With things getting back to normal this year, the personal-finance site WalletHub checked out America’s 100 biggest cities for their “recreation-friendliness”.
And the winner is: Las Vegas, Nevada.
“Las Vegas has the most playgrounds per square root of the population,” the site notes. Um, okay.
Personally, I prefer the indoor playgrounds that are Las Vegas hotels. “[T]he best cities for recreation have a positive and friendly vibe that transcends just the place,” observes Kenneth Cohen, a SUNY-Cortland professor of Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies. And Vegas hotels have great vibes — the action of the casinos, the world-class restaurants, and the state-of-the-art music facilities.
Las Vegas tied for first place for “Music Venues per Capita”, along with Nashville, Austin, New Orleans, and San Francisco, according to the study. It’s a great city for music lovers, with opportunities to see big-ticket headliners, lots of free shows, and Elvis impersonators galore.
And if you like a sense of history along with your music, Las Vegas has some fabulous tribute shows. My favorite is “The Rat Pack is Back!”
The Rat Pack is likely the best remembered group of entertainers in the history of Las Vegas. Its key members included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. They performed during the 1960s in the Copa Room of the Sands Hotel and Casino and filmed the 1960 version of Ocean’s 11 there.
The iconic Sands had a remarkable history, thanks mainly to the mercurial Frank Sinatra, who hosted John F. Kennedy there several times, insisted that Nat King Cole be allowed to dine in the still-segregated restaurant, but could be appallingly rude to the staff.
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Howard Hughes bought the property in the mid-1960s and began an effort to drive out Sinatra, whom he resented because he’d been in love with the star’s second wife Ava Gardner. Hughes finally won out after after Sinatra sparked a weekend-long incident, investigated by the FBI, which began when his third wife Mia Farrow lost $20,000 in the Casino and ended with the singer reportedly driving a golf cart through the window of a coffee shop and screaming obscenities at the Casino manager who was seated there. After that, Sinatra began performing at Caesars Palace.
Caesars remains the quintessential Vegas resort. But over the ensuing decades, the Sands lost its allure; it was demolished in 1996. The Venetian now stands in its place.
And today, Sinatra, Martin, and Davis impersonators channel the cool charisma of the originals at the Copa Room in the Tuscany Suites and Casino, an off-Strip property with large guest rooms, two pools, and four restaurants, popular with locals.
And they sound just like their legendary counterparts as they croon classic tunes like “Luck Be a Lady”, “That’s Amore”, and “What Kind of Fool Am I?” Sitting in the old-school Vegas showroom, I truly felt carried back to a time before I was born.
What to Know before You See
“The Rat Pack is Back!”
“The Rat Pack is Back!” currently plays Monday-Saturday at the Tuscany Suites and Casino at 255 East Flamingo Road in Las Vegas, Nevada. The approximately 80-minute show begins at 7:30pm.
The site requests “Resort Casual” attire, and you’re likely to see people whose interpretation of even that is something closer to “Camping Deshabille”. But you’ll enjoy a more immersive time if you dress as you would have in the 1960s. I spent the day at the spa and salon at the Encore and then donned a cocktail dress for the show. My companion wore a suit. The maître d’ pulled us out from the sea of khakis and polos and jumped us to the front of the line.
There are three main ticket options: General Admission, VIP, and VIP with Dinner. There’s also a pre-show “Mob Tour” option. My companion and I chose VIP. After being pulled out of the line, he tipped the maître d’ $20, and we were seated up front.
It always pays to dress well and tip well.
If you wish to have dinner on the Strip after the show, a 9:30 reservation should give you plenty of time. If you’d like to extend the Rat Pack vibe, I highly recommend the Sinatra restaurant at the Encore; I enjoyed one of the greatest meals of my life there.