MGM Has Created the Dream High-roller Las Vegas Experience
I arrived at Los Angeles International Airport late afternoon, avoiding my normal visit to the main terminal in favor of experiencing semi-private airline JSX's only route from LAX, where a quick one-hour flight into Las Vegas is made even simpler by their streamlined process which allows you to arrive at the JSX hanger just 20 minutes prior to takeoff.
I was on my way to experience a glimpse into the life of an MGM Resorts elite high-roller, a side of Las Vegas normally reserved for the rich, famous, and those considerably more skilled on the tables than I.
When I arrived in Las Vegas, I was greeted by my driver, who walked me to the stretch limousine that would transport me to Aria Resort & Casino, a luxury enjoyed by every guest staying in their over-the-top Sky Suites. A private Sky Suites entrance and reception area gives a rare sense of "boutique" to the normally sprawling casino resorts which line the famous Strip.
Walking into my penthouse one-bedroom Sky Suite, I was met with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the Strip, a view which really came to life after the sun set and what seemed like millions of Vegas lights lit up the sky until the following sunrise. The Sky Suites are an entertainer's dream, with a comfortable living area which leads into your own private bar and dining room — the perfect place to start every night before moving down to the casino floor and on to explore the Strip.
I was surprised to find out there was even a level of luxury beyond that which I was experiencing, one reserved for the highest level of Las Vegas VIPs. On the 50th floor of Aria, MGM has created the most exclusive of retreats in the form of their 17 Sky Villas, decadently furnished with an exquisite, fully loaded bar and personalized services, whether it's procuring the hottest ticket in town or a table overlooking the fountains of the Bellagio.
I was invited to indulge in one of MGM's latest (and greatest) additions, their first-ever "cigar cart," which is reserved exclusively for those select few who are invited to stay (or lucky enough to secure a booking) at the Sky Villas. Whilst the MGM might be known for its immense wine collection, a program that began in October now makes it one of the preeminent cigar programs in the U.S., boasting a humidor which holds over 1,200 cigars. The program is led by MGM's first-ever cigar sommelier (yes, quite possibly the coolest job title in the world), Ricardo Smenner, who has been able to source some of the world's finest, rarest cigars for their collection, in addition to creating a bespoke selection of three cigars exclusively for the Aria.
When it comes to dining, high-rollers at the MGM are not short on options. With 13 resorts on the strip alone, there is an abundance of restaurants (literally, hundreds) to choose from, and I was delighted I went with Michael Mina's signature restaurant in the Bellagio. If you decide to indulge in the tasting menu, make sure you go the extra mile and also take on the wine pairing, which sees caviar-topped appetizers matched with vodka as you await the chef's mouth-watering lobster pot pie.
MGM Resorts is renowned for its extensive wine program, which totals over 350,000 bottles of wine and spans the entirety of its Vegas property portfolio. Master sommelier Douglas Kim is the man behind it all, leading a team of over 50 sommeliers. Kim told Travel + Leisure he prides his team — a close-knit group of experts — on its ability to provide "something for everyone." For those VIP guests in particular, he is always happy to source any special vintage they may request in advance of their trip.
I rounded off my trip to Las Vegas with a private tour of the MGM Resorts' ever-growing art collection, the very large majority of which is on display for all guests to enjoy throughout their resorts and casinos. Led by highly experienced executive director of arts and culture, Tarissa Tiberti, MGM Resorts is reshaping its impressive public fine art collection to be even more inclusive for artists of color, women, and the LGBTQIA+ community as part of its mission to provide a platform for diverse and under-represented artists and their communities. This is showcased in the latest exhibition at Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, Caldonia: Concert and Film Posters from The Ralph DeLuca Collection. The collection features 44 vintage posters highlighting American music and film icons, with a focus on African American musicians and actors from the 1920s to the 1970s.
After four memorable nights of high-roller luxury, it was difficult to pack up and return to normal life, so it's no wonder to hear that MGM's select highest level of VIPs often join them for as long as a month — I can only dream.