Our Las Vegas City Guide update comes to us from Simone Thompson, a designer and photographer living in Comox Valley, Vancouver. On a recent trip to Las Vegas, Simone took notice of several changes in the area and today she shares with us some of the many changes around the area. Thanks Simone for this wonderful update! -- Stephanie
Read more of the guide after the jump…
Though Vegas has a reputation as being all glitz and over the top kitsch, it’s working hard to add depth and culture too. If you are a first time visitor, you’ll enjoy the decadence of The Strip, but make time to check out the burgeoning scene Downtown too. You’ll be so glad you did. Getting Around: Double Decker “Deuce” buses run 24/7 down the Strip for a flat $2 rate. For more info visit here.
Your trip to “Vegas Baby, Vegas!” isn’t complete without a glimpse of the iconic Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, designed by Betty Willis. The city recently added a parking lot so you can snap a photo without dodging traffic.
Mandalay Bay: The Mandalay Place Shops to check out are Duo, Maude and Nora Blue. The Robert Cromeans Salon looks like a great place for a super chic haircut. The Forty Duece Nightclub is home to old school burlesque shows more Dita Von Teese than peep show. The Reading Room is small, but stocked with well chosen books and often hosts readings and book signings.
Planet Hollywood: Miracle Mile Shops are definitely extensive, but there aren’t many shops you won’t find in malls across America.
The Bellagio: This casino initiated Vegas’s reinvention as a cool, luxurious destination. The Fountains outside (which you may remember from Ocean’s 11) are not to be missed. And the Dale Chihuly ceiling in the lobby is definitely worth a visit even if you aren’t staying there. The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art has been quietly building a name for itself in Vegas and has become a far bigger attraction than anyone expected. Via Bellagio has a small selection of upscale stores including Chanel, Hermes and Fred Leighton.
Caesar’s Forum Shops: 3500 Las Vegas Blvd S: This may be a shopping mall but along with the Gap and Victoria’s Secret, there are some special treats. The animatronic fountain show (every hour on the hour) expertly rides the line between kitschy and creepy. For a full list of the shops, click here. Below are a few of my favorites.
Tory Burch: Floor to ceiling mirrors accented with pink and orange velvet showcase a selection of her signature tunics, sandals, dresses and bags.
Nanette Lepore: I love oogling the pretty things inside this jewel box of a boutique with its giant mirrors, massive white leather banquette and beautiful, feminine dresses, coats and baubles.
Vosges Haut Chocolat: You may or may not have this delightful chocolatier in your neck of the woods, but I recommend stopping in for a treat either way. Their unusual, often savory and spicy combinations are unexpected and delicious.
Tadashi: Cutting edge looks from Japanese designer Tadashi Shoji. The only retail stores are here and in Costa Mesa, California.
Harry Winston: Okay, so most mere mortals have to settle for ogling the sparkling things here, but it’s fun to make believe for just a moment!
Intermix: This boutique carries a selection of super hip labels, some you’ve heard of, some you haven’t; Jay Godfrey, Stella McCartney, Tucker, LaRock and Missoni. No doubt you’ll leave inspired to try some new looks.
Shanghai Tang: These amazing clothes draw on traditional Chinese design but infuse it with the bold color and energy of modern China.
The Venetian: No expense was spared in recreating the feel of Venice in The Grand Canal Shoppes- which boasts an actual canal filled with actual water, actual gondolas and actual gondoliers.Worth a peek just for that, I’d say!
The Wynn: This place oozes elegance and sophistication. Gorgeous mosaics, furnishings and textiles are all over the top and perfectly executed. It feels much too chi chi to be a casino, but then, that’s become Steve Wynn’s trademark! The Parasol Lounges make for a wonderful photo op- the massive umbrella inspired lanterns rotate up and down and are stunningly pretty. The Wynn Esplanade features more high end shops including Jo Malone, Brioni, Oscar De La Renta, Alexander McQueen and Manolo Blahnik.
There is no shortage of dining options in Vegas, especially on the Strip, so I’ve included a small selection of favorite mid range places for breakfast and lunch. If you want to splurge it’s a cinch to find super star chefs cooking up extraordinary meals in this town. (Emeril, Alaine Ducasse, Wolfgang Puck and Joel Robuchon are all here.) I’m hoping all you wonderful D*S readers will have some favorites to add as well!
Planet Hollywood: Check out the fantastic patio at Trader Vic’s where you’ll have a great view of the hoards of people wandering the Strip over the Maine Lobster Salad with Pineapple Mango tapenade. The Spice Market Buffet gets consistently good reviews too. (I like to go on the weekends for the Champagne brunch- and the desert bar has a cotton candy tree! What more do you want?)
Paris: Pastry lovers among us will enjoy a visit to Lenotre (the only outlet in North America, though sadly, they don’t sell their famous macarons here!) Mon Ami Gabi has a patio with a terrific view of the Fountains at the Bellagio and serves classic French food like Endive Salad, Lemon Chicken Paillard and Profiteroles.
Fashion Show Mall: Save for the crazy canopy, this mall could be anywhere in America, but you may want to pop in for tapas at Cafe Ba Ba Reeba (Happy hour weekdays from 4-7 means $3 tapas and half price Sangria!) or grab a seat at the NM Cafe where you can take a load off and enjoy a view of The Strip over a light Mediterranean inspired lunch.
Unica Home3901 West Russell Road- Don’t be deterred by the grim industrial area surrounding this shop. It’s definitely worth the trip. They have a wonderful selection of witty table top and decor items as well as furniture, carpeting, lighting and window treatments. My favorites were the limited edition tea towels from Third Drawer Down , an amazing bicycle basket by Design House Stockholm, and the Phonophone i-pod console. There are also textiles from Dwell Studio, Herman Miller furniture, Michael Graves accesories and lots more.
Town Square Mall: 6605 S. Las Vegas Blvd. South – More shops that you could find across America but the architecture and landscaping has a bit of European feel and the slower pace is a nice contrast to The Strip.
The Atomic Testing Museum: 755 East Flamingo R- This museum is a well done look at the atomic testing that was conducted in Nevada in for more than fifty years. In fact, back in the fifties, tourists could watch an atomic detonation via bleachers and quench their thirst with an Atomic cocktail at the Stardust- the atomic age themed casino. You can experience an atomic blast through video in a concrete bunker at the museum and you won’t forget the visceral experience. Affiliated with the Smithsonian this museum handles the subject respectfully and in great detail. There are lots of fascinating interactive exhibits and memorabilia.
Springs Preserve: 333 S. Valley View Blvd- Inject a bit of nature into your trip with a visit to the botanical gardens. The Preserve offers beautifully landscaped trails, a sculpture garden, a Wolfgang Puck Cafe and LEED Certified buildings for environmental sustainability.
Pamplemousse: 400 East Sahara Avenue- This place is unabashedly old school, something quite refreshing in a city where a twenty year old casino seems ancient (and often ends up imploded!) The classic French menu changes every day and is recited by your waitperson. You’ll need reservations.
Rosemary’s Restaurant: 8125 W Sahara Ave- This is one of those places where everything on the menu looks divine. Husband and wife team Michael and Wendy Jordan rely on 50 local farmers to create their unique American cuisine with a special emphasis on southern food. Definitely worth a trip off the Strip for an authentic local dining experience
Lotus of Siam: 953 E. Sahara Ave- Described glowingly as “The best Thai restaurant in North America” by Gourmet magazine, you know this is worth the special trip. You’ll find authentic, super fresh, totally affordable Thai dishes that leave your mouth pleasantly numb.
Table 34:600 E Warm Springs- Relaxed but elegant spot for lunch and a glass of wine from a big selection of vintages.
Origin India: 4480 Paradise Road #1200- This upscale Indian restaurant has all your favorites and often features live music. They’re quite proud of a visit from Rachel Ray too.
Firefly: Two locations – features Tapas, an extensive bar and live music.
The Cupcakery: Three locations – Super cutesy cupcakes decked out in glitter, maraschino cherries and of course, sprinkles and come packed in Chinese take out boxes.
Hash House A Go Go: 6800 West Sahara Ave- Ginormous portions intended to satisfy a Tractor driver colorfully and cheerfully presented.
First Fridays is a fun event organized by the city to encourage traffic into the Downtown area. On the first Friday of every month, a few blocks are turned into a temporary arts and crafts fair with artists selling everything from graffiti art and screen printed t-shirts to hand made jewelery. A free trolley shuttles people from place to place and vendors sell kettle corn and hot dogs. There are usually local bands providing live music too. Many shops and galleries stay open late for this event. Here are some of my favorite stops.
The Attic: South Main Street – If you love vintage clothing you will need a lot of time to poke around this store and say hello to their cat.
Rainbow Feather Company: 1036 South Main Street- This is where Las Vegas costumers go for the plumes to complete the decadent ensembles you’ll see on showgirls, acrobats and performers on the Strip. It’s a wonderful place to visit- filled to the brim with every commercially available feather on the planet, dyed in every shade you could imagine. DIY and crafty heaven!
Retro Vegas: 1211 S. Main Street- This lovingly curated shop holds a thoughtful mix of affordable mid century modern pieces, plus a healthy dash of Rat Pack era glitz. You won’t be able to miss them on Main Street- Their sign sports two giant pink flamingos and a facade painted to match!
Red Rooster and Charleston Antique Mall: 307 W Charleston Blvd (ph: 702-382-0067)- This charming little warren of antique stalls is a fun place to dig for hidden treasures. It’s filled with antique ceramics, knick knacks, vintage tea towels and Bakelite. Charleston Antiques is staffed by cheerful folks who obviously love what they do and get a kick out of each other too. They often serve tea around 2:00 as well!
Holsum Lofts (95 and Charleston): There are designer showrooms like Dongia, Colours and Henrickson Butler (an authorized Herman Miller dealer) all housed in a former Holsum Bread factory. In a town where old buildings are imploded regularly, it’s nice to see one being re-imagined instead. The refurbished neon facade is a real eye catcher.
Artistic Iron Works: 105 West Charleston Boulevard-Impressive showroom filled with all things iron- patio furniture and benches, pot racks, banisters and screen doors.
Las Vegas Premium Outlets: 875 South Grand Central Parkway-I’m not usually a fan of outlet malls, but this one is home to Kate Spade, Missoni, Salvatore Ferragamo, Elie Tahari and Catherine Malandrino. Palm trees make it feel like an oasis, but there are always crowds.
If you are a designer, pop in to the impressive Las Vegas Design Center- World Market. From the looks of this behemoth, you could easily spend the whole day.
Indra Grae Boutique 9440 West Sahara Ave. #120-Stocks clothing and accessories from Enza Costa, Current/Elliot,Wildfox by Whitehorse Couture, and Torn by Ronny Kobo.
The Arts Factory: 107 East Charleston Blvd- Ground zero for the burgeoning arts scene in downtown. First Fridays are a great time to check out this collection of galleries and studios. Paymon’s Bistro is set to re-open soon after a major renovation
Atomic Todd: 1221 S. Main St-There is always an interesting Las Vegas related show hanging at Atomic Todd. It’s kitsch done really well.
Architecture buffs may want to take a peek at Las Vegas’s first Frank Gehry building, the Lou Ruvo Alzheimer’s Institute.
The Neon Museum: Also known as the “Neon Boneyard”, this is where many of Vegas’s massive and extravagant neon signs have found a final resting place. You have to reserve your tour ahead of time, but the effort is well worth it. There is a reason why this is often used as a backdrop in photo shoots and music videos. All that bedraggled glamor still holds it’s appeal and you’ll definitely get some amazing photographs.
English Garden Florist: 4171 S Maryland Pkwy- You’ll be thrilled with the lush, garden inspired floral arrangements they create here.
Bistro Divino: 241 W. Charleston Blvd. Suite 101- Enjoy some authentic Italian treats at this wine and pizza bar (the Bufala looks incredible!)
Vintner Grill: 10100 W. Charleston Blvd Suite 150- This restaurant is a bit of a trek, but the Mediterranean/American fusion menu makes it worthwhile. The gorgeous surroundings make your meal even more decadent. (And the chocolate truffle flights from aforementioned Vosges come highly recommended!)<
Beauty Bar: 517 Fremont St # A -Okay so this place isn’t really for eating, unless you like to drink your dinner. They specialize in “Manicures and Martinis” but it’s so charming I had to include it.
Agave: 215 & Charleston- Bold Mexican food with a twist- (duck tacos anyone?) a huge selection of tequilas and a very pretty patio for dining under the twinkling neon.
M&M Soul Food Cafe: 3923 W. Charleston Blvd- Located in a strip mall (like so many things in this town), the amazing mac and cheese, corn bread and fried chicken will win you over.