Wellness Rooms and Cactus Gardens: The Other Side of Sin City

by  Alex Schechter | Oct 1, 2013
Aerial view of the Las Vegas strip
Aerial view of the Las Vegas strip / f11photo/iStock

It's Vegas, baby. And if that calls to mind the flashing marquee signs, smoke-filled hotel lobbies, and sequin-clad showgirls so often portrayed in the movies, well... that's about right. As recently as last week, the city announced a two-year residency by the pop princess herself, Britney Spears – yet another vice just waiting to tempt travelers into this unadulterated, high-spectacle city.

But for those needing a break from all the sin, there are options.

This month, MGM Grand, quadruples the number of its "Stay Well" rooms, essentially taking over the entire 14th floor of the main tower with a special tier of health-focused rooms. There are 17 amenities in total, including HEPA-standard air purification to remove allergens and toxins from the air; light therapy to help you fall asleep and wake up according to your body's internal clock; vitamin C-infused shower water to give you healthier hair and skin; and even an educational welcome video from Deepak Chopra. The cost for all this wellness? A $30 per night upgrade on your basic rate.

We had to wonder, what are some other sin-free indulgences travelers can make during a stay in Las Vegas?

1. Movie under the stars
While you won't find any shortage of adult-themed live shows both on and off the strip, settling in for a night of debauchery-free entertainment can be a little harder to find. But not impossible. On the outskirts of town, you can pull into the Westwind Las Vegas Drive-In Theater ($6.75 per person) to catch first-run flicks (currently showing: Don Jon, The Family, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, and seven others) from the comfort of your rental car – or, if the weather's nice, bring a few fold-up chairs and enjoy the whole movie al fresco.

2. High tea at Mandarin Oriental
On the 23rd floor of the Mandarin Oriental, you'll find your perfect moment of zen (not to mention a few tasty snacks) at the Tea Lounge, which serves a full afternoon tea every day from 2-5 p.m. (though the lounge itself remains open all day long). Choose from several "Health & Wellness" loose leaf blends; with names like "Introspection" (mint, chamomile, cloves), "Peace Through Water" (chamomile, lavender, lemon balm) and "Jetlag PM" (passion flowers, valerian), you'll find yourself saying "what hangover?"

3. Fall under James Turrell's spell
We told you earlier this summer about the James Turrell exhibit at The Shops At Crystals, the city's first-ever major permanent collection in a public space. While the notion of a transforming piece of art placed in a shopping mall may sound odd at first, Turrell's gently undulating light beams will soon have you saying, 'Aahhh.'

4. Sample vegan tapas
With outposts from every celebrity chef in the world, dinner out in Vegas can be a true event. But after the fifth steak dinner, oyster platter, or vanilla crème brûlée, the lavish dining can start to wear on you. Over at Bar Bistro, located in the downtown Las Vegas Arts Distict, Executive Chef Beni Velazquez experiments with a vegan tapas menu, all of whose dishes (mofongo, stuffed pequillo peppers, jicama-filled tacos, sweet potato fries) are meat-free, dairy-free, and egg-free.

5. Stop and smell the roses
Five miles north of the main strip, you'll find the state's largest collection of Mojave Desert cacti and succulent plants at the Springs Preserve. Roses, herbs, and non-native palms are planted along the Display Gardens, while in the Natural Gardens, you can wander along 3.6 miles of trails exploring the mesquite bosque, bear poppy habitat, and the lush wetlands, home to nearly 100 species of plants. No HEPA-standard air purifiers needed!

6. Chill out at Vdara
A full range of spas and wellness centers can be viewed here, though one of our favorites has to be the Spa & Salon Vdara located inside the Vdara Hotel. With an emphasis on eco-friendly and holistic healing, the 18,000 sq ft center offers refreshing treatments using all-natural ingredients, like the Citrus & Agave Nectar Body Wrap ($95), or the French Lavender Soothing Massage (from $150) – spa cabanas are also equipped with TV and music, so you can keep up with your favorite TV shows while you unplug from the rest of the world.

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