March is upon us and that means only one thing to sports fans, “March Madness” is upon us. Television, the internet, attending games in person, there are so many options to take it all in but if you want to be part of the true craziness of March Madness and you want to experience the excitement of every game, Las Vegas is the only place to spend the first weekend of the tournament.
The days of strolling into the Bellagio sports book, grabbing a leather chair and being served amaretto sours by beautiful waitresses all day are gone. The Bellagio for me is still my favorite place to take in all of the action, but the word is out and trying to find anywhere near the first tip is about as likely as walking away from the blackjack table with a stack of chips. Luckily as the casinos have grown over the past few years, so have your options. And don’t be scared off, if you get up early enough and I do mean early, you still can find yourself a seat at the Bellagio.
The two things that have made the tournament and even better experience is that the televisions, if you can call them that, have gotten bigger and even more clear for you to see every last second shot. The other thing is the food, you can still have a hot dog if you like, but now you have gourmet options right at your fingertips.
One of the all-time favorite spots has to be the MGM Grand's Race & Sports Book, consisting of 5,300 square feet of pure sports entertainment. There are televisions galore at the MGM, so there is no way you will miss a second of the action but the real experience is in the SkyBox section of the sports book. The four Skyboxes, ranging in size from 300 - 325 square feet, are each equipped with the latest technology available, including 42-inch plasma televisions, surround-sound audio and CD systems and offer a special second-level view and can comfortably host eight to 10 guests. For bigger parties two of the skyboxes can be expanded to fit 20 people.
If you enjoy downing a few or quite a few adult beverages while taking in 12 hours of hoops madness you probably should head over to the Cosmopolitan. As the latest and greatest entry to join the Las Vegas strip, you need to visit this location just to take in the pure artistry that the Cosmopolitan offers, but for this weekend you might just also be getting the best bang for your buck. The Cosmopolitan will be hosting what it is call “Hoops and Hops” from Thursday though Sunday. While this event will feature multiple big screen plasma televisions for viewing the games and two sports betting stations the real draw is that you can purchase a wrist band for $50 and with that you can enjoy an open bar from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Don't leave once the games are done, later on Friday and Saturday night at the Book & Stage, you can catch a live performance from Wes Quave and Thursday night Krys Wright will be performing.
If gambling, drinks and food are somehow not enough for you, how about hanging out with two of the greatest college players of all-time and Hall of Famers James Worthy and Clyde Drexler. These two greats are scheduled to make special appearances on Saturday, March 17 at Planet Hollywood, Caesars Palace and the ImperialPalace, where they will watch the games with fans and sign autographs. In addition all three resorts are offering a variety of packages that you can purchase to make your game day experience even more exciting. Planet Hollywood has a full-court package that offers open Miller Lite and Coors Light Beer Bar, all-you-can-eat time-out buffet, giant screen TV's showing all four regions, a Commemorative T-shirt, giveaways by the Miller Lite Models and conveniently located live betting stations and table games. If you have a larger group of friends you can go for the “Man Cave” or “Championship Package” which will spoil you to a level you did not think possible during March Madness.
If you come to Vegas for the food you won’t be cheated if you visit the Palazzo. This is home to Lagasse’s Stadium and a menu that comes from the mind of Emeril Lagasse. You are going to find all of your favorite game-day food here, but obviously more on the high end of the dining scale, but in addition to that you will find items such as a Shrimp Po Boy on New Orleans French bread and Tortilla-Crusted Crab Cake. Talk about a game-day experience and that is just the food, the viewing experience is just as tasty.
If you had a rough night out on the Vegas strip or you just need to get some breakfast and a cocktail to get you in the right direction, Diablo’s in the Monte Carlo is opening at 9 a.m. all four days. You can start your morning off with the limited time only Breakfast Burrito and chase that with a $5 Bloody Mary or a Bloody Molly, served from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. What is a Bloody Molly? Take all the ingredients of a Bloody Mary and throw in some Jameson instead of vodka and you have yourself a new taste sensation. Diablo’s has such a great menu and plenty of televisions, so don’t be surprised if you just wind up spending the day. Diablo’s is also a great place to stay once the basketball action is over. Head to the roof for live music and drink specials. $20 all you can drink draft beer from 9 p.m. to midnight, $3 shooter specials, and bottles of Absolut for just $125 all night and the best part is there is no cover from 9 p.m. to midnight!
Another great spot in the Monte Carlo is The Pub. If you love beer you are not going to find a better place to spend your day enjoying basketball and a chance to try a different brew every time you order while never running out of new options. Part bar and part restaurant, The Pub packs them in because of great food and service and plenty of televisions and a raucous that will keep you fired up all day. For March Madness The Pub will have over thirty plasmas and they will be offering all-you can drink to go along with a buffet for $100 for four hours of unlimited drinking and eating.
There are plenty of more options that we just did not have time or space to mention such as the Wynn, hope of world-famous odds maker Johnny Avello, the state-of-the-art ARIA, the M Resort, the Palms and many, many more. Make sure you plan your day and don’t expect to stroll into a sportsbook at tip-off on Thursday and grab a seat; it is not going to happen. The other thing, don’t bet all of your money the first day, if you lose it will make for a long weekend.