Las Vegas isn’t just a destination for gamblers looking to hit the jackpot. The city that never sleeps has something fun to offer couples, singles, and every member of the family.
Relaxing and luxurious
Brandye Drager and husband B.J. travel to Las Vegas each year for the NASCAR race week. The couple’s favorite hotel is the luxurious, all-suite THEHotel at Mandalay Bay, where rates start at $150 a night.
THEHotel offers a quiet alternative to the noisy casinos. “It’s for those people who aren’t into the noise and gambling scene. It’s more relaxing,” says Brandye.
The sleek Bathhouse spa at THEHotel has a water theme throughout and guests can expect great service. Take a break in a poolside cabana at the 11-acre beach; summer beach concert series features top entertainers. The popular Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay is open daily and features 2,000 animals in 1.6 million gallons of water.
For a special treat, Brandye recommends that Houstonians who belong to the Met Club reserve a table at the elaborately decorated Foundation Room. “The food there is delicious.”
Vegas’ raunchy reputation is waning. There are plenty of glitzy alternatives to be found in dance clubs, lounges, concerts, and Broadway shows. Brandye likes to check out a show, like Mamma Mia!, and see live entertainment at the House of Blues. Both are located at Mandalay Bay.
After several visits to Las Vegas, Brandye has seen many sides of the city. “I think there’s a side for everybody,” she said.
Las Vegas has it all
When Laura Wharry and friend Ali Hartsfield were planning a girls’ trip last fall, they were torn. “It was between New York and Las Vegas,” says Laura. After determining that the best time for the trip was early December, Las Vegas won out. “We didn’t want to go to New York because the weather is so iffy. We wanted to shop and go to shows,” she said.
In addition, the group was able to travel directly on Southwest Airlines. “It’s so easy,” says Laura.
But Vegas really wins out when it comes to hotel accommodations. Most of the newer hotels only offer suites—but at the same price as a regular hotel room elsewhere. “When we checked in, we asked for an upgrade and got one.” Instead of sharing three regular suites at the Venetian, the group was offered one large suite with a standard suite attached at the same price. In addition to the standard bedroom and sitting area, “there was a bar, a dining area, and another sitting area,” Laura said.
The group spent one day exploring the Canyon Ranch SpaClub At The Venetian. “We also enjoyed massages and pedicures, it was a great day!” According to Ali, Canyon Ranch will provide additional services for groups of seven or more.
Another spot to check out is the Bellagio’s Conservatory and Botanical Garden. Every season is recreated with gorgeous plants, flowers, and trees. More than 100 horticulturists work year-round arranging gazebos, bridges, ponds, and water features.
One day Laura, Ali, and friends Rea Lees, Amber Chapman, and Laura Bradford shopped at the Fashion Show Mall. “I think all of us ended up with new shoes,” says Laura.
• Keep in mind there is no longer an off-season or a convention season. Las Vegas is the city that never sleeps. Expect crowds—Vegas sees 39.2 million visitors annually.
• If you are new to gambling, check out or purchase a handbook to learn about etiquette and odds.
• If you are traveling with a group, create a cell phone list to enable everyone to easily reconnect.
• Choose your hotel based on restaurants and shows you’d like to see and you may never need to leave!
• This summer, two big name entertainers, Bette Midler and Elton John, will return to Caesars Palace.
• Bellagio is known for its beautiful water fountains that dance to the music. The hotel pool is especially gorgeous. Don’t miss the high-end shopping onsite.
• If you are brining the kids to Las Vegas, consider New York New York Hotel & Casino, which features a large carnival and roller coaster.
• For great views of Las Vegas and delicious French food, visit the restaurant at the top of the Paris Las Vegas hotel (www.harrahs.com).
• Restaurants from Thomas Keller, Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse, and Wolfgang Puck are featured at the Venetian Resort, Hotel, and Casino (www.venetian.com).
• See the musical, Lake of Dreams, and the water show, LE R VE, at Wynn LasVegas resort and country club. Dine at Daniel Boulard’s Brasserie and SW Steakhouse or visit Tryst night club with its 90-foot indoor waterfall (www.wynnlasvegas.com).
• Diehard golfers won’t want to miss the Cascata Golf Course, located just 20 minutes from the strip. For tee times visit www.lasvegasgolfcourses.com.
• Want to see the strip after dark? Save yourself a hike and rent a limousine.
• Then spend some of your winnings at the over 220 stores at Fashion Show Mall at 3200 South Las Vegas Blvd.
“We ate great dinners,” says Laura. On Saturday night, the group went to TAO for dinner and then received a no wait stamp for the TAO Nightclub. The Asian-fusion restaurant is the sister property of TAO Restaurant in New York and the club features an outside terrace with great views of the Las Vegas Strip.
The group also enjoyed Emeril Lagasse’s restaurant at the MGM and Fix at the Bellagio. And even though the women spent their first two days in Vegas without gambling, they took time to try a hand of blackjack. “We all five sat at one blackjack table for a couple of hours. I think Ali was the only one who won that night,” recalls Laura.
The entire group agreed that Las Vegas—and the Venetian–is the perfect spot for a girls’ weekend.
Celebrating in Las Vegas
Cathy Moreman traveled to Las Vegas in February with five other couples to celebrate host John Rhebergen’s birthday. “We are all great friends and what a wonderful way to celebrate our friendship, as well as John’s birthday!” says Cathy.
Before the trip, Cathy hosted the group at her home and John provided a quick tutorial on gambling basics including placing a bet, hand signals, and different table games.
Because several of the group had never been to Vegas, “John’s idea was to give the group a taste of the old and new Las Vegas,” says Cathy. John even put together a guide to the city for his guests with a list of attractions, shopping opportunities, shows, transportation, and maps.
John considers himself a moderate gambler who has experienced some inside track “comps” by returning to the Tropicana casino regularly. As a result, a casino host was available to help him plan the weekend.
According to John, casino comps are like a rebate. A gambler who plays at a certain level is invited to register and then the casino is able to track the length of time spent playing and the level of the bets placed.
“The odds are in their favor in the long run. The more satisfied they keep you, the better it is for them,” explains John.
The group arrived on a Friday and dined in a private room at Kokomo’s at the Mirage and saw the Cirque de Soleil show, Love, which is based on the musical legacy of the Beatles.”We all attended that and were just in awe,” says Cathy. John called the 90-minute show a “360-degree sensory experience with an amazing Beatles soundtrack.”
On Saturday, the group took advantage of the perfect weather and saw many sights, including the fountains at the Bellagio. After lunch many in the group spent a little time gambling. According to John, cell phones made communicating easier when the group went their separate ways. That night the group ate Italian food at the New York New York Hotel & Casino and later got a taste of an old-fashioned burlesque at the Folies Bergere.
For a diversion, Cathy recommends visiting the Hoover Dam. The tourist attraction is just a short drive from the strip and according to Cathy, “It’s quite impressive.” She and her husband toured the interworkings of the dam about six years ago. “The tour shows you how they get power from the dam. It’s just colossal.”
Las Vegas was the perfect backdrop for the group’s festive time. It has plenty to offer, nice hotels, great shows, wonderful restaurants, and sight seeing according to Cathy. “I think you can make it whatever you want to make it.” John has one final surprise for his guests: he is currently working on a video highlighting the photos from the trip.
Editor’s Note: Katy Holt is addicted to traveling and loves hearing from fellow travel enthusiasts about their travel experiences and adventures. If you’d like to share a favorite travel destination, send an e-mail to (firstname.lastname@example.org) katy (at) thebuzzmagazines (dot) com.