Vegas: A weekend in the City of Sin
Barren desert gives way to a larger than life, fantasy land for adults. Vegas. The Strip. The City of Sin. Home to some of the largest hotels in the world, with more than 62,000 rooms and counting, the Las Vegas Strip stretches over 6.8 kilometres. By day Vegas resembles a ghost city; it is perhaps the only street in the world where you can be in New York one minute, Paris the next and finish in Egypt. As night falls, the excitement is palpable; thousands of flashing neon lights burn bright like sunshine. Welcome to the party! Everything in Vegas is super-sized...the hotels, the food, the drinks, the casinos and the clubs. Heading home as the first rays of sunshine break across the sky is not only encouraged, but expected.
This was my fourth visit to Vegas and stepping off the plane excitement coursed through my veins. I was reuniting with my high school friend to begin our much planned and anticipated 'girls vacay' and where better to start than Vegas for Memorial Day Weekend. The next three days passed by in a blur...lazing by the pool, sipping super-sized cocktails, spending hours getting ready together for the night ahead, trying out different outfits and doing our hair and make-up as music pumped through the room. Just like we had many years ago, as school finished and uni began. Vegas truly is the city that never sleeps, we often didn't head out to dinner until 9-10pm, eager to fuel our bodies for a long night of dancing.
Our home in Las Vegas was The Aria Resort, which has long been one of my favourite properties due to the super plush and well appointed rooms, myriad restaurants, stunning pools and convenient location in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip. We were very fortunate to have interconnecting rooms, which allowed us to create a large apartment and the floor to ceiling windows provided jaw dropping views of the bright lights of Vegas. The bed was much like I imagine it would be to sleep in pillowy soft clouds- that is, when we eventually got to sleep! And the marble bathroom with double sinks and plenty of storage was perfect for four girls hitting the city each night.
Other hotels I recommend checking out in Las Vegas are The Cosmopolitan, Mandarin Oriental (perfect if you are looking for luxury without the gaming), The Wynn and Encore Las Vegas and the grand dame of Las Vegas, The Bellagio. The Cromwell was the newest hotel to open during my stay and the SLS Las Vegas is due to debut this coming September.
Dining in Las Vegas has evolved too. Loving food as much as I do, I remember being told once that I wouldn't find any great food in Vegas. Boy were they wrong! Almost every celebrity chef worth his weight has taken up residence on The Strip, often with multiple dining venues offering something for everyone's taste and budget. And let's not forgot those famous buffets bursting with every food imaginable. In an effort to help you navigate the culinary minefield these are my recommendations:
- Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria and Cucina at The Crystals Shopping Centre (next door to The Aria): as the name suggests this offers delicious pizza and fresh pasta dishes with a terrific cocktail menu
- Looking to impress someone special? Look no further than Twist by Pierre Gagnaire at the Mandarin Oriental. This is Pierre's only restaurant in the US.
- Craving French bistro classics? Head to Bouchon Bistro at The Venetian. Do yourself a favour and order the roast chicken which comes with the most divine chicken jus.
- Las Vegas loves Japanese and there are a number of places to try. There is Blue Ribbon Sushi at The Cosmopolitan, Nobu at Caesar's or for fresh, tasty sushi without the outrageous price tag try Sushi Samba at The Venetian.
- For Asian fusion I recommend heading to Tao Asian Bistro at The Venetian or Hakkasan at MGM. What's not to love about Hakkasan: an amazing fitout, delicious left of centre cocktails and tasty food. Hakkasan was my dining highlight this time around, with the standout dishes being the Jasmine tea smoked beef short rib and the crispy duck salad.
- Perhaps you have had a big night and are craving a juicy burger? Try BurGR by Gordon Ramsay at Planet Hollywood.
- Craving Mexican? Try El Segundo Sol at Fashion Show Mall or Cabo Wabo Cantina at Planet Hollywood.
- Looking to go all out and give the sin of gluttony a run? Then head to one of the famous Las Vegas buffets and eat until you burst. Two of the best are Bacchanal at Caesars Palace and Wicked Spoon at The Cosmopolitan.
Las Vegas has some of the best nightclubs I have been to anywhere in the world. Attracting some of the biggest DJs around the world Las Vegas is a fun place to party. A word to the wise, Vegas loves girls. It may seem a little sexist, but a group of girls will always be given front of line VIP treatment. Sorry boys! If you do come to Vegas as a group of guys I would suggest either making contact with guest list promoters at each club or booking yourself a table at one of the clubs. Prices for tables do vary depending on the popularity of the club and the DJ playing but it would not be uncommon to spend upwards of $7K for a hosted table with various spirits. Tables usually hold at least ten people and given that a single vodka can cost $20 plus tips suddenly a table becomes a wise investment for a large group. Do your research beforehand and find out what DJ's will be playing while you are in Vegas. Same goes for live shows and performances. Vegas is the home of fantastic entertainment! We were extremely fortunate to see both David Guetta and Calvin Harris during our time in Vegas, huge DJ's that would generally cost a few hundred to see here in Australia. With some many bars and nightclubs where does one start? These are a few of my faves:
- HYDE at The Bellagio: a stunning bar come nightclub with an expansive terrace looking on to the famous fountains of Bellagio. This is THE place to see the fountains in all their glory.
- Mandarin Bar at The Mandarin Oriental: affording sweeping views of the Las Vegas Strip this is a classy cocktail and tapas venue located on level 23 of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Enjoy live jazz every Sunday from 6pm.
- XS at The Wynn: one of my favourite Las Vegas clubs this is a stunning indoor/outdoor venue built around the turquoise waters of the Encore Pool. Attracting some of the biggest names on the DJ circuit this is one of the best places to party in Sin City.
- Hakkasan: A stunning Asian influenced design with over three floors of dance space. Much like XS this attracts some big names with DJ's perched high over the adoring crowds below. Expect to see crazy ticker tape fall from the heavens, smoke machines and advanced lighting installations and giant bouncy balls soar over the thriving crowd. This is the place to see and be seen.
- Drai's Las Vegas: The newest club on The Strip and the first rooftop beach club and night club rolled into one, The Cromwell has billed this as the next biggest thing. I didn't get a chance to check this out, but the infinity pool jutting out over The Strip looks stunning.
If dancing all night leaves you hungry for more and you happen to be in Vegas between Friday and Sunday, brace yourself for the spectacle that is the Vegas Pool Party Scene. Guests cool off to the sounds of driving DJ beats while enjoying super-sized alcoholic sippy cups and it wouldn't be a pool party without a few inflatable pool toys! Even heading to the pool on a normal day is sure to be an eye opening experience. Preparing for the Las Vegas Pool Scene is serious business....guys compete in some sort of unspoken Mr Universe competition to see who has the best six pack, bulging biceps and tanned physique. And the girls...it seems swimming in Vegas requires serious preparation. Some of these girls must spend hours getting ready for a day at the pool. Freshly applied shimmering tan, tiny cozzies in the brightest of summer hues, chunky heels and gaudy gold jewels and diamonds with bling encrusted sunglasses. Coming from Australia, where a day at the beach means wearing the latest surf brand bikini and Havianas, Vegas takes some getting used to.
If you are eager to check out the pool party scene I would suggest the following:
- Wet Republic at MGM: Over 53,000 square feet of space makes Wet Republic one of the biggest and best pool parties around. The DJ booth is the centrepiece and home to resident DJ's Tiesto, Steve Aoki and Calvin Harris.
- Liquid Lounge at The Aria: Set off to the side of the huge Aria pool complex is Liquid Lounge. With eight private cabanas and two pools provide a more intimate pool party experience.
- Encore Beach Club at The Wynn: Still arguably one of the best pool scenes in Vegas, this is a stunning beach club complete with a three-tiered pool, 'lily pad' water loungers, cabanas and eight ultra-luxe two storey bungalows.
- Drai's Beach Club: perched high over The Strip below affording 360 degree views and framed by ten towering palm trees this is a beach club for beautiful people. Plenty of private cabanas decked out with splashes of hot pink and multiple swimming pools make this a fun place to spend the day.
And of course there is always time for shopping. If you are looking for retail therapy Vegas has something for everyone. For high end designers head to The Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace and The Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian. Fashion Show Mall and Sephora at The Miracle Mile Shops are well worth a stop and for the best outlet shopping grab a taxi out to the North Las Vegas Premium Outlets for the best brands at heavily discounted prices.
Whichever of the seven deadly sins you decide to test in Las Vegas I am sure you will come away with fond memories. And remember 'What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas.'