On, then off, the Strip ~ Las Vegas

Where else can you breakfast on foie gras while playing roulette at 5 a.m. in an attempt to pay for the designer duds you’d partied in at MGM Grand’s Hakkasan after dining on a 5-course meal at Nobu prior to downing $20 cocktails at the chic Cosmopolitan in celebration of your spontaneous vow renewal witnessed by a gaggle of strangers through the windows of the hotel’s street-facing pop-up wedding chapel?

The pop-up wedding chapel at The Cosmopolitan hotel and casino

The pop-up wedding chapel at The Cosmopolitan hotel and casino

Ah, yes, Vegas… the world’s largest hedonistic playground. Affectionately known as Sin City, the tagline of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority’s wildly successful 2003 advertising campaign, “What happens here, stays here”, continues to stick as a slew of openings breathe new air to the Las Vegas Strip.

Part of the relatively new CityCenter complex

Part of the relatively new City Center complex

More of the CityCenter complex

More of the City Center complex

The Chandelier Bar at The Cosmopolitan

The Chandelier Bar at The Cosmopolitan

Another side to the Chandelier Bar

Another side to The Chandelier Bar

The Bellagio’s 1,200 dancing fountains and its 9-acre lake were once the focal point of the Strip. Now, multistory bars swathed in strands of crystals lure you in with their delectable artisan elixirs; Cirque du Soleil shows perform around the clock; ubiquitous frozen daiquiri counters arm wanderers with giant plastic vessels of sugary concoctions; and pseudo-shopping malls offer branded stores galore – Gucci, Valentino, Prada, Chanel — alongside sculptures of fine art. From Wolfgang Puck to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., and a Starbucks on every corner, it’s all jammed side-by-side on the Strips’ stretch.

Along with its sleek facade and moderate use of neon, the 67-acre, City Center complex introduced sustainability in design when it debuted in 2009 – its 4004-room Aria Resort is LEED certified, the casino’s slot machines function as air conditioners, and energy efficient initiatives save the property 50 million gallons of water per year. More newsworthiness: chef Nobu Matsuhisa opened his first-ever eponymous hotel this year in Caesars Palace with feng shui-inspired guest rooms and sake-stocked mini bars; MGM Grand’s Stay Well rooms are equipped with Vitamic C infused shower water, a Deepak Chopra Wellness channel, and dawn simulator alarm clocks. Meanwhile, Vdara Hotel & Spa does away with gambling altogether, instead focusing on holistic health-inspired services, spa treatments, and poolside relaxation.

Hotels making up the CityCenter complex

Hotels making up the CityCenter complex

Inside Caesars Palace

Inside Caesars Palace

Canals at the Venetian

Canals at the Venetian

Las Vegas is the only city that I know to house dozens of restaurants by numerous top chefs across a handful of properties.  Try choosing between Gordon Ramsay, Nobu Matsuhisa, Tom Colicchio, Joel Rubuchon, Hubert Keller, Guy Savoy, Francois Payard, Michael Mina, Mario Batali, Thomas Keller, Emeril Lagasse, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Scott Conant, Todd English, José Andrés, and/or Bobby Flay when you’re in town for just a few days. It’s tough.

The Strip at dusk

The Strip at dusk

Dining with a Royal Corgi at Gordon Ramsay's Pub and Grill in Caesars Palace.

Dining with a Royal Corgi at Gordon Ramsay’s Pub and Grill in Caesars Palace

The growing electro music scene has led to DJ residencies like Tiesto at MGM Grand's Hakkasan

The growing electronic music scene has led to DJ residencies like Tiesto at MGM Grand’s Hakkasan

And there’s more to come. To keep up with the times, construction of older properties means an abundance of scaffolding and sidewalk detours — New York New York and Monte Carlo are undergoing $100 million worth of facelifts and new additions; the Delano Las Vegas is set to open in Q3 2014; and SLS Las Vegas is scheduled to debut in Fall 2014 near the Stratosphere and Circus Circus — a part of the strip that feels a little starved of attention. Utilising the bones of the old Sahara resort, the consolidated casino-hotel will feature a Fred Segal outpost, dining spots Katsuya by Starck and The Bazaar by José Andrés, and a reinvention of SBE’s original nightlife concept, Shelter.

Oh, and Britney Spears joins the ranks of resident acts like Celine Dion and Elton John– her two-year, $30-million-plus-paying Planet Hollywood-based Piece of Me residency starts on December 27th. With the electronic music scene having found its niche in Vegas, global DJs including Tiesto and Deadmau5 have settled into nightclub residencies of their own, earning nightly fees of up to $300,000 as the club’s drink sales total some $1.5 million per show.

The view of where the SLS Las Vegas will be located

The view of SLS Las Vegas’ construction

The Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel & Casino

The Eiffel Tower, at the Paris Hotel & Casino

Arc de Triomphe with Gordon Ramsay restaurant advertising

Arc de Triomphe with Gordon Ramsay restaurant advertising

The Strip as seen from Caesars Palace

The Strip as seen from Caesars Palace

Now, if the Strip’s activity gets too much; if it starts to feel weird to see the Eiffel Tower and Colosseum across the road from one another; if listening to a gondolier serenade a couple on a Venetian canal begs the question, “Am I in Italy?” — then run to the nearest car rental and drive 20 miles east towards Red Rock Canyon where you will inhale the fresh air, connect with the Mojave Desert, and take a hike… literally.

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon



28 thoughts on “On, then off, the Strip ~ Las Vegas

    • Doesn’t that alarm clock sound appealing? The rooms are all about light therapy and there’s something to be said for appealing to the senses in that way. I loved Red Rock Canyon and can’t wait to explore it’s dozen or so trails! Next time. Hi from Los Angeles xx

    • You never know until you go. I was a little overwhelmed by all the changes but it’s all in good fun and there’s something for every budget. I did love the natural beauty just off of the Strip — such a brilliant contrast. Thanks!

  1. Having just been there and written about it myself it’s great to read your take on the Strip. Your photos make it look glossy and wonderful and much of it is but I did find C’s Palace and the Bellagio showing their age?
    Actually I wish the real originals – The Sands, The Dunes etc were still there – impossible of course.

    • Ohh, I will have to check out your post. You know, I thought the complete opposite, Caesars Palace looked very well kept in my opinion — some of the older hotels could do with a cosmetic upkeep 🙂 I really hope the Flamingo stays put — I love that vibrant pink on the Strip. Even Circus Circus, Stratosphere, and Riviera have an nostalgic appeal. I just hope they continue looking after their properties and attracting the tourists. Thank you!

    • Thank you so much, Arlene! The Valley of Fire and Lake Mead were on my list but I just ran out of time 😦 I cannot wait to go back and check those spots out though. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Thanks, Marina, for this very entertaining post and the beautiful pictures. My favourites are The Chandelier Bar and the last three, of course. 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Gabriele! The Chandelier bar was tough to take a photo of — it was enormous! I wonder how the photos would look in black and white? I knew you’d love the last few given those amazing cloud patterns!!

    • Thank you, Gerard — it is lovely to read from you. Seeing nature was the perfect ending to a Las Vegas trip. It puts it all into perspective! I am enjoying it though I am missing NYC at times 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Adrian! I am glad to have posted these images and words — I have been busy working on projects, which makes regular posting tough. But, it’s a pleasure to be back. Speaking of which, I haven’t been receiving your posts as regularly — I take it you are busy too!!

  3. Greetings, Marina! Looks as though you’re enjoying west-coast living. 🙂 I haven’t been making it into the blogosphere as much as I’d like to lately, but wanted to swing by and say hi. Did you succumb to any temptations while in Vegas?

  4. Brings back some good memories from my trip to Vegas in April. I didn’t expect to like it too much but found it much more interesting than I thought – there’s always something to see and photograph! Red Rock Canyon was a great escape though when it all got a bit much.

  5. I grew outside of Vegas, in Boulder City. Worked with the firm that started the theme archictecture in there. It has changed so much since then. Thanks for the post. Had great memories in this city.

    • Thanks for your comment — I am so glad to have shared these with you. I really enjoyed the architecture in Las Vegas. I could it imagine it being bittersweet for you to see what’s gone, and what’s now in its place. I hope some of the oldies stay — Circus Circus, Flamingo etc as you can’t replicate their gaudiness!

  6. Hi Marina! Your photographs are gorgeous! You make Vegas look all sparkly and wonderful. I haven’t been there for a couple of years but it always seems to be redeveloping somewhere. Certainly you are right about the Circus Circus end of the strip needing some rejuvenation!

    I love Red Rock Canyon much more than the city even though it has its own strange charm. I’ve been on climbing trips there and every time I go I am a in awe of the landscape of the canyon.

    So nice to see you posting!

    • Hi Karen! I so enjoyed Las Vegas — maybe that’s my love of the glitz coming through in the photos. Red Rock Canyon is so beautiful — it’s nice to hear the wind in your ears 🙂 I know what you mean about the awesomeness. It’s great to read from you. Thanks so much!

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