Las Vegas Civilized

*WRITER’S NOTE: THE LAS VEGAS REGENT HAS SUBSEQUENTLY CLOSED AND IS NOW A MARRIOTT RESORT.

During the past year, major casino hotels and mega resorts including Mandalay Bay, the Four Seasons, the Venetian, and Paris have opened in Las Vegas. There are over 121,000 rooms there, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The US Tour Operators Association recently reported that Las Vegas is ranked Number One as the most popular package destination — ahead of Orlando, New York City, and San Francisco. The year round occupancy at major hotels on the strip is in excess of 90%. In 2000, the number of visitors is expected to exceed 36 million, eclipsing 1999’s record of 33.8 million people! This is a great example of the “build it and they will come” philosophy. It also means that there are a lot of people in a one small area. That leads to regularly occurring gridlock on the strip; traffic is snarled night and day. Frankly, it’s often a mess. Is this what Bugsy Siegel envisioned in the early 50’s? (For a feel of the flavor of the early days before Las Vegas became an entertainment mecca, check out videos featuring Warren Beatty in Bugsy and Sharon Stone in Casino.)

In the summer of 1968, my wife and I first visited Las Vegas We drove in a red jeep covered with daisy decals. Viet Nam was exploding, LBJ had bowed out as a presidential candidate, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinate; the country was in turmoil. Morris Shenker, Jimmy Hoffa’s Teamster attorney and a friend of a friend, was the owner of the Dunes and we were his guests at the hotel. We checked into a suite that was bigger than our house. It had a baby grand piano in the living room! It was an amazing introduction to the excesses of Las Vegas. For us, it was the first of many trips. These were the Rat Pack years of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. Hot acts in the lounges featured Louie Prima and Keely Smith, Buddy Hackett and Don Rickles. It was a time for free drinks, cigarettes, food, and the shows and hotel rooms were cheap.

More than 30 years later, in addition to the recent building boom along Las Vegas Boulevard, several newer resorts have been developed “off the strip” in Henderson and Summerlin. It had been awhile since our last visit and we wanted a different kind of Vegas experience, so we decided to stay at The Regent Las Vegas in Summerlin. The Regent name is not well known in the U.S., although the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills is a Regent Hotel. Their international reputation, however, is excellent, e.g. the five star Regent Hong Kong.

Since we live in Southern California, we chose to drive. The trip is an easy five hour jaunt with a couple of interesting stops on the way. If you like outlet malls, you won’t be disappointed. There are two large ones in Barstow, CA alone. We also stopped in Primm, Nevada right over the California state line. This mall features more than 100 stores anchored by names such as Neiman Marcus, Polo, Banana Republic and Eddy Bauer. It is only 40 minutes from the strip and there is convenient shuttle service available from the hotel New York-New York. While driving into Las Vegas on US 15, as we traveled parallel to the Strip, we were amazed by the explosive growth. Luxor’s pyramid is dwarfed by Mandalay Bay and next to the castle turrets of Excaliber. New York-New York’s roller coaster rises high above the amazing re-creation of the Big Apple’s skyline. Our old haunt, the Dunes, is no more, replaced by Bellagio and a lake. We saw the replica of the Eiffel Tower at Paris and the gleaming gold facade of the Mirage. The Monte Carlo hotel is new entry to the Strip and Caesar’s Palace has added still another tower. Rio’s purple presence glimmers on the other side of the highway.
The Regent Las Vegas, formerly the Resort at Summerlin, is located about 20 minutes north of the strip in the fast growing bedroom community of Summerlin. It is not a typical Las Vegas hotel. There are two six story towers, the Palms and the Spa, each with their own entrance and lobby. The towers are connected by the Promenade, featuring small shops, interesting boutiques, several restaurants, a conference center and a spa. The spa, Aqua Sules (Latin for “Waters of the Sun”) is a world class retreat. It was named after the Roman Baths in England that eventually became the city of Bath. Overall, the environment of The Regent Las Vegas is calm and comfortable with understated elegance.

During our visit, we drove to the Strip and visited the MGM, New York-New York, Monte Carlo, Paris, Mandalay Bay, Bellagio, and the Venetian. What a day! Don’t miss the lobbies in all of the hotels, the water show at the Bellagio, and the canals at the Venetian. We were exhausted after our all day outing, but when we returned to the Regent, we found ourselves relaxing immediately. It was like returning home after a long, hot hike. It was our oasis in the desert; truly civilized. What an amazing town, what a nice hotel.

Please Note: Subsequently, The Regent Las Vegas closed and was taken over by Marriott Hotels

Travel and Money Saving Tips:

Hotel information: You can book The Regent Las Vegas online at www.regentlv.com. They offer a number of mid-week golf and spa packages and special room rates that represent a significant discount from the published rates. The grounds, spread over 54 acres, include a putting green, large outdoor pool including private misting cabanas for rent, waterfalls, waterside cafe and wedding pavilion. The resort operates three restaurants and the casino features 1,200 slots and 40 table games. There are three championship golf courses a few minutes away by complimentary shuttle and tee times are no problem. The 500 plus rooms are oversized and feature a walk-in closet with a safe. There is a refrigerator stocked with complimentary bottles of water. The bathroom features a spacious spa tub and fabulous overhead “rain shower.” Don’t miss the Upstairs Market Buffet at The Regent Las Vegas for a great Sunday champagne brunch. Another hint, try the Southwestern Stone Therapy at Aqua Sules Spa featuring hot stones and massage; it’s a real treat. The state of the art fitness area, saunas and whirlpools opens at 5:30 AM, closes at 10 PM and is free to spa guests and only $10 for day use. For outdoor recreation, including hiking, biking and horseback riding, The Regent Las Vegas is minutes from the 197,000 acre Red Rock Canyon National Conservation area.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau can be reached online at www.lasvegas24hours.com for information.

While in Las Vegas, use the public bus for $2 or catch the free trolley for rides up and down Las Vegas Boulevard. Try not to drive!

Any US listed toll free number can be found by dialing 1-800-555-1212; the information call is always free.

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