Take a gamble on finding peace and even detox in Las Vegas, yes, really

Not many people think of nature when they think of heading to Vegas (Picture: Claire Eaton-Rutter)

When you think of Las Vegas, you don’t often think of rivers, bald eagles and picnics. In fact, when you think of Vegas, you think of giddy brides, flashing neon lights and the kerching of the casinos, misery of losers and cheers of the winners.

Long synonymous with a dark side, boastful of its 24/7 gambling, private rooms and lapdances, Las Vegas was dubbed Sin City for a reason. Now it’s a mecca for hen and stag parties and those really wanting to blow off some steam and flash the cash on over-the-top betting, drinks and experiences. Everything you wish for is in Las Vegas, whether you know it yet or not. You soon will do.

Beyond the oxygen-pumped casino halls, there is peace. No, truly. Gently gliding along the Colorado River as we pick out the local wildlife, sun beating down, I had to remind myself this too. We were on our way to Emerald Cove and our charismatic guide – who owns the Vegas Glass Kayaks company – is dunking his bottle into the water to quench his thirst before reeling off statistics on how fresh the water is. Just a few miles away from the Vegas strip and here is a local just drinking the water straight from the side of his kayak and right as he points out the haunting ghost trees that have grown tall beneath the surface.

Flying into Vegas on Friday afternoon has given us jetlagged, but thankfully we’ve got a reasonable start. We’ve been text already to say someone’s picking us up but no idea as to what that time is, so wait for an hour watching those dragging themselves off the casino floor after an allnighter, or excited groups of friends ready for their pool parties. We stick out in our athletic gear as we’re ready to hit the water.

I was a little apprehensive about our kayak, not because of having to paddle ourselves (some people actually go there wanting to be towed!), but whether I’d be fresh enough after a long haul flight but this was the perfect start to our break. We opted for a half-day excursion, with a lunch on a shallow beach listening to stories about the history of the river as well as spotting a bald eagle. I’ll never forget the Emerald Cove with its serenity and glow, ok so you might hear the smack of an oar as you reverse in or awkward thrust as you try to turn to get yourself straight, but once you get those few seconds alone you’re left in awe of its beauty.

Returning to The Strip with muscles aching might sound unusual for Vegas (depending on what you’ve been up to), but it meant that I was fully ready for pasta to carb up. I’ve probably got that wrong and should’ve done it for breakfast, but nothing was going to stop me. Food is a huge part of the Vegas vibe when you’ve got everything from McDonald’s if that takes your fancy to the plush Spago by Wolfgang Puck overlooking to Bellagio fountains, or as we chose – Buddy V’s.

This seafood tower was the stuff of dreams at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago (Picture: Claire Eaton-Rutter)
Le Reve was sublimely captivating and relaxing – you wouldn’t know the casino floor was just beyond the doors (Picture: Claire Eaton-Rutter)

Buddy V’s is one of Cake Boss star Buddy’s restaurants. Housed in the Venetian, this casual family dining experience was relaxing and certainly, filling. Thankfully, it wasn’t gut-busting, which is very easy to do – depending on your appetite, of course. But, we shared a few plates between us, including Grandma’s meatballs, the tasty Panzanella and the Valastraso Sunday Gravy. All of which, I would have again and I would need some persuading not to book again the next time I visit.

Later that evening Lady Gaga might have been in town but we were lucky enough to score tickets to one of the most captivating shows I’ve ever seen, Le Reve. As an entertainment editor, I’ve reviewed a lot of live shows whether it’s a concert, festival or for the stage but this was in its own league. Set with a giant pool, with the audience all around, the actors play out an elaborate story as the divine from the top of the auditorium in what feels like death-defying stunts. It’s hard to look away and not to feel moved by this elaborate tale. You certainly feel like you’ve been in a dream world once you exit into The Wynn’s casino floor and people are slurping out of their super-sized jugs, or making their way to the next party.

When coming to this city, I wanted something different, having visited several years ago and done the whole ‘120mph every minute of the day’ experience, I wasn’t convinced that there was more to Vegas. But I was proved wrong. You can catch a vibe at your own speed, we were able to find some nooks to enjoy a drink at our own pace like The Nomad or The Chandelier. These were definitely far removed from the hollering and excitement that you might assume screams ‘VEGAS’ with frat parties and beer chugging, but instead offering impressive cocktail menus and chilled settings.

You don’t want to leave your room if you don’t have to (Picture: Claire Eaton-Rutter)

Top tip: you don’t have to venture far for a good breakfast either. When you return to your room, it’s likely you’ll get a few menus through your door for either late-night munchies or for a different kind of rooms service. Vegas is playing the couture-holiday, you can have what you want. So we were dialling up for delivery for a tasty breakfast to our room from restaurants we liked the look of as we soaked up the views of the city from above. We weren’t too overawed with the amount of plastic that came with our hotel room deliveries though.

On the Sunday, after a relaxing few days in town, we wanted to see what the parties were about and ended up at WETRepublic and let’s just say, we weren’t quite prepared for the levels of fun. Obeying the list of rules, we arrived in swimsuits and shorts, ready for the day where Tiesto was going to hit the decks. Having googled it, I knew that we were going to have a wild ride but the videos don’t quite give it justice. After securing a lush daybed, where we could pose for selfies and make people jealous back at home, we watched as partygoers streamed in and you could barely point out where the pools were because they were just so full of people cooling down and dancing. If you had Tinder, it would be going off.

Unlike some venues in the UK, WETRepublic was the real-life version of ‘good vibes only’, despite the sun and booze, no one lost their chill and everyone was having a good time. The daybed was a much-needed necessity though because I would not have been able to ‘perch’ all day and didn’t see any comfy spots that were free so it would’ve been a long day.

If you want to feel blown away, we recommend that you head for lunch at Spago. I am still dreaming about the lamb bolognese months later, not to mention the seafood tower that I swear gathered gasps from nearby guests as they quickly looked to the menu to see what it was. What a treat it was to sit on the half-crescent balcony overlooking the iconic fountains of The Bellagio as we sipped on crisp rose. You’d be forgiven for thinking you were on an idyllic European getaway until the shows fire up again on the half-hour. Without a doubt, this is one of the best spots for dining in Vegas for its view alone but lives up to its grand location with a staggering menu. Shame you can’t try everything, but at least that has you wanting to go back for more!

Speaking of views, a top tip is booking a room at The Cosmopolitan with views again, over the fountains. I felt truly decadent rolling out onto my private balcony while watching the little ants below. We later discovered the building was meant to be apartments, so that explains why they are such a good find in the middle of Vegas with the huge living room area, dressing as well as a luxurious balcony to chill out on. Other guests are also making use of their balconies and the recent cannabis legalisation, with a healthy scent of green lingering at times. Enjoying your own suite, like this, means that you don’t feel the need to rush out of your temporary space. Instead, it’s like your new home and you can revel in the fancy sheets and take in the views of Vegas and beyond. I would also recommend a tasty bite of Eggslut while sitting on the balcony but be warned you have to get there early or you’re in for a long wait.

While in the city, we were able to discover the secrets of Rose.Rabbit.Lie and I’m not going to lie, it was so dark so we could barely read a menu or take a selfie (an important point! No one wants to be the dork with the flash!). The inhouse entertainment was an absolute treat, it was like it transported you back in the days of the true speakeasy, and you managed to score the hottest invite. Certainly a fun discovery and not far to stumble from next door’s incredible Opium show.

You can’t beat that view from The Cosmopolitan (Picture: Claire Eaton-Rutter)
Ok, so I didn’t win big (Picture: Claire Eaton-Rutter)
I probably should have been more zen (Picture: Claire Eaton-Rutter)
The Heated Stone Beds worked a treat (Picture: Claire Eaton-Rutter)

Again, there’s the madness of Vegas that’s easy tap into it’s refreshing and almost surprising to be transported into a realm of peace, right next door to WETRepublic. Yes, it was possible. Before the long flight home, I was able to check out The Spa at ARIA. As I navigated my way through the casino floor, following the directions, it seemed hard to believe that I was heading for health and to eliminate toxins while there were people ordering cocktails before 10am. But, with swimsuit and flipflops at the ready, I was excited to relax and get a facial. I can see why people rave about this spa, you feel so boujee just being handed your personalised locker key as you’re shown around while eyeing up the dark chocolate treats.

The treatment itself was much needed after a weekend in the sun from our kayak and the fair few glasses of wine that I had drunk. (It would have been rude not too). My expert facialist talked me through my treatment, which I wasn’t quite prepared for, but must admit I was grateful for in the end. After all, it had been so quiet until that door had shut, but she really explained what my skin needed without trying to sell. In fact, she sent me on my way with a few samples before I was able to explore the Ganbanyoku Heated Stone Beds.

I couldn’t quite be sensible enough for the Shio Salt Room (I selfied instead, see above), in which two ladies were clearly kicking back but I wasn’t in ‘the zone’ as it felt just like a room with comfy reclining chairs, so I left them to it. Now googling it, the salt walls are meant to improve your breathing, lower stress and improve your mood. I knew I probably made the wrong call but I was ‘too awake’ to really unwind in there so I headed for a dip instead. Its pool overlooks WETRepublic, so I dread to think how relaxing it is when a party is ramping up. But I got to live the dream before my flight, by kicking back next to the plunge pool in relative peace and quiet.

Who knew Vegas could be so tranquil?


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