Encore at Wynn Las Vegas Rating: 5.0 Pearls
Opened in December 2008 by famed Vegas developer Steve Wynn, the 2,034-room Encore takes the whim and luxury of its sister, the Wynn hotel (opened in 2005) and improves it with even bigger rooms and a more attractive spa and fitness center. Guests can use Wynn's nearby 18-hole golf course, and the hotel has a classy, adults-only European Pool. But it's the Encore's rooms -- all of which are suites -- that make it a cut-above even the very best hotels in Vegas: beautiful lighting via floor-to-ceiling windows, electronic bedside drape control, a comfortable lounge area in even the base-level rooms, and a bathroom that's bigger than the entire room in some New York City hotels.
Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas Rating: 5.0 Pearls
A new breed of Las Vegas luxury, with 392 elegant rooms and some of Vegas' best service, the Mandarin Oriental is a quiet haven on the glitzy Strip. The hotel lacks the characteristic excess that many people come to Vegas for (including a casino), opting instead for a more restrained approach: a beautiful spa, two fine dining restaurants, a peaceful pool, meeting space, and the rarest of Las Vegas features -- serenity. But the convenient City Center location means easy access to all the excess you want.
Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino Rating: 5.0 Pearls
The Palazzo is an even-fancier extension of its sister hotel, the Venetian, with larger standard rooms that contain a bedroom and a sunken living room with L-shaped sofas; they're a warmer, less masculine version of the rooms at the Encore with all the same top-tier features (the Encore's rooms are just a little newer). Guests have access to the world-famous Canyon Ranch Spa and a haute-couture shopping mall (featuring Diane von Furstenberg, Christian Louboutin, and its own Lamborghini showroom, among other shops). The Palazzo's restaurants are helmed by the likes of Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, and Emeril Lagasse.
Bellagio Rating: 5.0 Pearls
The Bellagio has all the Vegas-style luxury spectacle, but it still somehow remains classy. With 67 acres, there's space for an indoor botanical garden, a 8.5-acre lake in the middle of the desert, boutiques that include Prada and Chanel, and five pools housed in an Italian courtyard. And even with 3,933 rooms, the formal service remains attentive and efficient. While other hotels draw a young, raucous party crowd, the scene at the Bellagio remains more mature and upscale, with guests dining at Le Cirque or Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Prime Steakhouse, both on-site. Bed linens and pillow-top mattresses (designed by Serta specifically for the Bellagio) are a delight, as are the Italian marble bathrooms with granite countertops and deep soaking tubs. The famous 1,200-plus dancing water fountains make this hotel a must-see for all Vegas visitors.
Wynn Las Vegas Rating: 5.0 Pearls
Every inch of the 2,716-room Wynn hotel is designed to dazzle -- vibrant art, parasols hung upside down from the ceilings, a surreal nightly light show projected into the "Lake of Dreams" in front of the Strip's only man-made mountain. Guests have access to the on-site 18-hole golf course, and the hotel is home to Alex, a French restaurant that is one of the best in Vegas. Guest rooms start at an impressive 600 square feet and include the sinfully comfortable king-size Wynn Dream Bed by Sealy and a TV in the bathroom.
THEHotel at Mandalay Bay Rating: 5.0 Pearls
Sleek, contemporary art -- like the Jasper Johns piece near the elevators -- give this hotel a mellow, cool, and dark urban-chic vibe (it's a far cry from the Vegas norm). A sister to the adjoining Mandalay Bay, this is a mellow respite from the over-the-top glitz and energy of the Strip. Service here is casual, yet attentive and efficient. A gorgeous slate-tiled spa (with a solid fitness center attached) is available for pampering, and guests have access to the extensive restaurants and other amenities in Mandalay Bay (including the wave pool for the kids). All rooms are suites, with 725 square feet of space -- about as large as the rooms at the Encore and Palazzo -- and all have two bathrooms (one full, one half).and world-class
The Signature At MGM Grand Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The Signature is a quiet hotel with an adult feel, thanks to the fact that it doubles as a condo tower. The three-tower Signature is the MGM Grand's fancier, more luxurious sister hotel, set back from the major MGM complex but still within walking distance of its attractions (like the lion exhibit), thanks to a long hallway with moving walkways. Guests at the Signature will get better service, private pools, and larger, more comfortable rooms (they are all suites).
Aria Resort & Casino Las Vegas Rating: 4.0 Pearls
A 4,004-room mega-resort, Aria stands as the shiny centerpiece of the $11 billion City Center, opened in December 2009. Everything at Aria is done on a grand scale, from the soaring ceilings to the 16 restaurants, and not at the expense of good service, either. And the design, while whimsical and creative, aims for refinement and class rather than Vegas kitsch, creating a lovely luxury hotel -- and one that's still affordable.
Venetian Resort Hotel Casino Rating: 5.0 Pearls
At 650 square feet, the standard rooms at the Venetian are among the largest on the Strip -- bested only by the Encore and Palazzo and a handful of others. Even the base-level rooms contain floor-to-ceiling windows, a king-size pillow-top bed dressed in Egyptian cotton sheets, and a bedroom that is partially separated from the sunken living room. A serene getaway from the property's hustle and bustle is its 10th-floor pool deck (open until 10:30 p.m.), which features additional pools, several small Jacuzzis, rose bushes, and the French patisserie Bouchon Bakery. To top it off, the hotel shares the world-famous Canyon Ranch Spa with the neighboring Palazzo hotel. Plus, the property is divided into two towers -- the 4,027-room Venetian, and the 1,013-room Venezia, built in 2003 as a more exclusive retreat for high-rolling gamblers.
Trump International Hotel & Tower Las Vegas Rating: 4.5 Pearls
This polished hotel is Donald Trump's attempt to, er, trump Vegas king Steve Wynn. Every detail of this property's design and decor was carefully planned and beautifully executed; it looks like it was plucked straight out of New York City, especially in the midst of to the typical flashing lights and kitschy themes of its neighboring hotels. Because the hotel was built in 2008, everything is new: the rooms, the pool, the lobby. No aging tube TVs. Comfort is emphasized with perks such as a fleece-lined Trump robe ($125 to take home). The suites' decor is surprisingly sedate, better designed for the business traveler than the conspicuous consumer. And as with all Trump Hotel Collection properties, guests can make special requests before checking in: anything from stocking the refrigerator to ordering business cards.
Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas Rating: 5.0 Pearls
Though the rooms don't contend with the Vegas greats (they're much older and far from dazzling), this hotel makes our luxury list because of its exceptional service. The Four Seasons brand is all about top-notch attention to guests, and that's a rare commodity among the giant Vegas hotels. Plus, this hotel is a luxury option for travelers who want a little peace and quiet, away from the endless clanging and blinking of slot machines. But, those who get a hankering for that -- along with a giant pool scene, chic bars, and great restaurants -- can just walk over to Mandalay Bay, the Four Seasons' sister hotel.