Las Vegas is in the desert. Why aren’t there more “desert- themed” resorts on the Strip?
Who wants to think of the desert when we are in a drought? Plausible deniability, baby! All jokes aside, Las Vegas has had plenty of desert-named (if not fully themed) properties over the years. They were particularly popular when desert escapism was romanticized in the era of post-war, mid-20th century optimism. Fittingly, that’s precisely when two isolated resort towns—Palm Springs and Las Vegas—came of age.
Early joints such as El Rancho (1941) and the Last Frontier (1942) launched the Strip with ranch-inspired names and cowboy themes. But with the exception of the Hacienda (1956), the ensuing decade saw the Strip shift mostly to the dreamy, desert-inspired idealism of the Desert Inn (1950), the Sahara and the Sands (both 1952) and the Dunes (1955), as well as the Aladdin (1966). Smaller properties continued the trend through the ’6os, with such places as El Morocco, Algiers and Desert Rose helping to maintain a connection to our surrounding environment, at least in name.
None of them survived into 2015. In retrospect, it was properties such as the Flamingo (1946), the Riviera (1955), and the Tropicana (1957) that foreshadowed today’s Strip. Forget desert escapism; focus on tropical escapism! With the exception of the Luxor, it’s all lush islands, faraway cities and theme-less global “resortism” that drives the Boulevard now. We shouldn’t complain; Las Vegas always finds a way to keep the tourists feeding us. Besides, what we see on the Strip today we will surely not see tomorrow. And with the water situation what it is, who knows? A desert-themed property just might make sense again someday.
More Monte Cristos!
Ever since my two-column complaint about the near-disappearance of the famed Monte Cristo sandwich—It’s breakfast! It’s lunch! It’s dessert!—from Las Vegas coffee shops, many readers have written with memories and information, including Scott B. salivating over the Riviera’s “extremely tasty” 1970s version (“deep fried … with a dusting of powdered sugar”), and Lisa K., who reports that Avenue Café at MGM currently serves one with avocado (“Blasphemy!”).
It seems all this Cristo chatter has prompted some spots to reintroduce them. This week I drooled over social media posts of Monte Cristos at Park on Fremont (Sunday brunch only) and Siegel’s 1941, a throwback 24-hour coffee shop that recently opened at El Cortez. I’m looking forward to indulging soon, pool season be damned!