Las Vegas, Nevada – Travel Review
By Richard Jones
Electrifying neon lights, lip-smacking cuisine and mind-blowing entertainment – Las Vegas is a relentless assault on the senses.
The rush starts with that jaw-dropping moment when you first fly over the spectacular Las Vegas Boulevard and catch your first glimpse of the larger-the-life, barely real-looking resorts in the Nevada desert.
As our Virgin Atlantic flight started its descent, I was explaining to one of my fellow passengers that I was envious he was about to taste Sin City’s wonders for the first time.
Saying that, I’ve been lucky to visit the Entertainment Capital of the World a few times, and each time I do, I still get that same ‘Vegas Virgin’ feeling.
“Senses are heightened”
New hotels, casinos, restaurants, pools, clubs and shows open daily, and with tourism on hold for much of 2020 and 2021, Vegas is now welcoming guests back with open arms.
After flying in with my friends Joe and Jonathan, the three of us were “all set” (as the Americans love to say), for some fun.
In Vegas, all five of your senses are heightened, even, bizarrely, your smell. And although this may seem like a peculiar thing to point out, each of the city’s resorts has its own distinctive scent – some considerably more pleasing than others.
Thankfully, the two hotels I stayed in during the trip were fragrantly fresh, as well as being familiar from my previous trips.
First up, I checked into the iconic Bellagio Resort & Casino, which has recently revamped its luxurious guest rooms since my last stay.
What has thankfully not changed though are the spectacular fountain views, which continued to give me goosebumps every time I drew back the remote-controlled drapes.
For the second half of the week, I was a guest at one of Aria Resort & Casino’s redesigned Sky Suites.
These sumptuous AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five-Star accommodations provided me with a tranquil and much-needed sanctuary above the Strip, while being close enough to jump back into the thick of the action.
Being a Sky Suites guest also meant I was picked up and dropped off at the airport by limo, and granted access to the dedicated lounge, with its 24-hour refreshments, concierge and secluded Sky Pool.
“Entertainment starts early”
Another sense that was explored at the resort was my sense of touch, as I was booked in for a midweek Ashiatsu Massage at The Spa at Aria.
The therapist, supported by bars on the ceiling, massaged my back, neck and shoulders with her feet, using a blend of Shiatsu and Swedish techniques.
Away from the Sky Suites, there isn’t much respite for the ears in the ‘City Without Clocks’. But if you’re in the mood to party as we were, the entertainment starts early.
For clubbers, the ideal way to unlock the best day and nightlife is by purchasing one of TAO Group’s Vegas Party Passes.
By wearing these wristbands, the three of us were able to jump the queues at eight renowned venues including Hakkasan and Wet Republic at MGM Grand, Omnia at Caesars Palace, Jewel at Aria, TAO and TAO Beach at The Venetian, and Marquee at The Cosmopolitan.
We spent a night with a table at Jewel to watch DJ CLA, while our usual Sunday afternoon drinking and dancing session was spent at the Asian-inspired tropical oasis, TAO Beach Dayclub, where we had a daybed, and joined hundreds of other revellers beguiled by DJ Justin Credible.
If you’re a sports fan, you shouldn’t visit Vegas without checking out the sight-for-sore-eyes Stadium Swim pool amphitheatre at the brand spanking new Circa Resort & Casino.
We ordered buckets of ice-cold Coronas to watch the big American sporting event of the week, the Kentucky Derby, on the jaw-dropping 143 x 40 foot, 14-million-megapixel LED screen.
If there’s one sense that will be truly satisfied in Vegas, it’s in your tastebuds, as the city is home to some of the world’s finest restaurants fronted by Michelin-starred and celebrity chefs.
Michael Mina at Bellagio is the best seafood restaurant in the city, and we nibbled on everything from caviar and clams, to oysters and lobsters on an epic culinary journey.
The next evening was also very special as we had a reservation at The Mayfair Supper Club.
The food was again remarkable (I’d particularly recommend the Wagyu Prime Rib), but what made this place different to anywhere else was the live entertainment, as The Mayfair evolved from a swinging prohibition-era jazz club to a late-night dance party, with a multi-piece band, dancers and singers.
Over at Aria, Jean Georges Steakhouse remains one of the only steakhouses in the US that serves up Kobe A5 beef, one of the most revered meats in the world. Pair that with the delicious appetisers and a couple of homemade sauces, and you’re in for a flavoursome feast.
Elsewhere on the Strip, Sugar Factory American Brasserie has recently moved from its former home at the Fashion Show Mall to Harmon Corner.
Thankfully, the Insta-worthy food and drink remains extremely tasty and enormous fun, with the popcorn shrimp, colourful burger sliders and, of course, the nitrogen-infused goblet cocktails as impressive as ever.
Late nights can easily become early mornings in Vegas, and there is no better spot for brunch in Sin City than on the shore of the dazzling Bellagio lake at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago.
We took our seats and washed down big eye tuna tartare, smoked salmon and pancakes with bottomless mimosas before the server brought over three sparkplug cocktails (hazelnut liqueur, vodka, espresso) to send us on our way.
Also at Bellagio is Sadelle’s, where we enjoyed steak and eggs, benedicts and bellinis, coffee and crepes, while at Aria, Salt & Ivy’s breakfast highlights are their crispy chicken and waffles and the crunchy orange and cranberry parfait.
On one of the mornings when we needed to grab and go, we picked up breakfast burritos and freshly squeezed fruit juices from Bellagio Patisserie.
On our final evening in Vegas, we had a special preview of Cirque du Soleil’s first new production on the Strip in two years, Mad Apple at New York-New York.
We spoke with the brains behind the show, British producer Simon Painter, who told us to settle in for laughs, music, magic and mayhem in the company of comedian Brad Williams, freestyle rapper Chris Turner, vocalist Xharlie Black and an ensemble cast of high-flying acrobats, soul singers and street performers.
Simon was the first to admit that his crazy cocktail of high-octane entertainment may not make an ounce of sense at times – but a lot like Las Vegas itself, it’s guaranteed to be sense-sational.
Virgin Atlantic Holidays offers five nights in Las Vegas from £1035 per person including scheduled Virgin Atlantic Economy flights direct from London Heathrow to Las Vegas and accommodation at the five-star Aria Resort & Casino. Price is based on two adults travelling and sharing a Deluxe King Room. Price is based on a departure on January 22, 2023. Alternatively, they offer five nights at the five-star Bellagio Resort & Casino from £1045 per person, based on two adults sharing a Resort King Room and departing on February 5, 2023. To book, visit virginholidays.co.uk or call 0344 557 3859.
For more information on Aria Resort & Casino go to aria.mgmresorts.com; for Bellagio Resort & Casino it’s bellagio.mgmresorts.com
To find out more about holidays in Las Vegas see: visitlasvegas.com
Top image: Mark Damon/Las Vegas News Bureau