Las Vegas is the most populous city in the U.S. state of Nevada and the county seat of Clark County. Las Vegas is an internationally renowned major resort city for gambling, shopping, and fine dining.
HOTELS and RESORTS
Beside downtown’s Fremont Street Experience, an electronic sound-and-light show, the Golden Gate is a one-of-a-kind vintage casino hotel. It opened in 1906, a year after the city of Las Vegas was founded. Victoriana abounds inside the San Francisco-themed casino, with antique “one-armed bandits” (slot machines) by the lobby registration desk. Recently remodelled hotel rooms have more panache than other downtown casino hotels: witness dark-leather headboards and club chairs, flatscreen TVs, and pillow-top mattresses. Avoid rooms with prison-barred windows that look onto a noisy back alley.
Tired of the dinging of Vegas’s slot machines? Flee the casinos at this boutique hotel, a short drive, bus or taxi ride east of the Strip. Minimalist motel-style buildings surround a small pool with cabanas, cocktails and DJs. All done up in chic white, cool shades of violet and indigo, or stark red-and-black whimsy, each “suite” (really, most are just oversized rooms) comes with its own hot tub, Wi-Fi, and an “adult” TV channel. The Addiction resto-lounge is the place to hook up during happy hour while, across the street, the Hard Rock resort offers pool parties, concerts, and a rock-star spa and shops.
The opening of the flashy Cosmopolitan resort – a short walk north along the Strip – has upped the ante for staying at the Monte Carlo. With the CityCenter casino, hotel, shopping, dining and entertainment complex next door, you’ll understand why these rooms are still among the Strip’s better bargains. Quality rooms come with all mod-cons such as flatscreen TVs, iPod docking stations and Wi-Fi. By day, escape to the hotel’s outdoor pool complex, which has a “lazy river” ride for floating along on inflatable rafts, a splashy wave pool, and sandy beach-volleyball courts.
Staying off the Strip can make you feel cut off from the non-stop party zone, but not at the Rio. Fast, frequent and free shuttle buses transport guests to the Rio’s more famous sister casino resorts on the Strip, including Caesars Palace and Paris Las Vegas. You’ll usually save big bucks on the Rio’s hotel suites, which are unusually spacious by casino standards, with vibrant (OK, some may say tacky) colour schemes of mint, lemon yellow and aqua. If the Rio’s lacklustre dining and drinking venues – such as the sky-high Voodoo Lounge – don’t excite you, take a short walk over to the trendy Palms casino resort, buzzing with nightspots and the Playboy Club.
It’s unlikely you’ll stumble across this white-walled gallery near the valet at CityCenter’s Mandarin Oriental, but it’s certainly worth seeking out. Depending on where you’re coming from, you’ll pass chunks of CityCenter’s $40m art collection, including works by Maya Lin (a suspended rendition of the Colorado River made from reclaimed silver) and Frank Stella (a 32ft work on canvas from his protractor series) in registration lobbies. Look out for Nancy Rubins’s Big Edge, a large boat bouquet made of more than 200 tethered canoes and aluminium boats, which serves as the centrepiece for the $9bn campus of hotels.
THE BELLAGIO GALLERY of FINE ART
The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art manages to stir up a lot of press, and had visitors lining the corridor overlooking the outdoor landscaped pool when it opened in 1998. At the time, art exhibitions on the Strip were unprecedented. When a subsidiary of New York’s Pace Wildenstein took over the gallery, it shocked art-world types by partnering with Boston’s Museum of Fine Art, bringing works by Monet to the heart of Sin City. The gallery has also tapped into the collection at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego to mount exhibits, including the current A Sense of Place: Landscapes from Monet to Hockney.
THE TRIFECTA GALLERY
Set in the Arts Factory, the Trifecta Gallery has been one of few downtown galleries to survive, financially, in the arts district, maintaining solid exhibits focused on contemporary representational paintings and illustrations. The large three-room space in the old industrial brick building is where locals go to buy and experience works by, in the main, emerging artists, and to enjoy creative art openings such as the pancake breakfast that accompany high-end flapjack sculptures by Todd VonBastiaans and Bryan McCarthy.
BIG SPRINGS GALLERY
Inside this 180-acre attraction focused on interactive exhibits about sustainability and the history of the desert environment is The Origen gallery. A quiet, dimly lit, meditative and contemporary space, the gallery features work by mainly local and regional artists – established and emerging – who create pieces influenced by the desert environment and the glitter city plopped into it. Exhibits range from a show of multimedia contemporary works responding to desert colours influenced by intense natural or manmade lighting to fine art black-and-white photography of Cliff Segerblom: modern landscapes of the American West, Hoover Dam and the Las Vegas skyline as it appeared in the 1970s.
ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE STORE
This store’s mission is grave but simple: zombies are on the brink of a massive world attack and we must prepare by purchasing 500lbs of freeze-dried food, stun guns, tasers and maybe a sword. OK, the guys who run this wacky store on an unwacky stretch of Spring Mountain Road don’t believe in zombies per se, but they do believe in zombies as metaphor. “To some people zombies are the government, to some people they’re terrorists or outsiders. We just want people to be prepared,” says owner Mike Monko. His new venture is tucked into the corner of his old venture, which sells artificial lawn supplies. When we visited, Monko displayed a video of himself stun-gunning his business partner’s adult son.
WHITE CROSS DRUGSTORE
Who needs museums when you’ve got the White Cross Drugstore? In the shadow of the Stratosphere Hotel, this 74-year old drugstore (which likely survives by supplying morning-after pills and Bactrim to tourists) is a wonderful step back in time – to a day when drugstores had lunch counters, an entire display of no-nonsense pantyhose (they even have knee highs) and not one “natural” or “organic” bottle of shampoo. An awesome and cheap place to get gifts for all your ironic friends who think there’s nothing in the world more wonderful than a shot glass with their name on it, a wet ‘n’ wild brand lip gloss or a box of Russell Stover candies.
GAMBLER’S GENERAL STORE
So, Vegas has not merely whetted your appetite for gambling, it has made you ravenous, and you’ve decided, alas, this particular sin will not stay in Vegas. Just a short drive from the Strip there’s everything you need to service an at-home gambling addiction: cards, chips, roulette wheels, slot machines – hey, if it can’t separate your friends and neighbours from a significant portion of their paychecks, the Gambler’s General Store doesn’t sell it. It costs a mere £300 to ship a vintage slot machine to London – you could make that back in a weekend.
PITS ‘n’ WIENERS
You’re leaving Vegas tomorrow and all you managed to get for a picky friend is a CSI: Las Vegas travel mug. Fail. You need something that says Vegas without literally saying Vegas. You need to go to Pits and Wieners in downtown’s Emergency Arts, where several mini-galleries and shops occupy the examining rooms of a former medical clinic (the Beat Cafe takes up what was the larger waiting room area). Pits and Wieners sells rosaries, T-shirts, digital block prints, featuring one of two creatures: pits (pit bulls) and wieners (dachshunds). Artist Sophie Duncan opened this place earlier this year as a way to “say thanks to the two dogs that have so positively impacted my life”.
In the heart of Colorado Street’s (and Vegas’s) growing arts district, this adorable store occupies an adorable house. While the Attic (see above) cranks disco, the Gypsy Den favours Patti Smith. If the vibe at The Attic is meant to evoke the Summer of Love, this place is meant to evoke the brief romance between Stevie Nicks and Don Henley. Looking for some feather earrings? A shearling vest? A turquoise velvet jacket? Perhaps you’re newly obsessed with US indie rock queen/harp player Joanna Newsom and think you too would like to start wearing Gunne Sax dresses? The books here are straight off your dad’s kooky girlfriend’s shelf – Coma, No Naughty Cats, The Nixon Recession Caper – and not to be missed.
A short drive from Boca Park, Tivoli Village is brand new, fancy, and aspires to resemble an old European village – an old European village with 3,400 parking spaces. Vasari has a hushed, elegant feeling. There’s a vast couch and turquoise chair for non-shoppers to lounge on while shoppers lust over brands such as Alice and Oilvia, J Brand, Chloe, and Haute Hippie. Sure, you can get this stuff on the strip, but you’d have to wade through more than what’s been perfectly curated here.
KIKI DE MONTPARNASSE
In a town where you never know what’s going to happen next, nice underwear is crucial. And no one has nicer underwear than Kiki De Montparnasse. This lingerie store at Crystals at CityCenter is named for a 1920s Paris nightclub chanteuse, and its magical pink interior is a much stronger dose of France than the nearby Paris Hotel. Try on the subtle but kinky Night Nurse ensemble in one of the special couple’s changing rooms – but try to behave, because the question: “Hmmn, anything else go on in there besides trying stuff on?” did not get a laugh.
ETHAN ALLEN CENTER DESIGN
This location, in Building C, Showroom 196 of the World Market Center Las Vegas gives Ethan Allen its first home in a destination that caters mainly to trade business. It is also a full-service Design Center open to the public, offering clients throughout the Las Vegas area Ethan Allen’s legendary design expertise and a diverse and eclectic range of home furnishings.
LAS VEGAS DESIGN CENTER
The industry’s most dynamic trade marketplace dedicated to home furnishings and design, Las Vegas Design Center is the single most innovative facility of its kind. Home to more than fifty showrooms, it offers year-round access to a global selection of the industry’s finest home furnishings, fabrics, lighting, floor coverings, wall décor and accessories.
No tour of Old Vegas’s ethnic eateries would be complete without a stop at its oldest restaurant. It opened in 1950, and has had José Aragon at the stoves since 1955. He will tell you his cuisine is New Mexican, not Mexican, and his chile verde and chile colorado, with their deep, fiery flavours, are as reminiscent of Albuquerque as anything you will find in this neck of the woods. Aragon’s salsas, burritos, enchiladas and huevos con machaca are made from scratch – not from a can – at prices ($10-$13) that seem to have been frozen in the “We Like Ike” era. If you’re looking for spicy authenticity, this is as cheap as it comes.
Chef Beni Velázquez has turned this moribund space into a place foodies flock to. His cheesy mac ‘n’ cheese, definitive Cuban sandwich and do-it-yourself fish tacos have enlivened the downtown eating scene. Tapas and small plates are the watchwords here and Velázquez’s signature dishes such as shrimp or crab mofongo, carnitas tacos and sweet potato cabrales (cheese) fries have become legendary. Call ahead to see if he’s doing an outdoor pig roast on any given Saturday, and cure a hangover with some cinnamon-spiced pancakes and a few $6 bloody marys or mojitos at the weekend Hangover Brunch.
THE STEAKHOUSE AT CIRCUS CIRCUS
A steakhouse in the cheap eats section? Yes, if you’re in the mood for a slice of prime steer and a sip of old Vegas at (relatively) bargain prices. First, you have to brave the smelly environs of Circus Circus, but if you do, you’ll find the best bargain in dry-aged beef in town. The steaks here average a good $10-$15 less than similar cuts in the more high-falutin’ hotels, but they’ve got nothing on the $42 porterhouse steak in a meat locker you walk past to get to your table. Another bargain: a very relaxed bring your own wine policy.
THE BARRICK MUSEUM
Once a natural history museum, the Barrick Museum on the University of Nevada Las Vegas campus has changed its focus to art in an attempt to fill the void left when the Las Vegas Art Museum closed its doors in early 2009. The small staff at Barrick mounts rotating exhibits for the community while raising funds to become a full time art institution. Shows have ranged from contemporary paintings and sculpture to a photography exhibit of legendary photographer Ansel Adams’s black-and-white works of American landscapes and architecture, which spans five decades. Also, stop in at the Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery, which rotates student exhibits with working contemporary artists.
THE NEON MUSEUM
The Neon Museum’s outdoor Boneyard located in the city’s Cultural Corridor is not only an international tourist destination, but also a beloved project and collection for the Las Vegas community. The sign collection goes back to the 1930s and tells the story of a famous city that erupted in the desert. All that’s often left of Vegas’s past is the sculptural metal and neon, arranged in this gravel lot on Las Vegas Boulevard. The guided tours are often given by employees who are exhibiting artists, and are devoted to the rich narrative of this unique city.
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM LAS VEGAS
The founding of the Las Vegas Natural History Museum stemmed from the realization of a tremendous need in the community for a museum promoting an appreciation and understanding of global life forms, past and present.
With the assistance of local businesses and private individuals, the Las Vegas Natural History Museum opened its doors in July 1991, exhibiting a varied collection of wildlife and prehistoric exhibits on loan. Since then, the Museum has obtained its own multi-million dollar, world-class collection, and created an exciting and interactive learning experience.
From the desert to the ocean, from Nevada to Africa, from prehistoric times to the present, the Las Vegas Natural History Museum takes young and old alike on a learning adventure around the world.
THE NEON MUSEUM
Located in fabulous downtown Las Vegas, the Neon Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the rich history of the city through its most iconic art forms, the neon sign. The Neon Museum’s collection consists of three components: the Neon Boneyard, the Downtown Gallery and the Las Vegas Signs project.
THE SPA at WYNN LAS VEGAS
The spa at Wynn Las Vegas offers an impressive 45 treatment rooms for massage, body treatments, facials and hydrothrapy. The Signature Spa Treatment is based on the five elements of feng shui — health, wealth, prosperity, happiness and harmony. Including a 50-minute custom massage, it combines heated Thai herbs, a luxurious foot treatment, moisturizing hand therapy and an aromatic scalp treatment. Spa facilities are exclusively available to guests of Wynn Las Vegas, although day visitors may also enjoy the salon.
THE SPA at THE MIRAGE
The Spa at The Mirage offers comfort and service in the European tradition and the latest fitness, health and beauty programs are available to guests. Whether choose to relax in a hydrotherapy bath, enjoy a therapeutic massage or treat yourself to one of their beautifying treatments, the Spa & Salon will cater to your every desire.
The 30,000 square-foot, world-class Spa Mandalay at Mandalay Bay was designed so that every detail provides you with unparalleled atmosphere and attention. The goal is to provide guests the ultimate relaxation experience, an awakening of the senses and rejuvenation of the mind, body and spirit. Guests also are invited to experience sunrise yoga at Mandalay Beach. Yoga mats are laid on the sand beach for practicing Ashtanga and Hatha yoga.
Not too many people will visit an erstwhile shopping centre famous for its sex clubs just to take in a local stage production. Well, they’re missing out. The Onyx Theatre is one of the few joints in Las Vegas that regularly showcases professional fringe theatre – all in a cozy 96-seat venue behind a gay-leaning fetish store; there’s a separate entrance for the sheepish. Whether it’s a live-action version of cult horror film the Evil Dead, drag-queen-cast parodies such as The Silence of the Clams, imported productions, original plays or improvisational comedy, the alternative offerings at Onyx regularly make an impression.
CRAZY HORSE CABARET
Crazy Horse Paris is a tasteful update of the traditional Las Vegas topless show. It’s also on loan from France; even its theatre is a knockoff of the Parisian one. Guests sit at long, narrow tables in front of a low-ceilinged stage that complements the intimacy of the theatre. On stage, beautiful and professionally trained dancers move in tandem with light projections that simultaneously accentuate and shadow parts of their bodies. It’s as much about what’s being suggested as what’s being flashed, making sexiness elegant – and mysterious – once again.
SCi-Fi SCREENING ROOM
As with the Onyx Theatre, the Screening Room is merely a space within a retail complex: The Sci-Fi Center, a one-stop shop for cult film and television contraband. You’re not going to find reclining theatre chairs or state-of-the-art projection systems but it’s beloved by geeks who enjoy horror, sci-fi and B-movie fare. Here you’ll see troupes perform alongside screenings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and Repo! The Genetic Opera. Fans of Doctor Who can catch episodes at the Screening Room at least twice a month. And nowhere else in town would dare show gross-out flick The Human Centipede – or its sequel, the demand for which necessitated multiple screenings throughout the Halloween weekend.
POINTS of INTEREST.
A refreshing addition to entertainment options, the Fountains of Bellagio were destined to romance your senses. Take in a complimentary Las Vegas show of water, music and light thoughtfully interwoven to mesmerize its admirers.