Last month, I checked into the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas for my first solo getaway (and visit to the strip) in a long time.
It’s rare that I take trips away from my family, but this was hard to pass up: I’m working with Visa to share some of the perks of booking hotels on the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection website with your Visa Signature Card and they invited me to discover a few of them for myself. I have a Visa Signature Card that I already use all the time, so it was an easy call: Yes. It was a research trip. Hard work, really.
I was amused to get the driver’s take on the Aria as we were driving toward the strip from the airport. “Not like that place where the young ladies’ skirts are up to there. Classy. It’s a classy joint.”
I’d have to agree. Just past The Shops at Crystals (Stella McCartney, Tom Ford, and such) and the beside the Mandarin Oriental and Vdara hotels, sits the Aria.
Checking in, they handed me some of the event details as well as went over the perks that would be afforded anyone who used the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection website to arrange their stay: VIP Status; best available rate guarantee; complimentary Wi-Fi; complimentary continental breakfast; $25 food or beverage credit; late check-out; and an automatic room upgrade, when available.
With that last bit, they asked if I were afraid of heights and sent me to the 54th floor. (No vertigo, but my ears had to be cleared every time I rode in the elevator!)
And for having “VIP Status,” a box of chocolates from Jean-Phillippe was sent up. It’s the sort of thing I believe you’re supposed to savor—or at least bring home for the kind people who are taking care of your children in your absence. (Whoops.)
There are about a million ways to fill a day in Vegas—eating, gambling, dancing, shows, shopping… I started with lunch at Shake Shack and some shopping before meeting up with the other bloggers who’d come out to Vegas, and sharing a sort of personal buffet in one of the Aria’s Sky Suites. I’m sorry to say that I never learned how to balance a plate on my lap while eating King Crab legs (I was hoping someone might demonstrate), but I did come home with a couple of magic tricks!
A magician named Chris Randall came by and was just amazing. (How do they do it?!) He did this one trick with a signed bill ending up in an uncut lemon… wild. But he was kind enough to show us how to a couple of the things he was doing when he first started—which was around age six.
I did my best to sleep in the next morning. They had these alarm clocks you could set to just open the blinds and I optimistically timed mine to open at 8am. But my internal clock is now set to Hudson’s green-light alarm clock, firmly at 7am. I’m not complaining though. Room service (and a quiet room) more than makes up for any inability to sleep past then.
It was a tough day of work from there on out. My first order of business was a massage at the Vdara Hotel & Spa.
The Vdara was a really intriguing spot—a sister property to the Aria. It’s a non-gaming, smoke-free hotel on the strip; each room has a small kitchen and they allow pets. If I were going to come with the family, I would definitely look into this spot—if only to keep kids from trying to play the slots. (They all look like video games, now!)
The massage includes a day pass to the spa, so I lingered as long as possible before getting dressed and rushing back to the Aria for lunch with the other guests in our group. (It’s a quick walk or you can arrive by a tram that connects with the Bellagio and The Crystals as well.)
Lunch was at Julian Serrano’s Tapas, just off the lobby and casino floor (though in typical Vegas fashion, you wouldn’t know it). We shared Pata Negra, scallops, paella, and an amazing crudo dish where yellowtail was wrapped around fried sweet potato “haystacks,” before finishing with churros and chocolate. Aron would have loved them, I thought.
I ducked out just as lunch was wrapping up to visit the Neon Boneyard in old downtown Vegas and then returned in time for a behind-the scenes tour of Zarkana, a Cirque du Soleil show. I’d never been to Cirque du Soleil, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect. But the space was incredible, and the rehearsals revealed some pretty amazing talents. (I’m holding back on my superlatives here to play it cool, but any would be well deserved.)
After the tour, there were a couple of hours of downtime before dinner, so I went back to the spa! It was a tough call (reality television in bed and the hotel bathtub would have been great, too), but how often do I have a spa daypass? (Pretty much never.)
Dinner was at the Aria’s (and Michael Mina’s) new french restaurant, Bardot. Again, you could be excused for feeling you’d stepped into a Parisian brasserie rather than off the hotel’s promenade. Every detail was beautiful.
And every dish was delicious. It was one of the richest, most decadent meals I’ve had in a long time in fact: fruits de mer tower, escargots, foie gras, bone marrow, steak tartare, crab crêpes, and french onion soup—that had been amped up with a runny egg, braised oxtail, and black truffles— to start. And three cocktails (one with enough whiskey that you’d need all that food if you wanted any hope of keeping above the table). Again I thought of Aron: it’s a short flight from Sacramento to Davis; we need to come back here. I hear they make a fantastic brunch, as well.
We had also ordered mains, but by the time the steaming bowl of mussels arrived, beside an entire baguette—we were silly with laughter: “there’s more?!”
But somehow I managed a fair number before it was time to down an espresso and head over to make the 9:30 curtain for Zarkana.
And any food coma was quickly resolved watching this. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t expect to be so impressed. I now get why Cirque du Soleil is a phenomenon the world over: those talents are incredible! At one point I’d had to stop applauding, because there was just too much to applaud. “Oh, sure, there goes another guy doing multiple summersaults and flying through the air past a swinging ball of fire.”
I said goodbye to the friends I’d made on the trip and checked out the next morning after one more quiet breakfast. The flight is just over an hour back to Sacramento so I would be returning early enough to take Hudson to his gymnastics class, “Tumbling tutus.”
In its own way, just as good as Zarkana—but it helps to have a little getaway sometimes to understand why.
Sponsored by the Visa Signature Card. This is the first of three posts I’ll be doing with Visa. (Here’s what’s funny: I have a Visa Signature Card already in my wallet. Our United Explorer card, the very one we used to earn miles and fly to Bali with, is one. And I use it to book all of our hotel stays, but I didn’t realize I had access to these benefits.)
Take a look at your current Visa card to check for the Signature designation on the bottom right-hand corner, and then visit VisaSignatureHotels.com for all the details on booking your next trip. The Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection is a hand-selected portfolio that is developed for Visa Signature cardholders and is constantly updated.
P.S. 48 hours in Napa.