Las Vegas may be holding on to its party hat, but the resort city is simultaneously seducing travellers with wellness retreats and a tantalising menu of unbeatable restaurants, writes Emily Eastman
As a city in constant flux, Las Vegas was always destined to appear on the radar of tourists seeking relaxation alongside recreation. Combine that with the launch of low-cost direct flights from the UK with Norwegian, and a long weekend here is now an attractive option. The carrier’s new Boeing 787 Dreamliners are faster, greener and reduce the effects of jet lag, meaning our group of six is raring to go when we land.
After checking in and freshening up at Park MGM – Vegas’s newest hotel and casino, conveniently situated in the middle of the Strip – we head out for cocktails and dinner at Beauty & Essex in The Cosmopolitan. The restaurant blends opulent decor with a knockout menu and that fabled American service. We sample tomato tartare, raw salmon tacos, juicy tomahawk steak and an unlikely favourite: individual spoonfuls of thick tomato soup topped with cheesy croutons.
Our appetites sated, we make our way to the Hard Rock Hotel, where I have little time to psyche myself up for the night’s entertainment: Magic Mike Live. Those familiar with the film can probably guess the format: part strip show, part tightly choreographed dance performance, with lap dances thrown in for good measure. There’s no denying the performers’ talent, but if it isn’t your thing, Vegas has an entertainment schedule bursting with options. Lady Gaga began her residency in January, joining the likes of Britney Spears, Celine Dion and Aerosmith, while Cirque du Soleil and the Blue Man Group are among the most popular productions.
We rise early on Saturday morning to blow away the cobwebs at SoulCycle, a spin class that combines a dark room with pulsing music (think: high-tempo remixes of Nirvana, Childish Gambino and Amy Winehouse), dance and weights. We round off with green smoothies from The Juice Standard before heading to lunch at Primrose at Park MGM, a gorgeous eatery serving “French-ish” fare where the service is attentive without being intrusive.
Our plans for the evening involve cocktails, dinner and a nightclub, so to get in the mood we stop by Violet Hour Salon and have our hair and make-up done while sipping champagne.
Dinner tonight is at CATCH, a sushi, seafood and steak restaurant frequented by celebrities. I keep one eye out for George Clooney as I snap photos of the restaurant’s stunning entrance: a corridor of plants, flowers and fairy lights that curl overhead to impressive effect. Once seated, we ask for whatever our waiter recommends. He does not disappoint. Sharing platters of mouthwatering salmon and crab sushi and sashimi, mushroom truffle-oil spaghetti and the signature CATCH roll – which is scorched with a blowtorch to release the flavours – appear. The menu features vegetarian and vegan options, plus extensive wine, beer and cocktail lists: the mojito expertly balances sweet and sharp. This meal is my favourite, but the best is yet to come. We sit in rapturous silence as dessert arrives: a melting chocolate cake with layers of ice cream and caramel. It’s the tastiest dessert I’ve ever eaten.
We practically roll out of the restaurant and embark on a whistle-stop tour of some of Vegas’s best cocktail lounges, supping French 75s at Rosina, Electra and The Dorsey at The Venetian, all part of The Cocktail Collective, before making our way to TAO Nightclub, where we make the most of the VIP Experience table service.
Vegas might be the entertainment capital of the world, but it still values a lie in. We emerge mid-morning on Sunday for a leisurely brunch at Giada at The Cromwell – a light, airy space with great views of the Strip and friendly, intuitive service. Small portions of pasta soak up our hangovers before we devour dessert from the “Build Your Own Brownie” cart.
The afternoon is spent exploring the hotel lobbies – an attraction in themselves. I’m struck by the condensed joy of Vegas: the extravagant hotel designs and decorations are simply there for people to enjoy, and everyone is here to have fun.
Having somehow worked up an appetite, we join the Lip Smacking Foodie “Savours of the Strip Tour” where we sample a different course and drinks in four restaurants: Bardot Brasserie (wild burgundy snails, king crab and more French 75s); Julian
Serrano (tuna cones, Spanish croquettes and paella Valenciana); Estiatorio Milos (grilled octopus and Greek salad); and CUCINA by Wolfgang Puck (salted caramel budino, tiramisu, Italian doughnuts and espresso mousse). The night ends with cocktails at Juniper, where the drinks are served in whimsical glasses.
Perhaps saving the best for last, we while away our final morning at The Spa at ARIA. Tranquil, uncrowded and luxurious, it’s an ideal spot to unwind. Our facials leave our skin aglow (and hydrated for the flight home), and I feel rejuvenated as we make our way to lunch at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago. Our girls’ weekend concludes in style: with caviar and oysters followed by smoked salmon pizza and hand-made pasta drizzled in truffle oil.
The entertainment capital of the world has added valuable strings to its bow – hedonism, gastronomy and relaxation make for a great break.