Believe me, there are a lot of things to do in Las Vegas over 48 hours. But the high-octane city isn’t just about casinos—it’s for foodies, families, lovers of nature, spa getaways, world-class entertainment and much more. No matter what kind of traveler you are, knowing how to maximize existing benefits can add substantial value to a vacation. Plus, if you can roll like a VIP, why wouldn’t you?
A few weeks ago, I spent two days in Las Vegas as a guest of Visa in order to experience the premium benefits that Visa Signature cardholders enjoy when booking through the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection. Look in the right-hand corner on the front or back of your Visa card to see if it has the Visa Signature logo. Many people don’t know they have one. The good news is that savvy travelers usually already do (United, Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Southwest Airlines and more have co-branded Visa Signature cards) but even they get so focused on points and miles, that luxury hotel perks can be accidentally overlooked.
So, here is how I spent 48 hours rocking Las Vegas like a Visa Signature cardholder. (Click on any photo collage to view as a gallery.)
Day 1: Arrival, Check-in to Aria Resort and Casino, and Dinner in a Sky Suite
Aria | Las Vegas, NV, a Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection Property
Our stay at the Aria Resort and Casino luckily coincided with Chinese New Year (my Hong Kong-born daughter’s favorite holiday) which was fortuitous because I am always looking for places closer to home that we can travel to during this time of year. A giant red dragon and hundreds of lanterns hung suspended from the tall glass lobby ceiling. Beautiful flower arrangements, red envelopes and other traditional decor were sprinkled throughout the property, just like it is in Hong Kong and Macau.
I checked in around 3:00 p.m. after a relatively easy flight (though the slight delay had me ready for a cocktail) from San Diego. I had already forgotten that one of the Visa Signature benefits includes using the VIP check-in but I was reminded to use it at check-out. No problem.
My room was upgraded to a city view room—yet another perk—with sweeping vistas of the strip’s neon lights and attractions from the 53rd floor of the Aria (pictured above). The second I walked into the room, the TV played music and the electronic curtains opened to allow the day’s remaining sunlight to flood the room through floor-to-ceiling windows. The electronics can speak your name, but I was so overwhelmed by the cool activity that I’m not sure if they did or not!
As you can see, the rooms possess the latest and greatest in technology which can be customized to suit guest preferences. I noticed the generous size right away (520 square feet on average for all Deluxe Rooms, view or not) along with beautiful contemporary decor, high thread-count linens and plenty of closet space, to name a few of the many impressive details.
As I was settling in, there was a knock at the door. A lovely Henri Bendel make-up bag (ironically, in a size I need) and luggage tag arrived as a gift. About an hour later, there was another knock. This time, beautiful chocolates from the hotel’s Jean Phillippe Patisserie were presented. In-room amenities like this are reserved for VIPs and as a Visa Signature cardholder, you are exactly that. Go ahead. Dig into that box of chocolates with a wine split from the minibar—you have a $25 resort credit to burn.
Dinner with a View (and Magician) in an Aria Sky Suite
The other writers and I were escorted into a stunning Aria Sky Suite—perfect for those who require more comforts of home and space while traveling—to enjoy a private dinner and drinks while learning a bit more about the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection, a selection of 900 of the world’s top hotels including brands like Peninsula and Park Hyatt. Each property is vetted by Visa to ensure that certain quality and luxury standards are met. I was impressed by how easy the booking process is, the wide range of destinations around the world and that there is a best available rate guarantee. Bali, anyone?
The evening concluded with great conversation and a magician who wowed us with card tricks in true Vegas-style. At about 10:00 p.m., we called it a night in anticipation of a full day of fun the following day.
Day 2: From Spa Bliss to a Dinner and a Circus
Healthy Breakfast Via In-Room Dining
Visa Signature card holders receive a complimentary continental breakfast, but since the Aria doesn’t offer a continental breakfast, they give a $20 daily credit that I spent on a lovely egg-white omelet with feta, tzatziki, onions and tomato (determined to replicate this at home) paired with coffee and carrot juice (a bit over $20 but it didn’t matter to me). The food at Aria is quite impressive to say the least, as you’ll soon see.
Morning Bliss at Vdara’s ESPA
I’m telling you, a morning spa appointment is the perfect way to kick-off a fresh day in Las Vegas as well as a perfect way to right the ship after a late night out. The Vdara Hotel and Spa, also a Visa Signature Hotel, is a non-gaming boutique property located just steps from the Aria Resort and Casino. I loved the relaxed-upscale vibe, especially inside the intimate ESPA. I photographed the many simple-yet-stunning flower arrangements, too.
My shoulders dropped as soon as I stepped into lovely lounge area complete with spa snacks and flavored water. Guest who arrive early can and should take advantage of the whirlpool, steam room and sauna because almost every bath amenity needed to refresh after a shower is there, waiting to be used.
ESPA therapists are rigorously-trained in their craft. Joan gave me a much-needed customized massage complete with hot stones and aromatherapy. Pair that with a stint in the relaxation room, a bit more lounging and heat treatments— I was in a pretty good place both physically and mentally.
Lunch at Julian Serrano Tapas
Aria Resort and Casino is home to an impressive 16 dining establishments and for a “light” lunch our group caught up after spa at Julian Serrano Tapas. With such a high density of celebrity and popular chef restaurants, the food in Las Vegas doesn’t disappoint and this popular spot is no different.
Our group sampled a variety of delicious bites from the extensive menu that features traditional and innovative tapas, seafood, paella and more. It’s hard to isolate a favorite but I would have to with the yellowtail tiradito and the paella.
Despite my intention to check out The Shoppes at Crystals next door, I seriously had to take a short power nap after this meal.
Behind-the-Scenes Tour of ‘Zarkana’ by ‘Cirque du Soleil’
The Aria Resort and Casino is home to Zarkana by Cirque du Soleil, a spectacular acrobatic show that tells the story of an extraordinary circus coming to life in an abandoned theater. Zarkana is a fusion of the words bizarre and arcane, which wouldn’t be more perfect for such a sensory-driven show. The show has an international cast of 70 world-class acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, high wire and trapeze artists.
Our group watched rehearsals and on-stage preparations for the evening’s show and then we wandered backstage to view the artists warm-up as well as learn what it takes to put on such a complex show.
Particularly interesting to me was the costume room—each is washed and prepped every night—and that each act is so specialized that there aren’t backup performers but rather backup acts. If someone is absent, they adjust the show and add in a new act. However, in the case of trapeze artists where there are many in one act, they adjust the routine, minus one. They’re also set up with enough machinery and equipment to build their own props. It’s mind-blowing.
Decadent French Food at Bardot Brasserie
I fell in love with Michael Mina’s Bardot Brasserie the second I saw the stunning bottle-lined gold bar. And then the delicious food sent the affair into overdrive.
One can expect to find traditional French brasserie menu items such as steak frites, escargot and the like, but each seems to be kicked up a notch. There’s foie gras butter on top. The escargot is wrapped in a puff pastry. The French onion was described by the server as “life-changing” and indeed that with an upgrade of périgord truffle, braised oxtail, and soft poached egg. You get the picture.
The Show: Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana
Finally, it was time to see the show we had previously learned so much about. I felt a deeper appreciation for each scene, particularly the sand artist whose work station we admired backstage. Acrobatic feats had my stomach in knots, but all were flawlessly-executed. My daughter would have loved it (in fact, seeing a show is one of the best things to do in Las Vegas with kids).
Day 3: Leisure and Check-Out
Though I woke up still full from our French food bonanza, I ordered the same healthy breakfast through in-room dining. While I should have gone to the gym, I recovered from a late night by catching up on email through the complimentary hotel WiFi in between packing.
But, you could cruise around the casino, shop, and/or take advantage of the spa one more time. Running out of things to do in Las Vegas is never an issue, so why not take a late flight out. Visa Signature VIPs receive a 3:00 p.m. late check-out, when available.
Here’s another thing to consider for San Diegans… from the moment I checked out of the Aria (using the VIP line, of course) to arrival at my front door, the time elapsed was only 2.5 hours.
Las Vegas in 48 hours is truly easy. And, wow, did we have a great time.
Visa Signature Benefit Summary
Visa Signature cardholders enjoy premium benefits when they book through the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection website, including:
- Best available rate guarantee
- Automatic room upgrade upon arrival, when available
- Complimentary in-room Wi-Fi, when available
- Complimentary continental breakfast daily
- $25 USD food or beverage credit
- VIP Guest status
- 3 p.m. check-out upon request, when available
These items all add up to real savings for my family because we do order breakfast in hotels, use WiFi and raid the mini bar, for starters. And, all of this just might be attached to a card that’s already in your wallet (or needs to be). Check and then book your next hotel through the Visa Luxury Hotel Collection
Do you have a Visa Signature card? If so, have you booked through the Luxury Hotel Collection?
This post is written in partnership with Visa. All opinions are my own.
‘Zarkana’ photos are courtesy of Cirque du Soleil