CityCenter, a new $8.5 billion development on the Las Vegas Strip, is a gutsy effort to bring modern architecture to a city known for kitsch. At the center of the complex is the Aria hotel, which opened in December with an astounding 4,004 rooms. The base of this 61-story building contains a casino, a convention center, a spa, a Jean-Georges Steakhouse and an offshoot of Manhattan’s Bar Masa, and more than a dozen other restaurants and bars. The hotel is huge, and it feels that way, but thanks to thoughtful design, it also feels luxurious and, at times, even cozy.
On the southern part of the Strip, between the Bellagio and the Monte Carlo hotels. Whatever you do, don’t arrive at the hotel by airport shuttle bus. It will drop you at an underground loading dock far from the reception desk, and utterly removed from the hotel’s glamorous architecture. Take a taxi to the main entrance (about $14 to the shuttle’s $6) for a far more promising first impression.
When I entered my room, No. 9114, on the ninth floor, the drapes opened automatically, a theatrical touch that produced both good news and bad. The view included a bit of the whimsical New York New York skyline, but also too much of the roof of the vast Aria casino. Worse, the windows were streaked and dirty. (Sven Van Assche, vice president for design for MGM Mirage, says that the company is working on the window-washing problem.) Inside, the medium-size room (about 12 by 14 feet) was appointed in a modernist style with lots of brown satin and leather. The king-size bed was soft. (Maybe too soft?) The TV had an easy-to-use interface, as did the touch-screen system that controls the lights and drapes — bravo on the technology front.
Given that there are more than 4,000 bathrooms in the building, it’s a good thing the designers got them right. The two sinks are set into a handsome granite counter. The shower and separate tub share a single glass enclosure. The shower has a low-flow head, but it’s so well engineered that you feel like you’re getting a good spraying. The toilet is in its own compartment (which seems like a no-brainer, given that not everyone travels alone).
It’s hard to think of an amenity the hotel lacks. Tip: It costs $30 a day to use the gorgeous spa, but a half-hour appointment with a trainer at the fitness center, for $40, includes spa access — making the training session almost free. The vast pool area, which is expected to open later this month, couldn’t be more beautiful, with thick groves of palm trees separating the three large, teardrop-shaped pools. A theater is home to a new Cirque du Soleil show, Viva Elvis. The casino is vast but surprisingly elegant. As for restaurants, many cities don’t provide as many options.
A standard room is $149 (though members of the MGM Mirage Players Club may be eligible for discounts). For that, the hotel delivers a lot of luxury. To avoid views of the casino roof, ask for a room on a high floor; to avoid miles of walking, ask for one near the elevator.