Nouveau Vegas

I recently went on a whirlwind trip to Las Vegas. It was all gay, all the time. We packed our nights with a number of gay bucket list items: Chelsea Handler at The Chelsea, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas; the Chippendales at Rio Las Vegas; and the diva herself, Celine Dion, at The Colosseum, Caesars Palace. Or, you can do like we did, and mix your dining with your entertainment at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, where, whilst listening to the most delightful music, I was ruined forever because I will never taste such wonderful beef stroganoff as I did at that meal. Each day was spent exploring and learning about what is new in Las Vegas, as well as what’s been renewed. Here’s the short list for you to look into for your next Vegas experience, but for more of what’s new and renewed in Las Vegas, visit the website of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority at www.lasvegas.com.

ARIA - Jean Georges Steakhouse. Photo courtesy of City Center Land, LLC.
ARIA – Jean Georges Steakhouse. Photo courtesy of City Center Land, LLC.
Embrace the ARIA Experience

Our schedules were booked solid, the lights on the Strip never dim, the din is always that of lively noise…but I couldn’t tell from my cocoon of solitude, thanks to our accommodations at Vdara Hotel & Spa at ARIA Las Vegas. If you’ve never been to Las Vegas before, this complex will be just part of the busy environment of the Las Vegas Strip. But, if you’re familiar with the Strip, this might be a whole new development; one worth exploring. Snugly set near The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and the Bellagio, I spent my spare moments in a suite at the boutique Vdara. With no gaming, no children, and no smoking, it was an oasis of calm. I luxuriated in the sleek surroundings and drank in the view of the Bellagio fountains, the Eiffel Tower, and the High Roller from the windows of my suite as I devoured my Short Ribs Eggs Benedict with French Press Coffee that room service delivered prior to my morning spa appointment at ESPA. The spa was other-worldly in its tranquility, my 80-minute personalized massage was the perfect answer to getting our biggest issue of the year to press before winging off to Vegas; my own wings needed some loosening. One note is that I’d call ahead to discuss changing room accommodations for gender non-conforming individuals. We were split into areas for men and women, but you need to be comfortable if you’re going to be able to relax…and I’m guessing ESPA can make that happen.

ESPA at Vdara. Photo courtesy of City Center Land, LLC.
ESPA at Vdara. Photo courtesy of City Center Land, LLC.

Because of its relationship with ARIA Resort & Casino, Vdara guests enjoy a number of dining options. The in-suite room service was dreamy, there was a grab-and-go or dine-in Market Cafe Vdara in the lobby, and every morning saw a line-up at the Starbucks that even brought the poor Starbucks-less souls from the Bellagio to our Vdara in zombie-like droves. ARIA offers expanded fine dining in multiple restaurants; our particular journey brought us to Sage for luscious craft cocktails and to Jean Georges Steakhouse for a feast to end all feasts. Having been to the Jean Georges in Vancouver (and not being a huge fan of fish or seafood), this steakhouse was sensual bliss. We shared dishes and I was able to sample nearly anything my heart desired, the favorites were numerous: Waygu Beef Carpaccio with truffle oil and wrapped around Comte cheese; Baby Iceberg Salad with blue cheese and bacon; and Aspen Ridge Dry Aged Rib Eye with the sides of Creamed Corn and Black Truffle Mac & Cheese. The desserts didn’t hurt my feelings, either.

High Roller Experience at dusk. Photo courtesy of Las Vegas News Bureau
High Roller Experience at dusk. Photo courtesy of Las Vegas News Bureau
Visit The LINQ

Just off the Strip, behind the Tropicana, is The LINQ. Shops and restaurants fill the needs (and wants) of any of the travelers. Sit down for a meal at Flour & Barley (the meatballs appetizer is so very tasty and the muffuletta sandwich was my drug of choice) and be sure to visit the Polaroid Fotobar where you can plug into your social media accounts and print photos and keepsakes from your trip or the life you’re escaping from while in Vegas. I chose to print photos for a shadowbox of my favorite Lavender covers of this year, which I was able to walk out with after spending some time at the Polaroid museum portion of the complex. It was fast, easy, and oh-so-satisfying for this photophile. Then, without a doubt, the High Roller Experience will give you the breathtaking views of Las Vegas as you are perched atop the world’s tallest observation wheel at 550 feet high. Go during the day or enjoy the view at dusk when all the lights are starting to glow against the scenery of the City of Sin.

Downtown Container Park. Photo by Emily Wilson/Downtown Project
Downtown Container Park. Photo by Emily Wilson/Downtown Project
Go Downtown

Away from the Strip is the Downtown area, with the brand new Downtown Container Park and the Fremont Experience. The Downtown Container Park is a family-friendly outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment attraction. Made completely of shipping containers stacked upon each other, this unique venue offers a variety of boutique shops and food outlets. I made sure to patronize the gay-owned Sweet Spot Candy Shop for some noshes after having lunch at Bin 702 where I reveled in the Avocado Wedge Salad (spinach, avocado wedges, spiced candied walnuts, and house-made honey mustard vinaigrette) and the Grilled Cheese (havarti on brioche). Delicious. After lunch, take time to meander over to the Fremont Street Experience (or do it all at night when everything’s lit up). Try your luck at some of the casinos or by ziplining above it all on the new SlotZilla Experience. (Since I don’t like leaving the ground, I got to hang out below and hold my travel companions’ belongings while videotaping them as they flew above my head. I can attest to the fact that much fun was had…which you can be certain that I posted on Facebook.)

SlotZilla. Photo by David Tingey
SlotZilla. Photo by David Tingey
SlotZilla. Photo by David Tingey
SlotZilla. Photo by David Tingey
Get Your Vitamin D with Family

There are two prominent gay pool parties in Vegas, both with different vibes and different crowds, both with a bunch of scantily clad people getting their share of Vitamin D.  Xposed! at The New Tropicana Las Vegas is set in a somewhat private pool area, keeping people close together and thumping along with the reverberating music. Cabanas can be rented and bottle service can be bought while watching dancers on platforms gyrate above the pools, and seemed somewhat necessary for a little bit of reprieve from the party. At Temptation Sundays at the Luxor Hotel & Casino, the vast pool area was populated by all sorts of swimmers and loungers; our party was just a fraction of the wide-open water fun. The atmosphere was a bit more relaxed, and more conducive to lounging in the pool and talking above the music, which is what most people preferred to do as the pool became standing-room-only as the afternoon progressed. Cabanas were more optional than not, since most everyone wanted to be out in the fun.

Temptation Sundays at the Luxor Hotel & Casino. Photo courtesy of MGM Resorts International
Temptation Sundays at the Luxor Hotel & Casino. Photo courtesy of MGM Resorts International