Las Vegas – Travel Review
by Richard Jones
The casino floor was awash with tiny bodysuits, flamboyant wigs, huge sunglasses, platform heels, beetle wings and pyrotechnic halos. Fans were out in force to pay homage to their heroine, Lady Gaga, as she prepared to take to the stage at Park Theater in Las Vegas. However, as my friends and I found out during a week in Sin City, the Pokerface star’s residency is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fun and entertainment at the revamped Park MGM resort.
After flying in with Virgin Atlantic, the eight of us checked into our rooms, before heading to one of the hotel’s pools to chill out in the 40-degree desert heat. A few cocktails on the Strip followed that night, loosening us up ahead of NoMad’s new pool party Jemaa.
We shared one of their signature cocktail explosions, complete with a Barbie doll sitting above a vodka infused tropical concoction, as well as poolside plates and beers. With resident Mark Ronson taking the day off, the soundtrack was provided by drum & bass pioneer Love Hype.
Afterwards, we were booked in for a meal at French-inspired Bavette’s Steakhouse & Bar, devouring peppered duck and goat cheese terrine and succulent filet mignons. Finally, for a night cap, it was onto Juniper cocktail bar. As its name suggests, gin is its speciality, and I ordered a Carnival – a fun mix of gin, lime, St Germain and cotton candy.
Although there is plenty to do around Park MGM, including Eataly Italian food market, The Park and T-Mobile Arena, no-one should resist exploring Las Vegas Boulevard. Hazel at Mandalay Bay is the ideal place to down an espresso Martini and daquiri before making your way down the famous Strip.
“A few sore heads”
Another alternative is Rock & Reilly’s on the southbound (MGM Grand) side, which has a budget $30 ‘all you can drink’ wristband option.
However, our favourite drinking sessions in Vegas have always been hedonistic Sunday afternoons by the pool, and after lining our stomachs with brunch at Virgil’s Real Barbecue on The LINQ Promenade, we made a beeline for the city’s best dayclub – Marquee at The Cosmopolitan.
Unlike previous years when we opted for a cabana, we sampled the pool party’s new V.I.We option instead. This provided us with access to a cordoned-off section of the pool deck, and the opportunity to down as much cava and vodka as we fancied. With a price tag of just $125 per person, it’s a relative snip, and safe to say, there were a few sore heads the next day.
Luckily Smoked Burgers & BBQ at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace serves up the perfect bloody Mary and rib sandwich hangover cures. However, for a full refuel, there is nowhere better in Sin City than Sugar Factory American Brasserie at the Fashion Show Mall.
I have been a huge fan of the chain of restaurants since visiting its first Vegas incarnation at Paris six years ago. And this new property definitely didn’t disappoint. We were bombarded with a selection of their signature drinks and dishes, beginning with goblets of nitrogen-infused cocktails, including those designed by Pitbull and Drake, as well as rainbow sliders, blue cheese monster burgers and pan-roasted salmon.
The desserts arrived in the shape of aptly named Insane Milkshakes covered in chocolate and doughnuts, prior to the pastry chef’s pièce de résistance – a world-famous King Kong Sundae.
Quite understandably, we had a lull after this excess, and following an hour back at the hotel, it was time to head to KAOS Nightclub at Palms. Revellers should be aware though that prime real estate in this superclub doesn’t come cheap – their ‘cheapest’ bottles of vodka will set you back $700 (including tip), so a table here is not for those on a shoestring.
For the last couple of days, I swapped Park MGM for two of Vegas’ most luxurious hotels. First, I spent 48 hours relaxing in the non-gaming and non-smoking haven Vdara, before walking over to one of the world’s best-known resorts, Bellagio.
After checking into a plush room overlooking the world-famous fountains, my first port of call was the Spa & Salon. I was booked in for a Jet Lag Oxygen Facial – an 80-minute treatment using advanced hyaluronic technology with antioxidants and vitamins to reset the travel-weary.
It certainly did the trick making me feel more energised, although I’m not sure the visual results were quite as convincing!
Thankfully, another tonic came in the form of an al fresco lunch of spicy tuna tartare and pizza at Wolfgang Puck’s fountain-side eatery, Spago. For those looking for slightly cheaper alternative, Sadelle’s Sunset Menu serves $10 sandwiches and $7 cocktails during Happy Hour.
Our jetlag and weekend excesses had worn off by day five, and we were eager for more adventure. After nachos and zingers at Maxie’s on the Linq Promenade, we walked over to one of the newest attractions on the Strip, the Fly LINQ zipline. Harnessed up and soaring in the Superman position towards the High Roller ferris wheel, we had spectacular views of Sin City’s sights.
But if you crave the ultimate sky-high ride, look no further than a Vegas Nights flight with Maverick Helicopters. The 20-minute journey, in which we nodded along to music by AC/DC and Queen, took us north past all the Strip’s iconic hotels including the MGM Grand, Paris and Wynn, before heading over Stratosphere and Fremont Street and back up the east side past Caesars Palace, Aria and Luxor.
To round off the week, we had a double treat back over at Park MGM. First, we were booked into upscale NoMad Restaurant which, believe it or not, is home to more than 25,000 books. Steak tartare was mixed at the side of our table, before the server brought out a mouthwatering fruits de mer seafood platter and suckling pig.
After an espresso, we moved onto Park MGM’s new nightspot, On The Record, which is totally different to the massive EDM clubs in the city. Where else do servers deliver bottles via a scaled-down London double decker bus or invite punters to try out its speakeasy sections?
Not only is OTR not your normal club, this wasn’t a normal occasion either – it was the after-show party for Lady Gaga’s Enigma gig. We were sat in a booth next to Bruno Mars – although when ‘Bad Romance’ and ‘Born This Way’ hit the speakers, it was clear who was the main attraction.
Three years ago, MGM Resorts took a massive gamble attempting to turn the tired Monte Carlo into a hub of first-class entertainment. And it came up trumps – Park MGM has completed one of the greatest Vegas comebacks since Elvis gyrated his way into the International Hotel in the summer of ’69.
With Lady Gaga’s help, it has taken its place as Sin City’s coolest resort, and to paraphrase the title of her Oscar-winning movie, a new star has been born in Las Vegas.
Virgin Holidays offers four nights in Las Vegas, including scheduled Virgin Atlantic flights from Manchester direct to Las Vegas and room-only accommodation at the Park MGM Las Vegas from £579 per person. Price is based on two adults travelling and sharing a standard room and includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Price is based on a departure on 22/11/2019. Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected. To book visit virginholidays.co.uk or call 0344 557 3859.