By Don & Ann Jackson
It’s been quite a few years since we’d been to Vegas and was pleasantly surprised at the numerous changes we encountered. Naturally, the casinos and major name entertainment are still of paramount importance for those folks who enjoy either or both. One of our Vegas sources indicated that with the ever-increasing competition from California’s Native American casinos the city really needed to reinvent itself with lots of new features, activities, and events that would appeal to a broader range of visitors-especially the younger aged revelers, women and families. Now don’t get us wrong it’s still the glitz capital of the world-where else can you see so much neon and huge replicas of Paris’ Eiffel Tower, Egypt’s Sphinx and pyramids, plus New York’s skyscrapers and Statue of Liberty all within a few blocks of each other? For more information on all things mentioned in this article go to: LasVegas.com or just do a Google search.
Here are some of the major changes we encountered:
Finally a few high-end hotels are totally smoke free (not just a few floors) and some have no casinos within the hotel premises.
Serious foodies will be in gastronomic heaven. For quite a few years the city has featured celebrity chefs but never to the extent that exists today. It seems that every famous American and European chef now has a restaurant in Vegas. Nowhere in the world can food lovers have so many celebrity chef dining options within such close proximity.
Shopping has reached heights beyond Beverly Hills or New York with every major designer and high-end stores seemingly represented. Add in two of the world’s largest factory store outlet complexes and it’s a shopaholic nirvana.
A huge multi-purpose state-of-the-art sports arena is now under construction that will house a National Hockey League team and become home to other major sporting and entertainment events. Could the NBA, MLB, and NFL also be contemplating having teams in Vegas soon?
More festivals with major stars catering to specific music genres staged at outdoor venues like Electric Daisy Carnival, iHeartRadio, and Route 91 Harvest Festival.
Many hotels now feature huge kid friendly video arcades, pool slides, and diversions like roller coasters and other rides. It also seems there are a few more family friendly shows being offered. The biggest new draw for families is the High Roller, the world’s largest observation wheel at 550 foot high with a cost of over 550 million dollars. A thirty-minute ride features spectacular day and night views from 28 forty person capacity cabins. Some of the cars are equipped with an open bar for increased ticket priced “happy half-hour trip”.
Las Vegas really does offer many unique adrenaline-pumping attractions-a few of which probably can’t be found anywhere else or at least in such close proximity to each other. Examples:
Experience driving alone or with an instructor in an Army tank, a monster truck, an exotic sports car, a huge Caterpillar tractor or an Indy car. And if those don’t thrill your adventure meter try leaping off the 855 foot high Skyjump on the Stratosphere Hotel tower, or operating a classic ‘80s airplane doing loops, rolls plus combat maneuvers. Want something adventurous but without the excessive fear factor? Then indoor skydiving or zipping on the Flightlinez at Fremont Street Experience should provide an exhilarating thrill. If your adventure level doesn’t include the above, look into hiking around the nearby and beautiful Red Rock National Monument or the massive Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Visits to the entertaining Mob Museum, yesteryear’s Neon Museum, or Hoover Dam-one of the world’s most amazing marvels of engineering-should be considered. Our brief stop at Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden in the Mirage Resort provided a wonderful surprise, as we were able to see recently born white tiger cubs frolicking with their trainer and each other. Our favorite shows were the Broadway rebirth of The Jersey Boys, America’s Got Talent T.V. show winners Mat Franco & Terry Fator and the long running Donnie & Marie Osmond show, voted the most popular show with local residents.
Where to Stay & Dine:
On the Strip: This is where most of the action takes place and you need to look no further than The Delano, sans casino and a totally smoke free all-suite boutique type property under the preeminent MGM banner. This chic property includes rooftop nouveau French dining at Rivea under the auspices of Alain Ducasse, one of the world’s most famous celebrity, Michelin-awarded chefs. Our meals in the casual Della’s kitchen were exceptional comfort food experiences and the hotel accommodations and staff were quite special. DelanoLasVegas.com. Our other recommended dining spots on the strip include: Heritage Steak by New York’s celebrity chef, Tom Colicchio at the Mirage. Just the best steaks we’ve had in months; Giada, inside the Cromwell Hotel, features the delectable Italian cuisine of Emmy award winning Food Channel Chef, Giada De Laurentiis. If you’re seeking a special occasion dinner spot be sure to reserve a table at the Stratosphere Hotel’s award winning revolving Top of the World restaurant where breathtaking vistas and gourmet cuisine will not disappoint. Shopping at the nearby Las Vegas Town Square? You should consider a meal at Brio Tuscan Grille, where Tuscany inspired fare will definitely please your palate.
At Lake Las Vegas: This very upscale Mediterranean inspired development in nearby Henderson is the premier resort destination if you really want to be away from the bustling activities of the Strip or downtown Vegas. Beautiful resort and condo accommodation choices and a championship Jack Nicklaus golf course overlook a privately owned 320-acre lake with ten miles of shoreline, sailing, and fishing options. Our recommended lodging choice is the striking Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort and Spa where luxurious guest rooms and a gorgeous setting will insure a much more relaxing environment than the strip. A totally smoke free and non-casino environment makes this Westin a new personal favorite. Also provides close access to Lake Mead and Hoover Dam. WestinLakeLasVegas.com
In Summerlin Area: Another wonderful area away from the more hectic downtown and strip providing the closest access to Red Rock Canyon. On two trips to Vegas we’ve stayed at the J.W. Marriott Resort and Spa and are pleased that this is another totally free smoke free property. We were also blown away by the guest rooms, spa, gym facilities, lush gardens, poolside cabanas, and our meals in their Ceres Restaurant. JwMarriottHotels.com Another dining experience we had in the Summerlin area was the D.W. Bistro, a local favorite. The young staff is providing creative dishes and very friendly service in an upbeat ambience.