Be my guest: Las Vegas
Beyond the razzmatazz, Las Vegas has a sophisticated side of modern boutiques, amazing new architecture, art galleries and super-sleek celebrity-chef restaurants, discovers Geraldine Campbell
Photography by Glenn Pinkerton/Las Vegas News Bureau
In Vegas, bigger is definitely better, whether it’s mega-watt nightclubs, supersized spas, or celebrity chef-helmed restaurants. And while the city’s burgeoning off-Strip scene is worth checking out, the action is still on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Nearly every casino in town has a retail street lined with upscale boutiques, from Bally to Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. Make the Daniel Libeskind-designed Crystals (www.crystalsatcitycenter.com) your first destination; with its angular, multi-faceted façade, CityCenter’s three-level shopping district is worth a trip for the architecture alone, but the shops are some of the swishest in town. Stop by the new Donna Karan New York for stunning gowns – and make an appointment with the in-house style concierge for a head-to-toe, red-carpet-ready look. Next door, find silk lingerie at the boudoir-chic Kiki de Montparnasse, while specialist bookstore Assouline is the go-to spot for limited-edition coffee-table tomes. Stella Mc Cartney’s new outpost features a giant, sparkly horse sculpture (named Lucky Spot and made from 8,000 Swarovski crystals), not to mention select items from the designer’s ready-to-wear, Adidas and children’s lines. Further north, the Fashion Show Mall has seven department stores to choose from, but head to the home-grown Talulah G for a well-curated selection of designer brands, such as Zac Posen, Chloé and Missoni. And across the street, the 7,500sq m art-filled Barneys New York anchors a slew of high-end labels, including Chloé, Christian Louboutin and Diane von Furstenberg.
Locals argue about the best place to take in the Strip’s glittering lights, but Mandarin Bar at Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas is undoubtedly the classiest. Located 23 storeys above the Strip, the intimate space attracts a stylish crowd. Go for a pre-dinner glass of Ruinart and for floor-to-ceiling views of the faux Eiffel Tower. Further afield, on Las Vegas Boulevard South, the Top of the World restaurant (www.topoftheworldlv.com) and Level 107 Lounge, both at Stratosphere, are undeniably touristy but still worth a visit for fantastic bird’s-eye views.
Culture is not Vegas’s strong point, though there’s more to do and see than one might suspect. For contemporary art, go to the George L Sturman Museum of Fine Art (+1 702 384 2615) which has works by artists from Matisse to de Kooning, and the Southern Nevada Museum of Fine Art (www.snmfa.com), which offers an artist-in-residency programme as well as an impressive, wide-ranging permanent collection. The 18b Arts District is the centre of Sin City’s surprising gallery scene and, a few miles north, the Neon Museum (www.neonmuseum.org) is an ode to the city’s love affair with neon lights. With a planned opening this summer, the Mob Museum (www.themobmuseum.org) will pay tribute to organised crime and its impact on Vegas, while the newly refurbished Pinball Hall of Fame (www.pinballmuseum.org) houses machines ranging from the Fifties woodrail style to the latest in electro-mechanical multi-player gaming.
Getting out in Vegas requires a car and, once you have wheels, you’ll want to head in one of two directions: to the west is the Red Rock Canyon, a stunning expanse of sandstone cliffs, fossilised dunes and hidden waterfalls. There are miles of trails ranging from easy to difficult, but if you’re short on time, it’s worth the trip just to drive the scenic 13-mile Loop (21km). To the east are Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. The state recently completed construction of the Colorado River Bridge, an approximately 600m-long stretch of concrete and metal that passes some 270m above the Colorado River.
Rest & revive
Exploring the Strip is surprisingly hard work, but if you’re after a more traditional workout, sign up for a private Kettlebell session at the Spa at Aria (www.arialasvegas.com). For something less intense, re-centre with a yin yoga class at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas followed by the Mahjong Balance treatment, which includes an uplifting foot ritual and body exfoliation and massage. The two-level Vdara Health & Beauty (www.vdara.com) is one of CityCenter’s hidden gems. Go for a ‘champagne’ pedicure, which includes a glass of Veuve Clicquot, or try Naturopathica’s Arnica Muscle Repair Massage to soothe aches and pains.
In the past decade, celebrity chefs have flocked to Vegas, making it one of the foodiest destinations in America, rivalling the likes of New York, Chicago and San Francisco when it comes to epicurean affairs. French heavies Guy Savoy, Joël Robuchon and Pierre Gagnaire have all opened establishments here, as have American chefs such as Thomas Keller and Mario Batali. At Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, Twist by Pierre Gagnaire is a must for special occasions, while the third-floor restaurant MOzen Bistro is a more affordable and delicious alternative. Next door to the hotel, Aria’s (www.arialasvegas.com) Shaboo – an intimate space within Bar Mesa – is for serious gourmets only: prix-fixe shabu-shabu-style meals (Japanese hot pot) start at $500 a head. Neighbouring restaurant Julian Serrano, by the eponymous chef, is a must for inventive Spanish fare, like white chocolate-encased gazpacho and deconstructed fish stew. Order some sherry to go with your rabbit, chicken and chorizo paella.
Vegas’s entertainment scene is dominated by the Canadian contortionist troupe Cirque du Soleil (www.cirquedusoleil.com); seven of their shows are in town, but if you only see one, make it the Beatles-themed Love. If you’re after Broadway musicals, Disney’s The Lion King at the Mandalay Bay Theatre (www.mandalaybay.com) and the Tony Award-winning Jersey Boys at The Palazzo (www.palazzo.com), an ode to Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, are the best. For headliners, nobody tops Celine Dion at the Colosseum (www.caeserspalace.com). Back to top