Las Vegas. The seat of so much ambitions and dreams, and where so many have come in pursuit of something greater. Yet all who venture to the Entertainment Capital of the World need a place to stay, a place to recoup, a “getaway” amidst the quest for either riches or escape or reinvention.
In the center of a happening 21st century entertainment district last year came a rebranding of sorts in the form of Park MGM, whose structure repurposed the old Monte Carlo hotel, and sited a stone’s throw away from the neighboring T-Mobile arena, home to the NHL’s recently christened Golden Knights franchise—who were cut short by the Washington Capitals one step shy of their first Stanley Cup in 2018—and of Lady Gaga’s concert residency.
It’s the center of Vegas’s bustling thrum, and a great place to unwind or make plans to do the city as you see fit.
For those who, after a long trip, might not be in the mood for a conversation with the front desk, you can check into Park MGM via kiosk. All I had to do was input my name, the machine found my reservation, and then printed out a voucher for the room number as well as two room keys for access.
Our room, located on the eighth floor, looked out over the Strip, where so much construction was underway. It’s testament to how much Vegas has grown since I first started coming here in college, when every hotel in town seemed to be trying to outbid one another for the cheapest buffet or the best inclusive package. The economy these days is booming, so the whole town seems to be catering to the upmarket—including here at Park MGM, what with its bevy of expensive restaurants and other attractions.
The pool area was amply set up for optimal relaxation. Dozens of chairs stood at the ready for the visitor, spaced around the pool and hot tubs (though make sure you don’t overheat in the hot desert air of the Mojave Desert). There were also private cabanas available for a fee, and special in-pool chairs for rent as well, which is positioned halfway in and halfway out of the water, and where you could be waited on by Park MGM staff.
While at the pool, it was a bit difficult to completely escape the constant sounds of Las Vegas Blvd. and surrounding activities seemingly happening all at once during the afternoon, but then again, no one precisely comes to Vegas seeking quietude. So we sat back, ordered another local beer and kept our feet dipped in the pool
The culinary greatness of the Park MGM property was on display at Bavette’s, located inside the hotel/casino on the ground floor. Stepping into Bavette’s was like being transported back to Old Vegas chic. Even though it was dinnertime, the lights were turned down low, fostering an intimate atmosphere as Victoria and I huddled over our menus, which we read by candlelight. If I listened closely enough—or so I told myself—I thought I could hear the distinctive laughter of departed Vegas legends Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. nearby.
Accordingly, first up was cocktail course. It seemed most appropriate to have a Rat Pack-era martini, and so I ordered the Hibiki Toyota Old Fashioned, made from a stellar Japanese whiskey. I stirred it up gently and, at $22, it did not in any way disappoint.
After a starter course of an East/West Coast oyster combo platter, Victoria ordered the classic ribeye Chicago cut—16 ounces of amazement served in béarnaise and delectably seasoned with steak salt. I opted for the filet mignon petite duchess cut, which I added to with the optional roasted bone marrow, and paired it with a recommended Heitz Cellars cabernet. It’s definitely good, but the Chicago ribeye would be the way to go were I to return.
Dessert was lemon meringue pie and carrot cake to top off an absolutely stellar meal.
Since this was Vegas, after Bavette’s meant hustling to a show, and what better way for an American and his English fiancee to cap our evening than by checking out “The Beatles LOVE” from the incomparable Cirque du Soleil. To call “LOVE” either a concert or a show is inaccurate on both counts: What it truly is in an immersive experience unlike any other, and set to the soundtrack of some of the greatest of the Fab Four’s output—and all performed within a specially designed theater inside the Mirage.
It defies description, and it is much, much better seen than written about, but suffice to say it encompassed death-defying, high-wire acrobatics, laser light shows and special effects, outlandish costumes, audience interaction and, of course, some of the most beloved songs of the last century, all interspersed with vintage speech recordings of those lads from Liverpool. This was first-rate entertainment positively taken to a whole new level.
By the end of the show, the performers enticed the audience to sing along to “All You Need Is Love,” with all in the arena standing and cheering and, in many cases, wrapping their arms around those next to them. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, left the arena smiling.
The next morning, Victoria and I returned to the Park MGM ground floor and headed to Primrose for breakfast. We were ushered to an outdoor table in the shade and made immediately to feel welcome by wait staffers Gabe and Carlos. The outdoor space presented an awesome atmosphere that was, in its own little way, a quiet counterpoint to the hustle and bustle just beyond the property’s limits.
The decor was reminiscent of a French bistro, right down to the tableware, which I could only describe as “very Provence.”
We started out with fresh iced tea and fruit, a perfect balance to a first day in town that involved several glasses of alcohol—to say nothing of the desert sun. For entrees Victoria tried the bacon, egg and cheese croissant, served up with fire-roasted peppers and chili relish. My eyes were drawn in by the eggs benedict, with brioche and, of course, hollandaise sauce. However, I simply had to upgrade from ham to the blue crab option, which was a sensation.
The warmth of the experience was only further heightened when assistant manager Mike Rubin popped by our table to say hello and wish us a pleasant day.
Heading out, Victoria and made our way to check out the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens at the Bellagio, which is an ever-changing walk-through experience of flowers and animatronic sculptures that move and, in the case of the faux-tigers on display, roar. A very happy tree with a smiling face in the center of the pool was a fantastical centerpiece that couldn’t help but remind me of something out of “Lord of the Rings.”
Just outside, we had to take in the Bellagio’s famous water fountain show, with precisely timed water spouts dancing toward the heavens on a cloudless day, and set to some of the greatest compositions in Western music.
Back in the Park neighborhood, Vicky and I decided to walk across the street from the hotel to have sushi at Sake Rok, a hip joint of sushi entrees and where what can only be described as a “restaurant MC” on a microphone went from table to table, entreating guests to do sake bombs. It’s the kind of dining experience—equal parts dinner and entertainment—that people increasingly come to Sin City for.
For giggles and to truly round out our Vegas experience, Vicky and I made sure to head to the historic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, made famous by dozens of movies and TV shows ever since it was installed at what was then the southern edge of town in 1959. (And yes, it lights up at night!)
Then it was back to the Park for more relaxing by the pool and to soak up as much outdoor sun and luxury as we could before returning to the “real” world again.