By E.C. Gladstone
Tradition holds that June is the most popular month to get married. But not in Las Vegas — here, that distinction belongs to Feb. 14, St. Valentine’s Day. If you’re one of the many planning to help that statistic, you’ve probably already chosen the venue, but just in case, you might want to check my wedding blog (Getting married? Say “I do” on the Vegas Strip) for tips (not every Elvis on the street can marry you, fyi.)
Those of us who have already taken the vows, or aren’t of that mind, can still find a lot of romance within the Las Vegas hotels for Valentine’s Day, though. While most of my Valentine’s Day recommendations from last year still hold , I thought I’d update with a few new pointers.
Las Vegas hotel room rates are at very competitive levels now, so why not look into upgrading to a more lavish, roomy suite? For couples wanting to get cozy, “standard” suites at the Venetian/Palazzo and Trump as well as the Hard Rock Hotel’s new HRH tower certainly make the grade, in my mind. Above those, I think some of the sexiest junior and one-bedroom suites can be found at the following Las Vegas hotels:
– Bellagio (Salone junior or lavish Cypress suites)
– Caesars Palace (Augustus Tower Royal or Spa Suite with Bellagio fountain view)
– Golden Nugget (bi-level Spa Tower suites)
– M Resort “Executive” (sexy urban chic)
– Palms Place one bedroom (balconies, fireplace, tub in the bedroom)
– Planet Hollywood (Panorama suites — Bellagio and CityCenter views)
– Red Rock “Signature” or “Viva” (dramatically modern)
– And newcomers Mandarin Oriental (Apex suite with enveloping bedroom and spa tub views), and the Monte Carlo’s Hotel 32 (sleek one-bedroom penthouse).
I’ll be doing a more thorough Las Vegas hotel suite survey in a few weeks, so bookmark/rss me and check back …
My list of most romantic restaurants on or near the Strip begins, as always, with those French formidables Joel Robuchon, Le Cirque, Andre’s, Eiffel Tower, etc. But let me mention some changes and additions:
Among the many fine options in the new Las Vegas hotel ARIA at CityCenter, Shawn McClain’s Sage would be my absolute first choice right now for a memorable meal. The James Beard Foundation-awarded chef’s new outpost hits all the right notes both for an intimate, elegant setting and a seductive and sensuous supper. Get the foie gras crème brulee, and thank me later. (Actually, feel free to order absolutely anything on the menu with confidence. I would.)
I’ve long heard Andre Rochat’s Alize was a worthy destination, but only recently got to experience this unexpectedly elegant gem atop the party-pad Palms for myself. If he can distract you from the stunning 180-degree views, charming and knowledgeable sommelier Claudio offers strong wine pairings for Alize’s menu of Gallic classics given seasonal twists and pretty presentations. A pork belly starter and venison chops were among the standouts for me, along with a perfect soufflé.
While Stratosphere’s rotating Top of the World restaurant was always a go-to for the most magnificent view in town, I think its food has been extremely average. But the chefs recently revamped the entire menu with impressive results: try the ahi tuna tataki, light but savory crab cake, and spiced Moroccan lamb chop — and enjoy som Dean Wachstetter’s suggestions as well.
The family-owned Ferraro’s has long been a local stalwart for authentic Italian, but their new location on Paradise Road (across from the Hard Rock Hotel) is designed with many intimate alcoves for semi-private dining. Chef Mimmo Ferraro does particularly nice lobster risotto, spinach-mascarpone agnolotti, tableside-boned Dover sole and a richly complex Osso Buco.
Other romantic Las Vegas restaurants with special V-Day menus I’d recommend include Aureole (Mandalay Bay, $95, five courses in Swan Court), Valentino (Venetian, $90, five courses), Nove Italiano (Palms, $75, five courses), Lupo (Mandalay Bay, $55, four courses), Penazzi (Harrah’s, $45, three courses), and Le Cirque (Bellagio, $145, four courses). Foodies should also consider Restaurant Charlie, which has a very nice multi-option $95 prix fixe as well as a more extravagant $225 Grand Menu.
UNTYING THE KNOTS
Trying to decide between a fun activity for two and pampering your significant other during your Las Vegas hotel stay? You can do both with a couples spa treatment. While I think you’d be happy at any of the Las Vegas hotels’ top 10 spas I rated a few months back, those I’d particularly recommend for couples are Encore, Qua (Caesars Palace), Canyon Ranch (Venetian/Palazzo — couples’ Rasul ritual), Red Rock (co-ed jacuzzi and private pool), Drift (Palms Place — gorgeous co-ed Hammam), Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas, and MGM Grand (Dreaming ritual) … You may also consider the very couples-friendly Reliquary spa in the Hard Rock Hotel’s new HRH tower, with a co-ed Roman bath and several special treatment rooms. (I’ll also be reviewing the three new CityCenter spas in a few weeks …)
Or, maybe you’ll just want to celebrate with a snuggle in front of the Bellagio fountains. That works, too.
Inside Tip: For something different for V Day weekend, consider driving out to Lake Las Vegas for the Second Annual Silver State Regional Chili Cook-off on Saturday, Feb. 13 (12 to 4 p.m.), and ice skating on the floating rink. Or just stroll over to the Flamingo, where the North American Body Painting Championship is taking place from Feb. 12-14.
Veteran entertainment and travel writer E. C. Gladstone writes regularly on top Strip entertainers, restauranteurs, moguls and behind-the-scenes players for many local and national publications and Web sites. Like many Las Vegans, he sleeps only when absolutely necessary.