With two days, 73 bands and more than 15 city blocks of entertainment, retail, art, learning, dining and drinking, downtown Las Vegas’ inaugural Life Is Beautiful Festival is poised to usher in a new era of importance to a city that has become somewhat infamous for its DJ lineups and the heights to which its bottle-service prices aspire. Life Is Beautiful brings us back to earth — yet somehow still closer to the stars — with live music from acts such as The Killers, Kings of Leon and Janelle Monáe that is being served up October 26 to 27.
Also on tap for the fest is an array of drinking-related excitement. Here, we toast to the events that should be circled on everyone’s weekend itinerary.
The Alchemy Garden
This is where it all starts. Skip the 40-plus concession bars, with their pedestrian assortment of beers and nondescript wines. This free-to-enter specialty concessionaire is like a food court, but with à la carte sales of more than 35 spirits, 18 featured specialty cocktails and more than 40 beers, sakes and ciders. All festivalgoers have access, so walk on in and place your order for, say, one of Ballast Point or Green Flash brewing company’s selections, The 86 Co. spirits, Zacapa rum or mini flights of Silver Oak and Kendal Jackson wines. And while you’re there, enjoy the periodic performance art by Caesars Palace’s Absinthe (an acrobatic cabaret show) and check out the Ketel One Recharge Lounge.
Go Urban Glamping
Before the festival really gets going, there is October 25’s official kickoff party, Grills & Guitars, a separately ticketed affair ($175-$225) taking over Seventh Street, between Fremont and Carson. It features 16 celebrity chefs, including Susan Feniger and Nancy Silverton. Forbes Travel Guide Tastemakers Scott Conant and David Myers will man the grills while Dawes and Todd Rundgren handle the acoustic sounds under the stars. Themed libations include spiked ciders, mezcal hot chocolate, smoked and butter-washed rum drinks and Cat Cora’s s’mores shooters.
The Alchemy Learning Space: Flight Tastings
In this ticketed space within the Alchemy Garden, 20 beer, wine and liquor brands will offer in-depth educational presentations and tastings in two three-hour blocks each day. This is a super-premium experience for guests who don’t just want to grab a beer and return to the Alabama Shakes concert. Enter at either noon or 3 p.m. for intimate presentations from mixologists, brewers or wine reps. And every session is different. Meet Bar Rescue’s Elayne Duff and learn about Ketel One from noon through 3 p.m. October 26. Experience a vertical tasting of Freemark Abbey wines 3 to 6 p.m. October 26. Taste and talk California pinot noir with a master sommelier from 12 to 3 p.m October 27. And taste Benedictine, Drambuie and B&B from 3 to 6 p.m. October 27.
Fernet Branca Lovers, Rejoice
Downtown Cocktail Room will be the official meeting place for all Fernet Branca lovers during Life Is Beautiful. There, you will find a roped-off spot to enjoy DJ sounds, $5 shots of the bitter Italian liqueur and all things Fernet Branca (read: free swag). Got a Fernet Branca Challenge Coin? how off the rare possession to get your first shot free.
Late-Night Goings On
Once the festival ends at midnight October 26 and 11 p.m. October 27, all bars within the festival footprint will close. At that point, you either have to depart or keep the party going at Afterlife at El Cortez Hotel & Casino, the only spot inside the festival grounds to offer late-night entertainment. Throughout the casino’s bars and gaming areas, you can find DJs and live bands and beverage experiences by Drambuie, Ketel One, Heineken and more. By day, the area will have football games on TVs, a pop-up tattoo parlor and tailgating. You will also see Cirque du Soleil performers and the RedBull MXT van on Jackie Gaughan Parkway in front of the casino.
The Specialty Bars
In addition to the concession bars and the Alchemy Garden, many of the bars within the festival grounds will be open for business, and have been taken over by individual brands to bring you specialized service. Check out the Mexican beer, tequila and taco bar at La Comida (100 Sixth St.), the Sailor Jerry Lounge at The Griffin (511 Fremont St.) and the Herbsaint Sazerac Bar in Donald Link’s Cajun Hog Roast across from the Culinary Village at the northeast corner of Fremont and Eighth streets. There, bartenders from The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ Vesper Bar and Comme Ça will serve Sazeracs and absinthe drips assembly-line-style.
Photo Courtesy of Life Is Beautiful Festival