By Alexandra Cohen
When in search of a summer holiday destination this year, I could not think of a better choice than Las Vegas (https://www.visitlasvegas.com), where visitors are offered the perfect combination of relaxation and fun. I have visited Las Vegas before in the winter, but have never visited in the summer, I had not yet had the privilege of experiencing the amazing resort swimming pools that this spot has to offer.
Vegas truly is the epitome of an epic tourist destination, with more than 42 million visitors and nearly 24 thousand conventions annually. Las Vegas has everything that a vacationer could possibly ask for: concerts, shows, sports, shopping, dining, nightlife, golf courses, spas, adventure activities, luxury accommodations, and more. It is a place for an adult trip but also a place for the entire family to enjoy themselves.
WHERE TO STAY: For this trip, we spent our eight nights at the Park MGM (https://www.parkmgm.com/en.html), formerly known as the Monte Carlo Hotel.
A partnership between Sydell Group and MGM Resorts International, Park MGM was born from the collaborative vision of the New York-based lifestyle hotelier and one of the world’s preeminent destination resort developers.
The hotel complex comprises two new distinct experiences: Park MGM, and a Las Vegas version of the renowned NoMad, a standalone 293-room hotel encompassing the tower’s top four floors.
Park MGM’s hotel design is inspired by nature, as seen both in the lobby and in the newly renovated casino. Although renovated, the casino still has some touches of the old Monte Carlo casino, including its beautiful chandeliers.
With its excellent central location on the Vegas Strip, Park MGM offers guests direct access to what is quickly becoming the city’s premier entertainment district, featuring the T-Mobile Arena, The Park, and Park Theater, which most recently houses the Las Vegas residencies of both Lady Gaga and Janet Jackson. Merchandise for both concerts can be found on-site at the hotel.
The Park MGM has 2,700 guestrooms and suites, intended to give off a residential feel. There are three distinctive guest suite types: Nighthawk, Nightingale, and Skylark. The Peacock Hospitality Suite features 700 square feet of social and entertainment space with an adjoining guest room.
We stayed in a beautiful King bedroom and could not have been happier with the accommodations. Immediately upon entering the room, we noticed the residential feel, complete with a lovely and comfortable window seat overlooking the swimming pool complex. The fresh bathroom offered a spacious walk-in shower. There are bedside outlets for phones and computers, blackout shades, a laptop-sized electronic in-room safe, a hair dryer, a television with cable and movie service, high-speed Wi-Fi, and both self-check-in and mobile check-out. We would gladly return to this hotel for another stay.
Filled with natural light and punctuated by nature-inspired décor and art, Park MGM’s lobby is a nod to urban gardens and parks, including the adjacent Park neighborhood, bringing the outdoors inside. A dramatic arboreal sculpture by Brazilian woodworker Henrique Oliveira is the focal point of the lobby. The remarkable tree sculpture extends from above with its roots stretching across the ceiling. Throughout the lobby, guests are invited to explore intriguing works by the likes of David Hockney, Shahram Karimi and Shoja Azari, and many others.
Park MGM’s rooms evoke the essence of a private apartment with a mix of thoughtful touches, antique-inspired pieces, “found” objects and original artwork by artists and photographers from around the world commissioned for each room by France’s be-pôles studio.
Moneyline brings a new twist to the Las Vegas sports book with intertwining spaces that playfully transport guests to their favorite neighborhood hangouts. Among the duckpin bowling lanes and billiards games, Moneyline features a menu conceptualized by Hogsalt Hospitality with griddled cheeseburgers as well as self-service, weigh-and-pay food selections for guests wanting to personalize their game day feast.
Park MGM’s remodeled casino floor reflects the resort’s outdoor inspiration. In keeping with Sydell Group’s vision for maintaining key elements of the former space, the casino’s design contains subtle nods to its Monte Carlo roots, including the refined sparkling chandeliers, intricate crown molding and stained-glass ceiling, all of which have been refurbished to their original beauty.
With its unrivaled central location, Park MGM offers guests direct access to what is quickly becoming the city’s premier entertainment district, featuring T-Mobile Arena, The Park and Park Theater.
Park MGM gladly offers dog-friendly rooms as well, complete with doggie Butler services.
POOL EXPERIENCE: The pools at Park MGM offer a highly relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of the Vegas Strip. There are three pools—the South, East, and North Pools—as well as 12 cabanas, lounge areas, multiple bars, and a spa. Poolside food and beverages can be delivered directly to your seat as you take in the sun.
A nice feature of all three pools is the Baja shelf seating with submerged wet decks, which allows visitors to sunbathe while still managing to stay cool. The East Pool is converted into a 21-plus experience on weekends. Those seeking an elevated experience can reserve cushioned chaises or daybeds by the pool.
Three bars offer refreshing poolside cocktails, with Vista Bar serving as the main pool bar, featuring a tropics-inspired beverage program and dedicated seating with a view overlooking the pool. Light bites include dishes ranging from a Watermelon & Arugula Salad to Fajita Chicken Nachos.
Twelve private cabanas serve up the
DINING OUT AT THE PARK MGM: The Park MGM boasts a wide selection of restaurants for any Las Vegas palette.
The dining highlight of Park MGM is without a doubt Eataly Las Vegas (https://www.eataly.com/us_en/stores/las-vegas), a 40,000-square-foot culinary destination found at Park MGM’s main entrance. Eataly is a vibrant space that transports you to the streets of Italy, featuring unique food counters, bars, and cafes, all helmed by Executive Chef Nicole Brisson.
A fascinating aspect of the Eataly experience is referred to as Cucina del Mercato, which translates to “Kitchen of the Market.” Meet, fish, cheese, as well as other delicacies, can be purchased as is and cooked at home, or can be cooked in front of your eyes at each individual restaurant. Six different fresh counters are available for visitors.
La Macelleria (Butcher & Kitchen) allows guests to choose any cut of sustainably sourced meat from the case and watch the chefs prepare it right before their eyes. Alternatively, they may bring it home to coo themselves. A small selection of Italian wines and beers are available to pair with each cut.
La Salumeria: Cheesemonger & Kitchen, guests can enjoy a selection of meat and cheese boards curated by Eataly’s cheesemongers, or create their own from a variety of options. La Pizzeria: Roman Handcrafted Pizza alla Pala, allows guests to pick up pizza alla pala, a Roman street. This type of pizza is stretched out on a wooden paddle and then topped with seasonal ingredients. La Pescheria: Fishmonger & Kitchen, features a seasonal selection of fish. The venue also provides guests with the option to select daily catches and watch chefs cook the specialty item just steps away in an open kitchen. La Pescheria carries a daily selection of seasonal oysters, as well as pesce crudo – Italian ceviche – served with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt.
Italian Street Food is also a staple found at Eataly in the form of a countertop, which includes Il Fritto, La Rosticceria, and a Mozzarella Bar. All three serve up typical street food specialties from Italy. Il Fritto offers lightly fried bites, including arancini and fried seafood; La Rosticceria, serves rotisserie roast chickens, seasonal vegetables, and paninis; Mozzarella Bar speaks for itself. La Pasta Fresca: Market & Kitchen is a fresh pasta counter. Here guests can watch the pasta-makers knead, roll, and cut the pasta daily. Each pasta type is inspired by the traditions of a different Italian region and is paired with traditional sauces made from fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Eataly Las Vegas also features a robust bar program, including Italian cocktails and spirits as well as a selection of Italian wines in the US. One of these bars, Gran Caffè Milano, also features a replica of a famous bull mosaic from Milan on the ground. Casino-goers: this symbol is known to bring good luck to those who place one foot on the mosaic and spin counter-clockwise three times. Give it a try!
Guests also can enjoy two classic restaurants from Eataly in Las Vegas: Manzo and La Pizza e La Pasta. We visited La Pizza e La Pasta personally and enjoyed a delicious burrata cheese plate, followed by a traditional Napoletana-style pizza.
Finally, take-out options are possible from Pizza Alla Pala By the Slice and La Pasticceria (pastry shop). Enjoy a traditional Italian coffee from Caffé Lavazza or sample dessert options from Il Gelato, I Cannoli, Nutella Bar, or Il Cioccolato Venchi.
Before leaving, take a look at the Eataly Las Vegas marketplace and gift shop, where in addition to giftable items, visitors can also take home pasta, grains, sauces, and other items imported from Italy. This experience is completely wheelchair accessible.
Other Eataly locations can be seen in New York City (Downtown and Flatiron), Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston, which locations in Toronto and Dallas opening soon.
BRUNCH AT PRIMROSE: On our first day in Las Vegas, we had the pleasure of enjoying a delicious brunch at Primrose, found in the lobby of the Park MGM, with the option of outdoor seating with a view of the hotel’s pool complex. (https://www.mgmresorts.com/en/restaurants/park-mgm/primrose.html).
The talented culinary team uses fresh seafood and vegetables to highlight menu items. With a distinctively residential feel, the restaurant includes a series of cushioned seats, each with different patterns.
While Primrose offers dinner selections as well, as were quite impressed with their brunch offerings, including classics like three eggs any style but also featuring an eggs benedict topped with blue crab. Those interested in a boozy brunch can add on an all-you-can-drink option of mimosas ($29) or rosé ($35).
Primrose was undoubtedly the perfect way to begin our day before relaxing at the pool next door. Access to and seating at standard tables are suited for wheelchairs.
DINNER AT BEST FRIEND: Los Angeles culinary legend Roy Choi debuted his Koreatown-inspired restaurant, Best Friend (https://parkmgm.mgmresorts.com/en/restaurants/best-friend.html), at the Park MGM. Having now experienced it myself, I can say that Best Friend is more than simply a tasty meal—it is a dining experience!
Entering Best Friend, you would not think it to be anything special. In fact, it appears more like a convenience store with a small bar at the back than a true restaurant. However, behind the vinyl red curtains near the cash lies the true restaurant, hidden from the prying eyes of those in the nearby hotel-casino.
The drink menu includes offerings of wine and sake, as well as both classic cocktails and 80s-inspired drinks, including the Fazzy Navel, which we very much enjoyed at the start of our meal. We also tasted what our waiter described as some of their most popular dishes, including the tasty Kogi shirt-rib tacos, their mixed tempura appetizer, and the garlic jidori chicken BBQ, all of which were delicious. The menu, however, is diverse enough to satisfy any culinary preferences.
SAKE ROK: One of the restaurants we really wanted to try on this trip was Sake Rok (https://sakeroklv.com), located at The Park complex directly across the street from Park MGM. Sake Rok combines Japan’s vibrant pop culture and fashion scene with over-the-top theatrics. A host calls out to people as they eat, joking around, encouraging them to down their sake bombs, and occasionally belting out a tune.
The menu boasts a variety of playful Japanese favorites: we started off with some edamame before trying an appetizer order of beef satay, the volcano sushi roll, and an order of the miso-glazed sea bass. For dessert, we tasted a unique dessert entitled “honey toast”. Other newer menu items include pork belly, shrimp risotto, and the ronin roll, which is a fried sushi roll.
Sake Rok now offers sushi rolling classes led by Executive Chef Sung Park, with packages starting at $150 per person or $250 per couple on Saturdays at 12 PM and 2 PM. Those enrolled in the class will be able to take home what they make For more information, or to see the full menu, visit the website at www.sakeroklv.com or call 702-706-3022.
SADELLE’S AT THE BELLAGIO: Inspired by the beautiful villages of Europe, the AAA Five Diamond Bellagio Resort & Casino overlooks a large lake, in which the iconic fountain shows take place daily and nightly at regular intervals.
The Bellagio recently welcomed Sadelle’s (https://bellagio.mgmresorts.com/en/restaurants/sadelles.html), SoHo’s popular vintage-style restaurant, to the resort’s list of dining experiences. The location overlooks the Bellagio Conservatory, which features an ever-changing set of artistic displays.
“We are taking everything great about Sadelle’s in New York and taking it to the next level in Las Vegas,” said Major Food Group Managing Partner Jeff Zalaznick. “The incredible space, overlooking the Bellagio Conservatory, along with an elevated menu focused on quintessential classics, allow us to create a one-of-a-kind culinary experience from early morning through late night”.
Throughout the day and night, impressive presentations of hand-rolled bagels, lox towers, chopped salads, sandwiches and other favorites can be ordered.
Mainstays from the original New York City location – such as the Spicy Fried Chicken with acacia honey and coleslaw – join new signature supper offerings created by the culinary team, including the Grilled Branzino with Meyer lemon and sesame spinach and a New York-style Ribeye with smothered onions. We very much enjoyed the tomato cream soup appetizer, as well as the tuna tartare, followed by the generously sized and flavorful garlic chicken.
The Sadelle’s dining space also includes an elevated bar and lounge, with spacious cocktail tables to accommodate guests seeking appetizers, bar snacks, or drinks.
The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner Monday through Sunday from 6 a.m. to midnight. To make reservations for 10 or more, call Sadelle’s directly at (702) 693-8401.
TAO: Having previously experienced the restaurant TAO in New York City, we were thrilled to get a reservation at their 40,000-square-foot restaurant, located at the Venetian-Resort-Hotel Casino (www.taolasvegas.com). TAO opened in New York City in 2000 and has retained its status as a hot spot, attracting celebrities and sports figures alike. TAO Las Vegas, which debuted in 2005, is a multi-faceted and multi-story “Asian City”, which houses a restaurant, banquet facilities, a lounge, a nightclub and a seasonal beach.
An extensive collection of Buddha statues watch over every corner of TAO, including a unique reclining Buddha, and TAO’s signature 20-foot Buddha that “floats” peacefully above an infinity pool complete with Japanese koi fish.
Corporate Executive Chef Ralph Scamardella has developed a menu for the 400-seat restaurant, which incorporates culinary components from China, Japan and Thailand. During our visit, we tasted several appetizer offerings, including the spicy tuna tartare on crispy rice, the king crab California sushi roll, and the lobster and shrimp spring roll paired with spicy pineapple sauce. Next, we had one of their signature dishes (and our personal favorite!), the Chilean sea bass satay with wok-roasted asparagus and a miso glaze. TAO also offers an extensive menu of delicious specialty cocktails, including the TAO-tini, Lychee Martini, as well as sake flights specifically designed to complement TAO’s menu. For dessert, try their elaborate and large fortune cookie, which includes decadent milk chocolate and white chocolate mousse.
For those craving a high-energy, DJ-driven atmosphere, visit the 12,000 square-foot TAO Nightclub, which includes three full-service bars, two main rooms playing a variety of music genres, and state-of-the-art audio and lighting systems. For guests seeking ultra-VIP treatment, the nightclub offers eight private skyboxes. The nightclub also boasts a 40-foot outside terrace with awe-inspiring views of the famed Las Vegas Strip.
When the weather heats up, TAO Beach offers the hottest daytime experience in Las Vegas. Guests can secure a reservation to lounge poolside in one of twelve luxury cabanas that feature amenities such as air-conditioning, HD plasma screen televisions with gaming consoles, WiFi, and customized mini-bars.
Celebrity sightings are a constant at TAO and surprise performances are not uncommon. Notable names spotted at TAO over the years have included Madonna, Janet Jackson, Jay Z, Beyonce, Usher, Rihanna, Drake, and more.
TAO is located on the Grand Canal Shoppes level of Venetian at 3377 Las Vegas Boulevard South. It is fully wheelchair accessible. In addition, TAO conveniently offers guests an exclusive valet located directly in front of The Venetian. For more information or reservations, please call (702) 388-8588.
EXPLORING THE POOLS: During our trip, we took the time to explore some of the other MGM properties in Las Vegas by spending some time at their pools.
The Aria Resort and Casino (https://aria.mgmresorts.com/en.html) opened in December 2009. This is a stunning AAA Five Diamond resort on The Strip featuring spectacular amenities, high-end service, premium meeting
As for their pool complex, it features the only ellipse-shaped pools in Las Vegas. For added privacy and amenities, guests can reserve one of a fleet of cabanas where Wi-Fi, shaded dining tables, and food and drink service are available. Visitors can also order poolside beverages and meals via the Breeze Café and Pool Bar, which features a wide menu of dishes and drinks. It was truly a beautiful and relaxing way to spend the day.
The other MGM pool that we had the pleasure of experiencing during our trip was the Mandalay Beach (https://mandalaybay.mgmresorts.com/en/amenities/beach.html), and we were truly blown away by what this property had to offer. The Mandalay Beach features an 11-acre tropical water environment, featuring more than 2,700 tons of sand, a signature 1.6-million-gallon wave pool, a lazy river, four swimming pools, a jogging track, as well as private gazeboes, cabanas and beach bungalows. The open-air Beach Bar & Grill serves up American cuisine, such as sandwiches, wraps, adult beverages, and other beach favorites. Over the summer, you can also take in a concert series held on its outdoor stages, which overlooks the wave pool. Past acts have included One Republic, REO Speedwagon, The Beach Boys, Sugarland, and more.
Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino is set on 120 lush acres featuring the Beach, The Mandalay Bay Events Center, award-winning restaurants, exhilarating entertainment, unique shopping, Shark Reef Aquarium and the recently expanded 2-million-square-foot Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The resort offers three distinct hotel experiences: Mandalay Bay with 3,211 luxurious rooms and suites reflecting a modern tropical ambiance; Four Seasons Hotel, a AAA Five Diamond hotel offering 424 rooms and suites; and the luxury all-suite Delano Las Vegas.