Viva Las Vegas
Viva Las Vegas
It’s often said that Vegas isn’t so much a city as a state of mind. Since the city’s advertising slogan assures us that ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ we’re encouraged to throw caution (and money) to the wind. Sin City is all about indulgence and impulse. Leave behind your inhibitions and pack your party clothes. Needless to say, it’s the ideal venue for a stag or hen party, guaranteed to provide tales you and your co-conspirators can wink over for years to come.
Something for Everyone
Glamorous Las Vegas really does have something for everyone. The gambling capital of the world once had a reputation as a playground for the wealthy, but is now one of the top tourist spots in the U.S., catering to all budgets and tastes. Unquestionably, it’s dazzling. Where else can you find reincarnations of Paris, Rome, Egypt, New York, and Venice — not to mention Camelot — all within an easy walk? Billions of Dollars have transformed Vegas into a sensation of fountains, colonnades and vast frescoed ceilings. Reality is replaced by spectacle; it’s the ultimate escape.
Of course, there’s gambling, but Vegas also boasts amazing nightclubs and restaurants to tempt even the most die-hard dieter, musical concerts featuring the likes of Celine Dion and Tom Jones, and a host of superb shows. Most hotels also have extensive gardens and pools, perfect for relaxing. Moreover, there are beautiful spa facilities to enjoy for as little as $25 entrance, with top masseuses and cosmetologists waiting to indulge you.
You can then float off for a serenaded gondola ride down the Venetian’s Grand Canal or view fine art (the genuine article — not reproductions, like so much else in Las Vegas — on loan from various art museums) at the Bellagio’s gallery.
If shopping therapy is what you’re after, feast your eyes on the latest Gucci, Dior and Cavalli, at Caesar’s Palace Forum.
You’re rarely in doubt that Vegas is a gambling destination. The first slots make their appearance at the airport arrivals lounge. Hotels’ gaming floors are so huge, you can quite easily become lost — a ploy surely designed to keep you there. Smart VIP areas are set aside for much higher stakes. Vegas occupies a bittersweet place in American culture, known as much for its grand losers as its winners, but if you gamble responsibly, setting a limit for what you are prepared to lose, there’s little to fear.
Whether you fancy Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Mexican, or traditional American fare, you’ll never be stumped for choice in Vegas. The MGM Grand alone has a dozen restaurants, two overseen by Chef of the Century Joël Robuchon. His 16-course tasting menu costs a fearsome $425 but features such sublime dishes as truffled langoustine ravioli, served with lemongrass roasted lobster and sea urchins. For a mid-morning treat, head to the Paris Hotel for a sumptuous fruit tart or gateau at one of its patisserie cafés.
High-kicking, besequined showgirls have graced Vegas since the town’s early days. For a spot of adults-only titillation, get tickets to the Folies Bergere or the Crazy Horse Paris show. Hen parties will have a ball with Thunder from Down Under, Australian male strippers who reveal all, welcomed by nightly squeals. Unmissable is Lloyd Webber’s glitzy Phantom of the Opera, staged in a $40 million custom-built theatre. For advance discount rates and buy-one-get-one-free specials, check http://broadwaybox.com/lasvegas.
Cocktail heaven is located at the Bellagio’s stylish Petrossian piano bar, while Centrifuge at the MGM provides 21st-century thrills: a huge spinning centrepiece and high-energy dancing on the bar. The advertising asserts ‘you’re invited, your inhibitions aren’t’ and recommends you ‘immerse yourself in a sea of sensual sophistication’. For a more traditional club feel, try Studio 54, modeled on the NY original.
With the Kids
Vegas isn’t the first place that springs to mind when you think of a kiddie-holiday but, in fact, it’s not a bad choice for family vacationing. There’s pool-time fun during the day as well as a few animal attractions. Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay houses more than a dozen breeds of shark and sea turtle, as well as 12 saltwater crocodiles. Get up close and personal via the walkway tunnels.
Caesar’s Palace and the Mirage also have tanks while the Flamingo keeps a flock of spindly-legged pink birds, alongside African penguins, black swans, guinea fowl and ducks. It’s a charming place for a stroll, with koi carp and catfish to ogle as you walk over small bridges. The Secret Garden at the Mirage features white tigers, lions and dolphins while there’s a lion habitat, enclosed inside a glass tower, on the casino floor of the MGM Grand. Children and adults alike are enchanted by the Bellagio’s stunning fountains, which play throughout the evening to the accompaniment of soul-stirring music.
The Excalibur and Treasure Island are perhaps the best hotel choices for families. The latter has a nightly pirates routine, complete with fireworks, while the former presents its highly entertaining Tournament of Kings dinner show.
Where to Stay
A double inside the Luxor’s glass pyramid, with its sensational views of the Strip, can be had for as little as $120 a night. A suite at the acclaimed Venetian costs around $200, and a penthouse stay at the elegant Bellagio, inspired by Lake Como in Italy, ranges from $750-1000 a night. Midweek nights are always cheapest. Where money is no object, there’s The Palms’ Sky Villa, modelled on Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion, with an outdoor Jacuzzi overlooking the Strip, an enormous rotating bed, and its own spa and cinema room ($40,000 a night).