ON THE STRIP
Our current favorite place to stay in Vegas is the Mandalay Bay (3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-632-7777 or 877-632-7800; $120+), which features a tasteful South Seas island theme, an 11-acre tropical lagoon with a sandy beach and a six-foot wave pool perfect for body surfing, the House of Blues, and a 1,700-seat theater (currently featuring Mamma Mia, the Broadway musical composed from the greatest hits of ABBA). So queer-friendly it's sometimes called Mandalay Gay, the resort became even more fabulous a few years back with the opening of the ultra-posh Hotel at Mandalay (877-632-7800; $150+), a separate 43-story hotel wing with 1,117 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 (especially since for now Starwood's scrapped its plans for a W Vegas), 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 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, THEcaf? at THEhotel, and China Grill (see below). The rooms are spacious and attractive, service is good, and we just love the pool. Mandalay Bay Place, a small but attractive high-end shopping mall including an Urban Outfitters and a soon-to-open Lush outlet, connects Mandalay Bay to the Luxor.
Properly poised on five floors atop the Mandalay Bay, the supremely posh Four Seasons Hotel (3960 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-632-5000 or 877-632-5000; $275+) was the first to offer non-gaming luxury accommodation in the city. For travelers seeking tranquility amidst 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.
One of the most talked about developments along the Strip in recent years has been Wynn Las Vegas (3131 Las Vegas Boulevard; 702-770-7000 or 888-321-9966; $199+), a mammoth and spectacular $2.7 billion spread that opened in 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) and the buildings are nearly complete now for his follow-up, the aptly named Encore Resort, which is slated to open in December 2008 with 2,034 suites, 11 retail outlets, and five signature restaurants.
If you want to spend a little cash, look no further than the Skylofts at MGM Grand (3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 877-646-5638; $700+), 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.
More affordable but still rather exclusive, the three-towered Signature at MGM Grand (145 E. Harmon Ave.; 877-612-2121; $149+) has a separate gated entrance a block away from the main hotel, granting peace from the madding crowds but still giving full property access to those who want it. Its 546 spacious and stylish rooms include kitchens or kitchenettes, lending even further to the non-casino apartment-living feel.
The powerhouse that cost $1.8 billion to build and spawned the Vegas trend toward true luxury when it opened in 1998, Bellagio (3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-693-7111 or 888-987-6667; $149+) is still serving up swank, including a $200-million art gallery and a nine-acre lake resembling Lake Como, with elegant waterfalls and classical gardens. A 2005 upgrade added 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; Cirque du Soleil's famous water-themed show (cleverly called "O," playing off the French word for water, eau); and high-end fashion outlets, including Chanel, Prada, and H?rmes.
The $2-billion, all-suite Venetian (3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-414-1000 or 877-883-6423; $199+) brings all things Venice to the Las Vegas Strip, including indoor and outdoor gondola rides for $12.50-$15, or $50-$60 for a private two person float (cheaper than those in Venice, which begin at $100). An outpost of the Guggenheim Museum is on site, and the first Madame Tussauds 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.
Adding still more glitz to the Strip, the impressive all-suite Palazzo (3325 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-607-7777 or 877-883-6423; $199+) opened in December 2007 as part of the Venetian complex. Its 3,000+ rooms feature European appointments with sunken living rooms and marble baths, and the on site Shoppes at The Palazzo (which connect to the Venetian's Grand Canal Shops) are anchored by none other than Barneys New York. The property also boasts a Canyon Ranch SpaClub.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three
Las Vegas: Intro
Las Vegas: What to Eat
Las Vegas: Where to Play/Meet
Las Vegas: What to See and Do
Las Vegas: Resources