I’m sitting in my spaceship overlooking Mars. Or at least it feels that way. I’m actually inside a helicopter, looking through a glass dome, hovering above a mile-deep crack in the earth’s surface. Directly beneath my feet, a silver river snakes through a steep-sided golden valley.
“Drink in the view,” says my pilot, Veronica. “You’re looking at the biggest canyon in the United States.”
This helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon marks the end of an epic, three-day adventure. I’ve spent 48 hours sampling the best shows, clubs, museums and restaurants in Las Vegas. Now, on my final day, I’m seeing this vast wilderness from an eagle’s perspective; the cherry on the cake of the perfect minibreak.
The trip was well-timed. Work in LA had been crazy, and I was ready for some holiday headspace. I’d booked a first-class ticket to Vegas, and three nights at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. It was time to decompress.
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas was epic. The floor-to-ceiling windows made the entire city feel like the walls of my suite. I was inspired to explore … but first, I needed to get the proper look.
And what better place for retail therapy than The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace− with Gucci, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Cartier, all within steps of each other? A black-leather jacket was calling my name. So, I went over to the London designer store, John Varvatos.
“Don’t bother wrapping it,” I said to the lady at the counter. I was heading to Downtown Las Vegas for the first time ever, and I couldn’t resist wearing it out.
I’d booked dinner at Oscar’s Steakhouse at the Plaza Hotel & Casino, a historic steakhouse within the neighborhood. The restaurant is owned by Oscar B. Goodman, a former Las Vegas mayor and defense attorney for some infamous figures. He also had a cameo role in one of my favorite movies, Martin Scorsese’s Casino. I was intrigued.
I decided to channel my inner De Niro with a pre-dinner visit to the nearby Mob Museum. The permanent exhibition − curated by Goodman himself − was the perfect introduction to the city’s colorful past. I learned about the life and times of “The Fox,” “The Weasel,” “Sammy the Bull” and “Tony the Ant.” By 8:30, it was dinnertime, and I was heading to my reservation under my new name, Eddy the Wolf.
Over at Oscar’s, the waiter showed me to a leather booth under three shimmering chandeliers. What kind of entrée would Bugsy Siegel have ordered, I wondered? The “Mob Meatballs” looked excellent. But I went with the New York strip and a glass of Bordeaux. A perfect pair.
The food was a hit. And so was the setting. The restaurant stands under a vaulted glass ceiling, with wraparound views of Fremont Street. I could have sat there all night, but I was booked to see DJ Ruckus at The Marquee Nightclub. The Uber arrived, and I made my gangster getaway.
The club was packed. Only in Vegas is that the norm for a Monday night. On my way to the bar, I was overtaken by three happy-looking guys, each with a lady sitting on his shoulders. Looking up, I noticed that the girls were waving champagne bottles with giant sparklers strapped to the corks – a suitably dramatic end to my first night on the town!
The next morning, I pondered the possibility of a cardio class, but the king-size bed and blackout blinds proved hard to resist. I hit the snooze button, eventually drifting down to The Henry for breakfast at around 10.
My Bloody Mary with Green Chili Vodka was just the kick I needed to get going. It was time for a culture fix. Slurping the end of my cocktail, I grabbed my camera, and headed across the street to the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art.
The gallery’s past exhibitions have included works by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. This current show (until April 29, 2018) presents a private collection of Samurai suits and swords. The 19th century “Tengu mask” was my favorite. Complete with crow’s beak and feathered headdress – like something straight from a Lady Gaga video.
Also on display was the psychedelic artwork of British actor, Anthony Hopkins. “He’s a lovely guy, very sweet,” gallery manager Donald Cody assured me. “But there’s a lot going on behind those pale-blue eyes.”
I don’t doubt it. His portraits were vivid and vibrant; packed with positive energy. Not what you might expect from Hannibal Lector.
After the exhibition, I felt like taking it easy. So, I followed the floating walkway to the Mandarin Oriental, where I snagged a window seat at the tea lounge on the 23rd floor. Ahhh, just what I needed. There’s no casino here − just cool mood music; panoramic views; and a long list of teas, wines and champagnes. I muted my cellphone, and melted into the sofa.
After 10 Zen minutes, and a pot of Oolong, I was ready to get back to the hustle and bustle. But not before grabbing a half-bottle of Moët from the vending machine, and demanding a dance with Pepper, the lobby’s resident robot.
Returning to The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, I picked out a freshly pressed suit. No leather jacket tonight. I had to look the part for my dinner at Costa di Mare at the Wynn, a prodigiously upscale seafood restaurant headed by award-winning chef, Mark LoRusso.
My server, Luciano, presented me with a glass box stuffed full of Sicilian sea bream, French sea bass and Norwegian langoustines. All this precious cargo is flown in from Europe, arriving at Costa di Mare within 48 hours of being caught. No wonder it tasted so fresh. I opted for handmade tagliatelle with shrimp and lobster. Sensational.
I’d made no post-dinner plans. But I felt reenergized after my meal, so I took a chance on Absinthe Las Vegas – a show Las Vegas Weekly calls “The No. 1 greatest show in Las Vegas history.”
They hit the nail on the head. Absinthe features jaw-dropping acrobatics, interspersed with raunchy stand-up comedy. Heads up: If you sit in the front row (like I did), be prepared to get wet!
The next evening, back in LA, I replayed my vacation in my mind. Helicopters, lobsters, jugglers, mobsters; in just three days I’d experienced them all. This latest Las Vegas adventure had been a true tour de force. Reaching for my laptop, I began to plan the next one.