Encore, Encore: Vegas Wynn’s Big
For the gay traveler, the Las Vegas of the past may have conjured images of smoky casinos and if you didn’t like to gamble or see a show or two, it really wasn’t the place for you to spend your hard-earned money and/or vacation time. So, after hearing people talk about their amazing weekends or vacation spent in Sin City, I thought it could be time for me to give it a second look. It had been over five years since I had last visited Vegas so I wondered if much had changed.
Thankfully, I was pleased to see that so much had changed that not only did I feel like the city had a new, glamorous sheen to it, but I also found myself enjoying every facet that I came across during my recent stay. Sure, there was still gambling (less smoky than before), a wide variety of shows (there’s truly something for everyone now) and more shopping opportunities from the grandest to the most simple.
But, for this traveler, you can give me a prime seat to see Cher belt out "If I Could Turn Back Time" as well as the tastiest cocktail before a five-star dinner and maybe I’ll have a good streak of luck and win big at the Black Jack table - but most important, I want to be comfortable in my hotel room. With so many old and new choices, I quickly found my home away from home at one of the more new spots, the Encore Hotel.
Since my last visit to Vegas had been around the time Steve Wynn opened up his Wynn hotel in 2005, I was surprised to see that not only had the Wynn blossomed into one of the hottest and most luxurious places to stay on the strip, but it had also spawned a second hotel right next door. The Encore Hotel & Casino opened on December 28, 2008 and houses a total of 2034 rooms including 1767 Resort rooms, 141 Tower Suites with Parlor and Salon suites available, as well as two-and-three bedroom apartments and a three-bedroom penthouse available. And if you need more validation, know that the Encore and Wynn hold more Forbes Five Star Awards than any other casino resort in the world!
Before diving into the experience, know that the folks at the Wynn/Encore were smart enough to create an LGBT concierge dedicated to you. While any concierge in either hotel is well aware of all gay and gay-centric attractions in the area, the LGBT concierge caters to you specifically. Just call 702-770-LGBT (5428) and they’ll be able to answer any question you have. You can also find information online here or at www.EncoreLasVegas.com/Pride
If you visit the property before October 15, 2010, you can enjoy 20% off your resort room as well as a $25 beverage credit at one of their signature bars or lounges.
THE RESORT ROOM
My Resort room was fantastically comfortable and was more spacious than the apartment I had in New York City! The bathroom has a huge, glassed-in shower, Jacuzzi tub and very spacious dual sink area for you and your partner. And, a little plus to me, a separate room with a door for the toilet with its own phone. (It’s the little things, right?) Also, if it’s time to get ready for dinner or a show, you can keep watching CNN or (let’s be real here) SoapNet while you primp with the small color television mounted to the wall next to the sink.
The room itself has a plush (but not too plush) King-sized bed (if you have a room with 2 beds, they will be Queen-sized) that features a partial divider from the sitting room area where a large flat-screen television sits on a swivel so it can face either the bed or the sofa. And, for those of you who might have to do a little bit of work amidst the play, there is a desk along with wireless internet in the entire hotel which, unfortunately (as this was the only negative thing I could come up with regarding the Encore rooms) is only available for an additional fee. However, to offset that sting a bit, the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore now have a daily $20 resort fee that includes some of the most popular resort amenities including: Internet access, daily access to the fitness centers and ability to print your boarding pass so that’s not shabby at all, right?
Before I hit the slot machines or did some retail therapy, I felt it was my duty to check out the 70,000 square foot Encore Spa, which does what any good spa should do: it allows you to completely forget about the rest of the world and just indulge, indulge, indulge. Standing above the other spas on the Strip, the Encore Spa is in and of itself breathtaking.
Designed by ABA Design principal Todd-Avery Lehane (who also designed the Encore rooms), the first thing you’ll see upon entering is the Spa Court and its softly lit but opulently glass-enclosed courtyard. Adorned with sparkling walls of bronze mirror and champagne-colored Venetian glass chandeliers, this grand space immediately sets the tone for the upcoming comfort of the spa services.
I felt relaxed just stepping into the space, so I knew that was a good sign of what was to come. (It also helped that the friendly and professional attendant who checked me in and showed me the facility was adorable and filled out his snug black t-shirt and black slacks...)
Upon changing into my robe and waiting in the relaxation area with my feet up and a variety of magazines to peruse, I was taken back to the private massage room. Being in Las Vegas, I figured I could use a little extra good fortune so I chose the Good Luck Ritual massage. My massage was heavenly and I was in a state of bliss under the five elements of Feng Shui (health, wealth, prosperity, happiness and harmony) during the 50-minute massage.
With Thai herbal massage pillows, a luxurious lemon verbena and peppermint foot treatment, ultra moisturizing hand therapy and a relaxing wild lime botanical scalp treatment, I easily drifted off to sleep off-and-on throughout the treatment.
Other ’transformation ritual’ treatments include Sandalwood Stone Ritual, Lavender Stone Ritual and, if you want to enjoy the experience with someone else, the Encore Couples Ritual.
Once the massage was finished, I didn’t rush back to my Blackberry and emails but instead took my time and relaxed in the Jacuzzis as well as the steam room before I took a long shower in the spacious shower area.
I should say that the Encore Spa also features body treatments like the Organic Body Restoration and massage therapies like the Fusion Massage, Aromatherapy Massage, Four Hand Massage and Desert Stone Massage. While the Spa is spectacular by design, if you prefer the privacy of your own hotel room, an In-Room Massage is also available.
With any spa service you also get access to the Encore Fitness Center, which has state-of-the-art Cybex equipment and also has two studios that offer spinning, yoga, pilates, conditioning and meditation classes.
And, for those needing/wanting more personal instruction, there are personal trainers available and classes offered throughout the week. I opted for a run on the treadmills, which had individual video screens with multiple channels available or you could plug in your IPod and watch your downloaded videos on the screen. You can also pay for a daily pass to the fitness center if you don’t visit the spa.
After all the pampering and relaxation, my appetite took over and it was time to get something to eat. I can safely say that no matter what your appetite is, you can find something to your liking at the many restaurants in both the Encore and nearby Wynn hotels.
At Encore, the amazing steak house Botero features a menu by Star Chef Mark LoRusso that includes the best pieces of meat as well as a fantastic Shell Tower and Dayboat Scallops for the seafood eater and, as a side dish, the truffle macaroni and cheese that just about made my eyes roll back in my head.
Botero was amazing not only for the fantastic food but for the environment. The inside of the restaurant has open windows that look out onto the pool or, if you prefer eating outside, that can be arranged with tables looking out on the Encore pool and property with a surprisingly quiet atmosphere.
If you want a little Frank infused into your meal, look no further than Sinatra. The influence here is Italian and with the movies of Frank Sinatra playing on the television in the bar and Sinatra music playing in the restaurant, you’ll fall in love with Old Blue Eyes all over again. The décor itself is as smooth and classy as Sinatra was.
To get in the right mood, I suggest starting off with a Bellisima cocktail made with Stoli Peach vodka that is refreshing and full of great flavor. As for the menu itself, I’m a sucker for Risotto and with Maine Lobster, Forest Mushroom and chive oil - and my choice was only made better by the shredded truffles added to the top. Heavenly! Make sure to leave room for the tri-layered Tiramasu.
Note that the Sinatra restaurant is the first one sanctioned by the Sinatra family so don’t expect other Sinatra locations to be popping up over the world, which makes this place all the more special.
Don’t count out the Wynn for great dining either; one must-dine place is The Country Club. While the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, I highly recommend the Cooking With Jazz Brunch from 10-2pm on Sunday. Not only is there an extensive buffet with various meat carving stations that you can peruse, but you can also order from James Beard nominee Chef Carlos Guia’s menu with scrumptious choices like Poached Eggs with Barbecue Smoked Pork and French Toast Bread Pudding. As a lover of breakfast, I am still thinking about the Eggs Versailles with poached eggs, smoked salmon, brioche, American caviar and (what every good breakfast dish should have) Hollandaise Sauce. Yum!
The Country Club also looks out on the 18th hole waterfall of the Wynn Golf Course and truly feels as if you are miles away from the often-noisy Vegas Strip.
BUY! BUY! BUY!
You won’t find your usual mall-fare on the Wynn/Encore property. The Encore Esplanade features such boutiques as Chanel, Ensemble, and Hermes while the Esplanade at Wynn is overwhelming in the best way with Alexander McQueen, Cartier, Dior, Dior Hommes, Louis Vuitton, Manolo Blahnik, Oscar de la Renta, Vertu, Jo Malone and San Giorgio.
And if your tastes run a little bit more in the vein of transportation, the Ferrari store literally has a set of high-end extravagance on wheels that can help you drive home in style.
Again proving that the folks at Wynn/Encore think of everything, there are personal shoppers at your disposal in the event you’re not in the mood to wander from store to store. The personal shoppers can make selections for guests to review in their rooms or by email and phone after their Vegas visit.
You don’t have to go far for some of the best theater experiences in Las Vegas. For the country fan, Garth Brooks has been bringing his crowd-pleasing show to the Encore Theater.
If you love Cirque-style shows, then you should make sure to see Le Reve (French for ’the dream’) which brings a beautiful show performed above a tank holding a million gallons (give or take a few) of water. I’ve seen the show twice and it left me awestruck both times. (I actually interviewed some of the out performers from the show for a feature that will be up in the EDGE theater section soon). I recommend going the VIP route where you literally get the best seat in the house along with a personal server who will make sure your bottle of champagne is flowing and that you have plenty of chocolate-covered strawberries to much on during the show.
AMAZING PACKAGE DEALS
If you’re a true Garth fan, the Unforgettable Garth Weekend is made for you! Three nights at Wynn or Encore, two premium seats to Garth Brooks’s show (with an option to purchase multiple concert nights), Garth merchandise valued at $100 from the Nite[Life] Shop at Wynn, a fantastic dinner at Switch, your choice of spa treatments for two and the Sunday Jazz Brunch at the Country Club restaurant.
If you leave Le Reve wanting to get even closer to the experience, check out the Diver’s Dream Package, which offers a two night stay at the hotel, two Le Reve Indulgence tickets, exclusive backstage tour for two, an SDI Certified Scuba training session and a one-of a kind SCUBA diving experience during a live Le Reve performance.
For more details, go to http://www.wynnlasvegas.com/#entertainment/diver_s_dream_package/
If you want something a little more low key but romantic, the Romantic Retreat is probably for you. Two nights in an elegant Resort room at the Wynn or Encore, a Prix-fixe dinner for two at the Wynn restaurant Stratta, a bottle of Wattle Creek Pinot Noir and two premium tickets to Le Reve.
For more details, go to http://www.wynnlasvegas.com/#entertainment/romantic_retreat_package/
Not everyone comes to Vegas to see shows, gamble and lounge by the pool. If you’re one of those who likes to get your golf mojo moving while in the desert, the Wynn Golf course is a 70-par course that sits literally behind the Wynn properties. Routed over 137 acres, the Wynn Golf Club has six Class A members of the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) of America and has full-service caddies as well as lunch and dinner served at the Country Club restaurant. Just make sure to leave your denim in your hotel room and wear your collared shirts and golfing slacks.
With all the shopping, golfing, spa-ing, sunning, eating and people watching at the Wynn/Encore, it’s easy to forget that the primary reason to come to Vegas is gambling. Whatever your gambling taste is, you’ll find it here. Baccarat, Big 6, Caribbean Stud, Roulette, Pai Gow Poker and Three Card Poker are everywhere as well as more private gambling areas for the high roller. You can also enjoy poolside Black Jack at both Wynn and Encore properties.
BEACH BLANKET BINGO?!
The latest addition to Encore is The Encore Beach Club, which opened on Memorial Day weekend and has been a splashy success! With Las Vegas located in the middle of the desert, it was a no-brainer for the Wynn folks to make a beach atmosphere for guests to soak up the sun and drink more than a few tropical cocktails. You can either lounge in a chair by the pool or, if more privacy and intimacy are your thing, there are bungalows and cabanas available.
You might also see a few celebrities walking around - the opening weekend alone saw many sports figures as well as Ne-Yo, Dancing With The Stars contestant Stacy Keibler and popular group LMFAO, who performed in the new nightclub, Surrender.
Like the rest of Encore and Wynn, while the area is not gay-centric, it is definitely gay friendly.