Buro city guide: Las Vegas
Everything is amplified in Las Vegas - the flashing neon lights, the pulsating nightclubs - even the people. You'll pass more men in cowboy hats and women dripping in sequins here than anywhere else on earth - but then, there's nowhere else on earth that's quite like Vegas. Where else can you go to Gordon Ramsay's for lunch, do dinner with Alain Ducasse and party with Calvin Harris - all before kicking on with a sunrise helicopter ride to one of the seven natural wonders of the world?
There's more to the Strip, which dazzles like a man-made mirage in the middle of the Nevada desert, than The Hangover-style debauchery (although hangovers will definitely be had). The Vegas of 2016 has shed its bad boy reputation to emerge as a lavish luxury destination for pleasure-seekers with an insatiable taste for indulgence. The hotels here aren't simply hotels - they're mega-resorts, with theatres, beaches and casinos - and in some cases, Venetian-esque canal networks, aquariums and a Turkish hammam - in addition to the pools, spas, high-end boutiques and restaurants you'd expect. Go in summer if you want to experience Vegas' famous pool parties as most are closed until late March, but beware - temperatures can soar to over 40°C. Winter is milder and quieter - but you can still have the time of your life.
Top 3 brunch spots
Breakfast isn't really 'done' in Vegas as no-one expects you to be out of bed before mid-morning. But a decadent brunch at one of these hotspots is worth waking up for.
1. Lago by Julian Serrano, Bellagio
Sip cocktails with gold-dusted raspberries and indulge in the brunch dessert buffet (you're in America now) at a sun-soaked table with the best views of the famous Fountains of Bellagio in Vegas. The three-course brunch feast on Sundays is a step up from your usual poached eggs and avo - the braised duck with polenta comes highly recommended.
2. GIADA, The Cromwell
Unlike many venues in Vegas, GIADA is saturated in natural light care of beautiful bay windows that overlook Bellagio. The interior is fresh and sophisticated, the food is to-die-for (strawberry polenta waffles with grilled pineapple and Nutella, anyone?) and they do fresh juices AND proper coffee. Oh, and the chef's won an Emmy.
3. Room service!
Given you'll probably feel like a sleep-in at some stage, room service is a given. Nobu's in-room offering (yes, Vegas has a Nobu restaurant AND hotel) is particularly special - sweet tooths should try the Blueberry and Yuzu Soba Pancakes with Pecan Miso Butter and Maple Syrup; those more inclined to savoury, the Breakfast Bento box.
Top 3 restaurants for lunch
1. Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, Caesar's Palace
The celebrity chef set out to recreate a classic English pub experience in Vegas with this restaurant, which has become famous for its fish 'n' chips with mushy peas and sticky date pudding, which is on the menu at each and every one of Ramsay's establishments.
2. Carson Kitchen
A buzzing locals' hangout in downtown Vegas, Carson Kitchen specialises in share plates. Try the out-of-this-world bacon jam with baked brie and the rainbow cauliflower with garlic and lemon juice.
3. Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, The Venetian
Expect Southern cooking and Southern hospitality at Yardbird, where everything is made from scratch on site. The Southern fried chicken with chilled watermelon and waffles is the crowd favourite, but the kale salad is equally delicious (especially if you ask for a side of fried chicken, as this writer may have done...). Wash it all down with some iced tea and finish with their amazing red velvet cheesecake with Oreo base. When in Vegas...
Top 3 restaurants for dinner
1. Rivea, Delano
Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse's only restaurant outside of Europe, Rivea, which opened in October 2015, is a foodie's dream. The decadent French/Italian menu is complemented by five-star service and a sommelier who really knows his stuff - of-course, it helps that he has over 1300 wines at his disposal.
2. Nobu, Caesars Palace
The biggest Nobu in the world and the only one with teppan plates, the Vegas version of this world-renowned Japanese restaurant lives up to the hype. The food is incredible - the jalapêno ceviche is famous for a reason - and the attention to detail extends to the colour of napkin you're given - black if you're wearing black; white if you're wearing white.
3. Fleur, Mandalay Bay
Acclaimed chef Hubert Keller doubles as a DJ at Fleur - if you're lucky, you'll spot him spinning discs in the restaurant. The share plates menu is inspired by his travels, but the most famous dish is the FleurBurger 5000, a Wagyu beef burger with foie gras, truffle and a bottle of 1995 Chatêau Petrus. At US$5000, it's the most expensive combo meal in the US.
Top 3 cocktail bars
1. Skyfall Lounge, Delano
Adjacent to Rivea on the top floor of the Delano, Skyfall offers 180-degree views of the Strip. It's probably the only cocktail bar in the world where the bathrooms are as breathtaking as the cocktails. That's not to dis the drinks - the bathrooms are spectacular (if a little off-putting), with floor to ceiling glass views of the desert beyond. We're guaranteed they're heavily tinted.
2. The Chandelier Bar, The Cosmopolitan
An architectural feat, the Chandelier Bar is a multi-storey cocktail lounge surrounded by thousands of glittering crystals. Designed to feel as though you're drinking inside a chandelier, it's equal parts cocktail bar and art installation.
3. Bardot Brasserie, Aria
Sipping a Le Peche Mode at the glittering golden bar of French restaurant Bardot Brasserie is akin to stepping back in time to Paris' la Belle Epoque.
Top 3 hotels
1. The Cosmopolitan
- If Blair Waldorf was ever to visit Vegas, this is where she'd stay. Dreamy, beautifully appointed rooms with spa baths that soak up the best view of the Strip to be had, spanning the Bellagio Fountains, the 'Eiffel Tower' and the desert hills beyond.
2. Nobu Hotel, Caesars Palace
The world's first Nobu Hotel (yes, you can order award-winning Nobu dishes in-room) has just 18 exclusive suites, all fitted out with a minimalist Japanese aesthetic. The sprawling penthouse villa is a favourite of Justin Bieber, Calvin Harris and Taylor Swift - it could be yours for a cool $35,000/night.
The newest luxury hotel in Vegas, the five-star Delano is one of the few establishments that doesn't permit smoking and doesn't have a casino. The chic rooms are fitted out exceptionally well, with gold accents (I very nearly ran away with the table lights) and high design values.
Top 3 nightclubs
1. Hyde Bar, Bellagio
Head back to Bellagio after dark for an epic night out at the 10,000 square foot Hyde Bar, the work of global design icon Philippe Starck. If you can nab a lounge, you'll be wowed by views of the Bellagio fountains as you dance the night away.
2. Hakkasan, MGM Grand
Calvin Harris is a regular at this world-famous club, which epitomises Las Vegas extravagance.
3. XS, Wynn
Consistently voted number one nightclub in the world, XS attracts star DJ talent of the likes of David Guetta. The glittering pool is its central hub, surrounded by 30 cabanas, gold-plated interiors and 40,000 square feet of dance floor.
Top 3 shopping haunts
1. The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace
If the ancient Romans had a penchant for Chanel, this is where they'd shop. A fantasy recreation of the Roman Forum, complete with Trevi Fountain and hand-painted 'sky' that evolves from dawn to dusk over a one-hour period, The Forum Shops is home to almost all the high-end luxury brands, including Mulberry, Christian Louboutin and Balenciaga. Many have their own Forum-exclusive, Vegas-inspired collections, such as Charlotte Olympia and Louis Vuitton.
2. The Venetian
Caesars Palace does Rome, The Venetian does - you guessed it - ancient Venice, complete with an extensive canal network, gondola rides... and a Barneys. Cake Boss also has a patisserie and restaurant here.
3. Las Vegas North Premium Outlets
Love a bargain? Just try to walk away from these mega-outlets without at least a bag in each hand. A solid selection of luxury brands, including Armani, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana and Calvin Klein, all have stores here, as does J.Crew, Rag & Bone and Nike.
Top 3 attractions on the Strip
It's not called the entertainment capital of the world for nothing - you could easily see a different show every night of your stay in Vegas.
1. Cirque du Soleil
Myriad Cirque du Soleil shows run all year long in Vegas - if you're more into dance than acrobatics, the Michael Jackson One show at Mandalay Bay is insane.
2. The Colosseum, Caesars Palace
Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Elton John and Rod Stewart are currently in residency at The Colosseum, which perpetually attracts major headline acts.
3. Sahra Spa & Hammam, The Cosmopolitan
The spa at The Cosmopolitan is something else - complete with private baths, whirlpools, steam rooms and a hammam with a giant heated stone slab, the luxurious treatments are the ultimate antidote to long Vegas nights. The 80-minute Sahra Desert Aromatherapy Massage is highly recommended.
Top 3 attractions beyond the Strip
1. The Grand Canyon
A sunrise helicopter tour from Vegas to the Grand Canyon is simply magical. The trip there takes in panoramic views of Hoover Dam, Grand Wash Cliffs and Grand Canyon West, before you touch down 4000 feet below the rim for a champagne breakfast.
2. The Neon Museum
Get a taste of the original Vegas at this outdoor graveyard for over 200 retro neon signs, many of which date back to the '50s and '60s.
3. Fremont Street, Downtown
Before the Strip, Fremont Street was Vegas' epicentre. It's now being revitalised thanks to a million-dollar renewal project, with new bars, restaurants and a three-day festival, Life is Beautiful, which attracted Kendrick Lamar as its headline act last year. The festival's art series sees vibrant murals spring up around the city every year.
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