Things to Do in Las Vegas: Restaurants, Resorts, Recreation, and
Things to Do in Las Vegas: Restaurants, Resorts,
Recreation, and More 2011
Sunset Travel Guide
Experience Sin City
at any budget
3 | See the Strip:
Globe-trot on the famed street that
4 | Greater Las Vegas:
A Sunset travel editor discovers Sin
City’s luckiest pair: desert wilderness
by day, spas and indulgent meals at
9 | Vegas, high/low:
Be a high roller—or pinch
pennies—at the new CityCenter
11 | Savor Las Vegas:
More of our favorites from Sin City’s
evolved dining scene
14 | Vegas insiders dish:
Five prominent residents share their
2 Sunset Travel Guide
16 | Sin City sleeps:
More Las Vegas lodging we love
18 | Travel resources
cover: thomas j. story. clockwise from top: thomas j. story, andrea gomez romero, mgm resorts international
13 | Healthy in Vegas:
Sin—and repent—in the West’s city
Sunset Travel Guide
See the Strip
Globe-trot on the famed street that never sleeps
CENTER OF THE ACTION The Las Vegas Strip,
the city’s biggest attraction.
PROPER NAME Las Vegas Boulevard.
STYLE Everything from Renaissance to BeauxArts, ancient Egyptian to modernist. In addition to its grand-scale replicas of the world’s
most famous landmarks and the tallest
building in the West (the Stratosphere),
Vegas is the neon capital of the world.
LANDMARKS The Eiffel Tower, Egyptian Sphinx
3 Sunset Travel Guide
and pyramid, Venetian canals, and Bellagio
BEST WAY TO TOUR Few seem to know about
the monorail that runs the length of the
Strip—a great way to beat gridlock on the
main road ($5; lvmonorail.com).
Bellagio Las Vegas. When the fountains out
front start dancing to the strains of “Singin’ in
the Rain,” the synchronized cascades soaring
250 feet into the air, it’s easy to believe in the
promise of the New Las Vegas. The rest of the
resort achieves the same lofty level: mosaic
floors made of imported Italian tile, a glassdomed conservatory, and works by Monet and
Degas. The fountains are best experienced at
night, with performances every 15 minutes
from 6 to midnight. bellagio.com
New York–New York Hotel & Casino. Give me
your wired, your bored, your shuttled masses
yearning to eat free? Who knows what Statue
of Liberty poet Emma Lazarus would have
come up with for this New York–themed
mega hotel. Lots of New York noshes can be
found here. nynyhotelcasino.com
Paris Las Vegas. Its Eiffel Tower ($10 for the
elevator ride) is only half the size of the original. But at 450 feet, you’re both high enough
for a panorama and low enough to take in the
action down below, especially Bellagio’s
fountains. The hotel’s street-level façade,
which mimics Parisian landmarks such as the
Louvre, feels oddly real. parislasvegas.com
The Venetian Las Vegas. The least cartoonlike of the theme hotels that have opened in
the last 10 years, the Venetian is best known
for its Grand Canal and the plaza based on
Piazza San Marco: One drink at the plaza
restaurant, Canaletto, and you expect to see
a grand doge wander by. Don’t miss the frescoed corridor between the main lobby and
the casino: It, too, is one of the grandest
spaces in Las Vegas. venetian.com
mgm resorts international (2)
New York-New York’s
faux Big Apple skyline
right The Bellagio’s
Sunset Travel Guide
Vibrant Red Rock
Canyon is a natural
A Sunset travel editor discovers Sin City’s luckiest pair: desert
wilderness by day, spas and indulgent meals at night
No one thought Las Vegas was my kind of
“You wouldn’t last 24 hours!” friends
warned. “You, of all people, would absolutely
I’m the type who prefers the mountains to
the mall. I cringe at the oversize and artificial. I get lost in crowds. Cry in traffic. And so,
naturally, I always agreed: Sin City was not
But then, here I was, a Vegas virgin at 32
4 Sunset Travel Guide
years old. And, I admit, I was curious. Maybe
it was time I learned what all the buzz was
about. I’m young; I’m fun; I’m a travel writer,
for crying out loud! I called my friend Raina,
the one other person I knew who’d Never
Been, and we booked our flights.
And then we booked a room—intentionally off the Strip and away from the chaos—
at the swank Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa,
located 10 miles west of Las Vegas Boulevard
and five minutes, tops, from the entrance to
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation
Area. With an “adventure spa” and a view of
the red rock from my big cushy bed, how bad
could it be?
We’ll spend our days outside—in the
wilderness, I told Raina. At night, we’ll hit
the town. If, honestly, only because we were
dying to try chef Joël Robuchon’s eponymous
restaurant, which elevated the superstar
dining scene. And then we’ll retreat safely
back to our rooms, Cinderella-style. After all,
if we were going to make the most of our
days, we couldn’t sleep through them.
Fish-eye view of Hoover Dam
“Vegas doesn’t typically attract, uh, outdoorsy people,” says my cabdriver, on the
way out of McCarran International Airport.
Perfect, I think. More room for me.
I’d heard all about Red Rock Canyon: It is
thomas j. story
Sunset Travel Guide
climbers’ heaven, with hiking and horseback
trails galore. But I didn’t know the relatively
untracked Valley of Fire State Park is only an
hour away; nor did I realize I could kayak
down the Colorado River from the base of
Hoover Dam. Vegas, baby, Vegas.
Our very first night, we wrap ourselves in
the hotel’s plush white robes, order room
service, and watch America’s Next Top Model.
Off to a lame start, we realize. But what
happens in Vegas stays in Vegas! Plus, we
have an early morning on the Colorado River.
Before we catch even a glimpse of glitter,
we see a trio of bighorn sheep moseying
along a grassy hillside near the base of
Hoover Dam—our launching pad for the
day’s paddle. I’m happy.
At the suggestion of our Red Rock Casino
adventure activities guide, David Bert, we sign
up with Evolution Expeditions Kayaking—a
new outfitter with the best boats in town.
Given the tight security at the Southwest’s landmark power source, only 30 water
5 Sunset Travel Guide
permits are issued daily. “Even without that
rule, though, there wouldn’t be many folks
out here,” says Evolution’s owner, Dan
Cameron. “Locals who’ve lived here forever
have no idea you can do this! Took me 20
years to find out.”
Feeling fortunate to get a bottom-up view
of the monolithic dam in the early-morning
light, we slip quietly down the glassy class I
river and past the volcanic red rock of Black
Canyon. Our first stop is Sauna Cave, where
our guide, Aaron, leads us into a pitch-black
60-foot-deep, geothermally heated tunnel.
We walk cautiously and ankle-deep in soothing, steamy water.
Then we paddle on peacefully under the
big blue sky, past peregrine falcons, our eyes
peeled for more bighorns. I forget I’m in Las
Vegas until Aaron informs me that his dream
job is to be an aerial artist in a Cirque du
Soleil show. “I’m worried I don’t have the
body,” he admits, “but this kayaking gig
should hopefully help my muscle tone.”
From red-rock hound to jet-setter
We grab a cup of coffee and a couch in the
lobby, and stare through the doors tinted
fire-engine red at a view of fountains, nonnative palms, and surrounding construction
that will soon create an urban center,
complete with residences and shops. We
meet up with David Bert, the adventure
activities guide who’d steered us to the kayak
trip, so he can show us around Red Rock
Canyon, the national conservation area he’s
long considered home.
“Are you ready to get spanked?” he asks.
I’m startled, but then quickly realize it’s only
innocuous hiking-speak. We tell him we’d
prefer to take it easy, after yesterday’s invigo-
thomas j. story
A peaceful paddle on
the Colorado River
At Boyscout Canyon, we wade through a
series of natural hot springs until we reach a
big turquoise-clear pool, tempered by a rushing cold waterfall, and jump in. “This sure
beats gambling!” says the one other guest on
our trip. Agreed.
That evening, we shift gears: Cruising
down Interstate 15 in our Chevy Impala, we
channel Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn in
Swingers. A surge of excitement hits us as we
near the Strip. We’re dwarfed by the gaudy
skyscrapers, shining by the light of the
setting sun. The sky is pink, the traffic
converging. Signs, signs, everywhere are
neon signs. We’re trapped in a real-life LiteBrite, starstruck and overstimulated.
An all-glass elevator shoots us to the top
of THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, to Mix Lounge,
where we toast our trip from a patio table
with a bird’s-eye view of the entire Strip.
Lights crawl like caterpillars along the edge
of the Luxor Las Vegas pyramid. So many
hotels. So many parking lots. The long,
narrow bar, with its disco feel, deep booths,
and dim light, is almost too cool.
Next stop is dinner at Bartolotta at Wynn
Las Vegas. Arguably the hotel on Las Vegas
Boulevard since its splashy 2005 opening, the
Wynn boasts a $2.7 billion price tag, a collection of van Goghs and Picassos that will bring
you to tears, $500 greens fees, and a flashy
website that takes two minutes to load. We
allow a good half-hour to make our way 3
miles, but still we’re late for our reservation.
The effects of the long day in the desert sun
kick in as we devour stuffed langoustines and
roasted rack of lamb.
Bedtime. Twenty-four hours down—and,
surprising myself, I’m actually looking
forward to tomorrow.
The main dining room at Robuchon above The desert comes
alive at dusk in Red Rock Canyon
left The pool at Red Rock Casino
rating paddle. He whisks us 15 minutes from
the resort, yet seemingly worlds away, to
Sandstone Quarry. I’m surrounded by yellow
sandstone cliffs, ruins of an agave-roasting
pit, and crazy red rock formations. I ponder
how these pancake layers came to be.
“People come here for the whole whathappens-here-stays-here thing,” says David.
“I tell them, ‘Take a bunch of photos, show
your friends! Spend a few bucks on a horseback ride and actually get your money’s
worth—you’ll blow a whole lot more at the
blackjack tables.’ ”
We scramble up to Calico Tanks, one of
David’s favorite respites—and a unique
juxtaposition. Standing among 150-million6 Sunset Travel Guide
year-old rock, touching the earth in its purest
form, I can see, looking at a distant Emerald
City, the exact antithesis: a 6-mile stretch of
nothing but stuff, spanning from the Stratosphere to Mandalay Bay.
We’re back by noon and head straight for
Salt Lick for real-deal Texas barbecue: jalapeño-stuffed shrimp wrapped in applewood
bacon and tender smoked brisket. Trying our
best to save room for dinner, we hold back on
the berry cobbler.
And then we hit the pool, the hotel’s
3-acre centerpiece encircled by private
cabanas and umbrella-shaded chaises. The
scene is tamer than I’d imagined, with more
gray-haired folks than bikini-clad 20-some-
things. Next, I treat my desert-dehydrated
skin to the “Crystal Caviar” facial. After an
indulgent sequence of exfoliation, creams,
masks, and wraps, I emerge glowing—and
ready for our next splurge, Robuchon.
Dining at Joël Robuchon’s restaurant, for
us, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, with
the full tasting menu priced at $385. So we
savor each of the 16 courses, every sip of
wine, and every pampered moment of the
three-hour dinner. We treasure the over-thetop touches, from the dizzying choice of 14
kinds of fresh-baked levain to the truffled
langoustine ravioli to the purple ribbon–tied
napkin that appears upon return from each
trip to the ladies’ room. Only in Vegas.
Après dinner, we head over to the Mirage
for Love, a Cirque du Soleil production. An
acrobatic show unfolds, set to a remix of the
Beatles’ greatest hits. We silently sing along,
awestruck by the tumbles and trapeze—and
then I, uh, nod off. Just briefly. It was late …
We had all that wine … Raina nudges me. By
the heartening “Love Is All You Need” finale,
Downstairs, we see a snaking line by a
velvet rope. It’s Jet, one of the hottest clubs
on the Strip—or so we’d heard. Enough with
the good-night sleeps. We’re in Vegas! The
music is hypnotizing, as is the people-watching. We make it through two of the three
sound rooms in the laser grid-lit space. But
we can only handle so much. Around 3 a.m.,
we call it a night.
We wake way too late for the sunrise
horseback ride we’d planned. “This must be
how people normally do Vegas,” I grumble,
as we wander aimlessly around the MGM
Grand. I slap five bucks down on the Wheel of
Fortune—and win five more! This is kinda
fun, but I’m no fool and quit while I’m ahead.
And we rally. We leave the Strip for a drive
through Lake Mead National Recreation Area
to Valley of Fire State Park. An endless
stretch of mind-boggling boulders erupts
from the creosote bush. The red rock looks
superimposed against the stormy sky. Terracotta sand seeps into our sneakers along the
White Domes Trail. Eventually, we tear
Four days and 100 hours later, it’s all over.
“Checking out just for the morning?” the
valet asks, opening the car door. He sees my
suitcase. “Or checking out forever?” he smiles.
I pause, unsure at first how to respond.
“Actually. No. Not forever,” I reply, laughing.
“I’ll be back.”
clockwise from top: thomas j. story, mgm resorts international, thomas j. story
Sunset Travel Guide
Sunset Travel Guide
is the best time to go. Delineated hiking trails
here are relatively short, but you’re free to
explore on your own. From Las Vegas, take I-15
55 miles to the park. Or, for a more scenic route,
take Lake Mead Blvd. into Lake Mead National
Recreation Area ($5 per vehicle); bear left at
Northshore Blvd. and continue to Valley of Fire
State Park ($10 per vehicle, $8 for NV residents);
allow 11/2 hours; parks.nv.gov or 702/397-2088.
HIKE White Domes Trail. A 1.2-mile jaunt
through canyons of contrasting color. Stop at
the visitor center for more information.
On the water
No worries, there’s plenty of H2O here in the
desert—from Lake Mead and the Black
Canyon area of Lake Mohave. State 146, State
147, and U.S. 93 lead into the Lake Mead
National Recreation Area; nps.gov/lake or
PADDLE YOUR OWN Boulder City Outfitters.
In the Desert
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Wander past petrified sand dunes, waterfalls,
and red-tailed hawks on a free guided hike
with Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association (www.redrockcanyonlv.org), or explore on
your own by car, foot, bike, or horseback. $7 per
car; main entrance to the park is off State 159, 17
miles west of the Strip; blm.gov or 702/515-5350.
DRIVE Scenic Route A one-way, 13-mile scenic
loop provides many nice views of Red Rock
HIKE Calico Tanks Trail. An easy 2.5-mile outand-back scramble up about 450 feet to a
stellar view of the canyon—even a peek of
the Vegas Strip in the distance.
La Madre Spring/White Rock Loop Trail. A
diverse 6-mile loop through both open desert
and piñon-juniper forests—but it’s the view
of the valley on the north side of White Rock
that really gets you.
MOUNTAIN BIKE Badger Pass Loop. A Cottonwood Valley 6-mile single-track loop with
some tricky maneuvering and moderate
climbing. Catch nice views of the surrounding
7 Sunset Travel Guide
desert at Badger Pass. Park at the Late Night
parking lot, off State 160, about 41/2 miles west of
intersection with State 159; head south under
highway via the tunnel.
HORSEBACK RIDING Awesome Adventures.
An Old West–style horse ranch inside Spring
Mountain Ranch State Park (see below). Head
out for a sunrise tour in the crisp morning air
followed by a picnic lunch, or ride into the
sunset and enjoy a cowboy-style steak
supper. 11/2-hour guided rides from $119;
awesomeadventureguide.com or 800/519-2243.
STOP BY Spring Mountain Ranch State Park.
This peaceful 520-acre homestead at the
base of Wilson Cliffs has the second-oldest—
and one of the tiniest—buildings in all of Las
Vegas. Tours daily; $9 per vehicle, $7 for NV residents; 6375 State 159, Blue Diamond, NV; parks.
nv.gov or 702/875-4141.
Valley of Fire State Park
One of Nevada’s oldest state parks, dedicated
in 1935, is a sci-fi–like land of red sandstone
and gray limestone formations. Today the
stark landscape sees more lizards than it does
visitors. Winter, when temperatures are mild,
SIT BACK Black Canyon/Willow Beach River
Adventures. Let a motor-assisted pontoon
raft do the work while you and up to 35 other
folks float the Colorado. You’ll miss the hotsprings stop, but your arms will thank you
later. 3 to 31/2-hour trip; $85.95; black
canyonadventures.com or 800/455-3490.
At the table
World-renowned chefs are turning Sin City
into one giant, glitzy, expensive food court
for gourmands. Eat your heart out at some of
Bartolotta. The James Beard-nominated Italian stunner serves up perfectly executed
pastas, seafood, and meats. $$$$; Wynn Las
Vegas; 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/248-3463.
Bradley Ogden. A few years old and still at
the top of the Vegas food chain—with
Ogden’s signature farm-country cooking and
flown-in-fresh ingredients. $$$$; Caesars
Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 877/346-4642.
Burger Bar. Pull up a stool at celeb chef
thomas j. story
Go for a refreshing dip in
the steamy hot springs at
These veteran paddlers are the go-to folks for
rental canoes and kayaks. Head downstream
along the Colorado. Rentals from $45 for selfguided tour, $150 per person for guided tour;
bouldercityoutfitters.com or 702/293-1190.
GET A GUIDE Evolution Expeditions. Kayaking
Guided tours for all levels in the Lake Mead
National Recreation Area. Choose from
3-hour paddles around Lake Mead to the fullday, 11-mile trip downstream, which begins at
the base of Hoover Dam. From $105; evolution
expeditions.com or 702/259-5292.
Sunset Travel Guide
Cirque du Soleil’s Love
above Stuffed langoustines
at Bartolotta left Red Rock
Casino’s swanky scene
Hubert Keller’s casual carnivorous eatery,
where burgers range from basic ($9.50) to foie
gras– and truffle-topped Kobe beef ($58.50).
$$; Mandalay Place at Mandalay Bay Resort,
3930 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/632-9364.
Joël Robuchon at the Mansion. The famed
French chef came out of retirement to open
his only formal fine-dining restaurant Stateside. Indulge in the 16-course tasting menu
($385 per person). $$$$; MGM Grand, 3799 Las
Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/891-7925. (For a less lavish,
and less pricey, experience, go next door to
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, where you can
sample signature dishes à la carte. $$$$;
Olives. Grab lunch on the patio of Todd
8 Sunset Travel Guide
English’s outpost for a grilled turkey Ruben
panini with jalapeño slaw and fried pickles,
paired with a prime view of Lake Bellagio’s
dancing fountains. $$$$; Bellagio, 3600 Las
Vegas Blvd. S.; 877/234-6358.
Salt Lick Bar B-Q. Sticky, slow-cooked spareribs and tender barbecue chicken—straight
out of Driftwood, Texas. Long picnic tables
make this crazy-popular place casual and
communal. $; Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa,
11011 W. Charleston Blvd., 702/797-7535.
On the Strip
Don’t-miss classics, for Vegas newbies or
Bellagio. Our favorite place to drop, er, we
Where to stay
Get a good night’s sleep off the Strip—for a
calmer stay and easier access to desert parks.
Green Valley Ranch Resort, Spa, Casino. The
first off-Strip luxury resort to cater to the
locals. Decor is Mediterranean-style timeless
as opposed to up-to-the-minute trendy, and
the pool, with its private cabanas and sandy
beach, is as hopping as any you’ll find on the
Strip. From $86; greenvalleyranchresort.com or
The Platinum Hotel and Spa. A—gasp—
nongaming hotel off the Strip, by a block and
a half. 255 suites come with full kitchens, plus
two pools and a 17th-floor rooftop terrace
with telescopes. From $119; 211 E. Flamingo Rd.;
theplatinumhotel.com or 877/211-9211.
Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa. Dripping in
more than three million crystals and walled
in mahogany, wenge wood, and splashes of
real red sandstone mined from the nearby
canyon, Red Rock is the first billion-dollar
hotel to be built off the Strip. No crazy lines
at check-in and a separate casino entrance—
one with windows, no less!—make the place
quieter, and lighter, than your typical Vegas
high-rise. From $125; 11011 W. Charleston Blvd.;
redrocklasvegas.com or 866/767-7773.
clockwise rom top: wynn resorts, mgm resorts international, thomas j. story
mean win, a few bucks. It’s one of the Strip’s
fanciest. Outside, illuminated streams of
water, choreographed to music, shoot like
clockwork, from Lake Bellagio. Sounds
tacky—until you start swooning over Lionel
Richie’s “All Night Long” as the fountains
dance, ever so gracefully. Every half-hour until
6 p.m., every 15 minutes 8 p.m.–midnight; free;
3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; bellagio.com
Fashion Show Mall. Best shopping on the
Strip. A get-lost-in-it emporium with more
than 250 stores, including all the big names:
Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and
Bloomingdale’s Home. 3200 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
(across from the Wynn); 702/369-8382.
Jet. The nightclub has three rooms, each
with a different sound—hip-hop/top 40,
rock, and house. Thu, Fri, Sat, and Mon; cover
from $30; the Mirage, lobby level, 3400 Las Vegas
Blvd. S.; jetlv.com or 702/693-8300.
Love. Beatles fans will love this Cirque du
Soleil show. 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Thu–Mon;
from $93.50; at the Mirage, 3400 Las Vegas Blvd.
S.; cirquedusoleil.com or 800/963-9634.
Mix Lounge. Fantastic views of the Strip. $$$;
at THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas
Blvd. S.; 702/632-9500.
Sunset Travel Guide
With public art instead of
a lion cage or sphinxes,
CityCenter is a whole
new flavor for this town
right Mandarin Oriental
Be a high roller—or pinch pennies—at the new CityCenter
You’ve probably seen pictures of CityCenter,
the gazillion-dollar development that opened
last December with three glittering hotels, a
mammoth shopping center, and an art collection with enough stars for a MoMA road show.
But amid the hoopla and big names (Daniel
Libeskind was one of the architects; Maya Lin
among the artists), there are bargains to be
found—as well as totally worth-it splurges.
Part of the appeal of CityCenter lies in its
9 Sunset Travel Guide
un-Vegas-like restraint, as much as a 67-acre
complex right on the Strip can be restrained:
There’s no flashing neon, only one casino, and
buildings are connected by walking promenades—definitely a novelty on the Strip. Get
ready; it’s big. But whatever your budget,
we’ve got you covered.
Stay On the Strip but blissfully quiet, the
Stay The modern, sleek rooms at Aria
(arialasvegas.com) start at $149, but to avoid
sticker shock, factor in the daily resort fee of
$30, which grants you access to a dazzling
gym and lush spa. Guests can also get deep
andrea gomez romero (2)
casino-free Mandarin Oriental (mandarin
oriental.com/lasvegas) feels like an oasis.
Many rooms have wraparound glass bathrooms and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Strip—the yoga mat in the closet
is also a nice touch. Rooms start at $295 (book
online with code “Sunset”; 2-night minimum),
though if you pony up more for executive
digs, you get better views.
Explore The Libeskind studio–designed
Crystals shopping center (crystalsatcity
center.com) has all the usual high-end
suspects—Vuitton, Cartier, Tiffany—but
some real originals too: Nanette Lepore for
mouthwatering dresses, Assouline for lush
coffee-table books, and the cult lingerie shop
Kiki de Montparnasse.
Spa The spa at Mandarin Oriental (888/8819530) is totally transporting, with terry lounge
beds overlooking the Strip and attendants
appearing at your elbow with tiny cups of tea.
It’s open to nonguests for a $60 day-use fee
($40 for Sunset readers in Nov. 2010), but treatments are spendy—massages start at $200.
Eat For total over-the-topness, check out the
restaurants in Aria, where you can pack in a
meal from practically every boldface chef in
town—Michael Mina, Masayoshi Takayama,
Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Silk Road
(702/590-2030), in CityCenter’s Vdara Hotel,
does a no-holds-barred breakfast (about $50
for 2) with a brioche French toast that
is—and we’re not overstating matters—
transcendent (we think it’s the cornflakes
added for crunch).
Sunset Travel Guide
Vdara’s pool above The ultrasleek Aria left New York Strip at
discounts and seat upgrades at Aria’s Cirque
du Soleil show, Viva Elvis.
Explore The 17 pieces of public art scattered
throughout CityCenter (pick up a map at any
building there) make up an all-star collection,
with works by Julian Schnabel, Henry Moore,
and Claes Oldenberg and Coosje van Bruggen.
Nancy Rubins’s crazy/wonderful canoe sculpture and a rainbow Frank Stella canvas lift any
mood. Don’t miss Peter Wegner’s brilliant
two-story artwork in the Vdara Hotel’s lobby.
Spa Sundays through Thursdays, nonguests
can use Aria’s spa (877/312-2742) for the $30
resort fee. There’s the expected sauna and
steam bath, but the ultra-cool salt room and
hot-stone beds make you feel like a VIP with10 Sunset Travel Guide
out having to pay for a treatment. At Vdara
(702/590-2474), $50 gets you into the spa and
pool, but the better deal is to get a treatment
(say, a $30 manicure), which comes with
Eat Now this is mall food: Try the wood-fired
pizzas (about $15 each) at Wolfgang Puck
Pizzeria & Cucina (702/238-1000) in Crystals.
You can go hog wild with artisanal toppings
like squash blossoms, burrata cheese, or pork
soppressata. Or make a meal out of the
exquisite tapas (about $12 each) at Aria’s
Julian Serrano (877/230-2742). Order the grilled
white anchovies and tempura with wasabi
foam, or skip the small plates and split a
paella (about $60 for 2 with wine).
Tao Las Vegas No, you won’t find
enlightenment at this eatery, but
with a 20-foot Buddha floating
above a pool of koi, and a giant
fortune cookie filled with chocolate
mousse, you’ll experience bliss for a
mere $10. $$$; dinner daily. The Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/3888338.
Showroom Check out the dream
cars at the casino’s boutique showroom. Test drives aren’t offered, but
you can see auto tycoon Roger
Penske’s Enzo, buy a $30 Hot
Wheels version, or just fantasize as
those beauties spin on the turntable. $10; Wynn Las Vegas, 3131 Las
Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/770-2000.
Fremont Street Experience
You’re missing the full Vegas if you
don’t go retro at least once.
Fremont Street Experience’s light
show has jets and hot-air balloons
blasting across the canopy. Nightly;
free. On Fremont St., 1 mile north of
the Strip; 800/249-3559.
CBS Television City Research
Center Convene with other couch
potatoes at the CBS Television City
Research Center, where you can
view the latest offerings from
networks including CBS, MTV, and
UPN. Geared with touch-screen
surveys, visitors approve or nix a
small-screen show. Free. On Studio
Walk inside the MGM Grand, 3799 Las
Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/891-5752.
Ethel M Chocolate Factory
Get your fix at Ethel M’s with a selfguided tour that shows how the
goodies are made; then taste a free
sample. After choosing from sweets
like Almond Butter Krisps and
Pecan-Caramel Raptures, walk off
calories in the 3-acre cactus garden.
Free. 2 Cactus Dr., Henderson, 7 miles
east of the Strip; 702/433-2500.
Silverton Casino Hotel Lodge
show When you’ve had enough
booty from pirates and sirens, go off
the Strip and watch this hotel’s
mermaid show. Synchronized swimmers swish their tails in a 117,000gallon aquarium stocked with 5,000
fish and coral. 2:15-8:45 Thu, 2:15–
9:45 Fri-Sat, 11:30-6:45 Sun; free.
Silverton Casino Hotel Lodge, 3333
Blue Diamond Rd.; 702/263-7777.
andrea gomez romero (3)
More Las Vegas
Sunset Travel Guide
The choices at Cravings—sushi and Caprese
salad to fried chicken—are dizzying.
Breakfast ($14.95) is the best deal; a weekend
Champagne brunch ($25.95) and nightly
dinner ($25.95) are also available. $$$. Mirage,
3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/791-7355.
Diego imports authenticity from Oaxaca,
Veracruz, and the Yucatán. Guacamole made
tableside and six salsa choices are just a
start. For appetizers, crispy empanadas,
packed with crab, roasted poblanos, corn,
and Chihuahua cheese, are a winner. As for
entrées, the chicken mole might be the best
north of the border—tender, smoky meat in
a sauce with the complexity of some 32 ingredients. And real memories of the Yucatán are
evoked by the cochinita pibil. $$$; MGM
Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/891-3200.
Gamble on the outdoors
There’s nothing like an alfresco meal in Vegas
to boost your faith in man’s ability to survive
on Earth. And there’s no better place to do
that than Wolfgang Puck’s eco-friendly
Springs Cafe at Springs Preserve, where
organic dishes are served on the veranda.
Yes, the capital of conspicuous consumption—the Strip—may be visible beyond the
old-growth trees of the city’s natural birthplace, but, spiritually, you couldn’t feel
further away. $$; 333 S. Valley View Blvd.;
More of our favorites from Sin City’s evolved dining scene
Wine Country-style comfort
In the vein of “just like Mom used to make—
only better,” Thomas Keller’s Bouchon offers
every classic French comfort dish the way it
should be done: steamed mussels in a tangy
wine and mustard broth; deeply flavored
onion soup; rosy slices of roast leg of lamb on
a ragout of artichoke bottoms, niçoise olives,
and tomato confit; steak and perfect frites.
No muddled flavors here (a common vice of
11 Sunset Travel Guide
comfort foods)—just pure ingredients and
great technique. Keller’s Napa base, along
with the menu’s heritage, is reflected in the
wines; the chef’s special French selection can
offer a great value and a lesson in French
wines. And breakfast on the patio—coddled
eggs, almond-topped brioche, oversize
lattes—is a French treat. $$$; Venezia Tower at
the Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S.;
Lines form early at Jean-Philippe Pâtisserie
for fresh-grilled crêpes as well as pastries
and chocolates by award-winning pastry chef
Jean-Philippe Maury. The sandwiches are a
bargain. Take a number. $; Bellagio, 3600 S. Las
Vegas Blvd.; 702/693-8788.
High-style surf ‘n’ turf
At Michael Mina’s Seablue, build the beginning of your meal from a priced-by-the-piece
assortment of shellfish; a salad bar on paper
mgm resorts international
Savor Las Vegas
Sin City stein hoists
Entrées on Hofbräuhaus’ menu, like the
Wienerschnitzel, average $16—but
gi-normous portions of some could feed a
family of four. Expect oompah bands, rowdy
dancing, and steins the height of a 2-yearold. $$. 4510 Paradise; 702/853-2337.
Sunset Travel Guide
world of both traditional and innovative
dishes, like miso-glazed wild salmon with a
lotus root–and-ginger sauce; another, a line
of teppan grills where simple cooking
becomes performance art. Here, stellar
ingredients—Kobe-style beef from Oregon,
organic chicken from California, oyster mushrooms—are grilled in front of you and offered
up in a series of courses. Sake served in
flights or cocktails shows its range of styles
and quality. $$$$; MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas
Blvd. S.; 702/891-3001.
Taste sweet rewards
Dark chocolate and wasabi. Caramel and
chocolate over smoked bacon. If there’s one
bit of advice that visitors to the Vintner Grill
should heed, it’s this: Don’t be afraid. Think of
it as chocolate truffles taken to an extreme by
one of the world’s premier chocolatiers,
Vosges Haut-Chocolat. Sample truffle flights
and learn the proper way to devour the treats:
smell, lick, and snap. But first, order standouts
from the contemporary American bistro menu,
like lamb osso bucco. Plan ahead, though;
Vintner Grill has quickly become one of the
toughest tables in town. $$$; 10100 W. Charleston Blvd., Ste. 150; 702/214-5590.
’wichcraft, the hottest spot for a
sandwich above Artful seafood
at Seablue left Wolfgang Puck
Bar & Grill
Cold or grilled gourmet sandwiches and
breakfast breads are served amid Warhol pop
art decor at ’wichcraft, the deli offshoot of
Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak. The roast turkey
gains zing with balsamic onions. Finish with
an ice cream sandwich. $. 3799 Las Vegas Blvd.
At Sensi, sleek walls of water and stone
12 Sunset Travel Guide
surround four glass-enclosed kitchens—one
each for Italian, Asian, grilled foods, and
seafood—where chef Martin Heierling’s
crew prepares international cuisine as diners
watch. The menu ranges from classic ceviches to chicken tikka baked in a tandoori
oven. $$$$; Bellagio, 3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd.;
Sushi and more
A kaleidoscopic wall behind the sushi bar
draws people into Shibuya. The fresh fish, in
sweet, earthy, briny rolls of salmon, shiso,
and avocado topped with salmon roe, or the
ultimate silky toro sushi, would be enough.
But dining rooms follow—one a kelp-forest
Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill resides in the
middle of the MGM Grand casino. “The ultimate California patio,” he calls it. We’d call it
a Las Vegas–style diner (views over the
shoulders of blackjack players being rare on
California decks). He does have the ultimate
Las Vegas snack—crisp, warm, paper-thin
potato chips drizzled with creamy blue
cheese sauce and pungent white truffle oil;
pair them with a glass of champagne. All the
grill favorites are here in fresh, fine form: crab
cakes, Puck’s signature duck bratwurst
sausage, and wood-fired pizzas. Drinks are
even better—try a prickly pear mojito or a
fruity “chop chop.” $$$; MGM Grand, 3799 Las
Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/891-3000.
mgm resorts international (3)
that enables you to make checks next to your
choices (snow peas, shaved crimini mushrooms, olive focaccia croutons); and sets of
appetizers categorized by cooking method:
raw, steamed, or fried (don’t miss the delicious, ridiculous lobster corn dog). For
entrées, stick with the jet-fresh “surf” list
from the grill or the tagines. Seablue’s wine
list is boldly white-heavy, with Rieslings,
Gewürztraminers, Viogniers, and Grüner
Veltliners from their respective sources all
over the world. $$$$; MGM Grand, 3799 Las
Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/891-3486.
Sunset Travel Guide
the water? Evolution Expeditions Kayaking
(see Greater Las Vegas, page 4) offers tours on
Lake Mead and along the Colorado River,
starting at the foot of the dam.
A healthy spa day
Las Vegas prides itself on being a city of sin,
but Canyon Ranch SpaClub (in the Venetian
and the Palazzo; 877/220-2688) caters to
healthful decadence. Relax with a massage
(from $160), or go deeper: Have lunch and
develop a healthy-eating plan with a registered dietitian ($110) or receive a personalized
workout with an exercise physiologist (from
$55). Veering dangerously off your wholesome
path? Restore balance with lunch at the
SpaClub’s Canyon Ranch Grill ($$; in Palazzo;
877/220-2688), where calorie, fat, and fiber
counts are printed on the menu. We’re
tempted by the fresh crab cakes and roastedpepper purée, ahi tuna sandwich, and berry
bowl, all for a slim 530 calories.
Healthy in Vegas
Sin—and repent—in the West’s city of lights
Pass on 4 a.m. roulette and cocktails in favor
of a trip to Vegas with real balance. Enjoy the
electric-lit fantasyland that is the Strip, but
find solitude and peace in the red rock desert
just outside of town.
Leave the Strip
Take a break from city life and drive just 17
miles west of the Strip to explore the Red
Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
13 Sunset Travel Guide
(see Greater Las Vegas, page 4). Wander past
petrified sand dunes, view petroglyphs, and
look for red-tailed hawks. Or drive about
30 minutes southeast of Las Vegas and be
blown away by amazing vistas, red rocks,
and the country’s largest reservoir, Lake
Mead. Created by the hulking, 726-foot-tall
Hoover Dam, the reservoir is surrounded by
the Lake Mead National Recreation Area (see
Greater Las Vegas, page 4). Want to get out on
Where to stay
You’re in Vegas: Gamble a little. The best
deals for hotels are at blind travel booking
sites such as Hotwire.com and Priceline.com.
Nervous? Check the Internet bulletin board
BetterBidding.com to sleuth out what
mystery hotels you may be bidding on. There,
members and moderators track which
amenities listed by the blind sites match up
with which properties. For guaranteed
nonsmoking accommodations, try the Trump
International Hotel (trumpintl.com) or the
Westin Casuarina Las Vegas Hotel, Casino &
thomas j. story
The greener side of Red
Rock Canyon National
Worth the calorie splurge!
Husband and wife chefs Michael and Wendy
Jordan opened Rosemary’s Restaurant ($55
dinner prix fixe; 8125 W. Sahara Ave.; 702/8692251) in a Strip mall in 1999; within a few
years, it was a city favorite. Michael, who
earned his chops working for Emeril, has
cuisine, witnessed in the barbecue shrimp
with blue cheese–laced coleslaw.
Sunset Travel Guide
Five prominent residents share their favorite spots
Oscar Goodman, Mayor of Las Vegas
Las Vegas is successful because we provide an
escape, a fantasy, a mystique. There’s a local
place we go, Vintner Grill; service is great, and
there are lots of young people. I like being
around young people. I like the barbecued
lamb ribs. And the Bombay Sapphire
martini—no vermouth; it takes up too much
room. See Savor Las Vegas, page 11.
Penn Jillette, Illusionist, Penn & Teller
I love the humility of Las Vegas. Notice it
14 Sunset Travel Guide
doesn’t have a casino named Vegas. It has
New York–New York, it has the Rio, it has the
Venetian, it has Paris. It’s the absolute pure
American idea of individuality. And there’s a
wonderful sense of design. Paris Las Vegas:
rooms from $180; parislasvegas.com or 877/7962096. Penn & Teller perform at the Rio All-Suite
Hotel & Casino; tickets from $75; rooms from
$189; riolasvegas.com or 702/777-7777.
Libby Lumpkin, Art Historian &
Former Director, Las Vegas Art
For a local spot that concierges never recommend, there’s Harrie’s Bagelmania ($; 855 E.
jen siska, wolfgang staudt (on flickr creative commons)
Mayor Goodman with
wife Carolyn and
friends below The
Sunset Travel Guide
Twain Ave.; 702/369-3322), also known as
Mort’s. The pastrami Reuben may be the
best in the country. For Chinese after a late
show, there’s Harbor Palace Seafood Restaurant ($; 4275 Spring Mountain Rd.; 702/253-1688),
which is open until 5 a.m. The shrimp dishes
and salmon dim sum are terrific. I think the
food is even better during the lunch hour.
When I arrived here in the early 1990s,
I was hoping to discover funky treasures in
secondhand stores, but I was disappointed
to find that most of the furniture was faux
Asian black lacquer. Now, Vegas has some
cool design stores, including Unica Home
(closed Sun; Mon and Tues by appointment only;
3901 W. Russell Rd.; unicahome.com).
15 Sunset Travel Guide
Rick Moonen, Chef, Rm seafood,
I don’t gamble. I walk through the casinos,
but nothing calls my name. I work too hard
for my money. Red Rock Canyon is my playground—I just love hiking and biking. Nine
days out of ten, you’ll see me biking there.
I never go the same way twice. See Greater
Las Vegas, page 4.
Jonathan Cole, Aerialist, O by Cirque
Rehab, the pool at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino,
is a hoot on Sundays. Go early—it gets
jammed; you can’t even move in the water.
You want to go crazy, you want to wear that
sparkly top. It’s the whole Paris Hilton scene
you should experience. Once. Rehab: 10 a.m.8 p.m.; cover charge from $20; ages 21 and over
only; at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 4455 Paradise Rd.; rehablv.com or 702/693-5000. O is
performed at Bellagio: tickets from $100; 3600
Las Vegas Blvd. S.; bellagio.com or 888/488-7111.
jen siska (3)
Heading into Red Rock Canyon
above Life is a party at Rehab
left The Eiffel Tower at Paris
Locals know that there’s more to Las
Vegas than fake mountains and celebrity chefs. On the first Friday of each
month, thousands flock to a Vegas-style
block party—including bands, chalk
drawing, and dancing—in the Arts
District between the Strip and the old
downtown. And if you can’t make First
Friday, you can still check out the galleries, antiques stores with great midcentury finds, and casual restaurants.
First Friday The next First Friday
event starts at 6 p.m. Dec. 3, 2010. Free.
firstfriday-lasvegas.org or 702/384-0092.
Arts District More than 30 studios,
galleries, shops, and cafes, spread
across about 18 blocks. Most galleries
are along Main St. and Casino Center
Blvd., from Charleston Blvd. south to
Casa Don Juan Predictable Mexican
menu but particularly tasty food. Closed
Sun. $; 1204 S. Main St.; 702/384-8070.
Luv-It Frozen Custard Yummy
frozen treats at a walk-up stand.
A favorite since 1973, the Western
Sundae oozes with gooey caramel,
fudge, and salted pecans over frozen
custard. Closed Sun, Mon. 505 E. Oakey
The Arts Factory Heart of the arts
scene, with 21 galleries. Hours vary by
gallery, but all are open during First
Friday. 101–109 E. Charleston Blvd.;
Commerce Street Studios This
gallery center houses eight studios.
Open First Friday and by appointment.
1551 S. Commerce St.; 702/678-6278.
The Attic Retro shop with two stories
of Elvis costumes, faux leopard furniture, and multicolored wigs. Closed
Sun, Mon. $1 admission (goes toward any
purchase totaling more than $5); 1018 S.
Main St.; 702/388-4088.
The Funk House Acrylic resin lighting, midcentury modern furniture,
vintage art. 1228 S. Casino Center Blvd.;
Sunset Travel Guide
A room with a view at
the Four Seasons
right Arctic Ice
Room at Caesar’s
Qua Baths & Spa
More Las Vegas lodging we love
Then hit the mineral-infused Frigidarium
plunge pool, warmed to a pleasant 72°.
Rooms from $110; caesarspalace.com
The pools at Caesars Palace have always
been about fabulous Vegas excess: the football field–size Neptune pool, the “Europeanstyle” (aka topless) Venus pool ($20). Now,
five new ones have been added to the mix,
including Fortuna with its swim-up blackjack.
Insider tip: High-rollers can have the $400
cabanas; we’ll take the $20 minor upgrade to
a cushy scoop lounge chair. The pool isn’t the
Four Seasons Las Vegas
This non-casino resort bursts with Old World
glamour—think glossed marble and lots of
swirls in gold and cream. Overheard (amid
flurry of kissy-kiss greeting): “You look fabulous!” “No, you look fabulous!” Hidden behind
gardens at the Strip’s south end, the décor
exudes elegance in a rich kind of way, and let’s
face it—there’s something very calming about
luxury. Guests can check out the adjacent
wave pool and river run at Mandalay Bay, then
retreat back to the quieter Four Seasons pool
16 Sunset Travel Guide
only place to cool off, either. Let everyone
else sweat buckets on the Strip while you
settle into the Arctic Ice Room, at the Qua
Baths & Spa. Here, the air feels polar, snowflakes drift from the domed ceiling, and the
dim blue lighting and twinkling “stars”
conjure the feel of a wintry night. Don’t
worry, your teeth won’t chatter nor will your
lips turn blue—not with heated benches to
warm your derrière, and the sauna next door.
larry hanna, harra’s entertainment
Sin City sleeps
The Venetian Las Vegas The Asianthemed Tao Beach oasis at the Venetian sports a dance floor and 14-foottall fire columns. Call ahead, and
expect exclusivity and luxury (private
masseuses, personal misters, tanning
butlers, anyone?). Cover charge varies;
Palms Casino Resort The pool is just
as swanky, if a little less star-studded,
with crystal-clear water, outdoor
blackjack, and a bar beneath a glassbottomed pool. palms.com
Golden Nugget The hotel gives the
phrase “pool shark” new meaning:
A three-story waterslide tube shoots
swimmers past shark-filled waters.
Hotel guests only; goldennugget.com
Sunset Travel Guide
A suite at Wynn Las
Vegas right The
pool at Renaissance
understated and elegant. Nonwagering types
will appreciate the absence of smoke and slot
machines. Request a west-facing room for a
fantastic view of the golf course at the superluxe Wynn Las Vegas Country Club. From $139;
Hilton Grand Vacations Club
You don’t have to be a member of the Grand
Vacations Club to stay here. Road-tripping
families save cash with the kitchenettes. The
family scene isn’t always quiet and the location is at the far north end of the Strip, but the
large rooms offer well-priced refuge.
For non-casino lodging, there’s plenty to do
onsite: downstairs from the circular lobby, the
activities room has air hockey, foosball, and
pool tables. From $99; hilton.com
Loews Lake Las Vegas Resort
Located on the fringes of Henderson southeast of the Strip, the resort is built around a
purely recreational lake. A Jack Nicklaus–
designed golf course also sits along the lakeshore, with jagged desert mountains for a
17 Sunset Travel Guide
backdrop. You won’t find any pirate ships or a
regularly scheduled volcano eruption, but
guests can kayak or takeout a paddleboat to
explore the lake and its bays, where you can
experience the kind of serenity all but impossible to get on the Strip. With its earth-tone
exterior and tile roof, the resort manages to
blend nicely into the setting. Inside, the decor
is understated, with an airy lobby. Lighting
and furnishings are imported from Morocco
but show none of the theme park–style excess
of the Strip. From $169; loewshotels.com
Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel
The strains of Sinatra provide the only clue
that you’re in Sin City at the nongaming
Renaissance Las Vegas. Tucked between the
famous Strip and the Las Vegas Convention
Center, the AAA Four Diamond Award
winner—which at 548 rooms qualifies as a
boutique hotel by Vegas standards—is both
Wynn Las Vegas
The most elegant—and gimmick-free, save
for the lobby’s Maserati dealership—place
to rest your head in Vegas. From $299; wynnlas
wynn resorts, renaissance las vegas hotel
(where Mandalay Bay guests can’t follow).
From $275; fourseasons.com/lasvegas
Abstract squiggle art, black-lacquered wood,
and diffused golden light give a glow to this
new über-elite hotel on Mandalay Bay’s
60-acre property. A separate entrance offers
sanctuary from the Strip hubbub, though the
the thing—THEcoffeebar and THEcafe too—
dampens our mellow buzz just a bit. On the
64th floor, Alain Ducasse’s Mix ($$$$) offers
tremendous views each evening in a white
dining room with a curtain of glass baubles.
From $189; mandalaybay.com
Sunset Travel Guide
Find more inspiration for travel in the West
10 great one-night escapes
For some, spending more than 24 hours in Sin City is much too
much—but for others, a one-night vaca is the perfect amount
of time to quickly recharge. Check out our top 10 24-hour
escapes in the West, from a hip desert pool scene just two
hours from L.A. to a blissful retreat outside Denver.
7 ways to soak up autumn
in the Southwest
Enchanted by the red-rock beauty outside Vegas? Discover even
more of the Southwest’s striking landscapes this fall. Beat the
crowds, enjoy lower temperatures, and revel in the outdoors in
spots like Zion National Park, Taos, Gila Wilderness, and more.
Your ultimate resource for travel in the
West, Sunset Travel is packed with tips
on the best places to go, from National
Parks to urban retreats. Get inspired
with Sunset’s ideas for fun weekend
trips or the ultimate Western vacation.
24 must-see spots
Our national monuments and other
treasures will make you fall in love
with the West all over again. Build a
great vacation around a spectacular
island, forest, desert cliff dwelling,
canyon, fossil bed, tower, or volcano.
18 Sunset Travel Guide
Clockwise from left: dave lauridsen, D. L. Thompson & Jon Johnson, arizona office of tourism
Sunset Travel Guide
Explore the best
of the West
Discover these destinations and more in our full library of travel
guides, available as free downloads at
Top 7 Hawaii
Dining, and More
Best of Los
National Park &
Hotels and More
Best of San
Best of Portland:
Best of San
Best of CA’s
San Luis Obispo
and More 2010
Things to Do in
Sedona RedRock Country,
and More 2010
Hotel Deals &
Things to Do in
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