There’s a saying, and I’m sure you’ve heard it: “Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Well, when you’re a travel writer and you’ve got to report on the best that Sin City has to offer for a bunch of bachelorettes, that anthem isn’t so true. Luckily—and contrary to popular thinking—you don’t need a Girls Gone Wild attitude to appreciate all this oasis has to offer. In fact, there are loads of fun non-gaming activities, some serious restaurants and great pools to experience any time, day or night. Here, some of my favorite—and totally shareable—things to do in Vegas, baby.
A guest room at the non-gaming Mandarin Oriental. (Photo Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group)
All the glitz, glamour and “only in Vegas” antics can be found on a four-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard known as The Strip. Lined by towering themed hotels, kitschy souvenir shops and countless bars, the area provides endless (and did I mention free?) entertainment options. Chief among them is the people watching. Where else in the world can you spot an Elvis impersonator, a Michael Jackson lookalike and a St. Pauli girl hanging out together? Touring the lobbies of the hotels is another fun activity. At Paris Las Vegas, you can enjoy a glass of champagne on the “Eiffel Tower,” and there’s the chance to cross the “Brooklyn Bridge” at New York, New York. But perhaps the biggest draw on The Strip is the water show at the Bellagio. Depending on the time of day (every 15 minutes or half-hour) the fountains at the eight-acre outdoor lake fronting the luxury hotel splash and dance in sync to colorful lights and a cool soundtrack.
The strip twinkles just beyond the lobby windows of the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas. (Photo Courtesy of Mandarin Hotel Group)
Since it is located smack dab in the center of a desert, Las Vegas is hot. Needless to say, during the day, a pool is the place to be. The Mandalay Bay “beach” is a wave pool that laps onto real sand. If you’re not staying at the hotel, a day pass gives you access, which includes a chance to experience the lazy river as well (room rates start at $89 a night; mandalaybay.com). At last check, the hottest pool scene is at the newly opened Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, located in the center of The Strip. Entrance to the thumping Marquee DayClub is by reservation, and cabanas are available at additional rates. My pick, the pool at the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, is a quieter alternative to the DJ-fueled pool areas and is open strictly to hotel guests. Reserve a cabana and you’ll enjoy comfy sofas, shaded chaises, cable TV and an ice chest to store the Veuve Clicquot (room rates start at $205 a night; mandarinoriental.com).
The Cosmopolitan's ultra-chic pool area. (Photo Courtesy of Cosmopolitan Las Vegas)
It’s true that every hour is party hour in Las Vegas, but having a special toast during sunset is a must-do. Reserve a table at Mix at Mandalay Bay and you’ll get awesome Strip and sunset views from an outdoor perch above it all. The lobby bar at the Mandarin Oriental also overlooks the sparkling city. Come around 7 p.m. and watch as the desert sky slowly changes to night—it’s a spectacular sight.
Where to Dine
Although big buffets got all the buzz in decades past, these days, Las Vegas has a culinary scene that rivals any major international capital. Big-name celebrity chefs including Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay all have outposts here. Jaleo, an open-kitchen eatery by James Beard award-winning Spanish chef José Andres, is my top pick. The menu is a masterful mix of foamy gastronomy (those molecular olives are mind-blowing) and traditional Spanish offerings (like my favorites pan con tomate—toast topped with tomato and olive oil— and patatas bravas—potatoes with a garlicky sauce), and the staff is super friendly. Leave room for dessert! The apple tart and chocolate-flan-like concoctions are simply dreamy.
Patatas bravas—a favorite spanish dish—Jaleo style (left). Sangria is served at Jaleo (right). (Photos Credit: Kat Bryant)
Shopping and Spa-ing
No girls’ trip would be complete without my favorite S’s. The atrium area at the Aria hotel and the public floors at the Cosmopolitan read like a Vogue editorial with Marni, Prada and Gucci stores sitting side by side. The Forum at Caesar’s Palace has long been lauded as a shopping destination, and the enormous mall inside the Venetian hotel offers label junkies a chance to get a fix. Vintage lovers should check out Annie Cream Cheese on the second floor. For the ultimate in pampering, book an appointment at the spa at the Mandarin Oriental, which offers a variety of wet rooms, loads of relaxation lounges and views of the surrounding Strip. It’s actually soothing to see the colorful lights just beyond the glass as you sip tea while lolling in a Jacuzzi.
One of the many relaxation rooms at the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas. (Photo Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group)