Vegas, Baby!

This iconic city of indulgences continues to roll out updates, new shows, and restaurants.

Las Vegas is — as its famous welcome sign points out — fabulous. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, more than 42 million people visited the city last year, and, with big-name stars settling in for permanent residencies, top chefs opening restaurants, and jaw-dropping attractions popping up all over, it’s no wonder the city remains one of the most popular destinations in the world.

If you haven’t visited recently, you’re in for a treat. Sure, the neon is still bright, and couples still run off to get married at A Little White Wedding Chapel, but there’s a surprising new sophistication to the city.

A PLACE FOR EVERYONE

The city’s casino resorts are destinations unto themselves and are constantly evolving. The Palazzo (AAA Four Diamonds), an all-suite resort in The Venetian complex, has upgraded its rooms to reflect its modern take on classic luxury. They’ve also opened Rosina, a cocktail “retreat” where you can order from a secret julep menu and push a button for champagne refills.

The Monte Carlo has been transformed into the recently opened Park MGM. Look for renovated rooms; Bavette’s Steakhouse & Bar; and Primrose, a French-inspired restaurant modeled after a country home. An outpost of Eataly, New York’s buzzed-about food marketplace, is set to open later this year.

At New York-New York Hotel & Casino (AAA Three Diamonds), thrill-seekers can take their love of roller coasters to a whole new level with the Big Apple Coaster Virtual Reality Experience that adds another dimension to an already scream-inducing ride.

The non-gaming, non-smoking Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas (AAA Five Diamonds) is a welcome oasis on the always-bustling Strip. This luxury hotel features afternoon tea overlooking the city, a vending machine that dispenses mini bottles of champagne, and an award-winning spa offering The Year of the Earth Dog Experience, a signature treatment available through February 2019, in honor of the Chinese zodiac year.

IT'S SHOW TIME

Just like a trip to New York isn’t complete without a night on Broadway, a trip to Las Vegas is no longer complete without a night (or two) at one of the dozens of shows offered. From the magic of David Copperfield (MGM Grand) and Penn & Teller (Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino), to the antics of Blue Man Group (Luxor Hotel and Casino) and the breathtaking acrobatics of the seven Cirque du Soleil productions, there’s a show to suit everyone.

The aquatic spectacle at Wynn Las Vegas, Le Rêve (The Dream) has been named best production show in Las Vegas by the Southern Nevada Hotel Concierge Association for seven years in a row. If you’re a certified scuba diver, you can actually dive during a live performance.   

Probably the most highly anticipated musical event of 2018 is Lady Gaga’s two-year engagement at Park MGM, which begins in December. With only 5,200 seats, this is a rare chance to see the six-time Grammy winner in an intimate setting.

Donny and Marie Osmond have extended their residency at Flamingo Las Vegas through the end of the year, and you can catch Jennifer Lopez at Planet Hollywood until Sept. 29.

Starting in September, The Voice: Neon Dreams brings some of your favorite performers from the hit television show, including Chloe Kohanski from season 13 and Alisan Porter from season 10 to the stage at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. You may get a chance to sing with them after recording your demo through the one-of-a-kind interactive lobby experience. Get your photo taken while sitting in one of the signed Coach’s Chairs from the popular television series.

ALL YOU CAN EAT

Las Vegas has become such a paradise for foodies.

Chef Gordon Ramsay recently opened the world’s first Hell’s Kitchen restaurant, and Giada De Laurentiis opened her second restaurant, Pronto by Giada; both are at Caesars Palace.

At the new Jardin at Encore next to Wynn Las Vegas, chef Joseph Zanelli tempts diners with casual American classics in a beautiful garden setting. Try the crispy buttermilk chicken sandwich or the Maine lobster benedict.

Because the journey is as important as the destination, seek out Secret Pizza at the Cosmopolitan. Just follow the record-lined hallway on the third floor for one of the best — and best-tasting — deals on the Las Vegas Strip.

For a real smorgasbord, take a Lip Smacking Foodie Tour that includes tasting more than 15 award-winning chefs’ signature dishes at five restaurants.

Indulge in a CrazyShake™ at Black Tap at The Venetian. The Cake Shake, a cake batter milkshake with a vanilla frosted rim and rainbow sprinkles, is definitely a highlight. It’s topped with an entire slice of rainbow cake, whipped cream, more rainbow sprinkles, and a cherry.

Las Vegas has a well-deserved reputation for excess, and nowhere is that more apparent than at the all-you-can-eat buffets.

The aptly named Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. Skip the long line with a special VIP Reservation Package. It also comes with All-You-Care-To-Drink and an exclusive Seafood Tower.

Wicked Spoon at The Cosmopolitan offers small plates for a bite of everything, from sushi to steak to sweets. At The Buffet at the Wynn, you can choose from 120 artful dishes.

MORE THAN CASINOS

Food isn’t the only area in which to experiment. There are so many unexpected activities to try, including yoga on the High Roller, the gigantic observation wheel at The LINQ Hotel & Casino. Visit the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, or take a cooking class at the Restaurant Guy Savoy inside Caesars Palace. Operate real bulldozers and excavators at Dig This, or learn to swim with a fish tail at AquaMermaid.

See a different side of Las Vegas when exploring downtown. This vibrant area is experiencing resurgence, and the Downtown Container Park is its center. Built out of shipping containers, it’s filled with shops and eateries like Downtown Terrace where you have to try chicken and waffle sliders and their wonderful monkey bread. Did I mention the bottomless mimosas?

Don’t miss Brilliant! at the Neon Museum. This new outdoor production literally illuminates the history of the city through sight, sound, and the iconic signs that define Vegas.

Why walk when you can fly across the Fremont Street Experience superhero-style on SlotZilla, a zip line that also happens to be the world’s largest slot machine?

But no matter how you choose to see Las Vegas, you’ll feel like you’re flying high. You can bet on it. 

Lois Alter Mark is a contributor from San Diego. Calif.

Let your AAA Travel professional help you plan a getaway to Vegas. Visit AAA.com/travel.

(Top photo: Fotolia.com)

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