By Echelon Magazine

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…unless you’re a journalist and have to write about it! My first trip back to Sin City in over 12 years proved to be a memorable one.  Not only was I surprised by its enormity, but I was also shocked to see how upscale and chic the city has become.  40-story glass towers line the strip from Mandalay Bay to the Stratosphere.  New hotels are everywhere, from the gigantic City Center compound to my residence for the stay, THEhotel at Mandalay Bay.

Guests entering THEhotel are greeted by a modern, minimalistic lobby, quite uncommon when compared to the opulent Chihuly-lined ceiling of the Bellagio.  The all-suite property boasts large guest rooms with separate living spaces, relaxing soaking baths, walk-in showers and luxury linens throughout, not to mention sweeping views of the Las Vegas skyline.

One of the most majestic parts of THEhotel is miX.  The rooftop restaurant and ultra-lounge decorated with hundreds of Murano glass spheres is quite a site. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide the best view of the strip and a 15-foot glass cellar holds approximately 7,000 bottles of wine from around the world.

Diners can taste a variety of dishes including miX specialties: Spicy Crab Salad with guacamole, heart of palm & cilantro; Pepper Crusted Bison tenderloin with glazed vegetable and black pepper sauce; and Roasted Maine lobster "Au Curry" with coconut basmati rice.  miX was one of Michael Jackson’s favorite places to visit in the city and you will see why.

For a more ethnic meal, head to Border Grill, a delightful Mexican restaurant operated by Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger of the Food Network's "Too Hot Tamales."  The two-story cantina offers some of the best Mexican-inspired flavors in Vegas.  I recommend sipping a few margaritas while enjoying Quinoa Fritters, Peruvian Ceviche and fresh Border Guacamole, which was some of the best I’ve ever tasted.

The hotel is located within walking distance to Crystals at City Center, the magnificent indoor shopping mall where you will find everything from Bulgari and Christian Dior to Paul Smith and Versace.  Make sure you bring your American Express!

Directly across the street from City Center is the Cosmopolitan, one of the newest hotels to open in Vegas.  One of the highlights of my trip was a visit to The Chandelier, a breathtaking bar that is almost too majestic to describe in words.  The three-story venue, located in the center of the casino is one of the most beautifully designed spaces I have ever seen.

Las Vegas is all about entertainment and what better way to start the Vegas experience than with a visit to Le Rêve – The Dream at Wynn Las Vegas.  The Franco Dragone production is an aquatic spectacle featuring synchronized swimmers, aerialists and a multi-million dollar stage design.  Every seat in Le Rêve’s circular theatre is 40 feet or less from the stage as to provide guests with a wonderful visual experience.

Begin the next day with a hearty breakfast at Serendipity 3, located at Caesar’s Palace.  The New York-based restaurant offers supersized portions ranging from Crab Cakes Benedict, to The Hangover Omelet and Egg White Shrimp Frittata.  Try one of Serendipity’s Frrrozen Hot Chocolates or their popular Lookie Lookie Gimme Cookie Sundae, both are customer favorites.

Walk off breakfast inside The Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace, a shopping, dining and entertainment mecca featuring over 160 boutiques, 13 restaurants and a menagerie of Roman fountains, sculptures and art.  Or if relaxation is desired, head to Qua Baths & Spa where guests can enjoy Roman baths, an herbal steam room and even an Arctic Ice room, where the 55˚ temperatures provide instant stress relief.  Massage treatments range from traditional Thai to Hot Stone with Aromatherapy and Hawaiian Lomi-Lomi, an experience based on Hawaiian concepts of working with the body, mind and spirit.

Those looking to catch some rays while gazing at the hottest eye candy on the strip should visit Temptation Sundays.  The weekly LGBT pool party at the Luxor is the place to see and be seen.  For a unique experience, rent a private cabana, located just steps away from the pool, where servers will be at your beck and call to provide you with delicious piña coladas, strawberry daiquiris or signature mixed cocktails.

For dinner, head to Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris Las Vegas. One of the most unique items on the menu is the Kurobuta Pork Belly served with braised swiss chard, candied kumquat and cauliflower puree.  For a lighter starter, begin with the Shellfish Platter complete with tiger prawns, king crab, oysters, clams, and lobster served with champagne mignonette, citrus soy and cocktail sauces.

Of course the highlight of Steak is the prime beef, dry aged for a minimum of 28 days in a Himalayan salt room.  A Gordon Ramsey staple is Roasted Beef Wellington, a delicious selection accompanied by glazed root vegetables, potato puree, and red wine demi-glace.  For sides, try the Mushroom Tart with pearl onions, green beans and mushroom cream or the savory Mac & Cheese made with blue, cheddar and parmesan cheeses.

Finally, no visit to Las Vegas would be complete without experiencing Frank Marino’s Diva’s Las Vegas at the Imperial Palace.  Frank, who recently celebrated his 1,000th Diva’s show, is the city’s longest running headliner.   Dressed as the wonderful and glamorous Joan Rivers, Frank leads the crowd through a divalicious performance by some of the world’s greatest female impersonators, not to mention about a dozen wardrobe changes.

Highlights of the show include the wonderful Tina Turner, Cher, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and of course, Madonna.  Frank and the ladies leave the crowd wanting more as the show draws to a close.  In true Las Vegas fashion, Frank generously takes the time to meet every audience member who attended the performance and donates a portion of merchandise proceeds to local charities.

As my fabulous Vegas vacation draws to a close, I am already planning my next visit as there is something about the glitz and glamour of the city that always draws me back.

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