Sky-high weekend in Las Vegas

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Posted October 1, 2015 by Mark Sissons in Casino Getaways
Maverick-Helicopter-Las-Vegas

Maverick Helicopters offers spectacular nocturnal sightseeing tours over the Vegas Strip. (Photo courtesy of Maverick Helicopters)

Vacay.ca occasionally publishes articles on destinations outside of Canada. As our readers begin to plan their winter escapes to warmer climates we will often have our experts report from exotic destinations. In this article, Vacay.ca Writer Mark Sissons reports from Nevada.”

Story by Mark Sissons
Vacay.ca Writer

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — Struck by a sudden hankering for a quick trip to the Strip? Delirious for a dose of Disneyland for adults? With more and more sophisticated smartphone friendly “spontaneous travel” apps popping up, satisfying that sudden craving for a quick trip to adult playgrounds like the city that Bugsy built (alias Lost Wages) is easier than ever.
Case in point: Despite my long-standing fear and loathing of Las Vegas, I impulsively decide to return for the first time in nearly two decades to give Sin City a second chance. Finding a cheap flight online, I nab a last-minute hotel deal on Booking Now, a popular new reservations app, and head south for two days of decadence, American-style.
I Like Mike … and Nobu
In Vegas, everybody seems to know somebody famous. My airport limo driver, for instance, who coolly drops within five minutes that he was Iron Mike Tyson’s personal chauffeur for over a decade. “I’m writing a memoir about our years together,” he boasts, proudly showing me a mock-up on his smartphone of the cover, entitled Into the Shadows with Iron Mike. Non-stop celebrity name-dropping ensues before we reach the heart of the Strip, Caesar’s Palace, the Roman-themed casino hotel that epitomizes all that is grand and gaudy about this town.
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From the replica of the Eiffel Tower, you can see a sweeping panoramic view of the Las Vegas Strip. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

Navigating Caesar’s massive main-floor casino doused in eau de Marlboros, I reach the inner sanctum, the world’s first Nobu Hotel. The creation of chef Nobu Matsuhisa of “Iron Chef” fame and his business partner, actor Robert De Niro, this boutique hotel within a hotel has just 181 rooms (compared to Caesar’s nearly 4,000). With its sleek, understated, Asian-inspired ambience, Nobu Hotel feels like a serene sanctuary from the air-conditioned neon nightmare swirling around it 24/7.  

Dining downstairs that evening at Nobu, the largest of the world’s 20-plus Nobus, is also a welcome respite from Caesar’s cacophony. As a Nobu Hotel guest I have preferential seating at one of the two teppanyaki grill tables, where a multi-course Omakase menu created by the self-proclaimed Best Sushi Chef on Earth awaits. Later, I check out VISTA Cocktail Lounge to sample custom-crafted cocktails like the Pineapple Mule.

Stuffed and Trumped
What’s a weekend in Vegas without bellying up to one of its legendary all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets? If no limits noshing is your idea of culinary bliss, seek out the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars. Voted Best Buffet in Las Vegas by USA Today, this gargantuan gorge-fest offers more than 500 daily offerings, including crowd pleasers like prime rib, chilled king crab legs,  roasted South Carolina shrimp and grits, oak-grilled lamb chops, hand-made dim sum and baked-to-order soufflés.
Staggering out of Caesar’s Bacchanal Buffet, I hail a cab to my next Booking Now selection, Trump Las Vegas, the lavish 64-storey  golden glass tower bearing the moniker of America’s possible next commander-in-chief, the Donald. Managed by Trump International, this high-end condo hotel is just over a mile from Caesar’s Palace, yet feels refreshingly far removed from the Strip’s engineered excess.  
Amazingly, given its namesake, no casino pollutes the Trump Las Vegas lobby. Its Olympic-sized pool isn’t packed with beer guzzling college kids gone wild. And its reasonably priced spa is among the best in Vegas. But the best part is the spectacular view of the Strip from my 48th-floor window, topped only by that evening’s aerial adventures.
High-flying fun
Vegas is legendary for its high rollers. But none stand as tall as the 168-metre Ferris wheel with 28 glass-enclosed observation cabins at the LINQ’s outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment promenade. Dubbed (surprise, surprise) the High Roller, the Strip’s latest and loftiest attraction currently holds the title of world’s tallest observation wheel. Each 40-passenger capacity spherical cabin completes one revolution every 30 minutes. Mine, which also serves as the High Roller’s only fully-stocked bar car, offers panoramic views of the Strip’s major hotels and casinos from a unique bird’s-eye view, making this surreal city sprawled beneath me appear like a Hollywood back lot.
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At a towering 168 metres, the High Roller Ferris wheel is the newest attraction in Las Vegas. (Photo courtesy of Caesar’s Palace)

After dining on superb Italian fare at Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis’s chic eponymous restaurant in the nearby Cromwell Hotel,  and then catching Cirque du Soleil’s “Mystère, a whirlwind of aerial athleticism and high-energy acrobatics, at Treasure Island, I enjoy the ultimate Vegas high-flying experience — a 15-minute Maverick helicopter night flight over the Strip.
Strapped into a state-of-the-art ECO-star helicopter and giddy from a pre-flight champagne toast, I climb aboard with a jubilant couple from Wales, just-married in a drive-thru chapel and still in their wedding finery. As we ascend into the desert darkness, our chatty pilot recounts classic Vegas stories and trivia. Suddenly, all is aglow beneath us as we circle the tower of the 365-metre-tall Stratosphere Hotel, then cruise over the New York-New York skyline, the Bellagio fountains, the shimmering Luxor pyramid, and the Strip’s other megaresorts.                               
After landing back at the Las Vegas Strip Terminal, I head for Fremont Street in the seedy original gambling district of Las Vegas. Tipped off about a semi-secret speakeasy called the Laundry Room hidden in a backroom  at Commonwealth, a popular local bar, I discover a  cozy respite for glitzed-out entertainment industry types. The Laundry Room’s walls are decorated with images of Hollywood sirens like Marlene Dietrich and Rita Hayworth. As the resident piano prodigy plays Tears for Fears’ Familiar Faces, the Pisco Sours — along with what I grudgingly admit was one memorable evening  — take the edge off my dislike for this conglomeration of crassness called Vegas. Maybe I’ll be back if they land an NHL team.

More About Visiting Las Vegas

Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace: 3570 South Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas, NV; Telephone: 866-227-5938 (toll free). Room Rates: Nightly rates currently start at $99 USD.
Attractions: Discounts are available for the High Roller and other attractions when you purchase a Las Vegas Pass.
Booking Now App: The Booking Now app, developed by Booking.com, lets travellers find last-minute hotel deals anywhere in the world on their mobile devices and book them with a single swipe. Enter your desired location and price range and Booking Now generates last-minute hotel deals.


About the Author

Mark Sissons
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