Blue Moon Resort (2651 Westwood Ave, 702-361-9099 or 866-798-9194, $69-239) is an all-male, clothing-optional, Palm Springs-style resort with 45 rooms and suites; it's a converted chain motel, in the shadows of I-15, but it is a very short drive to the Strip. Expect a nice array of amenities, such as pillow-top mattresses and down comforters, an on-call masseuse and steam room. Lounge by the lagoon-style pool with waterfalls and a 10-man Jacuzzi grotto. A coffeehouse serves breakfast fare, soups, and sandwiches throughout the day. Blue Moon can help arrange airfare and car rentals and also features special romance package deals for commitment ceremonies--no Elvis impersonators presiding here! Check out the resort's variety of exciting sightseeing tours, helicopter flights, Black Canyon River rafting excursions, action-adventure trips and collection of Las Vegas shows for gay and lesbian visitors. You are sure to find something that will get your blood pumping! Day passes are available.
Lucky You Bed & Breakfast (702-384-1129, $59-$79) is an ornate private home with four shared-bath guest rooms, just a few blocks from the Strip and gay nightlife. Amenities include a clothing-optional pool, hot tub and indoor sauna. All rooms have TVs, VCRs and phones. Rates include a full breakfast prepared by owner/host Ole, who once served as executive chef to Liberace.
MAINSTREAM, BUT GAY-FRIENDLY ACCOMMODATIONS
Our current favorite place to stay is the Mandalay Bay (3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-632-7777 or 877-/632-7800, $99-$699), which features a tasteful South Seas island theme, with an 11-acre tropical lagoon with a sandy beach and a six-foot wave pool perfect for body surfing, House of Blues and a 1,700-seat theater (currently featuring "Mamma Mia," the Broadway musical composed from the greatest hits of ABBA). The resort became even more fabulous in 2004 with the opening of the ultra-posh Hotel at Mandalay (877/632-7800; www.hotelatmandalaybay.com; $109-$799), a separate 43-story hotel wing with 1,120 stunning suites, all with 42-inch plasma TVs, marble-and-granite bathrooms, high-speed Internet, whirlpool tubs, and crisp, cool design schemes. It's the closest thing Las Vegas has to a W Hotel, and yet it's attached to the rest of Mandalay Bay's beautiful facilities. The Hotel at Mandalay Bay also has a great restaurant and its own chichi spa, The Bathhouse. Dining options throughout Mandalay Bay include arguably the best collection of restaurants of any casino resort, with Aureole, Wolfgang Puck's Trattoria del Lupo, Fleur de Lys, Red Square, Border Grill, MIX, restaurant rm, THEcafé at THEhotel and China Grill. The rooms are spacious and attractive, service is good, and we just love the pool. A small but attractive high-end shopping mall connects Mandalay Bay to the Luxor.
On the 24-acre grounds of Paris-Las Vegas (3655 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-739-4111 or 877-796-2096, $109-$559), you'll find replicas of the Arc de Triomphe and a half-scale Eiffel Tower. The resort has done nearly everything possible to simulate an "authentically French" environment (e.g., placing armoires instead of closets in each guest room) and a recent ad campaign features plenty of rainbow flag-waving as well. Eleven mostly French-inspired restaurants are on-site, as well as a 25,000 square-foot Paris Spa.
Cleverly located atop the Mandalay Bay, the supremely posh Four Seasons Hotel (3960 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702/632-5000 or 877/632-5000, $370-$660) offers the only non-gaming luxury accommodation in the city. For travelers seeking tranquility in a sea of neon, the Four Seasons is a welcome oasis, with full access to Mandalay Bay facilities, but featuring its own lobby, reception, two outstanding restaurants (Charlie Palmer Steak and the Verandah), bar/lounge, health/fitness center, pool, full-service spa, and 24-hour room service.
Easily the most talked-about development along the Strip, Wynn Las Vegas (3131 Las Vegas Boulevard, 702-770-7100 or 888-320-9966, $239-399) is a mammoth and spectacular $2.7 billion spread that opened in late April 2005 to considerable fanfare. From the unbelievably plush rooms to such swish dining options as Daniel Boulud Brasserie, Alex, and Okada to such high-end shops as Gaultier, Manolo Blahnik and the in-house Ferrari-Maserati dealership, this place has definitely raised the bar on Vegas luxury. Wynn purchased the Desert Inn property (3145 Las Vegas Boulevard; 702/733-4444, fax 702/733-4676) and the buildings are going up now for his follow-up, the aptly named Encore Resort, which is expected to cost another $1.5 billion by the time it opens in early 2008.
Although it's a short cab ride off the strip (about a half-mile west, near Rio Suites), the 440-room Palms Casino Resort (4321 W. Flamingo Rd., 702-942-7777 or 866/942-7770, $89-$399) ranks right up there with any casino in town when it comes to hip, trendy digs and see-and-be-seen nightclubs and restaurants. After it opened late in 2001, it quickly became of a favorite haunt of celebrities (Leonardo DiCaprio, Pink, Jude Law, Gwen Stefani), who flock to Rain nightclub and Ghostbar, which has an outdoor 54th-floor deck that affords spectacular views of the city skyline. Such stellar restaurants as Alizé, Little Buddha (a spin-off of Paris' famous Buddha Bar) and N9NE steakhouse (a famed Chicago import) add to the Palms' skyrocketing cachet. The casino was also the host of the ever-silly "Real World Las Vegas" on MTV (you can rent the cast's snazzy 2,900-square-foot three-bedroom apartment for a mere $5,000 per weeknight, $10,000 on weekends). Standard rooms are 440 square feet and up, and deluxe accommodations have marble-tile Jacuzzi tubs and 32-inch TVs. Other amenities include a 14-theater multiplex, seven restaurants, a 20,000-square-foot spa, and a fabulous, recently redesigned pool fringed with bamboo cabanas.
If you want to spend a little cash, look no further than the Skylofts at MGM Grand (3799 Las Vegas Boulevard, 702/891-7777 or 877/880-0880, email@example.com; $800-10,500), which comprises 51 stunning two-story loft suites with 1-3 bedrooms and occupies the MGM Grand's top two floors. The fun begins when you're delivered from the airport to Skylofts' own private lobby via a Mercedes Maybach 62 limousine. Accommodations have butler service, Sony HDTVs, "Immersion Chamber" bathrooms with steam rooms and infinity-edge Jacuzzis and 24-foot floor-to-ceiling windows.
A bit more subdued and certainly more affordable, the non-gaming Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel (3400 Paradise Road, 702-733-6533 or 866-352-3434, $139-269) offers a sleek 21st-century take on '50s Rat Pack glam. Located next to the convention center (and right by a stop on the city's fun but overpriced new monorail), its mid-century modern rooms delight design-minded guests with groovy, low-slung furniture and flat-screen TVs. It's a great alternative to the over-the-top glitz of the Strip, and its ENVY Steakhouse is superb.
Bellagio (3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S, 702-693-7111 or 888-987-6667, $199-799) cost $1.8 billion to build, and includes a $200-million art gallery and a nine-acre lake resembling Lake Como, with elegant waterfalls and classical gardens. Renovations completed in 2005 included an extra 928 rooms and suites, expanded spa and salon, 60,000 feet of extra meeting and function rooms and the sumptuous Jean-Philippe Patisserie. This upscale resort boasts a spectacular array of restaurants, including Le Cirque, Sensi, and one of our favorites, Picasso; a water-themed show by Cirque du Soleil (cleverly called "O," playing off the French word for water, eau); and high-end fashion outlets, including Chanel, Prada and Hérmes.
The $2-billion, all-suite Venetian (3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702/733-5000 or 888/283-6423, $169-$699) brings all things Venice to the Las Vegas Strip, including indoor and outdoor Gondola rides for $12.50-15 for adults or $50-$60 for a private two person gondola ride (cheaper than rides in Venice, which begin at $100), St. Mark's Square and a Grand Canal. An outpost of the Guggenheim Museum is on site, and the first Madame Tussaud's wax museum in the United States is located at the front of the Venetian. The restaurant list is among the most impressive in town, including Tao, the ultra-lounge and sushi den imported from New York, Emeril Lagasse's Delmonico Steakhouse, and Wolfgang Puck's Postrio. A Canyon Ranch Spa and Cafe round out the top-name amenities.
The Aladdin resort is being redeveloped into Planet Hollywood (3667 Las Vegas Blvd S., 702-785-5555 or 877-333-9474, $69-$499), which has hired Starwood Hotels (Sheraton, W Hotels, Westin, etc.) to manage it. All evidence suggests that it's going to become one of the most impressive properties on the Strip when it's completed in 2007.
The nearest resort property to the city's pulsing little gay district, the hip Hard Rock Las Vegas Hotel (4455 Paradise Rd, 702-693-5544 or 800-473-7625, $99-$699) lies one block east of the Strip. Despite the cheesy reputation of the Hard Rock restaurant chain, this handsome hotel pulls in a cool crowd with its contemporary room furnishings, celeb-frequented bars and lounges, and A-list restaurants, which include Nobu, AJ's Steakhouse, and the Pink Taco. You can walk to Hamburger Mary's, Gipsy, and FreeZone from here.
Loews Lake Las Vegas Resort (101 Montelago Blvd., Henderson, 702-567-6000 or 800-23-LOEWS, $199-$350) is on the north shore of Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, 17 miles from the Las Vegas Strip, on the former site of the Hyatt Regency Resort. A private 320-acre lake surrounds the hotel, which features 493 guest rooms. An 18-hole golf course, full-service spa and European-style casino are among the features. Get "tee'd off," tempt Lady Luck, get roughed up, or just plain luxuriate at the sumptuous spa.
A snazzy Ritz Carlton (1610 Lake Las Vegas Pkwy., Henderson, 702-567-4700 or 800-241-3333 or, fax 702/567-4777, $179-$600) is also in the Lake Las Vegas area. The Mediterranean-style luxury resort features 349 rooms and suites, a full-service spa and fitness center, 36 holes of championship golf, beach and lake activities and Italian gardens. It doesn't get any more elegant in these parts than the Ritz, which offers incredibly deft service and a serene ambience that sets it well apart from luxury hotels on the Strip.
Caesars Palace (3750 Vegas Blvd. S, 702-731-7110 or 877-427-7243, $129-$600) still reigns as one of the classiest of large hotels. The tower rooms, pool and spa are among the town's best. Forum Shops mall is home to some of the fanciest shopping and dining in town, and it's forever expanding. The Augustus Tower saw Guy Savoy's dining room and a 35,000-foot spa open in spring 2006. Caesars was also one of the first casinos to boast top-name dining options, and the roster remains highly impressive, with Jean-Marie Josselin's Hawaiian fusion room 808, Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill, and Bradley Ogden's eponymous restaurant. Plus, it's home to Celine Dion and Elton John's live shows.
The Mirage (3400 Vegas Blvd. S, 702-791-7111 or 800-374-9000, $99-$625) is another class act, with a tropical motif that makes its casino one of the most pleasant to sit in. Service and facilities are excellent. Bally's (3645 Las Vegas Blvd. S, 702-739-4111 or 888-742-9248, fax 702-739-4405, $69-$799) is a solid non-themed choice, with a sophisticated, comfortable casino and a monorail connection to the MGM Grand. It does a large convention and meetings business, making it comfortable for business travelers. The Luxor (3900 Las Vegas Blvd S, 702-262-4100 or 888-777-0188, $79-$629) is a gay favorite, with a nice combination of good rates, an excellent gym, spa, and pool complex, and really great rooms in its tower. The Egyptian theme is well executed and tasteful. A recently opened mall connects the Luxor to Mandalay Bay. Note that the corner elevators don't access every floor.
The Flamingo Las Vegas (3555 Vegas Blvd. S, 702-733-3111 or 800-HARRAHS, $55-$350) has historical appeal (it was Bugsy Siegel's dream back in 1946) and has been refurbished and updated with fun touches like real pink flamingos and penguins frolicking near the great outdoor pool/grotto complex. The all-suites Rio Hotel (3700 W. Flamingo Rd., 702-777-7777 or 888-746-7153, $89-$499) has a Latin Carnival theme, great prices, huge rooms and great views. Just west of the Strip, the Rio offers easy access to I-15, a good variety of dining options--budget through gourmet, with diverse ethnic offerings--and friendly, efficient service.
For those who really want to escape the tourists, the Alexis Park Resort (375 E. Harmon Ave, 702-796-3300 or 800-582-2228, fax 702-796-3357, $69-$349) is one of the few hotels in town with no neon, gaming tables or slots, making it peacefully attractive, more affordable than the Four Seasons, and very popular with businesspeople. It is a country club-like complex of 32 Mediterranean-style buildings set on 19 acres of landscaped gardens. If you're on a tight budget and want tacky Vegas in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip, the Imperial Palace (3535 Las Vegas Blvd. S, 702-731-3311 or 800-634-6441, $75-$219) is the place. Don't say we didn't warn you.
The Sahara (2535 Las Vegas Blvd. S, 702-737-2111 or 888-696-2121, $45-$330) is a great budget option, with rooms and suites in a Moroccan motif and a 5,000-square-foot pool. The Barbary Coast (3595 Vegas Blvd. S, 702-737-7111 or 888-227-2279, $80-$180), which becomes a Harrah's property Feb. 1, offers similar savings and a great location in the dead center of the Strip. The Golden Nugget (129 E. Fremont St., 702-385-7111 or 800-846-5336, $59-$339) is the best choice downtown, elegantly appointed with spacious rooms and extra-large beds.