Celebrating its grand opening on March 31, W Hotels brings its signature brand to the north end of the Strip, at SLS Las Vegas. We recently explored W Las Vegas to give you a preview of what to expect.
There was a time when this space felt like a ghost town, but not today. Across from the SLS Las Vegas check-in counter, located on the Paradise Road entrance side, is a nondescript “W.” Down the hallway and past the Monkey Bar, the scene shifts. Business suits and head-to-toe black ensembles start to appear.
The W’s front desk, three small workstations, is where you’ll find this hotel-in-hotel’s check-in. Just outside through its own dedicated porte cochère (apart from that of the SLS), you’re met by a panel of thousands of flickering gold poker chips meant to evoke the glitz and glamour of the Sahara’s heyday.
The bones of the 26-floor Sahara, built in 1952, are mostly all that remains of the Rat Pack–era favorite. The Las Vegas legend was gutted before reopening in 2014. The Lux tower houses 289 rooms that were almost all designed by Philippe Starck. Mine, however, is one of two suites designed by entertainer–cum–interior decorator Lenny Kravitz. The first thing I do is roll around on the suede L-shaped couch and plush, furry throw pillows.
When you enter the porte cochère, you’re met by a panel of thousands of flickering gold poker chips meant to evoke the glitz and glamour of the Sahara’s heyday.
The suite offers a wraparound view, with vistas of Downtown and the mountains. There’s also the eyesore that is Fontainebleau, and the colossus sculpture Saam, named for Sam Nazarian, SLS Las Vegas’ former leader.
Replacing SLS’ Ciel Spa is Away, W’s reimagining of a traditional spa. Although the hotel opened its doors on December 1, plenty of redesign is still underway. “Everything was stark white. The chairs, the floor, the carpeting was white,” says spa director Shane Upson. As the W’s third national location to roll out the Away Spa concept, he’s working toward making it more of “a social engagement experience.” Expect DJs on the weekends and evening pre-gaming salon events.
The spa menu is chock-full of hydrating treatments. I go with the Vegas Baby massage option—an 80-minute wrap, scalp and full-body rubdown that uses the hotel’s exclusive vegan line Osea. The 30 percent locals discount is a good deal, despite the spa lacking a sauna and dipping baths, another indication of the original building’s limitations.
Each W hotel is outfitted with its own Living Room, essentially the lobby and its bar. I grab a couple of 1960s adult magazines from the coffee table and order a glass of Sauvy B. The menu includes cocktails at around $15 each, as well as a wine and spirits selection. The space hosts its own bar-bites menu, which is impressive, considering W uses its property-mate’s kitchen.
Next up: Social Hour at Katsuya in SLS. When I arrive, every seat is taken besides my reservation. From 5 to 7 p.m., a happy hour menu serves up favorite dishes and sushi rolls alongside cocktails, all under $11. I try the spicy edamame along with the crispy Brussels sprouts, hold the fish shavings. When my top-notch server realizes seafood is off the table, he suggests the Mushroom Bop from the main menu—four types of Japanese mushrooms served with arugula and chives in a hot stone pot finished tableside.
The next food stop is Cleo. There’s a reason why Katsuya and Cleo have lasted through all of SLS’ changeups. Both beautifully execute their roles—the latter by still holding reign as the place for contemporary Greek and Mediterranean cuisine on the Strip. Shared plates are king … ahem, queen here, and every order deserves its own piece of flatbread. It’s just that good. The wine list and vegetarian options are vast.
Every time I pass by the Monkey Bar, it’s bursting at the seams. I want to push through my food coma and experience the crowds, but I succumb to massage therapist Anissa’s suggestion of staying hydrated to flush out the toxins and head upstairs to cuddle on my Lenny Kravitz couch.
At this hour, I bet more folks are committed to their workout routine than there are guests stumbling in from nearby Dino’s Lounge. In W lingo, it’s called Fit, also the name of its fitness center. The workout programs are currently limited to the small dimensions of the gym, although it’s plenty for the hotel’s size. While the redesign is set to take place next year, Upson says yoga classes by the pool and other activations to keep the W crowd svelte and engaged are on the horizon.
The pool—or Wet Deck, as it’s known—is set to open April 1. Bursts of color line the deck, while two murals by Joseph Dzwill of Wynwood Walls in Miami fame anchor the pool. Located on the rooftop of W’s new 15,000-square-foot meeting and event center, Wet is reserved for W guests only, but music and fashion events geared toward locals are in the works.
For the most important meal of the day, the 24/7 Northside Café and Chinese Kitchen does the trick. It’s a diner with standard diner fare—plus Chinese food from 11–2 a.m.—and this weekday morning it’s full.
On the way out, I swing by the Living Room’s WC. Not to use the unisex bathroom, but instead to see Booker Glam, W’s twist on the popular Zoltar fortune-telling machines. Get a gold coin during check-in or at the bar to get prenup, marriage or general advice. My ticket says, “Round and round, your fate is mine! I’m seeing red, just one last time!” I know he’s talking roulette here, but I can’t help but think Booker knows his business, too.
House of Cards
A look at local photographer Michael Gaskell’s commissioned work for the W and beyond
Inside the Living Room at W Las Vegas is multimedia artist Michael Gaskell’s contemporary take on a deck of cards. The king, queen and jack are reimagined as gender-neutral characters. Shot at his MG Studio—a local company that produces photography, films, documentaries, corporate media and television ads—the images are also imprinted onto the W’s pillows. The two faces of each image, or card, are meant to evoke the duality the city inspires: an everyday face at the top and the Las Vegas alter ego at the bottom.
The king represents the high-roller, while the alter ego is more of a gritty street player. Bursting with glitz is the showgirl queen atop and the person behind the costume below. The jack is the ultimate bachelor/bachelorette, and, of course, his/her promiscuous side that comes out during the Las Vegas party.
“I’ve never shot anything at that level of styling,” Gaskell says, crediting the project to his team, and in large part to makeup and hairstylist Zee Clemente.“I’m just the guy pressing the button,” he adds modestly.
Gaskell was commissioned for a two-part project at W. The other is an underwater shoot that’s displayed as an elevator wrap inside the Wet rooftop pool lifts. It shows the bodies of poolgoers—er, models—from below the surface. –J.C.A.