Viva Las Vegas!

By - January 14, 2010 (Updated: January 27, 2016)

View of the Strip from our room at the MGM Grand

View of the Strip from our room at the MGM Grand

Vegas, I owe you an apology and I am deeply sorry. I imagined you were still a land of $5.99 all you can eat buffets that bake under heat lamps all day long, gathering the germs and bacteria of a thousand semi-comatosed gambling junkies. I thought there would be little to do but waste away the day at the one-armed bandits, while sipping watered-down, comped drinks. I’m sorry Vegas, I was wrong.

Not being the least bit lucky at gambling, I never had a desire to visit Vegas until recently. Two things gave me a bit of hope for the food scene here. The first was last season’s Top Chef on Bravo. It took place here in the restaurants of Vegas and when I saw the calibre of the chefs here, I thought there may be more to this town than slots.

Bedroom at Aria

Bedroom at Aria

What sealed the deal for me was one of my food-heroes, Anthony Bourdain, visited and wrote about Vegas. Tony gave the food rave reviews, so I knew it was worth a look (er taste…).

Luckily for Andrew and I, we had the inside track. One of our friends is a native of Las Vegas and agreed to meet us for our first weekend. We spent the weekend at the stunning Aria hotel and casino, which just opened in December. Aria gets high marks for style but takes the in-room technology a bit too the extreme.

Saturday, we spent the day with our friends exploring the various themed casinos. The decor at some of these places is so over the top it’s a bit hard to believe. For our Saturday night dinner, the four of us visited Sage. The decor, wine and food was all to perfection. I had a yellowtail starter and lamb main course and both exceeded my expectations.

Crystal's Place shopping at Aria

Crystal’s Place shopping at Aria

Sunday we had the buffet champagne brunch at Aria with our friends and their family. This was not the typical heat-lamp buffet. The food was great, fresh and varied. (The champagne was pretty good too). After lunch we explored the art galleries and shopping centre that are part of the new Aria complex.

Andrew and I had a lazy afternoon and then met up with our friends to check out the MiX lounge at THE Hotel (now Delano Las Vegas) at Mandalay Bay. With a name like THE Hotel, you can expect it to be pretty glamourous and it was. MiX is located on the 61st floor and offers an incredible view of the Strip. I’m hoping to get back there with my camera.

Vegas is the land of excess so when in Rome (or Vegas) sometimes you need to act like the Romans do and jump in a limo instead of a cab. We headed over to the Wynn resort for supper at Okada, a Japanese restaurant, where we were joined by two more friends of our friends. We ate the freshest sushi I have ever had in addition to some incredible Kobe beef and other delicious dishes. The company, food and drinks were all superb and we had a great night. (Update Jan 2016: Unfortunately, Okada has since closed which is a shame since it was one of the best sushi experiences we’ve had.)

The fountains at Bellagio

The fountains at Bellagio

Monday it was time to switch locations to the MGM Grand hotel for Andrew’s work conference. The Grand is a bit older than Aria so our room was a bit of a let-down after the luxury of Aria. That said, the bed is still more comfortable than my bed at home and somebody else cleans the bathroom so I can’t complain. There are some pretty impressive food options here at the Grand as well, although we haven’t had the opportunity to try them yet.

With Andrew at his conference from 7am until 9pm every day, I’ve had lots of time to explore the Strip. I’ve been in just about all of the resort casinos now, visited the lions here at the Grand and the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay. I’ve taken load of photos already and hope to get out for some night shots in the next couple of days. I’ve also managed to get in a little retail therapy and I’ve walked for miles. At least I can justify a few of those delicious calories.

There is so much to see and do here that we are faced with the dilemma of how to spend the little bit of free time we have here together. We are still debating a trip out to the Grand Canyon, although it will be rushed, or maybe catching a show and some more great food here in Vegas. Whatever we decide, I’m looking forward to our last few days here in Vegas.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
- 2 days ago


  1. Comment by Megan

    Megan January 14, 2010 at 04:08

    We missed each other by ONE WEEK. Seriously. I was just there.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison January 14, 2010 at 05:10

      That’s crazy! Did you guys enjoy it? I heard the weather was colder last week but it’s quite nice here now. Better than Belgium anyway 🙂

      • Comment by Megan

        Megan January 14, 2010 at 15:42

        I’m not really a Vegas fan. But Steve seemed to like it. He wants to buy property there.
        .-= Megan´s last blog ..With friends like these… =-.

        • Comment by Alison

          Alison January 14, 2010 at 20:40

          Hmm, I can easily enjoy a week here but to live… no thanks 🙂

  2. Comment by Kate

    Kate January 15, 2010 at 17:11

    oh that’s it… next time we’re definetly going together!!!
    you’ll have to indulge me a few turns of the nickel slots though, just to say it’s been done 🙂
    sounds like you’ve had a fabulous time!!!
    can’t wait to hear more about it!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison January 15, 2010 at 20:16

      Absolutely! I actually played a few slots. They had one called ‘Kitty Glitter’ that I just couldn’t resist. Soooo tacky 🙂

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  4. Comment by Sean

    Sean January 27, 2010 at 02:35

    I was in Vegas for a week in June – HP conference at Mandalay Bay. Next time, I’m bringing Anita with me. Vegas seems like it’d be a lot more fun with two people.

    Hey – any pics of Elvis impersonators? 😉

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison January 27, 2010 at 11:16

      Mandalay Bay looked really nice. I think Vegas is definitely more fun with two (or more) people. And no, sorry, no Elvis pics. Next time… 🙂

  5. Comment by tez

    tez January 27, 2010 at 08:50

    We’re just in the midst of planning our trip to Vegas! Any other handy suggestions etc?
    .-= tez´s last blog ..An Alphabet of Gratitude – ‘a’ =-.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison January 27, 2010 at 11:17

      Ooooh! Absolutely! Drop me an email and let me know when you’re going and where you’re thinking of staying. You can get some great rooms there very cheap. I highly recommend going to Mix, if nothing more than to check out the view!

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