Best Lounge DJ
A longtime fixture at hot spots such as Downtown Cocktail Room and the N9NE Group venues, DJ Douglas Gibbs says he took his inspiration from the room when he was coming up with his loungy, sexy, world-flavor vocal house sound for Encore’s Eastside Lounge. Plying his trade Fridays and Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., Gibbs one night early on caught the ear of Steve Wynn, and the very next week, his set was being piped onto casino floor instead of the usual ambient station mix. “I’m flattered and excited to be appreciated on that level,” says Gibbs of getting the nod from Wynn. He says he has made conscious decision not to be a Top 40 DJ, and will next be recording a set list for the nights he’s not booked at Eastside.
The moment you walk in, its name becomes clear: XS is the epitome of excess. From the golden casts that welcome you at the door to the shimmering pool outside, it is luxurious, lavish and fabulous through and through. The club consistently attracts beautiful, international and fun-loving crowds, and the staff knows how to keep everyone entertained. It’s true, drinks aren’t cheap—but they don’t call it XS for nothing. And in this case, you get what you pay for. In Encore.
There are plenty of places to drink in this city, but few places have the ability to transport you like Mandarin Bar. While the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the Strip from 23 stories up leave no question that you are, indeed, in Las Vegas, the sleek sophistication of the space feels like downtown Tokyo—and miles from any casino. View and vibe aside, the drink menu is superb, with artisan cocktails and a short but well-selected wine list, and the service is second to none. In Mandarin Oriental, 4:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Sun.-Thurs., 4:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Fri.-Sat.
Best Big-Room DJ
Rumored to be the first DJ to be given a million-dollar residency in Las Vegas, DJ Vice sets the soundtrack for a wild and fun night at the club. We get a double dose of Patrón time every week, thanks to back-to-back gigs at Tao on Saturday and Lavo on Sunday. The tequila-loving S.K.A.M. Artist has been the marquee man at the sister spots since they opened (not counting that yearlong hiatus, when he went to Pure Management Group to play Pure and LAX). It’s no surprise that his signature mixes and air-horn-infused sets have a dedicated and considerable following: He’s the best in town.
Best Party on Wheels
The monthly night of retro roller skating, Down & Derby, is still the city’s best. With its hipster roots—it all began downtown, at Beauty Bar—and equally fun organizers and participants, D&D always makes for a fun and funky Thursday. Other venues have tried to host similar theme nights, but there’s only one place where roller skates, short-shorts, stairs and booze in sippy cups mix—and it goes down at Rain in the Palms.
Best poolside bodies
Photo by Anthony MairThe toned and tanned servers of Wet Republic.
Wet Republic’s militantly athletic team of Ultra Pool cocktail servers employ all sorts of shape-up regimes to stay in peak condition for the long, hot pool season. Lindsay Andrew, for example, follows a strict schedule with CrossFit Las Vegas, achieving some noticeably amazing results. Others rely on Bikram yoga to keep those muscles lean and toned. Besides great bodies, the servers also sport flawless Mystic Tans and show off their flair and personality through footwear, which mandates impeccable pedicures.
Best See-and-Be-Seen Pool Scene
Perched high atop the Venetian is a beautiful, crazy, Balinese-inspired party pool that consistently hits all the high notes: pretty people, A-list celebs, great atmosphere. Open daily from 10 a.m., Tao Beach features solid DJs (including Beatport-sanctioned talent on Sundays) and treats locals the way they should be treated, with free admission (excluding special events). Have out-of-town guests? No problem. Visiting ladies get in for free, too, and guys without local I.D. pay just $20 on Saturday or Sunday. While there’s no beach at Tao Beach and the pool isn’t exactly the biggest in town, celebs still flock to the rooftop oasis to catch some rays before hitting Tao and Lavo at night, making it prime territory for both stargazing and sun-worshiping.
Best One-Stop Shop for All You Could Ever Need
The big deal on wheels known as Down & Derby.
Las Vegas traffic is legendary for its post-show valet lines, so it is always nice when you can get everything you need for a night out on the town under one roof. Sister properties Wynn and Encore afford us that, with Encore Beach Club providing the pool; Bartolotta, SW Steakhouse, Switch and Wazuzu among the top-notch dining options; Parasol Up/Parasol Down and Blush offering lounge space with extraordinary cocktails; XS and Surrender serving up all the nightlife we can handle; and the staff at Stratta filling our bellies once it’s all over. There’s also great live entertainment choices (Le Rêve and Garth Brooks), a luxurious full-service spa and a lively casino floor. If you can afford it, why go anywhere else?
Best Go-Go Dancers
Tired of watching expressionless go-go dancers with overly inflated chests and too-small stripper shoes wiggle wanly to the beat (and sometimes in complete ignorance of it), we must admit that we were entirely ready for the go-go team at Haze Nightclub to hijack our attention. Proportionally curvy and healthy at that, these real women actually appear to be having a good time as they freestyle dance on various stages around the club. The very purpose of a go-go dancer being to fuel the energy of a club, these ladies set that bar pretty high with genuine smiles, sparkling auras and sweet moves. Dance on, dear ladies, dance on. In Aria.
Best LGBT Party
Whereas just two and a half years ago there was not a single LGBT party to be found in Vegas’ mainstream Strip nightclubs, lounges and pools, thanks to a few intrepid promoters such as Eduardo Cordova, Lisa Pittman, J.Son Dinant, Mervat Berry and Rachel Wenman (and to progressive nightlife companies such as Light Group and N9NE Group), today we have oodles. But the longest-running and most successful of them all, Cordova’s Closet Sundays, was the first, launching in 2008 and still going strong. Relocating from CatHouse to Revolution to accommodate the expanding crowd, The Closet attracts the hottest talent, DJs and hosts from the gay party circuit, and this summer gave birth to Heaven Saturdays at Bare Pool. Cordova’s touch is the perfect balance between high-end and hard-partying, which gives both his crowd and his corporate benefactors exactly what they want. And snaps for that! In The Mirage.