Las Vegas has long been a destination built around resorts meant to keep travelers contained inside.
This will change in early 2014 with the opening of Caesars Entertainment's newest open-air project, the Linq.
Situated between the Quad and Flamingo Las Vegas facing Caesars Palace, the Linq will be a pedestrian-friendly district at the center of the Las Vegas Strip, featuring its cornerstone attraction, the High Roller, the world's tallest observation wheel.
The Linq will span more than 300,000 square feet, with the pedestrian mall running about one-third of a mile from Las Vegas Boulevard to the High Roller.
The High Roller, which has been under construction for more than a year, serves as the anchor for the attraction, and has changed the city's skyline, especially now that the wheel has all 28 of its cabins, or cars, each of which holds 40 people.
"We really wanted to create a new icon on the Las Vegas Strip, and I think we've achieved that with the High Roller," said Jon Gray, vice president and general manager of the Linq.
Thirty businesses, spanning a variety of dining, retail and entertainment services, will line the area's pedestrian walkway.
"We wanted to create a critical mass of nightlife, dining and entertainment," Gray said. "We saw there was a void in Las Vegas, so the vision was to take these concepts that have never been in Las Vegas before and bring them together."
Some of these businesses opened Dec. 27, such as O'Sheas, a favorite Las Vegas Irish pub that was closed and underwent a redesign during the construction of the Linq.
The vast majority of restaurants and shops will open in stages over the first few months of 2014.
The High Roller will travel one foot per second, taking roughly 30 minutes to make one revolution. No formal opening date has been announced for the High Roller, but it is slated to open in the first half of 2014.
The space occupied by the Linq was previously a service road and alleyway that 20.4 million visitors would walk by every year, a fact Caesars Entertainment hopes to capitalize on.
Most visitors are likely to enter the Linq from its Las Vegas Boulevard entrance as well as from adjoining resorts. There is also a back entrance near the High Roller. An open space located near the High Roller will be used for outdoor festivals and events, reinforcing the idea that visitors are welcome to simply hang out at the Linq.
"It's a great spot for tourists and locals to meet up and start their night, [spend] their entire night or end their night," Gray said.
Caesars Entertainment specifically had its sight set on Gen X and Gen Y clientele (ages 21 to 46) during conceptualization of the project.
This market segment is expected to make up 52% of Las Vegas visitor spending by 2015, according to the company. Ultimately, however, the Linq is designed to create an elevated but welcoming atmosphere for anyone who wanders by.
"We didn't want to offer another high-end shopping center," Gray said. "We want to talk to that middle market. We're not going to be intimidating, and we're going to create a lot of great lively experiences."
For more information, visit www.caesars.com/thelinq.
From cupcakes to concerts
Approximately 30 businesses are expected to make their home at the Linq. Many will be making their Las Vegas debuts, alongside those that have established roots elsewhere in the city.
"But we pushed those tenants to do something unique," said Jon Gray, vice president and general manager of the Linq. As a result, the pedestrian walkway will have an eclectic mix of dining, retail and entertainment venues.
Here are a few of the highlights so far:
Brooklyn Bowl: Considered one of the top music venues in New York, this all-encompassing entertainment venue will open in the Linq with a 2,000-person performance space, 32 lanes of bowling, dining options and a nightclub. Nightly live concerts will range from mainstream, popular performers to local and indie bands.
F.A.M.E.: Food, Art, Music and Entertainment is a culinary bazaar of Asia's night markets. This venue combines street foods from Singapore, Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong and Taipei in an environment integrated with pop art and Asian-inspired entertainment.
Goorin Bros.: This neighborhood hat shop features many styles for men and women, from classic to modern, including ball caps, fedoras, bowlers and knit caps.
Koto: A lifestyle trend store where shoppers can buy fun, clever and quirky items in a hands-on environment.
Polaroid Fotobar: An experiential shop that lets people "liberate" the photos stored on their smartphones into prints of varying sizes and on myriad materials.
Ruby Blue: This luxurious women's boutique, which is designed to feel like a burlesque dressing room, sells costume jewelry, novelty legwear, hats and fashion accessories. A section of the shop is dedicated to lingerie and sensual toys and games.
Sprinkles Cupcakes and Ice Cream: The flagship shop of this cupcake bakery outside of Los Angeles makes its famous desserts without any preservatives, trans fats or artificial flavors. Customers can also find artisan ice cream flavors and red velvet ice cream cones, and a cupcake-shaped ATM will make it easier for guests to pay for the goodies.
The Stomping Grape: This food and wine experience pairs light and healthy California cuisine with an extensive selection of wines.
Yard House: This casual eatery is a favorite in Las Vegas, offering a variety of contemporary American dishes. Yard House will be housed in a two-level space adjacent to the High Roller observation wheel. -- J.H.