Two days and two nights in Las Vegas was all we had. How to optimize it?
First of all, we made our base camp at The Palazzo, conveniently located smack on The Strip. The Palazzo has the largest standard suite on the Strip, almost twice the size of the average Las Vegas hotel room. No matter what your mood, The Palazzo has something for everyone, from the celebrity chef-studded dine-and-drink scene to smart bites and organic juices to the legendary TAO Beach day club and relaxing times at Canyon Ranch spa. This is a beautifully-run hotel.
Off we went downtown to the Mob Museum. Housed in the former Las Vegas Post Office and Courthouse circa 1933, this must-see attraction gives a bold and realistic view of organized crime from vintage Las Vegas to the back alleys of American cities and—increasingly—across the borders and networks of the entire world. We explored the real stories and actual events of Mob history through interactive exhibits, a world-class journey through true stories. From the birth of the Mob, to today’s headlines. Shadows and whispers. G-Men and Made Men. Whether you like it or not, this is American history, an eye-opening, authentic view of organized crime’s impact on the world, an insider’s look at the events and characters of the continuing battle between the Mob and the law.
We worked up a big appetite looking at such things as Whitey Bulger’s eye glasses and hearing lurid tales of gangsters so it was off to LAGO in the Bellagio, an Italian restaurant known for its stunning water/fountain views and authentic Italian cuisine by super chef Julian Serrano. The theme here is small plates with bold flavors: our choice was a classic Margherita pizza and some grilled branzino drizzled with olive oil.
A nap was next, to gather ourselves for dinner at Beauty & Essex, a sophisticated, jewel-toned eatery in The Cosmopolitan with vintage decor offering New American plates, drinks and wine. Beauty & Essex is what happens when Lower East Side grit meets Las Vegas Strip glam. Housed behind a simulated pawn shop, you enter this dark, ornately decorated den through a plain speakeasy door. We got an energetic dining experience unlike any other. Beauty & Essex Las Vegas is Chef Chris Santos’ first foray out of New York City, and since opening in May 2016, it has consistently been ranked as one of the hottest new restaurants on the strip for its food, drinks, service, and ambiance. We enjoyed handcrafted cocktails in the Pearl Lounge before moving into one of two jewelry-box-themed dining rooms, where we were treated to an extensive selection of shareable plates, fine wines, and world-class service. Memorable dishes: grilled cheese and tomato soup dumplings, tuna sashimi tacos and lime scallops.
Fueled by a wonderful dinner, we headed to OPIUM, a new funky, grand style show in the OPIUM Theatre inside The Cosmopolitan. Odd, offbeat, and entertaining, OPIUM brings a space-aged cast to a very Vegas encounter. It’s wacky, fast, and off the planet.
We slept well in the embrace of The Palazzo. They get top marks for soft beds, great wood and marble details, deep soaking tubs, and classy service. Thank goodness, because the next morning were on our way to the Neon Museum. Founded in 1996, the Neon Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historic, arts and cultural enrichment. Due to the nature of the collection, the Neon Museum Boneyard is only available to the public through an hour long guided tour. Tours are available seven days a week and tour times vary based on the season.
Each sign in the Neon Museum’s collection offers a unique story about the personalities who created it, what inspired it, where and when it was made, and the role it played in Las Vegas’ distinctive history. In addition, the Neon Museum collection chronicles changes and trends in sign design and technology through pieces ranging from the 1930s to the present day.
All that neon made us very hungry, so we lunched at Primrose in the Park MGM-Monte Carlo Hotel & Casino, Vegas’s newest French eatery. Modeled after a country home, we delighted in cocktails in the drawing room and had our choice of the dining room, or beneath the trees in the outdoor terrace and garden for honest unfussy dishes like fire roasted corn, grilled salmon and Caesar salads.
Come sundown, it was time for Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appétit, the country’s leading food, wine and spirits festival, called. We sampled dishes by an extraordinary lineup of world-renowned chefs, master sommeliers and cutting-edge mixologists from Caesars Palace, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, The Cromwell, MGM Resorts International, The Venetian and The Palazzo Las Vegas. Continuing its tradition of bringing the world’s most iconic chefs together in one destination, the 12th annual epicurean affair featured fan favorites such as Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis, Gordon Ramsay, Guy Savoy, Julian Serrano, Lorena Garcia, Masaharu Morimoto, Michael Mina, Nobu Matsuhisa, Stephen Hopcraft and more. Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits of Nevada returned as the official distributor for the festivities. Tickets for next year are available at vegasuncorked.com. The wonderful event affirmed Las Vegas’s status as a leader in redefining epicurean excellence by offering the most comprehensive collection of distinguished restaurants, chefs and master sommeliers.
We took in X Burlesque Las Vegas at The Flamingo. Provocative, daring and scintillating, X Burlesque brings adult fantasies to the stage in a bubbly production show led by a troupe of gorgeous dancers. Running as the city’s hottest topless revue for more than a decade, the X Burlesque beauties bare their assets all while playfully interacting with the audience. Lucky guests are brought on stage while the themes range from playful to steamy and fair warning, the costumes are sexy, burlesque-inspired lingerie but it’s all in good fun and reminiscent of old Vegas entertainment with a modern spin.
That night we also roared with laughter and sat transfixed by the show Absinthe (two shows nightly), which is held in front of Caesar’s Palace under a marvelous traveling tent filled with curiosities. Words almost fail us: this is a naughty, rollicking live show fit for those over 18 only. If you see only one show in Las Vegas, make it Absinthe, a super creative production with the most talented, sexy and daring artists from across the globe presenting breath-taking physical feats, outrageous comedy and seductive teases as close to the audience as they can possibly get.
We dropped by Michael Mina at Bellagio for a late snack. We regretted not having more time to enjoy their refined seafood fare and seasonal New American tasting menus. Genial Manager Jorge Pagani made us feel very much at home as they spoiled us with the freshest fish and aged steaks. This could well be the best restaurant in Las Vegas. The Ahi tuna tartare with mint and pine nuts, phyllo-crusted sole, ginger and scallion whole branzino, charcoal-grilled oysters, dry aged steak, and Maine lobster pot pie were to die for. No doubt about it, Bellagio has the best restaurant selection in town and if you are planning a party, wedding or meeting, their banqueting under the genius of Harvey Stern, is simply the finest.
That was it: 48 jam-packed fun hours in Sin City but we did it without one dime dropped gambling and not a single hangover or an extra pound gained. We had a ball people-watching and eating like kings.
We flew to Las Vegas on the wings of JetSuiteX, a semi-private charter air carrier that has flights between California, Montana, and Nevada. On JetSuite X there are no lines, no waiting, no plane pain. Flying uber-luxe Embraer ERJ 135 airplanes, the JetSuiteX experience means you don’t have to arrive an hour early, you take off on time from a small airport, there is valet parking, and true warm hospitality with top shelf cocktails served complimentary. JetSuiteX makes flying a pleasure and fun again. PS: We sat behind nice guy Robin Thicke and his beautiful wife and baby; that was an extra benefit.