Confessions of a Las Vegas Hotel Hopper
I wasn't the biggest fan of Las Vegas until I adjusted my attitude about the flamboyant city of sin. I'm no gambler. I like to win, but I don't drop the kind of money necessary to do Vegas proper. I'm also wary of 24-hour buffets and uber-popular Cirque du Soleil-type shows. And long lines to enter cheesy nightclubs aren't my forte.
What I do dig is the continual design and cultural revitalization of Las Vegas – something that has revealed the desert city to be quite the architectural, if not starchitectural Mecca.
Perhaps the best way to travel through Vegas is as a hotel hopper. There's no better way to embark on a pampered exploration of the strip's luxurious revitalization of noveau shiny structures and neo-renovated older ones then to pass through multiple gilded lobbies.
So here's my guide to slinking through Vegas with a little sophistication as a jetsetting hotel hopper.
Vegas is a quick flight from most U.S. cities. In January 2011 there were 17,346 landings into McCarran International Airport. That's roughly 560 a day coming in from 138 different cities. Pack light and sexy, with day-to-night wear. Reconcile your ego to wearing the same fabulous outfit twice. (Title your Facebook photo album "Hotel Hopping in Vegas!" and no one will know that same outfit was worked over two days.) Not renting a car? Pack comfy shoes – the resort corridor is about four miles long. Otherwise cab it.
Research vs. winging it.
Those who tear it up for a bachelorette or bachelor party still need a plan. The oft-witty prose on Vegas Chatter can be a helpful guide for what's hot. Among a plethora of other sites detailing Vegas deals and lowdowns, there's the reliable VisitLasVegas. Some of the best opportunities for cheap rates come through the hotels' Facebook and Twitter updates.
Flow with the faux.
To be fair to the Vegas hotels, I celebrated the faux cultural richness ten years ago when staying at the Aladdin (now the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino). I remember walking through the artificial marketplace, or, souk and feeling impressed by the sort of authenticity that what was recreated. It was reminiscent of ones I'd walked through in Israel, Istanbul, and Dubai. There's something special about walking across New York, New York's Brooklyn Bridge, beneath Paris' Eiffel Tower and gliding through Venetian's canals. Admittedly, I have an "Ocean's 11" goose-bump moment when watching the Bellagio's evening water show.
Architecture and design buffs can pillage the entire Strip Skyline, but City Center alone has plenty razzle-dazzle. Wander through Pelli Clarke Pelli's work at Aria and then tram or pedestrian footbridge over to the Vdara where Rafael Vinoly's crescent work is on display, and on over to Helmut Jahn's leaning Veer Towers and Kohn Pedersen Fox'sMandarin Oriental. Supreme starchitectDaniel Libeskind's work at Crystals is a showstopper with it's angular, cube-like exterior. And pair elastic pants with those walking shoes: CityCenter also hosts a line-up of celebrity chefs, including Michael Mina, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Julian Serrano. Remember, if you can't afford to sleep somewhere doesn't mean you can't be a judge. Compare ostentation between the two hotel development moguls Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson in a battle of brazenness within the Wynn, Encore, and Venetian.
Survey the amenities.
Vegas hotel swimming pools and spas are necessary in desert heat.Want the opulence of the Riviera? There's the Azure pool and the legendary Canyon Ranch Spa at The Venetian and Palazzo. The actual beach may be a few hundred miles away, but a pop over to the Golden Nugget allows for a swim in the Tank – a 200,000-gallon, $20 million pool filled with the toothy troublemakers. For a saltwater swim, there's Wet Republic at MGM Grand. Continuing the beach theme is Mandalay Bay Beach replete with a lazy river and sandy coast in front of a giant wave pool. And most over-the-top decadent is to dip one's toes in the oasis that is the Garden of the Gods at Caesars Palace. Perfect after a little "social spa-ing" at the waterfalls or shocking the system from the snow falling Arctic Ice Room all within in the new Qua spa. (Last week Caesar's announced the addition of a Nobu Hotel.)
Peruse modern and high art
Vegas is the capital of kitsch but it also has an impressive collection of high art. Sure, the breasts displayed on the strip are always fake, but in addition to those with saline and silicone, are those sculpted from marble and plaster. CityCenter boasts a $20 million fine art collection. There's the Bellagio's gallery where currently on display are the works of Renoir, Picasso, and Degasamong others. Sadly, what kicked it all off at The Venetian – home briefly of the Guggenheim Hermitage, closed its doors in May 2008. Embracing the kitsch can be ironic no? At least it's something when alcohol is involved. After all, it takes skill to carve out a room made entirely of ice within the desert. Monte Carlo and Mandalay Bay made hedonism freeze over with Minus 5 Ice Bar.
Avoid reality show stars.
Unless it's your thing. Kim Kardashian dropped by the opening of Sugar Factory at Paris. Kardashian's sisters Kourtney and Khloe make their club appearances. The Jersey Shore's Pauly D regularly spins sets. Fellow cast member Ronnie recently performed in Chippendales. Hugh Hefner's ex Holly Madison is a promotional staple and MTV's The Real World just filmed at the Hard Rock Café Hotel, so sponsored nights are aplenty. Cosmopolitan brings in a higher caliber of stars for events like the epic mash-up between Jay-Z and Coldplay.
Like everything in Vegas, the luster is lost by Day Two. The secret is to leave before you're ready, so you never grow sick of what makes the Strip fantastic. From museum hopping to bar hopping, there's an expiration for how long fun last before you're over-cultured with tired feet, or three sheets to the wind.
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