Well, this is awkward. Hotel stays range from the fabulous to the mediocre to the downright awful (see: cockroaches in the bathroom). Last week I was in Las Vegas for a conference, and the hotel for my first night wasn’t so great—seemingly clean, not totally awful, but lacking in a lot of small ways. The conference organizers put us up there, so I don’t want to be mean by publicly dissing the hotel (it wasn’t the Golden Nugget, which actually seemed pretty nice). Let’s just say that if you’re staying at a hotel that advertises the lowest rates in Downtown Las Vegas, you get what you pay for.
The covered pedestrian thoroughfare of the Freemont Street Experience downtown is quite a scene—one minute it feels quirky and kitschy in a fun way, and the next . . . kind of sad. I’m not really a Las Vegas “person” to begin with, so the idea of sitting in front of a slot machine for hours on end, surrounded by cigarette smoke, wasn’t very appealing. I did manage to catch a Halloween-tinged performance by Frank and the Steins and swear I saw Anjelica Huston’s doppelganger dressed up like Carmen Miranda outside one casino. If you’re looking for a great deal, Downtown is for you, though you might want to avoid a window that looks out over Freemont’s crowds and live music. While you’re here, take a break from blackjack or the pool and get schooled on old-school Vegas with a trip to the Neon Museum and the Mob Museum, both testaments to the glitz and grit of yesteryear.
|A deluxe room at Aria. Photo courtesy of MGM Resorts International.
For the glamour of Vegas today, of course, you go to the Strip. The second night of my (very short) trip, I checked into the Aria, a gleaming, modern new hotel that’s part of the CityCenter complex. After an hour reading by the pool (yes, I’m the nerd who goes to Las Vegas and reads), the headache induced by my previous hotel’s cologne-like air freshener had melted away. The Aria’s rooms feature muted jewel and earth tones and plenty of thoughtful amenities (big soaking tubs and remote-controlled curtains!), plus great views of the twinkling Strip—and the hotel’s classy casino is virtually surrounded by upscale restaurants and lounges. Later that evening I met an old friend who works for the Las Vegas Philharmonic at Yellowtail at the Bellagio, where we were treated to Chef Akira Black’s tasting menu of Japanese fare with a stunning view of the Bellagio’s fountains. Everything was good, but I could have had three more servings of the Big Eye tuna pizza with micro shiso and truffle oil—and the lemon ginger cocktail served with orchids was tasty and quite lovely to behold.
After dinner I headed back to the Aria and spent about 15 minutes playing the slot machines. Not being a gambler, I was too intimidated to attempt a table game by myself, and I probably wandered around for a half hour just looking for a slot machine that seemed like the right one. As I checked out the next morning, I even imagined myself coming back to Vegas with my friends or husband. I hear the Absinthe show at Caesar’s Palace is pretty off the hook—though not for the faint of heart.