I landed in Las Vegas, eye roll at the ready. I’ve been a few times, mostly for work, and I’ve never understood the city’s in-your-face appeal. But I was grateful for sun on my shoulders and palm trees overhead, and you know how they say things happen when you least expect it? Well, I was about to discover a more chillaxed Sin City.
This becomes apparent as soon as I step into the tranquil lobby of the new Delano. It’s dimly lit, with warm desert touches (including one massive boulder found nearby). With a primarily white palette, Zen-like lines and cult favourite Malin + Goetz amenities, the suites are similarly calming. Not that they’re without baller features: some penthouses offer near-360‑degree views of Vegas, and all are equipped with make-your-own-manhattan kits.
The Delano is just the latest in a handful of boutique hotels opening in Vegas, including Nobu, SLS and The Cromwell, which is barely recognizable from its former incarnation as Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon. There you’ll find the first restaurant from Giada De Laurentiis (she’s also the first woman on the ever-expanding list of celeb chefs with restos in Vegas). Like its namesake, Giada is super pretty and delightfully unpretentious. I order the lobster roll—punctuated by crispy bursts of brininess in the form of fried capers—and pair it with white sangria while watching chefs bustle around the marble-walled open kitchen.
I then hit The Linq, an open-air shopping and entertainment promenade that feels more laid-back SoCal than Vegas. At Kitson, an ever-popular Los Angeles shop, it’s a high-low explosion (McQ sweatshirts, blinged-out dice). Sweet teeth will find a 24-7 fix at the Sprinkles cupcake ATM; at 12AM Run, brands such as Billionaire Boys Club, The Hundreds and Young & Reckless make for some serious shoe game. The shop is owned by hip-hop icon Nas, and sneaker freaks flock here for the latest launches.
My favourite Vegas find, however, involves art, not commerce. During the 50‑minute Aria Art Hike, a workout that takes place in and around the massive hotel complex, I do lunges by a spectacular waterfall and push-ups in front of “Vegas,” an LED wall—part of Aria’s $40‑million art collection—that scrolls anti-Vegas truisms by the artist Jenny Holzer (“If you live simply, there is nothing to worry about”).
On my last night in town, I start off with a more typical Vegas experience: a sumptuous dinner and dancing. At Rose Rabbit Lie, an art deco–inspired supper club that oozes glamour, the menu is upscale comfort food (light-as-air gougères; a stunning beef Wellington loaded with foie gras and truffles), which I later work off on the strobe-lit dance floor at XS. But afterwards, I tumble into a cab headed to Tacos El Gordo, a refreshingly no-frills, off-the-strip Mexican joint. My late-night munchies satisfied, I realize that Vegas has finally won me over.