First look: Life in the CityCenter

By | January 7th, 2010

After spending a day as a guest at Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, I said to myself: “I could live here.”

Well, almost.

Aria is part of CityCenter Las Vegas, the budget-blowing, awe-inspiring “urban community” on the Las Vegas Strip. (How budget-blowing? Try $11 billion. And how awe-inspiring? Just look at it.)

So what’s it like up close?

Every bit as awe-inspiring. And budget-blowing.

I’ve lost track of my expenses. I can’t bear to look at my guest folio. But I’m also mesmerized by this project, and have gotten lost several times while wandering around CityCenter on my own, without the benefit of a guide or a map.

Since the property is so new, even the employees occasionally lose their way here.

I’m here for two reasons: To cover the Consumer Electronics Show today and tomorrow and to do a remote broadcast of our radio program, Rudy Maxa’s World With Christopher Elliott. Aria is hosting our show, so please tune in to the show this weekend to find out more about the resort from some of the key people who work here.

In the meantime, here are the highlights I’ve experienced so far:

Jean Philippe Patisserie is the place to go for a latte and muffin after a long night at the tables. I don’t gamble (Kari’s last words to me: “Have fun. But not too much fun.”) I’m told that you must try the crepes. This ain’t no Starbucks: Jean-Philippe Maury is a world pastry champion.

Lemongrass is the only Thai restaurant on the strip. I had lunch with a friend there yesterday, and enjoyed a nice basil soup and a spicy pad dish. Highly recommend it.

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Sage serves contemporary American cuisine “spiced with global influences”. We’re going to have Chef Shawn McClain on the show Saturday to talk about his artistry. Meantime, I recommend the mushroom salad starter, Turbot and anything on the desert menu with chocolate. Sage combines farm-to-table produce, artisanal meats and sustainable seafood with an emphasis on simple, clean flavors and seasonal ingredients, according to the restaurant.

• And don’t forget to stop by the Spa at Aria where I spent an agonizing — but ultimately, pleasant — 10 minutes in its eucalyptus steam room. Do the deep-tissue massage if you have the time, and then unwind on its heated-stone ganbanyoku beds (they’re said to have healing properties) and its infused salt room.

Once the rest of CityCenter opens, I’m sure it will be possible to live here without ever leaving. I’m waiting for someone to blog about it.

Rooms at Aria start at around $149 at this time of year, and you can expect to spend at least that much every day on food and beverages, so a vacation at CityCenter isn’t for the faint of wallet. But it is a decidedly upscale experience you should consider if the rest of the glitzy Las Vegas Strip is a little off-putting.

(Photo: Trey_Campbell/Flickr Creative Commons)

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