’s popularity with Chinese tourists can be found in sprawling casino resorts, which often omit any floors that would begin with the number 4 entirely – meaning the hotel may not be remotely as tall as your floor number leads you to believe!

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The Secret Pizza of Las Vegas

I’m not sure how big of a “secret” this really is to seasoned Vegas visitors (and certainly, it’s not much of one for locals). Yet many folks are likely unaware that there is a hidden New York-style pizza shop in the Cosmopolitan resort on the Strip. That’s a shame – well, sort of, since it means the lines won’t be as long for the rest of us most of the time. But this by-the-slice place serves up some mighty tasty fare. And it comes complete with friendly service, cool album artwork on the walls, and arcade and pinball games!

My husband, born and mostly raised in the Bronx, is an ardent (read: very serious) New York pizza fan. He gave this shop his stamp of approval when we last visited Vegas way back in December 2013. The pizza shop is still there and going strong. Check it out if you get a chance, although I am told you will want to avoid it during the early morning hours around the time Marquee (Cosmo’s nightclub) closes and all the clubgoers come streaming out desperate for something greasy to eat … they are HUNGRY, baby.

How to find it:

  1. Go to the third floor of the Cosmopolitan atrium via escalator
  2. Get off the escalators and look at the wall to the left of the Jaleo. You’re looking for an unmarked, relatively narrow hallway
  3. Walk down the hallway. If you see album covers and pictures of celebrities as you head down it, you’re definitely in the right place.
  4. Order and consume pizza

Goodbye, Riv

Proving the point that nothing lasts forever in Las Vegas, demolition of the storied Riviera will begin this month. You might recall that I previously shared some information on the secret, never-used rooftop pool at the Riv. I am happy that I took the time out on our trip to trek over there and find it. What a strange and fun story.

Vegas is a place that shifts like the desert sands that surround it, and a place that I’ll admit calls to me frequently! There are so many little secrets to find and explore, so many changes that catch one off-guard. I’m long overdue for a return visit to see what’s new and see things I didn’t see before!

Where can you go to keep up with the latest Vegas changes? I used to visit the absolutely delightful VegasChatter on a daily basis; sadly, that site ceased operation about a year ago. I now check out Vital Vegas.

Las Vegas Photo Ops

There are a lot of fun things you can do in Vegas, some goofier than others. My husband and I like to take full advantage of every silly opportunity we can.

“Hey guys! Wanna play blackjack? Hey, what are you screaming at?” At Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay

T-Rex crashing the party at The Adventuredome amusement park at Circus Circus!

T-Rex crashing the party at The Adventuredome amusement park at Circus Circus!

So there we were, exploring this ancient temple, posing for a photo, when suddenly ...

So there we were, exploring this ancient temple, posing for a photo, when suddenly …

Beyond the overpriced souvenir photos, you can find kooky snapshot ops outside the resorts, too. Costumed characters parade up and down the sidewalks willing to pose with you for a few bucks. These panhandlers dress as everything from Hello Kitty to the minions from Despicable Me, to a gingerbread man we saw drunkenly slumped over on the sidewalk mid-day. His more sober pals stepped over him to continue working the crowds.

And outside the recently shuttered gardens at Bally’s Las Vegas last winter, I was walking toward a post when a huge Chewbacca suddenly stepped out right in front of me. We surprised each other, but I was the only one of us who screamed right in the other’s face. Nearby, my husband chuckled; he’d seen Chewy coming even though I hadn’t. “I was hoping that would happen,” he chortled. From then on we often saw Chewbacca parading around in that same area. “Hey, Chewy!” someone would yell from the walkway overhead. “Heeeeeeeeeeey,” Chewy slurred back in just about the laziest Wookie accent possible. He was definitely our favorite.

The Strip is going to change quite a bit in upcoming years with brand new resorts and attractions. I’m looking forward to making a third trip sometime soon. Will Chewy still be there? We’ll find out, and hopefully get a scream-free picture!

Exploring the Vegas Strip: Riviera

Our Vegas vacation was a success! We walked all over the Strip and explored everything. So much is changing in Vegas right now (as always) – there was construction everywhere. I hurt my foot due to a terrible choice of footwear, so that did slow us down some. We never got to Fremont or Sam’s Town or Stratosphere. That’s okay because we’ll likely be back in the spring.

We did make it to some places on the Strip that I hadn’t been to before, including the North end. We could’ve ridden the bus or the monorail up there, but when I saw it really wasn’t THAT far, I wanted to hoof it.

The Riviera is one of the older properties on the strip; it was built in 1955 and is one of the few remaining casinos from that era. Like many hotel/casinos in Vegas, it was once at least partially controlled by mafia members, supposedly leading to the murder of one of its managers and his wife after an embezzlement scheme was discovered. More recently, the Riviera filed for bankruptcy in 2010. If you look at the area in which it sits, you can see why it might have a harder time pulling in folks these days: it’s far less bustling than the mid- and south-Strip areas, and is adjacent to two halted resort properties which have both sat only partially built for five or six years. When I looked up walking directions to the Riv online, I encountered several comments from visitors and locals recommending that we not walk there after dark. Not one to stick my nose up at a place just because it’s old or less-flashy or even dingy-looking, I insisted we visit it anyway (in broad daylight) just to see it (and also so I could find the hidden pool I wrote about earlier).

My Frommer’s guide stated that the Riviera casino may leave one feeling “lost and cranky.” Um, you called it, Frommer’s. By the time we left the Riviera I had been reduced to a mumbling, irritated, slightly-less green human version of Oscar the Grouch.

The outside of the casino is beautiful with its gleaming silver and bright neon stars. I’d ridden by it at night before and loved the glitzy evening Vegas effect.

The inside was dim and smoky, with kinda grungy-looking carpet, but whatever. It’s a casino, and a very storied one at that.

But then I started looking around for the valet elevator to the second floor roof so I could view the abandoned pool I wrote about earlier. Armed with seemingly simple directions from a couple of Las Vegas forums, I confidently marched to the registration desk area and began searching … and searching … and searching for an elevator labeled “Valet” or one that would have a 2nd floor button. We got in so many random elevators and walked around the same areas so many times I’m surprised security didn’t come after us. As I felt the jaws of irritation gobbling up my patience and normally chipper attitude, and my attitude toward the Riv getting sour, we sat down for a smoothie break and re-examined the directions. Then we wandered around some more. The pool shouldn’t be THAT hard to get to – it was, after all, originally built as something that could be “easily” accessed from the casino. I thought about asking a staffer, but just in case we weren’t supposed to be up there, I didn’t want to get anyone’s eagle eyes on me. Plus, for all I knew the next time I was in Vegas, the Riviera could be a pile o’ dust. I WOULD SEE THAT POOL IF IT KILLED ME.

“I mean, how important is this to you, beautiful?” my wonderful husband finally said very patiently, getting wary of my scowl and the strange growling noises I had begun making.

“I hate the Riviera,” I grumbled in reply.

Then, we spied an elevator in a little back hallway just beyond the arcade area (more about THAT later!). The only buttons available were P, 1, and 2. That had to be it! I punched the 2 button with way too much excitement and there we were – staring at a roof with a man in a suit smoking nearby. (There are offices that exit into the pool area.) He paid us no mind as we came out and made our way to the fenced-off hole in the ground, where we saw THIS:

The Circus Circus clown in the background looks like he is coming for you! Creepy.

The Circus Circus clown in the background looks like he is coming for you! Creepy.

It looked way different than I imagined. I had thought of it as being longer and much more shallow, which seems typical of today’s Vegas pools. I also didn’t realize it had a boarded-up hot tub at its head.

Close up of the "R"

Close up of the “R”

Closer view of the hot tub, with depth marking still in view

Closer view of the hot tub, with depth marking still in view

The view of the pool was gross, but the view from the rooftop was great. This would’ve made a really nice swim. Too bad I hear it still leaks into the casino whenever it rains.

The deep end of the pool

The deep end of the pool

Closer view of the tiles in the deep end, or what's left of them. People have thrown plastic bottles full of questionable liquids in here and a pool of muddy water sits where I assume the deep end drain would be.

Closer view of the tiles in the deep end, or what’s left of them. People have thrown plastic bottles full of questionable liquids in here and a pool of muddy water sits where I assume the deep end drain would be.

The stepped patio leading up to the pool is full of cracks that have been plastered over. Adjacent to the office area is this little putting green. I’m not sure if this was put in at the same time as the pool, or if it was put there just for the people who work there. Either way, at least one cigarette butt had been flicked onto it.

It looks old, but it's definitely in better shape than its neighbor!

It looks old, but definitely in better shape than its neighbor!

View of a Riviera tower with the pool deck's plastered areas visible in the foreground.

View of a Riviera tower with the pool deck’s plastered areas visible in the foreground.

View of the pool deck from the putting green with the Stratosphere visible.

View of the pool deck from the putting green with the Stratosphere visible. The big blue tower you see is the failed Fontainebleau resort project.

All self-pitying mumbling about the Riv aside, it might be fun to come here again next time, get a drink at the bar and see if we can find someone who’s worked here for a long time and knows more about it. It’s a nice looking place in its own right … on the outside, anyway. If you walk around the casino and theatre areas, you will find a lot of plaques on the walls displaying the history of the resort’s famed headliners such as Liberace and Dean Martin (to name just a couple). And the Pinball Hall of Fame section is killer. What’s that, you say? PINBALL HALL OF FAME? Why, yes! Las Vegas is home to the Pinball Hall of Fame off-strip on Tropicana Avenue – and the Riv’s arcade has teamed up with the Hall of Fame to create a little outpost. There are some great classic games here from the past several decades, along with air hockey and plenty of video games.

It's blurry, but this is my husband playing some classic pinball games. Some of the machines have hand-written index cards taped to them with additional information

It’s blurry, but this is my husband playing some classic pinball games. Some of the machines have hand-written index cards taped to them with additional information.

In addition, this memorable sculpture advertising the Crazy Girls show can be found outside the Strip-facing casino entrance. Note that some parts of the statues have been touched more than others!

Clever!

“NO IFS, ANDS, OR …” Clever! Hey, I chuckled at it.

We both enjoyed seeing the Riviera (in the end) and I’m glad I found the hidden pool. If you find yourself in Vegas, I recommend at least taking a look around the Riv and playing a few slots (and pinball machines)! There’s no telling how much longer this relic of old times will be around.

Note: If you drive to the Riviera, then finding the pool elevator is probably easier. From the parking garage under the building (not the separate garage – remember the pool is overtop the casino), head towards the Strip side and look for an elevator labeled “Valet”, or at least I am told it’s labeled “Valet”. I didn’t go down there, so I don’t know. Get in that elevator and head up to the 2nd floor.

What Vegas Was: The Glass Pool Inn

One of the many wonderful old pieces of Las Vegas was the Glass Pool Inn, a relic from a very different time on the Strip. It stood across Las Vegas Boulevard on the Southern end. (If you hiked just past Mandalay Bay you’d find it soon after on the opposite side of the road.) Built in or before 1952 as the Mirage Motel, the Inn changed names in 1988 after selling the name to Steve Wynn, who, as you might have guessed, applied it to his glamorous, gleaming, sprawling new resort. The new Mirage was a sign of things to come – an era of new behemoth resorts that would continue to dislodge the roadside motels like the old Mirage.

But the little two-story Inn down the street was quite famous in its own right for its lovely above-ground pool, whose round porthole-like windows allowed swimmers a view out onto the road from their aquatic piece of heaven. The new name of Glass Pool Inn was catchy and the new sign, with its aqua blue pool-shapes, looked like it should have been there all along.

Although much beloved, the Inn was torn down in 2004 for reasons I can’t quite figure out. I haven’t yet seen where there are any plans to build a new resort or casino at the site. I’m sure one will eventually spring up once Vegas makes a full comeback from the economic downturn that left incomplete and abandoned resort/casino projects in a few places on the Strip. In 2012, the motel’s sign was cut down with the intention that it would be put up in the Neon Sign Museum on Fremont Street (downtown Vegas). But then the sign vanished from the (locked, gated) lot. To date no one has any clue what happened to it, but the fear is that it was sold for scrap metal.

Like so many things, the Glass Pool Inn sign lives on in Google Maps!

Like so many things, the Glass Pool Inn lives on in Google Maps!

Check out a pic of the gorgeous pool here at LasVegas360.com: Nice panoramic shot

Adventures in VEGAS: Secret of the Lost Pool

One little known secret of the Strip is the abandoned rooftop pool found at the Riviera! I had no idea it was there the one and only other time I visited Las Vegas. A total sucker for abandoned things and the stories behind them, I plan to drag Eric up to the roof to check this out after we finish playing with some of the (apparently equally secret) Riviera pinball machines. (We’ll be traveling to Vegas for our 1 year anniversary in December!)

What little information I’ve been able to find about the pool – in Vegas enthusiast forum discussions and in a random online trivia quiz – indicates it was never used. After a new section of the Riviera was built in the 1980s and the grand new rooftop pool was filled with water, the resort made the unfortunate discovery that the pool leaked into the casino below. The high cost of repairs made them just chalk it up to a loss and the pool was fenced off forever.

The area is still accessible as a public smoking area and the rooftop deck can be accessed via the 2nd floor valet elevator, allowing visitors to get a sense of the glory that never was!

Glorious (alright, faded) 80s colors still beckon you from Google Maps!

Glorious (alright, faded) 80s colors still beckon you from Google Maps!

Fun Vegas Fact: Most of the famed Las Vegas Strip is not actually in Las Vegas, but in Paradise and Winchester (different pieces of Clark County).