From the Billboard Red Carpet, the Amazing Race, and Big Brother All-Stars, discover the best time to visit Las Vegas and great things to do in the entertainment capital of the world. As they say, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But beyond the glitz and glamour, is there more to this bright city? In this episode, Andy McNeill and Todd Bludworth take you to Las Vegas with celeb insider and our tour guide, Jaymes Vaughan. From a local’s perspective, Jaymes shares all the great things you can do in Las Vegas imparts great tips on what shows to watch, where to eat, and what places to see on your next meeting or travel adventure. Plus, Jaymes tells us about his experience joining the Amazing Race, what brought him to Las Vegas, and what’s behind the scenes of being a celeb in Las Vegas.
Andy McNeill and Todd Bludworth are travel and hospitality entrepreneurs and owners of the global meetings organization, American Meetings, Inc. From sourcing venues in Las Vegas to corporate event management around the world, their team selects corporate event venues and meeting planners for a wide array of enterprise business clients, providing ideas for convention themes and strategies for running global meetings and events. Learn more at www.amiwebstaging.wpengine.com.
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Known by many as the Entertainment Capital of the World, Las Vegas attracts tens of millions of visitors annually. The Resort City in the Mojave Desert, countless movies, storylines hail from this area. Gangsters to celebrity chefs, entertainment and gambling, Las Vegas is a flashing paradise for those looking for 24-hour endless excitement. Joining us is Las Vegas local, celebrity and TV personality, Jaymes Vaughan, known for a variety of roles including being the host and singer for the Chippendales Las Vegas show and The Amazing Race runner-up. Jaymes will be giving us the insider secrets to this Sin City. Together, we will look at the best Vegas has to offer a variety of travelers including best hotels, local treats and a few surprises. Welcome to this episode, Las Vegas.
In this episode, we’re going to talk about the Entertainment Capital of the World, Las Vegas. It’s known for being flashy and exciting. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, all those great things.
I don’t think that’s true anymore with social media.
We’ve been there countless times. How many times do you think you’ve been there?
I can’t even tell you. I can remember my very first time in Vegas where I went on one of my dad’s conventions. That was over the top. I can remember a couple of bachelor parties, a lot of work trips.
It’s such a great place because you do go for business and pleasure. If you’re in for business, almost every major trade show makes its way there one time or another, or plan it there forever. I’ve been there countless times. It’s a great place for entertainment, to take clients, and to take your family because there are many things to do. We have a special interview with a local celebrity, but also a national celebrity, Jaymes Vaughan. You might know him from The Amazing Race or the Billboard Awards. Jaymes is going to be telling us and taking us through Las Vegas from a local’s perspective and tell us all the great things you can do there local and being someone who lives there. He’s lived there for over many years.
Jaymes, we should also mention, was in the Chippendales Las Vegas show. People might find that interesting. He was a singer and a host. I’m looking forward to know his perspective on the backside of Vegas that maybe we don’t hear about. I like the idea of having an entertainer give their story instead of somebody who’s always just visiting and then going home.
You fly into Vegas and you’re literally flying over mountains and fly straight over in the middle of the Mojave Desert. All of a sudden, there’s this huge city in the middle of nowhere. It’s all inspiring when you’re flying in. If you’re driving in from LA, it’s the same thing. It’s a six-hour straight shot. It’s nothing but desert and then this huge city opens up. We’re going to talk a little bit about what it’s like to live in this encapsulated world that is its own world. Also, the exciting things you can do both from a tourist perspective and also a local’s perspective.
At AMI, we are passionate about meeting connections that change lives. For over twenty years, we have traveled our clients all over the globe supporting their business goals and helping them stand apart from hotel sourcing to audiovisual magic. We’ll help make your corporate meetings or events second to none. Go to AmericanMeetings.com to learn more. American Meetings, AMI, meeting, planning perfected.
Our next guest I’m excited for you guys to meet. I’ve had the pleasure of working with him on a red-carpet event. He was my mentor and my trainer for this red-carpet event, Jaymes Vaughan. Jaymes, thank you for joining.
You don’t need any training at all.
I appreciate that. I saw some of the tapes.
You’re supposed to see the final product. They edit it together to always make you look good. That’s what editors do. That’s why we love our editors. I saw the final product and you looked great.
It was such a great night. We learned all kinds of things, but we had a great time and you were a great teacher, so thank you for that. Jaymes, I need to talk a bit about your backstory and some of the things that you’ve done. You’ve been everywhere. First, we’ll end with what I think most people might find pretty interesting. You were on The Amazing Race. I’ve watched many seasons of it. I’ve watched you on it. It was great because you were representing the LGBT community, which was wonderful. I know that helped people out everywhere and you came in second that season.
We were just on and keep going.
Jaymes, who are you with? Who was your partner?
This will get into the whole thing of how doing an episode on Vegas ties into me. I at the time was hosting the Chippendales show in Vegas, and singing in another show called Show in the Sky at the Rio. When I had the opportunity to do the show, it was much like if you can make a gimmick work, you’ll be on the show. I was like, “Magic Mike is out right now, I’ll host the Chippendale show. What if I go on with another Chippendale?” I went with another one of the guys in the Chippendale show who was also named Jaymes. I was like, “How could you not cast the guys named Jaymes and James that are Chippendales while Magic Mike is in theaters to go on The Amazing Race?”
You guys are entertaining in that season.
I had a blast. I talked to Phil for an interview for my show, Celebrity Page TV. I was talking about to him, I know I brought up like, “I didn’t win.” You don’t remember that. After that moment is over, you look back, you see the whole race experience as what it was. That final moment is a pin drop in what the whole experience was. I looked back and I’m like, “I can’t believe I got to do this and this,” all over the world.
How do you pack? How do you prepare? I always wonder like, “Are they carrying everything in their backpacks, or is there a luggage sitting somewhere?”
No, and they don’t tell you before you go either. You think that too as a contestant like, “Am I going to get surprised and there’s something?” They don’t tell you what to pack. They tell you what you can’t pack. They’re like, “Go for it.” I’m like, “There’s no way, they’ve got to have stuff.”
Did they give you pounds?
No, because you can do that however you want to run around the world. I wish I had taken some less pounds though. I was a Cub Scout, Webelo, Boy Scout, all that, which means I pack like one. I made my bag heavy, but it came in handy. I thought to bring things like all my pants and shorts, I did the zip-off thing because I was like, “Let’s pack less.” It could be shorts or pants. I brought a pair of shoes, underwear and stuff like that. Not a lot because you know you’re going to wash stuff in between at the hotel in the bathtub. The thing that helped me out was I packed a whole little Boy Scout kit that had things like scissors, tweezers and a pocket knife that didn’t have the knife bar because you can’t carry that everywhere, a gauze and a mini first aid kit.
We were in Russia on a bridge, and James who I was racing with, my good friend now. I met amazing friends on the race that are still family to this day. Trey, who was on with his wife Lexi from Texas, at the time they were boyfriend and girlfriend. They got two kids now and everything, all grown up. They’re both in this challenge, they had to get a thing out of a lock on a bridge in Russia and they couldn’t get it out. I was like, “I got tweezers on my kit. Hang on, boys.” Little moments like that where I was so glad I brought my Boy Scout kit, the little stuff that you wouldn’t think you would need, but I thought to do it. We had that stuff. If anybody’s ever going, I’ll always say, “Think about the little stuff you need around the house in a pinch when you’re trying to do a little task, sometimes that stuff helps you.” We had gauze and duct tape. We taped our bags together with medical tape and gauze because our bags rip. That’s the random stuff. Other than that, obviously the clothes and everything else. If we didn’t have tweezers that day, I think those boys would still be in Russia trying to get that clue out. None of us would be able to get it.
We started in Pasadena. We rappelled down the side of a bridge. You get to the bottom of the bridge, it says, “Find the Maglev train in China.” You’re like, “I’m sorry, what? I just rappelled down a bridge in Pasadena.” We went to Shanghai. From Shanghai, we went to Indonesia for two episodes. From Indonesia, we went to Bangladesh for two episodes. If you’ve never been to a third-world country, I highly recommend it because you have to realize that there are people out there that are so happy with what they have, and it is so much exponentially less than many of us entitled Americans take for granted. You have to go somewhere.
One of the things I’m most thankful the race gave me was that experience. I saw people on the sides of the street in one bedroom, small, tiny, I guess you would almost call them probably a shack. They were happy and thrilled that we were there. They were kind and sweet. I highly recommend that experience. From there, we went to Russia for two episodes. From Russia, we went to Amsterdam. From Amsterdam, we went to Barcelona in Majorca, Spain. From there, we went to Loire Valley, France, which I was like, “It’s gorgeous, South of France.” I remember we have the coolest memory ingrained in both of our heads of winning cars for our moms while running through a castle in France. It was something out of a fairy tale. We went to New York for the final episode and dug on it like, “Where was Gotham Hall?” If we had known that, we might’ve won.
How much time do you get to spend in each spot? You’re going and going, but do you get a minute to look around and absorb like, “This is great?”
Our experience was unique. I’m grateful for it because I did leave the race with this group of friends. Nadiya and Natalie, who were the twins. Natalie went on to go in Survivor because she’s amazing. Trey and Lexi, and James and myself. We all ended up traveling together and we got ahead of everybody else for a while. We had a unique experience of being able to say, “You want to take it a little easy right now and maybe enjoy the trek to this next thing, and we’ll get a more aggressive as we get closer to the end of the episode.” When they started on, we had a full-on alliance.
You’re doing this with camera crews following you the whole time?
Also, with the camera crew. You’re like, “This stuff is heavy. Do you want us to go slow for a second?” You feel like a jerk running all the time with camera people following you. They’re the real stars of Amazing Race. There are a camera person and a sound person that are working their butts off. We’re running like, “I’m trying to win $1 million.” It was cool that we got to have those moments. There’s a specific moment that stands out to me in Barcelona where we all went to the beach. We said, “Let’s chill for a second. Let’s all go to the beach together.” There we were on the beach in Barcelona and it was beautiful because there’s a moment of escape. Other than that, “No, you were racing. If you stopped to enjoy something, that’s on you.”
How many total days?
It’s about a month. We stopped in Indonesia for a moment. We thought we were getting eliminated, so I was like, “Let’s take this detour around these elephants so James could see an elephant in Indonesia.” We did that knowing that like, “We’re probably getting eliminated today because you don’t stop and sightsee.” Somehow by the grace of God, he was like, “You’re not even close to being eliminated.” I was like, “Where is everybody? We did a whole scenic tour and we’re still not last?” It’s meant to be, that was supposed to be. Do you want to know how I got to Vegas?
You’re from Virginia originally.
[bctt tweet=”The best thing is that usually, celebrities are better than you expect.” via=”no”]
I’m from Virginia. My background before anything, as far as television goes, is I’ve always been a singer. I sang in shows all over the world. I’ve been fortunate to do that, but at the time, 2005, Hurricane Katrina happened in New Orleans. I was singing in a show based out of New Orleans. I was going out on a cruise ship with Carnival. We went out while the hurricane was happening and we’re out trying to literally get around the hurricane. They’re like, “Can you go on stage and perform? We need to distract people.” It’s like showgirls toppling towards the orchestra. I do have to give props to Carnival because when this all went down, they took excellent care of us. I worked to this day and tell everybody, Carnival Cruise Line worked for me. That happened, we came back to New Orleans and they were like, “There’s nowhere to take the ship. Everything was devastation. It was heartbreaking.” They ended up taking the ship to Galveston. My stuff was not in Galveston. My stuff was in New Orleans. That was the home base for me.
We got out there and that’s when FEMA decided they were going to take some ships. FEMA was going to have these ships and use them for housing people. One of those was the ship that we’d been doing shows on. They were like, “What will we do?” I’ll never know what I’m allowed to say or not allowed to say from contracts, but Carnival was so kind. They were like, “We know a lot of you all are struggling right now and you don’t know what’s going to happen next because everything’s gone.” They paid out our contracts so we could have a startup to go try something else. I couldn’t find me a car so I was like, “I’ll go to Vegas because all these dancers in my show were from Vegas.”
I went to Vegas, thankfully with this startup money Carnival had given us and I was like, “I’m going to try it out. Let me check it out. I’ll go for a week and see what it’s all about.” The second day I was here, there was an audition. It was like the old school days, like 2005, you opened up the paper with the audition. It’s like, “Greg Thompson Productions searching for a next male star on The Strip.” I knew who Greg Thompson Productions was. I had seen some HBO specials. These people were quintessential like late ‘90s Vegas, the glitz, the glamor, the tans and everything. Greg is the producer. He’s got this gorgeous wife, Sunny, that’s like dawn up to the gods and she impersonates Marilyn Monroe all the time. His choreographer is named Mistinguett, and she’s this lady with these insanely long nails that’s danced all over the world. She’s this tall, statuesque showgirl. I’m like, “These people are characters, but the kind of characters you want when you move to Vegas to do a show.”
I’d seen him on HBO, so I knew how to play them. I knew what they wanted. I was like, “I think I want to be in Vegas for a while. I want to do this. I know they’re much all about like old school Vegas.” The boys have their shirts off and the girls are in the tiny showgirl outfits. Everybody’s getting weighed in every week and all this. I was 22, 23 and I’ve been singing in a show every night. I looked like all I had was time to work out. I went to this audition. They have all the guys come up on stage with 80-some guys. I waited until the end to audition. I go up and I’m like, “I know how to get this job. I’ve seen these people. I know what they like.” It was so out of character for me because I was insanely insecure, but I was like, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to put on my big boy pants.” I go on stage and at the end, all the guys are waiting on the last one. I was like, “Do you want me to take off my pants now or after I sing?” I remember this day, Greg Thompson goes, “I sure hope you can sing.” I sang. I did not even sing half a song and he stops me. It was literally a moment out of a movie, he’s like, “Boys, go home. I found my star.” It was that thing, which is funny because he ended up hiring a bunch of guys from that audition.
We’ll go into the Chippendales. How did you get involved in the Chippendales? People think about Vegas. Maybe twenty years ago, I remember this one show, it was at MGM. I went with my parents and it was Jubilee!. Do you remember that?
That was at Bally’s.
That was actually my first time at Vegas. I’m there with my parents. That show meets all of your expectations. The big headdresses and everybody’s having a great time. It’s gone now. Everything’s turned into a Cirque du Soleil, but Chippendales, bachelorette parties, they’re iconic in Vegas. How did you roll into that?
I told them not a bunch because I had this preconceived notion in my head that it was going to be a bunch of guys in the mirror, 24/7, curling weights and looking at themselves. There are a couple of them but overall, it wasn’t that. I had to meet some of the guys to learn that. I think he was the creative director, Kevin Cornell, who was also in charge of the tour. He was like, “I want you to come to Europe with me and sing in the show in Europe.” They had seen me performing at some charity thing or whatever. His girlfriend at the time was like, “You’ve got to get that guy for Europe.” I was like, “The last thing I’m trying to do is tour Europe with a bunch of meatheads that are going to be staring at themselves in the mirror all day.” He’s like, “Come and hang out with some of us, come and meet some of us.” This is after many times I’d been like, “No,” except at the time I was at the phone that was slide up, “No.”
Finally, I hung out with him and I was like, “These guys are actually cool. They’re in on the joke too.” There’s a bit of a joke to it. They’re like, “We’re Chippendales.” They were all in on it and I was like, “Let me go tour Europe for three months with these guys.” Europe is different. It’s not like Vegas where a bunch of bachelorette parties come to see guys strip. It’s a theater show in Europe. It’s thousands of girls and a gorgeous venue. It’s put together much more like theater. There are production numbers. Everyone’s taking their clothes off. There’s a lot of dancing. I had a full band that I sang with. It was a cool experience.
When I came back, I did a bunch more shows throughout Vegas on The Strip. Chippendales courted me to come to do their show at the Rio, which is their mainstay staple show. At the time, I was singing and showing The Sky at the Rio. It worked out perfectly because I ended up being able to do both shows at the same time. I would start one show, run to the next show, do part of that show, run back down and finish the other show. I was doing two shows at one time. It was the most insane and coolest thing in the entire world. I ended up staying because they needed someone to do PR for them. I was doing the interviews and stuff like that. I got to be good friends with a lot of the guys. It fit.
How many years did you do it?
Full-time in Vegas, maybe four years. It turns into a fraternity, where you’re going to hang out with your brothers. It’s a totally different thing than all the other shows are in Vegas. I’ve done the 50, 60, 100-person show with guys and girls and all that. That’s my vibe and what I grew up doing. I was always in big production shows, but then to do a show where it’s a bunch of guys and you’re backstage being guys that goof around all the time, it’s a different experience. I was like, “I love this.” I woke up one day, I was like, “What am I doing?” I get bored easily. I was like, “I’ve got to do something else now. This was fun. I did it but please, God, don’t let me be that old Chippendale.” I used to be hot. “Let’s bring out the hot guys now.” I was like, “Let me get out while I can.”
That’s when I decided to jump back into TV. I was fortunate enough that in Las Vegas because it is such a community as far as the entertainment industry goes. Those television stations here were more than happy to have me come on and guest host shows. I ended up hosting a weekend show on the Fox affiliate here in Vegas. That led to more and more stuff. That eventually led me to where I am on TV now, which was what I originally set out to do. My degree and everything is in television news. I knew before I graduated that I didn’t even want to do it. Imagine you’re 22 and was like, “Do you want to go report on this murder or do you want to travel the world singing?”
Where did you go to college, Jaymes?
Virginia Commonwealth University.
Now, you’re doing Celebrity Page TV, which is the one that I was with you on. You’re doing Access Hollywood, The Talk, the Lorraine show in the UK and Wendy Williams.
Besides being on the red carpet with Todd, what is the most memorable interview that you can remember? Something that blew you away.
People always ask, “Who are your favorites?” I always feel when I answer it, I feel I’ve left someone out and I hate that I did that.
I’m so jealous.
If someone said, “You’re going to interview Dolly Parton.” She’s going to be exactly Dolly Parton and give you exactly what you want. You’d be like, “No, there’s no way.” It’s like your favorite aunt is giving you a hug while also giving you all the wisdom in the entire world and putting on a show. She is magical.
She said nothing for me too. That’s a good one, that’s a pinnacle right there.
Let’s circle back to Vegas. We want to talk about your direct experiences with Vegas and what makes it so special as a destination and somewhere that you actually live. You know all the great areas, old Vegas, the old strip and things like that. What stands out to you being a long-time resident there?
Vegas for me, the thing that’s surprising to a lot of people, first off, you always have to remind people, those of us that live in Vegas, we don’t live on The Strip. There’s a whole suburb area that feels normal. It’s like a suburb that could be anywhere in the world. There’s all that. For us, The Strip, it was a place of employment for a long-time doing shows, but it’s cool that we have this because we literally have something people fly from all over the world to go to at our disposal to go, “Do you want to go to The Strip for dinner? Do you want to go to The Strip to see a show?” Who can be like, “I think I’m going to see a Cirque du Soleil show?” In 30 minutes, they’re in there watching the Cirque du Soleil show. Who can say, “I want to go eat at Giada,” which is my favorite restaurant here in the entire world? Thirty minutes later, if you had a reservation, you can be down there eating at it. It’s a cool place for that.
It’s almost like there’s a whole backstage world to Vegas. You come up to the front, you experience it, then you go back to your regular life.
There’s also that same thing with the roads, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin take those instead of the strip, it will get you everywhere faster. It’s that stuff you’ve got to know.
Do you have a favorite venue that you’ve worked in or been to that is special there?
People are asking my favorites. My favorite vibe as far as the casino goes is Cosmopolitan. It feels cool, but it doesn’t feel it tried too hard. My favorite clothing store in the entire world is in there, STITCHED. They do all the amazing suits, tuxes and everything you see me wearing on the carpets. It’s always STITCHED. Wherever the show is, I will fly to Vegas to get them to style me so I can wear it because they have the best and the most bomb stylist. If you ever go in there, ask for it. If you want something louder and flashier, ask for Ricky. If you want something that’s going to be more push the boundaries, edgy, go to Jessica. She’ll put together stuff that you’re like, “I didn’t know that would go together like that.”
Todd’s taking notes, Jaymes.
I’ve sent many people there.
You’re costing us a lot of money. I know already all of a sudden, we’re going to be in STITCHED outfits.
Look at all my red-carpet photos. The stuff they have is amazing.
You always look great.
[bctt tweet=”Please do not judge Vegas off of a random tweet that somebody puts up.” via=”no”]
They have different levels of stuff too, different tiers of things. You can go pricey or you can go less pricey. There’s something for everybody there. I’m obsessed with that place. I love Cosmo for that. The fact that they have all the cool little restaurants in there, the hidden pizza. There’s a hidden pizza place. It’s not so hidden anymore because there’s always a line coming out of it now. All you’ve got to do is say, “Where’s hidden pizza?” It tastes like New York pizza. I love it. New Yorkers don’t come at me if it doesn’t taste New York pizza to you, it does to me.
Your version of New York pizza.
I’m trying to think of my absolute favorite venues. The venue for Cirque du Soleil at Bellagio is amazing. There’s a similar one that was in the round and that was cool too. It was massive and magical, you feel you’re in a different world.
What’s special about Vegas is being able to go into another world. They do it so well. They do it better than anybody else. They do it consistently. You are paying money constantly, you just don’t know it when you’re in Vegas.
Even the park.
Probably, a lot to park. As a local, you have to buy a deal with that a lot.
Some of the casinos are backing off on that to bring people in. That’s good because it wasn’t always that way. When they started charging the park, I was like, “I don’t know if I want to pay that money to go down and get that meal when I can go to Chipotle instead.” You ended up still going because it’s the Vegas Strip.
There’s a Vegas that everybody sees, but I picture this, and this may or may not be true. Is there the Vegas on the other side of the curtain that nobody gets to see? The high rollers, the huge suites and the access to those bucket list items that nobody else gets. Do you recommend anything like if you could do this, make it happen?
You can go look at it on Instagram. My friends, Kelly Osbourne and Daniel, they’re best friends and they keep coming to Vegas for stuff. Westgate has been hooking them up with my favorite suite here because it has so much history. It’s funny, years ago, I wouldn’t have told you this is my favorite suite. Now as I’m getting older, I’m into stuff that’s got a history and some story behind it. It’s the old Elvis suite at Westgate when it used to be Hilton when he performed there. They’ve been staying there a couple of times. It’s on their Instagram, go look at it. It’s cool. They’ve been going to that. It’s the coolest thing. It looks so old school. It’s got such a Liberace, Elvis vibe.
Did they redo it?
I don’t know if it’s redone or kept up well because it looks pretty classic. The thing I always tell people, “Get off the strip and go to our Chinatown, it’s literally right up to Spring Mountain.” It’s a mile from the strip. There’s some amazing food in there.
How about the old strip, Jaymes? They’ve totally redone it. Zappos is down there now. The last time I was there, there was that big truck food area that you can go and have all different types of amazing food. What’s your experience down there?
You have to do it. You have to see it because it is truly vintage Vegas at its best. You’ve got to go see the cowboy and the girl kicking her leg and all that. Also, they’ve done so much to build it up down there and add things like Container Park, where you got the food trucks and stuff. There are a lot of great restaurants and things down there too. Please do not judge Vegas off of a random tweet that somebody puts up. Every once in a while, a fight happened here, a fight happened there. You can find it in any microcosm of something going on anywhere. It’s not that. It’s an experience. Half the fun of going down to Fremont Street in the old Vegas is a lot of the characters and the people that that’s their Vegas. That’s where they go because they’ve been going there for years. It’s a step back in time that now they’ve been updating and making better so people that don’t want to go back in time also have some cool flashy stuff to go to.
What about outside of the city limits? Vegas is in the desert. There’s the Grand Canyon, the helicopter tours. Have you experienced a lot of that right outside the city?
What’s crazy is I lived here forever and never went. For my birthday, my boyfriend, Jonathan, took me on a helicopter tour through the Grand Canyon. I’d never done it. It was right before I had to go do the carpet for the ACMs. I got back from the helicopter ride. I jumped out, I went through hair and makeup, threw an outfit from STITCHED and jumped on the carpet. I’m not a person that’s like, “Throw me on this helicopter.” It feels like I’m dangling from a ceiling fan. I was freaked out about it. Once I got in there, I was like, “This is cool.” I can’t imagine seeing the Grand Canyon any other way. would be cool to rappel down and all that, but to be down there and looking at everything and being so up close to stuff, and you’ve got to get in and out quickly. It was a cool experience. I recommend that.
If you want a more affordable alternative, Red Rock. There’s a whole Red Rock National Park, 30 minutes from the strip and you are there. There are many different trails and places to hike. It’s gorgeous. We go there all the time to go and get some air in the morning and have a meditation. It’s stunning. I think it’s a 13-mile drive through it. Anywhere on that drive through, you can jump up. When you’re driving there, some people are trying to be like, “I’m not going to pay that couple of dollars to go through there. I’m going to park on the side of the road because I can see those mountains. Let me go to those.” It’s deceiving. If you try to jump out early, if you’re down for a long walk, go for it. If you’re trying to save a dollar, go for it. You start walking and two hours later, “The mountain is not any closer. What is going on?” It’s the wildest thing. The illusion of these mountains that look they’re so close and they’re not. If you go into Red Rock proper, you can park and get right into these trails, it’s a different world. It’s beautiful.
It almost looks Mars. I’ve been there. It’s stark, beautiful and different. What’s amazing is that 30 minutes before, you’re in this huge, gorgeous lobby. You come out here and you’re in the middle of nowhere. It is a great way to experience both sides of Vegas.
That’s a cool thing about Vegas.
What about the food? Obviously, there’s food. You could pay through the moon for food or you could find a great local stop somewhere. What are some places you might recommend in terms of getting a good bite?
There’s also a sushi place that I love called Oyshi that’s on the west side of town. They have a good all-you-can-eat sushi. That’s a local spot. When you go, you’re going to see a lot of the locals. That’s a place I recommend. Giada is my favorite. There’s a lemon pasta there. I’m not saying this because Giada made me some special dishes when I interviewed them. I’ll go there every chance I get. People are like, “We’re coming to Vegas. Do you want to get dinner?” I’m like, “Giada, that’s where I’ll go.” The girl knows what she’s doing. She knows how to cook. Get the lemon pasta. It’s a flavor like I’ve never had. It’s absolutely amazing. Get one to eat there, get one to go, put it in your pocketbook, your briefcase or whatever. You’ll want it later, trust me. It’s good. That’s my spot. You’ve got to go on The Strip for sure.
What’s a must-see show? They have the acts that come in. They’re home-based there for a significant period of time. What’s been your favorite show that you’ve seen?
I will break it down for you by show. If you want to go see a show that you’re like, “That was wild. What did I see? It was so cool. I laughed, entertained, shocked, surprised and impressed by talent the whole time.” You’ve got to go see Absinthe. It’s out in front of Caesars in a tent. The talent is insane. The hosts are insane. It’s a variety show, but it’s tongue-in-cheek. You won’t be disappointed that you saw it.
Is it a Moulin Rouge kind of thing? Is it a circus Moulin Rouge?
If the circus took Absinthe or drank Absinthe, Absinthe’s a drink.
It’s a trippy experience?
Yes, and nothing’s off-limits. The acts are changing every once in a while too. It’s a cool way to do a variety show. If you want that “Oh my God show,” that’s a show that you’re going to make you go, “Wow.” If you want the classic Vegas girl topless show experience, you’ve got to go see Fantasy at Luxor. The lead singer in it, Lorena, we both sang on Carnival Cruise Lines way back in the day. She’s a great entertainer, but it’s that classic Vegas topless girl show. You go see it, you’re like, “This is what I wanted to see. This genre, this is exactly what I wanted it to be.” Unfortunately, there’s not that big, glitzy Vegas show anymore. There’s VEGAS! THE SHOW. That’s a smaller scale. There are talented people in there. A lot of my friends dance and sing in that, but there’s not the big, giant spectacle like Jubilee! was. As far as the male review shows go, I’m going to go see Chippendales with some of my friends. Every single one of those is different. Chippendales is what it is. It’s classic. It’s a mainstay and you’ve got to go because you’ve got to see it because it’s Chippendale, you get a picture with the guys. Thunder from Down Under is so Australian that you’ve got to go because it’s a different experience. Magic Mike, which I believe is coming back. I don’t know if they disclosed the location. I think they’ve talked about Sahara. I could be getting this so wrong.
If you ever want to know the real facts on stuff, there’s a podcast called Vegas Revealed. It has tons of stuff. Dayna Roselli and Sean McAllister, two friends of mine that both used to work in television news here that connected in Vegas. They always have different guests on every week. They can tell you exactly what’s going on. Dayna is my go-to. If I need to know anything about Vegas, I text her and I know she always has the answer. Right back that with it. Check that out for sure. They would probably know too. Magic Mike is a totally different experience from Chippendale’s, Thunder or the other male review shows because these boys are dancing. They’re good looking and look great with their clothes off but it’s the dancing. It’s like So You Think You Can Dance? plus. It’s a different experience. You’ve got to see them all because they’re all different experiences. The same way with the Cirque shows though as well. I’d say, “Oh my God, amazing.” You don’t leave a Cirque show and go, “I wish I hadn’t seen that.” You always go, “That was different than the other one. That’s crazy.” You’re always transported to a different world.
Jaymes, we’d love to have you back some time if you’re into it. You’ve got a lot of experience with different cities. Vegas is amazing. We look forward to seeing some great things coming from you.
The next time you come, I’ll show you around.
Jaymes, if people want to follow you, where can they go? Where can they check you out?
You can follow all my social media, @JaymesV. I’m mostly active on Instagram. I don’t play on Facebook anymore because it’s a lot of the older people on my life complaining. Younger people in my life are complaining too. Every time I turn it on, somebody is on a new conspiracy theory. I’m like, “I want to see photos of the cats.” I remember I used to be like, “This person is posting a photo of their food again.” I’m like, “Please post a photo of your food.” I don’t know anybody who’s ever had their opinion changed from a Facebook post. Recommend where I should be eating.
Jaymes, we asked each one of our guests our rapid-fire questions to wrap everything up. There are five questions because you’ve traveled the world, you know Vegas, you’ve seen all these great places all around the world, especially with being on The Amazing Race. These are the five questions so our followers can learn from you what the best things to do when you travel. Have you ever completed anything on your bucket list? If so, what was it? I know you’ve got more than one.
[bctt tweet=”With a Cirque show, you’re always transported to a different world. ” via=”no”]
There was a thing on my bucket list that I was going to be there and that’s where I was going to live and where I was going to die. I didn’t care. I was like, “I’m not doing it. I’m not bungee jumping. There’s no reason for me to fall out of anything. Why?” The Amazing Race happened, the final episode, they were like, “You’re going to need to escape from this straight jacket upside down, hanging from a crane, 13, 18 floors up and you need to do this and bungee.” I’m like, “Okay.” At the moment, your adrenaline is going crazy. I couldn’t have even told you if I had removed my bungee cord thing to drop or my straight jacket or what. I was like, “Things were coming off.” I was like, “It’s CBS. There’s no way they’re going to let me die so I’m pulling it all off and I’ll be fine.” You go and it’s that whole moment of like, “Is this it? Is this where I go? Is this how I die?” Everything flashes and then the bounce happens. You have this moment of, “I did something that was on my bucket list that I thought I’d never do. “Now get me down because I’m trying to win a race, but this is cool.” Thank you to Amazing Race for making me do that because I would have never, ever done it. I never will again either.
If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where would it be?
The beaches in Thailand. I’ve been to Thailand a bunch. I love Thailand. Chiang Mai is so gorgeous. It’s in Northern Thailand. It’s literally many untouched, beautiful places to see. The people are always sweet. If I could live on a beach in a hut and hang out, do a show on Zoom, it would be great.
If you could travel with someone infamous or famous, who would it be dead or alive?
You guys prepped me with this and I thought about it because I’m like, “Who would it be?” I don’t know if it’s a specific person or if it’s an era and a place I would like to be. I’d like to be in ancient Egypt. I’m fascinated by the culture, the people, the fanfare, the pyramids and everything. It’s cool to me, I would love to see how it was all done. I have so many questions for them.
Maybe you would like to travel with King Tut?
King Tut was a kid. It’s tough because you look back at stuff, especially now as we get more and more educated and aware of things. I look back at people I would’ve maybe toured or have explored with. If I explored with them, I think I would’ve wanted to say, “Explore, but don’t conquer. Explore, but learn to be a part of, learn to appreciate, learn to be together, not take.” That’s what I would like to do because there are a lot of people that did cool things but I find myself looking back at history a lot of times now and being like, “That could have gone different. People could have been more human at that moment and things might look different in the world right now.” We could all be sharing so many amazing different cultural experiences instead of people being like, “Take, take, take.”
When packing for a trip, what is something you pack that might surprise our readers?
I know we talked about bougie clothes and going to STITCHED and looking nice for red carpets. All I pack is gym shorts, t-shirts and tank tops. I’ll bring a nice outfit or two if I think I’m going to need it. Honestly, the older I get to, I live in gym clothes. I used to be that person that I’d be like, “Why is that person wearing that? Why are they wearing that?” Now I’m like, “I get it. It’s all about comfort at this point.” At any given point in time, you opened my suitcase, a whole bunch of gym clothes is going to fall out.
I had to wear my Mack Weldon pants out to dinner. I’m like, “I need to stop that. Those are hangout in bed pants.”
It’s all about from the waist up when you’re at dinner like a Zoom call. Once you get in that restaurant and you’re sitting down, all they see is this.
Finally, since we’re talking about Vegas, what is your most memorable experience in your time there?
My most memorable experience in Las Vegas has to probably be the first opening night of my first show here, which was Bareback. I never had any intention of ever coming to Vegas. I never thought I would be able to make it in Vegas doing a show. It all happened for me as soon as I got here, which was the wildest experience. I remember the opening night of Bareback, this big country show with a bunch of Big & Rich songs in it. I look out in the audience and Big & Rich are watching the show. It was crazy to me that I had been wondering what I was going to do after this hurricane. I had no clue how I was going to pick up my life. I was fortunate in that event that I didn’t lose a home or loved ones, but I still was like, “I don’t know what I’m going to do next.”
Somehow everything in Vegas, I rolled the dice and it worked out for me. In that moment of being there, I’m on the stage, the music’s going and the lights are going. The first song hits and I look out and I’m like, “I’m in Vegas.” If you told ten-year-old me I was going to be doing a show in Vegas, I would be like, “This is cool.” Of all the shows I’ve opened here, there have always been a lot of cool openings, but that’s the one because it was the first one. It sticks out as like, “I’m doing it.”
Jaymes, thank you. It was great talking to you and getting all these great ideas about Vegas. Talking to a local, thank you for all those great tips.
Isn’t Jaymes a joy to talk to and have so much knowledge about the city?
He’s one of those people that you feel like you know him. He’s pleasant and easy to talk to. He’s got some amazing stories from Vegas and what he does for a career in terms of hosting and doing things for the music awards and all that. I bet it just adds up. I’d like to pick his brain sometimes if I act out how these people act when the camera’s not on them.
He did tell us about some of his favorite places, but right now we’re going to talk about some of our top bucket list hotels, activities, as well as shows that we’ve been to over the years to give you guys a little bit more information around what you can do in Vegas. Let’s start with hotels. There are many different choices from the old strip where they’ve redone all these old hotels and made them nice but it’s more affordable. You have on The Strip and that’s pretty much what everyone knows.
There’s The Strip, and then there’s off The Strip. The ones that are 1 or 2 blocks off The Strip that might make it a little easier to get around because you’re coming in on the side when you want to go to The Strip. They’re all connected in some way. They have the walkways over the streets. We’ve done a lot of meetings there. It’s one of those places where if you forgot something in your room, you’re like, “It took me an hour to get here.” If you forget something, you’ve got to go all the way back. Let’s talk about some of those properties because there are some great ones.
Let’s start with Caesars Palace, which is one of the first ones I ever went. It’s a very established hotel, but they went through a huge renovation and added a huge conference center as well. It’s definitely a place to go to see the Grandeur. It’s got a great shopping and restaurants in a mall that’s connected to it. I’ve always enjoyed staying at the Caesar.
The Caesar Forum, the mall that’s connected to it is great because you walk into that, it’s got some amazing shops. They have this big fountain structure that does a show every hour or something like that. I think Zeus, Greek gods or whatever it is, but it’s entertaining. Also in Caesars though is the Nobu Hotel. It’s a hotel within a hotel. Also, the Mandalay Bay where the top floors of the Mandalay Bay are the four seasons. They have a separate entrance. You go right up to the top if you’re staying at that one. The one I just remember when it opened up, it got so much hype and it still does is the Bellagio. It broke the mold for a strip hotel in terms of opulent, it was elegant, the artwork, and it’s still a popular casino. The two shows there are some of the best in Vegas, the free show, the fountain show. Also, the water show for Cirque du Soleil, which is amazing. I think that’s a great property.
One of my favorites, it’s not as flashy, but the Wynn Las Vegas spared no expense in the quality of the property. It attracts some of the biggest spenders because of that. It’s done nice and classy. If you want something that’s not as necessarily big, but high quality, look at that.
I think this developed through the divorce of Steve Wynn was the Encore Hotel. They’re both similar. They share some walkways. They are right next to each other, but they’re both just great properties. Those set off another level for nightlife with properties. They have tons of young contemporary adult bars, restaurants and venues. Every time I’ve gone, I see groups of people in their twenties just having a great time.
Finally, why don’t we put this on here? The last time I was in Vegas, I stayed here at Vdara. It’s the only hotel to be both non-smoking and non-gaming. If you’re not a big casino person, they have these nice suites. I think every room is almost a suite. It’s right near the Convention Center. Also, you go to all the different casinos that are around it. It’s a great way to be in Vegas without feeling like you’re in a casino. The Vdara has one up when it comes to not feeling like you’re in Vegas. Put that on your list if you’re considering going that direction.
Do you know what I’ve noticed? I don’t know, it’s a luck of the draw. I’ve gotten hotel rooms and some properties that are monstrous. I’ve gotten hotel rooms at some properties, and it might’ve even been at the same one at another time where you’re getting a regular hotel room. If you’re in Vegas, ask for an upgrade. Why not? They’ve got the rooms, they’ve got the space, but if you get one of these upgraded rooms, it is amazing. Everything is hardwired, the shades, the lights, you’re just pushing buttons and everything’s going.
It is a great suggestion. Another suggestion is to make sure you get on the rewards program before you show up and then present your card and ask for the upgrade ahead of time. That’s a great suggestion and something that can enhance your experience when you’re in Vegas. They want you there. They want you near the casino. They want you to spending money in the casino. That’s a lot of the ways where they make their money and they can provide the upgrades because of that. Let’s talk a little bit about best and great shows. There are many of them. There’s everything from a small hypnosis. That was classically funny and so kitschy. It was hilarious. We all had a great time. Two of the largest Cirque shows there that can blow the mind. To all the great entertainers I’ve been there. I’ve seen Dolly Parton, Cher and Smash Mouth. I’ve seen many different types of entertainment there. It runs the gamut.
Obviously, Cirque du Soleil based out of Montreal, all of the acrobats, they’ve got numerous shows. They’ve got Zumanity. I don’t even know if that one’s still running. The first show I ever saw for Cirque was Mystère. I remember being so mesmerized. I don’t remember how many shows there were at the time. Any Cirque show is phenomenal. Go see them if you haven’t. Most people have. Le Reve is another one. We didn’t even mention the Chippendales show. There’s also the Thunder From Down Under, which is the male review, the same thing.
We talked a little bit with Jaymes about the classic shows with the Big Feathers. You can definitely get those on the old strip. They’re done nice. If you want to feel a little nostalgic, try one of those. Another one is the Purple Reign tribute show for Prince at the Tropicana. It’s done well and very entertaining, especially if you’re from the ‘80s like me.
There’s a Michael Jackson tribute show as well, the Beatles LOVE. Most of these I’m saying, and they’re all still Cirque shows. If we want to go see something that’s not Cirque, Jaymes actually spoke about that one Absinthe. I have not been to that, but I’m definitely going to check it out next time I’m in Vegas. It sounds cool. It’s a completely immersive experience. You feel like you’re in the middle of it from what it sounds like.
The hotels are an experience within themselves, the shows are an experience within themselves. Let’s talk about a few activities to wrap this up that you can do in Vegas. There’s so much to do. We talked with Jaymes about going outside the city to see the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon or Red Rock. Also inside the city, there are many activities. We took clients for a sales incentive program to top golf. They have a huge brand-new top golf center there that is one of the nicest ones in the country. Todd, what are some of the other activities that you’ve done there that you enjoyed?
There’s the High Roller, which is that huge Ferris wheel. You could drink on it. It’s a lot of fun. I think it’s an hour all the way around. The views are incredible. It goes quite high. You’ve got the old strip. If you go to Vegas and you don’t just go pay tribute to the old strip and go see what’s down there. The Golden Nugget, they’ve enclosed it in. They’ve got the zip line going across the top canopy. It’s a different experience. It’s a fun experience. I had a great time down there. The old strip has a lot of fun.
There’s an area called the Container Park there, which has outdoor shopping malls and an entertainment complex. There are also lots and lots of food and food trucks. It’s a unique area and something that you should do. It’s a totally different feel from what you consider the regular strip to be. Make sure you make it to the old strip and go to all these areas. There’s an activity outside the city called the Rise Festival, which is the largest lantern release. This sounds magical. It’s about 25 miles outside the city. They are simultaneously released in the desert. If you want something special with a breathtaking view, definitely try that.
[bctt tweet=”Explore, but don’t conquer. ” via=”no”]
You could do an aerial fitness class with Cirque du Soleil performers at Shine Alternative Fitness. It sounds cool. You’re probably working with the silks and ropes. That sounds like a great experience to go see some of these guys give you a class. That’d be a lot of fun.
Also, something that’s off the beaten track and Jaymes mentioned this as well is Chinatown, which you don’t think Las Vegas has Chinatown like San Francisco or DC. There’s great food. If you want something authentic and local, hit Chinatown.
Here’s another one, if you do have the need for speed, Exotics Racing. It’s the world’s largest supercar driving experience. You could go as fast as you by choosing from 50 exotic cars. You just put them to the test on the fastest track. You could drive with racing professionals. It seems like it would be pretty cool to do. If you’re one of those speed demons, you’ve got to check it out.
We’ve done many things over the years in Vegas. There’s so much to do. There’s the Neon Museum dedicated to the old neon signs and marquees. It’s great for personal photo shots and ego bait there. If you want to feel that old feel of Vegas, the Neon Museum is a great place. You can also rent it out as well for private functions.
I do have to add one because we did do a program once. We ended up at the Stratosphere. At the top of the Stratosphere, I’m sure everybody’s seen it from The Strip. To go up there and do those rides that are on the very top of the Stratosphere, if you have any kind of vertigo, fear of heights or anything like that, it is not for you. If you want to challenge those fears, go up. There’s a little rollercoaster. There’s the drop thing that takes you up and it drops you quickly. When you’re up top, the views of The Strip are absolutely amazing. If you do get that nerve to go on one of those rides, just go do it. It’s definitely be something that you’ll remember forever.
I know we’re going to be back from Vegas on Destination Everywhere because there’s always so much to do. We love it. It’s a great place to take clients. It’s a great place to take your family. Put it on your bucket list.
This concludes our episode of Las Vegas. We want to thank Jaymes for his insight. We’re looking forward to getting back. Vegas is changing endlessly. Every time I go, it’s a little different. If we’ve talked about something on this, I’m sure a week or two there’s going to be a different show, clubs or restaurant. It’s definitely a non-stop evolving wonderful 24-hour experience. Get out there. Make sure you subscribe, rate and review the show or by going to www.Destination-Everywhere.com. We look forward to speaking with you on the next episode.
- Jaymes Vaughan – Facebook
- Chippendales Las Vegas show
- Celebrity Page TV
- Dick Clark Productions
- Container Park
- Red Rock National Park
- VEGAS! THE SHOW
- Thunder from Down Under
- Magic Mike
- Vegas Revealed
- @JaymesV – Instagram
- Caesar’s Palace
- Nobu Hotel
- Mandalay Bay
- Wynn Las Vegas
- Rise Festival
- Shine Alternative Fitness
- Exotics Racing
- Neon Museum
About Jaymes Vaughan
Jaymes Vaughan is a top entertainment news host in both The USA and The UK, a daytime talk show staple, and an avid adventure-seeker. Whether you’ve seen him anchoring AccessHollywood, leading the panel on The Talk, at the table with Wendy Williams, broadcasting to millions as host of the live Billboard Music Awards Official Preshow or even competing on Amazing Race, one thing is clear, Jaymes Vaughan always knows exactly what to say. He is presently in his seventh season hosting the nationally syndicated daily entertainment news show Celebrity Page TV which airs on 200 broadcast stations throughout the US. He is also seen nationally in Britain on morning TV as Hollywood News Anchor for ITV’s Lorraine. His new advice series produced by MGM, The Drama is set to premieres in the US on Fox next year. Priding himself in his southern roots as a small town east coast boy raised in an interracial family, both his perspective and story are unique. A proud member of the LGBTQ community he is committed to giving back to those in need, working with charities like Give Kids The World and The Boys and Girls Clubs.
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