Elvis Presley is alive and well in Las Vegas, Nevada. You can’t walk into a casino or walk by a gift shop without seeing his image, hearing his music, or bumping into an Elvis impersonator losing his rhinestone V-necked shirt with bad bets on a “Viva Las Vegas” slot machine. Story – Vicki Arkoff.
Sin City was the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s second home, so it’s not surprising he’s left such an impression here. But the city has changed massively since the 1970s when Elvis reigned, so these days you’ll need to know where to go to feel Elvis’ presence and experience the town the way Elvis liked it. And you couldn’t ask for a better tour guide than Pete Vallee, otherwise known as “Big Elvis,” a local legend himself who’s one of America’s Top 10 Elvis impersonators, and one of Vegas’ Top 10 lounge show stars. He’s a really big man (he was 900 pounds at his peak weight) with a big heart and a big voice and a big Elvis tribute show that he performs free every weekday at Bill’s Gambling Hall & Casino, center strip.
So without further ado, ladiesandgentlemen, here’s Pete “Big Elvis” Vallee with his Top 10 countdown: how to do Vegas, Elvis style.
10) The Rio Hotel & Casino “Carnival World Buffet” & Battista’s Hole in the Wall Restaurant.
“Elvis loved to eat, so you’ve got to eat like Elvis at the best places.” The Rio Buffet is Vegas’ best all-you-can-eat orgy with more than 300 choices. Breakfast $15, Lunch $17, Dinner $24. Heartburn at no extra cost. 3700 W. Flamingo Rd. (702) 777-2300. Battista’s is one of Vegas’ last remaining rat-pack era landmarks. It’s a Italian restaurant and cocktail lounge run by the same family for 30+ years, which also makes it a rarity. 4041 Audrie St. behind the Flamingo Hotel just off the Strip. (702) 732-1424.
9) Jubilee! Show at Bally’s Hotel & Casino: “Classic showgirls.”
The last of the authentic showgirl extravaganzas, in fact complete with $7,000 costumes…despite the fact that the 50 of the show’s dancers are topless. The real deal for nearly 30 years. 3645 Las Vegas Blvd. S. at E Flamingo Dr. (702) 967-4405. www.ballyslasvegas.com
8) Liberace Museum
“You gotta see it to believe it. Besides, Elvis and Liberace were friends, you know.” Mr. Showmanship’s flamboyant collection of pianos, cars, stage costumes and jewelry are here in all their splendor. The man rings alone are showstoppers. Located off strip, with free van transportation from major hotels. 1775 East Tropicana Ave. (702) 798-5595
7) Fremont Street Experience:
“Going downtown is a must to see classic old Las Vegas.” Anchored by the Golden Nugget and other old-school casinos, this is fun, tacky, vintage Vegas restored. You can still find $5 blackjack tables, 99 cent shrimp cocktails and a sleazy crowd here, but it’s updated too, as a party-central pedestrian street with free concerts, a cool vintage neon museum, and a four-block video canopy showing eye-popping light shows nightly. 425 Fremont St. between Las Vegas Blvd. & N. Main St. (702) 678-5600.
6) The Strip
“There’s nothing in the world like the Las Vegas Strip, especially at night. So go for a drive. Put your car top down and take in all the sights.” Las Vegas Blvd. S., between The Sahara Hotel to the north and Mandalay Bay to the south.
5) Viva Elvis! at Aria Resort & Casino
“It’s new and it’s the biggest Elvis tribute show ever staged.” It’s also Cirque du Soleil’s seventh permanent show in Sin City and is the temple of the massive, shimmering, luxurious City Center complex, center strip. 3730 Las Vegas Blvd S. (866) 359-7111
4) Graceland Wedding Chapel
“Get hitched here and you can get married by The King himself.” Swivel-hipped, lip-twiching impersonators preside over weddings here daily, making it the most popular quickie wedding spot in town for the past 50 years. Jon Bon Jovi, Aaron Neville and Billy Ray Cyrus said ‘I do’ here. After a few cocktails, you may think it’s a good idea, too. 619 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (702) 382-0091
3) The King’s Ransom Museum at Imperial Palace
“It’s brand new and open every single day. Come see me personally for discount coupons.” Run by Elvis’ friend Jimmy Velvet, this is a one-of-a-kind exhibit of the King’s artifacts and memorabilia including his 1977 Lincoln Continental, stage and film wardrobe, personal clothing items, jewelry, guns, law badges and personal belongings from Graceland. $10 admission. (And check address before going; there’s talk about a move.) 3535 S. Las Vegas Blvd. S. (888) 777-7664
2) Las Vegas Hilton
“This is a good one. Stay here and you can sleep here in a king-sized bed, just like The King did. It was his home for seven years.” When it was called the International Hotel and not the Hilton, Elvis lived in the penthouse suite (room 3000 on the 30th floor) during his 58 consecutive sold-out shows here in 1969, breaking all Vegas attendance records. He broke his own record three more times in 1970 and 1972, and lived here until his last Vegas performance in 1976. 3000 Paradise Rd. (702)732-5111.
1) The Big Elvis Show at Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon
“The number one thing everyone needs to see in Vegas? That would be me, baby. Big Elvis. Thankyouverymuch!” Big Elvis’ live tribute concert is voted “Best of Vegas” year after year. It’s big fun and it’s free. Tell him Holiday Goddess sent you and the big guy will gladly pose for a photo after the show. Every weekday at 3, 5 & 6:30 p.m. 3595 Las Vegas Blvd. S. at Flamingo. (702) 737-2100.