BY ALEXANDRA COHEN

VIVA LAS VEGAS  There is no question about it. The City of Las Vegas, Nevada (https://www.visitlasvegas.com/ca) has everything that a vacationer could possibly ask for: concerts, shows, sports, shopping, dining, nightlife, golf, spas, adventure, luxury accommodations, and much more.

Having just returned from our second trip in the last four years, I am already counting down the days until I can go back.

Why is the Jewish community in Las Vegas growing at an exponential rate? The people at kosherlasvegas.net note that with over 300 days of sun and a dry climate, the year-round excellent, no state income tax and affordable housing, it is a no brainer. Ten kosher restaurants and two well-stocked markets make kosher food plentiful in the area. Across the valley, you can find nine orthodox synagogues in lovely neighborhoods. Two established Jewish day schools, pre-schools, and a new yeshiva high school provide high quality Jewish education.

Las Vegas is considered the fastest growing Jewish community in the United States. There are over 70,000 Jews and 19 synagogues in total, as well as many Jewish organizations in the area, Jewish delis, and kosher restaurants.  Many larger markets feature kosher fresh meats and kosher food sections. Even the Mayor of Las Vegas, Carolyn Goodman, is Jewish. The 19th annual Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival took place in January, providing insight into Jewish identity, history, and culture, also promoting solidarity with Israel and the remembrance of the Holocaust.

WHERE TO STAY: We stayed at the gorgeous Vdara Hotel & Spa (https://www.vdara.com) , a luxury boutique property located at CityCenter. 

An all-suite hotel and spa designed for those who love the excitement of Vegas, but prefer to enjoy it in a smaller and more exclusive, non-gaming, smoke-free environment, Vdara is physically connected to the Bellagio and directly adjacent to the Aria Resort & Casino, offering access to all of the amenities and energy of CityCenter while also providing a nearby retreat from the hustle and bustle of the strip.

The Vdara made its big debut in December 2009. Internationally-inspired, the chic boutique resort offers a holistic spa, luxurious pool, intimate meeting space, and the sophisticated and convenient Bar Vdara and Market Café Vdara, both located in their small and easy-to-navigate lobby.

  

Designed by RV Architecture, LLC, led by Rafael Vinoly, Vdara’s distinct crescent shape and unique patterned glass creates a striking design statement. Soaring 57 stories, Vdara has 1,495 suites ranging from 500 to 1,650 square feet.  It also boasts some outstanding amenities, including its spa. From early morning to late evening, Vdara Health & Beauty, its 16,000-square-foot, two-level wellness spa, salon and fitness complex, soothes and rejuvenate guests. Martin Heierling, the internationally acclaimed innovator behind the Bellagio’s AAA Four Diamond restaurant Sensi,   serves as executive chef for all of Vdara’s food and beverage offerings, including Silk Road, a modern trans-ethnic restaurant; Bar Vdara, an eclectic lobby lounge; the luxurious Sky Pool & Lounge; and Gourmet Grocer.

Featuring 10,000 square feet of contemporary conference space, Vdara has become the premier choice in Las Vegas for customized executive meetings, corporate, social, and banquet functions for up to 400 guests.  The Pool & Lounge, a beautiful getaway that we had the chance to experience firsthand, also features 19 luxurious cabanas, including six spa cabanas.

While at the Vdara people have the opportunity to experience what is surely a first in many of their lives: snacks and coffee delivered to their rooms by two relay robots by the names of Fetch and Jett. These talented bots work alongside their human colleagues to transport an array of frequently forgotten and requested amenities including shaving and dental kits as well as tasty bites and drinks from Market Café. 

Designed and built by robot developer Savioke, Fetch and Jett are fully autonomous indoor delivery robots that use advanced technology to seamlessly navigate around people and objects. I watched them travel through the hotel lobby myself, and each time, those passing by stopped to take photos and marvel. The robots can prioritize multiple requests and wirelessly communicate with the hotel’s systems – even operating the elevators autonomously. Upon receiving a request, a hotel employee will load items into the robot’s compartment before inputting the guest’s room number and hitting the “GO” button. Its secure, tamper-proof lid prevent items from being removed until the robot reaches its destination.

Fetch and Jett will call a guest’s room when they arrive, and once the door opens, their lids will automatically unlock for guests to retrieve their snacks and travel kits. After removing their items, Fetch and Jett will ask the guest for feedback on their service before traveling back to their docking stations – typically taking less than five minutes to complete a delivery. A five-star review inspires a short happy dance from the robot.

As a hat-tip to the property’s dog-friendly policy, Fetch and Jett’s exterior resembles the coats of different canine breeds. The helpful (and housebroken) robots provide a fun and refined experience for guests at the hotel and spa.

“Guests enjoy the novelty of having their morning coffee and other items delivered by a robot, which frees up time for the rest of our staff to focus their energy on requests that require a higher level of service,” said Vdara General Manager Mary Giuliano. “We’re committed to creating special experiences for each guest, and I’m certain this will be a memorable one.”

In addition to the small snacks and drinks that can be delivered by Fetch and Jett, the hotel also delivers on a full in-suite dining experience should guests be interested, bringing not only food, but a full table setting for all. We enjoyed some breakfast in our room, including delicious eggs, an omelette, breakfast potatoes, and an assortment of tasty croissants and danishes.

Vdara is located within one of the largest sustainable developments in existence, bringing a new level of environmental consciousness to the world-famous Strip. In addition to Vdara, the U.S. Green Building Council has awarded LEED® Gold certification to ARIA Resort & Casino’s hotel tower as well as its convention space and theater. In 2010, Vdara Hotel & Spa and ARIA become the first Las Vegas hotels to achieve a 5 Keys designation by the Green Key Eco-Rating Program – the foremost “green” ranking, certification, and audit program in North America evaluating sustainable hotel operations. The 5 Keys designation is a certification level achieved by only approximately one percent of all hotels rated by Green Key.

We were pleased to see that our Corner Suite offered us a lovely view of some of the hotels on the Strip. Other similar suites offer picturesque views of the Bellagio Fountains and surrounding mountains. The in-suite tablet sits right beside the King-sized bed. From this tablet, you can order room service or snacks to be delivered by Fetch and Jett, and also book your next spa appointment.

The kitchenette features a two-burner stove and a full-sized refrigerator, while the living area offers a dining table fit for four. You can end the day by soaking in the spa-like tub sitting in the room’s expansive bathroom.  There are 42-inch, flat-screen, and high – definition televisions with media hubs for MP3 players, cameras, DVD players and game consoles as well as a work desk with a multi-line telephone in each of these suites. We also had access to large closets with plush robes and slippers, an ironing board and clothes steamer, and a washing machine.  The in-suite, laptop-sized electronic safes were also very convenient.

The hotel has a fully equipped 2,000-square-foot fitness center, with cardio, exercise machines, and free weights, as well as personal trainers available for private or group instruction. A smoothie bar offers a selection of smoothies, nutritious snacks, and juices.

The Vdara lobby is quite nice and spacious. Above the registration desk hangs the 30-foot-long horizontal Frank Stella painting, “Damascus Gate Variation I,” which draws immediate attention with its vibrant shades of blue, red, orange and yellow. Due to Vdara’s boutique size, nearly all of its spectacular amenities are just steps from the main entrance. Guests have immediate access to its meeting and social event space; registration desk; concierge lobby; and its casual eatery and marketplace, Market Café Vdara. At the heart of the lobby experience, VICE VERSA Patio & Lounge radiates an aura of sophistication.

Within Vdara’s concierge lobby, Peter Wegner displays two soaring lunar- and solar-themed works of art on opposite walls entitled, “Day for Night, Night for Day.” Three stories above, an open wooden walkway offers a new vantage point of the artwork, as guests peer down into the lobby. On the second level of the hotel, guests can enjoy ESPA at Vdara, Salon Vdara, and Pool & Lounge Vdara.

Wheelchairs and scooters are available at all MGM Resort hotels for a fee. At the Vdara, in fact, manual wheelchairs are available for rent free of charge. To guarantee a wheelchair or scooter, contacting the Bell Desk ahead of time is recommended.

For more information and reservations, log on to www.vdara.com, call toll free at (866) 745-7767 or 702.590.2111. follow Vdara on Facebook and Twitter at Vdara  Las Vegas and VdaraLV.

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. Throughout the lobby, guests are invited to explore intriguing works by the likes of Henrique Oliveira, David Hockney, Shahram Karimi and Shoja Azari, and many others. (PRNewsfoto/Park MGM)

BAVETTE AND THE PARK MGM: The former Monte Carlo Hotel officially shed its name recently for a new identity – Park MGM ((https://www.parkmgm.com/en.html).  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 project comprises two new distinct experiences: Park MGM, and a Las Vegas version of the renowned NoMad, a standalone 292-room hotel encompassing the tower’s top four floors.

We got a nice look at this new hotel when we recently dined at Bavette’s Steakhouse (www.bavettessteakhouse.com). Like its beloved Chicago sibling, the new Bavette’s represents an outstanding dining experience. With the restaurant’s glowing chandeliers, red banquettes, and vintage art and murals, guests are transported to an intimate space as they eat.

Bavette’s offers fantastic takes on some time-honored steakhouse traditions, such as multi-tiered seafood towers, dry-aged bone-in ribeyes, and lamb chops. In addition to some of the classics, we also enjoyed a traditional filet mignon, a large baked crap cake, and side orders of wild mushrooms and buttery mashed potatoes, all beautifully served.

Desserts leaned toward decadent—we enjoyed the Chocolate Cream pie with an Oreo crust, as well as their classic Lemon-Meringue Pie.

In the back of Bavette’s, a hidden parlor bar awaits guests who want to begin their evening early, or let it run late, exploring the cornucopia of cocktails that they have to offer.

The elegant landscape in complemented by a boisterous measure of classic big band jazz and vintage blues tunes in the main dining room.

Bavette’s is open 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 5 p.m. – midnight Friday and Saturday; and 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. on Sunday. Reservations can be made by calling 702.730.6700.

Before or after dinner at Bavette’s, explore the stylish Juniper Cocktail Lounge next door, a truly unique drinking experience that I very much enjoyed. The mixology destination challenges the status quo of mainstay drinks while staying true to the foundation of what makes a great cocktail. Whimsical elements like fortune-telling Gin & Tonics come to life through house-made juices and syrups, a premium selection of spirits, and an intense dedication to the craft.

“Juniper Cocktail Lounge brings a different perspective to the Las Vegas lounge with a more progressive cocktail program than people have experienced from such a venue,” said Craig Schoettler, MGM Resorts executive director of beverage and corporate mixologist. .

Set to become a key component of Las Vegas nightlife, Juniper Cocktail Lounge offers its distinct vision of bottle service for guests with an extensive selection of gins, whiskeys, tequilas and rums from around the globe. No sacrifices are made for the large-scale service as patrons have access to some of the world’s finest liquors at their private tables.

We enjoyed their most famous cocktail, entitled “A little birdie”, in which the sipsmith gin, strawberry, dolin dry vermouth, and fresh lemon are interestingly served in a glass shaped like a bird. We also enjoyed “Carnival”—a glass is brought to the table filled to the brim with cotton candy, at which point Tanqueray 10 gin, fresh lime, and St-Germain is poured over the cotton candy, causing it to melt in as part of the drink. The menu options were endless, each one appearing to be better than the one before it.

Juniper Cocktail Lounge is open Sunday – Thursday from 5 p.m. – 12 a.m. and Friday – Saturday from    5 p.m. – 2 a.m. For more information, call 702-730-7777 or visit Juniper Cocktail Lounge online. Explore the nightly happenings and more by following Juniper Cocktail Lounge on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @JuniperCocktail.

Filled with natural light and punctuated by nature-inspired décor and art, Park MGM’s lobby is a nod to urban gardens and parks, bringing the outdoors inside. A dramatic arboreal sculpture by Brazilian woodworker Henrique Oliveira is the focal point of the lobby.

Park MGM’s rooms evoke the essence of a private apartment, with a mix of thoughtful touches, antique-inspired pieces, and original artwork by artists and photographers from around the world, commissioned for each room by France’s be-pôles studio.

Channeling the sundrenched South of France, the hotel’s vibrant outdoor escape features three pools, an oversized heated spa, 12 cabanas, lounge areas, and multiple bars serving up delicious bites and beverages.

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.

With its excellent 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, which is now home to Lady Gaga’s Las Vegas residency.

JABBAWOCKEEZ: We were thrilled to see Jabbawockeez (https://www.jbwkz.com) for the first time after their energizing 70-minute show. The Jabbawockeez first caught the nation’s eye when they competed on “America’s Got Talent” in 2006, before ultimately winning the grand prize on the first season of the MTV reality show “America’s Best Dance Crew”, produced by Randy Jackson.

Their live show at the recently renovated Jabbawockeez Theater at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino (www.mgmgrand.com) on the Vegas Strip is absolutely fantastic!

Their show, JREAMZ, takes audiences on a journey of mesmerizing sights and sounds, entertaining audiences with a dynamic mix of choreography, music, videos, characterization, and special effects. The imaginative production finds a way to seamlessly combine dance, drama, and a surprisingly effective amount of comedy.

Featuring the signature white masks and intricate dance moves that have positioned the group as the world’s most influential dance crewJabbawockeez is cutting-edge entertainment at its best. JREAMZ has been voted the “Best Family Show” and “Best All Ages Show” in Las Vegas for three consecutive years.

Donning expressionless white masks and white gloves, Jabbawockeez somehow manage to achieve the perfect balance between blending together as a unified group when necessary and also giving each member a unique character to play. They do not simply use the stage, but navigate through the audience, integrating us into their show and in fact taking selecting several volunteers to take part in their comedic routines. 

Over the years, they have appeared on numerous television shows, including “Dancing With The Stars”, “So You Think You Can Dance”, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”, “Regis & Kelly”, “The TODAY Show”, “E! News”, and “America’s Next Top Model”.

The dance crew was formed in 2003 by Kevin “KB” Brewer, Phil “Swagger Boy” Tayag and Joe “Punkee” Larot. Just a year later, the group had grown to include Jeff “Phi” Nguyen and Rynan “Kid Rainen” Paguio, who still perform in the group. In 2013, the dance troupe also added Tony “Transformer” Tran. Over the life span of Jabbawockeez, there have been as many as eleven artistic creators to funnel energy into their synchronized dance routines. The show is designed to be appropriate for all ages—those four years or older must purchase a ticket; three and under can be admitted as a lap seat.

Jabbawockeez perform Thursday through Monday at both 7PM and 9:30PM. Tickets are priced at $49.99, $72.99 and $82.99 (not including applicable service charges and taxes). A Golden Circle ticket, with the best seats, a complimentary cocktail, and an exclusive Jabbawockeez merchandise item, is available for $110 (not including applicable service charges and taxes). A VIP Package including a post-show meet and greet, photo opportunity with three cast members from the show, and a Jabbawockeez Swag Bag, is available as an add-on to any ticket category for $55. Tickets are available for purchase at any MGM Resorts box office, by phone at (702) 531-3826 or (866) 740-7711 and online at mgmgrand.com or ticketmaster.com. For more information, visit jbwkz.com or connect on Twitter @Jabbawockeez and on Facebook.

The MGM Hotel and Casino is very wheelchair accessible, with lots of elevators and ramps available throughout.

MICHAEL JACKSON ONE:  When in Vegas, experiencing at least one Cirque de Soleil production is a must. As proud Montrealers, we did just that and chose the Cirque’s incredible Michael Jackson ONE  (http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/michael-jackson-one/show/about.aspx), an awe-inspiring show that fuses acrobatics, dance, story-telling, and visuals, taking the audience on an immersive journey through the music and spirit of Michael Jackson. Prominent Montreal  Jewish lawyer and businessman Mitch Garber is the chairman of the board of the Cirque de Soleil.

Presentations  of Michael Jackson ONE take place at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino from Fridays to Tuesdays at both 7 pm and 9:30 pm, while Wednesdays and Thursdays are dark days.  Driven by the late King of Pop’s powerful, multi-layered music – heard like never before in a riveting, state-of-the-art surround-sound environment – ONE takes the audience through a series of seamless visual and musical tableaux.

The talented cast of 63 dancers and performers quickly reel you in, taking over the stage and at times even the audience with their infectious energy and brilliant tricks. You will repeatedly find yourself gasping in disbelief at the magic taking place on stage.

This show captures the essence, soul and inspiration of the King of Pop, celebrating a legacy that continues to transcend generations. You will surely be captivated by the aerial acrobatics and special effects during this unforgettable performance, while trying not to sing along to Jackson’s most popular songs, from “Smooth Criminal” to “Thriller” (a particular highlight).

ONE somehow manages to get better with every routine. Each time you think that there cannot possibly another trick left to perform, someone will fly through the sky or trampoline upside down and once again, you will find yourself amazed.

While the hits in Michael Jackson ONE have been rearranged to suit the show, they remain very close to the album versions and are treated in a highly cinematic fashion. Kevin Antunes, who was also the Musical Designer on Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour, took the multi-track master recordings and manages to make audience members feel the music is surrounding them, a beautiful musical assault coming from all directions. In fact, each of the theatre’s 1,804 seats has three speakers, leaving the room with a total of 5,412 seat speakers!

In Michael Jackson ONE, the video content is also an integral part of the storyline, featuring key aspects of Jackson’s career, including some images from his younger days as a member of Jackson 5. The theatre is equipped with 26 projectors, which display video content on the stage and around the proscenium. Not only that, but there are also 11 TV monitors and a 40 feet-wide, 30 feet-high LED wall.

This show, in its technical and energized glory, truly is not something that you want to miss.

For ticket information call 877.632.7400 or 800-745-3000.  Go to www.cirquedusoleil.com/mjone or www.mandalaybay.com. Visit the Michael Jackson ONE box office, the Mandalay Bay Events Center box office, or any of the MGM Resorts International box offices.

Cirque du Soleil strives to make it as easy as possible to purchase accessible seating tickets for venues across the country. Availability and the type of accessible seating will vary based on each venue’s policies and/or the type of event taking place.

SKYFALL LOUNGE:  After Michael Jackson ONE, you can walk just a few steps over to the Skyfall Lounge (https://www.delanolasvegas.com/en/nightlife/skyfall-lounge.html) at the Delano, which is located within the same Mandalay Bay facility. Why does Skyfall stand out amidst the large number of bars located along the Strip? Skyfall is known for its panoramic overlook of the city, its dramatic interiors, and its creative plates and artisan cocktails. There is no cover, nor are reservations required.

The 180-degree views make it possible for guests to sip a glass of champagne while watching the desert sunset, or to party as DJs spin upbeat music in the vibrant space from 10PM until closing.

Every evening (7:30-8:30PM), those who stay at the hotel are treated to a special champagne toast at Skyfall Lounge. A Delano Las Vegas room key must be presented to receive the complimentary amenity.

Hours are Monday to Thursday and Sundays from 5 pm to midnight, and 5 pm to 1 am on Fridays and Saturdays. Info:  877-632-5400

LUNCH AT SPAGO: We had a delicious lunch at Wolfgang Puck’s legendary flagship restaurant Spago (https://wolfgangpuck.com/dining/spago-lv), located at the Bellagio (https://www.bellagio.com/en/hotel.html). Puck’s revolutionary restaurant debuted in this location last summer with an entirely new look and menu and the exceptional level of service for which the restaurant is best known.

The restaurant is beautifully situated in front of the Bellagio Fountains for a fantastic view while you eat. Spago’s re-imagined menu features Puck’s signature California fare paired with modern technique and inspiration from his chef’s weekly trips to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. At lunch and dinner, the market-driven menus feature handmade pastas, wood-oven pizzas, fresh seafood, all-natural meats and prime steaks, alongside handcrafted cocktails and a robust wine list.

From popular Spago dishes to new dishes offered only at Bellagio, guests have a wealth of options to choose from for lunch or dinner.

The chef brings his own signature to the Las Vegas steak dinner, allowing guests to indulge in prime meats, such as Wagyu and Japanese Ribeye carved tableside. In addition to trying one of their delicious cuts of American wagyu, complete with white truffles, we also indulged in their smoked salmon pizza with caviar, a true highlight on their menu. We enjoyed a fresh strawberry cocktail as we sat on the patio enjoying the fountains, along with a dessert that I can only describe as outstanding: their Spiked Lemon. Words cannot do this desert any justice, but you need only take to the internet to see it for yourself, as our waiter described as their menu’s “Most Hash tagged Item” due to its astonishing appearance, complete with flakes of gold.

Similar to the menu, the wine list will be seasonally inspired, starting the summer months with a strong selection of Rosé wines. In addition, the list features nearly one dozen wines from Wolfgang Puck’s private label, a collection of food-friendly wines that celebrate the spirit of food and life for which the chef is known.

Spago commissioned Las Vegas artist Katie Lewis to create a series of 20 topographical map images inspired by the Nevada desert landscape. One wall of the restaurant is dedicated to “Hugging a Black Hole, Hoping One Day to Forget,” a piece crafted by Jacob Hashimoto, known for his three-dimensional wall hangings inspired by his Japanese heritage. The most coveted seats are positioned on the circular and covered outdoor patio, giving guests unobstructed front-row views to the magnificent fountains.

Gelila Puck said, “The fountains were everything for us. We used the water as a key element in the design of the restaurant, bringing the beautiful feature to the forefront of the dining experience from the moment our guests enter the restaurant. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows highlight the grandeur of the space while distinct dining spaces meld classic architecture with modern art, all creating an atmosphere as memorable as the food.”

As for the main dining room, this space boasts beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows imparting picturesque views of the Bellagio’s famed lake from any seat in the house. Spago also offers two private fountain-view dining rooms, each seating up to 20 guests. The private rooms feature translucent glass panels with elegant white sheers that act as filters, allowing guests to enjoy their privacy while being able to fully take in their surroundings.

Spago is located in Via Bellagio and is open for lunch daily from 11:30 a.m. – 2:45 p.m. Dinner is from 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m Sunday – Thursday and 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. Friday & Saturday. The bar menu is available from 2:45 p.m. until close. To make reservations, call the Bellagio Concierge at (702) 693-7111 or visit OpenTable.

GALLERY OF FINE ART: After lunch we visited the beautiful Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art (BGFA). BGFA is committed to presenting intimate exhibitions featuring works by some of the world’s most compelling artists.

Since opening in 1998, the gallery has presented exhibitions of artworks and objects drawn from internationally acclaimed museums and private collections. I was excited to learn that through April 28th, 2019, the BGFA is presenting two installations by renowned artist Yayoi Yusama, Infinity Mirrored Room – Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity and Narcissus Garden. An immersive experience for visitors, Yayoi Kusama offers a unique wonderland of lights and reflections where guests become part of the artworks and can experience Kusama’s exploration of infinite space. 

Narcissus Garden has been re-installed and commissioned in various settings since its creation more than 50 years ago. This iteration is comprised of 750 stainless steel silver globes that create an infinite lake that distorts images of reality reflected on the surface of the 12-inch orbs.

I was particularly looking forward to experiencing the second exhibition— Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity is a room of infinite, shimmering lights. These mirror rooms have taken over the internet, with people posting artistic photos of them experiencing exhibits of this nature across the world. In this exhibit,  guests step into an enclosed room to become immersed, as an array of lights ignite a mirage mirrored on every surface, representing the eternal cycle of life over the span of 45 seconds. The space represents Kusama’s lifelong obsession with the dissolution of the self into the infinite. Note that this installation may trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy, and this experience should be bypassed by people with sensitivities to flashing lights or dark, enclosed spaces

Recognized today for her robust career, Kusama is one of the most successful and well-known living artists. Time Magazine named her one of the most influential people in the world in 2016.

Because of the nature of the exhibit and limited space within, guests are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance at Bellagio.com/bgfa or at the gallery’s ticket office. Tickets are $15 and children 12 and younger are free. For groups of 10 or more, the gallery offers special pricing of $11 per person. For additional information, call (702) 693-7871 or (877) 957-9777.

CATCH THIS GREAT MEAL:  Last fall, the Aria Resort & Casino (https://www.aria.com/en.html) welcomed Catch (https://catchrestaurants.com),the go-to dining destination for celebrities from Los Angeles to New York City. Known for attracting A-listers from around the world, this restaurant, with its Asian influence, debuted on The Strip, bringing with it a something-for-everyone dining experience.

Just arriving at Catch is a true experience. The entryway is a truly picturesque 80-foot-long tunnel, filled with brightly colored flowers organized into beautiful patterns. It feels like stepping into a secret garden, or even a hidden world.

On the menu, you will find a host of seafood sharables. Guests can dive in with an assortment of bright appetizers. The Catch Ceviche infuses the bold flavors of mango and blood orange ponzu with Alaskan King Crab, Maine Lobster, shrimp, and scallops. We enjoyed the decadent Truffle Sashimi allows guests to indulge in both tuna and hamachi paired with chili ponzu, caviar, and rich black truffle purée.

In addition to their Vegas-specific sushi rolls, Catch also offers its famed signatures. The vegan Veggie King Roll is made with king oyster mushrooms, cashew and spicy miso. For a unique and delicious flavor profile, guests can opt for the Hellfire Roll, which uses spicy tuna in two ways with Asian pear and balsamic.

We also enjoyed other shared starters, including the crispy shrimp, the rice cakes, and an order of their mushroom spaghetti, which was truly delicious. For our main course: roasted branzino, a restaurant highlight, alongside a side of spaghetti squash. Prefer meat? Catch offers options like the 25-Day Dry-Aged Tomahawk: 36-ounces of all natural, grass-fed beef with caramelized onion wagyu butter.

Their over-the-top desserts celebrate indulgence, featuring treats like the Hit Me” Chocolate Cake that encourages guests to smash the liquid “Klondike” bar perched atop a brownie, devil’s food cake, and roasted white chocolate ice cream.

New York based restauranteurs Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum have spent two decades building Catch Hospitality Group into one of the country’s most successful restaurant and nightlife management companies. Dubbed by Forbes Magazine as the “New Kings of New York Hospitality,” Remm and Birnbaum pioneered dynamic hospitality experiences using food, service, and vibe to create seamless transitions between dining, nightlife, and entertainment.

“After successfully tackling the East and West Coast markets we feel that Las Vegas is the next most logical place for the CATCH brand to call home,” Birnbaum told Food & Wine. “As with all CATCH outposts, we will stay true to the identity of the brand in both design and core menu, while working to develop location-specific additions that speak to the interests in the local market and its anticipated clientele. For CATCH Las Vegas that will mean some elevated moments that kick our experiential menu up a notch, without being too over the top that we stray from who we are as a concept.”

See this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLv0BXnJGTs

Catch is located within the main lobby of the Aria Resort & Casino. It is open for dinner Monday through Sunday from 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. The lounge is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 p.m. – 3 a.m. To make reservations, call the Aria Concierge at (702) 590-5757 or visit OpenTable.

CAESARS PALACE BUFFET: What would a visit to Las Vegas be like without spending some time at the famous Caesars Palace?   During our trip, we experienced a fantastic dinner at their Bacchanal Buffet—voted the Best Buffet in Las Vegas by USA Today two years in a row. I was unsurprised to hear that they were given this title when I realized that their buffet presents nine distinct restaurants, all in one location!

The modern setting of the buffet is inspired by the elements of glass, wood and steel. With nearly 500 dishes to choose from, every guest is sure to satisfy their cravings, whether they are in the mood for prime rib, chilled king crab legs, or freshly made sushi. A team of seven specialized chefs oversee the preparation of the majority of the food in front of the guests, creating an interactive environment.

The cuisines offered include:

o Mexican – featuring freshly made enchiladas, tortillas and more

o Italian – Pastas, baked lasagna, antipasto display

o Chinese – Made-to-order assorted soups, wok-fried dishes, and dim sum

o Japanese – Fresh sushi, sashimi, cooked fish

o American – BBQ house-smoked meats from a wood-burning smoker and wood-burning grill; numerous carving stations including prime rib, brisket, rotisserie chicken and more

o Seafood – Fresh East and West Coast oysters, king crab, snow crab, stone crab, mussels and prawns

o Pizza – Varieties of pizzas served fresh from a wood-burning oven

o Deli – Soups, cheeses, seven charcuterie selections including house specialties and individual, prepared, and make-your-own salads

o Dessert – Chocolate, vanilla and pistachio soufflés baked-to-order, selection of gelato, sorbets and crème brûlée

The Weekday Brunch is $39.99 (Mon-Fri 7:30 am – 3 pm.); The Weekend Brunch is $54.99 (Sat-Sun 8am – 3pm); Weekday Dinner is  $54.99  (Mon-Thur 3p m – 10 pm); and Weekend Dinner is $64.99 (Fri-Sun 3pm – 10pm). For an additional $15 per person, add the All You Can Drink option and receive unlimited Draft Beer, House Wine, Mimosas, or Champagne. 

There is also line pass option available for $20 per person during select hours of operation. See the manager for details.

Info: (702) 731-7928. For large party reservations and private dining, call group dining at Caesar Palace at (702) 731-7778 or toll-free at (866) 733-5827. Log on to www.caesarspalace.com.

ESCAPE ROOM:  Last year in Montreal, I experienced my first-ever escape room. Having really enjoyed the experience, I looked forward to trying one in Las Vegas, so we visited Trapped: A Real Life Room Escape Adventure. This location was launched in 2015 and is centrally located at 4760 Polaris Avenue, a quick drive from the Strip.

For those who have never experienced an escape game of this nature, it involves a group of people being placed in a room where they must use all elements present to solve a series of puzzles, find clues, and complete the objective within a set time limit. It is a great bonding activity, as it requires a lot of teamwork in order to succeed. The recommended minimum age to participate is 12 years old. All rooms cost $35 per person for regularly scheduled times.

There are currently two rooms, with a third one on its way, at this location. We chose The Lair of the Puzzlemaster. What is the scenario? You are your teammates are federal agents tracking an international criminal known as “The Puzzlemaster”. You have found his hidden lair and are moving in to take him down, but you have to also avoid falling into his many traps. This game is good for anywhere from three to eight participants.

The game is very well constructed—my favorite escape room experience thus far. It thoroughly challenged us, but as three individuals, we were able to escape in the nick of time.

“We as a company have been open since 2015,” said manager Renton Wilson. “We began with one location in Upland, California in 2015 and have since expanded to include a location in San Dimas, California, as well as Las Vegas. We opened in Las Vegas in July of 2018 and our mission is, and always has been, to provide a high quality and fun experience for our customers”

Check out this clever video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvH4xQitunU

www.trappedescaperoomvegas.com   or (702) 907-8078