What Happens In Vegas Requires A Game Plan

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Plan ahead to make the most of your trip to Vegas, Baby.

By Julia Bayly

When it comes to a place like Las Vegas, Nevada, with a seemingly infinite variety of things to see and do day and night, it’s not a bad idea to have a game plan going in.

That gleaming city in the Nevada desert had been on my own bucket list and that of my best friend from high school Marjie for a long time. Finally, the planets and schedules aligned and we were able to put some serious travel plans into action for a four-day trip.

Admittedly, most of what we knew about Las Vegas came from watching movies like Ocean’s 11 or old CSI episodes. To better prepare, we did what most savvy travelers do these days and hopped online to do some research.

And, oh, the options!

Vegas is home to dozens of hotels and casinos scattered up and down the famed four-mile long “Las Vegas Strip” on Las Vegas Boulevard. From the swanky Mandalay Bay to the towering iconic Stratosphere there is a themed hotel to fit every taste and whim.

1465149_10202594310682506_747695200_nIn the end, based on the room description on its website, prices and the novelty of it all, Marjie and I selected The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino, or , as we came to call it, “Pretend Italy.”

The moment we walked into the marble and column-lined lobby, we knew we had chosen well.

Not only was our Bella Suite with two queen beds spacious and comfortable as promised, where else could we find gondolas and canals outside of the real Venice?

So, back to that game plan. Despite the numerous concerts, performances and other entertainment options in the city, Marjie and I had larger fish to fry, literally.

Vegas, you see, is a foodie’s mecca with five-star restaurants, cozy bistros, funky pubs, cafés and every kind of ethnic cuisine beyond counting. We were on a culinary mission.

But first, a disclaimer. I had been warned by a friend who had been to Las Vegas that the hotels do everything in their power to keep guests “on property.” At the Venetian, for example, there are dozens of restaurants, shops, casinos, activities, pools and walking paths. All under one, gigantic roof and everything contained therein may be charged to your room.

After being there roughly 36 hours, Marjie and I realized we had not set a foot outside. A person really could, should she so desire, enjoy an entire vacation inside the hotel property. Not that I advise that: There are a great deal of things to see and do up and down The Strip. Someday, maybe we will even see them.

Regardless, our first stop was 11 floors down at The Public House, voted “Best Gastropub in Las Vegas.”

Julia M. Bayly and iPadLet me just say, right off the bat, any pub that offers a selection of craft brews so massive that you are presented an iPad instead of a traditional paper menu is aces in my book. Not only did our helpful server take us through the iPad beverage options, she showed us how we could use it to email our orders directly to the bar. Man, I do love technology.

The Public House features a full dinner menu, but we stuck to appetizers and I was somewhat surprised to see the Quebecois standby “poutine” on the menu. With a Vegas, twist, of course. To the traditional French fries, cheese curds and gravy, the chefs at The Public House had added duck confit. The stout-based gravy was the perfect complement. We also ordered and thoroughly enjoyed the pub’s beer-brined chicken wings served with a tomatilla green chile sauce and fresh avocado crema; the lamb meatballs with tomato sugo, herbed breadcrumbs and pecorino cheese; a simple baby iceberg lettuce salad and desserts of bread pudding and apple crostata.

Night two in “pretend Italy” found us having dinner at SushiSamba featuring a fusion of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisines. We were suspicious of the three-way combination, but intrigued.

I started off with a “Blame it on Rio” cocktail, a mixture of Leblon Cachaca, agave syrup, fresh lime juice, cucumber and jalepeno. It was like a delicious, boozy, spicy gazpacho in a glass. Marjie went for a Mango “Bubble Tail” which featured mango puree, apricot liquor and Zonin Prosecco; she seemed most pleased with her choice.

food at The VenetianInstead of going for a full meal, Marjie and I again ordered appetizers, an approach that enabled us to sample several of SushiSamba’s signature sushi rolls like the Samba Strip with Maine lobster, mango, tomato, chive, crispy rice and peanut curry; the Lima with shrimp tempura, spice king crab and avocado; and the Green Envy with wasabi pea crust, tuna, salmon, asparagus and key-lime mayonnaise.

Our server recommended the Rock Shrimp Tempura. Excellent advice: If you go to Vegas, make it a point to have this dish of tempura shrimp with golden pea shoots, snap peas, spicy mayonnaise and black truffle vinaigrette.

By the end of the meal, any qualms we about fusing the food cultures of Japan, Brazil and Peru were fully sated, along with our appetites.

Our final supper in Vegas—again, inside the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino—was a simple meal of traditional Chinese soup and noodles at Noodle Asia. The soups were prepared in such an authentic style; our server also gave us the option to have our ginger-mushroom bone-on chicken soup “Americanized.” I really don’t know what that meant: We both went traditional, with no regrets.

One afternoon, we wandered into The Venetian’s Bourbon Room, an edgy rock-and-roll-themed bar featuring an impressive menu of bourbon-based drinks. For us, the shining star of the Bourbon Room was not the banks of video screens broadcasting non-stop music or the black and white chrome décor, it was our server. The bourbon brought us in, but her friendliness and enthusiasm about all things Las Vegas kept us there for a second round.

When it came to dining at the Venetian’s restaurants—keeping in mind there were dozens more than we had the chance to sample—I had only one disappointment. The property is home to the famed Bouchon Bistro where chef/owner Thomas Keller and his team offer upscale dishes with a French bistro theme. We were unable to get there while in Vegas. I am holding out hope for a return trip.

For breakfast, I typically wandered down to the ground floor to get coffee and food to go at Café Santa Lucia, where the offerings were good and the owners always smiling.

Researching and finding good restaurants can be daunting, so to de-stress, Marjie and I took an afternoon to execute part B of our Vegas plan: A visit to Canyon Ranch Spa at—where else?—The Venetian.

After a two-hour session during which I enjoyed a 50-minute “Tension Zone Therapy” massage targeting the head, neck and shoulders followed by a “Revitalizing Foot Scrub” and calf massage, I think I could have been classified as a liquid.

Our half-day pass at the Canyon Ranch Spa also gave us access to the facility’s jet pools, saunas, salt water steam room and relaxation suites.

Certainly, there is more to do at The Venetian than eat and drink. There are all those shops to explore, constant performance art going on all around, and, of course, those famed gondola rides through indoor-outdoor canals.

The Venetian artWe never had the opportunity for a gondola ride, but we did take in an evening outdoor free show of Winter in Venice, a 20-minute holiday-themed musical featuring stilt walkers, carolers, electric guitars and wandering minstrels.

We tried to leave The Venetian to see and do other things—and were successful a few times. But in all honesty, much of our four days in Las Vegas were spent under The Venation’s massive roof.

Now that Las Vegas has moved from the bucket list to the annual to-do list for Marjie and I, we are already formulating our next Vegas game plan. Who knows? Next time, we may even step outside more than once.

About Las Vegas…

Odds of Encountering Children: Las Vegas is basically a playground for adults. There are children-themed areas but are easily avoided. Guests at Canyon Ranch Spa must be 18-years or older, so odds are zero while relaxing at the spa.

Getting Around: Taxis, rental cars and limos are all available, depending what you want to pay. The best option for exploring The Strip is the all-day $8 bus pass. Public buses run in 10-minute intervals up and down Las Vegas Boulevard all day and long into the night.

Weather can be changeable and go from sunny and mild to sudden downpours in a matter of minutes. Be prepared with a light rain jacket and plan on dressing in layers if visiting in the late fall through early spring.

Do make a plan and then be prepared to deviate when you find something else that strikes your fancy; trust me, you will.

More Information…

The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino
3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Hotel: 702.414.1000
Reservations: 866.659.9643

Public House-Las Vegas
3355 Las Vegas Blvd, South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
702.407.5310

SushiSamba Las Vegas
3327 Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
702.607.0700

Noodle Asia Las Vegas
3355 Las Vegas S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
702.414.1444

The Bourbon Room
355 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
702.414.1000

Café Santa Lucia
3355 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
702.414.1000

Canyon Ranch Spa
If calling from outside The Venetian, 877.220.2688

-Photos courtesy Julia M. Bayly

Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.

Bayly testJulia M. Bayly lives in Fort Kent, Maine—as far north as possible before needing a passport to enter Canada. She tends to jump right into adventure. A print journalist for over 25 years, her work appears regularly in Bangor Daily News, Mushing Magazine and other titles. On her farm, Bayly divides her time among training a small yet sincere team of sled dogs, tending honeybees and wrangling chickens. More often than not, she finds adventure right out her back door.

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