The bright lights may seduce you, but look closer – the grown-up playground of Las Vegas offers more to indulge in than casinos
You can’t visit Vegas without experiencing a manmade wonder – one of the seven Cirque du Soleil shows. For a three-hour burlesque-meets-cabaret experience, don’t miss Zumanity at New York-New York, where thrills come in the form of sensual acrobatics. Be ready to get involved, as there’s an element of audience participation. Up the romance factor with O at Bellagio, where divers, aerialists and synchronised swimmers bring aquatic fantasties to life. John Lennon fans will adore The Beatles LOVE at The Mirage, where 60 artists celebrate the pop legends.
For Art’s Sake
A room full of sophisticated masterpieces is not what you’d expect in the city of sin, but Vegas is full of surprises. Pop art will be in town for most of 2013, with more than 50 iconic works by Andy Warhol decorating the walls of Bellagio’s Fine Art Gallery. Follow the sound of live jazz and tour the upcycled/recycled contemporary works on show, and maybe meet the guest artists, at The Arts Factory; late hours extend to 10pm a few days each month.
Sink Into A Spa
Las Vegas is far from a quiet town, but all is serene at the resort spas. The über-luxurious retreats take pampering to an entirely new level with comprehensive menus. Try out Aria’s detoxifying ganbanyoku beds (the only ones in the US), then relax body and mind in a quiet room featuring Shio salt bricks. Bathe in coconut milk at Bellagio Spa and Salon before choosing an organic face and body remedy. Share a half-day pampering session with your man by signing up for Couple’s Reflection, which consists of a couples massage, aquatic therapy and a facial. If you want more indulgence, there’s an opulent pool, sauna facilities, a fresh juice/herbal tea bar and a fruit menu if all that luxury has given you an appetite.
Vegas is full of unusual sights, and everyone who passes through pauses at the Fountains of Bellagio, where water rockets up to 140m above a three-hectare man-made lake, in sync to music. Book a late lunch on the patio at Todd English’s Olives and you’ll see the daily water show while dining.
Retreat from the desert heat at an outdoor sanctuary, such as the villa or cabana at Bellagio’s Cypress Premier Lounges. Set in a beautiful Mediterrean-style garden, this oasis comes complete with poolside bar service. The intimate setting creates the impression that you’re in the middle of Italy.
Cool off while gaining inner calm at – yes – yoga among the dophins at The Mirage. The class takes place in an area surrounded by a tank holding dolphins. To experience water creatures of a different kind, scuba-dive Mandalay Bay’s Shipwreck Exhibit. Stare down sharks and glide past sea turtles, stingrays and other rare animals in 1.3 million gallons of water.
The hyper-realism of Vegas extends to its restaurants, with dining options ranging the world over in flavour, price and atmosphere. The quintessential dining experience is Le Cirque, at Bellagio, with Michelin-starred French fare such as lobster and avocado salad with black truffle oil, and you are sent away with chocolate truffles. Vibrant colours aren’t just on your plate – you’re one of 80 sitting under a circus-style tent.
When dining at Aureole, at Mandalay Bay, the service and food are a match made in heaven – but things get truly surreal when you order one of the 3200 wines, which triggers a Mission Impossible-style ascension of the four-storey wine tower to retrieve your bottle. After tearing your eyes away from the plate, visit the swans that swoon in Aureole’s back courtyard.
Those with a taste for spice will enjoy Aria’s sensational Lemongrass – the only Thai restaurant on The Strip. Finish with coconut ice-cream and lychees served atop sticky rice: seconds are so tempting.
Love The Nightlife
Everything in Vegas is built upon fantasy and fun – it’s a wonderland where you can let go of inhibitions and indulge to your heart’s (and wallet’s) content. Party-hop down The Strip: there’s live music daily at resorts, while street performers keep you entertained between each stop. Most shows have two sessions each evening, and restaurants such as Le Cirque offer pre-theatre menus at discount prices. It’s all about sparkle and shine, in the decor as much as the designer threads worn by club-goers. There are dozens of clubs and mega-clubs, such as Tabu at MGM Grand. You’re surrounded by crystals at swanky, multi-level The Chandelier bar at The Cosmopolitan; drink in the view from the 64th-floor balcony at Mix Lounge at Mandalay Bay or Moon at Palms.
Getting there: Air New Zealand in conjunction with partner airlines operates daily return services to Las Vegas via Los Angeles, with connections also available via San Francisco. Economy return fares start from $2172pp including taxes.
Getting around: Hail a taxi – they’re everywhere – or walk.
For more info: Visit mgmresorts.com and visitlasvegas.co.nz.