I’ve arrived on a Thursday for the low midweek rates at the Luxor (3900 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 888/777-0188 or 702/262-4000; www.luxor.com), a gigantic glass pyramid with a gaudy Egyptian theme (miles of fake gold and limestone, sphinxes over 100 feet tall). The Strip below is eye-popping, but my renovated west-tower room ($87) is big, clean, and surprisingly unflashy.
"You want to get to the Wynn without a taxi?" a casino worker scoffs when my boyfriend inquires about public transportation. Determined to start our day without a pricey cab ride, we stubbornly traipse through three linked, labyrinthine casinos to board the futuristic monorail ($5). Unfortunately, the free shuttle that’s supposed to link our stop to the Wynn Las Vegas is out of commission, so we end up walking the last mile. Next time, we’re springing for a cab.
There’s plenty to gawk at in the $2.7 billion Wynn casino: the kaleidoscopic mosaics on the marble floor, the trees hung with flower-covered globes, the head-spinning array of luxury shops. At the Terrace Pointe Café (3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/770-7000; www.wynnlasvegas.com), we claim a table overlooking a swimming pool ringed with manicured plants and candy-colored cabanas. I order a strawberry-topped waffle and fresh-squeezed orange juice ($16.50), and feel myself settle into vacation mode.
We head to the neighboring Venetian Casino for a free blackjack lesson. Our dealer, Mike, has a gravelly Brooklyn accent and good advice for would-be card sharks: "Don’t touch the cards. If you touch the cards we get Guido, and you don’t want to meet Guido." Suitably intimidated, I bolster the whirlwind lesson with a blackjack strategies card ($2) and promise to give the game an earnest try—later. In the meantime, I feed handfuls of quarters into the slot machines ($5), but luck’s not on my side.
Strains of "O Sole Mio" lure us to the Grand Canal, where striped-shirted singing gondoliers propel tourists down the canal. At St. Mark’s Square, I spring for a scoop of hazelnut gelato ($5), then spot a pair of faux- diamond earrings ($15) in a souvenir shop. Bling?On a budget?Onto my ears they go.
Back on the Strip, I buy a coffee mug ($4.30) splashed with the old fabulous las vegas sign from a sidewalk stall. We stop for lunch at Mon Ami Gabi (3655 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/944-4224; www.monamigabi.com), a French bistro that somehow manages to convey an authentic Parisian charm (unlike the Eiffel Tower straddling the adjacent casino). I refuel with a chicken-and-mushroom crêpe and a glass of red wine ($19.70).