Keep the toxins at bay during your next Sin City stay.
The face-lady – I guess the technical term is “aesthetician” – seems bemused by my story pitch.
“Healthy Las Vegas,” she repeats. “Well, that’s a major contradiction, isn’t it?”
I chuckle agreeably and nod. She gets it. Most people come to Las Vegas to embrace toxins, not purge them. They hit the craps tables, not the ellipticals. They access champagne rooms, not chakra points.
Healthy Las Vegas. Jumbo shrimp. Military intelligence. Riotous oxymorons, all.
But still: Who says you can’t have both? Is there a law against ordering the lap dance and the quinoa salad? That was my mantra as I embarked on a five-day, nine-massage, untold-quinoa-kernel exploration of the Vegas health-and-wellness scene.
Skeptics may scoff at the notion that health is a realistic or even relevant concern in a town that plies guests with free rum-and-Cokes for sticking quarters in a video poker machine, but the premise is sound: Why go home tired, hungover and broke, when you can go home refreshed, relaxed and broke? “Healthy Las Vegas” might be an oxymoron, but for fitness-minded Phoenicians who also enjoy a vice or two – even if that vice is Cirque du Soleil – it’s an enticing concept.
Running, Lifting, Yoga-ing
For anyone who’s perspired in solitude in a bunker-like hotel gym, the Canyon Ranch SpaClub at the Venetian (3355 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 702-414-1000, venetian.com) will prove quite the revelation – it has 10,000 square feet of dedicated workout space to rival any mass-market gym, with a rock-climbing wall, an impressive arsenal of free weights and a cardio room with enough stationary bikes and treadmills to accommodate a college football team. If you’ve ever wondered what kind of wacko wakes up at 8 a.m. to do Pilates in Vegas, well, you’ll find that wacko here. On a Saturday morning in May, the place is literally wall-to-wall with heavy-breathing body obsessors.
I’ve been to a lot of gyms in Vegas, worked off a lot of ill-advised free cocktails, and Canyon Ranch is the best. A close second: the 5,250-square-foot “west end” fitness center at the Cosmopolitan (3708 Las Vegas Blvd., South, 702-698-7000, cosmopolitanlasvegas.com), a subdued, super-chic workout space with brooding sandstone wall panels and – in iconoclastic Cosmo fashion – a boxing ring. Perfect if you want to play Floyd vs. Manny with your travel buddy.
Both the AAA Five-Diamond Venetian, with its awe-inspiring palazzo facade, and the ultra-mod Cosmopolitan are luxury properties on the Strip’s swankier southern half, so you’ll pay a little more to grunt on their thigh abductors than you would at, say, Circus Circus. But I suspect wellness-seekers will consider the money well-spent.
For the gym-averse, the Strip also holds a surprising wealth of outdoor fitness options. Consider Yoga on the Plaza, held every Saturday at 8 a.m. at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino (3770 Las Vegas Blvd., 800-311-8999, montecarlo.com). Offered free to guests, the hour-long intermediate-level yoga session runs participants through a revitalizing series of open-air postures and meditation exercises, with complimentary mats and bottled water, right there on the Strip. How proud you’ll feel, executing a flawless downward dog while watching a platoon of bleary-eyed bros stumble back from the Spearmint Rhino.
For another singular fitness experience, head to ARIA (3730 Las Vegas Blvd., 702-590-8510, aria.com), a new-look luxury casino located across the street from the Cosmopolitan. Part of the two-block, ultra-green $9 billion City Center complex, ARIA looks more like a futuristic U.N. mission than a casino, with spectacular water features and sunlight-friendly architecture. After much gawking and oohing-and-ahhing, I arrive at the ARIA fitness center, where a friendly trainer immediately puts me though a regimen of stretches preceding our Indoor Hike. Essentially a no-rest CrossFit routine designed to take advantage of ARIA’s many tiers, levels and plazas, the “hike” (it’s actually more of a jog intercut with pushups and crunches) proves a great way to break a sweat while avoiding stair-climber repetition fatigue.
The ARIA fitness center, by the way, is a beauty. No. 3 in all of Vegas, by my reckoning.
Eating, Drinking, Juicing
Arguably, the view from my dinner table at Wynn Las Vegas (3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 877-321-9966, wynnlasvegas.com) is just as healthy as the pan-roasted organic Scottish salmon on my plate. Overlooking the 18th hole on the Wynn Golf Course, the Wynn’s Country Club steakhouse is salubrious by association; after getting an eyeful of the golf course – the only one on the Strip, people tell me – diners are invariably tempted to book a tee time the following morning. More to the wellness point, Chef Carlos Guia offers lighter, more waistline-minded versions of his most popular dishes, with laboratory-verified calorie counts of 500 or less.
The truth is, it’s not terribly difficult to find a healthy meal in Vegas in the year 2015. Long gone is the heyday of greasy prime rib and all-you-can-eat mystery shrimp. Most resort spas feature their own conjoined health food eateries – including the aforementioned Canyon Ranch Spa Club, where the chef serves his grass-fed cheeseburger with homemade, corn-syrup-free ketchup and a cucumber salad – and finding a heart-healthy Mediterranean or seafood restaurant is usually a snap.
Get your daily allowance of Omega-3s – with an aged rib-eye chaser, if you like – at AquaKnox at the Venetian. Boasting a larder filled with sublimely fresh seafood from around the world, it’s a wonderland of piscine possibility, from the warm octopus carpaccio to the aromatic, bouillabaissesque AquaKnox Fish Soup. Be forewarned: Your eyes’ reach will exceed your stomach’s grasp if you order the magnificent “plateau” shellfish appetizer, a mountain of lobster claws, mussels, middlenecks and other steamed delights.
Some of my favorite meals in Vegas have come by way of Julian Serrano, the Michelin-starred mastermind behind Picasso at the Bellagio and his eponymous tapas bistro at City Center. For his latest culinary feat, the Spanish-born chef has created a restaurant that fits squarely in that tricky niche of healthy, high-end dining. Featuring a bounty of small-plate culinary baubles, Lago at the Bellagio – so named for its commanding view of the resort’s signature water effect – is perhaps the city’s premier Italian-Med dining experience (3600 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 888-987-6667, bellagio.com). It unfolds a little like a sushi meal; you order some chicken-liver crostini here, a plate of scallop crudo there, some sweet-and-sour eggplant caponata, and then maybe a baked whole flounder with a lemon-and-olive-oil salmoriglio brine. It’s a terrifically social way to dine, and even if you overdo it, you leave with a spring in your step.
Shvitzing, Relaxing, Facialing
I arrive at the Mandarin Oriental (3752 Las Vegas Blvd., 702-590-8888, mandarinoriental.com/lasvegas) not knowing what to expect. Initially, I might have confused the ritzy City Center property with the old Imperial Palace – a since-rebranded budget casino known for its celebrity impersonators. But I read somewhere the spa was top-notch, so hey, bring on the fake Carol Channing.
Oozing the kind of discrete cosmopolitan luxury preferred by private equity managers and foreign spies – or so my imagination tells me – the Mandarin proves to be the wellness highlight of my trip. Most spas have a “relaxation room.” Since the Mandarin spa is located on the eighth floor, this one doubles as an observation deck, placing the guest eye-to-eye with the vertical glory of Vegas. Filled with disarming wellness features like the submerged-chaise “vitality pool,” it sets the city’s high-water mark for rarified relaxation.
The Oriental Essence massage is excellent, too – but here’s the thing about massages: Even when they’re bad, they’re still pretty good. It’s the details, the tangible comforts, that matter when evaluating a spa. Over five days of having my limbs, skull and fleshy bits tenderized by a fleet of foreign hands, here are my conclusions.
Best Steam Room: Spa at the LINQ. Conceived as a mid-budget alternative to Caesar’s Palace next door (rooms start at $37/night), LINQ is one of the newest brands on the Strip. It also boasts the Strip’s most robust steam room – so hot and foggy, it’s almost masochistic. Just the way we discerning steam-freaks like it. Another great touch: cooling, mint-scented hand towels in the fitness center. 3535 Las Vegas Blvd., 800-634-6441, caesars.com/linq
Best Selection of Therapies: Canyon Ranch. From knot-pulverizing ashiatsu barefoot massage to light-touch “energy therapies,” the Venetian’s dedicated spa facility has a therapy (over 120 of them) for any carbon-based life form that might walk through the door. My “craniosacral therapy” ($175) amounted to a 50-minute opium dream.
Manliest Spa: The Spa at the Wynn. You know what I really love after a workout? Complimentary nuts. And quality after-shave. And a place to watch some sports. This grade-A facility at Steve Wynn’s eponymous four-star casino is so classically masculine, it almost doesn’t matter that my face is lathered in revitalizing pumpkin enzymes. “I would say about 30 percent of my clients are male,” the aesthetician says. “That part of my clientele has really exploded over the last 10 years.” 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 877-321-9966, wynnlasvegas.com
Most Exotic Treatment: Sahra Spa & Hammam at Cosmopolitan. Modeled after a traditional Turkish bath ritual, the Hammam soap treatment involves lying facedown on a heated motherstone slab while a therapist rubs down your muscles, lathers you up and splashes you repeatedly with generous draughts of warm water, followed by a fig butter moisturizing session. It made me feel a bit like a prized farm animal. And what’s so terrible about that?
Most Thematically On-Point Treatment: Reliquary Spa at the Hard Rock Casino. Described as “sonic acupuncture,” the harmonic massage treatment involves a therapist opening your qi energy points with a tuning fork, followed by a vigorous rub-down. Does it work? Well, I experienced a pleasant, prickly heat at the bottoms of my feet during the process – the “stimulating of nerve networks,” the therapist tells me. It was nice. Much better than listening to Nickelback. 4455 Paradise Rd., 702-693-5000, hardrockhotel.com
By the end of my wellness odyssey on the Strip, I’m perhaps the most well-tenderized person in Clark County – a human puddle of lymph drainage and lavender-scented body oil. But I have one “treatment” yet to enjoy: a trip out to the Westin Lake Las Vegas, about 20 minutes west of the Strip (101 Montelago Blvd., Henderson, 702-567-6000, westinlakelasvegas.com). Laid out much like the Westin Kierland in Scottsdale, the palatial resort offers perhaps the ultimate health-and-wellness feature in Las Vegas – a respite from Las Vegas. The spa is nice, but far more revitalizing is my solitary paddle-board excursion on the scenic, man-made lake. Gliding between ruddy desert fjords, past golf fairways, consoled by the gentle slap-slap of my oar against the calm water, I think: “This is the way you leave Las Vegas.”
Hotel de Health?
Our pick for the overall healthiest resort experience on the Strip? It has to be the MGM Grand and its special, dedicated floor of Stay Well Rooms. Amenities include vitamin C-infused showers – it’s good for the hair and skin; take a gulp for an extra antioxidant kick – a dawn simulator alarm clock, healthy menu options and an aromatherapy diffuser. Definitely beats the usual ironing-board-and-TV setup. MGM also recently launched the Smart Plate program at several of its on-site restaurants, which provides guests with healthy menu items at 700 calories or less per dish.
3799 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 702-891-1111, mgmgrand.com
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