Beer pong, rooster fights, cheap tacos and 24-hour parties that start by the pool and end up on a dance floor: Sounds like spring break in Mexico.
Not quite. It's definitely spring break, but this one's in Las Vegas.
Over the past three years, Las Vegas has become an increasingly popular spring break destination for college students, say local entertainment experts and business owners. And 2010 might be even better, for two reasons: violence in Mexico and cheap room rates in local hotels.
In early March, the Texas Department of Public Safety warned spring breakers to avoid Mexico for their vacations, citing ongoing drug cartel violence.
"We noticed last year many people canceled their reservations to Mexico and made reservations to come here, instead," says Monica Pappas, chief operating officer of Vegas Passport, a VIP party and concierge service. "And several of them said it was because of the violence there."
Pappas expects college students to choose Las Vegas again this year, for the same reason. She already has booked spring break packages for students from the valley's feeder markets, Arizona and California.
Historically, college students aren't a target demographic for Las Vegas casinos, says Anthony Curtis, publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor, a newsletter that tracks local trends and deals.
And they're still not.
There's the age factor; the majority of traditional college students are under 21. Some may come to Vegas with fake IDs but they better be good ones, Pappas says. Nightclubs and pools are more wary than ever about underage drinkers because of violations that led to the closing of a Strip nightclub last year.
Those who are of legal age don't gamble much and they don't spend a lot of money where it matters to casinos. When they do something, it usually involves copious amounts of alcohol. Cheap alcohol.
"These kids aren't necessarily good casino customers," Curtis says. "They're going to spend their money at clubs and at bars."
But Las Vegas is cheaper than ever, Curtis says. Add in the nightclubs and pool parties that are just gearing up, along with a few businesses that offer promotions, and you have something that appeals to college students planning a spring break trip.
Who needs wet T-shirt contests when you have topless pools? Beer bongs when you have beer pong? Or real rooster fights when you have human rooster fights?
"I honestly think that Vegas is the West Coast Florida during spring break," says Curtis, adding that he has talked to many college-age kids who express that same thought.
According to Travelocity, Las Vegas is the third most popular spring break destination. Those findings are based on travel bookings through the Web site. The company is offering a spring promotion called "Viva Las Savings," in which travelers can lock in savings of as much as 40 percent over last year if they book Las Vegas vacations between now and March 21 for trips taken by May 31.
Spring break has been a strong period for Rockhouse Bar, 3535 Las Vegas Blvd. South, since it opened three years ago, says general manager Grant Burlingame. The bar's location in front of Imperial Palace is ideal as the hotel's lower room rates attract the college crowd, he adds.
Rockhouse is the kind of bar that might appeal to college kids. Management offers the "Spring Broke" promotion targeting the college crowd through May. There are giant beer tubs in the bar, cheap booze and guitar-shaped drinking cups you wear around your neck. They host beer pong, too. The keg party approach works for the bar because Las Vegas is kind of a permanent spring break town, Burlingame says. And, it's a great backup plan for those who live in surrounding states.
"I went to the University of Arizona and we ended up doing spring break in Vegas one year because our Mexico trip fell through," Burlingame recalls.
Casinos might not cater to the college student crowd but several Strip businesses plan to.
T&T, or Tacos & Tequila, in Luxor, is offering the "Seis y Seis," six tacos and six beers for $29. They also are hosting human rooster fights in which customers don rubber chicken feet and masks and tape balloons to their ankles. They get into a ring and then try to break their opponent's balloons by stomping on them.
"The Luxor and Excalibur get a lot of that (spring break) crowd because of (inexpensive) room rates," says T&T owner Michael Frey. "They want to drink for cheap, they want to go where there's value and they want to go where there's fun. We wanted to give them something and try to keep it within our model."
Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4564.