Luxor Refined

When the Luxor first opened in 1993, it stood for everything showy and audacious about Las Vegas. Taking hyper-theming to the next level with its pyramid shape, Nile River ride and unapologetic kitsch, the property set the stage for how most casino resorts were designed in the 1990s.

Luxor suite

A suite at Luxor is comfortable and understated

It’s 18 years later, which in Vegas years might as well be as old as the original pyramid at Giza on which this mammoth complex was based. In Sin City, that means it’s time for a change, and in the case of this mega-resort, the changes taking place are downright transformational.

Las Vegas design culture has pushed aside creating heavily themed resorts in favor of a more modern stylistic approach. The elements that made these types of properties so attractive in the first place become old and stale after a while, making them less competitive. Brash and showy is out. Subtle and refined is in. It’s a dramatic sea change happening up and down the Strip from the reinvention of Mirage (the city’s first mega-resort) to next-generation properties, such as CityCenter.

Now it’s Luxor’s turn to become new again, and MGM-MIRAGE Corporation has pumped in about $300 million to remove many of the vestiges of its original look and feel in favor of a more trendy and upscale design.

That money was very well spent. The new Luxor is a masterful interpretation of what a modern casino resort should be all about. Decidedly upscale, the resort has shunned dreary and drab in favor of seductive and sleek. We absolutely loved what the project masterminds have accomplished, turning this resort into a place attractive to Vegas fans and newbies alike.

What works so well are the variety of experiences taking place on and around the casino floor. Though decidedly different, the entertainment, nightlife and dining venues all share a cohesive theme. They’re upscale but not pretentious, and nearly every one begs a visit, making it easy to spend a couple of days here without trekking off to another hotel.

liquidity bar at luxor

Liquidity's water theme is reflected in its blue decor

For example, take Liquidity, a bar in the center of the casino floor. It’s an element that’s visible from all areas of the casino, thereby setting the mood for the entire place. Playing upon a water theme, the center bar here features three separate lounge areas with a variety of water effects as an integral design element. A projection system puts the images directly on the water. It’s a great place to sit and watch the casino action while enjoying some cocktails. The bar also offers bottle service at prices considerably lower than in the mega-clubs. That means larger groups will probably save some money by enjoying a bottle for around $200 rather than spend $13 or more per individual cocktail. Other lounges include the Northern Lights-inspired Aurora, and the relaxed Flight, which offers—you guessed it—flights of your favorite spirits, as well as tabletop gambling.

Just off the casino floor is the delightfully sexy CatHouse from Chef Kerry Simon. Featuring both a dining room (open nightly) and lounge (open Wednesday and Friday-Monday), the sultry low-lit atmosphere takes its cue from what we’d imagine a 19th-century bordello or burlesque house was like. In fact, that burlesque element is a major theme of CatHouse. Lingerie models perform choreographed routines throughout the night in the lounge while the restaurant features a voyeuristic peek into a ladies’ boudoir.

CatHouse las vegas

CatHouse is a burlesque-themed nightclub where guests can watch a show and dine

And the food is excellent, too. Simon has taken the notion of comfort food to new heights with tasty spins on classic items. Diver scallops with cauliflower risotto, truffle macaroni and cheese (both of which melt in your mouth) braised short ribs and more make this restaurant a “must” experience. Even such traditional items as rice balls are injected with a new vibrancy. Call 702-262-4228 for information and reservations.

T&T (short for “tacos and tequila”) is just as delicious as CatHouse, but somewhat more casual spot to eat. This is a great place to enjoy a tequila pairing with tacos, tostados, quesadillas and more. One of the T’s should stand for “taste,” because the owners have gone to great lengths to ensure they get only the freshest ingredients. Suggest your clients ask for the Tequila Temptress to share some of her favorite versions of this agave-derived spirit with her tableside presentation. Tequila flights will give tasters a chance to experience multiple variations. For reservations or information call 702-262-5225.

Other dining options include Tender (a steakhouse) and Company American Bistro, which features small plates crafted from western techniques and Asian ingredients. There is also Burger Bar, the Asian-inspired Fusia and other casual eateries.

When the midnight hour calls, LAX Nightclub Las Vegas is a star-studded mega-club opened Wednesday-Sunday. It’s even owned by celebrities such as Christina Aguilera and DJ AM, who regularly stops by to spin. Nearly every week, celebrity tabloids are filled with sightings of Hollywood’s hottest stars at this club. LAX’s VIP section has a private dance floor for celebrities. If combined with grabbing a bite at Company next door, visitors can skip the long lines and get right in. For more information on LAX, call the VIP services line at 702-280-3600.

Also suggest a reservation at Noir Bar for a visit either before or after LAX. The consummate VIP experience, this venue is a modern-day speakeasy hidden below the entryway of LAX. It’s ultra-private and reservations are a must. The entrance isn’t even in the main casino, but outside the building. When granted access, you’re escorted through the back of what used to be an actual guest room and down a long corridor to gain access to the intimate confines where cocktails can be created based on individual preferences. That means the crack bartending staff must invent new drinks on the spot. For more information, call 702-262-5257.

Cirque du Soleil has another new production, this time partnering with MindFreak TV star and illusionist Criss Angel, who has signed a 10-year deal for this unusual hybrid of Cirque du Soleil aesthetic and magic. CRISS ANGEL Believe runs a brisk 90 minutes and features dance, puppetry and music to support Angel’s work. Renowned prop comic Carrot Top plays six nights a week, and for those looking for something a bit steamier, Fantasy is a topless dance revue. Tickets for all shows can be reserved at 800-557-7428.

Up next for Luxor is a top-to-bottom room renovation, expected to start sometime in 2009; however, an exact date has yet to be set.

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