By Ross von Metzke

Mariah Carey SCREAMS Las Vegas.

The hair. The glitter. The diva persona, the makeup, the dresses, the drag… the larger than life persona. If ever there was a pop star made for Las Vegas it is Mariah Carey.

So when The Elusive Chanteuse announced her residency at Caesar’s Palace late last year, I immediately put the alert into my phone — the second those tickets went on sale, I’d be buying. From the moment I heard her voice on “Vision of Love,” though the high points (“One Sweet Day,” her Emancipation of Mimi comeback) and the low points (“Glitter” and her whole nervous breakdown), I’ve been a diehard fan, and what better place to see your diva than Vegas.

And since I hadn’t been to Vegas in a minute (translation: three years) I decided to toss my best friend Lisa in the car and make a weekend of it. A weekend of staying at a new hotel (to me at least), eating at new restaurants, and checking out new clubs.

First up, the hotel: Vdara. If ever there was a hotel made for Ross von Metzke, it’s Vdara. Why? The answer is simple. I don’t like smoking and I don’t gamble.

Vdara has neither.

In a rather drastic move for Las Vegas, this hotel has decided to cater to those people who don’t go to Sin City to clog their lungs and deplete their 401K’s. That doesn’t mean you can’t still do both? They’re available in large abundance at neighboring Aria, which is just a walkway away. But if you’re looking for some peace and quiet during your Vegas stay (plus beautiful rooms to sweeten the pot) Vdara is the place to do it. Now that I’ve gone Vdara, I’m not sure I can do any other Vegas hotel.

Second, the food — we enjoyed meals at two kick-ass restaurants I have to tell you about. At LAGO by Julian Serrano at Bellagio, the food is nearly surpassed by the incredible view looking out over the Bellagio fountains. If you’re going to dine somewhere in Vegas and you want some visual entertainment while you do it, this is the place to go. The cocktails here are to die for and for dinner, try the cannelloni and gnocchi alla romana. They say pasta just makes you hungry later? Not true – at least not here. Perfection.

Bardot Brasserie (pictured below) at ARIA was the perfect spot for brunch. Now I know they say you’re supposed to indulge at brunch, and we did, but I also need to kick off my day with something light, and the fruit plate with pistachio frozen yogurt parfait was just the ticket. The croquet madame was made to perfection and, since I’m a sucker for anything made with nutella, the sticky bun was… there are no words, just trust me.

In between eating and sleeping, of course, there’s playtime. While you can’t walk but 20 feet without hitting a bar in Las Vegas, we opted for some gay time at Share, arguably Las Vegas’ biggest gay club with two floors for dance and the opportunity to go wild with people from around the globe. Such an incredible time. On Sunday (after Mariah – we’ll get back to her), we decide to relax poolside at Temptation Sundays at the Luxor, an (early) summer to fall gay pool party that combines terrific beats, hot boys, cool water and cabanas should you like (we liked). There was a time when you were hard pressed to find anything gay happening on the strip, and now, we’ve claimed our place at the pool. Times have changed, and it feels good.

And now, finally, the woman of the hour — Mariah. The elusive chanteuse has received her share of questionable press in recent months for her voice (or lack there of). Well someone must have had a stern talk with the woman who’s sold more than 3000 million albums worldwide, because she was in top form when I say her “#1 to Infinity” show at Caesar’s Palace. While songs like “Hero” and “Vision of love” don’t quite sound the way they did when she first recorded them (her voice has changed – it’s lower), she nailed some of her biggest hits (“Fantasy,” “My All”) exactly how you’d expect her to. Plus, in true Vegas form, the show ended in glitter – which shot out of canons onto the crowd during her final number.

As always is the case when I visit Vegas, I wasn’t ready to go home at the end of a fun-filled weekend. Thanks for the memories, Sin City. I definitely won’t wait three years for my next trip.

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