Vegas is always reinventing itself, and this year has been particularly exciting with a variety of new shows, attractions, musical offerings and restaurants. Whether you’re interested in digital museums, virtual reality programs or something unique from the legendary Cirque du Soleil, you won’t be disappointed.
My husband, Jason, and I have made three trips to Vegas this year, and each time we’ve explored the newest offerings in town. And in true Vegas style, they’re always big, flashy and fun.
Portions of this tour were hosted by MGM Corporation, but all opinions are my own.
1. Mad Apple by Cirque Du Soleil
We have been patronizing Cirque du Soleil shows for over 10 years, most of them in Vegas, and they are always exciting. Their latest show, Mad Apple in New York New York, is no exception. But this time, the classic acrobatic and death-defying acts are complemented by live music and dance, sometimes as individual acts and other times as transitions.
Walking into the Mad Apple is not a typical theater experience. Instead of people quietly looking for their seats, many go to the stage (doubles as a bar before the show starts) to order a drink. Along the way, several cast members engage the audience in games. It is loud and boisterous, something similar to a New York night club.
The show lasts 90 minutes and there is non-stop entertainment. Music, comedy, acrobatics and dancing take place on stage and in the corridors. There are even VIP seats slightly behind the stage that give guests a sense of being part of the action.
Pro tip: Doors open 30 minutes before showtime and it’s definitely worth arriving early to enjoy the pre-show antics.
2. Fly Over Las Vegas
Soarin’ at Disney’s California Adventure has long been my favorite ride of all time. This virtual experience takes guests on a tour of some of the world’s greatest sights such as the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. A similar attraction has recently opened in Vegas called FlyOver.
Instead of a world tour, FlyOver has two options: an epic sweep of the American West or Iceland. Since we returned from a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Jason and I opted for the vest. After squeezing in, the rows of seats lift up and move towards a huge, curved screen. Spectacular scenes are displayed of some of the most iconic sights in the western states, including the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and the Mojave Desert. All five senses are engaged through occasional mists of water and scents of pine.
Pro tip: If you are traveling with children – especially teenagers – this will be a great way to while away a few hours. In the summer, it’s also a great way to escape the heat for a while.
3. Perception Las Vegas
Digital art exhibitions have become all the rage around the world. Never a city to be left out, Vegas now has its own digital art museum called Perception. This 17,000 square meter space is currently home to Leonardo: The Universal Man.
The guests start in a small gallery hung with six digital representations of Mona Lisa, each with its own sound and video, some funny and some scary. Next is a larger gallery of images cast on four walls that finally ends with an oversized projection of The last meal.
The final gallery is the largest and is where Leonardo’s vast body of work and talent is told in five chapters – philosopher, painter, architect, scientist and inventor. This last gallery was exciting; I had no idea how multitalented da Vinci was and how many fields of study he influenced.
4. Meow wolf – Omega Mart
After experiencing Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, I knew I had to go to the Vegas location. This immersive, interactive art experience is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Meow Wolf – Omega Mart begins in a large “grocery store.” But visitors quickly realize that freezer doors and cupboards lead to other rooms. Each room is designed by different artists and everything can be touched. There are lights, sounds, stairs, slides, benches, chairs, tunnels, video games and much more. Use as long as you like to explore.
Each Meow Wolf has a story that goes with it. Visitors can choose to follow the story – a kind of mystery – or just take the art at face value. Jason and I chose to just roam through the experience at our own pace.
Pro tip: This is also a great place to take kids in Vegas. We saw toddlers through teenagers having a great time here.
5. Eataly Las Vegas
I have now been to four Eataly locations around the US and the Las Vegas location is my favorite. In my mind, this is the Disneyland of Italian food. The 40,000 square meter building houses dozens of restaurants and food stalls along with imported groceries, wine and spirits. They even offer cooking classes and tours. If you can’t make it to Italy, you can certainly come here.
The newest restaurant in Eataly is Toscana Ristorante & Bar. Toscana is set apart from the rest of the shops in a warm, cozy and quiet place that serves food inspired by Tuscany. We were treated to their four course tasting menu paired with Italian wines. We started with a burrata and tomato salad and a choice of prosciutto and mozzarella. Next was the pasta dish – lasagna rustica and spinach and ricotta ravioli. But the star of the night was the 42-ounce porterhouse steak served rare—just like they do in Florence. It brought back fond memories of our week in Florence a few years ago. And in true Italian style, the evening ended with gelato.
Pro tip: Eataly opens early at 7am and serves a good selection of breakfast pastries and sandwiches along with good Italian coffee. It’s a nice alternative to Starbucks and is far less crowded.
6. Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art
For years I laughed at the idea of going to a museum while in Vegas. I came here to eat, drink and be merry, not to be educated. But after visiting the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, everything has changed.
I was first drawn to the gallery while they were hosting an infinity space by Yayoi Kusama a few years ago. Earlier this year I returned for the exhibition, Ase: Afro Frequency Immersive Art Exhibit. The gallery is the perfect place to spend a quiet hour away from the lights and noise of the casino while being exposed to new artists.
7. Nellie’s Southern Kitchen
It is not easy to find live music in Vegas outside of a big concert with a big name artist. So I was excited to hear about the combination of live music and comfort food at Nellie’s Southern Kitchen. Started by Kevin Jonas Sr. — father of the famous Jonas Brothers — this restaurant is a tribute to his grandmother’s cooking.
We enjoyed a full dinner including biscuits, fried chicken, shrimp and grits and banana pudding for dessert. It was all delicious. But if you just want to have a drink and listen to music, that’s also possible. A full bar is available, including a large selection of whiskeys and bourbons. There was an amazing guitar duo playing while we ate and I understand there is music most nights of the week from about 6-10pm.
Where to stay in Vegas
There is an extensive range of accommodation in Vegas and something for everyone’s budget and preferences. Here are some of the places we have recently stayed and highly recommend.
Aria Sky Suites
When you want to feel like a big player, head to Aria Sky Suites. These newly remodeled suites at the top of the Aria Hotel feature luxury airport transfers, a personal concierge, private pool, private entrance and a lounge stocked with drinks and snacks. The floor-to-ceiling windows offer an incredible view of the city, especially at night. I was in love with the bathroom which included a bathtub, two sinks and a steam shower.
We have stayed at the Aria several times and love it for its central location on the Strip, the wide variety of on-site restaurants, and their spa.
Bellagio Las Vegas
I don’t think I’ve ever been to Vegas without a stop at the Bellagio. It has long been one of our favorite places for sightseeing, dining and sleeping. They have recently redecorated their rooms and I really liked the new decor with a neutral color palette. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much we love the Bellagio fountains and their nightly show.
At the top of Park MGM is the boutique hotel NoMad Hotel. With its own entrance, lobby and lifts, this feels like a very exclusive experience. While many modern hotels have opted for a lighter, neutral color scheme, the NoMad has darker colors with jewel-toned accents in the rooms and public spaces. My favorite part of the room is the large bathtub in the bedroom. There is also a dedicated pool for this hotel which is a bit quieter than the one at Park MGM. And I really love the fact that Eataly is in the same building.