The Biggest Moments in Las Vegas of 2023

2023 was easily the biggest year in Las Vegas since the 1990s, with long-awaited and world-record-setting openings that have already reshaped Las Vegas as we know it, as well as some of the most in-demand A-list residencies to date, multiple championships from local professional sports teams, massive events with a global audience, and so much more. These were the biggest moments in Las Vegas in 2023!

The Sphere opening

What constituted the “biggest opening in Las Vegas” in 2023 might be cause for some debate – was it the long-awaited opening of the Fontainebleau, more than 20 years in the making, or the viral sensation of the Sphere, the only such structure and entertainment venue of its kind in the world?

It’s not really up for debate: It’s the Sphere. The Sphere is an engineering marvel: the world’s largest spherical structure, a first-of-its-kind entertainment venue, a one-of-a-kind immersive experience. It cost north of $2.3 billion to build and stands 366 feet tall by 516 feet wide with a 580,000-square-foot exterior covered in 1.2 million LED discs. The images displayed on those discs can be seen from any vantage point in Las Vegas that allows for a sightline to the Sphere. You can see it clearly from planes making their descent into Harry Reid International Airport; you can see it from the tops of the mountains that surround Las Vegas. The Sphere has reshaped the Las Vegas skyline; it is also reshaping the future of entertainment here in the Entertainment Capital of the World.

Inside, the 160,000-square-foot wrap-around screen boasts a 16k resolution – the highest resolution

LED screen in the world. Footage shot for this format must be filmed on custom camera equipment, as seen in the first of the immersive films created specifically for this venue, Darren Aronofsky’s Postcard from Earth. The images are so stunningly clear, so intricately detailed you can see the light reflecting in a tiny little spider’s eyes…right before it jumps at the screen, making everyone in the audience simultaneously jump in their seats.

There are 167,000 speakers for fully immersive, layered sound, and the custom sound system – the most advanced concert-grade sound system in the world – uses 3D audio beamforming technology to deliver targeted, crystal-clear, uniform audio to every seat in the house. The Sphere’s 10,000 haptic seats make the chairs vibrate and shake, while other 4D technologies like wind, rain, and scent make this the most immersive multisensory experience in the world.

Global rock icons U2 opened the Sphere with their U2:UV Achtung Baby Live residency (with dates into March 2024). With this wholly unique, wholly unprecedented show, a new era of live entertainment was born, fusing immersive digital spectacle with interactive live performance. Phish is set to perform four shows in April with no further live concerts announced beyond that; UFC is booked to host a fight at the Sphere in September. What other live entertainment uses for the Sphere or other acts willing to undertake the monumental task of staging a show here remains to be seen, but we’ve only just started to scratch its massive surface.

For those interested in hosting an event here, the Sphere has multiple private event spaces for small meetings of up to 32 people as well as options for private events of up to 5,000 people and total venue buyouts for 17,500 guests. Contact us today for more information on hosting your group at this truly one-of-a-kind venue!

Fontainebleau opening

More than 20 years in the making and 16 years after first breaking ground, the opening of the long-awaited, long-delayed Fontainebleau Las Vegas was something of a redemption story for owner Jefferey Soffer, who first bought the land for a Vegas outpost of the Miami hot spot back in the year 2000. The history of the Fontainebleau has become legend in Las Vegas; work on the massive 25-acre resort ceased during the economic downturn in 2008 and it sat empty and 70% complete for over a decade. The property changed hands a couple of times and then, in the wake of another economic downturn, Soffer was able to reacquire the property in 2021 and finish what he started.

At 67 stories, the towering resort covered in blue glass is the tallest occupiable building in Las Vegas and the third-tallest hotel in the US. There are 3,644 rooms inside, which includes the ultra-luxurious hotel within the hotel, the all-suite Fleur de Lis, with rooms ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 square feet.

While not all concepts have opened yet, the resort will eventually be home to 24 restaurants and 12 bars and lounges. There is also a 55,000-square-foot, two-level spa, the 3,800-seat BleauLive Theater, and the multi-level 50,000-square-foot LIV nightclub (as well as the forthcoming 35,000-square-foot LIV Beach dayclub). It also has 550,000 square feet of customizable indoor and outdoor meeting space.

The Fontainebleau marks a new era of luxury on the north end of the Strip and a further shift away from family-friendly themed resorts to target ultra-high-end international clientele. For more information about hosting your corporate event at the Fontainebleau, contact us today!

The F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix returning after more than 40 years

Courtesy of Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Before 2023, the last time Formula One held a grand prix in Las Vegas was in 1982, and it was held in the parking lot of Caesars Palace. In November 2023, the Las Vegas Grand Prix joined the circuit and became a highlight of the 2023 season with a race widely agreed to be one of the most exciting of the year as drivers tore down the Las Vegas Strip past the iconic lights and landmarks.

It was not without controversy – from criticism of the sky-high prices of tickets and hotels to the months of disruptive construction along the 3.85-mile track and cynicism from the international community of F1 fans over the Vegas race – in the end, the thrill and excitement of the inaugural race won over all the critics and cynics. And that’s a good thing, too – the brand-new, $500 million paddock built for this race is the largest on the circuit and is the new F1 headquarters for North America. There’s also a 10-year contract in place to continue the Las Vegas Grand Prix through 2032.

The permanent “Pit Building,” as it is officially called, will be transitioned into a destination with year-round programming and experiences included private event space, food and beverage, karting, merchandise, super cars, and an as-yet-unannounced new concept with Netflix. Contact us for more information on hosting your private event here!

Local sports in the spotlight

It seems almost unbelievable that until just a few short years ago, Las Vegas didn’t have a single professional league sports franchise to call its own. Now, the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces are back-to-back champions, and the first repeat champs in the WNBA in 21 years, securing their place as one of the greatest teams in WNBA history. The Vegas Golden Knights also won the Stanley Cup in just their sixth season, and the celebration that shut down Las Vegas Boulevard saw some 200,000 fans come out in their golden jerseys to celebrate the locally beloved team. And, of course, Allegiant Stadium (home of the Las Vegas Raiders) has been making plans to host the Super Bowl in 2024, while the Oakland A’s have announced plans to relocate to Las Vegas after the 2024 season.

The Vegas residency keeps getting better

While “Weekends with Adele” at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace debuted late in 2022, 2023 was certainly the year of Adele as she led the pack as the most-sought-after residency ticket in Las Vegas (you can catch her through June 2024). Not far behind her, Usher’s “My Way” at Park MGM’s Dolby Live Theater was the hottest ticket in town for over 2 years, going back to its first incarnation at Caesars Palace when his was the first residency to open in the wake of the pandemic in July 2021.

Katy Perry ended her spectacular run of “Play” at Resorts World with a teaser that she’ll return (presumably with something new) in 2024, while Carrie Underwood’s excellent “Reflection” will continue through October 2024. Lady Gaga continues to bring back her “Jazz & Piano” show for select dates here and there at Dolby Live, and Bruno Mars keeps popping up at the same venue for weekend stretches whenever it seems like he feels like it! (Which will probably happen a lot more after his new jazz lounge, the Pinky Ring, opens inside the Bellagio in early 2024; as of right now he still has dates into February.)

Garth Brooks, Kelly Clarkson, and Maroon 5 all debuted new residencies in 2023 (at the Colosseum, Bakkt Theater at Planet Hollywood, and Dolby Live, respectively), and all have dates in 2024.

In a year light on nightlife openings, Voltaire at the Venetian opened with uniquely intimate residencies featuring A-list global superstars. This relatively tiny venue, with a capacity of around 1,000 guests, combines a sultry cabaret with an over-the-top superstar residency where the global icon performs within arm’s reach. Aussie pop star Kylie Minogue opened the venue in November, and vocal powerhouse Christina Aguilera will ring in the new year. Both have dates in 2024, but this is not a “typical” venue, nor it is a typical residency show – expect to pay a pretty penny to be this up-close-and-personal with artists of this caliber.

And, of course, there was U2 at the Sphere!

Durango Casino & Resort opened

Courtesy of Durango Casino & Resort

The 17th property from Station Casinos, the locally owned chain of casino resorts, opened 10 miles west of the Strip in late 2023. Durango Casino & Resort offers the same level of accessible luxury seen in other Station properties like Red Rock Resort and Green Valley Ranch, with a soft, neutral palette of creams and earth tones accented in polished brass, stone, and wood, several water and fire features, and lots of greenery, all of it inspired by the surrounding desert landscape.

Unlike most other Vegas casinos, Durango welcomes in ample natural light on its gaming floor. There are multiple restaurants, bars, and lounges, including Mijo Modern Mexican Restaurant with its own hidden speakeasy called Wax Rabbit, adding to Vegas’s impressive roster of trendy secret bars. Also on-trend is the Eat Your Heart Out food hall, introducing popular concepts new to the Las Vegas market as well as additional locations for local favorites. Las Vegas loves a food hall! The resort also adds 209 luxurious rooms and suites and another 25,000 square feet of meeting space to the Las Vegas portfolio.

Three big Cirque anniversaries

Courtesy of Cirque du Soleil.

Some of the most beloved and longest-running shows on the Las Vegas Strip celebrated milestone anniversaries this year. It was a big year for Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas: Michael Jackson’s ONE celebrated 10 years at Mandalay Bay; “O,” the stunning aquatic acrobatics showcase at Bellagio, celebrated 25 years alongside the iconic resort; and the first-ever and still-running Las Vegas Cirque show Mystère celebrated 30 years at Treasure Island.

IMEX held its biggest event yet

IMEX America 2023 was the largest event in the show’s history, with 360 booths, more than 3,400 exhibiting companies, and nearly 15,000 attendees, more than 5,000 of which were buyers. This is HUGE news for the meetings and events industry, since IMEX is basically the CES or SEMA of the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) industry. Destination Fabulous had a presence with both Global DMC Partners and GPS Destinations and we had an absolutely tremendous event this year, and we look forward to an even bigger year in 2024 as a result!