Secured in a four-point seatbelt, I donned my heli-headgear—a must to muffle the sound of the blades rotating above—as my copter lifted off the ground with the weightless ease of a floating feather. Scoring a bird’s eye view of the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead was only the primer for one of my Las Vegas high life experiences: Swooshing between the granite walls of the 2-billion-year-old Grand Canyon.
I’m a Vegas lifestyle and luxury gal. I don’t gamble, yet it’s one of my jackpot destinations for a weekend jaunt laced in high-flying adventures, haute cuisine, fancy pools, swish spas, and shopping splurges (for this, I just pretend I’ve won big at roulette).
Trying my hand at multiple rounds in Nevada’s Neon City over the past few years, I’ve learned you don’t have to be an A-list celebrity or win big at blackjack to taste the VIP life here. In Vegas, luxury—in every shade of gold—comes standard thanks to the gamblers who paved the yellow brick road for wow-factor extravagance.
Hotels—make that hotels-within-hotels—were among the first to catch on with the frill-seekers. While upscale brands such as Four Seasons have discreet outposts along The Strip (find it in Mandalay Bay), in early 2013, celebrity chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa (a.k.a., Nobu) went all-in when he was the first celebrity chef to open a boutique hotel.
With a separate check-in within Caesars Palace and priority use of the mega hotel’s gym and pool, the 181-room tower is a zen departure from Vegas’ va-va-voom color palette decorated in natural woods, seagrass wallpaper, yellow orchids, and my personal favorites: Martini glasses for your water, and fluffy flip-flops as slippers.
Not surprisingly, Nobu’s largest namesake restaurant—one of Vegas’ many forays into gastronomy—is an apropos accompaniment to the Japanese-inspired retreat, as well as an oft-frequented outpost for Vegas VIPs.
As a guest of the hotel, I got priority access to the filled-to-the-brim restaurant and sat on the outskirts at a teppanyaki table. Enamored by the food that’s made Nobu famous, my people-watching tendency quickly fell by the wayside as my chef prepared a surf-and-turf teppan menu mingling courses that included sashimi salad, cilantro-jalapeno-topped Chilean seabass, grilled-to-perfection black angus tenderloin, and chocolate lava cake.
At 10 p.m., the night was still very young by Vegas standards. Full of protein, I was primed to sample The Strip’s apres-dark lounge life. My first stop took me to FIZZ, opened by Sir Elton John’s partner, David Furnish, in Caesars Palace in late 2013 as the haute couture corner where the gents party when they make regular trips to the desert. Rumor has it there’s a secret passageway between The Colosseum stage and the lounge, so don’t be surprised if you end up beside a headliner sipping bubbly after their show.
Other noteworthy lounges on my cocktail crawl included the Philippe Starck-designed Hyde Bellagio, where you’re so close to the fountains you can almost touch them, and a trip up to Mandarin Bar’s 23rd-floor perch for floor-to-ceiling views of the brightest night lights on earth.
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When the Glitter Gulch glitterati (including moi) want to detoxify—say, for example, from one too many drinks in their cocktail crawl—they head to the spa. If you think soaking in eucalyptus mist or regenerating in a cold plunge is a ladies-only affair, think again; the spa is a co-ed indulgence in Las Vegas. And with a smattering of some of the best spas in North America, serenity is more than worth the splurge in the hammam in the Sahra Spa & Hammam at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas; the Roman baths in Qua Baths & Spa in Caesars Palace; or the shio salt room in The Spa & Salon at the ARIA Resort & Casino at CityCenter.
Back along the rim of the Grand Canyon, my Papillon Airways helicopter took a purposeful 4,000-foot dive into the canyon itself. Following the Colorado River below, we forged the meandering path like rockstars taking a detour between gigs, and landed on the canyon floor. Here, I was reminded that Vegas splurges come in all forms: some neon, some natural; some done up, some down to earth; some pricey, some for a song. No wonder Elvis crooned, “Viva Las Vegas.”
Where do you like to splurge in Las Vegas?