Eager to try my hand again at blackjack (and earn enough money to hit the Wynn shops in earnest), I strut into the luxurious Bellagio Casino like a high roller, "diamond" earrings flashing. I set my cash down on a $10-minimum blackjack table (one hand, $10) and promptly lose. With no play money to wager, I slink back to our hotel for a rest.
To avoid the after-10 p.m. cover charge at Mix Lounge (3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/632-7777), we stroll over for pre-dinner cocktails. Located on the 64th floor of the Hotel at Mandalay Bay, it’s a spectacular space, with curvy black-leather banquettes, glowing round tables, and floor-to-ceiling windows with 360-degree views of the Strip and the valley. I try the citrusy Mixopolitan ($15), and we watch gape-mouthed as a lightning storm rolls in—this is by far the best show in town.
Eager to check out Vegas’s new breed of "hip buffets" (a contradiction in terms?), we take a cab ($14) to The Buffet at TI (3300 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/894-7111). The Jeffrey Beers-designed dining room is sleek and modern, with a smorgasbord of dishes ($20). The desserts alone are worth the trip—seven flavors of homemade ice cream and mouthwatering crème brûlée.
We’ve already added our names to the secret guest list at one of the city’s hottest clubs, Pure, at Caesar’s Palace (3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/731-7873) by calling the venue early in the day, so we breeze in past the throngs and avoid the $20 cover charge. We sip gin and tonics ($10), scout the icy, all-white interior, and hit the dance floor.
We’re not ready for bed, so we catch a ride on a double-decker Deuce bus ($2) to Peppermill’s Fireside Lounge (2985 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/735-4177), a 1970’s throwback with low couches and a fire pit, mirrored ceilings, and genteel cocktail waitresses in long black gowns. Martinis ($8.50) in hand, we toast our good luck: we’ve still got enough cash for a cab ride back to our pyramid.