Here’s the thing about Vegas: a weekend is all you need. In the city of excess and extremes, the lights never really turn off. The Strip seduces you with 24-hour casinos, crazy clubs, bachelorette parties and pools with popping bottles. You can get married, lose your dignity, and win big in the same night if you want to. Believe it or not, there’s a wholesome side to Vegas too: it’s a bonafide foodie destination, and the spas are oases. The theme of it all is indulgence. You’re here to treat yourself. This is how to do it right – then GTFO before your wallet and liver know what’s up.
STROLL THE STRIP
It’s bloody hot in the desert, so by ‘stroll,’ we really mean hit the hotspots. The Strip is buzzing with buskers, casinos, shops, restaurants and bars serving everything from margarita slushies to fancy cocktails. With all the lights and weirdos out and about living their best lives, it’s truly mesmerising. To take it all in, hop on the High Roller – the highest ferris wheel in the world (yep, it’s even taller than the London Eye). At over 168 metres, it offers sweeping views of The Strip and the dramatic desert beyond. This is Vegas, so naturally, the ferris wheel has a glass pod with a bar, and another that hosts chocolate tastings. When your feet are back on the ground, make your way to The Bellagio. Every half an hour, its 1,000 water fountains start ‘dancing’ to a song. Sure, it’s touristy, but it’s still pretty cool. And free.
Want to ball out? Take a scenic helicopter flight over The Strip at night.
HIT THE BARS
Pregame in your hotel room, and then grab a drink at one of the city’s most beautiful bars. Inside the Cosmopolitan, The Chandelier couldn’t be more Vegas if it tried – it’s spread over three levels, and stars a crystal chandelier worth $2 million. The bartenders are like artists, so the cocktail menu is creative, but they’ll make you whatever you like. If you’re a sucker for a view, go all the way up to Skyfall Lounge at The Delano. The happy hour runs from 5-7pm daily, just in time to catch the sunset before the city turns into twinkly lights. Otherwise, the dark and handsome Bound at The Cromwell is seriously sophisticated. Bottoms up!
DOLL UP FOR DA CLUBS
The city’s nightlife is on steroids. Every club is HUGE, and packed with people dancing, grinding, and Snapchatting their VIP tables. DJs like Tiesto, Diplo, Skrillex, Calvin Harris and David Guetta spin the decks, and it’s a scene. Put on a party dress and heels, and go at least once. To skip the insane lines and save $$$, you can walk in with a promoter and score a sweet table. But it’s equally fun – though a tad exxy with tipping – to do it yourself. Look up who’s playing at these megaclubs when you’re there: XS (whose outdoor cabanas come in handy when you’re sweating bullets), Hakkasan, Marquee, or Omnia if hip-hop is more your jam.
Went too hard last night? Recover with a night at Brooklyn Bowl, which has 32 bowling lanes, bars, live concerts and plenty of fried chicken.
MAKE A SPLASH AT A POOL PARTY
Vegas’ pool parties are legendary – and not just because they’re a place to cool off when it’s 40 degrees out. No, no. They’re pre-parties and after parties rolled into one, with world-class DJs, free-pouring cocktails (#murica), and too many palm trees, day beds and cabanas to count. And the people-watching is insane. Encore Beach Club, BARE, Wet Republic, Marquee Day Club and Rehab Beach Club are wildly popular, so get there early to score a spot. There’s an entry fee, but it’s usually half-price for girls. Then there’s the Golden Nugget, which has a water slide that goes through a shark tank aquarium. If you really just want a quiet arvo in the sun, try Jupiter Pool or The Pool at Aria.
WATCH A SHOW
It’s shooowtime. For jaw-dropping acrobatics, book a Cirque de Soleil performance. O at The Bellagio is a must – because every move incorporates water. Think skydiving, synchronised swimming and other death-defying acts. Love at The Mirage will take you on a trip to the flower power era of the 60s with crazy choreography, aerial stunts and Beatles tunes. And Michael Jackson One at Mandalay Bay is a tribute to the music god. For a raunchy acrobatic show, go to Absinthe at Caesar’s Palace. Otherwise, catch a comedy or magic show or go see one of the stars in residence. JLo and Mariah had their turn; next up is Lady Gaga at MGM!
DINE IN THE DESERT
If you’re craving something, you’ll find it somewhere on The Strip. Since you’re only here for a weekend, treat yourself to one nice, sit-down dinner and then go all-American the other nights (aka Shake Shack).
For Asian… Andrea’s, Wazuzu or Sugarcane.
For Japanese… Nobu, Raku or Other Mam, Zuma.
For sushi… Sushi Samba or Blue Ribbon.
For Mexican… Javier or Diablo’s Cantina.
For Italian… Giada, Sinatra or Scarpetta.
For Spanish… e by Jose Andres or Jaleo.
For French… Bardot Brasserie or EATT.
For steak… STRIPSTEAK, Bazaar Meat or The Capital Grille.
For burgers… Umami Burger or Bachi Burger.
For farm-to-table eats… Sage or Honey Salt.
When a slice of cheesy pizza is calling your name, hit up Piccadilly Pizza.
Oh, and these brunch spots will make waking up in Vegas a little less painful. BYO Advil!
- Bardot Brasserie
- Bacchanal Buffet
- Border Grill
- Hash House A Go Go – because hash browns fix everything.
EXPLORE THE GRAND CANYON
If you haven’t ticked this striking natural wonder [link to natural wonders blog when it goes up] off your bucket list, now’s the time. The Grand Canyon is around 27km west of The Strip, but feels like a world away, with its red sandstone cliffs, twisty canyons and dusty trails. Once you’ve driven or helicoptered in to the canyon, choose your own adventure. You drive around the scenic loop, which is flush with photo ops. You can lace up your sneakers for a hike – they range from leisurely to seriously strenuous, so ask questions before you set off! You can even scale the canyon’s famous walls, if that’s your jam. Either way, the Grand Canyon is awe-inspiring and a beautiful break from the flashing lights.
Vegas doesn’t do anything half-assed – and that includes the spas. They’re glorious, and ready to help you detox. You’ll have to splash some cash, but you’ll emerge feeling like a whole new human. Canyon Ranch Spa is one of the best, with saunas, a salt grotto, two restaurants, two gyms and 90+ treatment rooms offering everything from oxygen facials to hot stone massages. Buy a day pass to Que Baths & Spa, and you’ll get access to the Roman baths, tea lounge, dry sauna and Arctic Ice Room, which is like sitting in an igloo with snowflakes falling from the ceiling. Your pores will never look better. And The Spa at Mandarin Oriental is lovely and luxe. The Turkish hammam treatment is next level.
Counting down to your holiday? Here’s your checklist for a stress-free trip.
Words by Katia Iervasi.