T+L's Definitive Guide to Las Vegas
Published: January 2013
By Andrea Bennett
Las Vegas has reinvented itself once again with splashier hotels, over-the-top restaurants, and show-stopping spectacles. What's not to love?
Lay of the Land
The Strip: This legendary stretch keeps getting better, with nearly every hotel undergoing a major face-lift.
Downtown: The city’s business district is also home to Vegas’s best galleries, museums, and one-off boutiques.
Getting Around: Taxis are ideal; for travel within the Strip, consider walking or taking the monorail.
From the most buzzed-about openings to eye-catching renovations, here’s what’s happening in the Vegas hotel scene.
MGM Grand: The $160 million renovation of the MGM includes a major green sweep (LED lighting; solar shades) and the addition of wellness-themed suites, complete with light therapy. Destination restaurants like Joël Robuchon were (wisely) left alone, but look out for new Cantonese hot spot Hakkasan. $
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino: A 7,000-square-foot entertainment venue. A rollicking gastropub. A massive gaming lounge. They’re all part of the recent update of this popular off-Strip hangout. $$
Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas: All 424 rooms and suites rang in the new year with an Art Deco–inspired transformation, incorporating lacquered surfaces that reflect the glittering Strip below. Take in the views of the desert from your floor-to-ceiling window. $$
Bellagio: A recent $110 million nip and tuck added bold colors, patterned murals, and high-tech amenities to this Vegas standby. $
Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace: The legendary Caesars Palace has been reborn as chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s Nobu Hotel. Rooms combine handcrafted grass cloth and Japanese stone, not to mention an in-room Nobu sushi menu. $$
The New Classics
Aria Resort & Casino: It takes a lot to make waves here, but Aria did it in 2009, redefining the skyline with its curvilinear glass towers housing 4,004 rooms, 17 restaurants, a spa, casino, and the Cirque du Soleil show Zarkana. $$
Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas: The city’s last-built major hotel makes a design-forward statement in two sleek towers. Past the see-and-be-seen lobby, there are plenty of diversions: Marquee Nightclub, inventive boutiques, and a range of restaurants, from brasserie Comme Ça to the burger joint Holsteins. $
Palazzo Las Vegas: Consider it a rarefied version of the Venetian, with some of the most luxe suites on the Strip and a five-acre Roman-garden-style pool deck. $
Encore: Dripping with 130 red Murano-glass chandeliers, the edgier, younger sibling of Wynn Las Vegas manages to feel intimate despite its 2,034 rooms. $
Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000
Don’t miss these five foodie adventures.
Tetsu: Chef Masa Takayama’s new restaurant specializes in teppanyaki. Guests pick from a table piled high with meats, seafood, and vegetables, which are cooked at one of six grills—four of which are blackjack-style tables (Welcome to Vegas!). $$$$
Public House: Plenty of Vegas restaurants have tried their hand at the gastropub game, though none as successfully as this one. Nevada’s first beer cicerone helps pair dozens of brews with plates like roasted bone marrow with bacon marmalade. $$
Bacchanal: If you thought you knew the Vegas buffet, you’ll be surprised by the 600-seat Bacchanal. Serving more than 500 dishes from nine open kitchens, the large-scale operation puts to rest the mass-cooked concept: these foods are prepared to order. $$$
Eat: A low-key joint on the ground floor of an old apartment building has developed a cult following. Chef Natalie Young infuses American classics with New Mexican and French influences to create standouts like roast beef on ciabatta with tangy blue cheese, wild mushrooms, and pickled red onions. $
Le Thai: This tiny dining room attracts both power brokers and hipsters, thanks to an eclectic menu with monster Thai flavors. Three-color curry and pork jerky are the main draws, along with the aptly named “awesome noodles,” which are tart, sweet, fishy, and spicy. $$
Restaurant Pricing Key
$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150
Vegas has it all—big-name brands, funky one-off boutiques, and plenty of kitsch.
Crystals at CityCenter: The mixed-use development is chockablock with designer boutiques: Louis Vuitton, Eres, Gucci. Add in the cinematic draws—Fendi’s scale model of Rome’s Trevi Fountain; a full fashion runway at Roberto Cavalli—and you have a seriously stimulating retail experience.
Forum Shops at Caesars: This over-the-top Roman extravaganza contains one of the three Tiffany & Co. stores on the Strip, as well as Valentino, Hublot, and the U.S.’s second Alfred Dunhill store.
Shoppes at the Palazzo: The airy space is anchored by Barneys and holds eye-popping shops, including Van Cleef & Arpels, Charriol, and more.
Patina Décor: It’s all about the well-chosen selection of vintage furnishings here, from Hollywood Regency tables to Midcentury Modern barware. Just try going home without ordering a wing chair that’s been creatively reupholstered in candy colors.
Electric Lemonade: Pieces by emerging designers are displayed like art at Electric Lemonade. Look out for throwback concert T-shirts, 1960’s dresses, and retro jewelry and sunglasses.
See + Do
Four ways to get your culture fix, Vegas-style.
Neon Museum: After years of appointment-only showings, this collection of 150 neon signs dating back as far as the 1930’s is finally open to the public. The lobby of the rehabbed La Concha Motel now stands as its visitors’ center, through which you’ll enter to see iconic signs from the Moulin Rouge, the Desert Inn, and the Stardust.
Mob Museum: The federal courthouse where the 1950 Kefauver Hearings on Organized Crime were held is now a museum dedicated to the history of mobsters. Among its showstoppers: the entire bullet-ridden wall from the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago; interactive exhibits on wiretapping; and real weapons used by Mafia hit men.
Project Dinner Table.: Every month, internationally renowned chefs, including Mark LoRusso and Michel Richard, serve 150 guests at one very long dinner table in a different setting—the middle of an orchard, say, or left field at a baseball stadium—for charity. Caveat: seats fill up quickly, so book at least 30 days in advance. April through November.
Smith Center for the Performing Arts: The most hotly anticipated cultural venue in recent Las Vegas history is a breathtaking, $465 million center that hosts groups ranging from the Israel Philharmonic and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to the Cleveland Orchestra and London’s Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.
Only in Vegas...
Where can you race a Ferrari or watch an after-hours cookoff among the world’s top chefs? Vegas, baby, Vegas.
Test Drive Race Cars: The year-old Dream Racing experience at Las Vegas Motor Speedway offers aspiring drivers classroom training, a simulator session, and five high-speed laps around the track (0 to 60 mph in 3 1/2 seconds) in cars—like the Ferrari F430 GT—that are not street legal.
Play Vintage Games: Bring your quarters. At the upstairs gaming room at the D Las Vegas (formerly Fitzgeralds), you can race mechanized horses on one of the few remaining Sigma Derby tables, or plunk your change into retro one-armed bandits.
Watch Famous Chefs Battle: Once a month starting at 1 a.m., high-profile chefs are pitted against one another at a clutch of food-truck kitchens in the Tommy Rocker’s parking lot with only a basket of mystery ingredients in what’s been dubbed the Back of the House Brawl. Dishes are sold to the public until 2 a.m.
Three Las Vegans share their favorite spots in the city.
CEO of Zappos
Where I go for…
A Power Lunch: The coffeehouse and record store the Beat ($$), in downtown’s Emergency Arts center.
Late-Night Tipples: With its hip music and low-key vibe, the Downtown Cocktail Room has been a local favorite for years.
Hanging with the In-Crowd: Coterie Downtown (515 E. Fremont St.; 702/685-7741), which is part lounge, part vintage store, is the place to be—whether you’re shopping or not.
Owner of Beckley Boutique at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Where I go for…
A Night Out: The Barrymore ($$$), just off the Strip, has delicious American food and a Rat Pack feel that’s not overdone.
Inspiration: I love to visit the Beckley House, which was my grandmother’s residence and is now part of a museum. It’s one of the first bungalow-style homes in the area.
A Day Off: When I get some downtime, I run the loop at Red Rock Canyon.
Chef and owner of RM Seafood at Mandalay Place
Where I go for…
A Post-Work Bite: One of my go-to places is Culinary Dropout ($$$) with soulful dishes such as meatloaf and beef stroganoff.
People-Watching: There’s so much to see at First Friday, when galleries and artists’ studios are open to the public until 10 p.m.
Hit up one of these places for a taste of Vegas after dark.
Bagatelle Supper Club: Start the day with the champagne brunch at this Med-style restaurant/club.
XS: Expect gold-embossed-croc VIP booths at XS, rumored to be the priciest nightclub ever built.
1OAK: This New York import reinvents itself as an intimate (in Vegas, this means 16,000 square feet) space.
Hyde Bellagio: Sam Nazarian’s Philippe Starck–designed lounge becomes a club on weekends.
The Ainsworth: Done up with barn wood, this rustic yet sophisticated room elevates the sports bar.