When Remodelista was offered the opportunity to explore Las Vegas from a design vantage, I volunteered, but not without a bit of skepticism. I live in San Francisco, where I like to think the food and night life can't be topped. And all I knew about Vegas came from a quick visit four years ago, plus the usual movies. Are there Remodelista-worthy destinations to be found?
Equipped with tips from in-the-know locals, I spent a weekend exploring the Strip and Downtown Las Vegas, an up-and-coming neighborhood just north of all the action. To say I was pleasantly surprised by what I discovered is an understatement.
Photographs by Dalilah Arja, unless otherwise noted.
On the Strip
Above: As soon as I'd landed, I was hungry—so I headed out for lunch at my first design destination. Located in the Wynn resort, La Cave serves tapas in a summery, rustic setting, open patio and swinging chairs included: my journey was off to a great start.
After lunch, I checked into ARIA Resort & Casino and noticed a bounty of restaurants and cafes there, too. At FIVE50, a hip pizzeria, I loved the olive-oil-and-mint-infused burrata. One night, after riding the new High Roller, a 500-foot tall observation wheel just across from Caesars Palace, I found myself craving potstickers. Lucky for me, Lemongrass, a Thai restaurant at ARIA, was an easy stop on my way back to my room.
Above: It goes without saying that food at any Charlie Palmer institution is bound to impress, and Aureole was no exception, starting with the bread selection. The menu is made up of seasonal dishes and delicacies.
Above: I started with an octopus salad, followed by a plate of seared ahi tuna and scallops, shown here. Following on the success of the New York Aureole, Charlie Palmer brought Aureole to the Mandalay Bay back in 1999 and set the bar for fine dining on the Strip.
Above: I never imagined I'd find a better selection of wine outside of Northern California, but the wine tower at Aureole taught me otherwise.
The four-story wine tower that anchors the dimly lit restaurant is temperature controlled and houses more than 50,000 bottles and 3,200 different varietals. At first, it seemed impossible to make a selection, but a touch screen wine menu let me filter options into red or white and then by the bottle or glass. After making those selections, I was able to choose the varietal—and was thrilled to see my favorite (but hard to find) Chenin Blanc was on the menu.
Above: Have you ever been in a hotel suite with a $40,000 per night price tag? Neither had I—until I toured the two-story Sky Villa at the Palms Resort and Casino. Formerly known as the Hugh Hefner suite, the 9,000-square-foot palace has its own elevator, swimming pool, and pool table. It comes with five bathrooms, including a huge Carrara marble master bath (shown here), furnished with modern classics, such as the Harry Bertoia wire Diamond Chair. Tiger Woods and Britney Spears stay here.
Above: Inside the Bellagio, I came across an art gallery with wood floors, classic wood moldings, and an impressive lineup of shows. The current exhibition, Painting Women: Works from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, includes work by Georgia O'Keefe, Elizabeth Okie Paxton, and Mary Cassatt.
Downtown Las Vegas
Above: If you're looking to experience Las Vegas from a local's perspective, Downtown Las Vegas is the place to be. In 2012, the Downtown Projects was launched to revitalize the neighborhood, which is ideal for exploring on foot. One of the most interesting projects I came across was the Container Park, an outdoor shopping and entertainment venue that hosts 39 local retailers in repurposed shipping containers. Fun fact: the Container Park is home to the only elevator made from a shipping container. Bin 702 (shown here) is an intimate wine bar and lounge made of two adjacent shipping containers. Photograph by Emily Wilson/Downtown Project.
Above: Upstairs from Bin 702 is Tennessee Loveless's showroom. A colorblind artist, he uses an algorithm of his own creation to recognize color and paint vibrant canvases, portraits of Twiggy included.
Above: Just a block from the Container Park is the aptly named Park on Fremont, a quirky bar and restaurant built on the site of what used to be an abandoned parking lot. It's owned and operated by Ryan Doherty who also contributed the design: the floors are made of up-cycled church pews, most of the decor was thrifted, and the bar displays are the work of a local taxidermist. Photograph courtesy of Wicked Creative.
Above: To decorate the space above the bar, Ryan and his team handpicked plates from thrift stores around the country.
Above: Kittycorner to Park on Fremont is another one of Ryan's establishments, Commonwealth, a swanky bar and lounge. And, yes, the eclectic design approach continues. Ryan gathered a hodgepodge of chairs at estate sales and thrift shops and had them reupholstered. He collects art by Mark Ryden, Peter Gronquist, and Mark Mothersbaugh for each of his venues. Photograph courtesy of Wicked Creative.
Above: Who knew? Las Vegas has its own Frank Gehry: The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, a state-of-the-art mental health facility. It was commissioned by Larry Ruvo, owner of Southern Wines and Spirits, in honor of his father, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease; Gehry himself lost a close friend to a brain disorder and had a hand in every aspect of the design.
Above: The Lou Ruvo Center opened in 2006; its campus includes a hospital at the north end with Frank Gehry-designed event center behind it. The event space (shown here) is available to rent, and all of its revenue gets poured into funding for the hospital and its research work.