If your image of Nevada’s largest city is stuck in the Sin City days – as the place to be for guilty pleasures and uncensored excess – you may have underestimated Las Vegas, which is always looking for ways to reinvent itself. Its latest rebranding effort? Turning the headquarters for hedonism into a wellness destination that won’t bust your budget especially between June to August, the cheapest but hottest time to visit the desert oasis.
Recently, the Global Wellness Institute predicted the wellness tourism market will grow to US$1.1-trillion by 2025. So it only makes sense that Vegas – home of the high-rollers – is positioning itself to ride that wave. As Vegas native Isaiah Torres puts it: “We are a vacation destination, and as such, we want to make sure that we fulfill whatever motivation it is that drives people to come here.”
Torres, the executive chef at Harvest, a fine-dining restaurant at the Bellagio Hotel, adds: “If health and wellness is top of mind for many of our guests, then we are going to make sure we offer the best food, the best spa treatments and the best excursions for people to get outside and enjoy the natural beauty of these parts.”
Here are our top choices for a healthy and rejuvenating long weekend.
Vive Las Vegas Vegan!
According to the food blog The Vegan Word, Vegas now ranks as the 14th most plant-friendly city in the world, with five vegan restaurants for every 100,000 residents. They are so good at what they do, flexitarians, omnivores and meat lovers would all be happy to pull up a seat at the table.
Saffron, the Vegetarian Eatery: Located in a nondescript plaza in Chinatown, this East Asian fusion restaurant is full of surprises. Inside, the vibe is tranquil and intimate, almost spalike. Giant orchid murals cover the walls, while a serene Buddha sculpture, carved from sandstone, sits at the head of a fountain (more the size of a lap pool) that runs the length of the room. Saffron’s menu relies on ingredients sourced locally and as sustainably as possible. Its mushrooms, for example, are from Sundown Mushrooms, a Las Vegas boutique farm that uses regenerative growing practices. Wines come from family-run enterprises that embrace sustainable viticulture and take a natural approach to winemaking. Must-try dishes: Exotic mushroom tempura (made with locally grown wild pink oyster mushrooms with a to-die-for lemongrass tamarind sauce) and the saffron red curry (which stands out with its squash blossoms and a coconut lime foam). saffrontheeatery.com
Crossroads Kitchen at Resorts World: The Los Angeles-based eatery’s second location is the first vegan fine-dining restaurant on the Strip. Its Mediterranean menu, curated by founding chef Tal Ronnen and executive chef Paul Zlatos, does not hit a wrong note. Diners can sample Ronnen’s signature dishes, which include his Impossible Cigars, crunchy appetizers stuffed with Impossible “ground beef.” (So tasty, it’s hard to resist ordering another round). Must-try dishes: caviar (made from kelp) and chips served with French onion dip and stuffed zucchini blossoms. rwlasvegas.com/dining/crossroads
Harvest at MGM Grand’s Bellagio: The glass-walled kitchen is the centrepiece of chef Isaiah Torres’s Harvest and its shelves are laden with seasonal products, organic cuts of premium meat and sustainable seafood. The restaurant hired award-winning Gensler & Associates to create a space that is sophisticated and worldly, but still unpretentious. Torres serves up adventurous small bites (Salt and Pepper Fried Shrimp), vegan dishes such as Roasted Honey Nut Squash (there is a vegan-only menu available) and decadent mains (Viking Village Scallops in a turmeric beurre blanc served atop a sunchoke puree with a dollop of caviar). Must-try dish: The local ale-brined and hay-smoked Half Roasted Chicken. Sweet and salty, the skin is perfectly crisp. (This tried-and-true dish sells out fast.) mgmresorts.com
Relax and repeat
Self-indulgence is central to Vegas and its DNA, and the city’s spas are constantly being reinvented to ensure visitors are pampered in the most luxurious yet inventive ways. At JW Marriott, just off the Strip, (marriott.com/las-vegas) guests can ease their tired muscles in hydrotherapy pools in the new outdoor lounge, while the Spa at the LINQ (caesars.com) offers mommy-to-be massages. Vegas leaves no one behind.
The Spa at Virgin Hotels: The spa uses products made from organic microgreens grown by the Texas-based FarmHouse Fresh, which puts a portion of all proceeds toward rescue animals. Notable services include a facial using a peat moss mask (rich in humic acid, which hydrates the skin) and a serum made from Texas grapes. Another recovery facial sees the skin buffed with five plantfoliants followed by a creamy avocado mask, no hangovers required. Indulge in a post-treatment lunch at the hotel’s Kassi Beach House, where the wagyu meatballs and truffle pizza will not disappoint. virginhotelslv.com
Awana Spa at Resorts World: Resorts World Las Vegas, opened in June, 2021, is the first new-build hotel on the Strip in more than a decade. The Fountain of Youth is the 27,000-square foot spa’s key attraction, a collection of four vitality pools set to varying temperatures to ease tired bodies and relieve stress. If you visit, zen out in the crystal laconium room with a 1.5-metre-tall quartz statue (sourced from Brazil). The Art of Aufguss sauna books up on weekends, so reserve a spot well in advance. The draw? A first in North America, the event sauna combines a detoxifying treatment with a light and music show orchestrated by a Sauna Meister directing hot, scented steam toward participants through the hypnotic, swirling movements of a towel. rwlasvegas.com
Don’t forget the great outdoors
If you need a break from the roulette tables, the omnipresent air-conditioning and the cocktails, there are many beautiful places to catch your breath, including three great national parks – Grand Canyon, Zion and Death Valley – all within a few hours drive away. However, if time is tight, here are some feel-good options to escape the noise and busyness of the Strip.
Rooftop yoga: It was worth the 6 a.m. wake-up call to step out onto the rooftop of the Cosmopolitan Hotel to do some Yin-style yoga, poolside, while watching the sun rise over the eerily quiet Strip. After some tree poses and downward dogs, be sure to order a green juice cleanser at the open-air Overlook Grill. cosmopolitanlasvegas.com
Red Rock Canyon: It’s hard to believe this conservation area exists 27.4-kilometres from the Strip. With 26 trails of varying difficulty, even a novice hiker can take in the natural wonders this canyon has to offer including Keystone Thrust, a prominent geological fault estimated to be 65 million years old. The reserve, nearly 200,000 acres of crimson cliffs and narrow canyons, is home to wild burros, bighorn sheep (the state animal) and the Mojave green rattlesnake (“If you hear it, walk away very, very quickly,” our Pink Jeep Tours guide advised.) pinkadventuretours.com
Kayak the Black Canyon: For the adventurous, Evolution Expeditions has a three-hour Emerald Cave tour, which paddles onto the Colorado River, starting at Willow Beach, Ariz., and taking you up to Nevada and back. More intrepid kayakers might want to go for the Kayak Hoover Dam & Hot Spring Hike, a seven-hour excursion that starts with a descent down the original road carved into the canyon walls to create this colossal engineering marvel in the 1930s. Spectacular views are guaranteed. evolutionexpeditions.com
This writer was a guest of Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. It did not review or approve the story before publication.