The perfect Las Vegas weekend doesn’t exi—
That’s how the internet meme goes, and this is my approach to exploring the best resorts, restaurants and experiences that Sin City has to offer ahead of the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix.
This question came up recently when in Austin for the US Grand Prix. While at dinner with Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas and his partner Tiffany Cromwell, we talked through several of the Vegas hotel options and still came to no single conclusion. So even the drivers and teams are still debating which is the best place to stay for F1’s Las Vegas debut. One hotel that definitely came up in that conversation was The Cosmopolitan.
This twin-tower luxury hotel is uniquely positioned on the actual F1 course. Even better, it looks directly down on Las Vegas Blvd. and specifically turn 14, which is a heavy braking zone at the end of the long straightaway where the highest speeds will be achieved. Uniquely, The Cosmopolitan is the only hotel on The Strip with open balconies. The value and allure of this feature cannot be overstated. Firstly, the constant access to fresh air makes spending time in the room not only tolerable but enjoyable. And for the F1 weekend, you’ll be able to see and hear the cars coming straight down The Strip from your room. Granted, you wouldn’t want to watch qualifying or the race from a hotel room. But it would certainly be worth a practice session or two if you organized a viewing party with the live feed showing on the television.
Of course, you’ll need to book the right rooms in the right tower to get this view, and these will likely be sold at a premium when The Cosmopolitan announces its F1 packages. For this reconnaissance mission, I booked a suite on the north side of the Boulevard Tower on the 65th floor. The balcony looks down on the Bellagio fountains, and you can see up Las Vegas Blvd. as far as turn 13, which is a small sweeper that will be taken flat out. Rooms on the east side will look directly down on the braking zone, so the ideal suite location will be on the northeast corner of the Boulevard Tower.
The Cosmopolitan is a luxury hotel experience that is almost entirely adult oriented. Over the past several decades, Vegas has expanded to become more and more family friendly with places like New York-New York and the recently completed Resorts World. This is great, as it broadens the city’s appeal. But this is not why the Cosmo exists.
The property features two towers. The aforementioned Boulevard Tower is more of a party scene. This is where you’ll find most of the bars and restaurants, the nightclub, and day club, the shopping area, and a pool with daybeds and full-service bar. Whereas the Chelsea Tower is quieter and more relaxed. This is where you’ll find the spa and a more Zen-like pool experience that is tucked away from The Strip. The Chelsea also houses a theater and several restaurants. Perhaps my favorite feature, if you can call it that, is how close everything is. The Comso is built on a small piece of real estate by Vegas standards. Compared to sprawling resorts like the MGM Grand or The Venetian, everything important is packed into a small area that keeps walking to a minimum. The Cosmo’s 3,000-plus rooms fit into 51 stories. So how was I on the 65th floor? That just comes down to creative numbering. Suffice it to say, the towers are tall; I was actually looking down on the roof of the Bellagio.
Bars and Restaurants
The first place to start a weekend at The Cosmopolitan is the Chandelier Bar. With its two million crystal beads extending up two floors from the lobby level, this is likely one of the more Instagrammed spots in Las Vegas. You can make reservations for seating on the second and third floors, whereas the lobby level is first-come, first-served. The signature (secret) cocktail is called the Verbena aka the Flower Drink. It’s a blanco tequila base mixed with yuzu, kalamansi, ginger, and lemon verbena. It is topped with a tiny Szechuan flower that you’ll eat before taking a sip. This numbs the tongue and then stimulates your taste buds. In so doing, it enhances the flavors of the cocktail, while giving it a multi-dimensional, altered-states sensation. And for convenience, the Chandelier Bar is located within the Boulevard Tower just steps from the elevators.
Momufuku is also located on the second floor adjacent to the Chandelier Bar. This Asian-American eatery from Chef David Chang features menus for both lunch and dinner. I opted for the former and started with the signature spicy cucumber. The pork belly buns and Chilean Sea Bass were also outstanding. This is an ideal place to go before heading to the Boulevard Pool to lounge on a daybed well past sunset. You could rent a cabana with a bigger party, but they are somewhat removed from the action. The daybed is the way to go for a couple. Again, this is all in the same tower. It’s just an elevator ride from your room to Momufuku and then a few floors up to the pool. The schlep level is zero.
There are numerous dinner options, including the fabulous Beauty & Essex. But I was in the mood for steak, so I made a reservation at STK in thinking I knew the brand from having visited other locations in Miami and Atlanta. To my surprise, STK Vegas is a completely unique experience and vibe. It’s pretty much what you’d expect if Vegas was the only location. The DJ music played loud, and the service was over-the-top incredible. I ended up exchanging numbers with our server so we can stay in touch. The waygu New York strip was exceptional, and the sea bass was perhaps the best I’ve ever had. But the vibe was such that you wanted to hang out and enjoy well after dessert.
The Marquee Nightclub by Tao Group is also located within the Boulevard Tower. This is one of the original clubs from the current generation. Indeed, it blazed the way for the modern Vegas club experience, and it’s still a fantastic venue. There’s a lot to be said, of course, for clubbing in the hotel where you’re staying. Andrew Rayel is one of resident DJs, and he brings a great energy to the decks with a panache for taking the crowd on a rollercoaster ride of trance-influenced tracks like Arcade by Dimitri Vegas, Armin van Burren’s Blah, Blah, Blah and Rayel’s popular Takeaway remix. You can reserve tables that range from $750 to $2,500 for upcoming shows. The Marquee also offers a day club that is closed for 2022 season. However, in my experience, this particular day club is oriented toward the 20-something crowd. The Boulevard Pool or Tao Beach at the Venetian (if you want a proper day club) are more refined offerings.
The Cosmopolitan is also home to Opium, which a unique dinner show experience. This starts at Superfrico, an Italian restaurant with a funky, neon vibe. It doesn’t make a lot of sense at first. But then the entertainment begins. As the food is being served, performers from the Opium cast offer a glimpse of what you’ll see later in the evening—juggling, acrobatics and mind-blowing feats of human strength. The theater is adjacent to the restaurant, so it’s a seamless transition to the show itself, complete with cocktail service. The Opium show takes place on a spaceship that’s charted a course from Uranus to Las Vegas. The adult-only journey features some comedy and a series of circus-like performances that seemingly defy gravity and our own human potential. It’s capped off with a masterful display of bubble sculpting. While it’s possible to just go to the show, I’d highly recommend the full experience with dinner.