Government bailouts of financial firms in the last year have predictably curbed lavish meetings and conventions at luxury hotels and resorts. That’s especially so in Las Vegas, thanks to its infamous reputation, its lion’s share of the meetings market and, sad to say, over the last year, its own sufferance of double-digit declines in sales.
Courtyard and fountain at the Italian-themed Montelago Village, Lake Las Vegas resort
To compensate, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors’ Authority (LVCVA) has been promoting non-gaming, off-Strip properties and attractions around town. Agents can fashion itineraries of these places and activities to dovetail with the grand meeting facilities of Las Vegas’ leading resort hotels—though perhaps not, in this case, of the on-Strip, glittery kind.
The more notable off-Strip venues include the adventure- and recreation-oriented Red Rock Hotel, Resort & Casino, a member of the Station Casinos family, nestled against scenic Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, as well as Loews Hotel, Lake Las Vegas; the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Las Vegas; and the Montelago Resort & Casino, Lake Las Vegas.
Red Rock has a slew of packages. Lately, according to spokeswoman Lori Nelson, its “My Vacation Resort Retreat” has found special favor. It is good through 2009, with features as follows: $199 includes two nights’ lodging, $10 off bingo (with $25 buy-in), five times rewards points and two of the following benefits: $30 food/beverage gift card, $20 gas card, four movie tickets or eight games of bowling. For more information, visit www.redrocklasvegas.com or call 866-767-7773.
For dining, minutes from Red Rock are both the Vintner Grill (ever popular with the battery of celebrities that pass through town) and Agave restaurants (think super-serious tequila tasting and upscale Mexican fare).
Both eateries are supervised by culinary wunderkind Chef Matthew Silverman, who has turned his attention from designer chocolate flights to matching wines with cheeses, devising some exquisite pairings. He leaves the restaurants’ “local and vocal” followers agog with exotic cheese wheels found nowhere else in town.
Somewhat closer in is Capo’s, an Italian, gangland-themed bistro quite popular with both the city’s Old Guard and young nightlifers. On the remote South Strip, at Town Square Las Vegas mall, Eleven Spa rocks as an off-Strip spa experience that models itself as an old campy Hollywood salon—complete with rounds of champagne, hors d’oeuvres and classic film projections on the walls.
All around Vegas, one can take Pink Jeep Tours to Red Rock Canyon or Mt. Charleston (rising approximately 11,000 feet as part of the rim of the Las Vegas Valley), as well as other, more offbeat wonders and historic sites. One of these is Eldorado Canyon, about 40 minutes southeast, with its spooky, historic Tehattichup gold mine and general store.
Pink Jeep packages to Red Rock, Mt. Charleston or Eldorado Canyon run about four hours, with hotel pickups at 7:45 a.m. or 12:45 p.m. (nowadays the “Jeeps” are Dodge Rams modified for off-road comfort). Guides are expert in desert mountain flora and fauna. The trips cost about $95 and are commissionable from 12 to 20 percent. For more information contact www.pinkjeep.com or call 888-900-4480.
Clients can also zipline their way to desert fun with Bootleg Canyon Flightlines’ three-hour tour experiences. Bootleg Canyon lies in the environs of outlying, non-gaming Boulder City, about 40 miles southeast of the Strip, near Lake Mead. The trip includes guides, bottled water and the ride of your life (wind velocity permitting). Rates start at $149 per person. For more information, visit the website or call 702-293-6885.
Viva Lake Las Vegas!
Lake Las Vegas truly delivers a guest from the Strip’s glitz and gaudiness. The 3,600-acre waterfront destination features a 320-acre lake and a classic Intrawest high-end themed pedestrian shopping and dining attraction, Montelago Village, at its core. Intrawest’s own Montelago Village Resort and Casino is one anchor.
The destination is equally anchored by two luxury-chain, close-knit, non-gaming hotels—the Moroccan-themed Loews Hotel & Resort, with its white-sand beach on the lake, and its paddleboats and cabanas; and Loews’ regal next-door neighbor, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Resort, with its supersized spa and fun nighttime activities such as a gourmet s’mores-roast-cum-stargazing program complete with guide.
The adult pool with a view of Lake Las Vegas at Loews Hotel & Resort
The Loews in particular rates high among agents and guests for its subdued grandeur, as evidenced by the tri-level main lounge just off the lobby that opens to the lakeshore. The Loews’ Arabesque Lounge, Lotus Court and Andalusian Gardens are impressive places to bring business clients and hold events, including weddings.
The Loews has fashioned programs and facilities especially for families, with two major shore-facing pools, a three-story waterslide, Friday-night date movies and Saturday-night “Dive-In” poolside movies in summer. Sandy barbecue pits surround the pool area, where concierges pass even more s’mores kits.
The kids have a sports court for basketball and other pastimes. Loews’ kids program deftly ties a string of supervised activities together for youngsters (as does the Ritz-Carlton’s Ritz Kids program). Adults are hardly forgotten, thanks to their own ample outside basketball and racquetball facility. The bona fide family/adventure skew of both places is a big asset for parents seeking a memorable vacation for everyone.
A striking feature of Loews’ high-end Marssa restaurant: It offers a popular sushi-training class for kids, which has spawned a longer, sushi/sake version for adults and locals with Master Sushi Chef Osamu “Fuji” Fujita. Rick’s Café is the hotel’s anytime grill and watering hole, under the direction of Chef Adam Cho, a seasoning specialist, who, with the help of rare spices, brings incredible tastes to the table and the palate.
Another notable feature is Loews’ penchant for pets—its Loews Loves Pets program includes special doggy and kitty snacks, turndowns and treats, for little more than a $25 cleaning fee. This program, along with many others, makes Lake Las Vegas a true desert oasis with its own lakeside shoreline—“more of a world away, than a mere 40 minutes away, from the Strip,” says Raquel Sanchez, the hotel’s public relations director.
Enjoying Montelago Village itself can be a weather-, event- or even creative vendor-driven experience. Hotter, drier days drive people to its lakeside parks, and the village’s more premeditated, regular events attract visitors, too: art festivals, chili cook-offs, concerts on the water and upscale dining establishments, including the small but superb Bernard’s Bistro.
The efforts of Lake Las Vegas’ operators to promote the three properties as a single destination received a big boost when the destination council finalized its own independent shuttle to McCarran Airport. The shuttle is scheduled to start in July. This would be on top of the existing twice-a-day shuttle to the Strip, and a prospective shuttle to notable Las Vegas shopping spots such as Town Square, the District and the Las Vegas Outlets. Within Lake Las Vegas, there is a regular shuttle from place to place. “The two major hotels here do as much to cooperate with one another as to compete,” Sanchez says, “and so we shuttle.”