Las Vegas is anything but a homogeneous travel experience. Where else can you gawk at a $150,000 Carrara marble replica of Michelangelo’s David, be serenaded by gondoliers on the Venetian-inspired Grand Canal, and sample from a kaleidoscope of both celebrity chef and unforgettably tasty strip mall restaurants in all the same day? And although the neon-lit city is no untouched travel secret—in fact, 1.48 million visitors from Northern California headed there just last year—the unending options can seem as vast as the desert horizon if you don’t have assistance navigating them. To help, we’ve gathered those in the know, from the city’s best concierges to one of its most connected local journalists, to tell us what you shouldn’t even think of missing in what’s sure to become your new-old-favorite playground.
The city has around 141,000 hotel rooms, so deciding which one will command your attention can be hard; check out these recently renovated picks for modernism on the strip.
Encore If you weren’t lured in by the commercial—yes, the one where the billionaire hotelier Steve Wynn literally sits on top of the hotel (check it out on YouTube), feet dangling 28 stories in the air, then this sententious little blurb on the Encore sure isn’t going to do it. However, the luxurious six-month-old newcomer shouldn’t be missed. Connected to sister-hotel the Wynn by a retail alley, the $2.3 billion hotel features over 2,000 guest rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows and a casino floor draped in all things red, including chandeliers and select walls bathed in the crimson hue. 702.770.8000
Trump Last year the 24-karat-gold glass-encased Trump International Hotel Las Vegas opened its doors with 1,282 suites, rising 64 stories above the city. Each hotel suite treats guests to panoramic views through floor-to-ceiling windows; options range from studio suites to three-bedroom penthouse suites, all outfitted with kitchens. 702.982.0000
Flamingo Some people are still nostalgic for the old Vegas vibe, but to compete with the glitz and glamour of newer billion-dollar hotels, old standbys like the Flamingo, originally opened by Bugsy Siegel in 1946, have had to revamp or face being shuttered. Luckily, Las Vegas design firm Cagley and Tanner has updated rooms with a modern theme that still stays true to its retro self. Called Go rooms, these feature interiors with white-vinyl headboards, white drapery and white midcentury-style cabinets. The Flamingo’s suites include the Go Metropolitan, a two-bedroom, 1,500-square-foot room with hardwood floors, marble bathrooms and colorful splashes of brown and orange. 702.733.3111
Caesars Palace Already a go-to for some of the best dining options on the strip, the four-plus-decades-old hotel will see a billion-dollar expansion, with a new 665-room Octavius Tower, new swimming pools and a convention center. 702.731.7110
When it comes to choosing where to spend your dining dollars in a city that has everything from designer fare to under-the-radar strip mall favorites, take advice from former Vegas Magazine editor-in-chief Melinda Sheckells, who gave us a culinary tour of five favorite restaurants on and off the Strip.
Beijing Noodle #9 If you’re in the mood for dim sum, dumplings and noodles (which are hand-tossed in view of diners), look no further than this 100-seat hip northern-Chinese-focused contemporary restaurant. Caesars Palace, 877.346.4642
Botero Named after Colombian Artist Fernando Botero, whose paintings line the restaurant’s walls, this young, modern steak house is run by chef Mark LoRusso, formerly of Wynn Las Vegas’s Tableau. The restaurant overlooks Encore’s pool and connects to the resort’s nightclub, XS. Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, 702.248.3463
Lotus of Siam Who knew some of the best Thai food around could be found in a nondescript strip mall? The restaurant, which Pulitzer Prize–winning food writer Jonathan Gold of Gourmet magazine called the best Thai restaurant in North America, features a pick-your-own spicy scale of one to 10 for each menu item, but beware — the scale tends to be hotter than you’d think. 953 E. Sahara Ave., 702.735.3033
Origin India Across from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, this Indian restaurant serves up impressive tandoori and vegetarian options with its own in-house sommelier to help you choose the perfect wine pairing. 480 Paradise Rd., 702.734.6342
Vintner Grill It’s worth the cab ride to head to this Michelin Guide recommended bistro, about 12 miles northwest of Las Vegas’s downtown area. It features a large outdoor patio with custom-made couches and drapery along with cozy fire pits. 10100 Charleston Blvd., Number 150, 702.214.5590
If you’re traveling with the kids to Las Vegas, there’s plenty to do beyond the nightclub and gambling scene. Lisa Carson, chief concierge at Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas, says the key to picking out the perfect family activity is to follow the lead of someone who has experienced it all firsthand. Check out her tested top picks for enjoying the city with tots in tow.
The Lion King The new showing at the Mandalay Bay is the first Disney theatrical production ever to debut in Las Vegas. 877.632.7400
Pole Position Raceway Have a future Mario Andretti? This indoor race track is perfect for all ages and provides all the necessary safety gear. 702.227.7223
Flyaway Indoor Skydiving If you aren’t keen on your teenager jumping 10,000 feet out of a plane, give her the next best thing: an indoor skydiving session, where a mix of gravity and a high-powered fan keep you afloat. 877.293.0639
The Grand Canyon Nearly five million people see the one-mile-deep wonder each year, but Carson recommends visiting it via helicopter. Contact your concierge or nps.gov.
Beat the Heat
It might seem ironic to go to Las Vegas to cool off, but the desert town’s hotels are a climate utopia offering indoor attractions galore. Jake Jacobson, concierge manager for THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, reveals his favorite ways to stay out of the sun.
Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay What better way to stay cool than under the sea? You’ll see more than 2,000 dangerous and unusual aquatic animals, including 15 types of sharks, stingrays, sea turtles — there’s even a rare Komodo dragon. 702.632.7777
Minus 5 Ice Lounge If the casino’s air- conditioning doesn’t chill you enough, head to this lounge made entirely of ice. Guests can enjoy signature cocktails where the temperature is a constant minus five degrees Celsius. 702.632.7714
Luxor Exhibition Complex The new complex on the resort’s atrium level offers BODIES. . . The Exhibition, a showcase of more than 260 full and partial body specimens. 800.557.7428
The Beachside Casino Want to gamble with a view? Head to the only climate-controlled poolside gaming in Las Vegas, where you can play blackjack, roulette and craps in your flip-flops and swim suit. 702.632.7777
Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art The temperature has got to be just right for fine art, so head into the air-conditioned gallery to see work by Luchtenstein, Warhol, Frank Stella and more. 877.957.9777