Las Vegas

Things you didn't know about Las Vegas

Vegas isn’t a subtle city—blessed with a showgirl’s soul, its unabashed brashness is essential to its charm. But there are a few secret treats and overlooked gems that don’t tout their appeal with blaring neon Strip-side signs. Here are eight insider haunts to explore next time you’re in Sin City—spots you won’t stumble upon, but rather must seek out.

  • 1. James Turrell's Akhob

    James Turrell's Akhob

    Florian Holzherr (Courtesy James Turrell)

    Louis Vuitton has long had close ties with the art world—see the recently opened Fondation LVMH in Paris—and the Vegas store is no exception. It’s full of specially commissioned works, like an Isa Genzken rose outside one entrance. Hidden away on the top floor, though, is arguably the most important single work of art in Las Vegas: light artist James Turrell’s Akhob, which means ‘pure water’ in ancient Egyptian. This womb-like room is bathed in shifting sorbet-colored lights that are both soothing and disconcerting; the field of vision is woozy, the horizon seeming to shift over time. It’s free for anyone to view and visits are limited to just four people, which keeps the experience intimate—just make a reservation and give your name to a floorwalker when you arrive.

    Bookings: 702-730-3150. Exhibition open Thu–Mon, 11–8.

  • 2. R+D Hipster Emporium

    R+D Hipster Emporium

    Courtesy R+D Hipster Emporium

    Shopping in Vegas is a glitzy but often generic experience, its malls lined with a greatest-hits collection of the world’s designer brands. For a fresher assortment of clothes and accessories, detour from the Strip to R+D Hipster Emporium. (Don’t be put off by the cumbersome name, as this is the city’s coolest boutique, founded by SoCal native Mariah Lewis-Briles.) There are better-known brands like Nicole Richie’s House of Harlow and John Varvatos alongside niche casualwear lines like men’s tanks and tees from Kinetix and womenswear by brother-sister duo Lauren Moshi. If you’re in need of inspiration, just cruise the brand’s kooky Tumblr before stopping by.

  • 3. Lotus of Siam

    Lotus of Siam

    Courtesy Lotus of Siam

    This restaurant doesn’t look like much from the outside: at a grungy strip mall in windswept Winchester, sandwiched between a wig shop and a bar with blacked-out windows. The décor isn't much, either, like a standard suburban Thai restaurant, with floral wallpaper and photos of past customers. The hint that Lotus of Siam might stand apart is the boldface names in those snaps, who have pilgrimaged here to sample the outstanding menu. Forget gluey pad thai or stringy green papaya salads—this is food cooked by, and for, expat Thais. James Beard nominee Saipin Chutima’s menu includes a standalone Northern Thai section, featuring Thum Ka Noon, a tangy jackfruit and ground pork mêlée (spice fiends rejoice: you can ask for amped-up hotness on most dishes). Don’t leave without ordering a side of Nam Prik Ong, or red chili dip—chunky and tangy like tomato relish, it’s served with crudités.

  • 4. Herbs & Rye

    Herbs & Rye

    Herbs & Rye

    Most Vegas nightspots are bedeviled with bottle service and atmosphere girls, so it’s refreshing to take refuge in the Prohibition-style cocktail bar-cum-lounge Herbs & Rye. It’s less Calvin Harris, more Calvin Coolidge. The velvet-wallpapered room sparkles with fancy chandeliers, and its retro-glamour is emphasized on a menu that classifies drinks by era, from the pioneering Martinez (said to be the forerunner of the martini) from before 1865 to a Ramos Gin Fizz, devised in 1888. No wonder Herbs & Rye has been honored with a guest stint at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, bartenders’ answer to the Oscars.

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