Vegas, baby, Vegas!” That’s Vince Vaughn’s legendary line in Swingers as he drives into town doubling down on blackjack and chasing women. Because that’s what Las Vegas is all about, isn’t it?
Vegas is for roulette drama, smoky neon dreams and too many whiskey hunters. Driving down the Strip in a gold sedan at six in the morning.
It’s time for an eight wrap burger at Heart Attack Grill. It teems to the beat of a superstar DJ. It’s for hasty decisions at the Little White Wedding Chapel.
In short, Las Vegas is hedonism, excess and regret. If there’s one thing we can all agree Las Vegas isn’t, it’s health and wellness. But that’s exactly what I’m here for: to discover the city’s lesser-known health benefits.
As someone whose lifestyle oscillates between that of verdant Gwyneth Paltrow and nocturnal Ozzy Osbourne, the prospect of a “wellness” vacation in Vegas is a pertinent conundrum.
Sian Boyle heads to Las Vegas for a spa holiday, going out of town to admire the dramatic scenery around the Colorado River (pictured). “We float past kayakers sunning themselves in springs heated by volcanic rock,” she writes
This week I wouldn’t be Raoul Duke – the fictional journalist who stars in Hunter S. Thompson’s drug-addled film Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas.
But as we land on the runway, the burning landmarks of London, Paris and New York glow like skyscraper hotels, and I can’t help but wonder: Can Sin City really be made virtuosic?
Yes, but it requires a small detour first. Shortly upon arrival we are swept away by lasers and lights and transported to calm – but not that far from the neon madness, only 40 miles or so.
Beyond the glassy Lake Mead, one of the world’s largest man-made lakes, we are in the Black Mountains of the Sierra Nevada, whose rugged red peaks and dramatic canyons look straight out of a spaghetti western.
See! Hoover Dam: a massive Depression-era engineering feat, over 700 feet tall. We step into the shadow of the colossal concrete arch to board a raft as we drift down the Colorado River for the next three hours.
For 12 quiet miles, we are practically the only souls in the vast Black Canyon as we watch double-crested cormorants, mallard ducks, a red-tailed hawk, and a few bald eagles.
Arizona is on our left, Nevada on our right. We cruise through a remote, cactus-strewn, coyote-infested landscape—Clint Eastwood is nowhere in sight, though we do see a kind of Hollywood drama: a police helicopter on a search-and-rescue mission and so low fly fly before Whitewater blows, it thunders away.
Sian writes: “I can’t help but wonder – can Sin City really be made virtuous?”
We float past kayakers basking in springs heated by volcanic rock, which the Navajo Indians believed to be a sacred gateway to another dimension. We discover the “emerald cave” where bathers can bathe in ethereal green water through a light.
Kathleen, our guide, who has known this area for decades and whose grandfather worked on the Hoover Dam, says, “Vegas is Vegas. But there is so much beauty in the area.”
She is right. But then it’s time for a Cosmopolitan.
No, not the citrusy vodka cocktail, but the glittering, chandelier-adorned Cosmopolitan Hotel in the heart of the Strip, where I put in an intense 60-minute workout of grunting, jumping, and sweating.
“I bet you didn’t think you’d be doing burpees in Vegas!” beamed Palani, our muscular fitness trainer. No, Palani, I certainly didn’t.
At the Venetian Hotel, I sail past the mock gondolas for my next “wellness” break from the hustle and bustle of the Strip: a private deep breathing and stretching yoga class.
Next, I immersed myself in monsoon showers and icy cloud chambers at Cosmos Spa. I lose myself in a deep tissue massage at Caesars Palace Spa. At Resorts World’s Awana Spa, I detox in a crystal salt room.
It won’t be long before I’m drunk on good vibes. Did Hunter S. Thompson ever discover that it is possible to overdose recreationally?
Up to three quarters of a million Brits visited Las Vegas each year before the pandemic, and with 10-hour direct flights from Heathrow and Gatwick, numbers are rising again. You don’t have to be a high roller to make the pilgrimage. The average room rate is £140 per night.
“If there’s one thing we can all agree Las Vegas doesn’t have, it’s health and wellness. But that’s exactly why I’m here,” says Sian
Visitors can “lose themselves” in Sin City in deep tissue massages (file photo)
Many come for the shows. I meet Gary from Wolverhampton who says his family often catch four shows in five days before flying home. Within a week, you can see Katy Perry, Sting, the magician David Copperfield, or one of the Cirque du Soleil’s acrobatic shows.
At the Bellagio Hotel we are treated to the latest of these, Cirque’s amazing “O” show, which sees the performers dive 60 feet into a pool.
Others come for the sport.
Vegas has long been known as the capital of world title boxing, but next year will also host the NFL Super Bowl – the biggest event on the American sporting calendar. Meanwhile, a Formula 1 Grand Prix takes place in Sin City in November.
We dine with Lip Smacking Foodie Tours to try out their three-course concept at three restaurants—all surprisingly chic.
But we were struck by the American reality of three giant meals, not three courses. Javier’s Mexican serves us trays of stuffed enchiladas before we head to Julian Serrano for a Spanish tapas feast. When we arrived at Mastro’s Ocean Club, we were stuffed to the gills and unable to even taste the 28-day aged steak.
Sian (not pictured) tries her hand at an intensive training class at the glamorous Cosmopolitan Hotel (above) in the heart of the Strip
Virgin Atlantic Heathrow-Las Vegas return from £753 (virginatlantic.com). Double room B&B in Paris Las Vegas from £121 (caesars.com) and £110 at Resorts World Las Vegas (rwlasvegas.com). Visit February-May and September-November when the weather is moderate. Rooms are cheapest in summer, but it can reach 40ºC and in winter when it can drop to -3ºC. See visitlasvegas.com and lvcva.com.
Our American cousins are amazed when we Brits dismiss mountainous cheesecake plates and warm buttery cakes. “Won’t you even try?” asked one of our confused tablemates.
But the accompanying margaritas, sangrias and lemon martinis begin to work their magic and invite more temptations.
In the underground depths of Resorts World Hotel is a place called Here Kitty Kitty Vice Den. On the other side of the casino floor, behind a door disguised as a wall, is a red-lit Den of Sin.
I should be here for zen and vitamins, but the temptation is too great. Suddenly it’s bourbon cocktails, peanut butter beers, losing $80 in eight minutes of blackjack, and Saturday night in Vegas. Then it’s day and I wake up with two most unwelcome companions: fear, in the form of alcohol sweat running down my back, and disgust at the journey home.
I also hate to leave the wholesome side of Sin City, its hidden natural beauty and unexpected health benefits – even if I ruined it last night at the Here Kitty Kitty Vice Den.
It all gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “Viva Las Vegas”.
STAY HEALTHY IN VEGAS
- Hoover Dam rafting adventures cost from £105 per person (hooverdamraftingadventures.com).
- Use of the Spa for a day at The Cosmopolitan Hotel from £50 per person (cosmopolitanlasvegas.com).
- 3 hour spa access at Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars Palace from £54pp (caesars.com).
- Use of the Fountain of Youth at Awana Spa at Resorts World Las Vegas costs from £100 per person (rwlasvegas.com).
- Go hiking or rock climbing at Red Rock Canyon, 16 miles from Las Vegas (redrockcanyonlv.org).
- Take a break from the steakhouses and dine at the vegan restaurant VegeNation (vegenationlv.com).
James is an author and travel journalist who writes for The Fashion Vibes. With a love for exploring new cultures and discovering unique destinations, James brings his readers on a journey with him through his articles.