Las Vegas can be a very strange and surreal place especially if you are not a fiend for the kind of casino gambling action that has made the city famous throughout the world. But in the last decade or so Las Vegas has been evolving into a destination that is not just for the ravenous gambler, but for vacationers looking for unique experiences in an awesome setting (for a number of reasons). Las Vegas is even gaining a reputation as a perfectly enjoyable destination for a family vacation as well.
I just returned from the newest of the gargantuan luxury hotels on the Strip – The Palazzo and have to report that it is a spectacular place to stay whether you are considering the suites, the service, the restaurants or the shows. But the Palazzo has taken the Las Vegas experience a couple of steps further with some ingeniously innovative touches.
First things first, The Palazzo is a sister tower to The Venetian but stands alone as a separate hotel. When you walk into the lobby, it is breathtakingly grand, both in size and in design. The suites, and there are over three thousand luxury suites in this hotel, are large but unlike a number of Las Vegas hotels, they are not just large – the suites at The Palazzo are decorated with warm colors and shades and have big comfortable L-shaped sofas in the sunken living room area.
The window shades and drapes are all electronically controlled so they can be raised and lowered from bed (or anywhere else in the suite for that matter). The bathrooms are huge and luxurious and the beds are comfortable and plush. But what makes these suites in The Palazzo different is that while being huge, they still feel very warm and cozy – a feeling you do not get from a number of the other Strip hotels in which huge suites are just… big, not comfortable or inviting.
My first experience in the hotel also went a long way in convincing me that Las Vegas is consciously evolving into something more refined than it has ever been before.
I had my hair cut by master barber (and transplanted Torontonian) Perry Gastis. Mr. Gastis has set up shop in the Canyon Ranch Spa area of The Palazzo and offers men a uniquely wonderful service – he has set up an old time barbershop that masterfully combines the old with the new. Once the door to his shop is closed, Las Vegas and all its glitz on the other side of the door disappears for a little while. You are treated to hot towel relaxation, straight razor shaves, a wonderfully relaxing atmosphere and treatment with the wonderful products that were developed and created by Mr. Gastis himself.
Mr. Gastis does not work for The Palazzo, he is based there because he feels that the setting best reflects the level of services he and his products can provide. The products used in this unique barber shop are called The Gentlemens Refinery and quite literally I have been using them ever since I was first exposed to them that first day at The Palazzo – yes, they are that good! You walk out of the shop created by Perry Gastis not only with a very fine haircut – you walk out feeling refreshed and invigorated… and looking forward to the next time you can visit. Perry’s shop is located in the area of the Canyon Ranch Spa – again a uniquely laid out spa experience that caters every bit as much to male guests as it does to female guests.
A second uniquely unique experience I had in The Palazzo involved the Lamborghini dealership that is actually located in the hotel. But it is not just your average Lamborghini dealership – in fact this Lamborghini dealership also has a restaurant built around its showroom, a café and bar (called Dal Toro) – a larger showroom one floor below has many more of the exotic cars on display (and for sale) and this showroom is open for use for private functions and parties. I was shown around the Lamborghini establishment by sales executive Ben Nef, an Idaho born dude that looks more like the rocks stars that play on the strip than a Lamborghini salesman.
Ben walked me through the operation and then treated me to a lengthy spin around Las Vegas in a sleek white Lamborghini Gallardo – the power and explosive acceleration of this machine literally took my breath away. I am 6’4″ tall and yet I fit comfortably in the passenger seat of this beauty. It has an engine that sounds more like a roaring Formula One race care than a street car, yet when you are inside it is quiet. I had never been in a Lamborghini before Ben invited me on that ride and I will never forget it!
Las Vegas hotels, especially the high end hotels, come with a dazzling array of upscale restaurants. It would have taken a month at the hotel to sample every one of the fine dining establishments in The Palazzo, so I will report on the ones that I did sample and since every one of them was terrific there is no reason to believe those I didn’t sample are any less so.
One of the best meals I have ever had in a restaurant was during this trip to The Palazzo – the restaurant is Mario Batali’s Carnevino and while it is by definition a steak house, it also features fine wine and wonderful European cuisine (I had a wonderful seafood pasta dish before a steak that was too good to even put into words). Carnevino has a wonderful sommelier that sees to it that you have the perfect wine for each course. As with the barber shop set up by Perry Gastis, Carnevino has a wonderful quietly elegant atmosphere that completely shields you from the razzle dazzle that is going on just outside its doors. General Manager Chris Crocetti runs Carnevino with such expertise every single patron is made to feel like a specially invited VIP.
I have to mention to other restaurants in The Palazzo as well – both unique, both with terrific food. Mainland is laid out like a cafeteria style restaurant you would find in Osaka or Tokyo – but the Asian food served is splendid – I had one of the best Pad Thai dishes there I have ever had. Dos Caminos features richly authentic Mexican food that is terrific. And if you are just in the mood for a little wine the Double Helix Wine Bar is the place you need to visit – not only is the wine tasting experience there a lot of fun, you come away with a lot more knowledge of wines than you went in with courtesy of the very knowledgeable staff.
The Palazzo is also filled with the kind of shopping that you would come to expect in such high end Las Vegas hotels, but The Palazzo has a few things thrown in that surprised me – including Bauman’s Rare Books – yes, indeed, a rare book dealer in the middle of the Las Vegas strip. I spent an hour in there drooling over everything from rare signed first editions of Ernest Hemingway’s novels to original letters written by Lincoln’s hand. Gazing at a signed original first edition of The Old Man and The Sea was not something I was expecting to do when in Las Vegas – but this is the new Las Vegas as represented by The Palazzo.
The house show at The Palazzo is the Tony Award winning show Jersey Boys, the wonderfully rendered stage musical telling of the story of the rise of the 175 million album selling band Franki Valli and The Four Seasons. The theatre in The Palazzo is comfortable and state of the art – and the show is quite simple wonderful. The two actors playing Franki Valli and songwriter Bob Gaudio (Rick Faugno and Erich Bergen) are the two best actors I have seen essay those roles. This just isn’t another Las Vegas glitz and glam stage show – Jersey Boys is a well acted, well staged piece of musical theatre.
The pool area of The Palazzo is spacious and comfortable with a very attentive staff that is helpful and always available and in the desert heat of Las Vegas as nice pool setting is a place you might just find yourself spending a considerable amount of time in so the quality of the staff is quite important.
The Palazzo is a wonderful hotel, elegant and refined while still being comfortable and accessible – it is immense in size and scale as are most Strip hotels, but The Palazzo doesn’t make you feel like you a dwarfed by the environment and the design around, it makes you feel like you are a welcomed part of it all.