First time I went to Vegas I gambled in smoky casinos, danced the night away and overdid the cocktails by the pool under the intense heat of the July sun. Twenty years later, I still have the brightly-hued, plastic margarita glasses which I collected when I realized the pool waiters were just chucking them away after one use. I guess green wasn’t in back then.
The Stardust where I stayed has long gone, demolished like my capacity for daytime drinking. So, when I got the chance to return to Vegas while hubby was on a medical tourism conference, I decided we would do things a little differently this time, paying more attention to our own health.
First of all I upgraded our rooms at Caesar’s Palace (where the World Medical Tourism Congress was being held) to the Laurel Collection with its separate registration desk – no queues – and bigger rooms. Being more expensive, I figured we wouldn’t have so many lairy late-nighters on our corridor! We would also have access to the Qua Spa and Fitness Centre so no excuses about daily gym visits.
I also investigated the active side of Vegas, away from the gambling and over-indulgence. Some of the attractions I unearthed were a bit dubious for us such as Guns and Ammo Garage or “Dig This”, a hard hat experience on road diggers and tractors. And we weren’t too enthusiastic about ziplining across the Strip either.
However, the Yoga Among the Dolphins at The Mirage sounded like just our cup of tea. Ideal for any age and any standard, this turned out to be a marvelous mix of intense yogic concentration and dolphin disruptions when they came up to the three windows surrounding our underwater room, watching us against the glass like kids at a zoo. We carried on our parallel play for the next hour with instructor Willow Withy explaining how the dolphins’ antics actually enhance the experience. “It’s the best Vegas cocktail I can offer,” said instructor Willow Withy. “You get oxytocin, the bonding hormone produced by dolphins, as well as the natural anti-depressant of yoga.” The $50 activity included a tour of the dolphin environment, a healthy protein shake and a luxurious day at the spa – well worth getting up for the 8:30 am start.
Later that day we drove out through the desertscape surrounding The Strip to the verdant oasis of Lake Las Vegas, just half an hour away. With terracotta tiled low-rise buildings, it looks like a Mediterranean resort complete with golf courses, villas, outdoor entertainments and a cute marina. Our destination was the Westin Lake LV with its white sandy beach and paddleboard rentals. SUP – Stand Up Paddleboarding – is really on trend right now at watery resorts world over. But Paddle to the Core at the Westin has taken it a step further with SUP fitness classes including yoga, Pilates and a “dash” class – all on the core-challenging board. As beginners, we just hired the boards for an hour and concentrated on keeping afloat as we trolled across the tranquil lake, accompanied by a few kayakers, ducks and dragonflies. Great exercise and a good way to investigate the affluent area where notables like Celine Dion have homes. Next time I come, I plan to stay at the Lake for a few days to recover from the city-slicker atmosphere of The Strip.
No good exercising all day if you’re going to blow it all on gastronomic gorging at the “all you can eat” buffets, so I also researched healthier eating options. LAVO at the Palazzo was our first ritzy restaurant, with secluded seating on a pretty patio overlooking The Strip. This is a great vantage point for the Treasure Island outdoor show, usually difficult to see through all the crowds. The service at LAVO was topnotch – after all, this is a haunt for celebs like Kim Kardashian and David Arquette – and the menu very accommodating to gluten-sufferers like myself. LAVO’s speciality is fresh-ground Kobe meatballs, which went well with the gluten-free pasta and complementary garlic bread. Oh yes, and the organic mixed green salad was good too. There’s also a nightclub later on – a perfect opportunity to dance some of those calories off.
You can’t visit Vegas without checking out all the new hotels that morph out of the desert each year. Towering over the north end of The Strip with panoramic views of all the attractions as well as the mountain backdrop, Trump is a must. After the nicotine nightmare of the older hotels, I was overjoyed at finding my first no gambling, no smoking Vegas venue and vowed to book one of these next visit. There are seven altogether, including Mandarin Oriental and Vdara.
I was at Trump to try out the Fitness Centre, adjacent to the long, lap pool, which is popular with locals as well as visitors. After energetic exertions on all the cardio machines, I repaired to the spa for showers before a recuperative pedicure. That turned out to be an entertainment in itself thanks to my cheeky, chatty therapist from Bulgaria who had thrown up a European law degree to come to Las Vegas as a beautician. The staff at Trump were all outgoing and personable, obviously picked for their professionalism and individuality, a welcome respite from the “have-a-nice-day” automatons you often encounter in the States. The spa also has an unusual DIY aromatherapy bar where you concoct your own lotions with various mood-enhancing ingredients.
With nails and toes tarted up, it was time for lunch from Trump’s Nourish menu. A bit like the “My Fitness Pal” app, the menu lists calories as well as detailed fat/carb/protein/sugar/sodium content, shaming you into choosing the healthiest option. Despite the limited calories, it was all delicious with the added benefit of being Fitness Pal friendly. I met the chef who explained that he’s spent much time to-ing and fro-ing with a nutritionist to get the right balance between taste and nutrition.
I also found out about Trump’s Boot Camp which has joggers going along The Strip at 7:30 am on Fridays – darn it, I missed it! To considerable applause from bystanders, the running is interspersed with jumping jacks, squat thrusts and anaerobic stair climbing led by an ex-military taskmaster. And for those guests who try to wriggle out of doing any exercise due to luggage limitations, Trump provides complimentary running shoes and work out gear.
After an afternoon of exercising my shopping muscles at Fashion Show Mall which is right next door to Trump, I was ready to dress up to the nines for another night on the town. Our room at Caesar’s was perfect for getting ready, with long mirrors, dressing table area, huge bathroom with Jacuzzi tub as well as walk-in shower. Our destination that night was Sage, the AAA Four Diamond American-Mediterranean restaurant at the Aria, where we had an intimate table in a very grand setting, delectable small portions of fresh and sustainable foods and high quality wines. No dancing that night as our feet were killing us with all the walking between and inside the huge hotels.