Known as one of the more raucous college towns in America, Madison, Wisconsin’s reputation as…
Amy Rossetti knows Las Vegas. The CEO and founder of Rossetti Public Relations has worked with some of the biggest names on the strip, including The Wynn and The Cosmopolitan. While tourists may think three days is one too many in Vegas, Amy’s called this vibrant city home for 25 years. From some of the world’s best dining, to a vibrant art scene and lots of ways to get fresh air, there’s more to Vegas than the glitz and glamor (though that’s pretty great, too).
Here’s her guide to the best of Las Vegas.
Why did you move to Las Vegas? How long have you lived there?
My roots are in hospitality, and Las Vegas offered opportunities unlike anywhere else. I put myself through college at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, I worked with incredible mentors opening iconic restaurants and resorts on the Strip, and I fell hard for the city. It has been my home for 25 years.
Three words to describe Vegas.
Evolutionary, vivacious, community.
What’s something that might surprise people about Las Vegas?
It feels like a small town. People really underestimate the local community — the camaraderie and engagement and connection. Every time I go to a hockey game, I run into countless friends and colleagues who are hardcore fans of our local team and the awesome spectacle and feeling of solidarity at home games. That is one aspect of community that is important here. There was all this talk about whether we could support a pro sports team because of the perception that Las Vegas is so transient. But look at the phenomenon of Golden Knights hockey. Look at Raiders football and Aces basketball. I am a lover of all sports, and the experience here is just something that can’t be replicated. This is THE place to come see your team play an away game, partly because the local crowd makes it fun – even when you lose.
Like me, a lot of people move here for career advancement never dreaming they will stay more than a few years. But the city has this wonderful old soul. There is so much history, and at the same time it is constantly reinventing itself. That combination is very alluring.
You’ll find some of the world’s best restaurants in Vegas. What are your favorite restaurants on the Strip? What about off the Strip?
ON THE STRIP
SW Steakhouse at Wynn Las Vegas is consistently great, from the prime beef to prime views on the patio overlooking the Lake of Dreams. Its longevity is also about the front-of-house team — the managers, the servers — and the service excels because of it!
Dine around The Cosmopolitan. I love the easy access to incredible restaurants that The Cosmopolitan provides, and to be able to experience the depth of the culinary program in one evening. My perfect night looks something like this: pan con tomate with José’s gin and tonic at Jaleo, salmon and tuna tartare at Zuma, Momofuku’s transcendent pork bun, playful cocktails on every floor of The Chandelier bar, and a Secret Pizza slice for dessert. Another cluster of amazing culinary experiences is at Block 16 Urban Food Hall, where you will find everything from the best doughnuts to casual bites from Michelin-starred chef David Chang.
OFF THE STRIP
Lotus of Siam is my go-to, and not just because it is the absolute best Thai food. I love the family behind it. They could move anywhere and their guests would follow. I am constantly thinking about when I will return next. It would be my one restaurant if I had to choose.
La Strega is a testament to how much culinary talent has bled from the Strip to the suburbs. Gina Marinelli is arguably one of the best chefs in Las Vegas. Try any of her pastas, or crudo at one of her weekend fish-market popups. She has opened up the restaurant in exciting ways.
Piero’s is a Las Vegas classic known for solid Italian food, great martinis, and a parade of local luminaries and interesting characters. There is always a familiar face at the bar, whether it be the founder, Freddie, or gaming royalty getting together for family dinner.
Golden Steer is the ultimate retro steakhouse. Think low light and colossal leather booths with gold plaques for Elvis and Sinatra and other notables who have come through since 1958. You go for the if-these-walls-could-talk vibe and the textbook tableside experience.
Soulbelly BBQ is so damn good. It is so authentic, the way they have the smokers outside and all the definitive sides, though chef Bruce Kalman peppers in surprises like armadillo eggs and Disco Fries smothered in cheese and giardiniere. I am excited to have this level of barbecue in Las Vegas, especially because it drives people downtown. It is one of those places you want to go over and over and over again.
Honey Salt’s is a delicious farm-to-table staple in Summerlin. They not only serve some reinvented takes on comfort food and cocktails made with super fresh ingredients but have ongoing programming that keeps it all so interesting. Currently they have a Tuesday Pie Night that is perfect for the Fall. Every time I see one of their special dinners, I am enticed to attend.
Where would you go for a special occasion meal?
Start with a cocktail at Wynn Las Vegas’ new Overlook Lounge and ask for Mariena Mercer’s off-menu Matterhorn featuring Tequila Casa Dragones. Then off to Delilah (if you can get in) for its gorgeous take on a Roaring ’20s supper club.
What’s your favorite place to get fresh air?
One of the reasons I love living here is that the weather encourages you to be outside. There are endless options within an hour or two of the city. I love Valley of Fire’s whimsical sandstone formations or the mind-blowing cliffs and river canyons of Zion National Park.
Artemis Adventure Tours can customize an outing around any interest and level of fitness. Ghost towns, hot springs, natural and urban wonders — the founders of this super-reasonable boutique service truly want people to know the sides of Las Vegas you don’t typically see.
We often don’t get to stay in hotels in our hometown, but let’s pretend: where would you stay in Vegas?
The Cosmopolitan. I love the wraparound terraces and residential feel in the heart of the Strip, and if you are really lucky you will have the best view of the Bellagio fountains. [PS Watch Samantha’s Cosmopolitan Suite tour here!]
Wynn Las Vegas. Understated elegance meets impeccable service and amenities that will transport you.
The Jackie Gaughan Suite at El Cortez. Run by multiple generations of the Epstein family, downtown’s El Cortez is an Old Vegas institution. And its “crown jewel” is the gloriously retro penthouse named for former occupant Jackie Gaughan, a gaming legend who once owned the hotel. The suite’s sumptuous décor includes many original elements handpicked by Jackie’s wife Bertie, including a pink bathtub with gold swan fixtures that will haunt your dreams.
Where’s your favorite place to shop?
Charleston Antique Mall. It is one of my secret obsessions, and so good I almost don’t want to tell people about it. You learn so much from the dealers about the distinctive lines of a 1920s bar cart, or the provenance of signed Culver highballs trimmed in 22-karat gold. It is a relaxing, fascinating take on retail therapy.
All For Our Country at Fergusons Downtown. Part of a vibrant co-op inside the revitalized Fergusons motel, this shop specializes in handmade home goods and furnishings, apparel and accessories from small indie brands and artists. I want to support all of these entrepreneurs who are taking a risk and bringing something different to our city.
What’s the arts scene like? Anything you think is a must-see/do?
Las Vegas is full of thrilling art. You can see originals by the likes of Rembrandt and Picasso, James Turrell, Claes Oldenburg, and Maya Lin. But for me, the must-see stuff is incorporated into the landscape downtown and just outside the city.
The Life is Beautiful festival has covered the area around Fremont Street in murals. I love the meanings and stories behind them and how they tie to the city itself. Zappos founder and visionary Tony Hsieh, who was my dear friend, backed the fest from the beginning. It was part of his $350 million investment in the revitalization of downtown, which has touched so much real estate and continues to impact so many lives. He brought installations from Burning Man into the neighborhood, including the 50-foot, 25-ton Big Rig Jig by Mike Ross and a flame-spitting praying mantis by Kirk Jellum that blasts music and apparently speaks 20 languages. Giving people the opportunity to access provocative art in this way, on this scale, is so important.
Just off Interstate 15 about 10 miles south of Las Vegas, Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone’s breathtaking Seven Magic Mountains rises from the edge of a dry lakebed. It is powerfully jarring, seeing this giant grouping of stacked boulders in brilliant colors. It was only supposed to be there for two years, but the Bureau of Land Management extended the permit through the end of 2021 (and the Nevada Museum of Art is reportedly working on an extension through 2026). I was lucky to attend the opening in 2016. To see something like that come to life in the middle of the desert underlines what people don’t expect about Las Vegas culture.
From shows to clubs and 24/7 casinos, there are so many reasons to stay up past your bedtime in Vegas. But if you had to just pick 2-3, what are they?
XS Nightclub at Encore. The energy, the service, the people-watching, the opportunity to see Drake at a nightclub — yes, please! XS is pure entertainment for hours, and it has remained at the forefront of the industry since opening on New Year’s Eve 2008. That is rare in any sector of Las Vegas hospitality, to reinvent so shrewdly that you stay at the top.
Herbs & Rye. When the service professionals who make Las Vegas happen get off work, this is a favorite haunt for unwinding with classic cocktails and killer food. The speakeasy feel lends itself to the late-night draw, as does the happy hour stretching to 3 a.m.
Golden Knights hockey: The energy in T-Mobile Arena is electric, and the fans are so engaged the entire game. Wins mean about 18,000 revelers pour into the streets to toast their Vegas Born heroes into the wee hours.
I would call Vegas an overstimulating experience. What’s the most chill/relaxing experience in town?
Exploring downtown. Of course there is plenty of flash to be found in this part of the city, but spending a few hours walking the colorful blocks of Fremont East and the Arts District will show you the creative community defining the “real” Las Vegas that is often overlooked.
What do you think most tourists do wrong in Las Vegas?
Everyone should see more than the inside of one hotel, even though Strip resorts are designed to be worlds within themselves. Venture downtown to the old heart of Vegas, and explore the beauty of Red Rock Canyon just 20 minutes away. There are so many rich experiences beyond the lobby, and research is vital to maximizing your time.
Most underrated experience in Las Vegas?
Culture. There is a lack of understanding or appreciation for Las Vegas culture, both in terms of the city’s history and what it is today. Multigenerational families who built the foundation have endured and brought old institutions forward. Waves of innovators have followed to shape the destination for tomorrow. They complement one another, whether or not they see eye to eye. The result is a Las Vegas that is more and more walkable, delicious, inspiring, and diverse far outside the four-mile stretch of the contemporary Strip.
Start with the Mob Museum and Neon Museum for immersion in the past. Then soak up the arts, cool shops, incredible cuisine, and events from downtown to Chinatown to Summerlin.
Best place for a selfie?
Obviously, the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign! A close second is the Lady Luck sign in the Boneyard of the Neon Museum.
Best day trip?
Maverick Helicopters’ Wind Dancer Sunset Tour. You fly over Hoover Dam and Lake Mead on your way into the Grand Canyon, where the pilot descends 3,500 feet to land on a private site. Guests enjoy Champagne and cheese and crackers inside the canyon with unmatched views of the Colorado River. Heading back to the city, you will see the sunset-colored sandstone of the Bowl of Fire before watching the actual sunset give way to the glimmering lights of the Strip. Personalize the moment by requesting music — I recommend anything by Sinatra.
What’s the most quintessential Vegas experience?
Two things: 1) Watching the Bellagio fountains dance to “Luck be a Lady.” 2) Driving down the Strip at night (bonus points for doing it in a limo with your head sticking out of the roof like in Vegas Vacation).
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Pssst! If you liked this post, you will like my food guide to Las Vegas.