CNN TRAVEL – The Mob Museum – One of Las Vegas’ best new attractions

CNN TRAVEL – The Mob Museum – One of Las Vegas’ best new attractions

CNN Travel(Travel + Leisure) — What lies behind the walls of Wayne Newton’s Vegas estate? Penguins and Elvis memorabilia, as it turns out. And come next spring, when Newton’s Casa de Shenandoah opens as a museum, you’ll be able to see this collection for yourself.

This glimpse into the life of “Mr. Las Vegas” is just the beginning of what’s new in town. In fact, the city is having something of a renaissance, opening up new restaurants, clubs, and museums, returning Sin City to the ever-changing kaleidoscope it once was.

Less than 10 years ago, Las Vegas was in the middle of a no-holds-barred building boom. But things happen, and Vegas seemed to be put on a giant “hold” for several years. The only major plan that was actually completed was the awe-inspiring CityCenter, which included the Mandarin Oriental and Aria hotels, as well as Crystals shopping center.

Now the excitement of CityCenter has spilled over into the entire city: new restaurants, museums, and clubs have either recently opened or are on target for 2012. So even if you visited Vegas recently, don’t assume it’s still the same. And don’t head to Sin City without checking out this list of the newest and best things to do.

The Barrymore

The Royal Resort’s hidden restaurant, The Barrymore, is the best place to ensconce yourself for an evening of modernized Rat Pack–inflected glamour in Las Vegas. The 1,400-square-foot space is pure, old-school cinematic Vegas, with handmade wallpaper, blue-tufted booths, and a ceiling lined with antique movie reels. You’ll also find funky Rorschach portraits of Vegas stars, and modern twists on Vegas classics like lobster eggs Benedict and octopus salad. Inside the Royal Resort; 99 Convention Center Dr.; (800) 634-6118.

The Mob Museum

Opens Valentine’s Day, 2012. It’s the actual former federal courthouse where such landmark hearings as the 1950 Kefauver hearings on organized crime were held. Here, Las Vegas’s former “Happiest Mayor on Earth,” Oscar Goodman, defended real-life wiseguys like Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro (playing himself defending a facsimile of The Ant in the movie Casino). The long-awaited (a decade, to be exact) $42 million museum was created by the same team that designed the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. Among its showpieces: part of the bullet-ridden wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. 300 Stewart Ave.