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Medicine Hunter

Las Vegas goes healthy, sort of

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Night view of the Strip boulevard and the Tour Eiffel replica in Las Vegas, Nevada August 22, 2012. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

I feel obliged to say at the onset of this piece that though I travel to Las Vegas once or twice a year, I do so to fulfill work obligations, not to visit a choice destination. In fact, since 1979 I have regularly traveled to Las Vegas, stayed in large convention hotel/casinos and attended trade shows of various sorts. Since I find no fascination with gambling, Vegas and I are ill-suited to each other. Worse than that basic disconnect is the fact that I've never gotten a good night’s sleep in Vegas hotels, with their canned air and general lack of serenity – until now.

Somebody in Las Vegas woke up and realized that visitors to the city are as varied as the casino themes themselves. And at the MGM Grand, most famous for holding highly publicized boxing and MMA title bouts, somebody decided to reach out to healthy living aficionados like me. Thus the advent of – I kid you not – the StayWell room.

When I first saw the option online for StayWell rooms at the MGM Grand, I assumed it was hype – just another way to rope in more customers, but offering little. Curious, I signed up. Upon arriving at the hotel, I was invited into the serene and fresh StayWell Lounge, where I checked in without having to stand in a long, stressful line at the main reception area. The air in the lounge was crisp, due to extra oxygen and a prominent high-tech air purifier. Large wall photos of natural places almost made me forget that I was in a frenetic temple to gambling and excess. A charming receptionist described the amenities of the StayWell rooms, and offered me fresh apples, lemon-infused water, and an invitation to hang out in the calm and ease of the lounge as often as I wanted.

If the introduction to my stay was nicely accomplished, it paled in comparison to the room itself, which was located on a StayWell-themed floor. As soon as I stepped out of the elevator, fresh rich oxygen greeted me, as did a light fragrance of floral essential oils. Once I got to my room, the various amenities set it apart from any other room I’ve stayed in while visiting Vegas. Space-age blue lights claimed to keep particulate matter and stress-inducing positive ions out of the space. And in the bathroom, a vitamin C shower, promised to keep my skin from drying out in the arid desert air. A cartridge attached to the shower head showed the amount of vitamin C crystals left at any time. Under the sink, a dedicated water purifier filtered the tap water so I didn’t have to drink out of a plastic bottle. The tap water tasted clean and pure. Oh, and the room was quiet, very quiet. Nice.

Though I will not move to Las Vegas anytime soon, the StayWell room concept at the MGM Grand made my stay in Vegas pleasant – for the first time ever. I slept soundly, woke up without the usual Las Vegas hotel-induced stuffiness, and had more than adequate floor space to practice yoga, which helps me to get through the day.

All kinds of people travel these days, and those of us who do so regularly want conditions that match our lifestyles. Las Vegas has plenty of clean, healthy food options now, and that only made my stay there easier. Across the country, and indeed around the world, I encounter hotels and other spots where the traveler’s desire to stay healthy is being taken increasingly into account. From the use of less harsh laundry detergents, to hotels that change your sheets only when you ask, in order to reduce environmental detergent pollution, there is a shake-up going on. It is increasingly possible to travel far and wide, and still maintain a healthy lifestyle, if that is what you prefer.

Las Vegas didn’t get a dime of gambling money from me, but I stayed a few nights in the hotel and ate at some very good restaurants. I left feeling that I’d been listened to – that perhaps all my years being vocal about healthy living had helped to precipitate such a change. So while Las Vegas didn’t gain access to the full contents of my wallet, it got a piece, along with my appreciation and respect.

Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide. His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France. Read more at MedicineHunter.com.