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Turning A Trip To Vegas Into A Healthy Retreat

Like most of the people on the planet, I've never thought of Vegas as a particularly healthy destination. Wellness and Vegas seem like a contradiction in terms—this is a place, after all, where people are still allowed to smoke inside, and casinos take care to confuse circadian rhythms with a lack of windows or clocks and as many flashing lights as possible. As a young adult, I prized my weekend trips to the desert city as an opportunity to do it up "Vegas-style," taking the city up on the debauchery waiting at every corner: swilling far too many beverages, eating gourmet fried Twinkies and tater tot nachos, and pulling the blackout blinds in my hotel room to keep up my nocturnal hours or spending the morning poolside recouping from a splitting headache...

Ten years later, as a wellness editor, I visit with a newfound take on all that is Vegas. Were there green smoothies within the city limits or vegetables that hadn't been dunked in boiling canola oil when I visited in my 20's? Did anything open before noon?

What I find now is a city changed: not as much as I had, perhaps, but enough to have a wellness underbelly robust enough to satisfy any health-interested traveler. The trick was simply knowing where to look.

We've travelled to Vegas the past 2 years to cover the NHL Awards. We were fortunate to have attended the year Connor McDavid took home a haul of hardware and before the Cinderella story of the Vegas Golden Nights were selected in the entry draft. It was such an exciting time that we've vowed to make it a yearly visit (and use it as an opportunity to check out some great wellness spots - and a few not so health focussed..)

Located in the heart of The Strip, with spectacular patio dining and unparalleled views of the Bellagio fountains, we had an amazing dining experience at the HEXX Las Vegas. With a Caesar that would be fit for King McDavid (and was a meal itself with jumbo shrimp, alaskan king crab leg,  bacon, beef stick, peppers and pickled vegetables, our night was off to a great start). This was accompanied by the seafood on ice tower which was nothing short of what one would expect in Vegas - over the top. Imagine a pate overflowing with massive gulf shrimp, king crab, Maine lobster tail, tuna poke lobster salad, and shrimp ceviche. We finished this off with a rib eye and Greg Norman Wagyu Beef which was something you have to experience to appreciate the flavour of am amazing piece of beef. Since we were trying to maintain some level of wellness on this trip, we skipped the dessert (and are still regretting that decision).

Vegas is also a hot spot for outdoor enthusiasts, a fact I was completely unaware of a decade ago. The city is less than 20 minutes from Red Rock Canyon, a sunset-hued national conservation area filled with hiking trails and bike routes. Just a bit farther away is Utah’s Zion National Park, a bright-green oasis cut into the dusty brown desert. We rented waterproof hiking boots and braved the infamous Narrows Hike, where we found ourselves chest-deep in opaque river water as steep canyon walls narrowed around us. The breathtaking scenery and novelty of walking in an actual river (it’s like, as the shoe rental agent put it, "balancing on slippery bowling balls—that you can’t see") made it one of the most unique hiking experiences we'd ever done—an amazing enough experience, in my opinion, to warrant a trip all on its own.

We were also fortunate enough to take in KÀ by Cirque du Soleil at the beautiful MGM Grand. KÀ tells the epic tale of twins on a perilous journey to fulfill their shared destiny. A masterpiece in storytelling, this ultra lavish production features mind-bending acrobatics, fierce martial arts, blazing pyrotechnics and jaw-dropping aerial adventures. This was our first time taking in a Cirque performance, and having the opportunity to meet some of the performers after the show gives a whole new sense of gratitude for their acrobatic skills and athleticism.

Where we expected cookie-cutter spa experiences, we found treatments deeply grounded in Eastern medicine, with some of the more unique healing integrations that we've seen in the massage world. The Mandarin Oriental’s Journey Into Stillness treatment uses tuning forks and acupressure points to energetically balance the body, and the encouraged digital detox makes the spa, which overlooks the bustling Strip, feel like a bastion of serenity. Spa Aquae features an ayurvedic-inspired Rose Quartz Facial with dosha-balancing oils, and a Shirodhara Ritual Massage, an ancient ayurvedic treatment in which oil selected for my individual dosha was massaged into my third eye, crown chakra, and then down throughout my body. It was almost enough to counteract the video game sensory overload that occurs the second you leave the space of Zen.

While Vegas is known for its luxury hotel rooms, there’s a single commodity that’s surprisingly hard to come by in Las Vegas accommodation: fresh air. Most hotels are hermetically sealed, adding to the eerie sense of floating in a time vacuum. The Cosmopolitan is one of the few hotels that bucks the trends; built originally as condominiums (there is an interesting story behind that anchored in the Great Recession of 2008), most of the rooms feature balconies, many of which directly overlook the Bellagio’s famous dancing fountain show which allow cool, clean desert air to breeze through your room. Many of the rooms also feature mini-kitchens with fridges, allowing you to stash smoothie ingredients for a travel blender (which if you have one is a great investment to bring with you on vacation if you have the luggage space. The Juice Standard, located in the lobby, has salads, sandwiches, adaptogen-spiked mylks, plus, fresh-made juices and smoothies—some of the only organic, vegetable-packed, grab-and-go food available on the Strip. Before heading out to one of the infamous pool parties at the Encore Hotel, we filled our bodies with some healthy snacks and beverages at Clique Bar & Lounge. Everything from their Avocado Toasts and Veggie Summer Rolls show the trend found in many restaurants on the Strip catering to those leading a healthier lifestyle. Even the fresh pressed (alcohol infused) Green Machine and Vita Mixin' we had while listening to live music in their lounge space had us feeling like we weren't sacrificing healthy living for Vegas excess. Even The Don Sandia shooters we had before heading out were inside a hollowed out cucumber slice.

What would a YEG Fitness trip be without checking out some great fitness studios. SWEAT60 in the Cosmopolitan offers a boot camp-style group class consists of high-intensity interval training with boxing, plyometrics, strength training, and core stability exercises. Each 60-minute class is broken down into 14 different one-minute circuits designed to confuse your muscle groups and amp up changes to your body. Perfect before heading out for another day of heading out taking in some of Vegas' "less healthy" options. For those of you who think of spin as more religion than exercise, check out The Ride in the Flamingo Hotel. Cyclers experience a full-body workout complete with partial pushups, oblique exercises and lightweight intervals in a club-like environment. And after working up a sweat, enjoy fresh towel service and a refreshing shower with luxurious Malin+Goetz beauty products.

A trip to Vegas is never truly complete without a visit to old-Vegas and the Fremont Street Experience. The crowds are lively with street performers and families looking to get away from the vices and pageantry of the Strip. It may not have the opulence of the hotels a few miles away, but this is the Vegas that must be experienced to respect the old day charm of the city. Located in the heart of Fremont Street’s never-ending party, the Golden Nugget offers a vibe you won’t find on The Strip. After an adventurous day, dip into the lagoon-style swimming pool which circles a three-story shark tank with a waterslide running through it. We also took our adventure up to the upper Zoomline at Slotzilla. Taking off more than 10 stories up and whisking flyers all the way down the Fremont Street Experience, the upper Zoomline provides even more thrills by sending flyers prone, or “superhero-style,” for an unprecedented view of the party below while travelling up to 40 miles per hour.

After all the excitement of spending 4 days in Sin City, we also took in something unique to the city. Outdoor yoga classes are the rage in every city worldwide popping up in locations with beautiful backdrops. At the Neon Museum you get a true "hot yoga" experience without the need of an indoor thermostat to control the temperature. Under the covered patio with temperatures in the 100's we made sure to bring plenty of water, to stay hydrated and had a unique yoga experience amongst the neon signs that once stood in front of iconic Vegas hotels and other establishments.

While you may not get to spend every visit at the table next to McDavid and his family like we did, of sharing a laugh with Messier due to your matching hair styles, a trip to Vegas is certainly something that can be done while keeping your wellness goals in tact. This is still the Vegas of old with the debauchery and everything we've come to recognize that gave it the moniker of "Sin City". But it's also a place that is accommodating of those who have embraced wellness as part of their lifestyle. And if there is one thing we've always preached in our magazine, it's that true wellness should allow for a little bit of excess every once and a while.

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