Thirteen Pro-Tips for Visiting Las Vegas
What makes a city a great place to have your convention on high-yield bonds or consumer electronics? The easy answer for respectable businessfolk is: plenty of places to eat and shop, an abundance of swimming pools to sun themselves by, and a few places to let their hair down and hit the clubs.
Las Vegas provides it all. Over the past 15 years the city has transformed its convention center to become America’s third-largest. Besides the center itself, the hotels have vast spaces. And whether it’s a mild winter or a broiling summer, you almost never have to go outside. Each hotel complex is a world to itself; at Caesars it’s perpetually dusk on the Italian coast. The Cosmopolitan hides a retro-pizza parlor called Secret Pizza. Decide which suits your style best. The biggest change is the City Center complex with its array of starchitect towers. It marks a clear shift away from pulsating lights to chic modern and better restaurants like Jean-Georges Steakhouse and Bardot. In a way, Las Vegas is now more like Hong Kong with its series of interconnected, air-conditioned malls.
The rule on restaurants is simple: if it’s off a casino floor, raise your antennae. Exceptions to this rule are L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Le Cirque, Wolfgang Puck and Jose Andres. Almost everything else are mediocre, expensive copies to be avoided. You’d play your hand better at Danny Meyer’s new Shake Shack or Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace.
Top Hotel Complexes
The Cosmopolitan: Smack in the center of everything. Huge. Tons of good restaurants and hipster shops, plus interiors by David Rockwell. It gets the balance between Old and New Vegas just right. Spending big? Get a terraced penthouse. Blackstone purchased the complex in 2013. That means: “smartly run.”
Mandarin Oriental: Part of the stunning and vast Aria center, this is one of the few non-gambling hotels. A perfect antidote.
Encore: Steve Wynn is LV’s reigning King and this is his latest mega-hotel. It’s less kitschy than the Venetian, and more refined than the Bellagio with some of the best retail shops and golf.
Caesars Palace: The oddest and at the same time most authentic mega-hotel. Its over the top-everything typifies the city. A unit of Caesars Entertainment Corp. may have filed for bankruptcy, but don’t worry: the champagne is still flowing.
SLS: The new kid on The Strip, this is closest to the Ace Hotel/Chateau Marmont experience. North but on the monorail.
Bartolotta: A spectacular room facing an artificial lake is the setting for one of the best fish-focused spots in America. It’s surreal to have Italian fish flown daily to the Nevada desert.
Bouchon: One of the few copies of a famous restaurant that works in part because the room is set apart from the casino floor.
Guy Savoy: Go to a four-star Paris restaurant without leaving the U.S. Bar seats are available at short notice.
Marquee: The hottest nightclub in town at the Cosmopolitan. Pay for VIP tickets; it makes the “velvet rope” scene easier.
Aria: After a night of slamming tequila shots, the all-you-can-eat brunch is the traditional hangover cure. Aria is the most pleasant and best quality of all the deals for sale and there are many. SLS is a close second. The Bellagio is a distant third.
Cash Is King: In a city where gambling remains at the heart of everything, tip big. Bellmen, doormen, even the maid in your hotel room. Closed doors at hot bars/clubs miraculously open. Keep a tidy roll of $10s and $20s. At restaurants/clubs $50/$100.
The Monorail Works: The LV Monorail connects the Convention Center to the heart of The Strip. There’s another system that connects the hotels on the lower strip. Otherwise you pay for taxis to take you not very far for too much money.
Leave Las Vegas: Some good restaurants are off The Strip, like Lotus of Siam — one of the best Thai places in America. Go see “old” Las Vegas — the northern Strip. This is where the wedding chapels and original casinos are and it has a Downtown LA vibe. It’s also worth the drive to Hoover Dam. If you’ve scored at Blackjack, take a helicopter to see the Grand Canyon.