A month or two ago, my best friend Portia came to stay with me in San Francisco for the weekend. “On Friday night we can go out to dinner,” I told her as we were making plans. “And then on Saturday we can do nothing but watch TV all day and order pizza and go to bed at ten.” And even though when Saturday came, the sun was shining and the birds were chirping, that’s exactly what we did. (Nothing like drawing the curtains to ensure your binge-TV-watching remains uninterrupted.) That may sound like a waste of a day, but for us, doing “nothing” “together” is our favorite.
Which is why when I invited Portia for a "Girls' Weekend" in Vegas, I was ohmygod so excited, but also a little nervous. I mean, Vegas is all about the non-stop fun and hedonism. HOW WOULD WE SURVIVE? (Our problems: they are good ones to have.)
I wanted to make sure we maximized our bonding fun time without hitting a wall, so when we headed out on the plane for our long weekend, we set some ground rules.
During the Day:
1. No excessive drinking.
I mean, it’s Vegas. This had to be a rule if we were going to make it past midnight.
2. Don’t get too much sun and wear sunscreen at all times.
Nothing makes you sleepier than boozing in the sun and bright red "tan" lines are so not hot.
3. Find activities that are fun, but that are also relaxing.
We didn’t want to waste the day by sleeping in until noon, so we’d have to find other ways to “unwind.”
If we could just stick to those simple rules, we figured we would have the most fun and also make it way past our bedtime.
(We also had “rules” for nighttime, but that’s a separate post for next week!)
Here's how we put our plan into action, and a handy little guide you can use for your next trip to Vegas. Which, by the way, I highly recommend you plan soon because we had The Best Time Ever.
We arrived Thursday evening and managed to get into our super-comfy beds at ARIA (apparently you don't say "the" before any of the hotel/casino names; I've been doing it wrong for years!) before 2 a.m. (I know; we’re old), so we woke up on Friday energized and ready to go.
First stop: The gym.
KIDDING! Although seriously, the amount of people who were going to the gym (one guy told us the facilities were great; I told him I’d have to take his word for it) was kind of amazing.
Instead, we had an early lunch (we didn’t wake up *that* early) at Five50 at ARIA. Why not start the day with a pizza from a James Beard award winning chef? (We split one as there were bathing suits in our future.)
Pro Tip: You can get a half and half pizza. Make sure one of those halves is the Truffle. We couldn’t finish the entire thing and I am still thinking about it.
Next up: PICNIC at Downtown Grand
Downtown Grand is off the strip and PICNIC is a new rooftop pool with a 50s vibe. The cabanas ensure you have plenty of shade when you’re not cooling off in the pool.
There was a DJ and then later a live band, making PICNIC one of the livelier pool spots we hit over the weekend.
Pro Tip: Order one of the Specialty Drinks. They’re affordable and I got a frozen one because that’s just what one should do when she’s sitting poolside.
Afternoon Excitement: SlotZilla, Fremont Street Experience
You know how it’s always fun to surprise your friends ? Yeah, um, this surprise had Portia in tears. Literally. I thought zip lining past the vintage casinos of downtown Las Vegas would be super fun. How did I not know that my best friend is totally scared of heights? Oopsie!
Still, she’s a trooper, so she went through with it. I, of course, am a total adrenaline junky, so I loved every second of it and wish it had lasted longer (I told the guy at the end it was kind of like sex: just as you get really into it; it's over), but I think the part Portia loved best was the big hug she got from a total stranger after she "survived."
Pro Tip: Don’t wear a short dress. And, uh, make sure your friend isn’t scared of heights.
Our plan on Friday actually worked because we totally stayed up until all hours of the night (also known as 3 a.m.), so on Saturday it was imperative that we have a super chill day.
First Stop: Cypress Lounge at Bellagio
Is it totally indulgent to pay for a lounge chair in a private garden surrounding a pool with a fountain in the middle? Of course it is. Is it absolutely worth it? YES. I think Portia and I would both say that the Cypress Lounge was one of our favorite spots of the weekend. Super comfy lounge chairs, amazing service, and at least when we were there: no children. We could have stayed here all day and I hope that if heaven is a thing, it’s exactly like this place.
Pro Tip: The Asian Chicken salad was light, but filling, and big enough to share. Also: DELICIOUS. We also had a few of the “Frozen Indulgences” (maybe broke the drinking rule on this one), which were kindly delivered to us while we floated in the pool.
A recent addition, The Shops at Crystals is full of luxury brands (and air conditioning!). It’s fun to walk through, even if we weren’t in the market for Balenciaga bags or Cartier watches. (If you are, however, this place is so high-end that some brands make bags that are only available here. Fancy!)
What we were most excited for however was the makeup demonstration at Sisley. I’m always shocked at how a makeup artist seems to be able to make me SO MUCH PRETTIER with just a swipe here and a pat here and a dash here, but what Joshua Grant (you can find him at The Carlyle if you live in NYC) did to my face was beyond.
I’d actually never heard of Sisley before this trip, but this high-end line is definitely one of which to take note. It's a family-owned company located in France and their expertise is in phyto-cosmetology (using the best natural plant extracts in order to create the best cosmetic results). I can't say I totally understand how it all works, but I do know my skin absolutely glowed after.
Pro Tips: The Black Rose Cream Mask helps with signs of fatigue, which is a must (especially in Vegas).
Blue-eyed girls: did you know that we can wear navy eyeliner? I seriously never would have thought to do that, but my eyes totally popped.
Portia treated me to the Phyto-Lip Shine in #9 Sheer Cherry and it’s the only color I wore for the rest of the trip. It’s a perfect red without the pressure of wearing a red lip, if that makes sense.
By Day Three in Vegas, you’re going to be tired. You’re going to be a little sore because there is so much walking (I swear you think everything is right next to each other, but those casinos are huge), and you’re going to want to finish off the trip with something totally indulgent. Because, in case somehow that still isn’t clear: that’s what Vegas is all about.
And what better what to do that than with a trip to ESPA at Vdara? Vdara is right next to ARIA, so I was able to just roll out of bed and stumble over to the spa. (Literally.) Vdara is a totally different vibe than ARIA (think calm and serene) and ESPA reflects that. A quiet escape from the non-stop energy that is Vegas, this was exactly what I needed.
I opted for the On the Rocks treatment, 110 minutes of body brushing, exfoliation, body massage with volcanic stones, and a scalp massage (because why not?). This treatment is meant to “rebalance the body and melt muscular tension” and I have to say: I walked in feeling pretty rough, but left feeling totally ready to start drinking again. So it must have worked.
There’s also a redwood sauna, a eucalyptus steam room, and a hot plunge. Even the showers were amazing. Like all spas, make sure you’re not booked for something immediately after because you’re going to want to slowly make your way back to the real world.
Pro Tip: My spa therapist (I wish I could see her once a week instead of my shrink!) used a Skin Brush on me at the beginning of the treatment.The brush has natural bristles from Mexican cactus plants that "stimulate circulation and eliminate toxins.” She swears it also helps reduce cellulite.
All I know is that my skin felt soooo smooth afterwards. Sure, it kind of hurt when she was brushing me, but in a really good way. (Don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean.) Anyway, I don’t normally buy spa products after treatments, but this one was a must.
Last Stop: Buddy V's Ristorante, The Venetian
With time for one last meal before we headed to the airport, we decided the Family Brunch at Buddy V’s (from “Cake Boss”) Ristorante was a must. After all, we weren’t going to put on our bathing suits again, so why not go all-you-can-eat? We literally made five trips to the buffet, but we kind of had to because it would have been rude not to try everything, right? The theme is classic American Italian and our favorites were the chicken parm, the mac n’ cheese carbonara, and every single thing on the dessert table (but especially the zonuts).
Oh, and they have a bottomless specialty cocktails for $14.95. I had the frozen bellini and they even gave me one to go in a plastic cup. I love Vegas.
Pro Tip: Sit by the window for a view of the strip and so that you’re far away from the buffet tables. The walks back and forth totally count as exercise!
So... WE DID IT. We "survived" all three days in Vegas -- sometimes even waking up as early as 8:30 a.m. -- and still managed to make it out every night.
What happened at night? You'll have to wait until next week. Names will be changed to protect the (not at all) innocent.