Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Visit Vegas and you'll want to go back

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Never been to Las Vegas? I have just one word for you -- go!

The incredible sights, sounds and smells, and the electrifying energy, will have you planning your next trip back before you've left.

Las Vegas is first-class all the way. Absolutely everything, from the food, to the hotels to the entertainment, is the best in quality and style.

There is absolutely no mistaking you're in Vegas when one of the first things you see are display boxes proudly showcasing magazine covers of scantily clad (I'm being polite here) womwn, proclaiming how you can have a "really good time," starting at only $69 an hour.

Driving down the Strip -- otherwise known as Las Vegas Boulevard -- is a little like seeing Disneyland for the first time. The immense size of the hotel/resorts is jaw-dropping. Each one sits on acres of property and houses thousands of hotel rooms.

Before I left home, I did some research, finding maps of the Strip. I was surprised to see how close everything was to each other -- easily within walking distance.

When you get there though, it's a different story. Yes, the resorts may be next door to each other, but because of their size, the walk between each is further than you'd think. The grandeur and class of the resorts makes each one stunning and unique. They're all spectacular and it's impossible to recommend just one, so when a friend recently asked me which hotel I'd recommend, I told her that best thing to do is check out this website www.visitlasvegas.com. It'll provide you with all you need to know.

Over the last few years, food -- or should I say gastronomical delights -- has come to play a huge part of the whole Vegas experience. Las Vegas has reinvented itself by becoming a dining destination to rival the culinary epicentres of Paris and New York.

The affluent Strip resorts are hiring the best celebrity chefs, and it makes for some pretty incredible fine-dining experiences. Yes, you can still find the buffets, but there is no shortage of fine-dining eateries that will please the palate of even the most discerning foodie.

Case in point: My sister and I wanted to take in a show and dinner, but we also wanted to make sure that we picked something that came highly recommended. We kept hearing the same thing -- for dinner, try the new Lavo restaurant in the Palazzo Hotel Resort Casino, then head over to the theatre (same resort) to see the Jersey Boys show. Lavo is a Meditterean-inspired restaurant offering mouth-watering morsels from the kitchen of world-class chef Ludovic "Ludo" Lefebvree. The menu encourages sampling, which is exactly what we did.

At the end of the meal, Chef Ludo came over to introduce himself. I think I made a moron of myself between ranting over the food, and drooling over the gorgeous chef.

The show was remarkable, a definite must-see. Jersey Boys chronicles the life and career of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It was funny, upbeat and lively, with an amazingly talented cast. We were so impressed that we were on our feet screaming "bravo" (unusual behaviour for us) and singing along with December, 1963, wishing the evening wouldn't end.

As much as I did, saw, ate and conquered, nothing can compare to the highlight of my trip -- meeting my first teenage crush, Donny Osmond, the gorgeous young man who made my prepubescent heart go pitter-patter.

I met him prior to seeing the new Donny and Marie variety show at the Flamingo. Not only does Donny look amazing, he is one of the nicest and funniest people I've met. And the show was a blast -- entertaining and engaging, filled with great music and dance, making it obvious why this brother-and-sister duo continues playing to sold-out audiences nightly.

My time in Vegas was short but very sweet, one of the most memorable trips I've had so far. Check it out, you won't be disappointed.

-- Viv Draward is a Winnipeg freelance writer.

IF YOU GO

WestJet has direct flights and packaged offers that include both airfare and hotel. Check it out on their website www.westjet.com. A direct flight from Winnipeg is a little over two-and-a-half hours.

Don't miss eating at these fabulous restaurants:

Yellowtail -- a to-die-for sushi experience located in the Bellagio Hotel.

Strip House -- best steak I've ever had. This one is located at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. Try the garlic bread in gorgonzola cheese.Vintner Grill -- A hidden gem off the Strip. This American bistro is located in Summerlin and specializes in contemporary American dishes, with influences from Italy, France and Spain. Very extensive wine list.

Wing Lei -- in the elegant and opulent Wynn Las Vegas. A mix of Cantonese, Shanghai and Szechuan cooking styles.

Payard Pâtisserie & Bistro -- a creation of award-winning pastry chef François Payard, it offers a variety of his signature chocolates, desserts, sandwiches and pastries.

Mon Ami Gabi in the Paris Las Vegas -- French bistro offering al fresco dining on The Strip.

Shows:

Donny and Marie at the Flamingo;

La Rev in the Wynn Las Vegas;

LOVE Cirque du Soleil;

KA Cirque du Soleil;

Jersey Boys

Activities:

Shop, shop and shop some more... Las Vegas Outlet Center; Las Vegas Premium Outlets, Fashion Outlet of Las Vegas, Ross Dress for Less (several locations) -- not to mention the amazing stores, boutiques and high-end specialty shops that line The Strip.

Rock Red Canyon Pink Jeep Tour -- About 30 kilometres west of town and home to the 13-km scenic, blazing red canyons formed million of years ago.

Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat -- The Mirage. See royal white tigers, white lions, panthers and leopards surrounded by palm trees and lush foliage and then head over to the dolphin habitat, home to a family of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 7, 2009 E7

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