We go to Vegas a lot. At least once a year. The trips started as annual things due to all of the comped hotels and rewards we were recieving after signing up for the reward programs when we celebrated our 21st birthdays there. The first piece of advice I give everyone who goes to Vegas, is if you think you will come back some time in the future sign up for their rewards programs. Right now the offers aren't as lucrative due to the economy, but once things start getting in motion again, those will rise. Before the housing bubble, Harrah's Total Reward program provided us with two free plane tickets to New Orleans, LA, where we stayed at the Harrah's New Orleans Hotel and Casino free for 5 days. It was a real amazing experience that I hope to write about soon. This was roughly two years after Hurricane Katrina. Shortly after that trip, the economy crashed, and our comps dwindled from free rooms on a monthly basis at any hotel under the rewards program across the US to strictly Las Vegas rooms only during certian time periods. We did manage to snag a free trip to Harrah's in San Diego, Lake Tahoe, and Reno before they completly dried up.
The comps have slowly been getting better lately. I highly recommend Harrah's Total Rewards. The amount of Casinos and Hotels under their program is one of the most extensive I have seen.
In Las Vegas we have stayed at
- Ceasars Palace
All for free under their rewards program. Not a bad deal when it comes to a free room in the entertainment capital of the world.
This time around though, we wanted something a bit different. Something... not so free. Two new hotels just opened in 2009 in Las Vegas, The Aria and The Cosmopoloitian. We walked through both of them on our last visit and both were gorgeous hotels. The Aria has a beautiful modern design look to it which we both fell in love with and we were curious what the rooms would be like, so we booked a few nights at their Sky Suites.
We weren't there just to check out a hotel though. Oh no. This was another foodie adventure. One of the best parts of Las Vegas is the amount of restaurants available to eat at, all within walking distance of each other. The food range from phenomenal to weird, and one thing is certain, if you are craving it, its being made somewhere on the strip. We arrived to early for to access our rooms, and decided to get some lunch before checking in, so we walked over to the Bellagio across the street to check out the Olives.
Olives is a Mediterranean restaurant with glowing online reviews, and the restaurant dewfintily looks the part. We were promptly seated and handed what appeared to be iPad knock offs. You see, Las Vegas is attempting to go digital. unfortunatly they aren't ready for it. Every tablet that was handed to us malfunctioned in some way. Perhaps because the people using them abused them, perhaps because they couldn't buy something nicer and a cheap iPad knock off was all there was. Our waitress brought us four tablets before she gave up and just told us what we could order. The food arrived quickly after placing the order.
The restaurant showcases a lovely view of the waterworks in front of the Bellagio. It is a nice place to sit, have a meal and enjoy the view.
We ordered two starters and one flatbread pizza: Grilled Squid & Octopus, Beef Carpaccio and Fig & Prosciutto pizza. Beef Carpaccio was the only highlight of our lunch. It was quite tasty and balanced. It was perfect while other meals didn't highlight anything special. The grilled squid & octopus didn’t go well with chickpeas. The squid was dry and octopus was overcooked and very chewy. The pizza was disappointing and lacked balance. It was terribly sweet. The sweetness of the figs dominated all other ingredients - we were unable to taste the rosemary flavored crust or prosciutto.
After we set off to our hotel.
Vegas strives for bright lights and busy colors, which always seemed a tad gaudy to me, but the Aria was more than that. It was like stepping into a very nice modern living room. A very large living room, that just happened to have a casino floor. An amazing place with modern decor and subtle neutral colors. The Aria is a triple diamond hotel designed by César Pelli. Mr. Pelli is an Argentine American architect and just happened to be the designer of the San Bernardino County Hall in San Bernardino California. As residence of San Bernardino County, we found that interesting. Mr. Pelli is also known for designing some of the world's tallest buildings and has been listed as the ten most influential living American architects by the American Institute of Architects.
The Aria has hotel rooms and then it has Sky Suites. Sky Suites are a Forbes Five Star Hotel with a private entrance and elevator. We had choosen the Sky Suites out of curiousity. What is the Las Vegas experience like without a tight budget and staying in rooms that aren't ever comped.
The room had a gorgeous view. A living room, the bedroom and two bathrooms. Both bathrooms had heated toilets and floors. The Master bathroom for the Sky Suite is bigger than our master bedroom back home in California. It's a shame we didn't get more pictures of the entrance and the Casino itself. :/
The rooms were much much larger than any hotel room we have ever stayed at, but was it worth the extra price? If you need the space sure. If you are going to Vegas to lounge around and relax at the hotel, then it may be worth the extra money, but if you are going to Vegas to explore and enjoy the nightlife, you'll hopefully be spending as much time as possible outside of your room, in which case, it gives no real perks compared to the comped rooms we recieved elsewhere.
Eventually dinner rolled around and it was time to get some food. We had choosen Cut by Wolfgang Puck. For us, Wolfgang Puck was always associated with food that attempted to bring airport food to a new level. If you are a frequent traveler, you have no doubt seen their many "fast" food restaurants spread.... everywhere. It's not fair to judge Mr. Puck off his airport restaurants. These are designed to be quick and "relatively cheap". He's actually a exteremly accomplished restauranter. Accomplished putting it very lightly. His companies own many fine dining resturants and as well as top 40 resturaunts in the US.