Where the Cool Kids Are
The Cosmopolitan caters to a variety of tastes and still maintains cool points. The lobby is a bit of a choke point with video art, shiny chandeliers, and gaggles of lookie-loos, but otherwise the dining options are superb (joints by Jose Andres and Blue Ribbon, among others), the nightlife scene strong (the Vegas outpost of Marquee is here), and there are plenty of shopping options. The rooms are spacious and have excellent views of the strip; bathrooms are particularly large as a nice touch.
3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South
From $200 per night
(Courtesy: El Cortez Hotel)
On a Budget
In a separate structure from the otherwise down-at-the-heels El Cortez Hotel and Casino proper, the El Cortez Cabana Suites are a great value in a town that has a lot of pricey lodging. The rooms, with bold patterns and pastels, are cheap, sleek, and cheerful, and don’t skimp on the necessities, though the views are nothing special. The downtown location is close to the new center of cool in Vegas, just steps from Fremont’s sights.
600 East Fremont Street
From $34 per night
(Courtesy: Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas)
Part of the City Center development, the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas provides all of the luxury accoutrements expected from the brand—patient service, sumptuous linens, giant soaking tubs, and an expansive spa—all without having to deal with a casino in the lobby. Pierre Gagnaire’s Twist leads the hotel’s five dining options.
3752 South Las Vegas Boulevard
From $225 per night
It doesn’t seem so revolutionary now, but that’s simply because the Wynn was the first in what became a wave of next-generation luxury hotels in Las Vegas. With plenty of natural light, a separate tower of suites, and several fine dining superstars, Steve Wynn took the Vegas hotel game to a new level. It’s still worth the splurge, especially for the sweeping views and private pool access guests get at the Tower Suites.
3131 South Las Vegas Boulevard
From $285 per night
(Courtesy: Wynn Las Vegas)
Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare has the best seafood ever. Ingredients flown in by a secret network of fishermen all over the Mediterranean and beyond. Langoustines and pastas are a good way to start. Or just go for a tasting menu.
Wynn Las Vegas, 3121 Las Vegas Boulevard South
D.O.C.G., Scott Conant’s great pasta and pizza joint, offers a fun alternative to his fancier Scarpetta next door. It works as a wine bar or steakhouse, too. That’s how they do it in Vegas.
The Cosmopolitan, 3708 South Las Vegas Boulevard
(Courtesy of Simon)
The brunch at Simon, where you’re free to come in your pajamas, is always a decadent affair. Sushi, truly jumbo shrimp, a “white-trash” section of the menu with lots of meat and gravy, plus a “junk food” platter with better versions of the Sno-balls and Rice Krispie treats you had as a kid are just a handful of the reasons you should visit.
Palms Place, 4381 West Flamingo Road
Though Spring Mountain Road draws more adventurous eaters, Le Thai is downtown’s best Asian cuisine option. The menu is full of Thai classics, while the crowd is an interesting mix of tourists and local start-up types from Tony Hsieh’s nearby Downtown Experience.
523 Fremont Street
The Cosmopolitan with its AllSaints Spitalfields, and CRSVR sneaker shop (where Justin Bieber recently visited), feels both hip and high end.
3708 South Las Vegas Boulevard
(Courtesy: Shark Reef Aquarium of Mandalay Bay)
It’s a Zoo
The sharks at Mandalay’s aquarium are way friendlier than the ones at its poker tables—some 15 species of the predator and 2,000 other sea animals are on show in 14 exhibits. One of those underwater glass tunnels is the headliner, but the largest exhibit is a 1.3 million-gallon tank with a shipwreck.
3950 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Wonder where all the fabulous signage from Old Vegas went? It’s at the Neon Museum (or, as the locals call it, the “neon boneyard”). It’s only open via private tours, so booking ahead is essential if you want to see some of the bright lights from Sin City’s past.
770 Las Vegas Boulevard North
Britney Spears started her residency at Planet Hollywood at the end of 2013, and it will run for two years. Expect the full Brit experience: the 7,000-seat theater holds plenty of her fans, there are many outfits, and you can order drinks from your seat.
3667 Las Vegas Boulevard South
5 Things to Know
1. If you a need a break from all the stimuli on the Strip, the Town Square shopping mall near the airport is where the attractive locals go to eat, drink, and watch movies.
2. Avoid walking outside. Just because you can see that casino down the Strip doesn’t mean it’s a short walk on a 105-degree day. Walk inside, through casinos, so you don’t sweat through your clothes.
3. Yes, pretty much everyone here works on tips. When you’re trying to get something done at a hot restaurant or nightclub on a busy night, $20 says hello but $100 says you’re serious.
4. The Forum Shops and Fashion Show Mall are the best, most diverse mega-malls on the Strip, but the Premium Outlets near downtown is where the savviest shoppers head for extensive retail therapy.
5. You’ll sometimes see people on the Strip with In-N-Out Burger bags, but don’t get confused. Every In-N-Out location is off the Strip, but many visitors go out of their way to get a burger. Wouldn’t you?