Where to stay: The Park MGM is the newest hotel and casino to open on the Strip. Once a Vegas icon, the former Monte Carlo has been reimagined as a 3,000-room urban oasis inspired by city parks. Step into the lobby where a massive, upside-down tree sculpture graces the center of the expansive space, its roots expanding across the ceiling. Rooms feel more like apartments than hotel rooms, with velvet sofas, large wood tables and what looks like kitschy family photos on the walls (the latter comes across as charming and artsy in person). Unlike other Vegas hotels, the top four floors of the Park MGM are home to the NoMad, the European-inspired hotel-within-a-hotel concept found in Los Angeles and New York.
Best dining bets: After your first long night (this is Vegas, after all), refuel with the over-the-top brunch at Osteria in the Mirage hotel, where homemade pastas, lemon-blueberry pancakes and fluffy waffles inspired by the famous bananas foster dessert are not to be missed (in other words, come hungry). For delicious California cuisine with a side of Vegas-style entertainment, visit Wolfgang Puck’s modernized version of Spago inside the Bellagio hotel. Ask for a table outside for the best views of the Bellagio’s iconic dancing fountains as you feast on grilled Turbot fish with charred baby leeks and those famous Golden State wines.
Back at the new Park MGM, begin another perfect evening at the Juniper Cocktail Lounge, where the bartender will hand you a whimsical origami-inspired game designed to help you choose the perfect cocktail. Whatever you settle on, all syrups and juices are made in house, giving each cocktail a fresh, smooth, and delicious finish. Slip into Bavette’s Steakhouse & Bar next door and take in the Chicago-style speakeasy atmosphere (read: dark and sexy) as well as an indulgent menu that stars a dry-aged ribeye you’re not likely to forget anytime soon. In fact, if you’re a meat lover, don’t miss the tender Wagyu beef at China Tang inside the MGM Grand, where the elegant dining room is designed in a colorful palette meant to exhibit the sophistication of the famed Tang Dynasty, considered China’s golden age of cosmopolitan culture and cuisine.
There’s no shortage of superstars taking the stage in early 2019. From Grammy winners Lady Gaga and Britney Spears launching exclusive residencies to Cher’s extended engagement (thanks to overwhelming popular demand), the new Park Theatre inside the Park MGM is at the top of the 2019 hit list. More must-see shows include the quirky, hilarious, and risqué Opium, the newest show to debut at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. From raunchy comedy to jaw-dropping circus-style acts, it’s hard to describe this highly entertaining, space-inspired show, but one thing’s for sure: You’ll be talking about at dinner parties for some time to come.
Off the beaten path: While the Strip continues to expand with both venues and the foot traffic to match, downtown Las Vegas has quietly been experiencing a renaissance of its own in recent years. Walk down historic Fremont Street—the original Las Vegas Strip—for a peek at nostalgic storefronts and hotels, including the renowned Golden Nugget, once the stomping grounds of Old Hollywood’s famous Rat Pack. Take in the kitschy neon signs that adorn the buildings, including Vegas Vic, the famous waving cowboy presiding over the pedestrian-only promenade known as the Freemont Street Experience. Street musicians and dance troupes spontaneously set up shop on corners throughout this four-block stretch of Old Vegas, drawing crowds happy to fill tip jars in exchange for the free-flowing entertainment. (Also free: Viva Vision light shows held nightly around 10 p.m.) Adrenaline junkies can fly across the sky on SlotZilla, a 12-story slot machine-inspired zip line.
Just a few blocks down Freemont Street, a 55-foot praying mantis sculpture atop a dump truck (originally created for Burning Man, an annual art festival held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert) guards the entrance to the Downtown Container Park, an open-air marketplace that has become the city’s newest hipster hot spot. A mix of shipping containers and multifunctional modular cubes housing wine bars, restaurants, art galleries, and quirky shops form a perimeter around an interactive playground, one of few downtown Vegas spots that truly feel family-friendly. A main stage is the hub for free concerts and movies.
About 10 miles south of the Strip, check out Seven Magic Mountains, Vegas’ version of Stonehenge. Seven colorful towering sculptures made of locally sourced limestone boulders sitting pretty in the middle of the desert are practically begging to be posted on your Instagram feed.