Waking Up in Vegas


There was never any time like the present to vacate San Francisco for a weekend and make the hop, skip and jump over to Sin City for sinful deals. With Vegas' tourism down as much as 40 percent in 2009, hotels and airlines are slashing prices left and right. Sexy airline Virgin America offers one-way fares for as little as $69, while you can catch a Southwest flight for just $75. So my question to you is: Why not go to Vegas, and now at that?

Stay: As long as you base yourself on or around the hoppin' Strip (AKA Las Vegas Boulevard), it doesn't really matter where you choose to lay your head. The classiest dames in the area are the famed Bellagio and the slightly more affordable Venetian, which offers suite-only lodging in a replica of an Italian city. If you don't want to pay top dollar, booking a room in the kitschy Treasure Island (starting at just $69) or its next-door neighbor, the Mirage (rooms beginning at $81), will suffice. For dirt-cheap accommodation, check into the Excalibur ($33) or Sahara ($22).

Play: Without a doubt, the place to be in the daytime is poolside. Almost all of the big hotels have a watering hole; if yours doesn't, you can pay to use someone else's. (Use of the Hard Rock Hotel's pool during its weekly Sunday Rehab party, for example, starts at $20 for the day.) Otherwise, don't feel guilty wasting the afternoon shopping. Many of the shopping centers are themed--like the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, which channel Rome--and the air conditioning will be a welcome break from the 100+ degrees outside.

One must-do while in Vegas is take in a production. Cirque du Soleil's six shows are all equally entertaining, but if you need to narrow it down even further, book seats for Love, the hottest ticket in town currently occupying a theater in the Mirage. Celebrating the Beatles' legacy, you'll be inclined to sing along with all your favorites, like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" or "Hey Jude," as a host of acrobats twirl and flip center stage. With all the elaborate colors, dancing, costumes and other oddities--at some point, you may even think you stepped into a living Seuss experience by mistake--the show, at times, is like one pleasant two-hour acid trip. Just like the Beatles would have wanted it.

And don't forget to stop by Treasure Island for one of the (free) Sirens shows, which take place in front of the outdoor pirate ship four times nightly, as well as the iconic Bellagio fountain spectacular, which goes off every 15 minutes and is most stunning once the sun has set.

Eat: Las Vegas has morphed into a mecca for foodies, which is no big surprise really as celebrity chefs like Michael Mina, Thomas Keller and Wolfgang Puck all have enterprises there.  For alfresco dining, book a table at Italian eatery Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare in the Wynn. For quality slabs of meat, opt for BOA Steakhouse at Caesars Palace. For the trendiest joint in town, head to Tao for Asian Fusion in the Venetian. If you're searching for more reasonable fare, check out the Nine Fine Irishmen inside New York-New York (if you squint a little, you can even make believe you're in Ireland).

Drink: Vegas, no doubt, is a singles city. Couples may find the nightlife scene and all the bumping and grinding a bit overwhelming. (If that's the case, camp out at the casinos instead of the clubs.)

There are no shortage of swank lounges in Vegas, that's for sure. Wander into any hotel along the Strip, and you'll find a few. Just be prepared to pay a hefty cover and wait your turn in the queue. We recommend checking out XS at Encore or Tryst next door at the Wynn. For a more chill environment (or those already coupled up), head off Las Vegas Boulevard to the Griffin Lounge, which offers great tunes, a dark, woodsy and almost enchanted environment, and kind of resembles a bar you might find in Harry Potter.

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