Want to enjoy Vegas without the hangover?
Though Sin City is most often celebrated for debauchery and excess, notable in the just-released film “The Hangover III,” there is plenty to do in Las Vegas without breaking the law or the bank.
If gambling away your savings or clubbing till 5 a.m. aren’t your thing, here are other ways to enjoy yourself on a Vegas vacation.
Las Vegas offers an impressive array of dining options. There’s cheap fare along the Strip and reasonably priced buffets in the casinos. But gourmet restaurants also abound. Though they can be pricey, they’re worth it.
» Julian Serrano at the Aria
This Spanish restaurant features not only tapas plates but larger dishes as well. My group of three ordered six tapas plates to share, plus dishes of roasted almonds and marinated olives. The albondigas — beef and pork meatballs in a tomato and sherry sauce — were the favorites. Another hit was the goat cheese and tomato marmalade cake, one of the restaurant’s “new-style tapas.” If you don’t want to share, the larger plates include the traditional paella, a surf and turf and a lamb chop. And don’t forget the sangria.
» Top of the World at the Stratosphere
Want a dizzying view of Vegas while eating? This restaurant, 800 feet in the air, revolves in a full circle every 80 minutes, so your perspective will constantly change — and may include skydivers jumping from the top of the Stratosphere casino. The food dazzles as much as the view. We ate from the lunch menu, which included a ricotta gnocchi with chicken and mushrooms and a New York steak hash with a poached egg. The three-course prix fixe menu included a delicious lobster bisque, a surf and turf with a petite filet and a crab cake, and a dessert of small cups of chocolate mousse and berries and cream.
» Envy the Steakhouse at the Renaissance Hotel
Just off the Strip, this upscale restaurant has some of the best steak around. The menu features a rare, 14 oz. bone-in filet mignon. The 8 oz. petite filet simply melts in your mouth. Other menu standouts are the Tuscan veal chop and fire-roasted jumbo tequila shrimp. The sides are served family-style, and we enjoyed truffle-reggiano fries and a creamed corn that had been reduced in whiskey for a sweet and smoky taste. The meal was served with three kinds of sea salt, each designated for a different dish on the table.
There truly is a show to please everyone here: music, comedy, magic, theater.
» Cirque du Soleil
This famed circus arts company has eight shows playing in Vegas, including “Michael Jackson One,” which premieres June 29 at Mandalay Bay but is in previews now. We caught “The Beatles Love” at the Mirage and were blown away. The show, set to original Beatles recordings, features characters like Sgt. Pepper and Lady Madonna and imagery from the songs, including the underwater world in “Octopus’s Garden” and the slow-motion car crash alluded to in “A Day in the Life.” The stunts in the colorful show are impressive, featuring skateboarders in an onstage half-pipe, trampolines and rope contortionists. Just don’t take pictures — trust me on this one.
Caesar’s Palace has the biggest names in music this year. Celine Dion’s show is back this summer, while fellow Canadian Shania Twain returns in October. Rod Stewart has planned performances at the casino in late July and early August, and Elton John will be back in September and October. Other artists around town include Donny and Marie Osmond, performing at the Flamingo; Boyz II Men, back in August at the Mirage; Santana, back in September at Mandalay Bay; and Taylor Hicks, at Paris Las Vegas.
Laugh along with big names in the funny business. Jay Leno, Joan Rivers, Ray Romano and Seth Meyers all are playing Vegas in limited engagements this summer. For standing gigs, catch Vegas comic magicians Penn & Teller at the Rio, Carrot Top at the Luxor or George Wallace at the Flamingo.
The Free Stuff
If you want to blow your budget on Cirque du Soleil and fine cuisine, don’t worry — Vegas has plenty of attractions that don’t cost a thing.
» Watch the fountain show at the Bellagio
You’ve no doubt seen scenes from the fountains in the movies (the show is featured at the end of George Clooney’s “Ocean’s Eleven”), but seeing them up close is even better. The impressive sprays of water are timed to music such as Frank Sinatra’s “Luck Be a Lady,” from “Guys and Dolls,” and “Time to Say Goodbye,” sung gorgeously by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli.
» Escape to Italy at the Venetian
The gondola rides down the casino’s Grand Canal cost $18.95 per adult, but you can walk around the canal for free. Check out the artificial sky on the ceiling.
» Hit the pool
You can do some of the best people watching poolside at the Strip’s resorts (though it may come with an extra resort fee). At the Flamingo, the Go pool serves as a daytime nightclub, with pounding beats and flowing alcohol. If you prefer something quieter, the smaller family pool has plenty of beach chairs to catch some rays — and wait staff to bring you a few cocktails.
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