Viva Las Vegas in its New Era

After suddenly shuttering in the spring, Sin City’s major resorts return with enticing amenities for a new era: poolside super cabanas, a beach town boardwalk–themed promenade, golf courses, tennis courts, private gaming and dining rooms, and high-roller suites with VIP, no-contact services.

While the outbreak initially shuttered the city’s tourism almost completely,  and left reverberating ramifications that will change longtime local fixtures such as mega-buffets and live entertainment, many of the recent trends proved timely in addressing visitor concerns, especially the moves toward more private experiences, boutique lodging, and outdoor dining, entertainment, and recreation. Many of Vegas’ top hospitality providers have refocused on intimacy, privacy, exclusivity, and fresh air.

Consider that the first real outdoor poolside day club, Tao Beach at The Venetian, only debuted in 2007, and now the concept is an integral Las Vegas ingredient that has been replicated all over town. The city’s newest rooftop pool complex, atop the brand-new downtown Circa Resort & Casino, comes with six pools, “super cabanas” for up to 80 guests, and an outdoor drive-in theater-style 135-by-41-foot video screen.

“No one used to fly to Vegas to do yoga or take cooking classes,” says journalist Mike Hiller, who covers the city’s dining and hotel scene for the Los Angeles Times. “Las Vegas has its roots in gaming, but today placing bets only represents a small sliver of what drew more than 42 million visitors in 2019—another in a recent string of record-breaking tourism years. Prior to COVID-19, Vegas was also gaining traction as a top-tier destination for dining, live entertainment, spas, golf, pools, even driving exotic cars. With the recent addition of hometown NHL and NFL teams, Vegas remains positioned to deliver a far more powerful travel punch than two decades ago.”

“Gaming is still an important amenity, but all the other amenities have grown and gotten more important,” says Anton Nikodemus, president of MGM Resorts’ 13-hotel Las Vegas portfolio. “Thirty years ago, it was all about the gaming experience. Consumers now want more experiences of all kinds, and today Vegas is a multidimensional experience. The age demographics of visitors have changed, there are more millennials, so we’ve created smaller, more intimate restaurants and dining experiences, instead of a large buffet.” One notable feather in MGM’s cap is Shadow Creek, its highly ranked golf course—the best in Nevada and a well-known favorite of Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. Golf has surged in popularity nationwide in the past year, and with high greens fees exclusively for MGM Resorts guests that include round-trip private limo transfers and are limited to an unusually low number of players daily, Shadow Creek is a bigger draw than ever.

Nikodemus was on the opening team for City Center, MGM’s radical project that includes residences, two entirely non-gaming luxury hotels (Vdara and Waldorf Astoria), a shopping center, and tons of public art and sculpture, inside and out, creating a campus environment previously unknown in the often hermetically sealed city. As avoiding crowds becomes increasingly popular with visitors, several restaurants in Aria, the main City Center luxury hotel, feature private dining rooms that have seen extremely high reservations since the resort reopened from the pandemic closure, including Carbone, CATCH, and Jean Georges Steakhouse. Aria also has two boutique hotel options within it, the Tower Suites and the Sky Suites—both featuring private VIP check-in lounges, exclusive elevators, and private SUV airport transfers included in their room rates.

Las Vegas has always been about reinventing itself in ever more popular ways and this year it won’t be the difference. We keep our expectations high and look forward to the possibility of traveling to one of the most important cities for tourism and entertainment in North America