One of my favorite girlfriends, Mary, is a baller. She plays craps better than the addictive personality I-Bankers. She drank scotch all throughout my wedding and is one of those people you know you should just follow and it’ll be a good time. It was fitting, then, when she sent out a PSA that she has two nights free every month this year at Paris Las Vegas.
Obviously I’m not going to say no to that.
But what do you do in Vegas in January? We were there over the MLK weekend (Sunday through Tuesday) and absolutely no one was performing. Might I remind you — or, if I haven’t been doing my job well enough, inform you for the first time — that we are Celine Dion SUPERFANS. But this weekend, she was performing Saturday night and Tuesday night. (Cue a full-sized violin — not one of those sarcastic “world’s smallest” ones — because this is a very serious and sad problem for us.) There was some show that Scheana from Vanderpump Rules was in, but unless it’s got the drama with the rest of the gang, I am not into it. (And I know they only film Pump Rules in the summer so I would never meet the rest of the gang. 😉
So Mary and I set out to have an amazing time without the regular Vegas stuff. The highs were in the sixties (fahrenheit) and it was pretty much always overcast, so we decided to make it all about the world-class food, drink, and culture in Vegas. And it was a-m-a-z-i-n-g. So if you are heading to Vegas in the off-season, or if you have been wondering if there’s a reason to take advantage of the CRAZY CHEAP prices this time of year, listen up.
The Paris was so cute. I hadn’t been there since college, and I was so pleased with everything. The location was dynamite — totally central to the Strip. The room was updated and clean and gorge (photo evidence above). The room had a mini fridge for our use (aka for our 3am Chinese food leftovers and a view. There’s a bit of a shopping center attached to the Paris, too, and it served our needs (cross-reference the aforementioned 3am Chinese food).
Then there’s everything else we did.
Short ribs are never not good, right? We went to The Henry for a quick snack of short rib tot-chos after we landed. It’s in the Cosmo and we’ve been a good handful of times, but this time it was our first stop vs. our last stop. Because they’re a 24-hour joint, I had low expectations. They were shockingly good.
Drinks at the Cosmopolitan’s Chandelier bar are never not good. Mary got her classic fizzy drink. Apparently I’ve had it before (???). It’s a nice, smooth cocktail with a little fruit that makes your whole drink feel like Pop Rocks. I had an amazingly airy, herbal cocktail (times two) before doing the obvious perennial activity: Gambling.
That night, we ate at Beauty & Essex. I wish I had photos of the bottle of champagne we got; of the tuna poke tacos and the chicken meatballs (sounds lame but they were UNBELIEVABLE) or even of the espresso we enjoyed, but no. We were so hungry (and honestly it was so dimly lit) that our table was dry in just over an hour before we headed back to the craps tables. All I can say is: Please go.
I’d never had brunch at the Paris, so I made reservations ahead of time at Hexx. I booked it because I’d heard that the waiters will send you on your way with a mimosa to go. (I forgot about this and went home empty-handed, but I bet it would happen if you ask — they were very quick with the refill.) The food was actually fabulous. We had the mimosas (which were too opaque for my taste, but probably a good idea for people in the Vegas mentality) and a hearty omelet with a housemade English muffin. Did you know that English muffins don’t have to be the dry, boring lump that sometimes houses your Egg McMuffin? They can be rich and delicious! Plus, I got a side of (good, thick) bacon and that thing on the right is a cinnamon roll, if you can believe it. We thought it would be WAY too rich but it was unbelievable.
Did you know Vegas has a ton of art installments? We did, but we’d never taken the time to seek them out. This weekend, we hit up two separate James Turrell (!!!) pieces. The one pictured above is in the Shops at Crystals, attached to the Aria. You can see the colored spaces from the mall, but then you can access the actual rooms where the neon lights live, and it’s such an amazing bath of light.
We also went to Akhob, the James Turrell installment inside the Louis Vuitton store. While the tour is free, I had heard the waitlist fills up weeks in advance, so when we made these plans to go to Vegas one week prior, I got ballsy and just called. Turns out, they had an open reservation time. I took it, and we toured it. All I can say is: Make the time. I felt so otherworldly when looking into the space. (And if you have any sort of psychological or medical condition that may not be compatible, looking back always cured me of anything odd I was experiencing.)
Also in the Shops at Crystals? An absolute heap of photogenic spots. When Mary and I walked down these stairs, we thought they were pretty and wooden. But when we looked back, they were a glowing mosaic of natural materials. (Psst: that’s Mary on the stairs!) While I had my DSLR in Las Vegas, I hadn’t brought it to these shops. Bring yours if you’ve got one!
We also hit up the beloved Mandarin Bar, atop (of course) the Mandarin Oriental. I love time lapse videos, and while this one doesn’t capture the hustle of Las Vegas very well, it does show all the lights.
Obviously I got champagne from the Mandarin’s infamous vending machine after we left the bar. (Probably a mistake in hindsight, as we got two drinks at the bar in Bardot before
splitting a bottle of wine eating dinner.)
I got the Midnight in Paris (twice) because it has one of my newest fave ingredients: Giffard Pamplemousse. Check it out if you haven’t yet! This was followed by Steak Tartare and a rare steak (what can I say) which I was too hungry to photograph.
I’d always held off on going to Eggslut in Vegas (also at the Cosmo — I seriously love it there) because I’d lived in LA for years, which is where Eggslut began. I finally relented after I had hours to kill alone after Mary left for home on Tuesday morning. I forgot how amazing their food really is. Limited menus are the way. to. go. Do a couple things REALLY WELL instead of doing a lot of things (end of sentence). I added bacon to the Fairfax. Unbelievable.
The crazy-cheap travel prices in Las Vegas during the off-season are there to incentivize you to make all these purchases. It did for me (I even paid for my flight in Southwest miles because I thought it’d be fun to say the whole weekend was free — ha) and all I can say is I hope my husband isn’t reading this because we spent p-l-e-n-t-y on the food experience. So worth it. I’d probably never done Vegas without a pool party in there (thanks to Mary’s cousin who is a promoter — did I mention how awesome she is?) but the food and booze was so enough to justify an amazing weekend away from home. And for me, it’s just over an hour flight. Please, take advantage of the cheap flights and better-than-cheap hotels. Go to Vegas — or whatever equivalent party city you’ve got — and experience it in the off-peak. It’ll make next time even sweeter.