Vegas’s Hawaiian Marketplace: Hit or Miss?

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The Hawaiian Marketplace stage

The Hawaiian Marketplace stage

I’ve never written about Las Vegas’s Hawaiian Marketplace before because honestly, I’ve been very apathetic about it. Once my initial curiosity wore off, there was really nothing to draw me here. As far as themeing goes, the Marketplace’s so-called Hawaiian theme was pretty weak. When it was built, it was touted as a replica of the International Marketplace in Waikiki. I’ve actually been to the International Marketplace in Waikiki. I don’t see the resemblance.

But last July, when I was staying at Planet Hollywood, I decided to give it another chance. The verdict?

Yup. Still apathetic.

Kiosks

Sad little kiosks clustered near the sidewalk

The short version is: This is not a must-see destination in Las Vegas. I could give you a list of approximately 100 things to do in Las Vegas that would be a better use of your time than coming here. That said, if you happen to be passing by on the sidewalk and are hungry or thirsty, need cheap souvenirs for friends back home, or have some time to kill, fine, check it out. Otherwise, keep on walking.

Here’s what you’ll find at the Marketplace: An outdoor stage that features some entertainment later in the day, and outdoor tables in the middle of the plaza. Along the periphery are buildings housing inexpensive eateries, such as Chinese, Italian, Filipino, Meditteranean, Indian, Taco, and Kosher restaurants (admittedly among the most culturally diverse selection of restaurants in the tourist corridor); a 24-hour bar and restaurant called Zingers; a frozen yogurt shop (not even shave ice, for God’s sake!); a “foot spa”; and a mini-mart selling beer, wine and cheap souvenirs. The kiosks at the front of the Marketplace sell the usual touristy stuff—temporary tattoos, cell phone accessories, tee shirts, and other collectibles. There are large fans blowing cool, moist air to keep people cool in the summer time, when temperatures soar. Despite the fans and the shade stretched across the plaza overhead, it’s still pretty darn hot.

That said, there are four things this place is good for:

Marketplace dining

Cheap and culturally diverse eats are available here. I can’t vouch for the quality.

1. The Tix 4 Tonight booth (one of several on the Strip). You can buy half-price show tickets here.

2. Eating on a tight budget. You can get a very cheap meal at the various eateries here. I didn’t eat at any of the restaurants, so I can’t vouch for the quality of the food.

3. Outdoor eating and drinking. For a place with such great weather, up until recently, the Las Vegas Strip has had relatively few options for outdoor drinking and dining. That’s obviously changing with developments like the Linq and the new Park between Monte Carlo and New York New York–and the more, the better, I say. Those of us who live in cold northern climates cannot get enough of being outdoors in nice weather.

Zingers

Zingers bar and restaurant with outdoor dining and drinking 24 hours a day.

4. Peace and quiet (at least early in the day). If you’re getting sick of the noise and crowds in the casinos and are looking for a quiet spot to sit and people-watch for awhile in the morning, this could do the trick. I was there around lunch time and it was practically empty. (Of course, it was about 100 degrees outside.) Only a handful of tourists wandered through, and a few more than that were sitting at Zingers drinking. Otherwise, I had the place to myself. I sat at one of the tables and wrote in my journal while some innocuous pop music played in the background. It wasn’t too loud for me to hear myself think. Which is really nice once in awhile in Vegas.

Empty Marketplace

I practically had the whole place to myself.

Basically, the Hawaiian Marketplace is the Neonopolis of the Strip. A big belly flop of a project that theoretically should have been much, much better than it is. Were I to have had any say in how to revitalize this marketplace, I would have suggested actually ramping up the Hawaiian theme a notch or two with some outlets of actual Hawaiian stores and restaurants—except the most obvious choices (ABC Stores, Crazy Shirts) exist right next door in the Miracle Mile Shops already, and I’m sure they’re getting much better foot traffic there. If someone could have wooed Roy’s here, that might have made a difference at one time.

Given its lack of actual Hawaiian offerings here, I suppose it’s no surprise that one of the only remnants of Hawaiian themeing in the Marketplace–the King Kamehameha statue–was taken away earlier this year so that the building on the corner can be turned into a two-story Chili’s restaurant.

King Kamehameha

The King has left the building.

The good news for the Marketplace is that Chili’s is sure to be a bigger draw than the King Kamehameha statue was. Normally, I would not be thrilled about a mediocre chain restaurant taking up valuable real estate on the Strip, but in this case, even I have to admit, it can only help the Marketplace. Good luck to them.

Pineapples

Goodbye, pineapples; hello, chili peppers

32 thoughts on “Vegas’s Hawaiian Marketplace: Hit or Miss?

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Cella – That, plus lots of kiosks that sell souvenirs, plus a stage with live entertainment (at times, though obviously not in the early part of the day).

  1. Hardware

    Near MM, you say. I can’t picture it. I don’t spend much time on the strip, but I do get there occasionally, or drive parts of it at off times, like in the morning, when you can actually get up and down it.

    I’m humored by an outdoor restaurant that is 24 hours. (At least that’s the impression I get. Perhaps it has indoor seating, which I would think is necessary if you’re a 24-hour biz.)

    Regardless of the seating situation, I have to wonder what it’s like at Zingers most nights after 4 a.m., Vegas may be all about 24-hour gambling and fun, but I have pulled a few all-nighters (those days are behind me) and it’s rather quiet along the strip after 5 a.m. I have found. Sure, there’s better action on the strip than there is on the streets of any other touristy area at 5 a.m., but I gotta believe Zingers has little happening at 5:30 a.m.

    There must be somebody hangin’ around at 5 a.m., otherwise they’d stop being open 24/7.

    I’m really sorry I have missed out on the excitement of Hawaii World all these years. And here I thought I had done it all in Vegas.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      LOL, “Hawaii World”. That might actually be the best name for it I’ve heard, Mike, except there’s so very little Hawaii in it. And I don’t think there’s “excitement” there any time of day. I hear there’s early morning karaoke somewhere in that little development….but I’m sure not staying up to hear it.

  2. Justine

    Sadly, if you are walking on the Strip, it is one of the places you HAVE to walk through on your journey. There is no avoiding it. Plus, people stop to look at that cheap stuff in the kiosks creating a bit of a logjam.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Interestingly, I don’t usually find myself walking past it, Justine. I’m either on the other side of the street or taking the monorail.

      1. Justine

        Gray, I agree. I either stay at Aria or Mirage on the other side, but 80% of the time I stay at MGM because I utilize the Monorail all the time. Walking on the Strip is no longer fun for me. With those people handing out the perverted fliers and cards for sex services and way too many people on the Strip, I use the Monorail.

        1. Gray Cargill Post author

          I hear that, Justine. I love staying at the hotels that feature monorails or trams. Makes it so much easier to get around without the hassle factor you get on the street.

  3. Hardware

    Looked up pics online, now I know where it is. Had you said near Polo Towers, then you would have been speaking my language. Pretty sure I’ve never walked thru Hawaii World, but I have seen it from the bus.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      OMG, the Boardwalk! Gonna have to admit I am not sorry they imploded that one, Mike. That place used to creep me out every time I walked past.

      1. Jonathan Holt

        If its the same place whitch i think it is it was really creepy but i had one of my best BJ runs there i was barely 21 22 then NYNY is there now right?

  4. rita young

    hi Gray-i’ve been there– there is a lady who sells photos of you posing with her parrotts and twin brothers who sing Motown tunes ( they jam) I also purchased a pair of cute Hawaian shorts (smile)–bought a drink at Zingers and chilled out listening 2 the twins sing -not a bad afternooon 4 passing thru-I’ll see whats up when i return in September

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Actually that doesn’t sound like a bad way to spend the afternoon, Rita. It was definitely not hopping quite as much when I was there.

  5. Jay

    Aloha, sad to say the international marketplace in Waikiki is pau…it’s bee ripped down, only to be replaced with…yep you guessed it…hi end stores.

    But yeah the one in vegas is a bad joke.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      I know, Jay. I was just there in January, and all that was left were a handful of kiosks fronting Kalakaua. It was pretty sad. I don’t know how the locals feel about it. I wouldn’t be opposed to a redevelopment if they planned to fill the space with Hawaiian artisans and craftspeople making and selling quality products made in Hawaii, but Saks Fifth Avenue? Nothing about that says “Hawaii”. All it says is $$$$$.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      I have no idea, Jonathan. I didn’t look closely at what they were selling. But you can probably find men’s Hawaiian shirts at any ABC Store in town. (There’s one at Miracle Mile shops, one at the Fashion Show Mall, and one down on Fremont Street–and probably more I’m not thinking of.)

  6. Justine

    Go to destinationcoupons.com and follow Las Vegas links to the Monorail coupons. Some great bargains if you are addicted to Monorail as I am.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Dammit, you got me, Jonathan! You should’ve used the little winky or smiley emoticon, then I would’ve known you were joking! 🙂

  7. Jeff @ Go Travelzing

    I have walked by that place so many times and don’t think I have ventured into it. It just does not look interesting. It’s a good thing they are building a Chili’s because nothing says Hawaii like a chain from Texas.

  8. Long Cat

    Not a patch on the original (now closed) International Marketplace in Waikiki but a reviewed OK for cheap lunches is accurate and stuff but last time in LV I continued walking past it as I’d wasted five minutes the previous year and nothing had changed. It needs a revamp

  9. Carolyn Seymour

    Wow! you ALL have missed one of the best kept secrets on the Las Vegas Strip!! My brothers, sister and I make several stops to the Marketplace, mainly to get a drink or two, and sit and listen (and dance) to the great live bands that appear there every afternoon around 2:00 pm every time we’re in Las Vegas. The groups that we’ve seen, KenTamiNation, Cool Change and the Love Brothers offer great listening and dancing music of the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s generation. Just good old “dance to, sing along” Rock and Roll, Disco, etc. Just great music. It’s such a nice break from the chaos of the casinos and crowds along the Strip. It’s all free entertainment–if you are so inclined, leave a tip. Give the place a chance!

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Thanks for the recommendation, Carolyn! I often hear people ask where they can find music of those generations in Vegas. Now I know what to tell them!

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