• Nicole Leonetti

Viva Las Vegas Weekend Guide

Oh, Vegas! I don’t even know where to start when talking about Las Vegas. I suppose that I will start from the beginning! I’ve been going since I was three years old! I loved it then, and I continue to love it now. When we were kids, my sister and I would play in the pool all day, and then get so excited for shrimp cocktail from room service for dinner! Our parents took us to fantastic shows: The Pointer Sisters, Tom Jones, and amazingly, Sammy Davis, Jr.! As I got older, I still loved Vegas, but I longed to be part of the action on the casino floor! When I finally turned 21 (the legal age to gamble), we did a spring break trip to Vegas. During that trip, I won more money than I have ever won on any subsequent trip—a dream that I keep chasing. But what fun the chase is! Post-college, I had the opportunity to live in Vegas for a year and work on the Strip! I had a fabulous wedding in Vegas, I watched my sister get married in Vegas, I have attended friends’ weddings in Vegas, and I watched my parents renew their wedding vows there. Suffice to say—Vegas means a lot to me.


But enough about me—what about you? When people tell me they hate Vegas, there is typically one problem. Well, actually two: 1.) They haven’t gone to Vegas with me. 2.) They are doing Vegas wrong! I say that with love because Vegas seriously has something for everyone. Do you want to have a relaxing vacation? Just do the pool and spa—go get that facial! Are you on a budget but want to have fun? Get those $3 beers at Casino Royale! Do you want to eat amazing food and see a show? Go to CUT and buy those Cirque du Soleil tickets! Do you want to get physical activity in? Go to Red Rock Canyon! Or, just run from casino to casino—whatever works for you! Do you want to drink champagne and gamble until 3 a.m.? Call me and I’ll go with you!


So, while there are a million different ways you can enjoy the city, today I’m just going to tell you my perfect weekend in Las Vegas. You don’t have to take any time off from work in this scenario. If you have the vacation time, though, take it! I can write you a 5-day itinerary if you would like. However, if you are short on time—and don’t have unlimited funds—then this weekend trip will be perfect.


Leaving from my home in LA:


Friday night:

Get off from work—try to leave a little early! Tell everyone you are going to Vegas, so they get excited for you and put out good energy that you will win some money! Now, the next step is a bit controversial…I drive to Vegas. I know a lot of people like to fly from LA. I do not. By the time that I fight the traffic to LAX, I could be halfway to Vegas. I could do Burbank, but I really don’t like to waste time at the airport, baggage claim, taxi lines, etc. I like to get in the car and head to Vegas! I mean, what if you win money (think positive!) and don’t want to go home when you originally planned?? Also, I think the drive is part of the Vegas adventure: going through the desert, stopping at the Starbucks in Barstow, driving past Zzyzx Road, and passing the world’s tallest thermometer in Baker! And, of course, there is nothing like seeing the lights of Vegas appear out of the darkness of the desert sky!


Arrive at your hotel in Las Vegas:

I’m not going to tell people where to stay in Vegas because there are a multitude of options for every budget, preference, and whim. I will, however, tell you where I would stay: the Wynn/Encore—preferably the Encore because the rooms are just a tad larger and the casino/lobby is a little quieter. Plus, even though you can use the pool/spa at either one, I much prefer the amazing spa at the Encore. After I check into my room, I head to Allegro for a late dinner. It’s open until 6 a.m., so no matter how crazy the traffic is coming in from Los Angeles, you can go to Allegro and have delicious pasta (I love the Pappardelle) and a glass (or bottle) of Barolo. After dinner, I like to do a few laps around the casino (for exercise purposes, of course), see what’s what, make sure I have my Player’s Club card (a loyalty card for gamblers), and head up to my room for a good night’s rest. Although, to be honest, it’s difficult for me to sleep in Vegas when I know there is a casino just an elevator ride away!


Saturday:

Wake up and then time for some physical activity! The Wynn answered my prayers last year when they opened a SoulCycle! So, you can schedule yourself into a class (earlier in the week) and then get pumped for the weekend! If SoulCycle isn’t for you then go to the hotel fitness center or take a run or brisk walk on the Strip – just get moving so you will feel less guilty about the rest of the weekend!


Brunch:

You will have worked up an appetite in the morning so it’s time for Brunch! I have a few favorites that are perfect to start your day in Vegas:


Giada’s: Yes! Giada De Laurentiis of Food Network fame! Go to the Cromwell (located mid-Strip) and take the escalator up to Giada’s. Brunch is a good time here for a few reasons. First of all, the restaurant has great views of the Strip. Also – they have unlimited prosecco! Well – they market it as an unlimited mimosa option, but I like to go light on the juice, if you know what I mean. The food is good and even though I don’t typically have dessert (especially with brunch!) it’s very difficult to pass up the Lemon Ricotta Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches! Really the perfect ending to a bubbly-filled brunch!



Bouchon: Yes! Bouchon of Thomas Keller fame! I just love Chef Thomas Keller so having the opportunity to eat at any his restaurants is a treat. The Vegas outpost of Bouchon is located in the Venetian and it’s tricky to get to if you haven’t been before - so take me with you next time you go and I’ll show you the way! I always get the Poulet et des Gaufres (Chicken & Waffles) and let me tell you – these are the best Chicken and Waffles you will ever have! Perfectly roasted chicken and a bacon-chive waffle with the most delectable maple syrup. My mouth is watering just typing those words! If you are with a group of people, I would also suggest getting the Assortiment de Pâtisserie – basically a bunch of pastries. I would suggest this because it’s delicious, you’re in Vegas, and remember that work out you did earlier??


Wynn Buffet: If you want to experience a buffet in Vegas – you really can’t go wrong with the Buffet at Wynn. They have an endless array of food options and a dessert room… a whole room dedicated to dessert. Again – I’m not a crazy dessert person - but when there is a whole room of them then I’m likely to find something that I am crazy about! Also – they have champagne as well so you can have the full brunch experience.


Strip Crawl:

Ok – so between “feeding times” in Vegas I like to wander around the Las Vegas Strip. I like to start at one end and make it as far as I can walking in and out of all the casinos, seeing what’s new, what’s old and stopping at shops, bars, and casinos when they look like fun. I like to stop and see how beautiful the Bellagio Conservatory/Botanical Gardens are. I stop at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace and see what’s new there. I like to grab a glass of champagne – anywhere really – and stop by a craps table or slot machine that seems to be calling my name.


*Disclaimer – We haven’t really discussed gambling – but if you couldn’t tell by now – I love it! BUT many people I know do not love gambling and they still love Las Vegas – so you do you but I’ll be at the craps table…or the sports book, or a slot machine*


Evening:

Ok – time for dinner or a show – or dinner AND a show. I don’t go to as many shows as we used to go to back in the day. There are a few reasons for that – tickets are super expensive, shows cut into dinner time, and if I only have money for a nice meal or a show – my money is on the nice meal EVERY time. I mean if Frank Sinatra was alive, I would get tickets but that’s just not the case, unfortunately.


Having said that, there are so many amazing shows to see – you must see a Cirque du Soleil show at least once in your life. My favorite one is Love at the Mirage. It’s the Beatles show so - of course – it’s amazing! Also – a few months/weeks before your trip see who is in town that may be fun to see! The residencies that the big performers are doing these days are a good time!


Now time to eat! Of course, there are seemingly unlimited restaurant options in Las Vegas. I have been to many of them, but I’m going to highlight my favorites for your “fancy” Saturday night meal:


Wing Lei: (Wynn) I adore this restaurant! I really do! At this moment in time, it’s my favorite restaurant in Las Vegas. Featuring Cantonese, Shanghai and Szechuan cuisine in the most impeccably decorated restaurant space – Wing Lei is a treasure! The service cannot be beat, I dream about the food, and you feel like you are sitting in a beautiful jewelry box. For food, you need to get the Shrimp Toast, Garlic Beef Tenderloin, and the Mu Shu Pork – TRUST ME! If you are with a group, then please get the Imperial Peking Duck – which they carve tableside.



Carbone: (Aria) It’s like Carbone was a restaurant created just for me! It’s kind of like what I imagine heaven to be like. You sit down – and they bring you hunks of cheese. I mean – is there anything better? Nice, generous pieces of Parmigiano Reggiano! Then they bring you salami and an assortment of delicious bread options! Get a martini, some wine, and then dig into the menu. Now – I don’t think you could go wrong with any of the items on the menu, but I would strongly suggest the Caesar Salad that they make tableside. This salad is traditional, amazing, and has such fantastic croutons. Really – the croutons are special. Then I always get the Spicy Rigatoni with Vodka Sauce - because it’s perfection - and then you have a real decision for the meat course. I’m not sure how to decide between the Veal Parmesan and the Veal Marsala so just get both and share! Or if Veal isn’t your thing the Chicken Scarpariello is a good time. They have an old-school dessert cart that comes around but I am typically too full for that and – spoiler alert – everyone gets seven-layer cookies and limoncello with the check. I repeat – everyone gets limoncello with the check. It’s pretty magical! Also – the dining room is beautiful and I am obsessed with their 1960s playlist!




Sinatra: (Encore) This restaurant could probably just sell cilantro salad and I would still go (and just drink!) It’s a Frank Sinatra themed restaurant so they had me at hello! Before you walk in – look to your right and there are photos of Frank as well as his actual Oscar and other pieces of memorabilia on display. Then when you walk in, the bar is on your left with TVs showing Sinatra movies and to your right is a wonderful picture of the man himself. Of course, they also play non-stop Sinatra music throughout the restaurant. It’s always fun to have a few cocktails at the bar before you go to your table. There are amazing photos of Mr. Francis Albert Sinatra throughout the restaurant and the tablecloths are his favorite shade of orange. They have delicious classic Italian food and it’s extremely difficult to choose my favorites. To start I always have the tough decision between the Prosciutto, the Caprese, or the Polpettine – now I don’t typically have meatballs other than the ones my mother makes, but the Polpettine at Sinatra comes with Polenta Fries, and Polenta Fries are my weakness! Then, for your entrée, things get really crazy because you have to decide between the Lasagna (another item I rarely order in a restaurant), the Branzino, or the Ossobucco “My Way”. Even in this hypothetical situation I am having trouble deciding what I would order right now!


CUT: (Palazzo) Yes, there is a CUT in Beverly Hills (which is amazing as well) but if you are in Vegas and want the best steak there is – go to CUT. You just can’t beat the steak here. All of the food, really – I mean – it’s Wolfgang Puck. They change up the menu seasonally, but if there is any type of Bone Marrow on the menu then I’m ordering it. Also – for the sides you can’t go wrong with the Creamed Spinach and/or the Cavatappi Pasta “Mac & Cheese”. For steak – it’s all the best but I’ll try to find someone to share a porterhouse with me, and try to get as many sauces as possible to go with it. Not that the steak even needs sauce but I’m a sucker for the Bearnaise, Bordelaise and the Creamy Horseradish.


After dinner then it’s time to hit the CLUB! Just kidding – I’m too old to go to clubs anymore. However, I do love to have a few cocktails at a bar or lounge – perhaps a martini at Parasol Down (or Up) at Wynn followed by a Sinatra Smash or two at the Eastside Lounge at Encore. Then time to hit the tables! Again – just kidding – you should not be intoxicated when gambling. You want to feel good but you want a clear head for sure. So, spend the night however you choose and then head off to bed with visions of jackpots dancing in your head.



Sunday:


Morning:

After all of the winning and the cocktails you probably don’t want to work out on Sunday morning – and that’s just fine. You should head to the spa instead. If you are not a spa person – that’s ok too – but I can’t stress enough how easy it is to be a spa person. Say you don’t want to get any treatments – then you just put on a robe, bring your book and sit in one of the beautiful heated lounge chairs by the heated pool they have and then boom – you’re a spa person. Easy as that. Now I must reiterate that the Encore has the loveliest spa I have ever seen, so if you are staying at a different hotel and hate their spa then it’s not my fault. I would recommend getting one treatment – whatever you fancy - and then sit by the pool, go in the sauna, the steam room, the full experience!


I’m not a huge breakfast person, but I understand some people enjoy breakfast, so here would be my suggestions for Sunday morning:


Tableau: (Wynn) This is a beautiful restaurant that has such a lovely breakfast menu. You can have anything from Berries and Granola to a European Breakfast complete with cheese/charcuterie – I think you can guess which one I would opt for. The restaurant is sort of hidden by the Wynn Tower Suites elevator, but if you are coming over from Encore, it is definitely worth the walk.


Jardin: (Encore…or Wynn – it’s in the hallway in between) This confession is on behalf of my parents but when they go to Vegas for a few days – you will find them at Jardin at least 10 times! I can’t really blame them since it’s a beautiful dining room with friendly service and perfect breakfast menu. I’m a fan of their Steak & Eggs which is great, but the dish also comes with their hash browns which are divine! They have a wide selection of smoothies and juices, as well as brunch cocktails if you are so inclined.



Lakeside: (Wynn) On Sundays, Lakeside has a phenomenal Jazz Brunch that you need to check out. Live jazz, cocktails, and a lavish brunch menu. Also – the restaurant has pretty views of the Wynn Lake of Dreams. I apologize that all of my Sunday breakfast options are focused on the Wynn/Encore but you will not be sorry – I promise!


Sunday afternoon:

Ok, so we did not discuss what time of year you are visiting……if it’s in the Summer then you should use your Sunday afternoon as Pool Time! If it’s in the Fall/Winter/Spring – then chances are a pool is still open somewhere - pending the weather situation. If you are with a group of people – I would highly suggest renting a cabana. You can split the cost between everyone in the group and I don’t believe that anyone will regret the decision. If it’s 100 degrees outside you will want to be in the nice shade of the cabana and then come out to jump in the pool. You get amazing service in a cabana and they can bring you food and drinks to your heart’s content. They have TVs so you can catch a game if you have some sports bets working that afternoon. They also have a fridge with water/fruit/etc to keep you hydrated. I swear I am not getting paid by the cabana people to say any of this but I’ve done the pool without a cabana (many, many times) and I’ve visited the pool with a cabana and the experiences are very different! I understand that cost might be an issue but hopefully you were very lucky in the casino the day before, so problem solved!


If the weather is not pool friendly that day then you have a few options. You can continue the Strip crawl from the day before. You can go shopping. You can continue your winning streak at the casino. You can watch football, or baseball, or basketball, or hockey. Stay at the spa longer and keep reading that book. You can do whatever you want!


Early Evening:

So, in this scenario, you are leaving Vegas on Sunday night. This way you will miss the morning and daytime traffic of people heading back to LA. There is no point to rush leaving Vegas because then you will only be angry when you are sitting in your car in bumper to bumper traffic and calculate the amount of time you could have stayed in Vegas to continue to have fun!

You will need to eat before you leave and my favorite place to eat an early dinner before heading out of town is Wazuzu at the Encore. Wazuzu is amazing! Perfect service, photo-worthy dining room, and delectable Drunken Noodles (the spicier, the better). Also – get some Pot Stickers – it’s your last meal in Vegas – live a little. Then – I always try a progressive slot machine or two on my way out of the casino – just to confirm whether I have to go back home that night or not. Then it’s time to head to your car and cry the whole way back to LA. Just kidding.

Los Angeles is fabulous – but Vegas is Vegas!

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