The businesses of Las Vegas are gambling big on all the advertising dollars they are spending to build Sin City into a top destination for LGBT travelers. The newest addition to the strip for gay and lesbian fun is CAPTIV8 at RHUMBAR (at the MGM Mirage Hotel, 3600 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109 , 702.792.7615) held every Wednesday night from 8 PM to 2 AM. “There isn’t a better event in Vegas for dynamic gay professionals to take a break from their busy work week to relax and catch up,” said Tim Haughinberry, founder of Captiv8. “RHUMBAR’s luxurious lounge and patio provides an incredible relaxing atmosphere to enjoy stunning views of The Strip; and the cocktails are out of this world.” “There are millions of gay visitors coming to Las Vegas annually and more than 10,000 active gay and lesbian locals.” says Haughinberry, “I saw an opportunity to fill this niche, and in just a few short weeks Captiv8 has become one of the top LGBT events in the city.”With Captiv8, a few small gay bars and the enormous nightclub KRAVE adjacent to Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino ($20 cover, 3663 S. Las Vegas Blvd. 702- 836-0830), Las Vegas isn’t yet a place where you see scads of same-sex couples holding hands on the strip and does not boast a gay-borhood, per se. So…I thought it would be of interest to see how gay-friendly, as opposed to gay-specific, businesses on the strip score in the area of LGBT hospitality.ENCORE at Wynn Las VegasLocated steps from Wynn Las Vegas yet under the same roof, the Encore (3121 Las Vegas Blvd. South Las Vegas, NV 89109 702-770-8000) is the epitome of style, amenities, spa services and fine cuisine. The hotel seems to attract pretty people who dress well and know how to have a good time. The clientele runs the gamut of those on a budget to the high rollers but no matter what your budget, you will find the accommodations first class. The standard rooms (which are all suites) have a large flat screen television that swivels in between the bedroom and living room. The décor is tasteful and plush. One of the coolest things about this hotel’s rooms is the control panel next to your bed. With the touch of a button you can control the rooms lighting, you can close or open the drapes and you can also let the maids now you do not want to be disturbed. The electronic do-not-disturb feature is such an advancement from those lame cards we typically hang on the door while naked, half asleep, semi-inebriated or all of the above (or is that just me?). Another WOW feature of this hotel is when you dial “0” on your phone, the voice on the other end doesn’t say, “How may I help you Mr. Reeves?” I mean how do they know who is on the other end of that phone? It could be your Aunt Flo or your poodle’s masseuse. The Encore again exceeds in the area of customer service with their operators who instead say, “How may I assist the Reeves party?” Brilliant. What don’t they think of?For dining, acclaimed Chef Theo Schoenegger and his culinary team create and present entrees and wine parings that would make Ol’ Blue Eyes proud at SINATRA. You will always find some of Frank Sinatra’s favorite dishes including Ossobuco and lasagna. Schoenegger also constantly introduces his customers to unique and exciting delights including egg filled ravioli with ricotta and Gruyère cheese and topped with white truffles or turbot (a delicious, mild fish) with a crispy pancetta, artichoke and potatoes. The restaurant boasts over 1,600 bottles of wine with more than 300 labels – domestic, Italian, French, German…fantastic quality and selection! Bottles average in price from around $60 USD to “OMG!”For breakfast we visited SOCIETY CAFE. This charming, award winning restaurant features a variety of bloody marys prepared tableside, fantastic quiche, outrageous cinnamon rolls, smoked salmon and my favorite – filet mignon sliders with creamed spinach on bacon-cheddar muffins. If you can’t throw the diet out the window as I did, they also feature healthy smoothies with no syrups or sugars, with plenty of antioxidants and some hearty buckwheat pancakes. Also notable, our waiter was straight and we joked with him saying his tips would increase if he wore tighter pants. He took the joking very well and was a terrific server (major gay points there).Encore’s SPA is 61,000 square feet of pure indulgence. There are sections exclusively for women and exclusively for men. There are a variety of pools, hot tubs at different temperatures and extravagant water-fall showers where you control the water pressure and music during your shower. I wanted to see how the staff would react to two men getting a Couple’s Massage. The service and treatment were impeccable from everyone. We never felt awkward, judged or out of place (more major gay points).Overall, the hotel is warm and welcoming to its gay clientele. While we were checking in I noticed three other same sex couples in line. The atmosphere is a nice blend of all walks of life. On a slightly picky note, when the housekeepers turned down our beds at night they left us with two pairs of slippers – his and hers as opposed to his and his. It is a minor detail that I am sure can be easily handled. I absolutely recommend this hotel for a welcoming experience with some one-of-a-kind features and benefits. And if you’re a country fan, Garth Brooks is making a comeback at the Wynn starting December 11th. Yee haw!WHAT TO DO AND SEELet’s face it, there is so much to do in Vegas you would have to be one of TWILIGHT’s sleepless vampires to do it all. To me, THIS is the city that never sleeps.If you want to see Bette Midler, the Divine Miss M will shake her last shimmy January 31st at Caesar’s Palace. Tickets range from $50 – $250 (Caesar’s Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas, NV 89109, 877-723-8836).FRANK MARINO’S DIVAS LAS VEGAS (Imperial Palace Theater, 3535 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas, NV 89109, 888-777-7664, performs six nights a week (dark Fridays), tickets range from $69 plus tax to $79 plus tax) – The Las Vegas strip’s most well known drag performer Frank Marino hosts this sizzling show of look-alikes including Britney Spears played by the flawless Derrick Barry from AMERICA’S GOT TALENT, a fabulous Celine Dion/Cher, a quirky, comical look at Beyonce, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Dolly Parton, Liza Minnelli and more. Marino is an expert at gauging how far he can take his jokes with the audience’s response. Our audience could take it and Frank gave it to us good. Frank told GayTravel.com he likes to keep the show fresh and topical geared toward each audience. At the top of the show Frank comes on as Joan Rivers. Joan actually sued him in 1986 for likely being too damn good. Now they are great friends and Frank appears on her shows from time to time.Some of the performers look a great deal like the women they impersonate and some do not. In any case, the lip synced music selections are mostly from fabulous, live performances and are loads of fun. Frank and the other impersonators are backed up by a group of incredible, hot male dancers with rock hard bodies and skimpy costumes – not to be missed. Several of the many, many beautiful costumes are designed by Bob Mackie. I can only imagine all the changers sweating like mad, getting everyone in and out of their outfits backstage. The production is currently in previews and will launch with an all new set in February. Fasten your seat belts for a bumpy and grindy night!CLOUD NINE BALLOON – A new addition to the strip is the Cloud Nine Balloon (3951 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas, NV 89119, 800-585-8688, prices range from $17.50 – $27.50). You can soar 500 feet up in the sky and ride in the world’s largest tethered balloon with a 360 degree bird’s eye view of the strip. The balloon holds 25 – 30 people and proudly displays a huge rainbow on the balloon. President and CEO Kevin Michaels says it is no coincidence that the rainbow is on the balloon. He wants to welcome gay customers and show his pride. There is a bar-b-que serving hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken and assorted salads and a bar offering beer, wine and champagne on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. Cloud Nine is open daily from 10 a.m. to midnight.BODIES: THE EXHIBITION and TITANIC: THE ARTIFACT EXHIBITION – Both showings are featured on the Atrium level of the LUXOR HOTEL & CASINO (3900 Las Vegas Blvd South, Las Vegas, NV 89119, 702-262-4400, tickets range from $20 – $31). BODIES is an unbelievable exhibit showing real bodies, real organs in various stages of life and in various positions. You see EVERYTHING you can imagine about the human body and it isn’t as gross as you might think. It almost looks fake but it is far from it. It is so hard to imagine that what you are seeing is real. From muscles flexing while playing basketball, to lungs destroyed from smoking, to all the millions of nerves we have, BODIES is truly interesting and unforgettable experience. Around the corner you can feel like Jack or Rose walking through the varying classes of recreated state rooms aboard the TITANIC. So much history and real artifacts and pieces of the ship exist. It is both eerie and touching to go back in time and see firsthand what happened to the ill-fated “ship of dreams.”Titanic-BodieswebMIRACLE MILE SHOPS (at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino 3663 Las Vegas Blvd South, Las Vegas, NV 89109-1969, 702-866-0710) There are fancy-pants shops some of us can only scratch our heads and say, “how can people afford to shop here?” The Miracle Mile Shops are NOT filled with those types of stores. Most of these contemporary retailers are within the average person’s budget and are very “shoppable.” Among the 170 businesses are H&M, Urban Outfitters, American Apparel, Frederick’s of Hollywood, and True Religion Brand Jeans plus 15 restaurants and live entertainment.The restaurant I chose to visit at the Miracle Mile Shops was the HAWAIIAN TROPIC ZONE. I liken it to Hooters – a macho-type of sports bar, waitresses scantily clad and usually some sort of sporting event on one of their many gigantic “boob tubes” (pun intended). You might be thinking, “What would a couple of sassy gays be doing in a place like this?” Well, as I sat outside on the patio longingly overlooking the gay night club KRAVE, I thought the same thing. This was truly the place to test the gay-friendly waters. And you know what, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure it was total straightsville but there was sooooo much fun people-watching to take in. The female servers in their short shorts were laid-back and appreciated our being there. The food was fantastic too! The bar also serves a wide variety of specialty drinks. There were so many different types of people at this restaurant/bar that it didn’t really matter if you were black, white, rich, poor, fashionable, fashion-challenged, straight, gay, a little bit of both or whatever. It was just a wild crowd who enjoyed some good drinks and yummy food.Not to categorize but I think generally there are two kinds of lesbian and gay travel moods we get in. Sometimes we want to do the all-gay travel experience – same sex bars, same sex hotels, gay owned, gay hand holding everywhere, etc… Other times we want to experience it all, bridging the gap between the LGBT and straight communities. Las Vegas definitely proves to be such a place. Who knows? Before you know it old Sin City might be dubbed Rainbow City. Rainbow Brite could be the new Vegas mascot. OK, maybe not but I am truly loving how the city and its businesses are growing in diversity. Viva Gay Vegas!