The city known as the entertainment capital of the world has a distinctly more refined and endearing personality than you might expect. Adele Thurlow investigates the quieter side of Las Vegas.
Lights and late nights, fanfare and frivolity — it's the vibe Las Vegas is famous for. But behind the sparkly facade is a city with surprising depth and maturity; it's had more than a century of experience, after all. Locals display pride and unity, and the city's hospitality offerings have been cultivated to an exceptional standard. Perhaps think of it as an experienced and knowledgeable veteran stage performer . . . dressed in flashy sequins.
Obviously, it caters well for those who love the night-life and the possibility of waking up with a new tattoo or even a new spouse, but Las Vegas is also a destination perfectly equipped for a restorative break.
REST AND RECHARGE
Perhaps the biggest decision in a trip to Las Vegas is where to stay — an elegant, iconic older hotel, or a luxurious and contemporary new hotel? But who'd have thought a Vegas hotel could be good for your health?
MGM Grand's Stay Well suites are equipped with air purification, aromatherapy, specially designed night and day lighting, a vitamin C shower infuser, and access to sleep, stress and nutritional therapy programmes.
Many Las Vegas hotel groups have adapted to the changing demands of visitors who are now spending more on non-gaming entertainment.
Vdara and Delano are non-gaming hotels — a popular choice for visitors not interested in casino entertainment. They're boutique-like, subdued and easy to navigate in comparison to large casino hotels, which can entail a long walk from the lobby to your room, often via the gambling floor.
That's not to say the gaming resorts can't be peaceful too. Planet Hollywood's Ultra Hip rooms feature plush beds, enormous walk-in showers, and great views of the Strip — without any hint of noise from the fun happening beyond the hotel rooms.
REJUVENATE YOUR BODY
Take that freshly rested body and give it a workout at Aria Resort's indoor hike. Led by a skilled personal trainer, the hike traverses through the resort's public spaces, pausing to do squats, tricep dips, stair climbs and admire art installations.
At the MGM Grand Spa, a Stay Well massage takes Swiss massage to the next level by using air purification, aromatherapy and relaxation audio-visuals played on a screen suspended beneath the massage table. mgmgrand.com
For next level body euphoria, The Spa at Encore has developed the Bodhi Massage and Visualisation treatment. From the reception area to the shower cubicles, every inch of this spa is opulent — think marble floors, silk brocade cushions, elegant orchids, and chandeliers. The indulgent Bodhi treatment is a fusion of Hawaiian lomilomi, Thai and chakra massage styles accompanied by aromatherapy, colour therapy and meditation. wynnlasvegas.com
And for a yoga class Las Vegas style, choose from poolside outdoor yoga, a heli-yoga experience to the Valley of Fire, or yoga among dolphins at The Mirage.
REVITALISE YOUR MIND
Escape to Lake Mead National Recreation Area, a quick and invigorating drive from downtown Las Vegas behind the wheel of a high performance exotic car or an aggressive American muscle car.
Equally within reach is the solitude of the Grand Canyon via a helicopter flight over the Hoover Dam and Mojave Desert. Refuel with a champagne picnic before flying back to The Strip. sundancehelicopters.com/products/heli_horsepower
For desert photos with a difference, drive to Seven Magic Mountains. In the middle of the desert stand seven towering stacks of boulders painted in dayglow paint — a perplexing but beautiful art installation by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone.
With many Las Vegas hotels easily exceeding 4000 rooms, it's no surprise there are restaurants aplenty. Though enormous buffets and 24-hour pizzerias spring to mind, Las Vegas is, in fact, one of the world's great culinary destinations. More than 40 big-name chefs are at the helm of hotel restaurants along the Strip which offer a holistic dining experience, rather than just a plate of food.
Rose. Rabbit. Lie, Cosmopolitan Hotel
Go for: Underground supper club atmosphere, live music, cocktails
Order: Signature caviar tacos, French onion soup popover, chocolate terrarium
Go for: Farm-to-table food with an appreciation for provenance, prepared in a central display kitchen
Order: Yellowtail poke from Hawaii, Maine lobster and farmer's market cocktails
Chica, The Venetian
Go for: Latin American cuisine in laidback surrounds amid high-end Venetian retail stores
Order: Everything! Arepas and plantains with out-of-this-world-amazing guacamole, pepita-crusted lamb, churro fried icecream pops
Ferraro's Italian Restaurant
Go for: Extraordinary authentic Italian fare and impeccable service in a popular Las Vegas institution led by local personality Gino Ferraro
Order: Lasagna alla Gino, osso buco, an imported Italian red from the 58-page
Della's Kitchen, Delano Hotel
Go for: All-day breakfast and lunch using fresh locally sourced ingredients and attentive service
Order: Dutch apple French toast, blue crab benedict, tasting tray of hand-pressed juices
7th & Carson, Downtown Las Vegas
Go for: Laidback lunch with Irish influences and a garden courtyard in historic downtown Las Vegas
Order: Chicken and waffles with bourbon syrup, Downtown Dubliner burger, custom cocktail creation from the in-house liquid chef
During a three-hour stroll along The Strip, sample signature dishes from a curated selection of the most acclaimed restaurants in Las Vegas. These include Michael Mina's French brasserie Bardot, Scott Conant's Scarpetta, and Wolfgang Puck's Cucina.
Air New Zealand has daily non-stop flights from Auckland to Los Angeles and San Francisco, with onward connections to Las Vegas on partner airlines. One-way Economy fares start from $1039