Not since we discovered that we could play blackjack in them, order high-end cuisine and bottle service, use them as both day- and nighttime concert venues, and hole up in their private cabanas—some of which even have their own pools—have Vegas pool-goers actually used pools for, you know, swimming. Of course, in the constant pursuit of being all things to all people, Las Vegas resorts have created multiple pool experiences within the same property: You may find a family pool (so that impressionable kids don’t get blinded by the sights at the “European-style” pools); adults-only pool parties that bring in live performances both day and night; and intimate, private pools that actually help you escape the kind of people who want to go to those live performances. Keep in mind that some of the big pools close, or partially close, during the winter months, but depending on when you go, here are the five best to experience:
Related: Best Pools in Las Vegas
Boulevard Pool, The Cosmopolitan
The largest of Cosmopolitan’s three pool areas, the multi-level Boulevard Pool has an unobstructed view of the Strip, four stories below. Big, blue, shareable daybeds give cover from the sun, but you can also hang out in the wading pool, play ping-pong and foosball, belly up to one of three bars, or order from the full menu at Overlook Grill. The pool springs to life at twilight, when Dive-In movies play on the 65-foot marquee. And the Set Your Life to Music concert series, which started in 2012, offers live performances, creative cocktails from resident mixologists, and a backyard BBQ vibe. Come on the weekends for Bubbles and Brunch, where roving waiters serve globally-influenced brunch items (like blue claw crab benedict with Creole hollandaise) and guests sip Champagne while DJs spin until 6 p.m. Cosmo freezes the pool for ice skating in the winter, so it’s always in use. It’s only open to hotel guests during the day, but non-guests get in for special events.
The Pools at the Mandarin Oriental
One of the best escapes in Las Vegas—even for those who aren’t staying in the Mandarin Oriental— is on this hotel’s 8th floor. For just the price of a cabana rental (relatively low, compared to the mega-party day club prices at some other pools), anyone can gain entry to one of the Strip’s loveliest and most spa-like pool scenes. You’ll get stunning views over CityCenter as well as two pools, two Jacuzzis and a plunge pool. Pool attendants circulate to clean sunglasses and distribute mini-smoothies, and cabanas come with a bottle of Moet Ice Champagne, fresh fruit, towels and robes, a 42” flat screen TV, PlayStation 3, and pitchers of iced tea and lemonade. The Pool Café is, in my opinion, the best in town, with a revamped menu as of 2014 offering lightened-up superfood fare that will still allow you to be presentable in your $1,000 bikini.
Encore Beach Club, Wynn Las Vegas
White wicker, wood, and gorgeous red drapery surround the three-tiered pleasure complex that is Encore Beach Club. You can lounge on oversized lily pads and dance under shower poles, but the most glamorous way to experience this pool scene is in one of the eight private bungalows that have views of the Strip, private dipping pools, showers and AC. Otherwise, you can pay for one of the 26 cabanas outfitted with refrigerators and flat screen TV, or simply get a daybed. The experience you have largely depends upon the crowd that day: I’ve experienced Encore at its most sedate, and also as capable security types have ushered the last sloppy day drinker from the premises. This is mostly because the crowds revolve around parties like Recess Fridays, or EDM (Electronic Dance Music) on Sundays; just check the schedule closer to your arrival time to know what will be happening.
Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis, Caesars Palace
Eight distinctively different pools make up this massive complex which, true to its oversized Roman theme, is filled with classical landscaping, Roman statues, an 18-foot waterfall and, of course, go-go dancers. (Just go with it.) It’s one of the few massive pool areas that’s family-friendly, though there’s a separate, “European-style” Venus Pool Club where kids clearly don’t belong. You’ll also find swim-up blackjack and 44 completely outfitted cabanas, as well as poolside spa services by Qua Baths & Spa, and one of the better poolside dining menus in town. A separate, private pool serves the highest-profile guests, so there really is something for everyone.
Azure Pool, Palazzo
This Cote d’Azur-themed pool bridges the gap between spa-quiet and dance party, which is nice for adults who want a little grown-up mingling but not a full-fledged, daytime EDM scene. It’s one of the prettiest pools, with landscaping making it feel a bit less exposed than many pool scenes in town. You can order from Wolfgang Puck’s Solaro restaurant, while frozen grapes, chilled towels and Canyon Ranch SpaClub massages are all on offer poolside. Each of the 11 air-conditioned cabanas comes with a flat-screen TV and iPad, and a fridge stocked with chilled towels and water. The pool only welcomes adults, 21 and over, and generally expects them to act that way.