Vegas Show Atomic Saloon

Viva Las Vegas for LGBTQ Travelers

Why the roaring ‘20s mean it’s time for the LGBTQ traveler to go back to Sin City.

By Marc Graser

Las Vegas is a city of transience and transformation. It relies on the new, the now and the next as a way to lure tourists, its biggest moneymaker, and keep us captivated and coming back for more.

After a lengthy hiatus caused by the pandemic, Sin City is placing some big bets on an exciting offering of new and updated hotels, thrilling attractions and stimulating experiences that have heralded what many call another roaring ‘20s.

With residencies and restaurants from Adele, Katy Perry, Martha Stewart and Lisa Vanderpump to the debut of Formula One and potentially groundbreaking planet-shaped theater rising up, over-the-top showmanship is returning to Las Vegas in a big way, and competition is heating up to entertain visitors on a level that hasn’t been seen in years, which should give everyone a good reason to consider booking a trip to the desert.

It’s for that reason that Lei has chosen Las Vegas as one of our favorite destinations for LGBTQ travelers to visit over the next year, and one worth putting high on your must-visit list in the near future.


Nothing exemplifies the future of Las Vegas’ commitment to ambitious audaciousness than Madison Square Garden Entertainment’s Sphere, a $1.8 billion live entertainment venue that is designed to transport spectators to different environments with high-tech LED screens that wrap around them and the performers.

Once complete, it will be the largest spherical structure in the world with over 580,000 square feet of exterior screens that will illuminate the night sky.

One in London is also planned, and given how its exteriors are expected to be programmed, the Sphere could become the next version of the Ferris wheel so many destinations have erected as iconic eye-catching attractions.

The first theater, right behind the Strip’s Venetian resort, is a big bet given that performers still need to figure out how to take full effect of its massive displays. And with a capacity of 20,000 guests and 23 VIP suites, it has a lot of seats to fill and concessions to sell.

But given that MSG owns New York’s Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and popular day and night clubs like Tao, Hakkasan, Marquee and Omnia, it’s either come up with an industry changing way to entertain audiences or one of Las Vegas’ biggest flops.

“We hope we’ll redefine what it means to do live entertainment,” MSG Entertainment’s Lucas Watson has said. “It certainly has the potential to be one of the most photographed buildings on the planet.”

Nothing exemplifies the future of Las Vegas’ commitment to ambitious audaciousness than Madison Square Garden Entertainment’s Sphere.


While the Sphere will be a bright new addition, a number of other major developments have already started to transform the Las Vegas skyline.

Resorts World Las Vegas, which debuted in 2021, was the first major resort to open on the Strip since The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas in 2010. The $4.3 billion behemoth, which replaced the iconic Stardust, hosts three hotels (a Hilton, Conrad and Crockfords), casinos, upscale pool, Zouk nightclub, AYU dayclub and concert venues.

Fewer visitors during the pandemic gave casinos the time to spend considerable coin to give their hotels and overall properties facelifts, including Caesars Palace, the Nobu Hotel, Bellagio and Circus Circus.

The Wynn spent $200 million to update its 2,674 rooms to make them warmer, more relaxing and high-tech at the luxury resort — it hadn’t been refreshed in 17 years.

With the Palms Casino Resort now owned by the San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority, making it the first tribal owned and operated casino in Las Vegas, the resort received a top-to-bottom $690 million update. That includes its popular Ghost Bar, a rooftop hangout with some of the best views of the Strip.

It’s understandable if things are getting a little confusing when it comes to Las Vegas hotels.

The Hard Rock Hotel is now a Virgin Hotel, refreshed with its cheeky attitude. The Hard Rock is taking over the Mirage and plans a new guitar-shaped tower of rooms, replacing the erupting volcano. Bally’s is becoming the Horseshoe to appeal more to gamblers, while the Tropicana may soon become Bally’s.

Another exciting luxury development is the Fountainbleu, a sister resort of the original Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel, at the north end of the Strip. Long delayed, the 67-story hotel and casino will open in 2023, across from the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Finally, expect some updates to be made to the posh Cosmopolitan now that MGM has bought it for $4 billion.

Its Marquee club is a massive draw, as is the hotel’s three-story crystal chandelier and Vesper martini bars, which have recently updated their menus with new cocktails.

While the Sphere will be a bright new addition, a number of other major developments have already started to transform the Las Vegas skyline.


Along with new restaurants from Todd English, Michael Mina, Bobby Flay and a third Nobu in the city from Nobu Matsuhisa, Martha Stewart is making her official debut in Las Vegas with farm-to-table restaurant The Bedford, inspired by her country farmhouse in New York.

Meanwhile, “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and “Vanderpump Rules” star Lisa Vanderpump has opened Vanderpump Cocktail Garden at Caesars Palace, and Vanderpump à Paris restaurant inside the Paris Las Vegas casino, with designs heavy on her signature glam.

The Voice’s Blake Shelton will open Ole Red, a $30 million three-story bar, restaurant and live music venue at the new Horseshoe, in 2023, with a view of the Bellagio fountains.

After having to close his Los Angeles, London and Tokyo outposts, it’s nice to see cronut-creator Dominique Ansel opening his first restaurant at Caesars, with his bestselling kouign amann pastry, Cookie Shot and Frozen S’mores on the menu, which can be found at his Soho location in New York City.


Las Vegas certainly lured the LGBTQ traveler when Britney Spears set up a residency at Planet Hollywood in 2013, following Celine Dion’s sensational run at Caesars starting in 2003. Now Caesars has given Adele its biggest stage with a show that’s being creatively reworked.

There’s always been something queer about all of Las Vegas.

Katy Perry performs onstage during Katy Perry: PLAY Las Vegas Residency at Resorts World Las Vegas (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for Katy Perry)

Over at the new Resorts World, Katy Perry is headlining, while short and long term residencies at venues up and down the Strip feature John Legend, Luke Bryan, Usher, Miranda Lambert and dancer Derek Hough.

While Cirque du Soleil shows and old school hits like Australia’s Thunder from Down Under have long titilated the queer community, Las Vegas has stepped up its gay friendly offerings, with new shows up and down the Strip that tout being “unapologetically raunchy,” “outrageously amoral,” and only for audiences 18 and above.

There’s a lot of titillation at Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike Live!, that’s based on his stripper film franchise. A Vegas show seems like a no-brainer, and it’s a production that’s surprisingly elevated and well choreographed at the Sahara resort.

Equally winning are shows like the circus-themed Absinthe, at Caesars Palace, and Atomic Saloon, a wild west romp at The Venetian, where a mix of beautifully chiseled male and female bodies perform acrobatics in highly stylized Vegas environments.

Fantasy, at the Luxor, is essentially an all-female version of Magic Mike Live! Yet the biggest draw is clearly RuPaul’s Drag Race Live!, based on the wildly successful TV show. It features fierce costumes and production numbers starring a rotating cast of new and previous contestants taking the stage at the Flamingo resort.

The show’s stars are in such high demand you’ll find them stopping by Treasure Island’s Drag Brunch and Faabulous! The Show & Drag Brunch at Neonopolis on Fremont Street.

There’s always been something queer about all of Las Vegas, and while the city’s gay bars are still going strong in the Fruit Loop, east of the Strip near the new Virgin resort, all of the city’s casinos know that being inclusive and catering to an LGBTQ traveler has never been more important beyond its Pride Festival in October.

It’s why you see RuPaul getting the main stage at the Flamingo; the Luxor actively promoting “Temptation Sundays,” Las Vegas’ only LGBTQ pool party; and the city’s High Roller Ferris wheel courting same-sex couple with wedding packages. It’s also why Adele, Martha Stewart and Katy Perry, all with strong LGBTQ fanbases are being announced.

Events like the annual Electric Daisy Carnival pack the city, and if you’re a DJ with any notoriety, you’ve got a bright future in Vegas. That’s been the case for awhile — Paul Oakenfold, Zedd, Steve Aoki, Diplo, Tiesto, The Chainsmokers Martin Garrix and Kygo are among the top headliners luring dance music diehards.

Yet with exciting new night and day clubs opening at new and refreshed hotels and casinos, the demand for talent has never been higher.

“It’s gotten really competitive with every hotel now having its own theater to fill. I’ve never seen it like this.”

Magic Mike Live Las Vegas

New immersive experiences like the neon playground of Area 15 are also hosting more notable acts and provide creative new environments that signal where Las Vegas is headed when it comes to entertainment options.

Those options include sports. Beyond betting and UFC matches, Las Vegas wasn’t much of a sports town.


But that’s changed considerably in recent years. An expensive new stadium and arena for its Raiders football and Golden Knights hockey teams attract sell out crowds per game on or near the Strip, boosting business for hotels, restaurants and bars at the same time.

The teams’ successes have now encouraged the NBA, MLB and MLS to consider moving teams to the city or expanding with new basketball, baseball and soccer franchises.

What will only help bolster the city’s sports image will come in 2023, when it hosts its inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix, which will have Formula One race cars scream down and around the Strip. Las Vegas will always embrace brash and bold when it comes to its future.

It needs to in order to keep its hotels full and money flowing into its casinos. That’s no easy feat given the size of these properties.

Note that Caesars Palace, alone, has more than 3,500 hotel rooms in five towers, 10 bars and lounges, 22 restaurants, seven pools and then shops inside its Forum mall.

“It’s gotten really competitive with every hotel now having its own theater to fill,” says the head of marketing for one new major property. “I’ve never seen it like this.”