Oh, Las Vegas. Where else can you visit Lake Bellagio, the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower within the same day? Adhering to its founding principle, “spare no expense,” this is a town where over-the-top glitter and beyond-the-imagination glamour are unabashedly applauded. Las Vegas is where you feel you’ve trespassed a velvet rope line onto a red carpet that is never ending. Sin City's streets are enhanced with world-class restaurants and one-of-a-kind entertainment. Whether you're a first timer or have acquired a lifetime of (classified) stories from Las Vegas, there's always something new to be experienced. Here's some of the city's newest, best and/or must-do events:
The Delano's lobby boasts a fashion-runway-like carpet that was the setting of the hotel’s 2014 fashion show opening. Floor-to-ceiling Grecian-style fabric columns line my way toward the floating stone artwork suspended above the aisle. Check-in is effortless, for within minutes I’m standing in my suite (all rooms are suites), surrounded by white and enjoying my window framed view of the Strip. A Mae West quote, “Between two evils, I always pick the one I’ve never tried before,” is imprinted on a black card sitting atop my crisp white bed.
Presidential references are found throughout this hotel named for the nation’s 32nd leader, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Franklin is the hotel’s sophisticated drinking spot, is known for its craft cocktails, one-and-only spirits (from a Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon to a custom Glen Moray scotch), more than 30 craft beers and a selection of wines by the glass exclusive to this bar. Breakfast at Della’s Kitchen serves up such specialties as Portuguese pastrami hash, spiced pumpkin pancakes and mimosa trois (a mix-your-own champagne cocktail with your choice of three juices).
Just around its corner, 3940 Coffee + Tea offers s’more lattes. All are reflective of Chef Jay Calimlim’s edict: “Create something a little different.” The soon-to-be-unveiled addition to this delicious line-up is an Alain Ducasse Mediterranean-inspired restaurant and lounge called Rivea that will sit on the 64th floor, showcase 180-degree city views and feature creations of this world-renowned, multi-Michelin-star-ranked chef.
Las Vegas is known for its collection of top-dollar events. But the Cognac Tasting Dinner at Sage, one of ARIA Resort & Casino’s premiere restaurants, is an experience found in limited edition. Featuring a five course menu, each beginning with a cognac tasting and followed by a champagne pairing from the prestigious Hardy house, Benedicte Hardy guided guests through the feast that began with foie gras custard brulee and ended with “Perfection” cognac, an extremely rare, 150-year-old cognac expression at the cost of $25,000 per bottle.
Wolfgang Puck started the celebrity chef trend more than two decades ago when he opened Spago in The Forum Shops at Caesars. Following in his footsteps are such luminaries as Chefs Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Michael Mina. Fleur by Herbert Keller (celebrated Top Chef Masters’ finalist) features an unexpected, innovative wine-versus-beer pairing dinner. The Chef’s Table at Buffet Bellagio (a hotel known as a top-choice of millionaires and for its Chihuly sculpted glass ceiling and musically choreographed dancing waters) is an elaborate spread complete with stuffed quail eggs, tableside carved prime rib, a weekend caviar station and a white and dark chocolate fondue finish. Chef Robert Ferris’s comfortable approach: “It’s casual, I’ll be in and out.” Veranda at Four Seasons (so exclusive Mandalay Bay’s activities are available to Four Seasons’ guests, though not the reverse), is an Italian inspired trattoria, showcasing such Chef Antonio Minichiello creations as la pasta cotta nel vaso (handmade artichoke pasta cooked in a jar with assorted seafood) and his signature sharing dessert – tiramisu cake, espresso gelato and orange-flavored cotton candy.
Whether it’s spa-ing, sunning or secret gardens, Las Vegas-by-day teems with selections. Vdara is home to the city’s first ESPA-branded spa, a pamper facility found in prestigious around-the-world locations on five continents – from Hong Kong’s Peninsula Hotel to Cabo’s One & Only Palmilla. Described as a “private, sophisticated, European bathing experience,” adults only are allowed to enter Mandalay Bay’s Moorea Beach Club. Summer features a Toptional Beach (yes, tops optional) and winter offers s’mores served around the fire pit. But it was my VIP tour of The Mirage hotel’s Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat that presented my favorite surprise – an interactive experience called “Painting with the Dolphins.” Easiest explanation: Personally picked paint selections are loaded into buoy brushes that dolphins hold in their mouths and swipe onto your hand-held canvas. Final result: modern art.
Action seekers have the Las Vegas High Roller, the world’s tallest Ferris wheel at 550 feet found in the LINQ outdoor promenade. The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, which appeals to art aficionados is currently showcasing “Picasso: Creatures and Creativity” exhibit (until January 10, 2016) – a collection of more than 43 pieces of the prominent painter’s work, including a portrait that has never been seen in public.
When the sun goes down, the curtain comes up in Las Vegas. Mandalay Bay’s Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil is a musical and acrobatic tribute to the legend. Its unforgettable highlight, the clever use of a hologram, all too realistically transports the audience back to the time when the King of Pop reigned and was “the One.” Continuing the Cirque du Soleil theme is nearby LIGHT Nightclub, another Mandalay Bay entertainment enticement. Complete with headlining DJs, pulsating music, a packed dance floor and frenetic energy, each night is different, each night is a happening and each night is an effervescent party.
Photos by Cynthia Dial