@ SLS Hotel

Las Vegas continues to recreate itself as a travel and gaming and entertainment destination.  All the Rat Pack era hotels and casinos have been imploded except for the Tropicana; the Riviera, featured in the 1995 movie Casino was portrayed as the Stardust, both gone; a Chinese casino is rising on the Stardust footprint, and the Riviera site is to be the home of the Convention Center expansion.

But wait, the skeleton of the Sahara hotel lives on in a beautiful transformation into two hotels, The SLS and the W Hotel Las Vegas.  I checked in to see what the new Wow was and it certainly was impressive.  I wheeled my luggage past the SLS reservation desk, hung a right down a short hallway to the W Hotel check-in.

The W Hotel is an upbeat and contemporary property within the greater SLS complex, and its trendiness is attracting millennial travelers and even older guests.  W Hotels was once a part of the Starwood brand but then Marriott took over all those brands. At check-in at the W Las Vegas I was asked for my SPG membership number, the new loyalty program for Marriott hotels. I had a number, but no SPG wallet card so they found me online.

Rock out at the W Hotel reception desk.

Behind the reception area is a colorful Sahara-era gaming design - different colored and different denominations of the old Sahara poker chips, stacked and glued to the wall to portray a music mixing sound board equalizer. Near the elevator cove old Sahara playing cards were stuck to the wall to create interesting wall paper patterns.  The ghost of the Sahara Hotel lives on in the 289 luxurious rooms of the first W Hotel on The Strip,

Socialize in The Living Room.

Next to reception was the concierge desk, which can set up show tickets, transportation, and other services. Just off the reception area is the "Living Room", a convenient and comfortable lounge area that is a truly a super-sized  living room with plush couches and leather chairs, coffee table books on the end tables, and a full bar with a section for nightly bands. I ordered a cocktail.

The W Hotel Las Vegas is esconsed in SLS.

After riding the elevator up with Dan, a guy that seemed to know everything about the W Hotel, and who lingers in the reception area to help guests, I was beginning to feel trendy - I had arrived. The old Sahara Hotel rooms were small and cramped but the entire complex interior had been gutted over several years, and my room was large and bright and futuristic.

A long white leather bench couch spread nearly the width of the room under the pull chain shades, ending at the mini-bar station with a massive Nespresso coffee making machine.  Bright stripped beach throw pillows peppered the couch. A huge flat screen TV loomed over the couch and I found tons of channels to watch in the evening. The king-sized platform bed held a fiber filled  comforter; a digital clock with reset alarm and radio sat on the nightstand.

Room service from The Living Room.

The wallpaper was a sort of African motif. I could work on my laptop on a work table with extension lamp and hook into the hotel's free WiFi. A current copy of Las Vegas Magazine begged to be perused with my feet up on the stump footstool, a real tree stump.

I pushed open the heavy aluminum door to the toilet. In a cotton draw string ditty bag labeled "Backup Plan" was a roll of toilet paper. A vanity mirror hung over each of the dual bath sinks;  aluminum spike faucets gushed plenty of hot water. A white W terry cloth bath robe hung next to the aluminum towel racks. Bliss Lemon and Sage French milled suds bars graced the sinks with fragrance;  Bliss foaming face and body wash felt fab on the skin. I would walk through the glass shower doors between the bath and bedroom without going through the anteroom that boasted large drawers for extended stays.

Cleo Mediterranean Restaurant

It was my friend Art's birthday so he met me in The Living Room and we planned our celebration at Clep's Restaurant, around the corner from the casino cage.  The Mediterranean-sytle tapa cuisine was well recommended to us.  We were led  across the black and while tile floor to a table near the gigantic stone wood burning fireplace where unique vegetarian dishes are created  and cooked or braised. The seating area was designed into coves of stone, giving it a rather arabesque rathskeller feel.

Old style Vegas booths or table seating at Cleo.

I was hopping a plane to Spain the next day with the new Vegas service from Norwegian Airlines, connecting through Copenhagen to Barcelona, so I found it appropriate to order an off-the-menu Sangria wine spritzer from our lively waitress, Lindsey.  She came back with a frothy and fruity and cold Sangria cocktail.  University studies have shown that sangria (blood in Spanish)  flavinoids lowers bad cholesterol, raises good cholesterol, and lower blood pressure.  I have been imbibing sangria for some time, and my doctor noted at my recent health checkup that my triglycerides were lower than his, so now he is drinking sangria, too.

Tasteful tapas reflect cuisine of the Middle Sea.

I like the dining concept of tapa tasters, or small plates of different cuisines, to better experience a wide range of menu choices.  Lindsey recommended five tapas as a sufficient dining exploration for us so we first chose the Fried Broccoli Leaves Capers garnished with almond slivers with Almond Vinaigrette.  Tapa dos  was Garlic Shrimp Greek Salad, eaten with a spoon; Tapa tres and cuatro were an order of Lamb Chops and one of Lamb Kefta Kabobs with Saffron Rice; and el grande Tapa was Garlic Shrimp with Gigante Beans Castelvetrano Olives,,and Preserved Lemon.

Cleo cocktails.

While we waited Lindsey flew by with a basket of falafel and  small bowls of Hummus with Tahini. Even though the tapa service was swift, we ordered a second round of falafel and hummus, it was that fresh and delicious.

Two chefs at the enormous wood burning oven prepared out-of-this-world and into the boca delights such as: Artichoke Lemon; Spicey Potatoes Cilanro Aloli; Cauliflower Vadouvan with Cashews; Eggplant Fennel Chili; Shishito Peppers Parmesan and Brussel Sprout Hearts with Hazelnut and Fresno Chili.

I felt like I was all ready dining in Spain. Cleo's absolutely sets up the palate for Iberian and Mediterranean palate prelude.

Cleo has a social hour menu daily from 5 – 7 p.m. which includes wines, beers, and signature cocktails, as well as some of the Mediterranean restaurant’s most popular dishes, including babaganoush with freshly-baked laffa and flatbreads.

Get social at Social Hour at Cleo.

Other Social hour offerings include: $7 lebanah, hummus and babaganoush dips with laffa; $8 salads and vegetables, including Greek salad, quinoa and roasted vegetables and Brussels sprouts; $9 Roman and kale flatbreads; $9 kebabs, sausages and meats; and $2 oysters. Social hour drinks are priced at $4 for select beers and $8 for house red and white wines; as well as $8 hand-crafted signature cocktails, including the Lotus Flower, made with Three Olives vodka crushed blackberries and rosemary, fresh lime, agave and a splash of cava; and the Old Hollywood, made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, house-made fig-almond syrup and a dash of walnut bitters; among others.

Cleo serves the celebrated cuisine of Chef Danny Elmaleh and is open from 5 - 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 5 - 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations are available by calling 702.761.7612, via email at cleo@slslasvegas.com and on Open Table.  Follow Cleo  @CleoRestaurant @slslasvegas #SLSLasVegas

Other SLS selection of culinary and cocktail offerings include: Bazaar Meat by José Andrés, Katsuya, Umami Burger, Beer Garden & Sports Book, 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria, Northside Café & Chinese Kitchen,  The Sayers Club, and The Perq.

The Foundry

The SLS and W Hotel Las Vegas complex has brought a great new music venue to the north end of the Strip.

Catch some Jazz at The Foundry.

The Foundry is a live entertainment venue that funnels the energy of Las Vegas’ top concert settings into an intimate space. Designed to bring a carefully curated experience to The Strip, the venue boasts state-of-the-art technology including cutting edge acoustics, a custom built 25-foot by 65-foot stage, impressive lighting techniques, and full-motion graphic production capabilities.. The Foundry is Complete with three full bars, VIP booths and reserved seating, The Foundry holds up to 1,800 people, allowing for a wide range of opportunities featuring talent of the highest caliber. For more information about The Foundry, please visit foundrylv.com and stay connected on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The rooftop Foxtail Pool and Retro Pool Lounge

Although the Foxtail Pool at the SLS and W Hotel Las Vegas is closed in winter, summer pool access  parties  give access to the guest-only pool. Order cocktails from the Retro Pool Lounge.

The Foxtail Pool is the place to chill out.

Foxtail Pool will also feature live DJs on certain weekends.  Celebrate with a special cabana delivery of a Stella Artois kegerator, equivalent to 35 beers, priced at $185; and beer buckets featuring Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, Budweiser or Bud Light Lime, priced at $30.

Additionally, the resort-style oasis will feature poolside favorites including: Black and Blue Lemonade, made with Ciroc berry vodka, blueberries, blackberries and lemonade for $15; ahi poke tacos, topped with guacamole, yuzu crème and truffle soy, priced at $16.95; and chicken tenders, served with French fries, buttermilk ranch and barbeque sauce for $12.95.

Guests and locals can rent a cabana.

The Retro Pool Lounge. Formally the LUX Pool, is an open-air ambiance in a rooftop setting. exclusively for guests ages 21 and older, Retro Pool Lounge is framed by premium cabanas for reservations, as well as an open cabana concept available for all guests to enjoy. Hours of operation at Retro Pool Lounge are 10 a.m. through 7 p.m.

Locals will receive admission to Foxtail Pool on weekends with the reservation of a day bed, couch, cabana or premium cabana, with an accompanying minimum food and beverage spend.

Ciel Spa operated by Away Spa

I must mention my marvelous masseuse, Ellen, who hailed from a Relais & Chateaux resort in Wyoming.  Ellen was so strong that I think she busted broncs before turning to twisting out tangled knots in humans. Ciel mean sky in Spanish, and after an hour workout by Ellen I certain was ready for my Ciel flight to Spain in a Dreamliner, no less.

Detox in style at Away Spa.

Detox Before You Retox. In need of a break from the action? AWAY Spa is located on the second floor of W Las Vegas, AWAY offers signature spa treatments, from massages to anti-aging facials and purifying body wraps that rejuvenate from head to toe.

Away has ten treatment rooms, a relaxation lounge, a couples massage suite, and herbal steam rooms and a fully equipment fitness center.  Open daily, 9:00 .a.m. - 9:00 p.m.

About SLS Las Vegas

SLS Las Vegas, a Tribute Portfolio Resort, is an all-encompassing resort and casino with more than 1,300 guest rooms and suites in two distinctive towers, 80,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and a collection of acclaimed restaurants, bars and entertainment venues. The colorful casino occupies 60,000 square feet and features approximately 800 of the latest slot and video poker machines complemented by more than 70 classic table games.

The resort is also home to The Foundry, an intimate, live entertainment venue. Additionally, SLS houses a sports book operated by global gaming leader, William Hill and the first W Hotel on The Strip, the 289-room luxurious, W Las Vegas. For more information about SLS visit www.slslasvegas.com  an d stay connected on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Other amenities in the SLS Hotel complex are a hair salon, FedEx Business Center, access to the monorail station. SLS Las Vegas always offers complimentary covered parking and valet services.

When driving north on the Strip, don't look for the old Sahara Hotel, but watch for the big W hand, its alien-like fingers waving you a W Welcome.

— Feature by Kriss Hammond, Jetsetters Magazine Editor; photos by the author and courtesy of SLS and W Hotels in Las Vegas.