It was at the Palms Casino Resort, our home base, located about a mile off the Strip, that we attempted to gallivant with Vegas’s younger set: Looking to relax by the pool, we instead encountered pumping jams and scantily clad partiers, which meant that we spent little time near its waters. The Palms’ partnership with Hugh Hefner means that the hotel’s “Fantasy Tower” is brandished with a Playboy logo, its ears seemingly unzipping the building to expose Lord knows what naughtiness going on inside. This hotel also is home to the Playboy Club, where one of my cohorts lost $50 to a dark-haired bunny dealer in under 30 seconds.


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We recovered, however, by heading one flight up to the Moon Nightclub, where an outdoor balcony proffers a heady view of the city. If only we could have afforded a night at the Hugh Hefner Sky Villa, which features a glass elevator, an infinity pool and rotating beds. Unfortunately, that privilege costs $40,000 per night.


Still, as we discovered at the Venetian’s B & B Ristorante (as in Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich), it is possible to eat a meal so good that you feel you are rich. We worked our way through a tender lamb’s tongue and chanterelle salad topped with a velvety poached egg, and beef-cheek ravioli with shaved black truffles. By the time we tucked into the fennel-dusted sweetbreads, we decided that the pleasures of the meal would trump any pleasures we’d derive from the burlesque show we had tickets to and skipped it altogether. We had no regrets staying in the capable hands of sommelier Henry Davar, whose ability to lyrically describe each wine’s precise qualities made navigating the voluminous Italian wine menu a pleasure.


On our last night, we sat at a table on the patio of Parasol Up, Parasol Down, a whimsical little drinking enclave in the Wynn. Cosmopolitans in hand, we looked out over the “Lake of Dreams,” in which four naked bathers—fiberglass statues—stared at a white wall of cascading water. Nearby a quartet of businessmen puffed cigars; at another table, a man admired his date’s ample breasts. The oasis was decadent, yet calming. We let out satisfied sighs.


And then, without warning, jungle beats came blasting into our ears, and the wall of water we’d serenely gazed upon transformed into a video screen across which animated snakes danced, mouths agape. A cut-out, illuminated moon ascended from a forest of trees, and then a pair of fluorescent 30-foot-tall puppets appeared, jiggling to the beat. By the time a 3-D head of a woman rose from the lake, lip-syncing the words, we were crying with incredulity. It was ridiculous, nonsensical spectacle, and we loved it.


The next day, when we mistook an actual pile of construction dirt for a faux-volcano and a swath of blue sky for a video mirage, we knew our minds had been co-opted. But my perception of Vegas had finally undergone a sea change. And I, for one, can’t wait to see what the city will think of next.