Have you gotten your vaccine? It’s time to plan your trip to visit Las Vegas. The Strip and Downtown are alive with striking new hotels and casinos as well as time-tested resorts re-oriented to meet the demands of returning visitors. The dining scene is equally vibrant with a wonderful variety of new restaurants. And serious health-conscious protocols are in place in all.
More Hotel Options than Ever
Opening in March, a few blocks east of Las Vegas Boulevard, Virgin Hotels Las Vegas transforms the former Hard Rock Resort & Casino into a luxurious, popping experience befitting the Virgin brand. The show-stopping outdoor space covers an amazing five acres and is designed as a desert-like oasis with multiple pools, an event area and a dayclub. You’ll want to be among the first to experience Virgin’s collection of star chef-heavy restaurants like Nobu and Todd English’s Olives, and their exceptionally spacious casino. In true Virgin Hotels fashion, rooms and suites fitted out with the height of technology and the signature Virgin Hotels bed.
I stayed at the beautiful NoMad when it first opened. I was obsessed with their private, boutique check-in; their luxe rooms and the hidden, exclusive swimming pool. The smoke-free news makes me smile even more. I’ll be able to sip my dirty martini in my cabana without worrying whether someone is smoking near me. And there will be no smoke to cloud the spaces near the theater when it re-opens. That’s good news, too, for diners at their popular NoMad Restaurant or Eataly, where my gelati, pasta and prosciutto were as good as anything I’d had in Rome.
There’s another development that should please a lot of you. The city’s first adults-only hotel has opened in Downtown Las Vegas on the colorful and lively Fremont Street Experience. Circa Las Vegas Resort and Casino stands 35 stories tall with five floors of amenities and a state-of-the-art parking hub designed for ride sharing. My favorite part is the relocation of the iconic Vegas Vickie neon sign to the hotel lobby. She’s a beacon connecting history to the present.
Circa is Downtown’s first ground-up resort in 40 years. The two-story property is an adult playground, with an amazing sports book area and the especially popular pool experience, Stadium Swim, the largest in the US. The complex has six temperature-controlled pools, two swim-up bars and a ridiculously huge LED screen, playing the day’s hottest games and televised events. If it gets cold, Stadium Swim’s pools are heated up to 104 degrees for an après-ski style experience. And, of course, everything is cleaned with a high-tech sanitation system.
Downtown has gotten tech obsessed at the Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino. The hotel’s new 495-room Gallery Tower is cutting edge with an augmented reality-based art installation. Book a room in the Virtual Pad collection so you can have some interactive fun with the art. Addressing current health and safety concerns, new digital kiosks inside the hotel’s new porte-cochère give guests contactless check-in and checkout.
If you prefer the neon of the Strip, The Cromwell, the only standalone boutique hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard, has been re-imagined as adults-only. You must be 21 years of age to stay there although guests of all ages can dine at the hotel’s acclaimed GIADA from TV personality and chef Giada De Laurentiis.
Dining at the Hotels is Hot, Hot, Hot
Las Vegas has become an epicenter for many of the country’s top chefs who have found their way to Sin City, opening versions of their original restaurants or creating new ones that take their culinary expertise to even greater heights. The past year has seen openings of more high-end restaurants and trendy lounges with cuisine from world-class chefs.
Wynn Las Vegas adds to its culinary portfolio with the highly anticipated Elio, a contemporary Mexican restaurant in partnership with Enrique Olvera, Daniela Soto-Innes and Santiago Perez, the team behind New York City’s acclaimed Cosme and Alta. Enrique Olvera, also known for his elevated Mexican cuisine at Pujol in Mexico City, presents a menu at Elio melding regional dishes with seasonal ingredients.
Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa has embraced the outdoor dining trend with Crimson at Sundown, a new open-air lounge featuring chill sounds, inventive cocktails, light bites and more. The resort’s pop-up Osteria Fiorella by chef MarcVetri is now a permanent restaurant for antipasti, salads, wood-fired pizzas, hand-made pasts, and meat and fish cooked in a Josper charcoal oven.
A well-established destination resort for its collection of superb restaurants, ARIA Resort & Casino welcomes Din Tai Fung, the first Las Vegas location of the esteemed Taiwanese dumpling and noodle house. If you’ve been to Shanghai, you know the drill. Don’t walk, hustle on over – Din Tai Fung’s xiao long bao are killer. The Shanghai-style soup dumplings are filled with Kurobuta pork and broth, giving a miraculous burst of savory liquid in every bite.
Adjacent to ARIA, The Cosmopolitan adds another Chef’s Table experience to its assortment of fine dining choices. A perfect option for those interested in dining in a socially responsible manner,The Chef’s Table at Scarpetta is akin to having a private family dinner, just for the six of you. Be prepared for delicious food and an immersive, fun evening of Italian camaraderie and storytelling.