Since landing two days earlier, I have been to Paris one night and Venice the next. I have dined under the midnight sun in Rome, stopped at the Pyramids, and walked over the Rialto—all in less than 36 hours. We’re here in Las Vegas, checked in at the 1,500-suite Vdara Hotel & Spa for the grand opening of the $8.5 billion CityCenter Las Vegas. This is my first trip to Vegas and I want to feel the magic.
Upstairs in my quiet aerie, I look out over the sea of lights and the sleek monorail shuttling people around town. I’m just a short walk from the Strip and Aria Resort & Casino, Vdara’s big sister. The cool palette in my suite is chocolate, beige and cream, and the only hint of gold plating is the nail lacquer I chose during my relaxing manicure. Vdara’s 18,000-sf spa/beauty center echoes the room’s natural colors and products showcasing Sparitual and Aveda products.
In the lobby, things become a touch more ornate with the flash of hot pink, orange and gold in the Silk Road restaurant, and the loopy latticework of Bar Vdara. I grab a turquoise lounge on the bar’s verandah and sip a Red Rose Garden cocktail peppered with bits of fresh rosemary. And I’m quite enamored with the private event space at the Sky Pool above the porte cochere. Vdara’s group space tops out just over 10,000 sf.
Over at Aria, I walk through the 3-level convention wing flooded with soft natural light at dusk coming through an immense wall of windows. Spanning 300,000 sf, the area has four ballrooms, 38 meeting rooms and two executive boardrooms. The fountain outside begins to glow cosmo pink, and inside the casino, some of the slot machines are themed around Sex and the City—not surprising since the whole point of CityCenter is to elevate Las Vegas style for a new generation.
Aria mostly veers towards minimalist, modern European design, although there’s the requisite splash of bling upstairs at the foil-wrapped Gold Bar, where one can easily imagine the fashionable foursome ending an evening after dining at one of CityCenter’s modish restaurants.
At the fine-dining Sage restaurant, the interior is decidedly sexy and feels almost like it were airlifted from Tribeca in downtown New York. The New American menu is complemented by the Prohibition era-inspired décor, and the service is attentive and without pretension. Try the butternut squash soup with bits of cut-up apple topped with a blue-cheese foam, pork belly and escargot-filled agniolotti, and oysters in an aged tequila mignonette. Yes, the food is as seductive as the decor.
Up a level, the Elvis Theater is a fitting symbol of CityCenter breathing new life into Vegas. Cirque du Soleil’s “Viva ELVIS” show features rhinestone-and-jumpsuited Elvi on stilts dancing to interpretive tributes of Elvis’ songs, like a series of 1950s-esque superheroes doing backflips in a dream-like funhouse.
“Elvis was the first rock ’n roll entertainer to break so many boundaries here,” reminisces Priscilla Presley from the Elvis Theater’s stage. “He would be pleased to know he’s back in Vegas in the way he should be.” And at that moment even I, a sometimes jaded New Yorker, feel the magic that is Vegas.
Both properties are rare Gold LEED certified, designed “to change the way people look at buildings forever…for their commitment to intelligent design and sustainability,” says Bill Grounds, president/COO of Infinity World Development.
CityCenter gives you the sense that almost anything is possible in Vegas. The optimism is palpable and the choice of things to do without leaving the property feels infinite. “Planners always say, ‘You lose people in Vegas,’” says Gail Fitzgerald, vp of sales/marketing for Aria. “But I don’t see that as a negative thing; it simply means you don’t have to plan every single minute.”