Richard Jones eats and drinks his way round the Entertainment Capital of the World
It felt like a spaceship was about to land on the dance floor – or maybe the hedonism of the week had finally taken its toll and I was seeing things.
During weekends, Caesar’s Palace’s new three-level club Omnia houses superstar DJs such as Calvin Harris and Afrojack.
Nevertheless, it’s the enormous high-tech chandelier, made from eight oval rings and hundreds of blinding LED lights which descends like an interplanetary spacecraft, that is the main attraction.
The five of us – Joe, Joff, Myles, Steve and I – had arrived in the Entertainment Capital of the World six days earlier via a direct British Airways flight from the UK.
Our first port of call was Beerhaus, located in the Strip’s new outdoor dining and entertainment district, The Park.
Here we enjoyed some savoury sausages and other pub grub washed down by a few cold brews, while playing Jenga and table tennis.
Although Vegas is still (and will perhaps always be) synonymous with gambling, drinking and partying, the city’s portfolio of restaurants is arguably the best in the States.
During the week we tried out new gastropub Libertine Social at Mandalay Bay, for American bar food, and we also visited Harvest By Roy Ellamar at Bellagio, whose fresh, market-inspired menu seems like a breath of fresh air amid the Strip’s burger-and-fries culture, and enjoyed brunch at Lago By Julian Serrano, while gazing out over the hotel’s legendary fountains.
Granted, the Strip boasts an array of new stylish eateries, but buffets are still hugely popular – none more so than Aria’s The Buffet, which features an ever-changing assortment of freshly prepared food (we were all over the crab and lobster stations).
As well as amazing food, a lads’ week in Vegas is usually fuelled by a high consumption of booze, so you can afford to choose your watering hole wisely.
True to its name, Whiskey Down at MGM Grand stocks an impressive selection of more than 50 different types of rare and fine liquors, and is a great spot for a pre-dinner drink or night cap.
During our previous trips to Vegas, a Sunday afternoon session at Hard Rock has always been a highlight.
Rehab pool party is credited as starting the city’s dayclub culture over a decade ago, and our quintet set up base in a cabana, before cooling off in the lazy river and playing a few hands of swim-up blackjack.
Once Rehab was over, we stumbled into Goose Island Pub inside Hard Rock for a relaxing pint of IPA and fish and chips before jumping in a cab back to the Strip.
From what you’ve read so far, you’d rightly assume our entire week was over-indulgent.
And our Monday night in Vegas was even more so, as we headed to The Cosmopolitan for a triple bill of excitement.
It began with an early dinner at new restaurant Beauty & Essex, sampling some of renowned restaurateur Chris Santos’ signature dishes, including roasted bone marrow, grilled cheese smoked bacon and tomato soup dumplings.
Then it was down a couple of floors to the Chandelier Bar for a cocktail before taking the lift up to one of Vegas’ most sought-after nightlife destinations – Marquee.
Monday is industry night and we danced into the early hours along to one of the world’s leading DJs – Dash Berlin – as well as wandering around the club’s spectacular rooftop patio.
A few days in, and the sleepless late nights and early mornings were beginning to take their toll, so I was grateful to have somewhere to re-energise.
For the first half of the trip, I was a guest in one of MGM Grand’s Stay Well rooms, complete with vitamin C-infused shower and energy-boosting lighting.
Then for the remainder of the week, I checked into a Tower Suite at Aria which is up there with the very best accommodation in the whole of Vegas.
I soaked my hangovers away in the whirlpool tub, while playing with the cool in-room technology on the new Crave Tablets, before powering my room down with the touch of a finger and falling into the custom-made Sealy bed.
The ‘This Is How We Vegas’ logos throughout Aria couldn’t have been more apt.
Following a good night’s sleep, we were back fighting fit, and relatively sober, so we headed off the Strip for an afternoon of boy racing at SpeedVegas.
We hit speeds of 150mph in the Lamborghini Huracáns on the mile-long straight, and thanks to the guidance of the expert instructors, made it back to the viewing gallery in one piece.
SpeedVegas is one of Sin City’s newest tourist hotspots, but one attraction that has stood the test of time is Penn & Teller’s show at Rio.
That same evening, we took our seats for what many believe is still the best magic act in Vegas and then stuck around for the ever-popular pair’s meet-and-greet session outside the theatre.
As in previous years, we broke up our week with a day on Downtown’s historic Fremont Street.
The afternoon kicked off with some dry-aged steak and San Francisco-style seafood during lunch at Triple George Grill.
Then we moved on to the pools, beginning with a round of drinks at the all-new Pool at the Plaza before heading over to Downtown’s largest pool area – Citrus rooftop pool atop Downtown Grand – for a few cocktails during their happy hour.
The night session began with a ‘Beef, Booze and Broads’ dinner at classic-Vegas-themed restaurant Oscar’s at The Plaza, then we got an amazing view of the Fremont Street Experience on board zipline SlotZilla.
However, the best way of seeing the whole of Vegas and the surrounding area is from the skies, namely a night flight over the Strip.
After a short limo ride from our hotel and a glass of champagne, the five of us climbed on board one of Maverick Helicopters’ Eco-Star aircraft and took in New York-New York skyline, Paris’ Eiffel Tower, the spectacular dancing
Bellagio fountains, and the never-fading light of the Luxor pyramid.
Vegas certainly had some sights from up there – the only thing missing was a spaceship.
Richard Jones flew to Las Vegas with British Airways who offer flights from Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen via London Heathrow from £699 return including taxes/fees and carrier charges.
He was a guest at Aria Resort and Casino (www.aria.com) where rooms start from £98 per night on a room-only basis. Stay Well rooms at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino (www.mgmgrand.com) start at £91 per night.