Thunderstorms aren’t very common in the Las Vegas Valley, but on the Strip they’re about to become a regular occurrence — every 22 minutes, rain or shine.
They’re part of the new Rainforest Cafe, which opens Wednesday (the Las Vegas Review-Journal got a sneak peek on Monday). It’s in the Harmon Retail Corner in the northeast quadrant of the Strip at Harmon Avenue, sort of adjacent to Planet Hollywood and the Miracle Mile Shops.
The Miracle Mile Shops have their own thunderstorms, of course — every hour or half-hour, depending on the day — but those are exclusively indoors, and while the Rainforest will have indoor storms, the lightning and thunder also will rage on the third-floor patio that offers a sweeping view of the Strip.
The new Rainforest replaces the one that was at MGM Grand for 20 years. The new spot is slightly smaller but has updated touches that include faux multi-snake upholstery, high-walled semi-circular booths, thick carpeting and lighter, Aztec-style walls and decorative touches. It’s designed to appeal a little more to grown-ups, said Keith Beitler, senior vice president and chief operating officer of the specialty restaurants division of parent company Landry’s.
“We still want to be a novelty and attract children and families,” Beitler said.
And to that end, they have all of the usual Rainforest characters: The 14-foot Nile the Crocodile, who slithers in his pit near the front door; the 25-foot boa constrictor Julius Sqeezer, also near the entrance; Tracy the Talking Tree, who greets guests and also delivers environmental messages; plus butterflies, birds and various other critters throughout the restaurant and lounge. The ceiling is draped with miles of lush faux vines, including bougainvillea, to further the effect. Unlike some of the chain’s locations, the space in this one is broken up to prevent a feeling of sensory overload.
There’s an updated menu, too, including the Rainforest’s rotating promotions that will take on each of the world’s rainforest regions in turn (currently Brazil, soon to be Hawaii).
There’s also the Lava Lounge near the entrance, while guests can walk up for a drink without actually entering the restaurant, or have a seat at the bar or a meal at the nearby tables (all other dining seating is upstairs). Unlike one of its sister restaurants, the new Las Vegas lounge won’t have an erupting volcano or lava flow. That, too, is just down the street, after all.
“Out here it would be like a tree,” Beitler said wryly. “It wouldn’t be spectacular.”
Ah, the challenges presented by Las Vegas.
Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com. Find more of her stories at www.reviewjournal.com and bestoflasvegas.com and follow @HKRinella on Twitter.