Destinations & Articles
You’ve Never Experienced It Before!
Published in the
Summer 2010 Issue of Canadian World
By Greg James (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Photos: Courtesy of CityCentre, Las
Vegas… Sin City, glitzy showgirls, 24-hour casinos, aging
crooners, free drinks, mediocre cuisine, quickie weddings,
tacky recreations of the world’s iconic landmarks and a
longstanding reputation as the “anything goes” capital of
the USA! That’s what most people think of Vegas.
no more. CityCenter, the stunning new addition to the
world-famous Strip has changed all that!
Complex for Our Times
brainchild of MGM Mirage, now renamed MGM Resorts
International, CityCenter is truly a city within a city.
67-acre complex of buildings, plazas and pleasant “green”
pathways brings together within walking distance the very best
of visitor and resident accommodations, international gourmet
dining, high-end shopping, first-class entertainment and
relaxation amenities in an eco-friendly, people-oriented
environment unheard of in the history of Las Vegas and indeed
the entire USA.
and function truly converge here with impressive public art
and innovative internationally inspired architecture and
interior design creating a feast for the senses while
maintaining a human-scaled ambience. A popular saying goes,
“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” However, after my
short stay at CityCenter, I couldn’t wait to tell all!
Aria Resort & Casino
had never stayed at a resort casino before, but the Aria
belies what I’d heard about such establishments.
I entered the lobby I was struck by its airy, elegant and
almost hushed atmosphere. I would later discover that the
world-renowned New Haven, Connecticut firm of Pelli Clarke
Pelli Architects had designed this state-of-the-art, gently
curving, eco-friendly edifice.
reception area staff of the Aria who welcomed me in such a
personable and friendly manner made it nearly impossible for
me to believe that this was a 61-storied, 4,004-room hotel!
Room for the 21st Century
clever layout of the ground floor casino afforded easy access
through a wide central aisle leading to the elevator that
whisked me up to my room.
knew that I had arrived in Las Vegas the minute I closed the
door behind me. The
room’s wall-to-wall blackout drapes, followed by its sheer
curtains, silently slid open to reveal a stunning bird’s eye
vista of the city’s famous neon-covered Strip and the ridge
of the snow-capped Spring Mountains beyond!
the décor, furnishings and amenities of my room where second
to none, it was the handheld bedside touch-screen monitor that
impressed me the most. All of the functions in this
state-of-the-art room, including the lights, air-conditioning,
TV and curtains could be controlled from the pad-sized monitor
without even getting out of bed.
feature I truly loved was the ‘Good Night’ command, which
simultaneously turned off the TV, slowly lowered the lights
and silently drew the curtains closed!
Within a City
I had never visited Las Vegas before, many of my friends were
amazed when I told them that I didn't venture out to see most
of its clichéd flashy landmarks that run along the Strip.
of all, it actually rained quite a bit during my four-day stay
in late January. Annual
precipitation in Las
Vegas is only about 4.5 inches (110 mm), which usually
occurs during the entire span of the winter months.
it seemed it all fell during my visit, not something you would
expect in the Nevada desert. Even the Las Vegas natives I
encountered were surprised by this unusual phenomenon.
more to the point, there was so much to see and do within
CityCenter that I had little time for anything else. What
follows is a brief overview of some of CityCenter’s
fascinating and impressive components that truly make it a
one-of-a-kind city within a city.
first time I saw the two
glass-covered, 37-storey Veer Towers leaning in opposite directions
(five degrees from centre), I thought I was seeing things.
two towers each feature approximately 335 condo-residences for
those who want to make Vegas their permanent home. Because
they tilt away from each other, the residents of each tower
can enjoy unobstructed views.
Veer towers rise from an equally spectacular multi-storied
high-end shopping, dining and entertainment emporium, Crystals, which is a destination all by itself.
interior architecture (that allows for natural light to stream
in), stunning indoor fountains (one consisting of frozen
pillars that rise from a refrigerated chamber below) and
Crystals’ eye-popping sculptural elements vie with the likes
of Tiffany, Bulgari,
Cartier, Christian Dior, Fendi, Van Cleef & Arpels and
Versace for the attention of well-heeled shoppers or casual
browsers, like myself.
was most impressive was the lack of any snobbery on the part
of these exclusive establishments. Maybe it’s because they
couldn’t tell if you were a big winner at the casinos the
evening during my stay, I was fortunate to be invited to a
cocktail affair at Tiffany’s brand new two-levelled Crystals
The rather chic event featured a martini and whiskey
bar, along with a lively jazz performance.
that ritzy evening, I must agree
with Audrey Hepburn who declared in “Breakfast at
Tiffany’s” that nothing bad could ever happen at
Tiffany’s, whether at their legendary New York home base or
their equally tony store in Las Vegas..
Vdara Hotel & Spa
unique 57-story crescent-shaped Vdara Hotel and Spa offers 1,495
those who prefer a non-gaming environment when visiting Las
Vegas. Its Sky
Pool & Lounge features 19 luxuriously appointed retreat
cabanas including six private spa cabanas.
Vdara’s 10,000 square feet of conference space can
accommodate up to 400 guests and its visually appealing Silk
Road restaurant offers a contemporary
menu with Middle Eastern and Asian influences that were
brought brought to
Europe so long ago along the legendary "Silk Road".
like all the other edifices of CityCenter, what makes this
internationally inspired hotel so special is the public art it
has acquired and proudly displays.
of the most prominent public art pieces, rising dramatically
from the Vdara’s driveway, is Nancy
Rubins’ towering “Big Edge” installation.
It consists of
colourful, life-sized, stainless steel and aluminium canoes
and other watercraft suspended by nearly invisible metal cables in a
gravity-defying cluster some 50 feet above the driveway.
still in wonderment that the whole thing doesn’t come
crashing down to the ground!
Meets West at the Mandarin
out the unique combination of properties located in CityCenter
is the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas, an exceptional 47-storey
luxury hotel that is a revolution in sustainable design and a
welcome oasis of non-gaming oriental calm.
elegantly appointed 23rd floor Sky Lobby, restaurant and bar
offer some of the most breathtaking views of Las Vegas.
392 guest rooms and suites feature interiors by renowned
designer Adam D. Tihany.
Each is a model of sleek,
contemporary design with subtle oriental touches like the
two-way cubbyholes that allows room service to be delivered
without guests having to open their doors.
my Las Vegas sojourn, I attended a cocktail reception at the
intimate 23rd floor Mandarin Bar where I was graciously served
signature cocktails and creative tidbits of finger food by the
oriental-attired staff, while marvelling at the 225-degree
glittering views of Las Vegas spread out below me.
& Wet Features
an informative sustainability tour, I discovered that
CityCenter is the largest private green development in the
CityCenter's innovative green solutions include
everything from its specially designed slot machine bases that
double as air controllers (meaning air only has to be
conditioned at people level) to the world's first fleet of
stretch limos powered by compressed natural gas,
also noticed that all of the interior and exterior vegetation
consisted of cleverly arranged local desert plants, which were
watered by an automatic system only when the sensors inconspicuously placed
around them detected that they needed it.
another fascinating tour, a representative from CityCenter's
collaborator WET, whose designs include the "Fountains of
Bellagio" and the "Mirage Volcano", guided us
through the five exclusive water expressions they created for
included Aria’s stunning exterior fountain featuring dancing
shoots of beaded water illuminated by special multicoloured
lights, as well as the hotel’s dramatic interior two-storied
may seem strange that water features in the desert would be
environmentally sound but the water used is constantly
recycled and has a cooling effect whether indoors or outdoors.
fine art collection that seems to be found everywhere one
turns is just too large to be listed here. However I cannot
fail to mention a few outstanding pieces.
entering the Aria’s lobby one is struck by Maya
River”, which is cast in reclaimed silver. The
84-foot-long, approximately 3,700-lb sculpture is suspended
over Aria’s registration desk area. Lin was inspired to
create it by the undulating Colorado River that borders the
late famed British sculptor Henry Moore’s contribution to
CityCenter, “Reclining Connected Forms”, was carved out of
Roman travertine marble. The massive piece is 10 x 17 x 7 feet
and is installed in “The Park” between the Aria and
the aforementioned “Big Edge” by Nancy Rubins that stands in front of the Vdara
Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s
“Typewriter Eraser, Scale X”, created out of
stainless steel, fibreglass and acrylic polyurethane paint and
found standing in "Crystals Place", adjacent to the
Mandarin Oriental, are both playful and imaginative –
exactly what great public art should be!
to the spectacular
architecture and interior design of CityCenter’s
complementing buildings, the kudos go to numerous
collaborating internationally-renowned individuals and firms,
likes of Cesar Pelli, Daniel Libeskind, Kohn Pedersen Fox,
Helmut Jahn, Rafael Viñoly, the Rockwell Group, Norman Foster
In addition, more than 45 talented interior
designers were involved in the creation of what some call
America’s most important development project of the decade.
Elvis! Viva Las Vegas!
was thrilled to discover a Montreal connection in Aria’s
opening show Viva ELVIS, which was created and performed by
Montreal’s own Cirque du Soleil.
This tribute to the late,
great Elvis Presley explored highlights of his life in dance,
amazing aerial acrobatics and live music.
spectacularly staged and enthusiastically performed show may
not be everyone’s cup of tea but the fans of the late singer
surely enjoyed it.
Both before and after the show, I spotted
many female fans of a certain age kissing the life-sized
statue of Elvis that stood in front of the theatre.
the show, The
Light Group hosted a cocktail reception at "The Gold
Lounge" located across from the theatre.
The décor of
this exciting Aria venue, designed by The Light Group, is the
result of an intriguing concept and that pays homage to the
celebrated life of Elvis Presley.
of Food & Drink
again space does not permit me to give full credit to the many
magnificent restaurants located at the Aria and elsewhere in
CityCenter. One could spend a whole week here and not eat at
the same gourmet restaurant twice.
the authentic paella creations of Spanish Chef Julian Serrano
at Julian Serrano to Michael Mina's signature fish and seafood
dishes at his newest restaurant American Fish; from the
flavourful, tender cuts of aged beef and fresh ceviche at Eva
Longoria Parker's Latin-inspired Beso Restaurant to the
succulent steaks lovingly prepared with house-made steak
sauces and rubs by award-winning chef Jean-Georges
Vongerichten at Jean Georges Steakhouse, each and every meal I
enjoyed was a truly satisfying and memorable experience.
Other fine eateries found within Aria are
Bar Masa and Shaboo, where Chef Masa Takayama's Japanese cuisine remains unrivaled
around the world; Sage, renowned Chef Shawn McClain's first restaurant outside of Chicago;
Union Restaurant & Lounge, serving a playful mix of
contemporary American cuisine; Jean Philippe Pâtisserie,
a charming Parisian-style pastry shop; Blossom,
offering a 100-dish menu of fine Chinese cuisine; and Sirio,
where the Maccioni family presents impeccable Italian taste in
their Ristorante named for the family’s legendary patriarch.
the drinks department, I learnt quite a bit about mastering
mixology at Aria’s Bar Moderno from the resort’s Director
of Beverage Heidi Hinkle when I attended her crash course in making
(and tasting) cocktails, including how to infuse sprits, muddle
Caipirinhas and create a signature cocktail using fresh
the Nights Away
all of the gourmet dishes that I consumed during my stay, I
needed to work off some of those calories and what better way
to do that than by dancing. One night I tripped the light
fantastic at the Eve Nightclub, Eva Longoria Parker's newest
hotspot, located above Beso at Crystals.
it was the evening I spent at HAZE Nightclub in the Aria that
was truly mind-blowing. The Light Group designed this huge
multi-levelled, surreal entertainment venue where
state-of-the-art technology controlled the amazing sound and
ice smoke occasionally floated across the room as costumed
characters walked gingerly through the crowd of dancers and
revellers on six-foot-high stilts. This was my last night in
Las Vegas and what a way to spent it!
early morning massage at The Spa at Aria was just the right
remedy for that old morning-after-the-night-before feeling.
The state-of-the-art facilities of the spa and professionalism
of its attendants produced an incredibly revitalizing effect.
my way to the airport, driving past the old-style casinos, I
mused at what impact CityCenter would have on existing
perceptions of Las Vegas.
I know this city-within-a-city had
dramatically changed mine. During my stay, I hadn’t spent a
single quarter on the slot machines and yet had experienced
one of the best times of my life.
More Info on CityCenter:
More Info on Aria Resort & Casino
Resort & Casino, Las Vegas
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