Having returned from Vegas a few weeks ago I've finally found a moment to share some highlights from my weekend there.
From the moment you deplane you're confronted with a vast array of slot machines. I suppose they're meant to either be the prologue or epilogue to your gambling in Vegas. After meeting up with my Mom we took a shuttle to our hotel, the Palazzo Resort and Casino. The instant I entered the hotel lobby the very first thing I noticed was the scent. It smells like gardenias. More specifically like Fracas perfume. I was instantly smitten. The hotel is one of the newest addition to the strip, built less than a year ago. It's the sister hotel to the Venetian. The appearance of the Palazzo's lobby was very elegant and grand. There's a fountain at its center that stands under a large glass cupola. Old world Italian design is the main architectural theme of the hotel. The casino was sparkling clean and was not yet imbedded with the scent of cigarette smoke like some of the other long standing casinos on the strip. I later learned that the hotel is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified property, smoking is off limits for the majority of the hotel, including 50 percent of the casino. After walking through the lobby, then casino, weheaded to our room. One thing that I was so taken with about the Palazzo was that each and every room is a suite. With not 1 or 2 flat screen TVs but a whopping 3. I died. One in the living area, one in the bedroom, and most importantly one in the bathroom. The bathroom was well stocked with Agraria Lemon Verbena bath products. We carry Agraria at the store I work at, but only the home fragrance part of the line. So although familiar enough with the line I'd never used the bath products. But I was taking them all home, I can tell you that much.
After taking in the view from our room and making ourselves at home for a bit we walked across the street to Treasure Island to pick up our tickets from Cirque Du Soliel's "O", which we would be attending that evening at The Bellagio. Since our flights got us in to Vegas mid day, we didn't have much time to do more than hit the Shoppes at The Palazzo before dinner reservations at Woo, an Asian fusion restaurant at the Palazzo.
The shops include all the various high end stores you'd expect to find in Vegas. The Shoppes at the Palazzo lead into the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian. We didn't venture that far on this particular day, thinking it best to pace ourselves. Besides we had dinner to get to.
Part of the promotion the Palazzo was running when we made our reservations was a $30 dining credit at their restaurant Woo. So although it wouldn't have necessarily been my first choice of where to eat, it ended up being one of our best meals while in Vegas. I must admit the decor and location left much to be desired. But the food was superb from the baby back ribs with honey tamarind glaze and black cod lettuce wrap appetizers to the mochi ice cream for dessert and everything in between, I was impressed. From there it was on to the Bellagio for "O".
The Bellagio is where you'll find the incredible fountain show that accompanies a song every hour or so up until evening, when it plays more often. We caught the show twice and both times it was to some patriotic song. Which was well and good, but I would have preferred a bit of variety. Once we watched it during the day and the second time at night. Regardless of the time of day it's well worth navigating the crowds to catch glimpse of.
The Bellagio is stunning and appealing in it's own way. I was still content with where we had decided to stay (thanks for the tip D). I had seen Cirque Du Soliel before, in San Francisco, actually. I had never been inclined to buy tickets to see the show myself but due to some unfortunately circumstances my friend Sarah and I were given tickets by a friend. So of course when given free tickets to something, you go. I can't even remember now which show we saw. They set up the tent in the middle of some large parking lot as they're apt to do when touring. Afterwards I was thoroughly impressed. But "O" far surpassed the piddly little show I saw in SF. First of all the stage was especially built for this particular production. The theme being, water. "Cirque Du Soliel weaves an aquatic tapestry of artistry, surrealism and theatrical romance in the timeless production, O. The international cast of world-class acrobats, synchronized swimmers, divers and characters perform in, on, and above water to create a breathtaking experience in a magnificent theatre reminiscent of a European opera house." The experience was amazing and our seats phenomenal.
Day two found us picking up coffee and croissants from Bouchon cafe, located in the Venetian. The cafe to Thomas Keller's Bouchon restaurant (he of French Laundry fame). Delicious of course. Then we headed to the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian.
The shops are nestled in a re-created Italian village, complete with a painted fresco overhead, meant to resemble a cloud-studded blue sky, and a canal right down the center on which gondoliers float and serenade you. Living statues as well as costumed performers strolling along the canal form a part of the streetscape. It's an experience. Although the shops themselves were ho hum. From there we walked across the street to the Mirage.
I was hell bent on seeing Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, located at the Mirage. Anytime I have the opportunity to spot a dolphin, I'm there. This actually ended up being one of the highlights of our time in Vegas. What actually so impressed me about the habitat is the fact that they're all about education and research. There are no choreographed shows or performances. You're able to observe the dolphins doing what they do, playing and being fed. I was just so taken with the dolphins as well as the other animals (tigers, lions, and exotic cats), I could have stayed for hours. But we had lunch reservations, so we were off to Bobby Flay's restaurant Mesa Grill at Cesars.
I'm really not a huge Bobby Flay fan, but I'd heard good things about Mesa Grill, so thought we'd check it out for ourselves. Now it's was a Sunday, so all they were serving was brunch. People on Chow Hound (one of my resources for scouting out good restaurants when traveling to a new city) said the spicy chicken and sweet potato hash with poached eggs and green chile hollandaise was a must. So that's what I ordered. It was unfortunately too spicy for my liking and I expected sweet potato hash browns, not what I received, which was sweet mashed potatoes. Mash potato vs. hash potato, big difference in my book. But regardless, the drinks were good although the serving was a bit appalling. We left really not that impressed. We'd saved room for dessert, so it was off to Payard, which is also located at Cesars.
Besides obviously having a vast array of chocolates to choose from, they also had crepes. My Mom and I split a crepe with nuttella and banana. It was so DELICIOUS and it completely canceled out so so experience at Mesa. I just had to take home some chocolates and a tin of their Payard tea. Then we went back to our hotel to rest up for Bette Midler's performance that night.
Bette Midler was performing at Cesars, so back we went. The whole reason we planned this trip to Vegas was actually to see Bette Midler. My Mom saw her perform at a concert in central park in the 70's on her way to fly to Europe. I always heard her tell that story and thought that since I've become such a Bette fan myself, it would be a great experience to see her perform together in Vegas. She's just such a stellar old school performer. She has these little quips thrown in between songs and a knack for interacting with the audience. Not to mention her cast of back up dancers that help carry the show. She can belt it out like nobodies business. And she looked AMAZING in costume after costume.
After the show we were famished so we walked next door to the Bellagio to grab dinner at Noodle. But first we caught a nighttime performance of the Bellagio fountain show. Then headed through the casino to wait in line at Noodle. Delicious and worth the wait.
Day three found me getting my hair blown out Canyon Ranch Spa salon in our hotel at the ungodly hour of 8:50am (at least by Vegas standards), a little treat for myself. Then we went to have our first and only Vegas buffet experience. We selected the Wynn buffet, as it had been one of the most highly recommended. And I'd wanted to check out the interior of the hotel anyway. "With its golden facade arching toward the sky, Wynn Las Vegas provides a unique fusion of nature (in the form of a mountain, lagoons, waterfalls, and terraced landscapes) and luxury. An indoor atrium near the lobby leads guests through a pathway of flowers and trees. A glimpse of the gardens, on the other side of a man-made mountain, reveals a mammoth curtain waterfall pouring into the 3-acre Lake of Dreams." The hotel is divine and will be where I'm staying next time I'm in Vegas. Somewhere I'd read that if you get to the buffet around 10:30am, you'll be in time for breakfast and lunch. D made the comment, "yeah, it's call brunch". But no, on a Monday it's not called brunch. It's very distinctly first breakfast then lunch. Regardless. We timed it right. But had to wait in a bit of a line. It was worth the wait. Anything and everything you wanted from Asian to Mexican from healthy to not so much was available. Not to mention the dessert bar. I couldn't fathom eating a meal like this everyday in Vegas, but it was definitely worth the experience. After leaving The Wynn we crossed the street to Fashion Show Mall for the sole purpose of finding the Kate Spade store.
I was disappointed by the fact that it's a mall you'd find in anywhere America. Fine for when you're at home, but not fine for when you are in Vegas. There is one store worth mentioning, but I can't for the life of me remember what it is called. But it's by either Saks, Neimans, or Nordstroms. I know, that really narrows it down, right? Anyway, I haven't yet mentioned how impossibly expensive things like bottled water and basic necessities are. You have to buy these things in the hotels stores. Where over priced is an understatement. But at this store you could find drinks (from soft to hard) at a bargain along with other snacks and basic necessities. There's also a Walgreen's or something of the nature going up right between the Palazzo and Venetian hotels, which will hopefully offer a respite from the $5 bottled waters, we were forced to buy.
Next it was back to our hotel to finally have the requisite gambling experience we had to have while in Vegas. We decided to just stick to the slots this go round. Although, at our hotel, and apparently others, they do offer free gaming lessons. A nice touch, I thought. So the slots. We got a tip from a sales woman at Neimans about a slot machine she swore was lucky, having won $900 on it. So it took a bit of searching but we located the machine. This is really embarrassing, but we couldn't figure out how to work the machine. They're all digital and completely confusing. But luckily they have people available to assist. Our "assistant" was a rather snarky older gentleman from NYC. We had been given a $50 gambling credit, when we made our reservation. So we decided that was all we'd gamble with. Can I just say one thing, nobody told me they've done away with the coins spilling out into your waiting bucket when you win. All your winnings are printed out on slips of paper which you redeem for bills. Anyway, after playing a few hours, we broke even. But in a way won $50, because we weren't playing with our money anyway. So much for the big win. Next time will be a different story.
It being our last night, we'd saved the best dining experience for last, Thomas Keller's Bouchon restaurant. Ever since living in Berkeley and hearing about Keller's French Laundry in Napa, I'd been wanting to eat at one of his restaurant. Located a stones throw away from our hotel in the Venetian overlooking one of the pools we had an incredible meal. I started with the French onion soup, perfection. Then we shared the macaroni gratin, delicious. For my entree I ordered the Poulet aux Petit Pois ala Francais (Roasted chicken with English peas, lardons, lolla rosa (?) and chicken jus), yum. Then it was down to cafe Bouchon for coffee and macarons to take back to the room. Where we packed and fell asleep content that we had packed in as much as we possibly could into 2 1/2 days. The next morning it was back to Savannah.
Final thoughts: Of all the shops we visited: the Palazzo, Venetian, Cesars, Bellagio and the pedestrian shops at Fashion Show Mall, I actually preferred those at the Palazzo. They're high end enough to create the Vegas shopping experience, not ordinary like those at Fashion Show Mall, or overly high end like those at Cesars and Bellagio. Apparently tourism is down 40% in Vegas right now. Although from the hordes of people I really couldn't tell. But if you're itching to get out of dodge for a weekend or even a week consider Vegas, baby. You can score incredible deals on flights and rooms with all sorts of perks like dining, spa and gambling credits.
[Pictures and links to come.]