The authorities should have learnt their lesson with Prohibition – restrict an American’s access to pleasure and he will find ever more creative ways to alleviate the problem.
When that pleasure is gambling, Exhibit(ionist) A is Las Vegas. ‘Sin City’ might be the best branding exercise of all time, but if there’s another way to describe this place it’s ‘excess is best’.
After all, this is a town where one Cirque du Soleil extravaganza isn’t enough but seven feels about right. A place where the hotels have their own hotels (Nobu at Caesar’s Palace). A place that belatedly decided to get in touch with its spiritual side and reinvented yoga. With dolphins.
Not that we’re complaining – the city has taken hedonism to heady heights, and we’re too busy having fun to look down.
1 | Where To Stay
A mere three billion dollars in the making, the Wynn and sister property Encore have a staggering 4,750 huge rooms, 45 treatment rooms, 13 restaurants, six bars, five nightclubs, four pools and two esplanades (no mere malls here). No news of a partridge in a pear tree yet, but Cirque du Soleil is probably developing one, and there is, of course, the daddy of all casinos.
2 | Where To Lunch
Las Vegan might be the least appropriate description for someone who lives in this Mecca-to-meat. True to form, indulge in lunch as art-form at Ronseal-monikered Burger Bar, where diners create their ultimate combo from any and all proteins (beef, lamb, chicken, salmon, turkey etc) plus, well, pretty much everything from black truffle to brussels sprouts. Flipping brilliant.
3 | Where To Dine
The other hotel to rival the Wynn mega-hotels is by name and nature The Cosmopolitan, home to another daft raft of eateries, each more starry than the next. Quirkiest is China Poblano, Chinese meets Mexican under the guiding eye of El Bulli graduate Jose Andres. It shouldn’t work, but there’s a certain twisted logic to a duck tongue and fresh lychee taco. Wash it all down with kick-ass salt air margaritas with lime and pomegranate.
4 | Where To Drink
For a serious view of the Strip the 23rd floor bar of the Mandarin Oriental is hard to beat, but it’s time to get a flavour of old, low-rise Vegas so head to hipster haven the Griffin on Fremont. Listen to indie acts dreaming of making it Killers big while drinking too much Hamms draft beer.
5 | Where To Party
Money talks, and it must be what the world’s top dance DJs are listening to in their Sennheisser cans as they’ve descended on Vegas in a big way. Check the listings but among others, Avicii and Guetta are taking 2014 residencies at the Wynn’s XS and Surrender with Tiësto and Steve Aoki at Hakkasan at the MGM Grand.
6 | Where To Shop
When you inevitably win big on the slots, make your way to the Penske-Wynn Ferrari dealership at the Wynn and pick up a 2013 Ferrari 458 Spider for a cool $350,000.
7 | What To Do
This is male wish fulfillment city, so you can tear up a racetrack in a Mustang Shelby GT 500, work real construction equipment or take a heli tour of the Grand Canyon but the wettest dream has to be at Machine Guns Vegas where you can indulge your particular shoot ‘em up fantasy for real using everything from vintage mob era pistols or real SEAL team hardware.
8 | What To See
The Neon Boneyard Park, on North Las Vegas Boulevard, is the final resting place of the some of the Strip’s finest vintage signs from bygone eras. The capitalist equivalent of the Lenin statue parks in former-Soviet cities. Alternatively, learn how much the mafia controlled the city at the fascinating Mob Museum in downtown Vegas, complete with wiretap recordings, sharp suits (John Gotti’s silk white number with matching shoes, in particular) and mug shots of infamous mobsters and murder scenes.
9 | When in…
End the night, or start the early morning, at the Double Down Saloon, a deep, deep dive bar that is the anti-Strip. Drown your post-casino sorrows alongside touring bands and locals on the house special, the charmingly named Ass Juice, with a recipe as secret as Coke’s but with more pleasing after-effects.
10 | Avoid
1) Getting married, and 2) Sleep, although that might not be the intention.
Tom Barber is founder of Original Travel.co.uk