True confession: Before last December, I was a Las Vegas virgin.
So when my new beau, Jordan, invited me to Sin City for a birthday trip for his brother and sister-in-law, I was raring to go. Gambling has never been a passion of mine, but Jordan assured me that craps and roulette have nothing to do with having fun in Vegas. Rather, it was all about dining, drinking, entertainment and carnival rides! And more dining and drinking …
When I first laid eyes on the Vegas Strip, this jaded ex-New Yorker was genuinely wowed by the spectacle. The lights, the colors, the enormous hotels, the upscale stores, the people-watching … it really did resemble “Disneyland for Adults.”
The Disney metaphor held up when we reached our hotel — the Wynn. Built by real estate mogul (and now discredited Republican National Committee finance chair and alleged sexual predator) Steve Wynn (nee Weinberg) in 2005 for an astronomical $2.7 billion, the Wynn has a gorgeous approach with gardens, a man-made mountain, a three-acre lake and waterfall. I was even more amazed to see the lobby with its carousel and hot air balloons made entirely of brightly hued flowers! Still decorated for Christmas — though the weather in Vegas was a balmy 60 degrees — it was positively magical.
After check-in, we headed to a late dinner at Mizumi, a swanky Japanese restaurant in the hotel. It looks out over gardens that surround a koi pond with a 90-foot waterfall. There, we feasted on high-quality Japanese hibachi fare. Mizumi’s lychee martinis were a favorite with all of us and I made sure to try the green tea macaroon for dessert. Scrumptious!
Jet-lagged, we slept late the next morning and went straight to a dim sum lunch buffet at Wing Lei, the only Chinese restaurant in North America to receive a Forbes Five-Star Award. Not only was the smorgasbord at Wing Lei unbeatable, the restaurant’s décor was a feast for the eyes.
After brunch, we headed to the New York-New York Hotel and Casino where we rode the resort’s checker cab-themed roller coaster. Nauseating.
But no worries! I recovered in time for our next activity — happy hour aboard the High Roller, one of the world’s tallest Ferris wheels.
The High Roller isn’t a traditional Ferris wheel. Instead of passenger cars, it has “capsules” that accommodate up to 40 adults. There’s music, a bartender and floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the city. The capsules move so slowly that you can barely detect their movement. It’s a 30-minute ride, and riders can consume as many drinks as they like in that time period.
That night, we hit the hay early in preparation for our helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon the next morning!
Though I was a trifle apprehensive about riding in a helicopter, our pilot and guide from Maverick Tours put me right at ease. Before long, I was entirely relaxed and able to enjoy the stupendous views of the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and Lake Las Vegas.
Touching down on the canyon, we were served champagne and muffins, and given a half-hour to walk around and take photos. It was definitely a peak (pun intended) experience and one I will never forget.
Jordan had been talking for weeks about the restaurant’s “life-changing” steak. Though I’m not usually a big beef eater, every once in a while I make an exception. I was glad I did. Indeed, the meat, an unusual cut called Mishima Reserve Rib Cap, was sublime. And it certainly changed my life, at least, in the steak category.
On our last day in Vegas, we slept in and saved our energy for the night ahead, which included an early dinner at the Bellagio Hotel’s Lago, an Italian small-plates restaurant from award-winning chef Julian Serrano. We dined outdoors, enjoying a spectacular view of the renowned Bellagio fountains while sampling Italian delicacies.
After dinner, it was time to see “O,” my first-ever Cirque du Soleil show. A water production that includes synchronized swimming and jaw-dropping aerial and ground acts, “O” left us marveling over the talent and physical strength of the cast’s performers.
Since it was our last night in Vegas, after the show we returned to Lago and ordered all nine desserts on the menu. It was decadent to be sure, and a perfect way to end a decadent trip.
Viva Las Vegas!