In Las Vegas, bigger is usually better. From betting lots of Benjamins at the blackjack table to staying at a mega-resort, the motto is: Go big or go home. But nowadays, a slight shift has taken place and smaller is packing a much bigger punch. With the recent opening of The Cromwell, which sits in the space of the old Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall (formerly known as Barbary Coast Hotel & Casino) at Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road, the Strip has its first standalone boutique hotel, and it’s a winner.
Modern décor, attention to service and a celebrity-owned and -operated Italian restaurant make it a great place for a weekend stay with friends. If you want a sexy summertime scene, book a cabana and camp out at Drai’s Beach Club. Or, if you’re in the mood for a low-key evening, grab a cocktail at Bound (we’re all about the tequila-, Cointreau- and champagne-filled Big Spender). But if views are your thing, walk over to the open-air shopping district, The Linq, and take a spin on its High Roller. From 550 feet in the air, the observation wheel is a fun way to see Sin City all lit up.
And since there’s already enough to keep you busy in Las Vegas, we’ve pinpointed the top five things you should see and do when stopping by the city’s newest hot spot.
If you’d ever set foot inside of Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall when it was open, you probably remember how smoky and rough-and-tumble the place was. So, unless you were making a mad dash from the parking garage to get into line at Victor Drai’s famous nightclub and/or after-hours spot, you probably wouldn’t have had any reason to go there. But now, there are tons of excuses for visiting the renovated property. After spending $185 million to redo Bill’s, the place looks completely different. As a matter of fact, the only items that are left from the original hotel are the dome of the main casino hallway, the nine refurbished chandeliers that line that hallway, and the elevators that take you to Drai’s After Hours. Everything else is brand-new.
We can’t get enough of the Parisian-inspired hotel’s sexy rooms (there are 188). The details stand out — from the plush lavender vanity chair’s corset-laced back to the writing that’s found on the black-and-white mosaic tiles in the shower (expect to see sayings like, “To win without risk is to triumph without glory”), to the dresser and end tables that look just like vintage pieces of luggage — and every touch is special. These niceties carry over into the property’s 19 Anthology Las Vegas Suites & Villas collection, too. The 1,061-square-foot Boulevard suite comes with a Strikes and Spares pinball machine, and whimsical artwork by artist Deborah Anderson and others grace the walls.
On the second floor of The Cromwell is where you’ll find celebrity TV personality Giada De Laurentiis’ only restaurant, Giada. To get there, take the escalator to the top and look closely to your left. There’s a photo booth where you can take silly pictures with your companions (two free prints are dispensed) before stepping inside the 6,214-square-foot restaurant (that number doesn’t even include the kitchen space). You’ll immediately notice the fresh pastas displayed behind a glass counter as well as the colorful antipasto bar filled with vegetables such as baby sweet peppers and cheeses like taleggio and burrata. The establishment is complete with woods, whites, pops of color (orange banquettes) and metal light fixtures with quotes from De Laurentiis (“I eat a little bit of everything and not a lot of anything”) etched into them.
If you’re not sure what to select off the dinner menu, that’s okay as there’s a key map at the bottom that lists the symbols for Giada classics, vegan- and gluten-free options, and favorites from Raffy (De Laurentiis’ aunt) and her late maternal grandfather, Dino. Or, go for the four-course tasting menu that comes with an antipasto, a second course option such as lemon spaghetti with shrimp, a third course such as Sicilian roasted lamb, and tomato-strawberry crostata, lemon-ricotta cookies or some other treat from the dessert cart. There’s a couple fun tasting menu additions — recipe cards (for eggplant rollatini, fried smashed potatoes with lemons and mustard-crusted rack of lamb) and an autographed photo of Giada come with it. For our meal, we opted to go à la carte and noshed on the orzo meatballs, bucatini, branzino and strawberry polenta cake with whipped mascarpone. No matter which items you choose, you really can’t go wrong.
And don’t be surprised if you spot De Laurentiis walking around from table-to-table socializing with guests. The bubbly chef is known for taking pictures with diners in between overseeing the ins and outs of the kitchen.
Drai’s Beach Club/Nightclub
In Las Vegas, come April, everyone is in bikinis and ready to hit the pools. So, with the temps in the 100s, reserving a cabana at Drai’s Beach Club, one of the hottest pool parties in town, is a must. What’s even better is that this two-level bash sits 11 stories above the Strip. Plant yourself in one of 15 cabanas that comes with its own bathroom and shower, plush seating with yellow-, orange-, hot-pink- and navy-blue-striped accent pillows, bottle service, a 55-inch LED flat-screen TV and more. And after you’ve taken a dip in one of the two lower-level pools, order fare such as chicken tenders or grilled fish tacos from your server. The 35,000-square-foot space offers party-goers a panoramic view of the city, nine VIP bungalows that share five pools, two full bars, and a central wet deck — all surrounded by 35-foot palm trees and banging beats by Arty, Showtek, Quintino, Ummet Ozcan and other DJs.
With a daytime party that doesn’t disappoint, just imagine what Drai’s Nightclub has in store for revelers. Picture an 80-sided LED disco ball in the main room, 16 VIP booths, 4,000 square feet of state-of-the-art high-definition equipment, scantily clad cocktail waitresses, confetti dropping from the sky and tons of partiers dancing the night away to tunes by DJs Irie, Makj and 3Lau. After jamming for a few hours, if you want the night to end early, go back upstairs to your room at The Cromwell and slip under your bed’s comfy sheets. But if you want to keep the party going, head to Drai’s After Hours. And remember, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas — especially at Drai’s. Nightlife really doesn’t get any better than this.
When Town Square opened on the Strip’s south end in 2007, the outdoor shopping mecca attracted lots of families, teenagers and suits — there’s a children’s park (tree house included), a movie theater and a few restaurants with alfresco seating. But now, with the arrival of The Linq, people have a new place — a 300,000-square-foot playground — to turn to.
There’s lots of fun to be had at the 78,000-square-foot Brooklyn Bowl. Grab a group of friends and reserve one of 32 lanes. Depending on which night you choose, acts such as Chromeo (August 7), The Avett Brothers (August 29-31) and Blue October (December 7) will take to the stage as you attempt to bowl a perfect game. And while you’re there, be sure to savor Blue Ribbon’s barbecue wings or fried chicken platters (accompanied by white bread and honey — delish) with a malted strawberry milkshake all while relaxing on the comfy handcrafted couches located near your lane.
Another hot spot at The Linq is BLVD Cocktail Company. We couldn’t get enough of The Showgirl (a combination of Ketel One Citroen vodka, Carpano Bianco vermouth, lemon, strawberries and sparkling Asti) and the guy on the microphone covering Adele and Tom Petty hits. Even with a rotating selection of talent coming in and out of this place, we can guarantee that, by the end of the night, the entire room will be singing along to the tunes crooned (we even released a note or two when the vocalist belted out “Free Fallin’”). As for the décor highlight, you won’t be able to take your eyes off the centerpiece made by Las Vegas artist Gabriel Culp — a bulbous 14,000-light-bulb installation (8,000 standard nonfunctioning bulbs and 6,000 LED lights) that hovers over a black baby grand.
Expect to find stores such as Kitson and rapper Nas’ 12A.M. Run sneaker boutique alongside restaurants such as Chayo Mexican Kitchen + Tequila Bar and the ever-popular Sprinkles Cupcakes and ice cream shop.
The High Roller
When you’re at The Linq, it’s a must to hop on The High Roller observation wheel. The 30-minute attraction, which we recommend riding at night, lets you see a well-lighted Sin City in all its glory. Make sure to request the VIP Sky Bar service so you’ll have a bartender mixing drinks while you take selfies or snapshots of your surroundings. As you approach 550 feet, the video playing on the TV monitors will count down from 10 to one. It’s fun to count along with your pals, too. Each spacious spherical cabin — there are 28 total — holds up to 40 people. A win-win for locals, visitors and celebrities (Jerry Seinfeld, Tyra Banks and Mindy Kaling) alike, The High Roller takes The Linq and Las Vegas to new heights.