After pulling a stress-filled all-nighter to deliver a bundle of client work, I boarded a plane bound for Vegas Monday afternoon. My mission for the week was simple: to take a much needed break from work, escape reality and spend some quality time with friends.
A lot has changed since I first visited Las Vegas back in 1998. This time, Gala and I both wanted to stay at the newest and most buzzed about hotel on the strip, The Cosmopolitan. With a sophisticated, urban vibe, mirrored surfaces and crystal chandeliers draped from every conceivable surface, it was an ideal choice in comparison to the overly gilded options we’d encountered during past stays.
Monday / Day 01
After quick flight from Portland and a five minute walk through the casino with my huge suitcase in hand, I arrived at our room at The Cosmo. It was love at first sight with the feeling of a glamorous apartment (The hotel was originally slated to be condos.)
Afterwards, we hit a WPPI-related party at Planet Hollywood.
During our visit to The Gallery, we fell in love with a disco ball galaxy hanging from the ceiling as well as a carousel horse and rhinestone-encrusted tub. The highlight of the night was watching David take the stage and belt out a Bruce Springsteen tune. That Brit had all the lyrics down by heart!
Back at our hotel, I found my new home — a stiletto sculpture along the edge of the casino. Prime real estate, if you ask me.
Our night ended with ill-fated, overpriced room service. Just don’t do it, ever. From them on, we saved our pennies and hit the hotel concessions stand instead.
Tuesday / Day 02
Kat, Gala and I got off to an early start engaging in our favorite holiday pastime: shopping. We were in need of a few last minute shoot essentials but came up mostly empty-handed.
We took a short break in between the shopping madness to get our fortunes told by Zoltar. They were pretty damn good for a buck.
If you’re on the hunt for vintage, as we were, Vegas is a no-go. Really, don’t bother. After taking multiple cabs and walking miles through various parts of town, our search for vintage goodies was a complete bust (two of the stores were completely shuttered).
Between shopping, we visited Fremont Street for the first time. Fremont Street (also known as Glitter Gulch) was the first paved street in Vegas (1925) and is considered the older, original Las Vegas. It’s a fascinating trip through the past, complete with many of the original casinos from the 40s onward. Western themes and vintage typography are everywhere. Fremont is the real deal; it’s not the glammed up facade of The Strip.
Drinks are cheap and plentiful, the signs for showgirls and escorts are more graphic, and the once glamorous past along this street now feels distant and faded. Cab rides run around $20.00 each way from most of The Strip hotels.
Tuesday night was spent exploring the art and resturnts of the Cosmo (much to Kat & David’s dismay, Gala & I wanted to stop every 10 feet for a photo op) and feeling really anxious for our big shoot on Wednesday.
Wednesday / Day 03
The shoot we’d been planning for weeks was finally happening. Our hair & makeup team and photographers arrived at 9 am sharp and got to work. We ran through outfit pairings, threw our belongings into garbage bags and hit the road. The first location at Circus Circus was so much better than I could have imagined. I loved the old Vegas feel.
The scenery of the second location, a ghost town in Nelson, felt straight out of a movie and thanks to the team’s hard work, everything went off without a hitch. The entire day was brimming with a sense of optimism and willingness to come together in a way that I’ve rarely experienced.
That night, as we were cruising back towards The Strip in the rental car, blasting 80s rock tunes and laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, I felt a surge of thankfulness to be a part of this experience with my friends.
Back at the hotel, we tiredly dragged garbage bags of clothing and vases of flowers through the long stretch of casino, resembling fallen showgirls swathed in feathers, sequins and taffeta.
All of our meals up until Wednesday night had been lackluster; this time, we weren’t leaving anything to chance. After scouring Yelp reviews, we decided on Mon Ami Gabi inside the Paris. If you’re grabbing a meal on The Strip, this is your place. The food was excellent and much more affordable than some of the other places we’d tried. Do make reservations; otherwise, the wait can run over an hour.
At the end of the day, I had a realization: the best moment of our trip had nothing to do with shows, shopping or glamour. It was by far the time spent in a dusty ghost town surrounded by amazing company. It’s hard to explain but Las Vegas is one of those places that can feel overwhelmingly lonely if you’re there alone. Wandering through dark casinos, I was acutely aware of how different my experience would have been had I not been vacationing with two close friends and taking part in big group-inclusive events. The artifice is fun but the people around you are what really bring the experiences to life.
Thanks for joining me for part one of this magical, glitz-filled adventure. Stop by tomorrow morning for part two!