Virgin Hotels Las Vegas opens its doors to the public Thursday evening, on the site of the old Hard Rock Hotel. The entire property has undergone a massive makeover, which means plenty of exciting new spaces and attractions to explore for longtime Hard Rock fans and first-time visitors. Here are a few of the things that caught our eye during a pre-opening tour of the property.
The décor of the new resort is lighter and airier than its previous rock ’n’ roll motif, inspired by the drive through the desert into Las Vegas. The memorabilia cases that once greeted guests in the vestibule to the main lobby have been replaced by silver, red and black rock sculptures reminiscent of the Seven Magic Mountains art installation visible from Interstate 15. And instead of Britney’s schoolgirl skirt and all those rock star guitars, that lobby is now decorated with cactuses, palm trees and agave plants.
Echoes of Center Bar
For nearly a quarter century, The Hard Rock’s circular Center Bar was the place to see and be seen in Las Vegas. It’s gone today, but the domed ceiling above it is still easy to spot above an open area on the casino floor. Back in the day, its peculiar acoustics allowed guests in the know to eavesdrop on people seated on the opposite side of the bar. Today, visitors who walk under that dome (now decorated with a desert landscape scene around its edge) are likely to hear a cacophony of echoes and amplified voices. Science tells us that these are just the reflected sounds of other people in the building with us today. But if you listen really hard, you almost can hear your favorite band winding down after a set at The Joint.
The Hard Rock’s original concert venue, the Joint, was demolished in 2009 to make way for a new casino and tower, and replaced with a larger Joint that hosted musical acts until the hotel closed its doors. That venue has been renovated into a new, still unnamed theater that will welcome performers as soon as they’re ready to hit the road again. The renovations include new flooring, seats and bar tops, VIP areas right on the concert floor, a redesigned second-floor lounge area, and a third-floor bar that’s been relocated to allow quicker beer runs. As far as a name, we may have to wait until someone in corporate America shells out for the naming rights.
Selfies with skulls
If you visit a new casino, and you don’t post a selfie on the Internet, did it really happen? There’s no need to find out, since Virgin is packed with great selfie spots. The hotel’s Día de los Muertos-themed Mexican restaurant, Casa Calavera, is clearly hoping you’ll choose the massive skull throne they’ve built outside of the restaurant to memorialize your visit on Instagram. And it is a good spot. But if you’re planning to visit the restaurant, might we suggest posing next to the larger, brighter skull made of multi-colored marigolds, located in the entrance hallway?
“What happens here stays here,” is a nice promise, but some of us still prefer a bit of privacy, especially in our hotel room. Virgin seems to understand that, so they’ve installed a door between the entrance area and the main bedroom/sitting area of each room. So one guest can greet room service or housekeeping at the door without disturbing anyone else who may be getting changed, taking a nap on the Virgin-branded bed, or doing anything else for which they’d prefer privacy.
Ghosts of Rehab
“We literally buried Rehab,” Richard “Boz” Bosworth told the media before a tour of Virgin earlier this month. He was referring to the Hard Rock’s famed pool party, which singlehandedly launched Las Vegas’ dayclub scene in 2004. And while Virgin will have a resort pool and a dayclub called Elia, both expected to open this spring, those looking to relive their Rehab memories will not be able to do it in their favorite cabana, or even in the same pool. The original Rehab space is now buried under Virgin’s Event Lawn, a private outdoor space attached to the resort’s conference facilities. A patch of green artificial turf now marks the site of countless acts of debauchery.