By Andrea Bennett | October 1, 2015 | Lifestyle
From one city that doesn't sleep to another, here's what not to miss on your next trip west.
The Wynn, on the Las Vegas Strip, features an indoor shopping mall modeled on Venice’s famed St. Mark’s Square.
You have to love a travel destination that is in a constant state of transformation. In just the last year, an unprecedented number of restaurants have opened or remade themselves on and off the Las Vegas Strip; Mandalay Bay completed the first phase of its $100 million room renovation; Bellagio finished its $165 million, four-year overhaul; Steve Wynn spent $9 million at the beginning of 2015 on bed linens alone, in addition to $10 million on lasers, pyrotechnics, and massive LED video screens for the country’s highest-grossing nightclub, XS. More change is on the way: A sprawling Chinese-themed mega-hotel, Resorts World Las Vegas, as well as Alon Las Vegas are in construction on the north end of the Strip. Keeping up with the changes, of course, is the trick. Here’s a cheat sheet on how to make the most of Vegas now.
High-end luxury is a mainstay of the city’s top hotels. Aria Resort & Casino (3730 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 866-359-7757), the sleek, sky-lit tower in CityCenter, has become one of the best options for shoppers and gourmands, thanks to new restaurants like Michael Mina’s Bardot Brasserie, Bar Masa, Sage, Julian Serrano, and a recently debuted Carbone outpost. Aria’s separate Sky Suites, with their Hermès amenities, in-suite saunas, hybrid limo service, and brand-new pool, are both exclusive and connected; The Shops at Crystals are a short walk away. Palazzo Las Vegas (3325 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-607-7777)—adjoining sister property The Venetian—has 3,000 of some of the most lavish suites on the Strip, which start at a very large 720 square feet. Upgrade to the hotel’s lesser-known Prestige Suites on the 23rd floor, with private Champagne check-in, personal concierge, and an exclusive lounge. For those who like to dip into the gaming scene but not have the full-frontal assault on the way to their guest-room, Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas (3752 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-590-8888) is within walking distance of all the CityCenter attractions. Nothing has been overlooked, from the delightful Shanghai Tang toiletries and Frette bathrooms to a not-to-miss high tea on the 23rd floor. The intimate 23rd-floor Mandarin Bar with its lavishly elegant rooms is a must-stop for a perfect evening out. Don’t miss the spa, which channels 1930s Shanghai.
Tomato stack with goat cheese, balsamic reduction, and basil oil at Carson KItchen.
Michael Mina’s beautiful new Bardot Brasserie (Aria Resort & Casino, 3730 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 877- 230-2742) takes French fare and elevates it beyond the classics—onion soup with braised oxtail is covered in Perigord truffles, for instance—in a “standalone” restaurant, with gold lettering stenciled on glass windows, Laguiole cutlery, and a massive zinc bar. While Bellagio makes a grandiose statement on the Las Vegas Strip, its brand-new restaurant, Lago (Bellagio, 3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-693-7111)—in the newly revamped Circo space—features cutting-edge design by Munge Leung that celebrates early-20th-century Italian Futurism. Its new terrace is the best place to sample Julian Serrano’s tapas-style Mediterranean-inflected dishes like simply grilled langoustines and pristine crudo. Before the end of the year, dine at Sinatra (Wynn Las Vegas, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-770-5320), Steve Wynn’s fine dining tribute to his friend ’Ol Blue Eyes in Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, which serves modern riffs on classic Italian by chef Theo Schoenegger, who used to cook for Sinatra himself at San Domenico. This year, during what would have been Sinatra’s 100th birthday, Schoenegger has created a special menu that includes the singer’s favorites, such as spaghetti all chitarra and veal Milanese. Downtown has become a don’t-miss dining destination, and if you hit only one spot, it should be Kerry Simon’s Carson Kitchen (124 S. Sixth St., 702-473- 9523, a 60-seat room in a former flophouse that has helped shape the area’s boom. You’ll stand in line (no reservations for groups of fewer than six) for crispy fried chicken skins with smoked honey, sweet-hot bacon jam, and doughnut bread pudding, made from next door’s decadent O Face Doughnuts and soaked in three-rum caramel. And you’ll be glad you did.
Tiffany & Co. at CityCenter, which boasts some of the world’s top luxury brands.
Only a few years ago, shopping in Las Vegas was mainly a diversion for bored significant others of gamblers; now, the four-mile Strip is filled with multiple locations for the world’s top retailers. Vegas’s signature shopping has become defined by the services it provides. For instance, concierges arrange translators, personal shoppers, and in-store showings at The Shops at Crystals (3720 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-590-9299), the dramatic and glittering Daniel Libeskind– designed shopping mall in CityCenter. Every boutique is show-stopping, from the Louis Vuitton flagship—the largest in North America, complete with a permanent James Turrell installation and private VIP lounges—to the first Tom Ford women’s collection in the US; a recently expanded Gucci; and such fabulous embellishments as Fendi’s scale model of the Trevi Fountain (one of two in Las Vegas). The two shopping esplanades of Wynn and Encore (3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 877-321-9966) are known for their unparalleled luxury. Wynn’s retail insiders act as liaisons with the fashion houses for couture clients staying at the hotel, and will even provide villas to accommodate fittings. The newly opened Wynn Collection store is a tightly curated selection of luxury brands and contains one of four Tom Ford cosmetics counters in the hotel (the most complete selection in Las Vegas). Prada opened a new store in August. And designers such as Judith Leiber, Jude Frances jewelry, and handbag maker Analeena design pieces that shoppers can buy only in Wynn. Fashion Show Mall (3200 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-369-8382), the 2 million-square-foot mall across the street from Wynn, is the locals’ go-to for multiple department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom. Here you’ll also find everything from Vuitton and Tiffany to Disney and Apple. Perhaps the most significant trend in the last several years, however, has been fashion brands’ willingness to bypass more traditional cities to establish their first US boutiques in Las Vegas (such as Givenchy opening at Wynn last year). Meanwhile, less-expected brands—like Mulberry and Charlotte Olympia, both in The Forum Shops (3500 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-893-4800)—are entering the city’s retail crush at a snappy pace, not only luring well-heeled locals looking for more variety, but also offering only-in-Vegas exclusives for trophy-hunting visitors (think Swarovski-encrusted dresses and showgirl-emblazoned heels).
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JENNA DOSCH (CARSON KITCHEN); GEORGE ROSE/GETTY IMAGES (VENETIAN); ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES FOR TIFFANY & CO. (TIFFANY)