While driving on Interstate 15 to Las Vegas two months ago, I could not stop thinking about penny press machines and wondered if I would be able to find a new one in the city. For some reason, video slot machines, which I enjoy playing, never occupied my thoughts during the long drive. Through the years, Vegas has grown monotonous in my eyes. The hotels that were brand new the previous year appear lackluster, worn, and torn a year later. Could someone just clean and polish the stunning Dale Chihuly ceiling (entitled Fiori di Como) at the Bellagio one of these days?! No, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to my annual re-visit.
It was not until the second day when I stepped inside CityCenter’s Aria Resort and Casino that I became enthusiastic about the weekend getaway. A few friends mentioned their disappointment after strolling through the urban complex. My brother read an unfavorable review of the development in a major magazine. From beginning to end, the project seemed to be known as another mediocre attempt at urban planning and modern architecture and interior design. If nothing else, CityCenter succeeds in providing a different kind of entertainment space for Vegas’ diverse visitors. Inside the Aria Resort and Casino, contemporary art – be it a piece of sculpture near an entrance or a painting hanging inside a restaurant – is ubiquitous and, most importantly, clearly labeled and accessible, allowing visitors to leisurely examine it at close range. I appreciate this hotel being the first mass Vegas structure that comes to mind that is not modeled after some ancient monument or historical destination.
A security guard at CityCenter was kind enough to lead me to the Mandarin Oriental, whose afternoon tea was recommended by a friend’s friend. The ground floor appeared deserted since the hotel’s main lobby – along with the tea lounge – is located on the 23rd floor. I was a bit intrigued by the description of Mandarin Orange Blend in the menu – a custom black tea blend picked specifically for Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas. How do tea growers accomplish the task of harvesting and reserving a crop specifically for a client, in this case not an entire hotel chain, but a single hotel? Wouldn’t the process can be somewhat tedious and involved? While sipping the refreshing custom tea, which turned out to be a good choice, I was drawn to the obstructed view, especially CityCenter’s Veer Towers, which, leaning in opposite directions, 4.6 degrees from the center, house more than 600 residential condominium units. I liked the view of the towers appearing behind the dessert tray rack a foot from me. Veer Towers have since become my favorite leaning towers on Earth – I prefer them to Pisa Tower in Italy and Tiger Hill Pagoda in China.
Everyone who plans to visit Vegas should give CityCenter a chance, even if they have heard negative comments about it. By the way, my favorite penny press machines in Vegas are those inside M&M World.