Aria: A New Vision for Las Vegas

Lifestyle Travel

The first time I arrived at Aria Resort & Casino, it didn’t take long for me to realize that it was anything but the typical Las Vegas hotel. From its architecture to its technology, very little about its ambience can be described as “old school” — separating it from its predecessors in a way that’s contemporary and uniquely its own. Walking the casino floor, the scenery is anchored by sculptures crafted by world-renowned artists; its landscape is bathed in natural light, shimmering through its tall panoramic windows. The air you breathe isn’t your typical stagnant, casino haze, but rather a free-flowing atrium, alive with energy.Aria

Though it opened in December 2009, nothing about Aria feels dated. The hotel’s cutting edge in-room tech is worth the trip alone. Aria itself is part of an $8.5 billion project originally started by MGM Resorts International, making it the centerpiece of CityCenter, the largest privately funded construction project in the history of the United States. Located on the southern part of the Strip, Aria features over 4,000 guest rooms, 568 luxury suites, four pools, 150,000 feet of gaming, a convention center, an 80,000-square-foot spa, upscale dining spots, and close proximity to high-end retail. Its scope is massive. And you’ll know it the moment you see its towers light up at night, ablaze in the velvet Vegas sky.

As a guest of Aria’s suites, the minute you touch down at McCarran Airport your limo driver will be waiting for you at baggage claim, and he/she will be happy to make any stops along the way. Driving up to its secluded cove off the Strip is reminiscent of arriving at some far away, international resort. You might even take a minute to look up at how far modern architecture has come. Soaring 61 stories, Aria is a work of art in and of itself.

AriaAria’s top floors are reserved for the hotel’s Tower Suites, Sky Suites, and Sky Villas. As a guest of either, you’ll have access to separate check-ins and private lounges which provide complimentary food and refreshments (something you’ll appreciate after sitting on a plane for nearly five hours). Walking into my suite for the first time, the curtains opened themselves, revealing dramatic color tones and high views from above Vegas’ South Strip, hypnotizing even the most seasoned world travelers. But it wasn’t long before I discovered my favorite room feature, my very own high-tech sense of luxury—the Crave tablet.

Waiting for me on the table, my Crave tablet was a way for me to personalize my stay. With a few swipes of my finger, I changed the temperature, lighting, TV,  and even ordered room service and scheduled housekeeping. In-room perks like the Crave tablet, keyless entry, and heated toilet seats are integral pieces of Aria’s concept. They’re just a few of the reasons why it’s one of the most technologically advanced hotels in the world.

Beyond Aria’s ingenuity, the resort is at the forefront of Las Vegas’ culinary scene, playing host to some of the best restaurateurs and chefs in the U.S., including three-Michelin-Star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Other notable dining options at Aria include Sage, Julian Serrano, and barMASA. Even the hotel’s buffet diverges from the norm with its chic design and endless selection of global cuisine (unlimited mimosas and bloody marys don’t hurt either).

During our recent visit, we elected to dine at Carbone after hearing that the widely talked about New York Italian restaurant was now also at Aria. The restaurant itself pays homage to Italian-American restaurants of the ‘50s and ‘60s. In many ways it’s a throwback to glamour, service and showmanship, but like everything under Aria’s roof, it’s done in a more nuanced way.Aria

Carbone’s devotion to sophistication was evident when entering our golden booth beneath the dining room’s grand chandelier. But one of the essential parts to Mario Carbone’s concept is tableside preparation. Not only does it alleviate pressure on chefs, but it brings a certain level of excitement and buzz. You’ll find yourself looking forward to the next course just to see what sizzling attraction they’ll bring out next. Beyond mere entertainment, there’s a certain level of comfort that comes with seeing one’s food prepared, and that’s a testament to the professionalism of Carbone’s servers.

All of the ingredients at Carbone are top quality, and you’ll realize it after your first bite. The restaurant takes cooking cues from the past but is certainly modern in its techniques and offerings. From the minute your bread basket arrives, you know the meal is going to leave you at a loss for words. Personally, I could’ve eaten spicy salami and bread and been satisfied. But Carbone’s standouts, chicken scarpariello and lobster fra diavolo, are not something you want to miss. And when the dessert cart comes, just be sure to grab the lemon cake and a glass of housemade limoncello.

In its pursuit of revolutionizing the Las Vegas experience, entertainment and nightlife are notes you want to hit—and hit hard. Since opening six years ago, Aria had been missing one component—a nightclub that could compete with the monsters of the Strip. Until now. Opening just a few months ago, Jewel Nightclub represents the final stage for Aria. With its recent grand opening, there’s almost little reason for guests to even leave the resort beyond sightseeing.

With the opening of such a big venue, Aria’s President Bob Baldwin relies on the advice of his top executives and one of Vegas’ biggest hospitality companies, Hakkasan Group. Our weekend host, Rich Kenny, has played a vital role in the Vegas nightlife scene since moving there nearly eight years ago. As Hakkasan Group’s Director of Customer Development, Kenny gave us an inside look on how the brand navigates one of the country’s busiest (and most competitive) nightlife scenes. Kenny explained, “The nightlife scene has turned into a business and we have to constantly think of new ways to drive that business, while exceeding customer expectations.”

AriaHakkasan Group itself represents a variety of hotspots and restaurants in Sin City, including Omnia at Caesars, Hakkasan at the MGM Grand, and now, Jewel at Aria. But to know and understand what customers expect, Kenny and his hosting team have to tap into every market around the world and put a heavy emphasis on service. The itinerary put together by Hakkasan assured our trip wouldn’t be lacking thrills, but it was really the aspect of knowing what we wanted before we asked that was most effective.“We want to impress our guests,” said Kenny. “The competition is very strong in town, we know we have to go above and beyond.”

Jewel itself spans over 24,000 square feet, complementing the modern aesthetic of the hotel overall. In collaboration with Rockwell Group, Jewel uses over 1,400 square feet of architectural LED ribbons to tell a visual narrative for Jewel. Walls of vibrant light and thoughtful design help round off the club’s tie-in with Aria’s tech-forward concept. Kenny explained, “Aria is one of the most well-rounded properties in Las Vegas. Now with Jewel opening, there is nothing missing at Aria. Jewel will just add another amazing amenity to one of the best luxury hotels on the Strip. In many ways it’s the icing on the cake.”

Aria may have a big vision, but it’s one of ingenuity. As it continues to push forward, it will set a standard, not just for Vegas, but for resorts all over the world.

By Michael Scivoli

Michael is the Editorial Director of VUE Magazine. He enjoys scotch and poetry, and of course, his dog Baxter.