BY MELINDA SHECKELLS | HollywoodReporter.Com
Troy Warren for CNT #Lifestyle
While other cities limit end-of-year festivities, the Strip is partying like it’s 2019, with major headliners and opulent resort and restaurant debuts.
New York and L.A. may be putting a damper on New Year’s Eve revelry in light of the Omicron surge, but it seems as if nothing will dim the lights of the Las Vegas Strip on Dec. 31. It might be the only place on Earth where, for 24 hours, depending on your tolerance for risk, you can forget the realities of COVID-19, supply chain shortages and the labor crisis and live like it’s the good old days all over again. The only difference between now and the before times is that the festivities will be masked — whether the face covering be leather, sequin or feather — by order of Clark County.
Pre-pandemic, an estimated 300,000 people flocked to Las Vegas for New Year’s Eve, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau. This year, it is anyone’s guess as to how many will show up. But no matter the number, the city is buzzing with new residencies, palatial suites, celeb-backed cigar bars, power-broker steakhouses and even a whole new way to fly. Here’s how to say goodbye to ’21 — Vegas style.
Private jets shuttling between Los Angeles and Las Vegas have long formed a celebrity superhighway in the sky. Now, a semi-private luxury jet service called Aero is opening this style of travel to mere mortals. Aero was created by Uber co-founder Garrett Camp to fill the gap between charters and business-class, flying between L.A. and exclusive destinations such as Aspen, Colorado; Sun Valley, Idaho; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; and, most recently, Salt Lake City in conjunction with the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
Leaving every Thursday, Friday and Sunday from Van Nuys Private Terminal to Atlantic Aviation in Las Vegas, flights start at $950 each way for a hand-stitched seat on Aero’s custom-designed, 16-seat ERJ-135LR jet.
“People are looking for alternatives to premium travel because, one, they value their time more; two, they obviously want the safety and security of avoiding crowds,” says Zain Richardson, Aero chief marketing and customer officer and former CMO of Aman Hotels & Resorts. “But also the way people live has changed [due to the pandemic].”
The perks of jet-setting apply here from wheels up to wheels down, including no lines or crowds, private lounge, concierge service, curated cocktails and snacks, and, of course, a driver to meet travelers as soon as the airstair touches the red carpet.
Where to Stay
At the epicenter of the action is the new Resorts World Las Vegas, the first ground-up casino resort to open on the Strip in more than a decade. With three Hilton brands involved — Hilton, Conrad and Crockfords — there is a range of luxuries available. The perfectly appointed Conrad one-bedroom out-classes others in the category up and down the boulevard. It features floor-to-ceiling windows and Strip views, an open living area with sofa bed for party crashers, wet bar and dining table for entertaining, a spa-inspired bathroom with freestanding bathtub, rain shower and walk-in closet with vanity, so there’s no competition for the mirror.
This being Vegas, the most luxurious accommodations are reserved for casino guests and celebrities. Resorts World recently unveiled its Palace suites at Crockfords with three to four bedrooms at around 7,000 square feet each, as well as a private pool, a manicured garden, and media and game rooms. (They start at $15,000 per night.) A two-night stay in the 6,500-square-foot Chairman’s Villa — the resort’s only room with a balcony and a view from the 65th floor — includes a private chartered flight, Rolls-Royce access and other bonuses like your own chef and photographer, at a cost of $300,000.
For a stay outside of a casino, high rollers can opt for a top-shelf package that hits both the Strip and Cabo in one weekend. The Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas + Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal $200,000 New Year’s Eve Package offers a presidential suite at the LV Waldorf, transportation in an Aston Martin, a Louis XIII tasting, a helicopter ride over the Strip and a countdown celebration with up to 20 friends, among other activities. Afterward, a private jet flies guests to Mexico to recover with a floating breakfast, tequila and oyster tasting, and seaside spa treatments.
Where to Dine
Carversteak at Resorts World, the first venture from Carver Road Hospitality, helmed by former Wynn and MGM Resorts executive Sean Christie, hosts a VIP party Dec. 29 and opens its doors to the public Dec. 30. It features what could be one of the city’s most expensive cocktails at $40,000. The B Signal cocktail is a dialed-up version of Carver’s house Old Fashioned, typically made with Clase Azul Reposado and Amaro Montenegro. The five-figure iteration of the drink is prepared with Clase Azul Ultra and includes the bottle of tequila and decanter and a Rolex GMT Master II “Batman” two-tone watch.
Carversteak hopes to stand out among a plenitude of superlative steakhouses in Las Vegas. Chef Daniel Ontiveros serves dry-aged American slabs, Wagyu cuts and a 42-ounce Tomahawk rib chop with the Carversteak logo etched onto the bone, alongside old-school classics like Lobster en croûte and new-school classics like Hamachi Crudo. A standout experience here is The Knife Room, curated by the Portland Knife House, which showcases knives from Japan and the United States, including champagne sabers, a tuna sword from Yu Kurosaki and other rare blades. The restaurant’s knives were also sourced by Portland Knife House, and a selection will be presented to diners at the table.
Across the street, inside Encore at Wynn, newcomer Casa Playa from chef Sarah Thompson toasts the new year with tequila cocktails, flights of hyper-rare mezcal, and a $195 three-course prix fixe menu of dishes inspired by the coastal cuisine of Mexico, including Hokkaido scallop and cucumber aguachile, and beef barbacoa para la mesa. Designed by Todd-Avery Lenahan, the creative mind behind the interiors at the new Delilah Las Vegas and Overlook Lounge at Wynn, Casa Playa is an ideal spot to take your final selfie of 2021, drenched in dangling marigolds.
A new addition to The Venetian Resort dining collection, the local outpost of New York’s Greek seafood temple Estiatorio Milos invites diners to bid 2021 adieu with a holiday cocktail made from pomegranate, lemon, rosemary syrup and egg white. A few dollops of Royal Belgian Ossetra Caviar make it a real celebration. Next, guests can indulge in fresh fish flown in from the Mediterranean, pick out fruits and veggies in the “market,” peruse the raw bar, watch the straining process in the yogurt room or sample the well-curated list of Greek wines.
This fall, celebrity chef Todd English rebooted his legendary Olives — formerly of Bellagio — at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. On New Year’s Eve, the prix fixe menu ($100 per person from 5 to 8 p.m. and $150 per person from 8:30 p.m. to late) pays homage to the dishes that made him famous, from beef carpaccio and fig and prosciutto flatbread to cast-iron scallops and veal parmesan. English plans to bring Olives to Los Angeles as well.
Who to See
After a hiatus in 2020, fireworks will launch from the rooftops of eight Strip casinos, extending from MGM Grand to The STRAT Hotel, at midnight Dec. 31.
At Resorts World, another type of “Firework” goes off in the theater as Katy Perry debuts her “Play” residency Dec. 29. Front-row VIP packages — which are now sold out — went for up to $3,720. Tickets start at $79.
Usher returns to The Colosseum at Caesars Palace to close out the first chapter of his residency, which opened in July. New Year’s Eve veteran Bruno Mars sprinkles “24K Magic” all over the crowd at Dolby Live at Park MGM.
Maroon 5, who’ve made Vegas their year-end home for a decade, play The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan on December 30 and 31.
At the new Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, Lizzo counts down to 2022, while Kehlani captivates the crowd at adjacent venue, Money, Baby!
There’s even something for Broadway fans as Kristin Chenoweth sings from her latest album, For the Girls, on the stage of Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
Crossing over from the world of television, America’s Got Talent Live drew back its curtain at Luxor in November. With two performances on New Year’s Eve, the show brings audiences up close to the winners, finalists, runners-up and fan favorites from the hit television show.
“We got offers [to put on the show in Vegas], but they weren’t very exciting,” says Simon Cowell, executive producer and creator of the “Got Talent” franchise. “And then we got a call from MGM Resorts, and they said the Luxor Theater was available,” Cowell adds. “When I first started making these shows, everybody wanted a record contract, and now most of these artists aspire to a residency in Vegas.”
Hosted by comedian Preacher Lawson, whom Cowell calls “one of our favorite contestants,” the show will include performers such as Dustin Tavella, Brandon Leake, Deadly Games, The Clairvoyants, Duo Transcend, The Silhouettes with Jimmie Herrod and Light Balance — many of whom have a cult following.
Cowell says to look out for season 14 winner Kodi Lee. “He has an unbelievable gift,” says Cowell. “He’ll listen to a song, and within two minutes, he will send you back his version. He can’t read music, so it’s all in his head.”
As the proverbial ball drops, trumpeter and singer Brian Newman, bandleader of Dolby Live’s LADY GAGA JAZZ & PIANO residency, sounds the horn on his late-night show Brian Newman: AFTER DARK inside the NoMad Library at NoMad Las Vegas. The breakout superstar, who co-produced Lady Gaga’s version of “La Vie En Rose” for A Star Is Born and was also the bandleader/trumpeter on “Cheek to Cheek” and “Love for Sale,” with Gaga and Tony Bennett, brings New York City jazz club vibes to the Strip. With guest performers that have run the gamut from Ashanti to Robby Krieger of The Doors to Gaga herself, you never know who will show up — maybe even Newman’s wife, burlesque star Angie Pontani, also known as the “Italian Stallionette.”
Where to Party
In Vegas, the entertainment starts in the theaters and ends in the nightclubs. With major acts canvassing the Strip’s mega clubs.
New Year’s Eve weekend at XS in Wynn features a trifecta of A-list talent: Diplo, The Chainsmokers and Marshmello — and if you want a prime dance-floor table, the bill starts at $30,000.
Across the street, DJ Zedd sets the soundtrack for the evening at Zouk Nightclub at Resorts World.
Down the boulevard, Steve Aoki will step back into “real life” after a gig headlining a Christmas party in the Metaverse and closeout 2021 at Omnia Nightclub in Caesars Palace.
Positioned on the corner of Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard, Drai’s Nightclub atop The Cromwell offers a spectacular view of the fireworks. It also features 50 Cent’s King’s Table, which offers an equally spectacular view of Drai’s Live headliner, rapper Rick Ross. There is a $30,000 beverage minimum for the stage-side seat developed in partnership with 50 Cent and Le Chemin du Roi Champagne. 2 Chainz follows Ross at Drai’s on January 1.
And the Afterparty?
For the cigar and spirits lover, the recently opened Eight Cigar Lounge at Resorts World — from celebrity attorney David Chesnoff, entrepreneur Giuseppe Bravo and Clique Hospitality’s Andy Masi — puts a $5,000 price tag on its private rooms on New Year’s Eve. Each accommodates up to 12 people. Inside these rooms are personalized lockers complete with gold nameplates (Michael Jordan and Luke Bryan have theirs), but all are sold out for the upcoming year.
The New Year’s Eve celebration begins at 9 p.m. with a hosted bar until midnight. Tickets for the evening are required, starting at $150 per person. The humidor in the retail shop will remain open to the public. Eight’s cigar list includes more than 150 cigars, priced from $18 to $1,500, by Drew Estate, Arturo Fuente and Ashton. Cocktails and spirits are paired with the tobacco flavor profiles. Clients include Mike Tyson, The Walking Dead’s Michael Cudlitz, Wayne Gretzky, Alex Rodriguez and Phil Ivey.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be Sin City without some “sin.” Las Vegas e-tailer Pepper, a “connection company, delivering solutions to consumers through sexual wellness, education and intimate products,” founded in 2020 by Sarah and Lincoln Spoor, set up its first brick-and-mortar location in Resorts World. The Pepper store is a 6,000-square-foot boutique focused on intimate products ranging from home decor and lingerie to pajamas and adult toys and the first of its kind in a casino. There’s a “Touch Bar,” where you can get a feel for the products, as well as tutorials. More discreet guests can hit the Foreplay Corridor, which leads to a hidden VIP room for an exclusive shopping experience and aphrodisiacal amuse-bouches like strawberries and Champagne, figs, chocolate, honey and almonds.
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