“Las Vegas looks the way you’d imagine heaven must look at night.” –Chuck Palahniuk
The Thomas Gals were in action, anti-Sin City style! LA based Kelly traversed the desert for a few days of rest, relation, and good old fashioned fun!
Yes we bookended the visit with an obligatory (and spectacular) sojourn to the Strip, but this trip was about the other side of Vegas, the one that most of our 42 million visitors per year miss out on!
First stop was Red Rock Canyon, this popular picturesque desert park showcases a set of large red rock formations (hence the name): a set of sandstone peaks and walls called the Keystone Thrust. The park consists of a one-way loop road, 13 miles long, which provides vehicle access to many of the features in the area. The devastingly gorgeous walls are up to 3,000 feet high, making them a popular hiking and rock climbing destination. No national resource wallflower, a good amount of people make 15 mile trek from the Strip to experience the park’s desert wonders: the area is visited by more than two million people each year.
As Walter Eliot says, “a desert has its holiness of silence, the crowd its holiness of conversation,” so with that we headed over to the hustle and bustle of local favorite: Downtown Container Park. Home to a giant fire breathing mantis, a kickass barbershop housed in a retired boxcar and caboose, and numerous intimate spots for a cocktail time. Downtown Container Park is an open-air shopping center and entertainment venue featuring 39 shops, restaurants, and bars, located in downtown Las Vegas. The innovative shopping center was built from 43 re-purposed shipping containers and 41 locally manufactured Xtreme cubes.
Downtown Container Park is also home to an interactive play area, which features The Treehouse, a one-of-a-kind, dynamic environment where both children and adults can have fun and be active while exploring their creativity. Special features of The Treehouse include a 33-foot-tall slide, NEOS play system, and oversized foam building blocks; so embrace your inner child!
After perusing the dozen food and drink options we settled on Bin 702, a cosmopolitan charcuterie and cheese joint that specializes in famous mini sandwiches. Bin 702 has been with Container Park since it opened November 2013 and is made of two shipping containers totaling 640 sq. ft. There we grabbed some beers while noshing on Cuban inspired Montaditos, mini sandwiches filled with gourmet meats and cheeses. We went with the house specialty: Flamin’ Hot Cheeto. Kelly was wary, but the dish became an instant favorite! We also splurged on their Lobster Grilled Cheese compromised of lobster salad and smoked Gouda. Both were the perfect complement to a fantastic sunset!
After our liquid courage we sauntered over The Freemont Street Experience to fair Slotzilla. The Fremont Street Experience (FSE) occupies the westernmost five blocks of Fremont Street, including the area known for years as “Glitter Gulch,” and portions of some other adjacent streets. We prayed that “Luck Be a Lady,” as we fared SlotZilla. This attraction at the Fremont Street Experience is a 12-story, slot machine-inspired zip line attraction. SlotZilla offers “flyers” two levels of lines, the lower “Zipline” (77 feet up) and upper “Zoomline” (114 feet up). SlotZilla cost $17 million to construct and features a launch tower with over-sized dice, a martini glass, a pink flamingo, simulated video reels, a giant arm and two 37-foot-tall showgirls. The lower lines travel halfway down the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian mall. The upper lines go the entire length of the mall (1,750 feet). Guests on the upper “Zoomline” travel prone, or “superhero-style.” The wait breed new levels of fear, but the adrenaline rush was worth every moment of nail biting. Exhilaration was never so tangible!
The next day we drove up to Jean to experience the art exhibit Seven Magic Mountains. Renowned Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone’s colorful large-scale, public artwork is a two-year exhibition, featuring seven thirty to thirty-five-foot high dayglow totems comprised of painted, locally-sourced boulders. Visible across the desert landscape along Interstate 15, Seven Magic Mountains offers a “creative critique of the simulacra of destinations like Las Vegas.”
Then it was off to the ultimate relaxation at Spa Mio at The M Resort. Spa Mio is the Forbes Four Star award winning spa at M Resort Spa Casino. The 23,000 square foot, full service spa and salon features 16 luxurious Men’s and Women’s treatment rooms and offers a variety of treatments including massage therapy, facials and body treatments. The spa offers a wet area with two whirlpool hot tubs, a steam room and sauna (that includes LED lightings for a more “rainbow” experience).
Day passes are available for purchase for Vegas Locals wanting a quick getaway and allow access to the spa and M Pool fitness center. As I relaxed under the polychrome of colors in the sauna, I was able to settle into the art of doing nothing. With iced cucumber slices on my eyes and a cucumber lemon spritzer in my hand I sighed an exhale of relaxation.
After our spa time, Kelly and I headed to The Source in Henderson to experience one of Nevada’s newest attractions: recreational marijuana. As Charles Baudelaire said in 1860, “The brain on marijuana will never deviate from its destined disposition, nor be driven to madness. Marijuana is a mirror reflecting man’s deepest thoughts, a magnifying mirror. It’s true, but only ever a mirror.”
The Source is one of Las Vegas and Henderson’s premier retail and medical marijuana dispensaries offering selections in edibles, flowers, and oils. There we purchased one of Evergreen Organix Chocolate Chip Cookies. Established in 2015, Evergreen Organix has grown to be Nevada’s premiere marijuana edibles producer. They are 100% locally owned and family operated. Made from scratch with premium ingredients EGO’s Chocolate Chip Cookies are a classic cookie favorite with a cannabis twist. The perfect one two punch, we indulged in our sweet tooth while opening up our mind just a bit more to the universe!
And after two days of seeking out alternative Vegas we decided to finish the trip with some first-class Strip time. So like modern day Sin City Cinderella’s we Uber-ed over to Hyde at the Bellagio. Hyde’s first Las Vegas location invites guests to take in Sin City with floor-to-ceiling windows and an expansive terrace with a stunning view of the Fountains of Bellagio. There’s nothing like seeing the Pink Panther performed though fountain water ballet front row center stage!
We started our drinks with the Love Unit, a bell pepper juice martini (Absolut Vodka/Absolut Vanilla Vodka/Thai Basil/Fresh Lime, Grapefruit & Hand Extracted Bell Pepper) that was featured in The New Times. This cocktail tasted like an Italian Villa, of an August day wearing a crisp white shirt. It was a naughty wink to sweet and spice. We partnered this with the Burning Mango (Belvedere Mango Passion Vodka/Fresh Lemon and Mango Juices/Peach Bitters/Jalapenos)…. which tasted like something you drank on your desert ranch. Just a hint of smoke that something burned here, maybe peach trees, maybe not.
We paused from imbibing to nosh on Al Cipollo E Speck Pizza (Buffalo Ricotta/Cipolline Onion/Speck), Bruschetta Al Pomodoro with break that tasted like it was soaked in olive oil, and Salumi Charcuterie plate that included the best Salami we’ve ever tasted.
It was then another round of drinks (because why not!) The first was a Watermelon Cucumber Margarita (Avion Silver Tequila/Grand Marnier/Muddled Cucumber & Watermelon/Fresh Lime Juice). The beverage tasted bright, like poolside pink bikini. We partnered this with the dessert drink: Brunch in Beverly Hills a wuzzle of Ciroc French Vanilla Vodka/Bailey’s Almande/Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut/Orgeat Syrup/Aromatic Bitters). Similar to a Horchata, it tasted like an alcoholic Cream soda would in St. Tropez. Trés Yum!!!
By the end of our two days, Kelly really felt like she had seen another side of the city: one of painted deserts to inventive innovate food experiences, from 33 foot slides to giant fluorescent boulders. Each showed a different side of Vegas, a varied as numbers on a roulette wheel.
Kat Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Edible Skinny, a site dedicated to making your life postcard worthy. She is also the CEO of the creative media company This Way Adventures. You can find more about both brands at http://www.thiswayadventures.com