Bright Shiny Objects: Vdara Hotel, Crystals and Mandarin Oriental mark opening of CityCenter Las Vegas

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009
The now-open Vdara Hotel shines brightly in the Vegas sun.

CityCenter's towering Vdara Hotel shines brightly in the Vegas sun.

Like a Broadway debut from the city it’s trying to emulate, CityCenter on the Las Vegas Strip is opening…softly. Beginning last week with the December 1st grand opening party at the 1,495-suite Vdara Hotel, project CityCenter continues to open piece by glittering piece with the Crystals retail and dining complex and the new Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas now open as well. All three properties are, however, a prelude to the main act: the 61-floor MGM MIRAGE Aria Resort & Casino featuring over 4,000 rooms, a new Cirque du Soleil show – Viva Elvis – plus eateries from such well-known chefs as Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Julian Serrano. Aria will open December 16th.

CityCenter is not just another high-end gaming property opening in Las Vegas. This 67-acre parcel of prime Strip real estate — site of the biggest privately financed construction project in United States history — is now home to a “city within a city,” an urban landscape of shining skyscrapers, public art displays, an elevated train, residential condos and even a “pocket park.”

We visited last week and got a first glimpse of the Vdara Hotel and the Crystals shopping area. Both are striking examples of the city-chic contemporary architecture guiding the entire project. All sharp angles and shimmering surfaces, the thin December sunlight bounced from one building to the next creating an urban canyon of sorts.  And, honestly, having lived in D.C. as well as having spent considerable time in NYC, we have to say that we really did feel like we were in a major metropolitan neighborhood.

We entered CityCenter via the new pedestrian walkway running from the Bellagio into the Vdara Hotel. It is a striking contrast to go from the lush Italianate surroundings of the Bellagio and into the stark yet stunning halls of the ultra-modern Vdara. (Be sure to check out the bar at Silk Road restaurant before continuing on into the hotel’s reception area.)

Bar Vdara is a cozy spot for a cocktail (albeit an expensive cocktail )and affords a great view of the interior courtyard of CityCenter which features a Nancy Rubins sculpture in a starburst design composed of castoff canoes. (Read more about the artist and see a similar sculpture here.)

The Crystals retail and dining area can be accessed from the Strip via a new pedestrian bridge and walkway (across from Planet Hollywood) or by tram (the “elevated train” mentioned earlier) from the neighboring Bellagio. (The tram continues on to the Monte Carlo conveniently linking all three MGM MIRAGE properties: Bellagio, CityCenter and the Monte Carlo.)

At Crystals, we found a lot of construction still underway with only about 40% of the retail area occupied by stores. This is high-end (think nosebleed-level) shopping. From the three-story flagship Louis Vuitton boutique ( a Strip-side LED light show will take place every night from dusk to dawn) to Roberto Cavalli, Mikimoto pearls, Hermes and Prada, this is destination shopping at its finest. BESO, a fine-dining spot from actress Eva Longoria Parker with celeb chef Todd English in charge of the kitchen, is open on the first floor. The spot also features, Eve, a swank nightclub.  Additional restaurants from English, Wolfgang Puck and other top toques will be opening in the future.

Here are some pics from our recent trip PLUS the latest promotion codes and links for getting the best room rates at both Aria and Vdara.  Also, check out the CityCenter website for more information on the project.

The multi-level Crystals shopping and dining area at CityCenter Las Vegas features numerous high-end shops.

The multi-level Crystals shopping and dining area at CityCenter Las Vegas.

Opening December 16, the new Aria Resort & Casino is the crown jewel of CityCenter Las Vegas.

Opening December 16, the new Aria Resort & Casino is the crown jewel of CityCenter Las Vegas.

The precariously perched Veer Towers form a background for the new Crystals shopping area at CityCenter Las Vegas.

Veer Towers form a background for the new Crystals shopping area at CityCenter Las Vegas.

Bar Vdara at CityCenter is highly-recommended for people-watching.

Bar Vdara at CityCenter is highly-recommended for people-watching.

There's a sculptural feel to the burnished metal portico marking the entrance into CityCenter's Vdara Hotel.

There's a sculptural feel to the burnished metal portico marking the entrance into the Vdara Hotel.

The CityCenter tram runs past the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas and Veer Towers.

The CityCenter tram runs past the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas and Veer Towers.

Vdara “Winter Special” Rates from $139/nt (2nt Min). *Stay Two Nights at Vdara Hotel & Spa at a Special Introductory Rate from $139 and Receive a $50 Resort Credit (*See site for additional detail and restrictions). Dec 1, 2009 – Mar 31, 2010. Promo Code: VRLVCVA (Exp 4/1/10)

ARIA “Winter Special” Rates from $159/nt (2nt Min). *Enjoy this incredible offer at ARIA, MGM MIRAGE’s newest resort-casino at CityCenter – Stay Two Nights at a Special Rate from $159 per night and Receive a $75 Resort Credit (*See site for additional details and restrictions). Dec 17, 2009 – Apr 1, 2010. Promo Code: AR159G75 (Exp 4/1/10)


Check out Amazon where “Black Friday” is now “Cyber Monday”

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Have you checked out today and the phenomenal deals available on what is now called Cyber Monday? I’ve got the Amazon “Lightning Deals” page minimized on my desktop while I write a couple of articles I have due for the next issue of Casino Player magazine.  I simply hit on the tab and check out each hour’s deals (Right now I’m waiting to see the price on an upcoming deal: the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 10.1-Inch Netbook.)  This is way more fun than trolling the malls looking for deals plus I’m getting some work done at the same time I’m doing my holiday shopping.

mikasa parchment dinnerware

I can't wait to use this pretty red and gold Mikasa Parchment dinnerware on Christmas Eve.

In addition to the hourly deals, there is a whole section of all-day Cyber Monday sales also going on at Amazon.  I picked up this Mikasa Parchment Red 40-Piece Dinnerware Set, Service for 8 for the holidays for just $130.  That’s 78% off the regular list price of $580!

I’m also getting this Wusthof knife — Wusthof Classic Ikon Santoku. The Santoku is made in such a way that the blade cuts through food with less drag and allows for thinner slicing of almost anything. (Caution: This includes your fingertips!) The lowest price I’ve seen on this particular knife is $89 so this is a fab deal, especially for cooks like me who first became a fan of the brand back in culinary school.

(And, yes, I know this post has nothing to do with Las Vegas or gaming but I just felt that my readers would love getting a good deal(s) as much as I do!)

Comments Off on Check out Amazon where “Black Friday” is now “Cyber Monday”

Dishing about Top Chef, Las Vegas and the M Resort

Thursday, September 17th, 2009
The pool complex at the M Resort in Las Vegas figured in a recent episode of Top Chef Las Vegas.

The posh pool complex at the M Resort in Las Vegas was featured in a recent episode of Top Chef Las Vegas.

We’ve always been big fans of the Bravo channel’s popular reality show, Top Chef.  We confess –watching some of the contestants’ huge egos positively wilt under head judge Tom Colicchio’s incredulous stare or sharp-as-a-Wusthof criticism is the high point of our Wednesday nights. (No doubt that particular joy comes from our experiences dealing with the many prima donna chefs we encountered during our decade-plus in the restaurant industry.)

So, take one of our favorite guilty-pleasure TV shows, combine it with our favorite guilty-pleasure city in the world then set it within the walls of a swanky new casino resort and… wait, wait, you know it’s coming… you have a recipe (there, we said it!) for a hugely entertaining waste of an hour every week.

This year, filming takes place at the stunning new Henderson-located M Resort Spa Casino. When I interviewed the M’s Anthony Marnell III back in March for Casino Player magazine, the CEO made it very clear that food and the nine dining outlets of the M were going to be the highlights of the new resort. At the time, Mr. Marnell said “We believe food is one of the most, if not the most important reason why guests will visit the property. The restaurants we have developed will introduce a new kind of dining experience that reflects my family’s reputation for great food and great value.” We think that by agreeing to let the show film at his resort, Mr. Marnell further cements the M’s reputation as a “destination-dining” spot in Las Vegas.

Now, back to the show: Last week’s episode offered viewers the chance to get a glimpse of some of the best chefs working not only in Las Vegas but in the world today. The assembled group of top toques was so impressive that even Chef Colicchio admitted to being humbled in the presence of such cooking masters as Joël Robuchon, the man awarded the title “Chef of the Century” by the venerable dining and travel guide, Gault Millau. Chef Robuchon’s Las Vegas restaurants — L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Joël Robuchon at The Mansion – are located at the MGM Grand. 5 Diamond Award Winner: Joël Robuchon Restaurant at MGM Grand.

Last night’s show found the contestants far from the neon lights of the city and cooking over open firepits in the sizzling 100+-degree stark Nevada desert. Their guests (and critics) were a group of real Southwestern cowboys. As always, some dishes stood out for their taste and originality while others were remarkable for their awfulness. Ceviche for cowboys? I don’t think so. With that, Mattin, the French chef (who reminded me of the character Remy from the movie “Ratatouille“) was told to “pack up his knives and go.”

Tips and More Info:

  • For a taste of the new M, try the resort’s highly-praised 500-seat buffet restaurant, “Studio B,” where a live-action exhibition kitchen features the restaurant’s chefs preparing signature appetizers, entrées and desserts.
  • Check out Top Chef on Bravo TV’s website and you’ll find lots of ideas for hosting viewing parties with a Vegas vibe.  You can also catch up on past shows from this season as well as those from other years.
  • Get a glimpse into the world of renowned chef, Joël Robuchon, with a visit to his website where you’ll see pics of his Las Vegas and other restaurants plus read articles on his accomplishments in the culinary field.

Comments Off on Dishing about Top Chef, Las Vegas and the M Resort

Where should we stay in Las Vegas? In praise of Bally’s location and “Old Vegas” charms

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Bally's Las Vegas features big, comfy rooms, a great center-Strip location and more at discount rates.

Several years ago (and, no, we’re not saying how many) when we first started taking frequent trips to Las Vegas  we got a recommendation for a hotel from an unlikely source: our dentist. The topic of “favorite hotel in Vegas” came up during one of those routine visits — the type where you can still talk during the appointment — and our fav D.D.S. (who is a native of Phoenix) told us he traveled to Vegas quite a few times each year for both vacation and to attend dental conferences. His hotel of choice on the Strip: Bally’s Las Vegas.  Now here’s a guy who could stay pretty much anywhere — and had — yet he chose Bally’s time after time.  He gave us a bunch of reasons so we decided to give it a try and ended up agreeing with a lot of what he said.

Since that conversation and first stay, we’ve hung our hats at Bally’s a number of times not only because we use our Diamond status in Harrah’s Total Rewards® club to get free rooms but also because we actually like staying at Bally’s. Is it the fanciest hotel on the Strip? No, not by a long-shot but it may be the best budget hotel on the Strip! (more…)

Comments Off on Where should we stay in Las Vegas? In praise of Bally’s location and “Old Vegas” charms

Caesars Palace Stars in New Summer Comedy “The Hangover”

Thursday, June 4th, 2009
The Las Vegas landmark, Caesars Palace, features prominently in new comedy, "The Hangover."

The Las Vegas landmark, Caesars Palace, features prominently in new comedy, "The Hangover."

What’s the next best thing to being in Las Vegas?  Seeing the city in all its racy, glitzy glory up on the silver screen of course!  Ready for its close-up, Caesars Palace Las Vegas plays a starring role in the new comedy, “The Hangover,” which opens nationwide, tomorrow, June 5th.  The film stars Justin Bartha, Bradley Cooper (you may know him from “Nip Tuck” and “Alias” plus lots of big screen flicks,) Ed Helms (we love Andy on “The Office”) and Zach Galifianakis (yeah, spell that 20 times really fast!) as guys out on the town in Las Vegas for a last bachelor party splash.

Things go completely awry when three of the friends wake up in their Caesars Palace suite only to find a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet and no groom-to-be in sight!  The comedy, directed by Todd Phillips of “Old School” fame, is already garnering good pre-opening reviews including this article at “The Hollywood Reporter” which calls the movie “head-poundingly (in a good way), sidesplittingly funny.”

Look for lots of of great shots of Caesars Palace Hotel & Casino, the Strip and other easily-recognizable Vegas landmarks as the boys re-trace their steps while trying to find the missing groom.  It may not be Vegas but it could serve as a “fix” until you can make that next trip out.

Expedia Hotel Sale! 5000+ Deals worldwide, hotels from $24!Expires 6/30/09

Comments Off on Caesars Palace Stars in New Summer Comedy “The Hangover”

Deals and Discounts — Mobile Marketing Debuts at Rio Las Vegas

Friday, May 29th, 2009

We love technology and anything that can get us the best and most up-to-the-minute deals on Vegas shows, restaurants and more is something we are definitely interested in using.  So when we heard that you can get notice of great deals while you are AT the casino, we had to investigate.

Introducing the newest of the new technology where special offers come via your cell phone and its “text messaging” feature!  Called “mobile marketing,” this tool is currently being tested in some of the Harrah’s Entertainment properties such as the Rio in Las Vegas.   According to the company, the program provides real-time offers, property information, and Total Rewards® points balance to Rio guests directly to their mobile phones.

For example, visitors to the Rio will see signs posted throughout the property informing them of a number to call if they wish to “opt-in” to receive text messages.  If they choose to participate, guests can then expect to receive text alerts offering special deals on show tickets, dining and more sent right to their mobile devices.

According to David Norton, chief marketing officer, Harrah’s Entertainment, the new program offers the casino operator “the capability to communicate directly with specific guests via their mobile devices, offering great promotional opportunities when it’s most relevant.”

With growth predicted to be in the 150% range over the next five years, expect to see even more of this targeted mobile marketing from casinos and resorts in the future.
Click Here for the Best Las Vegas Hotel Deals!

Comments Off on Deals and Discounts — Mobile Marketing Debuts at Rio Las Vegas

Today Only Save 25% on a Perfect Gift for Dad

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

It seems we are always looking for cool travel bags.  Bags that hold all our can’t-live-without-’em electronics and overnight “stuff.”  We’ve also been on the prowl for some great Father’s Day gift ideas so this exclusive one day only sale from is just in time for summer travel and for Father’s Day gift-giving.  We are big fans of eBags when buying all types of luggage, laptop bags, travel cases, handbags and more. (Honest. We’ve bought lots of travel pieces and laptop bags from eBags and have nothing but good stuff to say about the products, service and prices!) Good on May 28th ONLY, you get 25% off on a single item when you use the link below!

Check out some of these nifty bags for the special guy in your life:
Commute - Medium
A cool option for Dads or grads is this Commute – Medium messenger bag from Timbuk2. It’s available in lots of different sizes and colors (we like this chocolate/licorice combo) plus the rugged line offers a wide array of coordinating wallets, travel bags, backpacks and more.

This all-business-black CaseLogic
16″ Executive Laptop Case
will hold all 15″ – 16″ computers in style. Constructed of nylon with leather straps and accents, the case has lots of padding plus adjustable straps to keep you comfy and your computer safe while traveling.

We LOVE this rolling duffel bag — the Mother Lode TLS Mini 21″ Wheeled Duffel. Check out all the inside compartments — perfect for packing our travel necessities — plus there are lots of outside pockets for stashing books, magazines, files, iPods and more. This funky “soylent green” shade is our choice but you can get it in a much more subtle gray or even basic black!

Mother Lode TLS Mini 21

Be sure to click on the link below when going to eBags so you get this terrific one-day offer. (And, ladies? If you don’t see something for him, be sure to scope out the handbag section on the site. This summery Tignanello hobo will definitely be in our shopping cart today!)  Touchables Cargo Hobo

Exclusive Offer – Get 25% Off a Single Item at – valid 05/28 Only!
*Some brand restrictions apply.

Comments Off on Today Only Save 25% on a Perfect Gift for Dad

Two Times the Rewards at MGM Mirage

Monday, May 25th, 2009

MGM Mirage has some great news for slot club players!  Not only will the wildly popular “Players Club Holiday Gift Shoppe 2009” take place over TWO weeks this year but to sweeten the deal even more, the club is doubling the points earned on slot play beginning June 1 and continuing through August 31.  (Las Vegas properties only.)

Players Club members have been accruing Gift Shoppe points since January 1. Gift Shoppe points are completely free and club members accrue them automatically – no extra sign-ups required.  Plus, these points are in addition to other slot club points and benefits.

Players can redeem Gift Points at the fabulous year-end Players Club Holiday Gift Shoppe 2009 which will take place during the two week event happening November 28 – December 13 where you can get watches, jewelry, electronics, home & sporting goods, Gift Cards, FREEPLAY® and more!

Check for details at MGM Mirage’s website at or at the players club desk at each casino location.    Click Here for the Best Las Vegas Hotel Deals!

1 Comment »

Best Las Vegas Hotel Deals — The Summer of Savings

Monday, May 18th, 2009
Hot room deals at Bally's and Paris this summer in Las Vegas.

Get great room deals this summer in Las Vegas.

Looking for low rates and great hotel deals for your Las Vegas vacation?  Here is a booking site plus several  hotels in Las Vegas offering not only smoking hotel room rates but also lots of vacation package add-ons like free room upgrades, food coupons, show discounts and more.  These are — by far — some of the best deals in Las Vegas.

The Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino is offering customers a FREE UPGRADE TO A RESORT ROOM for stays through 6/26/9. (Stays during May 18-19 & 22-24 are excluded.)  This is a $50.00 per night value! Just book a Hollywood Hip room, and you will be upgraded at no charge when you check-in.  Now thru Sept 30, guests also receive a $25 Buffet Credit (liquor excluded), and these coupons: (more…)

Comments Off on Best Las Vegas Hotel Deals — The Summer of Savings

Phil Ruffin “Speaks” to Treasure Island Las Vegas Players

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009
TI - Treasure Island Hotel and Casino

New Owner Phil Ruffin assures players that their points and play will be safe even with the sale of TI.

We received this — “A Message from the New Owner of TI” — and wanted to share it with our readers who may not be signed up to receive emails from MGM Mirage’s “Players Club.”  It answers a number of questions that have been floating around since the announcement of the sale of TI – Treasure Island Hotel and Casino to Phil Ruffin.  It’s good news for those of us who have frequented TI in the past.

“Dear _______,

I am very excited to announce the acquisition of Treasure Island by Ruffin Companies. TI is a property that is in pristine condition, ideally located in the heart of the strip and benefits from a wonderful team of outstanding employees. Ruffin Companies was able to purchase TI while acquiring little or no debt, therefore making TI a financially strong company within the Las Vegas market. I, along with the entire TI team, appreciate your loyalty and we want to assure you that, although there is a new captain at the helm, we are all committed to providing you with the amazing experience that you have come to expect at TI. (more…)


A Big Win at Harrah’s Ak-Chin

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009
Poker Buddy scores with a double Royal Flush for a cool two grand.

Poker Buddy scores with a double Royal Flush for a cool two grand.

P.B.:  “Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino is announcing their Alaskan cruise contest winners tonight.  Do you want to go out for it?”

Me:  “Not really…I’m kinda’ tired today.”

Three hours later —

Me:  “Okay, I got my second wind.  Let’s go out and see if we won a cruise.”

P.B.:  “Yeah, let’s go but I don’t want to play too much.”

Me:  “Nah, me neither.”

Two hours later —

See above photo!  Poker Buddy hits for $2000 on a quarter Triple Play DDB video poker game.  Dealt four to the Royal Flush, he pulls the queen twice for TWO Royals.  Cha-Ching!

Hmm, maybe we should not “want to play too much” more often?  (No cruise by the way.)

Got any stories you wanna’ share?  We’d love to hear them so tell us about your big wins in the comments section of this post.

Want to practice your video poker strategy for free online?  Just go to to play your favorite games on the ‘net’s largest non-wagering video poker site.

1 Comment »

Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Piazza Day BagMother’s Day gift-giving.  ACK!  Just the phrase strikes fear into the hearts of mere mortals.  Well, fear no longer.  Here’s our Mother’s Day gift guide — from women who love to play — featuring the perfect gifts for all the women in your life.

1.  Check out this very cool eBags “Piazza Day Bag.”  We love the summery violet color, all the zippered pockets and compartments (perfect for holding our players club cards!) plus the adjustable shoulder strap makes it very easy to carry.  It’s an eBags award-winner and at $49.99, it’s a great deal for a good-looking organizer bag Mom will love.  (You can check out other colors when you visit the eBags site.)


Comments Off on Mother’s Day Gift Guide

By BestofVegas. Best Shows. Best Hotels. Best Prices. Weekly Promo Offer 125 X 125

Gambling Hot Spots

BestofVegas! Best Shows. Best Hotels. Best Prices.

Subscribe to Our Feed Save at the Chic, New Cosmopolitan Hotel

Free Email Newsletter! Get all the latest deals and discounts for Las Vegas hotels, restaurants, shows and more. PLUS, we'll send you tips on what to do NOW in Las Vegas!

We will never spam you, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

  • Recent Comments

  • Kristel Brackbill: Hello there! It looks as though we both have a passion for the same thing. Your blog, “Play...
  • Las Vegas Hotels Rock: The Mirage Hotel & Casino has some of the best hotel deals on the Las Vegas Strip. We got...