IMG 6731As you go up the escalators from the casino at Mandalay Bay into the shopping area known as Mandalay Place (between Mandalay Bay and Luxor), you’ll see a what looks like a semi-transparent slab of ice set into the wall to your right.  The lighting from within is a chilly shade of blue, and you can see the silhouettes of customers inside.  This is the Minus 5 Ice Bar, an experience imported from New Zealand.  

Inside, nearly everything you’ll see is made of ice.  The walls, the seating, the bar itself - even the glasses from which you drink.  All ice.  The entire Ice Bar is kept at 23 degrees Fahrenheit - that’s minus 5 degrees Celsius, thus the name of the bar!

The main entrance is through the Ice Lounge, a tricked out “lodge” style bar.    There are usually pretty young ladies in front, trying to tempt you inside.  They’re dressed in white fur hats, fur boots and cute little mini-skirt outfits.  They look a bit like Arctic Strippers.

My friend Danny and I thought this looked like a lot of fun, so we decided to give it a try.  Here’s where things get a little tricky.  There is an entry fee of $17 per guest, which covers nothing but admission to the Ice Bar, plus the use of their parkas, boots and gloves.  The next level up is a $37 fee per person, which includes admission to the Ice Bar, 2 “Specialty Ice Cocktails”, and again, the parkas, boots and gloves.  Danny and I figured we could each put away two drinks, so we chose the second option.

Sounds like fun, right?  Ummm...not really...Not for us.IMG 6806

Here’s how it went: We paid our cover charge and proceeded inside.  We were told that no personal electronics (Cameras, cell phones, blackberries, iPads, etc.) are allowed inside, as the cold could damage them.  We were made to check our cameras and iPhones in a locker.  That seemed a little weird, but hey, we were going with it.  After putting on the parkas and gloves they provided, we went through a set of insulating doors, then through a second set of doors into the Ice Bar itself.

The bar is relatively small.  I’d say it’s actually smaller than most Las Vegas hotel rooms.  I’ve read that it can hold 150 people, but I wouldn’t want to be in there with that many.  The bar was to our immediate right - a large slab of solid ice, with two pretty girls behind it.  Further in, to the left, was an ice sculpture, lit from beneath with LED’s.  Nothing that memorable - just an ice sculpture.  To the right were some windows with built-in benches made of ice and covered with deerskins.  That’s pretty much all there was.  It was somewhat interesting, but we were pretty underwhelmed.  We figured a drink would be nice and might make the place a little more fun.

IMG 6727We went to the bar.  The pretty girls informed us of our choices: vodka mixed with a couple of different fruit juice mixers.  That was the extent of their Specialty Cocktails.  We each chose a flavor.  It actually took much longer to get the drinks than we had anticipated, as the girls had trouble pouring the mixers - they freeze up rather regularly.  And yes, the glasses are made of ice.  Sounds fun, right?  Again, not really.  The fibers from our gloves kept sticking to the ice glasses, making it difficult to transfer them from hand to hand.  Occasionally, the fibers would end up on the rim of the glass and get in our mouths as we’d try to sip our drinks.  Ugh!  

So, we walked around drinking our fuzzy drinks and kind of wishing we could take a couple of pictures, just to show our friends that we had been here.  That’s when we saw the staff photographer.  Okay!  Now we get it!  The photographer takes souvenir pictures which you can purchase for an additional $20 each!  That’s why they make everyone check their cameras and phones.  It has nothing to do with the cold!  After iPhone has been with me through several tough New York winters and been just fine.  They just want to force your hand and make you spend more money buying a picture.

Oh yeah.  And make no’s cold.  Not terrible, but pretty f***’n cold!  I know - what did I expect?  Right?  After having seen stories on the Travel Channel about an ice hotel in Sweden, complete with it’s own ice bar, I  was intrigued to see Minus 5 Ice Lounge.  I thought: Hey, the cold can’t be THAT bad!  But it was the combination of the cold, the exorbitant cover charge, the awful drinks and the sheer, unadulterated extortion of their souvenir photo racket, just made this a very unpleasant experience.  We decided not to even order our second drinks.  We just wanted out!

We got our stuff out of the lockers, ditched the gloves and parkas and headed out into the Lodge, where it’s definitely much warmer.  The Lodge is decorated in the old ski lodge tradition and features a classic wood beam decor, leather seating, an open hearth, and flatscreen TV’s for watching sporting events.  They also have a bar with a wider selection, as they don’t have to worry about their liquors freezing.IMG 6805  

We didn’t hang around, however.  We’d both had enough.  To be honest, if the drinks had been decent, if there had been even a couple of comfy places to sit, and if we had been able to take our own pictures, we might’ve had a better time, but instead, we left feeling ripped off!

I realize there are people who love this place.  You might be one of them.  Try Minus 5 Ice Bar, if you’re really curious.  Maybe it’s better with a large group.  But just know that in my humble opinion, the place does not live up to any expectations you may have.  Forewarned is forearmed!