Vegas Seven

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    Best Historical Photo You’ve Never Seen

    If you’ve lived here for more than 45 minutes, odds are you’ve seen one of the most iconic images ever captured in this dusty desert outpost: that of Lee A. Merlin, then a showgirl at the Sands’ Copa Room, posing for the camera, her left leg slightly bent in front of the right, arms raised to the sky, a mushroom cloud of cotton covering her bikini. She was the last—and clearly the most famous—Miss Atomic Bomb. But here’s what you haven’t seen: Mr. Atomic Bomb.

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    Best Casino Refresh

    Most casino remodels mean new bedding in the rooms, new paint on the walls and maybe replacing brass lighting fixtures with brushed chrome. The Tropicana has gone way beyond that, completely redoing its shabby (un)chic public areas in a whiter than white scheme that would make South Beach envious. Even the gold crown that made the towers look dated back in 1985 has been replaced by brilliant white. Trust us: It looks much, much better than it sounds.

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    Best Advertisement

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    Best Poker Room

    “The Aria has the hottest poker room on the Strip—it’s where all the big games are happening.” So says no less an authority than professional poker player Annie Duke. We couldn’t agree more. On a recent midweek visit, the Aria’s elegantly appointed 24-table poker room was packed to capacity by 8:30 p.m., including the single-table, high-limit Ivey Room (named in honor of eight-time World Series of Poker champ Phil Ivey).

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    Best Hot Property

    In another life (just a few years ago), it was the Streamline, a clunky pink condominium tower built when the boom felt like it would last forever and the city was permitting one mediocre high-rise after another. Thankfully, the Streamline quickly mastered the Las Vegas art of reinvention. A lot of white paint has helped transform it into the Ogden, a far more sober apartment tower that now capably holds down the northern end of downtown and hovers above East Fremont.

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    Expert Opinion: Blasts from the Past

    The native, writer and connoisseur of Old Vegas offers his seven favorite blast-from-the-past businesses that are older than he is: 1. Las Vegas Drive-In (1966). A drive-in is more than just nostalgia; it is a good-humored, approachable place that is cheap and has easy access. In the mood for uncritical fare? Sneak in snacks and bottles of brews, head down there and see how accommodating they are. 4150 W. Carey Ave., 646-3565.

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    Best Place to Get Your First Hole-in-One

    Sure, the numbers suggest that you’ve got a better chance of being hired as Tiger Woods’ swing coach and date planner than you do of hitting a hole-in-one (the research we dug up puts the odds at 13,000 to 1 for an amateur). Doesn’t mean it can’t happen, right? Heck, a woman in Billings, Mont., earlier this month had two aces in the same round (that’s a 67 million-to-1 long shot!). Your best bet for finding golf nirvana in this town: Desert Willow Golf Course, and in particular, hole No. 4.

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    Best New Game in Town

    Aside from perhaps baccarat, is there a more difficult casino game for newbies to try and master than craps? Pass/Don’t Pass, Come/Don’t Come—what exactly are we wagering on here? And with the dealers doling out and raking in chips at breakneck speed, the game can be quite intimidating.

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    Best Dumpster Dive

    Earlier this year, downtown’s beat-up Plaza scored elegant room furnishings and décor that were originally bought and delivered for the Strip’s never-finished dream resort, Fontainebleau. The Plaza has used its marble-and-mattresses windfall to key a down-to-the-studs-and-back-up-again remake of a property that, when it reopens in September, has the potential to anchor a revitalized Fremont Street.

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    Best-Looking Parking Garage

    Some of the most creative and accessible art in Las Vegas can be found underground as part of the Cosmopolitan’s Wallworks display. Contemporary street artists Shinique Smith, RETNA (pictured), Shepard Fairey and Kenny Scharf have made Levels 2-5 of the garage an attraction in itself, with each artist bringing his own distinctive style to the structure. If ever there’s a parking garage in which you won’t mind searching for your car, this is it.

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    Best Casino Version of Groupon

    We could certainly do without the cheesy commercials featuring all the perky bellmen, cocktail waitresses and slot-machine attendants—seriously, unless your last name is Gates or your first name is Oprah, nobody loves their job that much. But if locals-gaming giant Station Casinos strikes out with its “We Luv Locals” ad campaign, it certainly hits a home run on its WeLoveLocals website, where killer deals await you. Want to get away for two nights and only pay for one? Got a hankering for a rib-eye dinner at a five-star steakhouse for half-price?

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    Best Organic Flower Shop

    Well, there’s not many to choose from, but even if there were, the best organic flower shop in town would have to go to Gaia. In the heart of the Arts District, it’s a funky little space that feels more like an airy art gallery—one with a particularly folksy bent—than a flower shop. Gaia’s walls are filled with local arts and crafts, and owner Peter Frigeri specializes in environmentally responsible floral arrangements.

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    Best Casino Version of Groupon

    We could certainly do without the cheesy commercials featuring all the perky bellmen, cocktail waitresses and slot-machine attendants—seriously, unless your last name is Gates or your first name is Oprah, nobody loves their job that much. But if locals-gaming giant Station Casinos strikes out with its “We Luv Locals” ad campaign, it certainly hits a home run on its WeLoveLocals website, where killer deals await you. Want to get away for two nights and only pay for one? Got a hankering for a rib-eye dinner at a five-star steakhouse for half-price?

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    Best Zip Line

    While the zip line in Boulder City is awesome—you get to fly over long stretches of wild desert canyons—it’s hard to beat the stupid-fun, only-in-Vegas, $15 factor of the Fremont Street zip line. There’s no Costa Rican jungle or helmet involved; there’s just you and the alluring prospect of speeding through a blur of neon lights while hanging from a cable.

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    Best Slashie Concept

    Make no mistake about it: We Las Vegans love our smokes. A 2010 study for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that more than 22 percent of adult Nevadans were cigarette smokers—only seven other states have a higher adult smoking rate. But here’s where we undoubtedly lead the pack: Unique places to get your nicotine fix. Want some cheap crap with your carton of Marlboros? Check out one of the half-dozen establishments that advertise themselves as a Smoke Shop/99 Cent store.

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