Tell people you’re heading to Vegas and chances are you’ll be greeted with a sly smile and an elbow to the ribs. “Take plenty of dollar bills” they’ll whisper, “you know, for the strippers” (in case you didn’t get the memo). Yep, the seedy side is still there, but Las Vegas is changing and fast becoming known as a foodie, shopping and surprisingly, a wellness destination. Yes, seriously.
Shop ’til you drop
New York, Paris, London, Las Vegas? While the city may not be up on the style arena with its aforementioned international cousins, those who’ve spent time pounding the (marble) footwalks of this fabled city know the shopping is some of the best the US of A has to offer.
While the pseudo-Roman streets at Forum Shops at Caesars and the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian have to be seen to be believed, the best place to start flashing the cash is at Las Vegas Premium Outlets North and South (yes, there are two outlets with approximately 150 stores each) where you can load up on the likes of Burberry, Coach and Dolce & Gabbana for next to nix.
At the other end of the scale, the glorious The Shops at Crystals has the largest collection of high-end flagship stores than any other shopping centre in the United States and is a must-see. Even if your budget doesn’t quite stretch to Harry Winston or Bottega Veneta, it doesn’t cost a thing to marvel at Crystal’s three-level experimental environment featuring (among others) a three-story sculptural Tree House, and cutting edge ice and water sculptures. Spectacular!
Also worth a visit: Fashion Mall, one of the largest enclosed malls in the world with over 250 stores has fashion shows every weekend where you can shop the edit.
Eating Las Vegas
When celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck opened a sister branch of his celebrated Beverly Hills restaurant Spago in Vegas back in the early 90s, people thought he’d lost his mind. Who the hell goes to Vegas for the food, right? As it turns out, everybody. Since Puck, many big name chefs have followed suit from Joel Rubuchon whose eponymous restaurant at MGM has three Michelin stars, to Guy Savoy (two stars at the imaginatively titled Restaurant Guy Savoy in Caesars Palace).
Even Gordon Ramsay is spruiking hot dogs at BurGR and fish and chips at GR S Caesars Palace, but our bet? Skip the fuss and run, don’t walk to some of the best Mexican you’ll ever come across at Chayo Mexican Kitchen + Tequila Bar.
The Executive Chef Ernesto Zendejas was born in Mexico City and classically trained in France, so he brings an international fusion of flavors to Las Vegas with his authentic and innovative Mexican fare, and the best part? Mouthwatering lobster tacos will only set you back only $13 and you can ride the restaurant’s mechanical bull while you wait.
Elsewhere, Jaleo at Cosmopolitan is steadily winning awards for their Spanish tapas and paellas (oh, but oh, it does hurt to share), and no matter where you’re staying in Vegas, make sure you pencil in at least one meal at Wynn’s sensual La Cave. Ask for a scenic patio seat and a West Coast Flyer and soon all will be right with the world.
It’s an interesting phenomenon but apparently there are some who like to continue to work out while on holiday. If you too are big on the movement, er movement, Vegas is likely to be your next best friend, because the options are both endless and imaginative. Sure you could go for a jog around the block but that would be mighty pedestrian compared to the indoor hiking offered at Aria.
For $50, you can take in a Fine Art Indoor Hike where your personal trainer can both guide you through the resort and casino’s $40 million dollar art collection and “motivate” you if you stop to peruse for too long. Elsewhere on the strip, you can put yourself through the paces of the Total Body Fitness boot camp at Trump Hotel, or if you’re into a more gentle, serene form of exercise, you can book in an early morning Yoga with the Dolphins session at the Mirage where you downward dolphin with the critters from an underwater observation deck. Just be sure to plan well in advance – the experience books out at the speed of light.
It might surprise you to know that Las Vegas is home to some of the best (and largest) spas in the country, and really, after a night on the tiles, what could be better than surrendering yourself to the soothing touch of a world-class masseuse?
Much is made of Bellagio’s 55,000 square foot Tuscan-themed Spa Bellagio with its 56 treatment rooms and The Venetian’s Canyon Ranch (Las Vegas’s largest at a gargantuan 137,000 square feet and offering – of all things – a 40-foot rock climbing wall and indoor igloo).
Our money, however is on the authentic Turkish hammam experience Sahra Spa and Hammam at The Cosmopolitan offers. Get in early for a soothing soak in the hot tub (with waterfall, natch), then drape yourself on a heated stone lounger of the 1200 square
foot hammam and experience one of their signature treatments which includes a whole body detoxification, steam treatment and cooling bath.
Those who are serious about their treatments (and know a good thing when they see one) often head next door to Vdara’s ESPA spa, a two-level stylish centre that spotlights holistic health in an intimate setting. Book in for their signature Desert Rose treatment ($310 for a decadent 110 min during which you’ll be rubbed down with a salt scrub, given a personalised massage, scalp massage and given a body butter treatment – heaven!)
Up until recent years, Downtown – the original townsite and gambling district of the city, was ailing. But Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has changed all that with the help of some $350 million of his own funds. His vision, The Downtown Project has revitalised the area by way of art, culture and entrepreneurship, giving Vegas a much needed shot in the arm, and the best example of his work can be seen by visiting Container Park, a retail and dining space made entirely of shipping containers featuring 30 odd start-ups – “In incubation mode until they outgrow the space”.
There’s a large playground for kids and revolving bands on stage and is the perfect place to bask in the sun as you unwind from the whirlwind that is Vegas. But come nightfall? There’s always the light show at nearby Freemont Street to kick-start things all over again.