No city does summer like Las Vegas; after all, looking glamorous in zillion-degree heat requires some creativity. You’ll find more fabulousness than ever, from dining on the sparkling white modern Italian Futurist table with a built-in cooling system (read on), to the steamiest and most fun-filled nighttime pool scenes, to the return of some legendary divas and one of the country’s most celeb-filled galas.
Cosmopolitan’s Pool District
Every summer on Monday nights, the 65-foot digital marquee at Boulevard Pool overlooking the Strip transforms into a massive movie screen for “Dive-In Movies”. This year, you can watch cult faves like Sixteen Candles while enjoying an al fresco picnic created by José Andrés, which includes a standout paella, gazpacho and salad. (You’ll also get your own dining table and a daybed to relax/cocktail/pass out on). On other nights, the Cosmopolitan pool district hosts concerts, with artists from Billy Currington to Neon Trees to Counting Crows. Jetsetter Tip: Don’t miss the boozy liquid nitrogen sorbets and spiked ice cream floats from the indoor-outdoor Neapolitan bar at Boulevard Pool.
In anticipation of the summer’s dining season, Bellagio has turned the old Circo space into Lago, a bright white, cutting-edge room inspired by 20th-century Italian futurism and designed by hotshot duo Munge Leung. They blew open the former indoor terrace to create some of the most in-demand al fresco dining on the Strip; it’s so close to the Bellagio Fountains that diners in the three tables closest to the water can actually feel a light spray (just enough to cool you off, but not ruin your hair). In the kitchen, Michelin-starred chef Julian Serrano turns out modern Italian tapas-style dishes, which include an exceptional red wine risotto, tuna crudo with blood orange, and sublime grilled langoustines.
Drai’s, the rooftop pool at The Cromwell by legendary nightlife king Victor Drai, has been the sexiest summer scene in Vegas since it opened last year. Contrary to other nightlife venues, Drai operates with this motto: the club should be the star. The 35,000 square-foot, bi-level nightly party has 150 VIP tables, nightly swim events, and eight pools. This year, Drai has added live music concerts in the middle of its weekend parties, with up-and-comers like the The Weekend and more established acts like Ciara (just announced for June 5th).
Only a year ago, only the most adventurous and hip young things were making their way Downtown for mid-century antiques and the Neon Museum – now the neighborhood is a must-stop for foodies. Down Carson Street, you’ll find newcomers Vegenation (proving that vegan can indeed be delicious) and Glutton, whose unfortunate name belies the light, seasonal delicacies cooked in the wood oven. In a back alley nearby, there’s La Comida for tequila nirvana and delicious Mexican-inspired street food, and Le Thai on Fremont Street, a tiny joint packed with Downtown’s power brokers and hipsters munching on "Awesome Noodles." Another Downtown obsession: Eat, where Chef Natalie Young infuses American classics with New Mexican and French influences. Don't forget to try O Face Doughnuts, which serves homemade treats like the Mexican chocolate with horchata pudding doughnut.
Nightswim at XS
Every Sunday, the pool at Encore Beach Club stays open afterhours, and Wynn’s resident superstar DJs like Avicii, Skrillex and David Guetta play sets while up to 5,000 partiers drink, splash around and deny that Monday is on the horizon. (Note: If you own a ridiculously expensive bathing suit, this is the place to wear it.) This year, Deadmau5, the multi-Grammy-nominated electronic musician – and major Vegas favorite – plays Nightswim on Sunday, July 5th, and at XS on Saturday, July 11th.
Graceland in Vegas
Elvis-mania has returned to Vegas (did it ever leave?). A new 28,000-square-foot exhibition at Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, “Graceland Presents Elvis: The Exhibition – The Show – The Experience” showcases hundreds of items never before seen outside of the King’s Memphis compound. The rotating collection draws on archival material from Presley’s childhood and beyond—think artifacts ranging from high school yearbooks to the jumpsuit he wore in Viva Las Vegas. In tandem with the exhibition there’s the The Elvis Experience tribute show, and naturally a Graceland-themed wedding chapel.
Electric Daisy Carnival
Like Coachella, Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) – the three-day festival of electronic dance music – has its own dress code. But it’s less Boho-chic than neon-fabulous: trippy fluorescent and floral getups rule the weekend. It began at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway five years ago, and has since become a behemoth; this year, expect 200 DJs on eight stages, plus pyrotechnics, mindbending special effects, and a first-ever charity auction of experiences like making sushi at Nobu with electronic dance duo Krewella, and a private helicopter ride to the event with DJ Snails. Caveat: The weekend may be three days, but block out an extra day for recuperating.
After a yearlong hiatus, Celine Dion – who was once credited with being a one-woman economic stimulus package for Vegas – returns to the Colosseum at Caesars Palace. The show will be filled with all her greatest hits, plus some surprise appearances by friends. If we can’t wait to see Celine’s “My Heart Will Go On” encore from Titanic, complete with blue Atelier Versace gown and actual rainstorms on stage.
Love the History Channel’s Pawn Stars? You’re not the only one: the line to get into owner Rick Harrison’s Gold and Silver Pawn Shop regularly runs one hundred-plus people deep. Now Harrison, along with Chumlee, Corey Harrison and The Old Man, is opening Pawn Plaza, a 16-store ode to all things Pawn Stars. The highlights: Rick’s Rollin’ Smoke Barbeque & Tavern, a restaurant devoted to Poutine, and Rita’s Italian Ice, among others, all housed in portable neon cubes.
Power of Love Gala
The event of the year in Vegas, the Power of Love Gala partners with celebrated chefs and entertainers to raise funds in support of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health – which does some of the most groundbreaking research in the country. The 16,000 seat MGM Grand Garden Arena transforms into one huge dinner venue with live music and an over-the-top auction (past items have included a spin on Steve Wynn’s own yacht). This year, Andrea Bocelli will be reunited on stage with Celine Dion for the first time since 2011, and special appearances will include Martina McBride and 2014 Power of Love honoree Gloria Estefan. Vegas attracts a lot of celebs, but you’ll rarely see so many in one room outside of a Hollywood awards show.