If you were plucked from your chair, blindfolded, and deposited at City Center, when the blindfold came off, you would never guess you were in Las Vegas. Architecturally, the ultra modern Center cries out New York, Chicago, or as another writer has commented, Dubai. The one-year-old City Center is a canvas on which nothing mars the fluid lines, and nothing stands out but an occasional water feature. It's because of this fluidity that finding your way around the center in your car can be a challenge. Hidden parking structures are really hidden!
Signs that direct you to hotel reception or parking are subtle and few. An absence of frontage, an easily recognizable building entrance, contributes to uncertainty if you're arriving by car. Signage for the hotels grace the upper floors of the soaring buildings adding to your inability to pinpoint which hotel you're looking at. Some facades resemble very well tended delivery areas, a place where caviar would be unloaded by the palette. Of course if you're in a limo and you're used to caviar, finding hotel reception is not your concern.
Sleek and meandering pedestrian walkways are expansive when compared to the sidewalks on the strip. Multi-level concrete, mini freeways lead from one hotel to another. Occasionally you'll see people movers over head. The tram runs every seven minutes between Crystals mall, the Monte Carlo, and the Bellagio. You can ride for free on the 2,100-foot long track to visit other properties or simply view the towers that are as closely fitted as a well-tailored tuxedo, a fit that sometimes makes it difficult to determine the boundaries of each property.
Turning off flashy Las Vegas Blvd. into the City Center, the change in atmosphere is immediately conspicuous. Glass and steel soar high above the desert floor with the Aria resort hotel serving as the lynchpin for the approximately $11 billion City Center project. Neon is non-existent and even casinos are scarce. The only gambling hall is the one housed in the Aria.
By Vegas standards, the Aria rooms are not outrageously priced. The standard room is called a "deluxe", and although the word is often used loosely in the hotel industry, that is not the case at the Aria, home of the Cirque du Soleil show, Viva Elvis.
Enter your room for the first time and music plays while drapes open electronically. Parting window coverings reveal a wall of windows with a compelling view beyond,
one that after sunset, looks like jewels splashed across the vast Vegas real estate.
Albeit, some room views may be more appealing than others, one whole wing of the building hugs the strip with mountain and sunset vistas. If you want a view looking down the strip it will mean an added charge.
Amenities in each room include a sumptuous marble and tile bath area, luxurious bed linens, enough closet and draw space for a month's stay, and "command central" – a smart TV that controls everything inside and outside the room. Room temperature, drapes, music, just about everything you can think of including, illuminating a light outside your room to display "do not disturb" or "make up the room". With all it's impressive technology, one glaring omission is the lack of in-room Wi-Fi, which seems odd for a hotel devoting a grand space to their huge conference center. Internet access is available to guests but at exorbitant fees.
The 67 acres of the City Center boasts several other hotels and condo towers. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel/ Residences feels like a movie theatre inside, with dark, narrow passages dotted by bursts of life. Because condo residences are also found here, the public spaces may be designed to separate the two.
At the Center you'll also find the Vdara condo/hotel, the Veer Towers
with it's leaning twin glass structures, and Crystals Mall, the jewel of the Center. Boutique shops are staggered, again on multiple levels, and include the usual clique - Cartier, Balenciaga, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc.
Seven restaurants occupy the cavernous 500,000 square foot Crystals with satisfying fare like Wolfgang Puck and Todd English P.U.B. The restaurant that pops like a jem at Crystals is the award-winning Mastro's Ocean Club with it's 80-foot tall structure called the "tree house".
The inventive design allows you to view the mall from the main dining area and makes you truly feel you're perched in a tree that just happens to be situated near a cozy piano bar.
Menu items range from steak to seafood, with a three-tiered, iced Seafood Tower being one of their signature dishes. Surprisingly unpretentious, Mastro's flawless service makes this one of the best dining experiences in the City Center, possibly even Vegas.
We've all seen restaurants with menus displayed outside the entrance. But throughout the City Center the menus are touch screen displays that allow you to look at everything the restaurant has to offer for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The City Center is the most expensive privately funded project in the history of the United States. Green technology, an on-site power plant, reclaimed water, and it's own fire department, the Clark County Fire Station, make the Center a uniquely designed project.
The center also boasts a massive art collection, one of the largest in the United States, valued at $40 million. Collections from different artists rotate at the Mandarin Oriental galleries. On the sidewalk outside the galleries pedestrians are greeted by the 8,000 lb. "Typewriter Eraser Scale X"
by Claes Oldenburg, and Coosje Van Bruggen. A printed map is available at the Aria pinpointing the location of each work of art. When you go for a map, notice the sculpture, "Silver River", 3,700 lbs. of reclaimed sterling silver by Maya Lin, that hovers over the Aria reception desk. Many other big names are responsible for the collection at the Center, and one can't help but recognize that a cultured eye with an obvious appreciation for art was responsible for pulling together the City Center artwork, a definite draw for the new area.
The City Center is a very different Vegas experience. The quarter mile frontage on the Strip puts the Center steps from the Vegas we're all familiar with. And that may very well be one of the appeals for booking a room in the Center, the option of enjoying both worlds.
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