Travel: How to have a 'girly weekend' in Las Vegas – without the regrets
A trip to Las Vegas doesn't have to involve the debauchery normally associated with this infamous 'sin city': great shopping, excellent shows and delicious restaurants are all the ingredients for a long weekend with your best girlfriends, writes Josie Clarke
LAS Vegas might be known as the ultimate stag party destination, but it can also host a fabulous girls' weekend. Shopping to suit every budget, breathtaking shows, sensational restaurants and cocktail menus wherever you turn – it's the perfect place to spend a memorable holiday with your favourite friends.
We're straight into Vegas at its over-the-top best with a late-night arrival at The Venetian Resort. After a leisurely room-service breakfast at midnight, we put on our heels for a stroll through the hotel's vast casino to the Grand Canal, complete with gondoliers. Espresso martinis all round. We have arrived.
:: Day one
IT'S a beautifully sunny December day in the desert – perfect weather for walking off possibly more than one martini the night before, en route to Drybar Las Vegas in The Cosmopolitan hotel. This is what is locally known as a 'blowout bar' and customers ahead of us depart with hair fit for a hosting role on CNN. In my case, they transform me from a mum who obviously spends her weekends on the sidelines of windblown football pitches to someone who looks like she's at least brushed her hair. Plus they offer the first cocktail of the day, and it's only 9.30am (thedrybar.com; $49/£39).
Our first shopping expedition is at The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Picture strolling along a Roman street with painted blue skies overhead and interspersed with water features that would put some in the city itself to shame. There are more than 130 shops here, with many offering great deals.
We disperse for a couple of hours, meeting up laden with bags at the on-site Water Grill for lunch. I order my first cioppino of the weekend (Dungeness crab, jumbo shrimp and fresh fish in a shellfish broth) and an 'Essex Street' cocktail of gin, cucumber, dill, fresh lime, and elderflower cordial with a pinch of sea salt. My new Vegas image receives a crushing blow, however, when a waitress hands me a large paper bib to protect myself as I dismantle my crab (watergrill.com; mains from $24/£18).
Drinking cocktails since 9.30am means an afternoon nap is in order, helpfully followed by dinner at The Venetian's on-site Mott 32. We sit in a private room screening silent black and white movies and dining on Applewood smoked Peking Duck and black cod. Cocktail of the evening is Joe's Elixir of gin (Green Chartreuse, blackberry, passionfruit, ginseng and shiso), then it's off for a (relatively) early night (mott32.com/lasvegas).
:: Day two
WE CHECK out of The Venetian and head to Las Vegas North Premium Outlets at the north end of the Strip, an outdoor centre of more than 175 retailers, including UK favourites Lululemon, J.Crew, Nike, Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Ralph Lauren and the ubiquitous Gap, offering savings of up to 65 per cent.
The centre is one of three Simon Shopping Destinations sites – The Forum Shops and The Shops at Crystals are the other two – to offer a 'Dropit' service for $15, which allows you to drop as many same-day purchases as you like and have them delivered back to your hotel.
The morning spent shopping, we move on to the Bellagio and lunch at Spago by Wolfgang Puck, where we sit at a lakeside table overlooking the hotel's famous fountains. It's still early, so I select the Ramble On cocktail containing the gentle-sounding chamomile and Douglas Fir cordial. And some gin, obviously. We accompany this with dishes such as smoked salmon pizza topped with caviar, Icelandic cod 'Hong Kong style', raspberry pavlova and warm chocolate chip cookies.
Just in case we weren't having a lovely enough time already, the restaurant kindly arranges for the fountains to be turned on ahead of the scheduled 3pm start time. We decide we must have charmed our waiters with our accents, but later realise they just wanted some peace and quiet (wolfgangpuck.com/dining/spago-lv; pasta mains from $22/£17).
Our second hotel is the Aria Resort and Casino, a modern addition to the Strip with extraordinary views and rooms containing iPads that allow you to set the time your curtains roll open in the morning. This is actually helpful.
Dinner turns out to be a highlight in a weekend of highlights. The on-site Catch is an experience from the moment you walk down through a corridor of fresh flowers and fairy lights (complete with selfie stations). It is a shared feast of Asian-influenced sushi, seafood and steak, cocktails, and then more drinks after a DJ turns the room into a relaxed party venue. We stay late before returning to our rooms on the 54th floor above (catchrestaurants.com/catchlv).
:: Day three
IT'S our last day and we're going out in style. First stop is The Shops at Crystals, just outside the Aria's doors, where you will only find luxury brands – the closest you will get to a high street name here is Tiffany's. The centre is known for its stunning modern architecture, but it is even more beautiful than usual, with enormous Christmas trees dripping with Swarovski decorations and a water feature combining carved ice pillars and multicoloured lighting.
Lunch is at another Wolfgang Puck restaurant, Cucina, where a pear martini and butternut squash ravioli is restorative ahead of a couple more hours perusing Prada dresses and Hermes bags (wolfgangpuck.com/dining/cucina-by-wolfgang-puck; pasta mains from $29/£22).
Later that night, we take in a show. No trip to Las Vegas would be complete without Cirque du Soleil, whose lavish show KA features jaw-dropping acrobatics all set on an enormous moving stage that pivots terrifyingly to vertical at points.
It is a wonderful story and breathtakingly beautiful. I snatch a quick look at my friends either side of me. They are all fast asleep. Never mind. It's a good excuse to come back again soon.
HOW TO PLAN YOUR TRIP
:: For more information on the destination, visit visitlasvegas.com
:: Rooms at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas start from $149. Visit venetian.com
:: Rooms at ARIA Resort & Casino start from $129. Visit aria.mgmresorts.com