CityCenter, Las Vegas: Center of it All

In a destination defined by sheer energy, the massive 67-acre CityCenter has debuted its own distinctive wattage with a stellar assemblage of Las Vegas escapes. Rather than follow suit with one of those over-the-top themes dominating decades past, this $8.7-billion city-within-a-city has emerged as an upscale mega-resort committed to art, architecture and sustainability. What gives the self-contained urban complex a definitive edge is how it presents so many dynamic experiences in a single site.

At 18 million sq. ft., the modern behemoth shimmers between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo on Las Vegas Boulevard. First impressions may have you wondering if you’ll need a GPS to navigate. That’s not the case.

Bathed with an abundance of bold water features, natural light and landscaping, the manageable layout links hotels, residences and retail via pleasant pedestrian walkways, ramps and a 3-station monorail. We found it surprisingly easy to learn the lay of the land.

Ballyhooed as the largest green development in the world, CityCenter includes ARIA, a 61-story, 4,004-room gaming property; luxury non-gaming hotels that include the Mandarin Oriental, Vdara Hotel & Spa and The Harmon Hotel (opening late-2010); and the 500,000-sq.-ft. Crystals retail and entertainment district. Each of the completed buildings has received LEED Gold Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council—no easy feat in a destination more often criticized for decadence than praised for eco-conscious initiatives.

the art of aria Touted by MGM Grand as “a fusion of energy, inspiration and vision that forms the core of CityCenter,” ARIA is the liveliest among the trio thanks to its 150,000-sq.-ft. casino and scads of signature eateries. But style and environmentally friendly design elements are far from lost in the shuffle.

You’ll appreciate both instantly upon entering the expansive, airy, 3-story lobby. Perched high behind the reception area against a panoramic floor-to-ceiling glass wall is “Silver Rivers,” artist Maya Lin’s premier Las Vegas project. Inspired by the boundaries and topography of the Colorado River, Lin tapped into CityCenter’s sustainability theme by casting the 84-ft. signature piece with 100 percent reclaimed silver.

Even ARIA’s slots promote conservation with bases serving as floor AC units cooling public areas from the ground up rather than wasting energy by cooling from above. While that may go unnoticed when you’re fixated on progressive Wheel of Fortune, it’s further testament to CityCenter’s green focus at every level.

“Our typical guest is affluent, enjoys new experiences, appreciates fine dining, architecture and art, and believes in the importance of sustainability,” says Gail Fitzgerald, v.p. of hotel sales and marketing. “They also tend to be culturally and geographically diverse.” She adds that this market expects luxurious accommodations and a friendly, attentive staff. In sizing up ARIA’s patrons and service level, Fitzgerald’s assessment seemed right on target.

after the games When gamers are ready to downshift, the 80,000-sq.-ft. Spa at ARIA offers a secluded respite from the action. Tranquility sets the tone from the moment you arrive, with a peaceful stone and water garden adorned with sacred Japanese Aji stones inspiring calmness.

The 2-story design features 62 treatment rooms, a full-service salon, advanced fitness center and Las Vegas’ first co-ed spa balcony with outdoor infinity-edge therapy pool. Be sure to allow extra time to enjoy the Japanese Ganbanyoku stone beds relaxation room and “Sho” salt-infused room with illuminated salt brick wall that relieves skin irritations and respiratory ailments.

Massage connoisseurs should consider the Thai Poultice Massage, a sure bet to sooth away tension. The ancient therapy is a muscle-relieving dream using warm traditional poultices infused with lemongrass, ginger and prai extract.

Reuniting an American icon with one of his most coveted playgrounds, Cirque du Soleil’s “Viva ELVIS” heralds The King with an upbeat fusion of hallmark Cirque elements—dazzling sets, riveting acrobatics, colorful costumes and timeless music that rocks the house. Colonel Tom Parker narrates the show, taking you on a chronological journey through Presley’s life.

While every act has its own nostalgic appeal, two are especially engaging—an electrifying rendition of the iconic “Jailhouse Rock” movie production number and the military-based treatment of “Return to Sender” with footage of Presley’s 1958 swearing-in as a U.S. Army private. Here’s a heads up for die-hard fans—be sure to catch one of the signature red scarves floating down from the rafters at the show’s end.