While many come to Vegas to be in the heart of all the action, right on the Strip, there is something to be said for not staying in the thick of things. Go west toward Red Rock and you’ll be a stone’s throw from the conservation area (Did you know there’s some really great mountain biking—yes mountain biking—as well as hiking trails to explore?). Go south toward Green Valley and you’ll be ensconced in the mixed-use development of the District, that can keep non-gamers busy for hours with great restaurants, outdoor movies and diverse shops and retail options. Just a few miles west of the Strip, JW Marriott is right across the street from the bustling Boca Park group of restaurants and retail, as well as Tivoli Village – and surrounded by nine golf courses (a great spot for golf aficionados). If you equate off-Strip with low-rent, think again.
Red Rock Casino Hotel & Spa
In the Summerlin neighborhood west of the Strip, and abutting the just-opened Downtown Summerlin complex of restaurants, movie theaters and retail, Red Rock Casino’s stacked sandstone brick, backlit onyx, and ebony wood channel nearby Red Rock Conservation Area. The three million crystals that drip from its light fixtures invoke the glamour of vintage Vegas. You can book all sorts of adventures in the nearby Red Rock Conservation Area, and a newly renovated spa will massage the post-adventure soreness right away. Plus, Red Rock keeps adding and renovating: terrific restaurants like Mercadito and Hearthstone are part of a $35 million reno being completed by the end of 2014.
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Hard Rock, with its incredible music scene and incomparable rock residencies, is a hard-rocking planet unto itself. Many people – mostly music fans and hard partiers – who arrive at Hard Rock never even venture onto the Strip. It virtually started the string of copycat pool parties with its Sunday Rehab party, packed with scantily clad beauties, drinking, dancing and gaming to live DJs, and with some of the most difficult pool cabanas to obtain in Vegas, bar none. Great restaurants, such as one of two Nobu restaurants in Las Vegas, plus the terrific Mr. Lucky’s Café (the 24-hour coffee shop) and Culinary Dropout mix up the offerings. But who’s kidding whom, really: It’s being surrounded by incredible memorabilia and seeing some of the best live music in Vegas at The Joint that keeps people planted firmly in the hotel.
Palms Casino Resort
The Palms has always known how to party – and its parties are legendary, like its ongoing “Ditch Friday” party at Palms Pool & Dayclub and its Ghostbar Dayclub, which opens just as other casinos are closing their day parties in the fall (think drunken revelry beginning at 1pm). But although Palms has always known how to put on the dog, with borderline silly fantasy suites like the Hardwood Suite with its full-sized basketball court, and the Barbie Suite (look for the mirror made from 65 Barbie dolls), it’s also a substantial hotel with great service and increasingly excellent dining. Tony Hu’s Lao Sze Chuan has just moved in from Chicago, N9NE Steakhouse has had a design revamp to showcase its stunning food, and Alizé, the French restaurant by Andre Rochat, has become something of an institution. Don’t worry about not being on the Strip when you have the best views of it.
Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa
Located 20 minutes south of the Strip in Henderson, Green Valley Ranch is another luxe “locals’” casino by Station, which captures its fair share of people who love their Vegas in measured doses. Décor is a little bit European manor house meets Alhambra, but it works, and 490 rooms and suites are located in a tower removed from the casino. One of its best advantages is its adjacency to The District, a walkable outdoor dining and retail zone, and an increasingly terrific restaurant program: Tides Oyster Bar is where locals know to get fantastic (and huge) portions of fresh seafood, plus, like Red Rock it’s getting a multimillion-dollar restaurant reno. Mercadito by the Sandoval Brothers is moving in and Tony Gemignani, an 11-time World Pizza Champion, is moving in his second Vegas location of Pizza Rock. Should you really want to get to the Strip, there’s a complimentary shuttle to Mandalay Bay, as well as McCarran Airport.
JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa
Nine golf courses surround JW Marriott, whose on-site golf concierge from TPC Las Vegas helps guests with reservations and recommendations – and arranges free transportation to TPC Las Vegas and Angel Park Golf Club. This area is the peaceful antithesis of the Strip, and you’ll be amazed how relaxing Las Vegas can be when you ensconce yourself at Spa Aquae & Salon for the Spa Aquae Ritual, beginning in the Ritual Room and moving through six chambers of the outdoor hydrotherapy circuit pool. Depending on the experience you’re seeking, book a 6th floor Vista Suite in the Spa tower for the best Strip views, or a one-bedroom suite in Palms Tower for the best views in the other direction – to the mountains. JWM also has the benefit of proximity – to Tivoli Village and Boca Park, two restaurant and retail districts within walking distance.