By Lucas Grindley
Originally published on Advocate.com February 14 2012 5:00 AM ET
Las Vegas might not spring to mind for same-sex loving, but it should.
The rap on Vegas is that it's where straight folks go to reenact The Hangover. Even as we arrived at our hotel, a gaggle of beautiful girls screamed, "Walk of shame!" and snapped a photo of their friend strolling in at 11:30 a.m.
My first visit to the city was not by choice; it was for a convention. Then we celebrated my husband's 30th birthday on the Strip because it was an easy-to-reach destination for friends anywhere in the country. A few trips later, we realized Vegas had become another of those things my husband and I like to do together.
The humdrum of a couple's daily life can be oddly comforting. I like knowing that when I return home from work late on a weeknight, my husband will be there to enjoy a meal with, then maybe we'll watch some television. But while routine isn't particularly romantic, Las Vegas is.
Of all the new places we could travel for our honeymoon two years ago, we picked Las Vegas. The cavern of casinos is so vast it can become whatever you want. On our most recent trip, it was an oasis.
As part of the massive CityCenter complex, the Vdara (Vdara.com) is a mere walkway from the tables at Aria (AriaLasVegas.com). The nearby Cosmopolitan (CosmopolitanLasVegas.com) boasts the gayest aesthetic of any casino, including a pink neon sign above the cashier and a giant, inhabitable chandelier suspended at the casino's center. Inside is the appropriately named Chandelier Bar.
The dining experience puts you in a state of perpetual surprise, with every entrée topping the last. The "dancing eggplant" flakes at China Poblano (ChinaPoblano.com) actually twist and sashay on your plate. It's a José Andrés restaurant that combines noodles and tacos; it's just one of the many in Vegas installed by top chefs, and he's one we love from our years in Washington, D.C. The drunken noodles served at Wazuzu at the Wynn were featured on The Best Thing I Ever Ate on the Food Network. And Botero (also at the Wynn) is known for steak but offers meat-free options and a whopping 35-page wine menu (but don't miss the tater tots, stuffed with aged cheese and dipped in sour cream).
The food is only part of the eating experience in Vegas. One could get lost in the array of brunch choices at the Jasmine at Bellagio, but there's more to it than that. As we entered the casino, Frank Sinatra crooned "Luck Be a Lady" while fountain cannons fired in time with the beat. We watched the show through enormous picture windows, sunlight shining through billowing yellow curtains like stripes on a seersucker suit. For a moment we actually stopped eating and just sat and smelled the small bouquet of flowers on the table, indulging in the amorous idyll of Vegas. We had already finished our third couple's massage, one for each day we were in town. It turns out that starting your day at the spa makes everything easier. At Encore at the Wynn, the masseuse dramatically swung open the door to the spa with a grand "Welcome!" As we walked down a golden carpet flanked on both sides by a stone garden, the giant Buddha at the end of the walkway signaled we were about to enter a higher plane.
At one of Vegas's gay pool parties, I ran into Josh Strickland, star of Planet Hollywood's Peepshow. "Incredible" is how he and his boyfriend described the Encore spa. "And there was no problem that two guys were getting a massage," Strickland said. My husband and I found the same thing at Aria and the Cosmopolitan, where they even leave you afterward, alone in a private suite with a steam shower, oversize tub, and other amenities to enjoy however you wish.
There's a big-screen TV too, but you won't need it.