Five Days in Las Vegas
This past week, I spent five days in Las Vegas with my best friends, to simultaneously celebrate our college graduations as well as my friend’s birthday. I had been to Vegas once before, with my family, but our intentions for this trip were a little bit different. While my first trip had consisted mainly of exploring the sights and partaking in more cultural-based activities, we knew this time we would be doing a lot more celebrating. The city is basically built for partying, there’s no light way to put it. But we survived (and thrived) and I definitely learned a thing or two about planning and experiencing a successful girlfriend’s getaway. Here are some of the highlights.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the SLS Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, which had everything one could ask for in a Las Vegas hotel (great restaurants, lively pool, and of course a casino). It was just recently built, but is a reputable name due to it’s other namesake establishments in Miami and the Bahamas. I really enjoyed the hotel’s aesthetic, the service was good, and the rooms provided us with everything we needed. It is at the edge of the strip, not connected to the infamous Las Vegas mall, but it is directly on the city’s monorail. My friends and I split Uber rides the entire time here, and because of this, I never spent more than $5 on a ride through Las Vegas. Even the ride to and from the airport was under $10.
We did walk through a number of other hotels and the Cosmopolitan would be my other recommendation if you really want to be in the center of it all. But I will say, there was something nice about being a little bit outside of the strip, something similar to a breath of fresh air before you hopped back into the all the activities the next day.
My first day in Vegas consisted mostly of getting there. I spent the morning in the airport and the plane, and arrived in Vegas in the late afternoon. After settling in the hotel, me and my friend’s quickly checked out a daytime pool party, something you must do in Vegas. We went to the Marquee, which was lively, yet more lounge-y than rowdy. But a good intro to the city.
We then convened for dinner at the hotel, choosing Katsuya, the high-end Japanese restaurant on our resort. The food was great. We went with the chef’s menu, trying a little bit of everything. I also experienced Omakase for the first time (dessert was fresh mochi), and I definitely had a great dining experience.
For our first night out, we actually had limited options, as it was a Wednesday night and many of the major clubs were actually closed. We ended up going to the Hyde at the Bellagio. The architecture at the Bellagio is something of an overdone Renaissance/contemporary mash-up, almost humorous in its artificial lavishness, yet it was quintessential Vegas, so it still had its charm. The Hyde was less club, more hip-hop lounge. Again, not too wild, and a nice segue into the craziness of the city.
Woke up on day two feeling pretty good, and we started the day with a quick workout (you can take the girls out of college athletics, but you can’t take college athletics out of the girls). We then ventured off the strip with a car ride to Toast Society for breakfast. This is a small café in the more residential part of the city that caters to fancy avocado toast and matcha lattes. An instagrammer’s heaven, the place was built for #aesthetic pictures. Luckily, the food didn’t disappoint. It’s a small but diverse menu of toast options from everything from classic avocado to dark chocolate and banana, to figs and honey. They have vegan options and niche health boosters you can add to smoothies. I got a trio toast sample and each one was tasty. The coffee was also really good. Felt more like a Los Angeles health and wellness café.
Can’t let a trip go by without seeing some art, even in Vegas. Luckily, one of my friends had a car and we were able to make a 20 minute drive out of the city to see some cool land art. We drove out to the desert to see Seven Magic Mountains, a large-scale, site-specific public artwork by Ugo Rondinone. It consists of seven giant monoliths made of stacked rocks that are seemingly perfectly balanced on top of one another. Each “mountain” is painted a different combination of bold colors, and it is a really cool sight. We saw it in the middle of the day, but I can imagine the effects of the piece are awe-inspiring during sunrise or sunset. The brightly-colored rocks against the desolate, lifeless landscape truly pointed to the power of human touch. I could go into a whole critical analysis of the work, but I'll save that for another time.
While some of my friends ventured to the NBA summer league games hosted in Las Vegas, my friend and I decided to further explore the strip and went to a different daytime pool party. We decided on the Cromwell, based upon a recommendation from a local, which hosted a beach club (a lot of the pools in Vegas are referred to as beaches, though there is no sand in sight). The aesthetic was neo-classical, but where everything was made of plaster, with pops of hot pink and strategically arranged palm trees. Caesar’s palace was visible in the background, which was ironically perfect, though probably not intentional. The vibes were nice, drinks were obscenely overpriced, but people were actually enjoying the pool and playing water volleyball and whatnot. A solid good time.
After a quick dinner at the hotel, we decided to really experience Vegas nightlife and go to a real club. We went to the Marquee, this time to the night club (Tip: get a promoter. You skip lines and don’t pay cover) and saw Las Vegas nightlife at its prime. It was fun to really dress up—there's no such thing as too much here—as this is not something I normally do when I go out in other cities. The drinks are obviously overpriced, but if you can find your way to a table, free drinks are easy to procure. We had gone to Hakkasan Nightclub the night before, and it was pretty comparable, except Hakkasan hosted an actual EDM concert that night, so the attendees were definitely more invested in the music. Here, they played the expected EDM and hip-hop hits, remixed by a DJ.
We slept in and started the day off with a late brunch at the Cosmopolitan. It was fine. We drank water. The intense heat and our hyper-activity was getting to us, so we were definitely in the mood to relax. We chilled at the hotel, took a long nap, and then decided to venture to the strip for an early dinner. We chose to go to Lavo, which also has a location in NYC that I’ve never been to. The food was lovely. I got the truffle gnocchi. We officially celebrated my friend’s birthday here and the restaurant provided us with a dessert of tiramisu with a candle for her, which was nice. We further treated ourselves to more dessert—it's vacation time after all—and got Oreo zeppoles. It was so classically Vegas to receive a county fair dessert on fine china. A nice comfort meal after all the sunbathing, exploring, drinking, exercising, and walking was needed.
The final day in Vegas, and I didn’t plan on leaving the hotel. My goal was to relax, recover, and get ready for travel later that night (United put me on a red-eye so I would at least seize the day). That meant lounging by the pool for the last few hours at the hotel, drinking lots of water, and room service along with Netflix. A nice quiet day to round up an exciting trip.
Las Vegas is a city that makes fun so convenient, it can overwhelm you. There is no way I could come close to writing about all of the things we did, saw, and ate during our time here, so I've been forced to consolidate this retelling through highlights. Also keeping some mystery is always fun (what happens in Vegas?). Me and my friends had a great time, and the city is exciting as long as you maintain some aspects of well-being. I’d recommend keeping a workout routine, lots of water, some healthy meals here and there, and activities outside the strip in order maintain your sanity. Other than that, feel free to live it up, because that’s what Las Vegas is all about.
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