In a city that reinvents itself at least every decade, it comes as no surprise that spas do the same. With more than 45 luxury resort spas, they have gone from side-kick guest beauty amenities to lucrative mind-body-soul profit centers of Disneyesque proportions.
In the competition to entertain an increasingly aware spa crowd, destinations are constantly trying to out-spa one another in design, therapies, products and promises. Like everything that Las Vegas has to offer, most spas are larger than life experiences within vast expanses of square footage with lots of service add-ons such as steam rooms and saunas, thus turning a simple pedicure into an all-day retreat. However, the trip from changing room to treatment area can be a hike unto itself and although the walk is usually more like a shuffle in disposable slippers, without an escort or a trail of bread crumbs, you could be hard-pressed to find your way from one area to the next.
Surprisingly, in spite of the spa scene’s meteoric growth, the overall quality and professionalism of practitioner is high. The desire to be a part of ‘the next big idea’ sees therapists move from one spa to the next. Consequently, many of them not only maintain a hyper, Red Bull enthusiasm (sometimes rather counter-intuitive to the spa experience), but also a diverse knowledge of different products and competitive brands. If products are your thing, they’re a resource worth plumbing. Most staff is equally polished at delivering pampering services with Swiss-timed efficiency. Sometimes that’s noticeable, but when you’re able to languish in a laconium, the concept of time simply dissolves and all is forgiven.
Our advice is to take full advantage of a spa’s facilities. Get a day pass so you can pop back later for a relaxing steam – trust us, the moisture will feel delicious after traipsing around the desert heat. Ask if they’ll spring for a pass for your partner; it only costs them laundry pennies to extend this privilege. Be aware, though, that their answer may depend on whether your service is a multi-sensory package or just a quick polish change. If you’re a hotel guest, however, negotiate a pass for the hotel’s on-site spa regardless. Tough times have humbled Vegas and spa inducements are proving a valuable marketing tool to boost hotel occupancies.
Las Vegas’ keep-up-with-the-Jones climate means that spas are constantly catching – or creating, the newest wave. In recent years Caesar’s Palace, Mandalay Bay, Bellagio, and Venetian have all undergone multi-million dollar expansions for an updated look and service standard while newer hotels such as Wynn and Trump (the two most competitive egos in town) have countered the city’s penchant for splashy with more intimate spa surrounds. New concepts such as WET at Treasure Island, Nurture at Luxor and Mio at the new M Resort just south of the Strip have yet to find their stride while traditionalists like Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons have stayed the course with pricey, elegant refinement. The Ritz Carlton is one of the few places where children get in on the spa scene with special mani/pedicures and the Four Seasons has bagged the best of all worlds. Located on the upper floors of the Mandalay Bay Resort, spa guests can always trade finesse for fun by nipping down to Mandalay’s 11-acre sand-and-surf beach area below!
Although crushing economies seem far removed when enjoying the excesses of any Las Vegas spa, the fallout is evident. Projects such as Fontainebleau have fallen by the wayside and several spa expansions are on hold, most noticeably Canyon Ranch (review to come) and the Mandara at Paris where brand confusion has created a mediocre experience. Mandara has done a better job over at Planet Hollywood.
MGM has a large enough presence here that with its gargantuan $8.6 billion CityCenter development, including an edgy resort spa, Aria as well as the city’s first Mandarin Oriental. Then there’s ELEVEN, a day spa that’s opened its doors with gusto. Located in Town Square, this day spa stands independent of any resort and like its sister location in South Florida is quickly establishing itself as a hip and happening gathering spot. Anyone for glitterati body scrubs or massages on mink lined sheets?
The spa scene in Las Vegas might be large-scale, confused and generic, but the individual strip spas (you’re the only one to peel, however, and even that’s optional) are opulent, accessible, diverse, and pay-through-nose fun. Spa snobs need to chill out and enjoy -- Sin City spas counter where the overall spa industry is heading (think personalized, focused, indigenous, holistic well-being, multi-dimensional and spiritual) but isn’t that the story of Las Vegas?
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