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What’s hip, what’s happening, what’s going on—and what you need to know right now.

Hail, Caesars, Pool God

In ancient times, Julius Caesar helped transform the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire; now, Caesars Palace has transformed its pool area into an all-new oasis, dubbed “Garden of the Gods.”

OK, maybe that’s not so revolutionary, but it is still an impressive feat considering that the property’s eight contemporary pools encompass three levels and five acres of prime sun-worshipping space.

Opening March 19, the Caesars’ new pool offerings include Fortuna, with an 18-foot waterfall and swim-up blackjack tables; Neptune, with plenty of prime people watching space; elevated and exclusive (read: invite-only) Bacchus, with paired pool areas; and family-friendly Temple, with several fountains for splash-happy kids.

The catch: If you’re not staying at the hotel, you need to rent a cabana to play with the pool gods—and those start at $400 for up to eight people. Still, several packages are available, including one that offers a two-night stay, full pool access and $25 pool credit from $110 per night (use promotion code PKGCGOG).

Caesars’ new adult outdoor party destination, the Venus Pool Club, won’t open until April 1, but it promises to be the place to sun, swim, see and be seen—and all in a European (yes, topless) setting. Operated by Pure Management Group, the adults-only destination will be open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Cover charges will hover around $30 for men and $20 for women, with special rates for local ladies.

Wine the World Over

With 60,000 bottles, 4,000 selections and 250 wines available by the glass, wine enthusiasts know Bellagio is one of the best spots for vino in Las Vegas, if not the world. But did you know that the resort is home to the most master sommeliers on the planet, too? The recent addition of master sommelier Darius Allyn brings Bellagio’s master som count to four, effectively making it the ultimate destination for wine snobs the world over.

Allyn joins the staff at AAA five-diamond-award-winning restaurants Osterio de Circo and Sensi, while three other master sommeliers also call Bellagio home: Joseph Phillips (Michael Mina), Robert Smith (Picasso) and the hotel’s director of wine, Jason Smith. In all, the Bellagio has 17 sommeliers on site.

Becoming a certified master requires completion of three levels of sommelier certification, followed by verbal, service and blind-tasting exams.

Allyn previously oversaw the wine-angel-filled cellar at Aureole in Mandalay Bay (1999-2005), taught wine classes at UNLV for six years and is married to Top Chef season-two finalist Elia Aboumrad.

Though it’s difficult for him to choose a favorite, he cites Domaine Sigalas Santorini Island white wine as his wine of choice at the moment. “It’s very interesting with a fresh, zesty and mineral-driven, delightful smell and taste,” he says of the 2007 vintage. “I lived on Santorini Island back in the summer of 1993 and picked some of those Assyrtiko grapes. The place is paradise and it brings back some of the greatest memories in my young life—[and] great wine is truly greater when it drives home a great personal memory/experience.”

Have a Heart, Give a Basket

Not every kid in Las Vegas will have a basket waiting for them on Easter Sunday, so the ol’ bunny needs your help to spread some festive cheer (and chocolate) on April 4—and that’s where a grassroots effort called E Bunny comes in.

The group has been collecting and distributing Easter baskets to local children living in poverty for 20 years and organizers say this spring’s effort will be especially important. “It’s going to be a real challenge this year, due to the economy,” coordinator Barbara Kenig says. Through partnerships with organizations such as the Las Vegas City Mission, Straight from the Streets, the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, and Clark County and Las Vegas Social Services, E Bunny handed out 2,750 baskets last year—and hopes to nearly double that this year.

Assembled Easter baskets can be dropped off through March 26 at Planet Nissan (5850 Centennial Center Blvd.), Faith Community Lutheran Church (2700 S. Town Center Dr.), Nevada State College School of Nursing (303 S. Water St., Suite 160) and Nevada International Trade Co. (6650 Spencer St., Suite 110). What’s more, Rio Salon and

Spa customers who donate baskets can enjoy 35 percent discounts on spa and salon services. 498-9808,

Smash Makes a Splash

Denver-based chain Smashburger is determined to bring us a better burger, and for a reasonable price. Its first Las Vegas location opened this week at the corner of Lake Mead Boulevard and Buffalo Drive and nothing on the menu costs more than $7.

While you won’t be able to get the “Shocker” burger (that curiously named sandwich is reserved for Wichita, Kan., apparently), the potato chip-topped Idaho burger or Utah’s honey-barbeque-sauce-slathered “Beehive” burger, the restaurant does have a few Las Vegas-specific creations. The “Sin City Smashburger” features a fried egg, applewood-smoked bacon, American cheese, grilled onions, haystack onions and “smash sauce” on an egg bun and either beef or chicken.

The local menu will also feature an “All Nighter” salad in addition to options available elsewhere, such as sweet-potato fries, fried pickles, veggie frites (flash-fried asparagus spears, carrot sticks and green beans) and $4 milkshakes made with Häagen-Dazs ice cream.

Smashburger already has dozens of restaurants across the country and plans to open more than 100 additional locations by the end of this year. 7541 W. Lake Mead Blvd., Suite 2, open daily, 10 a.m.- 10 p.m.,

Fator’s New Friend

Terry Fator and His Cast of Thousands just added another member, and he’s a real dummy—a crash-test dummy, to be precise.

Fator and his new friend, Wrex, cover songs about life behind the wheel, such as Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” and Chamillionaire’s hit featuring Krayzie Bone, “Ridin’ Dirty”—though we’ve been assured neither the new puppet nor Fator are packing any heat.

The America’s Got Talent champion says he developed Wrex after he “realized how many great songs there were about cars.”

“[Wrex] started out as a mechanic,” Fator says, and it took three months for the folks at Puppet Heap to bring the character to life—using nothing but “polyethylene and love.”

Wrex joins Winston the turtle and Vikki the cougar at The Mirage. None of Fator’s other impressionable friends have been removed, retired or otherwise replaced.

So what does the cast think of the new addition? “They’re still getting to know each other,” Fator says.“The initial impression is that he tends to get ‘smashed’ too often.”

Knight’s Honor

Car enthusiasts have followed the evolution of the bullet-dodging, flame-throwing, bomb-sniffing and totally amazing Knight Industries Two Thousand since the TV show Knight Rider debuted in 1982. The KITT faithful this weekend are converging in Las Vegas for the Knight Rider Festival and many of them are bringing their super-modified street rods with them. The festival gets under way March 19 and includes a drive-through wedding at the Little White Chapel at 1 p.m. and a stunt show at 8 p.m. The next day, more than 50 KITT inspirations will be on display at the Fremont Street Experience starting at 10 a.m.

Knight Rider’s original star—David Hasselhoff—is rumored to be making a guest appearance over the weekend, while Justin Bruening (who played Mike Traceur in the NBC adaptations of the show) is among the 15 cast and crew members confirmed to take part.

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A Grape Escape

A Grape Escape

The idea was simple at first: Gather a bunch of wine geeks at one of their homes to do a cook-off; a winner is declared, a great deal of wine consumed and the good times roll. “We wanted it to be fun,” says Aureole wine director William Sherer, who came up with the idea a couple of years ago. “But at the same time, we wanted it to reflect our passion for great food and wine matching.” That’s a lot of passion, and so, somewhere along the way, the informal Sunday get-togethers turned into a spirited freestyle competition among the city’s top wine experts.