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Las Vegas: Less Sleaze, More Swank

The city is more than cheap buffets and gambling; here's your luxury escape guide.

(Editor's note: Since publication of this article, Simon Kitchen has changed hands and is now named Ago.)

It's a bumpy landing into McCarran International as you begin to regret using your fractional jet miles to simply come to Las Vegas.

Synonymous with $5.95 prime rib, dizzying hotel themes and mass-produced entertainment, Vegas is hardly the luxury getaway you'll be bragging about back at the office. But here you are.

Somehow, the hotel driver managed to meet you almost planeside and rolls your overstuffed Etro bag to a waiting Mercedes Maybach, without a single moment of sedan-service small talk. The 10-minute ride to the hotel doesn't last long enough. The door is whisked open with a "Welcome to Vegas," and you're ushered to the private reception area of the hotel.

A Room with a View

In a city with over 125,000 rooms, very few modern Vegas resorts qualify as luxury hotels. Most luxury travelers are unaware of

MGM Grand's SkyLofts, a separate all-suite hotel within MGM Grand offering ultra-luxurious 1,500-sqaure foot loft accommodations with Maybach car service, private concierge and on-call butler.

More affordable luxury comes via

THEHotel at Mandalay Bay, an all-suite high-rise hotel with apartment-style guest rooms, featuring separate living and sleeping areas. Guests of the hotel use the newly renovated Mandalay wave pool, a splashy oasis of string bikinis and board shorts, but then escape to the THEHotel's sleek Bathhouse Spa.

While one would think that an outpost of the

Four Seasons Hotel (also within Mandalay Bay complex) would be a natural luxury selection, the poorly decorated guest rooms and drab common areas are not the high-end hotel chain we know and love. Instead, the

Wynn Resort is the next best choice with five-star accommodations and a slate of high-roller suites offering private plunge pools and golf course views.

High Noon in Sin City

Since the reopening of

Wynn's Las Vegas Country Club, it's been the hottest course in town. Located directly on the strip, the famed links now offers The Country Club overlooking the 18th hole with a clubby social setting and classic steakhouse cuisine.

Further down the road is

Bali Hai. Designed by Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley, the par-71 course measures 7,002 yards with spectacular views of the Strip. The course was designed to "go out like a lion and in like a lion", allowing players to warm-up to their desert surroundings.

For a less strenuous day, the new

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Qua at Caesar's Palace is the largest day spa in the country, boasting an expansive fitness center, plunge pools and Venus theme-massage area that's entirely free of gold-leaf gladiator statues. There's even the city's only Arctic Ice Room, where guests can unwind in a snowy 55-degree winter environment.

More Than $5 Buffets

Las Vegas is a segregated city when it comes to upscale dining, divided between ultra-posh eateries and louder supper clubs. A two- to three-week advance reservation is mandatory at most new restaurants, with a savvy concierge being the only exception.

The two hottest reservations in Las Vegas today are at

Restaurant Guy Savoy and

Joel Robuchon -- both jacket-minded French dining institutions with hard-to-pronounce market menus. While Robuchon attracts more local acclaim, Savoy lures foodies armed with Michelin Guides, who are well aware that it's his only restaurant in the Western Hemisphere.

For a livelier dining experience, try

STACK at The Mirage, with its Gehry-like interior, or

Simon Kitchen at Hard Rock Casino, with its eclectic cuisine and rock n' roll clientele, including Mick Jagger, Adam Levine of Maroon 5 and supermodel Naomi Campbell. Until Wolfgang Puck's CUT debuts in the lobby of the new 50-story Palazzo Tower at the Venetian, they're the hippest meals in town.

Yes, I'm on the Guest List

If it's your first time in Vegas, then you probably won't take this part serious enough. Your clout in the boardroom will mean nothing to the snooty twenty-something girl processing bottle service costing $1,000 outside the area's hottest club. The key to avoid handing over your Black Am-Ex is to plan ahead, try to secure guest list information from nightclub Web sites or even solicit your hotel concierge for some legwork.

If you're starting early (anything before midnight), you'll want to check out two spots that opened in late 2006.

Social House at Treasure Island offers a chic tiki theme and lively cocktail crowd with a hip outdoor patio overlooking Las Vegas Boulevard. The other is the

Playboy Club atop the new Palm's Fantasy Tower that comes complete with bunny-eared blackjack dealers and a glittery 1970s vibe.

For those looking for more of a mellow cocktail atmosphere, try the

Caramel Lounge at the Bellagio, with its oversize ottomans and super seductive lounge atmosphere popular with money-loving singles.

Party like a Jay-Z Video

If after midnight you'll want to hit the dance clubs, our top pick is

Pure Nightclub at Caesar's Palace with its hip-hop minded decadence and periodic theme nights. There is a lot of riffraff in Vegas nightlife, so splurge on the bottle service and make a quick entrance to the upper VIP area.

If the line is too long or you're just too cheap to shell out $1,000 for Mumm, walk (cabs take longer at this time of night) over to

Tao at the Venetian. A larger dance venue offering equally good soundtrack of dance music that rolls through 4 a.m., the club is usually easier to crack and can even be bought if needed ($350 bottle service).

New for 2007 is

LAX at the Luxor. Super-famous L.A. transplant DJ AM -- Nicole Ritchie's ex-fiancée -- offers a Hollywood-themed dance club with hosted events by Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Unlike L.A. or New York, Vegas nightlife is more welcoming to all ages and seeing a crowd of 20-something party girls should not deter more mature visitors. Plus, seeing Britney Spears on the dance floor will surely land you equal talk-time with your co-workers chatting about St. Bart's at the Monday morning water cooler.

Michael Martin is the managing editor of -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.