Catlin Gabel: what education can be
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Las Vegas is out of control. Decadence, indulgence and downright excess are the entire points of this place donned “Sin City.” Each time I go back after a long absence, the city just gets flashier, more decadent, more over the top than the visit before. A planned 24-hour adventure given to my beau, Mark, as a Christmas present didn’t disappoint.
As a non-gambler, there was only one goal of this particular trip and that was to take Mark to see Cirque du Soleil’s LOVE. I’d seen it a few times before and since Mark is a musician, I knew the amazing sights, sounds, choreography and overall creative experience of this production would blow his mind. And it did.
There are no words to describe the magic and beauty of LOVE. Crafted to songs of the Beatles, I’ve seen it three times over the last several years and though it may not seem possible, each time I see it, I discover something cooler, more awe-inspiring, more fantastic than the time before. It’s a feast of constant artistry. The words and imaginations of John, Paul, Ringo and George spiral to life before your eyes. Touching visual and physical interpretations of some of the Beatles most classic tunes delight every sense from the moment you’re seated. The sound in this custom-built theater is also equally amazing. Crisp, rich, vivid.
I’ve been to many Cirque Du Soleil shows and though they’re cool in their own way, LOVE takes the prize in nearly every category: choreography, sets, costumes, experience. It’s not as acrobatic extreme as the others, but given everything else, that’s inconsequential. I would go to Vegas again and again, with seeing LOVE as THE only reason.
Well, maybe there’s one more. Since it had been years since Mark had been to Las Vegas, the only other thing I cared about sharing was how absolutely mind-boggling beautiful the new breed of Las Vegas hotels are. The Aria, where we stayed, is a perfect stratospheric example of where Las Vegas is in terms of extraordinary architecture and interior design. The old-school days of building mega-properties with nothing but flashing lights and tacky carpeting are gone.
The Aria is at the heart of City Center, Las Vegas’s newest 67-acre housing, shopping, entertainment, hotel experiment. The Aria has over 4,000 gorgeously appointed rooms. Since the holiday gift goal was the blow Mark’s mind for a full 24 hours, instead of a regular room, I upgraded us to a corner suite. We were on the 23rd floor and had the most fabulous view of the Las Vegas below. The suite itself was breathtaking.
Every little detail of crafting a world-class experience had been thought of when they designed and built The Aria: Glass mosaic tiling on the floors, gorgeous decorator fabrics for curtains and bedding, granite and marble everything in the bathroom, 42″ LCD HD television that allows you to connect your laptop and room lighting and sound automation, 100% cotton bath linens, a jetted oversize tub, and the grande dame of amenity, a toilet with a seat you can heat and controls that allow you to wash yourself below, front, back or both at the same time.
The room was so high-tech and over-the-top beautiful, we didn’t want to leave but before going to LOVE, we had a dinner reservation at Sage, one of the Aria’s fine restaurants. Without hesitation I can say that the meal we had at Sage was one of the best I’ve ever had, from start to finish. Critically-acclaimed Chef Shawn McClain focuses on farm-to-table produce, artisanal meats and sustainable seafood prepared with seasonal ingredients. Gorgeously prepared and artfully presented, the meal and dining experience were most certainly a major highlight of the 24-hour Las Vegas adventure.
Some other things to note: the service at both Sage and the Aria were exceptional. Every single person we encountered was gracious, friendly and hospitable. The Aria has set the service bar for what others in the hospitality industry should aspire to. What I hope you consider is that Las Vegas is evolving into much more than cheesy shows and tacky hotels. Yes, there still is plenty of that and there’s no denying the sensory overload can be too much. Yet for a quick getaway, there are some awe-inspiring dining, architecture, interior and entertainment sights and sounds mixed into the yucky decadence that make the jaw-dropping experience worthwhile.
If you go: The Aria www.arialasvegas.com