Despite the almost-constant news of how business travelers are avoiding Las Vegas, the TravelAge West editorial team recently decided to hold their three-day staff retreat in Sin City. With the amazing assistance of the team at the Mirage Las Vegas, our editors managed to intermingle business and a few pleasurable pursuits. Below, our editors recount some of their favorite experiences while in Las Vegas.
By Janeen Christoff
My husband doesn’t get very emotional over presents, but when we went to Las Vegas to see “Love” for his birthday, and I heard him say “Oh, wow” under his breath, I knew this gift was a success.
The Cirque du Soleil show, a celebration of the music of The Beatles, captures the essence of the band with everything from the imagery and musical ensembles to the theater, designed specifically for the performance.
We arrived at The Mirage to see the show and were transported into the world of Paul, George, John and Ringo once we passed the box office. After wading through the gift shop, where you can buy a variety of Beatles and “Love” collectibles, we made our way to a movie-theater-like concession stand and got a beverage (or two) for the performance. Little did we know, we’d be so mesmerized by the performance, we would be left holding watered-down cocktails long after the show had ended.
Our seats were perfect, about seven rows back. In the 360-degree theater, it doesn’t matter too much where you sit, everyone seemed to have a pretty good view, but without giving anything away, audience participation is the most fun in the first 10 or so rows.
As the lights dimmed, I remembered smiling with anticipation as the first sounds erupted from the three in-seat speakers behind my head. I couldn’t wait for the adventure to start. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and let the notes carry my soul away. Ninety minutes later, we emerged from the theater breathless and excited, as if we’d truly been on the ride of our lives and it had only just come to a stop.
Vegas High Roller
By Ken Shapiro
The TV console in the one-bedroom suite
at the Mirage Las Vegas
I was fortunate to have a great one-bedroom suite at The Mirage. It had a very large living room with a dining area, a kitchen/bar (with a sink and fridge), a bedroom and an enormous bathroom.
The living room decor was modern, and it included a large beige/gray sectional sofa and a writing desk area that was positioned (oddly) right below the large flat-screen television.
In the bedroom, the most notable feature — besides the great view of the Venetian across the Strip — was a television that, that with the flick of a switch, rose out of a cabinet at the foot of the bed. So while lying in bed, I could turn on the television and it would rise out of this cabinet; then when I turned it off, it would descend back into the cabinet again. The whole set-up was a bit noisy and had the feel of 1980’s technology, but it was still sort of fun.
The bathroom was very large, and featured carpeting and a big Jacuzzi tub.
In all, my suite was definitely large enough to host a few guests, if that’s what your clients want to do, and luxe enough to make me feel a Vegas high-roller.
Stack(ed) in My Favor
By Skye Mayring
Miso black cod in lettuce cups at Stack
After my mom, a Las Vegas local, took the two of us to see The Beatles Love, Cirque du Soleil show — which was nothing short of amazing — she suggested that we top off the night with a bite at The Mirage’s new restaurant, a place that would be “right up my alley.” I hate to admit it but, after browsing over Stack’s menu with a glass of champagne in hand, it was clear that mother really does know best.
We ordered two, small plates to share: the miso black cod served in petite lettuce cups and bite-sized lobster tacos topped with grilled mango. I’m a sucker for lobster, so the tacos were the natural choice. But my wildcard, the miso black cod, was to die for. The fish was flawlessly tender and its lettuce incasing added crunch and texture. When I’m back in Vegas this weekend, seeing The Beatles Love show for the second time, you can bet I’m going to Stack for the miso black cod. As much as I hate being predictable, I have to hand it to my mom yet again. She always says that, when it comes to my preferences, I’m pretty darn consistent.
Baring Nothing at the Mirage
By Monica Poling
I have a tendency to think I’m the coolest, hippest person in the whole wide world, just because I happen to have one of the coolest, hippest jobs. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t take much to remind me how uncool I really am.
So I confess, when it came to visiting Bare, the Mirage’s “adult alternative” pool, I chickened out. I admit that the idea of kicking back while America’s "beautiful people" disrobed around me left me intimidated. Turns out however, I need not have feared. Later I ran into an elderly couple who were raving about Bare. They enjoyed the VIP service, the snacks, the glamorous servers, even the lively DJ music.
Fortunately for those guests, like me, who aren’t brave enough to take on Bare, the Mirage has an amazing alternative. The hotel's lavishly landscaped, interconnected set of pools is perfect for families and the shy traveler. The pool features food and drink service and plenty of chairs are available, although they can also be reserved for $50 in the VIP area. The pool’s tropical landscaping comes complete with an in-pool waterfall, which guests can swim under, or just sit back and enjoy the spray. Because of its tropical garden-like setting, this is one of the most popular pools in Las Vegas, and comes with the requisite pool-hopping attempts by guests of other hotels. So be sure to carry your room key with you as guards strictly monitor who’s coming and going.
Let Them Eat Bread
By Marilyn Green
Online editor Monica Poling (left) helps assistant editor Skye Mayring (right) celebrate her birthday at Joel Robuchon
The MGM Grand’s Joel Robuchon, the city’s sole winner of the ultimate Michelin three stars, hosted us in a dinner nobody is likely to forget. The unusual and beautiful interior set the scene, and as we left we peeked into an adjoining ivy-walled “outdoor” room, to find that it is not outdoors, but enclosed. Next time!
The food was exquisite and beautifully presented, but it was the carts that caused ecstatic sighs. I could easily have made a meal from the bread cart, which looked like the most beautiful still life. How many varieties of little brioches can there be? You’d have thought we’d take different ones and shared, but that happened seldom. Once you enjoyed the taste explosion, it was hard to give up a crumb. And then, there was the chocolate cart, which caused faces to light up in disbelief as every imaginable variety of every shade of chocolate was displayed – with liquors, with nuts, with flowing centers, looking like flowers, like jewels.
Assistant editor Skye Mayring showed the forethought to have her birthday on this night and on top of the courses that had the group groaning with pleasure, the restaurant created and brought to the table a birthday cake so masterful, that no one could refuse just one more course. As we got up to leave – with difficulty – we were given gifts of loaf cakes combining pistachios and raspberries into poetry. So did we all fast or stick to brown rice the next day? Well, no, of course not.
Minus 5 and Counting
By Mark Rogers
In the hours leading up to our arrival in Vegas to attend our TravelAge West edit meeting, the conversation among the editors was wide-ranging. But as wide ranging as it was, it seemed that all roads led eventually back to Minus5 Ice Lounge Las Vegas and whether we’d be able to include a visit to Sin City’s bar of the moment, where tipplers wear fur coats and sip specialty cocktails from glasses carved out of ice, all the while surrounded by glittering ice sculptures and freezing temperatures.
Art director Deborah Dimond, Mexico/Caribbean editor Mark Rogers, assistant editor Skye Mayring, managing editor Janeen Christoff and online editor Monica Poling enjoy icy vodka drinks at the Minus5 Ice Loung Las Vegas.
Luckily we were able to score a handful of invitations and after a superlative meal at Joel Robuchon’s we piled into taxis for the short ride over to Mandalay Bay, where Minus5 Ice Lounge Las Vegas is located.
Once you arrive and pay the admission price of $30 – this also entitles you to one cocktail – you’re outfitted in warm gloves and either a fur coat or a warm parka that looks vaguely military. If you can, opt for the fur – it contributes to the illusion of being a Russian bear/Eskimo hybrid. Before entering you’ll have to surrender your cell phones and cameras since personal photography isn’t allowed. The ice lounge has its own expert photographer who will have a selection of pictures ready for you to purchase once you exit the lounge.
Minus5 Ice Lounge Las Vegas maintains a constant temperature of minus five degrees Celsius (23-degrees Fahrenheit). Once we were inside and had our vodka-based cocktails in hand, we found it to be surprisingly comfortable; I had expected a bone-chilling experience replete with frosty breath but that wasn’t the case.
If you’re visiting Las Vegas and your goal is to meet new people, Minus 5 should be on your list, since it’s easy to strike up a conversation with a stranger. The uniqueness of the setting was a real ice-breaker (ok…no more puns). Communication was a breeze between various groups of people, since we all had something in common – braving the cold in the middle of the desert. Also, the small number of people in the room at any given time created an insider’s vibe. Most people have had enough after 45 minutes so turnover takes care of itself.
We hear that Minus5 Las Vegas can also put on an ice wedding, where one end of the ice lounge hosts a chapel-like area to perform nuptials.
Shattering the Buffet Cliche
By Marty Wentzel
I’ve always equated the all-you-can-eat Las Vegas buffet with too much food and most of it nondescript, so that’s what I expected when I walked into Cravings at the Mirage Hotel and Resort. Prepared for a breakfast of scrambled eggs and soggy sausage that had been sitting for too long in chafing dishes, I instead found myself face-to-face with live-action stations serving creative freshly-made morning fare. Sure, there were the expected waffles, omelettes, French toast and cereals, but why go that route when enticed by breakfast burritos, beignets and bagels with house-cured smoked salmon and herring? Just when I thought I had seen it all, I encountered congee (Asian rice porridge), fried plantains and quizza (quiche baked in pizza dough).
Credit for Cravings’ ingenuity goes to its architect/designer Adam Tihany. When the restaurant opened in 2004, Tihany said he pictured it as an international bazaar where diners can meander from one culinary stop to the next, each with its own theme or cooking style. While a few of the stations are closed at breakfast, it features 11 culinary stops during lunch and dinner. That’s when you’ll find woodfired pizzas, Italian food, carvings of various roasts, rotisserie selections and barbecue specialties. You can ladle up some albondigas and black bean soup at the Latin station. From the raw bar, you can try oysters on the half shell and ceviche. Around the next bend await noodles, Asian cuisine, and sandwiches and salads. Or, you can bypass it all and head straight for the dessert station, with its cheese cakes, mousse cups, fruit tarts and cobblers.
Clearly, the Cravings concept has caught on. It averages 500 people for breakfast each morning, with 350 for lunch and more than 1,000 for dinner, according to hotel sources. Measuring more than 20,000 square feet, it’s an ingenious eatery providing diners with plenty of room to breathe and loosen their belts. If you only hit one buffet in Vegas, Cravings is a sure bet.