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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.