Fueled by the finest food and drink Sin City has to offer, MICHAEL KAPLAN spent 48 exclusive, luxurious hours in Las Vegas. Here’s how he rolled.SPEND ENOUGH TIME IN LAS VEGAS and eventually you will hear somebody knowingly proclaim that if you’re willing to blow enough cash, you can get whatever you want in this town. Sure, that’s true most everywhere, but Las Vegas is particularly driven by dollars. Millions are won and lost each day — for recreation. So those who spend big in Sin City have over-the-top expectations and opportunities that just don’t exist in more rational, restrained places. Vegas, after all, is the home of the $5,000 hamburger, the $7,000 hotel suite, and the no-limit hold ’em poker game with a minimum buy-in of $20,000 — a sum that can be vaporized in a single high-wire hand.
My test drive of high-end Las Vegas begins with a limo pick-up at McCarran International Airport. The driver zips me to the private entrance of ultra-elite Sky Suites, a hotel within the hotel at the glassy, curvilinear Aria Resort & Casino. Passing painlessly through check-in, elevatored up to my weekend digs on the 57th floor, I meet a meticulously mannered butler who promises to take care of my every need, from procuring show tickets and making dinner reservations to negotiating runs to In-N-Out Burger. He arranges for clothing to be pressed, suitcases to be packed, and parties to be arranged. For now, though, I’m happy with the gin and tonic that he has thoughtfully stirred up. Twenty-foot ceilings, curvy sofas, and endless views do it for me — and I’m not even checked into one of the duplex Sky Villas outfitted with their own hair salons, pool tables, well-stocked bars, and walls covered in textured silk.
I could laze around in the hot tub or order up room service, but instead I summon a limo that whisks me off the Las Vegas Strip and out to Shadow Creek, as lush and exotic a golf course as you will find. That it’s in the middle of the desert only makes the whole thing sweeter. This is the place where Michael Jordan, Bill Clinton, and George Clooney like to challenge themselves while marveling at the juniper trees and blue herons flying around. On a course where every hole presents its own version of trickiness, the 18th stands out. Hit to the water trap’s edge and you have a shot at a birdie. Clear the water and you’re going for an eagle. Land in the drink, though, and you will most likely bogey the hole. Mark Brenneman, Shadow Creek’s manager and PGA pro, describes the 18th hole as a metaphor for Vegas itself. “This is a town full of temptation. You need to know when to embrace it and when to work around it,” he says, leaving me unsure as to whether we are talking about water traps or show girls. He follows that up with advice of a less philosophical nature: “Remember to get a Rhonda-rita for the ride back to your hotel.” I’m not sure what’s in it — and bar goddess Rhonda isn’t telling — but as I sip her customized margarita in the back of the limo, I’m wishing that I had ordered a double.
En route to Aria, I detour to trendily stylish Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, where I make my way up to the 14th-floor’s Sarha Spa and Hammam. As the name implies, it features a Turkish bath, essentially a dry steam room with a hot stone table in its center. This one happens to be private and large enough for a party of four. Perfect for the Red Flower Hammam Experience, which blissfully includes lots of heat, exfoliation, and a stint of wet steam before I am slathered with tangerine fig-butter cream, followed by advice that to shower now defeats the purpose of the cream. Nevertheless, I cool off under a refreshing mister and enjoy a few minutes in the vitality pool before feeling prepped for tonight’s über dinner: a roving tasting menu, with small (okay, smallish) plates at four of Vegas’ best restaurants.