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So much has changed with the hotels in Las Vegas in the last few years. I started going to Las Vegas in the mid-1980’s for an annual conference. At that point, you had the traditional Vegas hotels from Caesars Palace, Sands, Stardust and the Flamingo to the Sahara, Desert Inn and the Riviera.

Then you saw the addition of the of such properties as the MGM Grand, the Mirage, Rio and Excalibur. Rather than traveling internationally people had the option to visit many of the theme hotels including Egypt at Luxor, Venice at the Venetian, Paris at the Paris Las Vegas, NYC at New York-New York and Rome at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Here you feel like you are walking down the streets of Paris or seeing a gondola on the canals of Venice while dining al fresco.

The trend then shifted to the more upscale hotels like the Wynn Las Vegas, Encore and Bellagio. More recently you have seen the addition of even more upscale properties like the SLS, Cosmopolitan, Aria, Vdara, Mandarin Oriental and Delano. With the newer hotels, you have seen the trend of more and more upscale restaurants opened by celebrity chefs from around the country. The famous hotel buffets are there but are now not the norm.

The larger hotels with large casinos and a large number of bars and restaurants, can be somewhat overwhelming with the crowds. So I recommend trying some of the newer properties nearby that don’t have casinos, but where you can easily access the casinos, restaurants, bars and showrooms.

My recent recommendations include:

The SLS Hotel, is located in the former Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas on the north end of The Strip, at 2525 S. Las Vegas Blvd. It has three separate towers. It has a large casino, concert venues plus a number of bars and restaurant options. Since it is at the north end, it is not quite as busy as some of the larger hotels in the heart of The Strip. The rooms are contemporary and nicely appointed and designed. There are a number of restaurants to choose from Umami Burger, Beer Garden and Sports Book; Northside Cafe & Chinese Kitchen; Katsuya for sushi, Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres for great steak and 800 Degrees for pizza and gelato.

The Delano: Next to Mandalay Bay, The Delano is an MGM Resorts International property. At 3940 S. Las Vegas Blvd. at the south end of the strip, it is a stylish, all-suite property with several restaurants, a lobby coffee bar and the Skyfall Lounge with great views, plus cocktails and dancing.

Aria Resort and Casino: The Aria is a very large, beautifully designed, luxury property with 16 restaurants and a dozen bars. There are 4,004 guest rooms, 568 luxury suites, 4 pools, a theater for entertainment and 150,000 ft. of gaming. 3730 S. Las Vegas Blvd.

Vdara Hotel: At 2600 W. Harmon Ave., this is an MGM Resorts International property. It has 57 floors and 1,495 suites. Along with the Mandarin Oriental, it is one of two hotels in the CityCenter complex that has no casino and is non-smoking. I suggest staying there so you have easy access to the Aria, Cosmopolitan, Mandarin Oriental and The Shops at Crystals. It is also connected to the Bellagio by free tram service.

Cosmopolitan: This is a new luxury property on The Strip at 3708 S. Las Vegas Blvd. It offers contemporary rooms, a casino, a large number of entertainment options, restaurants and bars.

Mandarin Oriental: This five-star luxury property is non-smoking and has no casino. The 23rd floor Tea Lounge is perfect for afternoon tea overlooking The Strip and the nearby Mandarin Bar is a great place for a cocktail with equally great views. There is also the MOzen Bistro for contemporary Asian cuisine and Twist, for modern French cuisine by Pierre Gagnaire.

The Lucky Dragon Hotel and Casino is an Asian-themed boutique hotel and locals casino, located at 300 West Sahara Avenue, on the north end of The Strip.

It opened in December, 2016 and is geared to attracting Chinese tourists who visit Las Vegas. It has contemporary Asian inspired rooms, a casino in a separate building across from the hotel, bar and tea garden in the hotel lobby, four restaurants featuring dim sum, Asian street food and other Chinese specialties. They feature free parking in the garage, which is a big plus for Las Vegas.

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