Vegas has had many variations of the same reputation – a place for debauchery and decadence, gambling and drinking and secrets best laughed about later. The ultimate bachelorette/bridal shower/baby shower/girls’ weekend/getaway to remember or forget destination. It can be all that and more, and it’s usually all of that in just one weekend. For many, a visit to Vegas comes with a stack of assumptions. One might assume that you’re in for a crazy time, full of drunken shenanigans and all-night gambling. I beg to differ – Vegas is truly what you make it. You can absolutely have a vacation full of whatever-happens-in-Vegas antics, OR you can choose a relaxing experience filled with beauty, entertainment and delicious food. If you’re like me and you don’t like gambling and you prefer to avoid loud places or smoke-filled rooms, you can create your own Vegas experience for more settled sensibilities.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Las Vegas. I’ve been there for work, for beauty conferences and speaking engagements. I’ve spent a lot of family time there, because my sister-in-law and brother-in-law live in Henderson. I have stayed in some of the finest hotel rooms and eaten at the most incredible restaurants, and I have found hidden gems far off the strip that my local relatives have hipped me to. So I’ve definitely got solid recommendations on how to take a Vegas spaliday. Spacation. Whatever you want to call your ultimate getaway weekend, filled with top of the line dining, cocktails, shows, shopping and spas. Here are some of my Vegas tips and recommendations, all places I’ve been lucky enough to experience that you should totally add to your must-visit list!
FIRST, some general Vegas tips!
You need flats and jackets — Here’s a tip on packing – don’t overdo on cute shoes that are hard to walk in. Also, plan for cooler weather. The weather in Vegas is absolutely brutal in the summer months, but September, October, November and December are comfortable in the low 70’s by day and cooler at night. Pack layers, because you’ll need them outdoors and for chilly casinos, too. Bring comfortable shoes and plan for lots of walking.
Consider booking your stay at a hotel without a casino. Casinos can be fun, but they can also be crazy, loud, and super smoky. Believe it or not, there are a few hotels right near the strip that don’t include a casino as part of the experience, and you can feel the difference from the moment you enter the lobby. If a spa-centric hotel sounds like the one for you, reserve yourself a room at Vdara Hotel and Spa. It’s my favorite place to stay! The décor is refined and eco-centric, the accommodations are plush and the lobby is centered around the market and beautiful bar, not smoky poker rooms and loud blackjack tables. More on accommodations with a list at the end of this post.
Get your spa on. Everything is grander in Vegas, and spa life is on another level. People come to party hard, and they also want to relax and recover to the max. There are some incredible spa experiences to be had, if you look around for the best spa deals. You may have found a sweet deal at a hotel that’s got a perfectly acceptable spa attached to it, but still I recommend you shop around. Some of the chicest spas in the city have amazing deals and intentionally unique spa menu offerings that you’ll regret not investigating. This is your opportunity to surrender to something new and refreshing.
See a show (or two). Shows in Vegas are a must-do, but which show is worth the ticket price? Not all of ‘em, I can tell you from experience, but you can’t go wrong with Cirque. Pretty much all of the Cirque du Soleil shows are incredible spectaculars. Cirque makes its home in Las Vegas so you can see shows there that aren’t performed elsewhere on an ongoing basis. I’ve been lucky enough to have seen several. There’s the martial arts-inspired Ka at the MGM Grand, The Beatles homage Love at The Mirage, and honestly IMO Michael Jackson One was THE BEST Cirque show I’ve ever seen. So good, I found myself buying a $75 sweatshirt at the gift shop afterwards. Besides Cirque, I’ve run the gamut of shows. I’ve enjoyed some incredible comedy, live music and other shows in Vegas, for adults and for kids. I will say from personal experience, Thunder Down Under is a RIOT, the guys work hard and put on a super fun show, and women of all ages go out and get buck wild at the Excalibur. It’s a great bachelorette party place, or just a way to have that only-in-Vegas experience. And of the ongoing shows I’ve seen, The BlueMan Group was one of the most fun and memorable and family friendly. If you’re traveling with family, I recommend taking the littles to the Siegfried and Roy secret garden and tiger habitat, they are beautiful and you’ll feel like you are far away from Vegas when you’re smack in the middle of it all. And then of course there are the only-in-Vegas concert experiences! So many SHOWS to see! Gaga and Cardi B and Celine Dion and Britney and Boyz II Men — you can have once in a lifetime concert experiences there.
Make reservations for amazing dinners. Sure, you can go the all-you-can-eat buffet route, and that’s a solid route to take. OR you can ball out with a truly decadent fine dining experience. Some of the world’s most renowned chefs have incredible restaurant spaces in Vegas. On one trip, I found myself at one of Chef Joel Robuchon’s restaurants. It was one of the most memorable dining experiences I’ve had ever in life. I’ll break down the restaurants more with some specific recs. Just saying, you can make your trip an entirely culinary experience and it will be worth it.
Next level shopping. Or window shopping. There is shopping in Vegas (which is already over the top awesome), and then there’s The Shops at Crystals, which briefly caused me to re-evaluate my life choices, when I visited once on a press trip. Crystals is luxury to the nth degree, boasting more flagship boutiques than anywhere else in the USA. Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Gucci, Tiffany, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Roberto Cavalli, and a gorgeous Sisley store showcasing the best of the luxury French beauty brand. It’s just an incredible place to browse.
Cocktails, anyone? There are some truly one of a kind bars to be enjoyed in Vegas, some in surprising locations. Each one has to stand out, somehow, so you find unassuming places with spectacular features. For example, the Lobby Bar at Aria features a rare collection of champagnes. The Petrossian Bar at the Bellagio features a unique variety of Jack Daniels that’s only served there –most frequently poured on the rocks over their signature diamond-shaped ice cubes. The patio lounge at Vdara makes sick rum cocktails. There’s a super cute speakeasy downstairs and round back at The Mob Museum that serves really inventively presented, potent cocktails. The last visit I had, I enjoyed a truly unique and exceptional clarified milk cocktail at the bar at Momofuku at the Cosmopolitan. These bartenders are constantly one upping each other to come up with new experiences for a never-ending parade of customers.
Enjoy the art. While visiting the Bellagio, make sure you look up and around to appreciate the one of a kind glasswork by Dale Chihuly . Continue through the Bellagio gallery of fine art and visit the gallery of legendary photographer Jeff Mitchum. He captures such stunning landscapes. Some of his photographs took 15 years to capture, each has an incredible story. Well worth the visit.
Where to stay & spa
Here are some places I’ve experienced and can vouch for:
Aria Resort and Casino — For a truly luxurious stay in the midst of one of the hottest resorts and casinos on the strip, I recommend Aria. Once I stayed in one of their ultra-posh Sky Suites, and WOW. The rooms are next level lavish, complete with a remote that can control everything from the television to your curtains and lights. Amazingly luxe.
Vdara Hotel and Spa — Vdara is my favorite place to stay in Vegas, because it’s one of few hotels on the strip that doesn’t include a casino at all. The Vdara is intended as a respite from the sometimes maddening Vegas crowds, and the main focus of the hotel is their eco-friendly, 18,000-square-foot, two-level Spa, Salon and Fitness Center. It feels calm and relaxing as soon as you enter.
Green Valley Ranch — If you’re willing to venture off the strip for a luxury stay off the beaten path, definitely check out the Green Valley Ranch. The outdoor pool bar is expansive and glamorous, their spa is top of the line, and although the pace of things is a little less frenetic than it is on the Strip, you’ll have just as much fun at their casino.
For a real spacation experience, I personally recommend getting a group mani/pedi party together at the Bellagio’s spa. Their pampering suites include champagne and chocolate covered strawberries that will enhance the experience, trust. The BATHHOUSE spa at The Delano is a retreat within itself –where else can you have a spa hostess draw you the best bath ever, and soak your cares away while enjoying a tea service? And the ESPA at Vdara offers European quality spa indulgence all catered to your specific skin care and relaxation needs. If you’ve ever experienced an ESPA, then you know it’s top quality. I highly recommend you try their spa experience sometime, wherever you can.
Where to eat on the strip
There is no shortage of amazing food in Las Vegas. Each hotel has their own signature restaurants and celebrity chefs, and some may surprise you. I’ve heard amazing things about the legendary Steak House at Circus Circus, for example. Here are a few places where I’ve had truly exceptional meals in sin city.
Sage — Expect fresh, inventive American cuisine with international influences. James Beard Award-winning Chef Shawn McClain is in charge here and the seafood is excellent.
Harvest — repeated trips to Vegas taught me that I really love the cuisine of chef Roy Ellamar, any restaurant he’s involved in, I wanna eat at. Harvest is INCREDIBLE, the food is exquisite. Definitely a really great choice for a special splurge night.
The Block 19 Las Vegas Food Hall at The Cosmopolitan is your best bet for affordable, delicious food as you explore the hotels and casinos on the strip. That Hattie B’s Hot Chicken will definitely hit the spot after a long afternoon stroll!
Brasserie Bardot is a great choice for a dark, sexy, cozy French brunch experience.
Don’t sleep on Border Grill at Mandalay Bay – the Mexican food and killer drinks are next level delicious. That place is a hidden gem and it’s super popular during big conferences. I have enjoyed a few margaritas after a long day there, and the guacamole is amazing.
I basically had to stop myself from writing this post because there are so many other places I’ve experienced and would recommend to a friend. In summary, visit Vegas, do your own research and enjoy a unique-to-you experience. There isn’t anywhere else like it!
Tell me YOUR favorite Vegas recommendations in the comments below! Or ask me Vegas questions, I can do my best to answer!