Only on the Vegas Strip could a stand-alone city be built. Not just any city, either. Vegas' CityCenter, MGM's most impressive and prodigious project ever, is nearly complete as the most modern, glimmering metropolis yet seen in North America. I decided a 48-hour stay in Vegas was certainly in order.
Pulling into CityCenter on a late afternoon, I was immediately impressed. The various towers, envelope one into a sleek, steel blue world with Aria
, CityCenter's hallmark resort and casino its nucleus. Unlike other Strip resorts that overplay a gimmicky theme (although who doesn't love pirates and knights), Aria doesn't portray one blatantly. If anything, the resort subtly showcases an affinity for artistic expressions of nature. There's a depiction of the Colorado river, made of reclaimed silver, behind the check-in desk, thick "tree" columns in one casino bar, and a playful fountain in the registration round-about where water squirts leap frog rainbow beams of color. There's a serene sensation to Aria, perhaps which no Las Vegas Strip resort can claim. Moreover, Aria, along with CityCenter hotels The Mandarin Oriental and Vdara
, is LEED certified and incorporates several green and conservation initiatives-another distinction no other Strip resort makes.
True to its love of nature, Aria pulses with life and houses a collection of celeb restaurants, a gigantic spa, a sprawling pool area, and Cirque du Soleil's latest show, Viva Elvis. I particularly liked Sage, a modern American restaurant draped in cascades of purple fabrics and already known for its array of absinthe offerings. A more casual dining option is Julian Serrano, a sassy Spanish tapas restaurant with bold tile work and views of the bustling lobby.
There's no need to leave Aria, or CityCenter, for that matter. I felt so inclined, however, and ducked out to Paris' Eiffel Tower Restaurant. How could I miss the most picturesque views of the Bellagio fountains, the charming Paris balloon, and scene of the Strip' Fortunately, at the Eiffel, one doesn't just opt for the views and pray the food is worth a passing. Headed by Chef J Joho, the Eiffel maintains a traditional French menu that continues to achieve acclaim. Never, ever miss the Blue Cheese Soufflé pudding appetizer, a pillow of subtle cheese delight, or the perfected Roasted Rack of Lamb. While dining, it's possible to witness a wedding proposal at the Eiffel either. Averaging a few proposals a week, the Eiffel recently launched a "Propose in Paris" program which lets giddy grooms-to-be pick a bulletproof proposal plan, ranging from $500 to $10,000. Ooo la la, indeed.
Down the Strip, housed in the Venetian, three seasoned men in blue continue to play and poke with audiences nightly at 7pm and 10pm. The Blue Man Group is the only Strip-based show that five-year-olds, their grandparents, and I can all enjoy. Sans breasts and contortionists, the Blue Man group entertains with plastic tubes, toilet paper, and prolonged moments of awkwardness with audience members roped in to coming on stage. On the surface, The Blue Man group is a glorified mime show, but its 10 year run in Vegas and now national traveling shows prove that comedy can be wonderfully universal.
Back at Aria, the remote controlled curtains sweep across my room and wrap me into darkness, shutting the Strip's eternal light off. I'm ecstatic about my suite's ridiculously lavish mattress. After all, one needs a good night's sleep to keep up with Vegas.