What happens in Vegas? Packed clubs, glitzy shows and gambling still reign on the Strip, but today’s Sin City offers a whole lot more than just sin.
AUTHOR MICHAEL KAPLAN PHOTOGRAPHS BRAD SWONETZ
IT IS 2 A.M. in Las Vegas, but you wouldn’t know it from the crowd at Mr. Lucky’s 24-7. Inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s always-open coffee shop, excited-looking twentysomethings chow down on pancakes and omelets on one side, a poker fiend dines on steak fajitas on the other, and a Japanese crowd that just decamped from the Hard Rock’s nightclub of the moment, Vanity, tucks into a round of turkey clubs in the back. Many cities claim to be ’round-the-clock. Vegas truly is. But its appeal is broader than that. Yes, L.A.’s glitterati fly in for sleepless weekends of clubbing, but nature-lovers also come to marvel at desert sunrises and luxurious retreats. Gamblers from around the globe enjoy blackjack with their morning coffee, but foodies flock here too, to sample dishes prepared by some of the planet’s top chefs. You finish off the last of your Mr. Lucky’s Secret Special (an eight- ounce steak and three shrimp, available for $7.77, ordered off-menu) and head to your room to bank some of the sleep that you’ll surely be missing over the next three days.
ROCK ‘N’ ROLL
Image – Brad Swonetz
DAY ONE The bed is big, the sheets are a zillion thread count, and there’s a dock for your iPod built right into the wall. HRH (1), the new luxury hotel tower at the Hard Rock, exudes just the right mix of posh and edge. Your room service breakfast arrives right on time, as the iPod shuffles from the Rolling Stones to Jay-Z.
In Vegas, getting up before 10 a.m. is unheard of. But don’t let that stop you from paying an early visit to the Gambler’s Book Club (2), a store stacked with tomes that can teach you to count cards and bet sports with the best of ’em. Remember to visit when retired former owner Howard Schwartz is around. He knows as much Vegas lore as anyone.
Having boned up a bit on Sin City’s bad old days—thanks to Book Club perennial The Green Felt Jungle—you venture out to the edge of town and pay your respects at the Neon Museum’s Boneyard (3). It’s an outdoor lot loaded with multistory signs that once twinkled in front of joints like the Silver Slipper, Stardust and El Cortez. The famous dancing waters in the fountain at the Bellagio may be stately, but a giant horseshoe made from thousands of gold-colored light bulbs—well, that’ll stick in your mind.
Blackjack at the
Hard Rock Casino
Image – Brad Swonetz
Keeping it classic, you lunch at Peppermill Coffee Shop (4), situated between the Riviera and the spot where the late, great Stardust used to be. You take in the 1970s space-age décor, dig the fireplace and order a delectable burger from a waitress who calls you “hon.”
Next, you make a quick stop at the Charleston Antique Mall (5), a homey repository of old-timey Vegas ephemera. The vintage casino postcards and matchbooks beckon, and you leave with a pocketful.
Appetite sated and Golden Age revisited, you go back to HRH and hit the Reliquary Spa (6) for a quick massage and circuit of steam, cold shower and jacuzzi. In a town notorious for gussied- up spas, the Reliquary feels straightforward and happily free of new-age flourishes.
You leave the spa relaxed and limber, and your mind turns to dinner. With all the good restaurants in Vegas, settling on one can be harder than winning at roulette. Joël Robuchon ranks among the world’s great chefs, so opting to dine at one of his two restaurants in the MGM Grand is an easy decision. L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (7) is the cooler and more casual of the pair, with dim lighting, ruby red furniture and spectacular food. As you savor your quail stuffed with foie gras, the noisy, clanging slot machines near the entrance may as well be on the other side of town.
After dinner, hand the valet your ticket for the flashy red 2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder you rented (a convertible, naturally) and cruise down to Forum Shops at Caesars. That’s where Casa Fuente (8), a Cuban-themed lounge, offers more than 100 different fine cigars. You opt for a $40 Opus X, accompanied by a 40-year-old Glenfiddich single malt. The scotch is the perfect accompaniment to this smooth- smoking stogie and a winning wind-down to your first day in Las Vegas.