For the first time ever, I thought I’d get out of Aspen for New Year’s Eve. I know it sounds spoiled; I can only imagine how much people must go through in order to ring in the new year in this small paradise. And for the record I don’t think I’ll ever journey away at this time again, but after a long holiday season I wanted something warm, easy and cheap that wouldn’t require a car once I was there. So I booked a New Year’s Eve trip to Las Vegas, Nevada.
All of you smarties are probably hunched over in laughter at this point. The trip was not warm, easy or cheap. But I blame most of that on Aspen, and once the hardest parts were over, it was still a well-rounded, wonderful vacation.
If standing around a cold crowd of strangers watching the ball drop is your thing, Vegas is a great alternative to New York City. All of its big screens stream the actual drop, plus you can join in on the simulated drop while dancing on the Brooklyn Bridge at the New York New York Hotel and Casino.
Every hotel on the strip has its own party or two, ranging from tame multi-course meals as the clock ticks down, to open bars, to club takeovers hosted by the biggest names in millennial electronic dance music. Our choice for the night was the popular 1OAK nightclub, which also has locations in New York and Los Angeles and featured a two-hour open bar for the price of two drinks in Aspen. If committing to a ticket isn’t your thing, Las Vegas Boulevard gets turned into a walking mall for the night. Joining in on the street party is boisterous, and the passing pedestrians are all the entertainment you need.
I know all this, not because I was there, but because I was researching it all before going. I myself was stuck in Grand Junction for the launch of 2019. After I got passed around to two different airlines, it was finally determined that the end-of-year snowstorm would cancel all flights out of Aspen on New Year’s Eve day. My best bet was an early flight out of Junction the next morning, which also left late and left me stranded in Denver for nearly another day. So one tip is don’t fly out of Aspen in the winter on the same day you have to be somewhere else.
Having completely missed the highlight of the trip, we were able instead to focus on the bonus of being in Las Vegas during its offseason. We stayed at the Mirage Hotel and Casino because it is one of only six hotels that leaves its pool open year round. Whereas in the popular months the pool area is separated into a VIP section and drunk hooligan section, the offseason allowed us plebeians to soak in the VIP pool and hot tub. Yes, the weather was cold, but the pool was heated and the lounge chairs got strong enough sunlight in the early afternoon to read an entire trashy magazine without needing to bundle up.
We tried 1OAK another night, but a down-the-hallway line kept us away. We saw a similar rush to the Marquee nightclub at the Cosmopolitan. While we didn’t have interest enough to be patient, the line probably took about 20-30 minutes before getting in the club, a drastically reduced wait time from the normal season, and with no cover charge.
The lines were also short at the Freemont Experience zipline, and though they sold out by the end of the day, tickets to attractions like the Neon Museum and the Zumanity Cirque du Soleil show were obtainable day of. In fact, the hardest-to-score seat of our trip was at the up-and-coming eatery Lotus of Siam, which sits in an unremarkable location a short cab ride from the strip. The extensive Thai and northern Thai menu is now complemented with cocktails and a large wine cellar as they just got their liquor license recently. And while the restaurant’s reservations are booked weeks out, the bar is first come first served, a placement we scored on two different occasions, proving that even when Vegas is cold, complicated and not that cheap, the offseason still gets you away from our little bubble and into some deliciously cool experiences that wouldn’t be available during the high season.