There are countless ways to enjoy Vegas. You can go to Sin City to escape — party hard for two days straight and get caught up in the intoxicating rush of the neon city. But after a few raging trips that test your youthful stamina, it comes time to try Vegas another way: an eclectic Vegas trip where you seek a series of fleeting moments and strive to be mindful of every unique experience.
After you settle into your Strip-view hotel, open a few beers and savor them as you journey on foot to the Cosmopolitan hotel. Stop and appreciate the elegance of the Chandelier Bar in the Cosmo, but continue your journey to Vesper Bar by the Cosmo’s front desk. Peruse the impressive specialty cocktail menu, perhaps enjoy a Black Widow made with Fernet Branca, Deschutes black butte porter, and bourbon cream.
Your next quest is to scour the Cosmo for Secret Pizza. If you find the correct unmarked hallway, you’ll be rewarded with stellar pizza and red plastic cups of beer. Scarf down a couple slices of white pizza and finish your beer on the inexplicable log in the Cosmo lobby.
Now you’re ready for some burlesque, comedy and world-class acrobats. Spiegelworld’s “Absinthe” at Caesar’s Palace is exactly what your night requires. The beautiful women are talented, the comedy is two notches above what you’d expect in a circus tent and the awe-inspiring acrobatics will remind you that if you treat your body right, it can do anything. And if you have a thing for grandma’s motorboating and kissing young “drunk sluts,” the audience participation portion won’t disappoint. Absinthe is currently the must-see show in Vegas.
In case you sobered up in the alien world of Absinthe, get a taste of home at the Border Grill in the Mandalay Bay. Start at the bar where you’ll be greeted with $5 margaritas and the familiar chips and salsa of home. Be sure to save room for chocolate mousse — four types of milk blend to form a cold, creamy, mouse bursting with chunks of chocolate. Pair it with the delicious cincuenta y dos cocktail, made with horchata and orange & cafe liqueurs.
Fed and fuzzy? Good. Now it’s time to call up the Spearmint Rhino and get a free limo and free cover for your group. Regardless of your views on strip clubs, a “proper” Vegas adventure requires at least a quick visit. Topless-only Spearmint Rhino keeps it clean and classy, a great stop for first-timers.
Assuming you were smart and paced yourself on night one, why not treat yourself to cupcakes for breakfast? The Cupcakery is worth a visit just to see how out of place the innocent sweetness and cheery employees are compared to the rest of Vegas.
Continue your journey off-Strip to Bosa 1 in Chinatown for a dirt-cheap Vietnamese feast. Before you even have a chance to sit down, the waiter will inform you that they do not serve pho. That’s okay, the real reason you’re here is a bowl of bun bo hue, generously filled with pigs blood and blood jelly. Add in stellar nuong cuon spring rolls, a shrimp combo, and a glass of homemade hot soy milk, and you’ll be eating like a king for a pittance.
Before the night’s festivities begin, consider spending a couple hours at your hotel’s spa. Day passes run around $25 and your body will thank you after a long soak and some time in the steam room. Use the time to reflect on the previous night’s fun, maybe have a friend help fill in a few blanks and think about what you want out of your remaining visit. Lose yourself in the zen before the storm.
Let the Blue Man Group jolt your final night into high gear. If the closest thing you’ve come to seeing the Blue Man Group is when Tobias attempted to join in Arrested Development, you owe it to yourself to see why the show has continued to delight audiences since 1987.
Unless you gambled all of your money away, now’s the time to treat yourself to one more great meal and hit the clubs. If money is tight, try checking if Travelzoo is offering any entertainment deals. One recent deal offered a 4-course dinner at Simon, a drink, and a VIP pass to the four Palms Clubs for only $50. I was able to leisurely enjoy Simon’s signature meatloaf, mac and cheese and the famous junk food platter, and skip the lines at Rain, Moon, and the Playboy Lounge. The only thing you’ll have to worry about is at what point do you need to step in and tell your friend that the lovely lady he’s talking to is a prostitute?
It’s easy to try to ignore the seedier aspects of Vegas — quickly bypass the men asking if you want titties in your face before you can even get your morning coffee. Or you can try to appreciate the hustle. Interact with the city’s unique personalities. Wonder how jolly Tony ended up on that corner, spending all day and night trying to interest passers-by into going to Treasures strip club. Talk to people. Always try to stay mindful as the sun goes down. Let yourself go as the night drifts.