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 Photography Brad Swonetz
DAY TWO | On the 32nd floor of the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino, there’s a little-known gem of a hideaway called Hotel 32 (1). Lofts here feature remote- controlled drapes, TVs and mood lighting. Concierges are at the ready to snag hard- to-get show tickets, and the private buffet is the sort of thing usually open only to high rollers: free, all-you-can-eat food from dawn till dusk.
After enjoying a seven-jet shower, you take a 10-minute walk to CityCenter. This is Vegas’ recently opened city-within-a-city, packed with sleek hotels, casinos, shops and condos. It’s also the site of Silk Road (2), a pan-Asian restaurant that serves mind-blowingly good blueberry ricotta pancakes slathered in honeycomb butter. You order a big plate of them and savor the unusual and highly addictive blend of light, rich and fruity.
After a last sip of French-press coffee, you take a stroll around CityCenter, where $40 million worth of art adorns the complex. You see a sculptural pile of kayaks by Nancy Rubin, a Julian Schnabel painting that dominates most of an interior wall, and, best of all, a text-oriented installation from Jenny Holzer. Its pithy slogans— “Boredom makes you do crazy things,” for one—play off of the dreams and schemes of most everyone who passes through this town, where simple restlessness can inspire you to, say, wager your entire 401k on a spin of the roulette wheel.
Versace in Crystals
Image – Brad Swonetz
You hop in the Boxster and drive 20 minutes to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the wind whipping through your hair. Here you find the Exotics Racing School (3). You plunk down $299 to enjoy the kinds of risks that casinos don’t offer. It starts with a brief but detailed training session. Then you get behind the wheel of a formidable Ferrari F430 F1 and jack the racer up to 130 mph (with an instructor in the passenger seat). By the time you spin around that final lap, you may regret that last ricotta pancake, but the charge is undeniable.
Back in town, take a stroll through Crystals (4), a shopping mecca with swooping architecture by starchitect Daniel Libeskind. Check out Cartier, Christian Dior and the largest Louis Vuitton store in North America, then hit the Todd English P.U.B. (5), a Vegas-scale sports bar, for pastrami sliders and a flight of brews (they have 30 on tap).
You finish just in time to get to the Mirage for Cirque du Soleil’s The Beatles LOVE (6), where classics like “Help!” are a backdrop for the troupe’s world-renowned acrobatics. Clever juxtapositions of Fab Four footage with live action put a new shine on songs you’ve heard a million times before.
Still humming “All You Need Is Love” and shaking confetti out of your hair, you head to Wynn Las Vegas for dinner at Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare (7). Chef Paul Bartolotta puts the focus on the fish, which, considering it was pulled from the Mediterranean just 48 hours earlier, is wise. Seafood that fresh is best enjoyed without too much tinkering. Sautéed tiny clams, grilled sweet slipper- lobsters and Sicilian amberjack in an anchovy sauce add up to an excellent meal— particularly if you dine alfresco alongside the manmade lagoon behind the restaurant.
You’re full, you’re tired, you think you want to sleep. But you muster one last blast of energy and proceed to XS (8), currently the hottest club in Vegas. Sip a cocktail, take in the gold finishes and keep an eye out for the NBA stars who’ve been known to spend big on bottle service here. You forgo the Cristal for the dance floor, and soon all thoughts of going to bed disappear. You make it home before dawn, but only just.
Image – Brad Swonetz