Trip report from Las Vegas. Includes information about the Encore hotel and the Cirque de Soleil LOVE show.

Strip view from Encore, Las Vegas

We went to Las Vegas two days in mid-February – the second leg of our “Sin Week” trip – two days in Death Valley, two days in Las Vegas and four days in New Orleans before Mardi Gras. I traveled with my husband, my sister and her boyfriend. I had been to Vegas once before, staying at the Venetian and my husband had as well, staying at Paris. Neither my sister or her boyfriend had been there before.

Logistics:

We drove to Las Vegas from Death Valley. It was about a two hour trip through fairly monotonous terrain. We stopped at Rhyolite ghost town on our way out of the park (for more on the Death Valley portion of the trip, click here).

Weather:

Las Vegas was surprisingly chilly – in the 50s and 40s. We were expecting it to be a bit warmer. Way too chilly for any pools.

Encore lobby, Las Vegas

Casino

We stayed at Steve Wynn’s newest hotel, Encore Las Vegas, primarily so I could write a “Checking In” column about the casino for USA Today.  I reserved a standard suite for a one night midweek rate of $159, but the hotel also honored a $109 price that we had received for Wynn next door. As I wrote in my article, the Encore, “bursts with pre-recessionary flame-colored glam. Butterflies flit as a motif throughout the casino — inlaid as floor mosaics, embedded into carpet designs, and hanging as glittering red crystal sculptures from the ceiling outside the Encore theater. Opulent touches range from the sweeping multitiered Venetian red glass chandeliers lighting the casino chambers to the glass peacocks guarding high-roller rooms.”

We asked for a high floor with a Strip view and got it (as regular customers: I am not a high roller nor do I tell hoteliers about my job when checking in). The rooms had “floor-to-ceiling windows, mirrored walls and cushy king beds with 310-thread-count linens. A divider wall holding a swiveling flat-screen TV separates the bedroom from a living room containing an L-shaped sofa and work area. A control panel for drapes, sheers and lights is conveniently placed bedside. Bathrooms are sumptuous, with dual sinks, separate shower and soaking tub and another TV that is set into the wall. Minibar amenities include a $30 “intimacy kit.” Amid the elegance, a burn mark on the new desk was jarring, as were the thin walls — conversations (as well as some bodily functions) upstairs and next door were easily heard.”

In summary, I thought the Encore was good for those seeking a more boutique casino experience. It has more natural lights and an airier atmosphere than other Vegas gaming rooms. The casino floor is partitioned by columns and drapes into more intimate Monaco-style salons, adding to the exclusive feel. The quiet, however, may turn off gamblers who flourish on the buzz of an open casino floor. And Vegas lovers who like to be in the thick of things may dislike Encore’s north Strip location.

(To read my complete USA Today review, click here).

Lobby, Wynn, Las Vegas

Highlights

Beatles Love, Cirque de Soleil, Mirage MGM Grand. I booked this show because my husband is a huge Beatles fan. We had seen road shows of the Cirque before, and it was nice to go to one where you knew the songs. The show was the typical Cirque mix of stunts and acrobatics, loosely tied together with a vague theme. I made sure to get tickets up high, as there is a part of the show where some of the audience gets covered with a sheet. Our tickets cost $125.

Gambling. I won $100 on a penny slot in the Encore the first night, which got me a little addicted! (and usually, I never gamble).We made sure to sign up for the Wynn/Encore red card and got a $30 gambling credit. I walked away from the two days up about $60.

Lunch at Olives (Bellagio). We spent much of Tuesday walking around, looking at the different casinos. We met my sister and her boyfriend here for lunch. We requested outdoor seating under the assumption that the fountains would be on. It turned out that they didn’t start until later in the afternoon, and we wished the hostess would have pointed this out to us. We had a scrumptuous grilled squid and octopus starter and the olives and breads that they give out gratis were excellent. Would go back, especially if the fountains were on.

In’N’Out. I had heard so much about these West Coast cult burgers that I had to have one on our way into the city. I ordered an animal style burger and my husband had a double double with animal style fries. Delicious!

lobby, Bellagio, Las Vegas

Meh (so so)

Daniel Boulud Brasserie at Wynn. We chose this as our “splurge” restaurant because we wanted to have a view of the Lake of Dreams show from the restaurant. Although we requested a view in advance, we were denied. That disappointment notwithstanding, the DB burger filled with truffles and shortribs, was as decadent as I remembered from New York (it should be, for $32). Bill for two, including wine, about $200. Not sure I would recommend it as there are so many other good restaurants around (and the Lake of Dreams show is kinda creepy.)

Wazuzu at Encore. This was our last meal in Vegas. By this point, we were feeling a bit overwhelmed by alcohol and rich food, so we got some miso soup and sushi here. The restaurants at Encore are extremely expensive; we felt good to get out of a place for about $50 for two. If you are at the Encore, this is your cheaper option.

Casino floor, Encore, Las Vegas

Overall

People seem to have a love/hate relationship with Vegas. I happen to love it, at least for a few days at a time. While I liked Encore quite a bit, I would probably try a different casino next time, just for variety.

Want to read more from our Sin Week trip? Check out the Death Valley trip report here or the New Orleans trip here.

What’s your favorite Vegas splurge restaurant? Tell me here!