Angular and glittering gold, massive Mandalay Bay flanks the far south end of the Strip. It's the first resort many visitors lay eyes on as they roll into Las Vegas – and what better introduction to Sin City than this gleaming tropics-in-the-desert themed, high-rise shrine to casino gaming and high-rolling, with its massive beach, multilevel Shark Reef Aquarium, oodles of big-name-chef-associated restaurants and two luxe hotels-within-a-hotel.
Its standout attractions include the Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil spectacle, the family-friendly Mandalay Bay Beach with wave pool and lazy river, and its array of VIP upgrades, wellness treatments and knockout suites for guests.
The 1.6-million-gallon wave pool at Mandalay Bay Beach occupies 11 acres, has 2700 tons of imported Californian sand and can generate waves up to 6ft. The facility also includes a lazy river (kids love it) and the 'toptional' adults-only Moorea Beach Club. Access is complimentary for resort guests. Nonguests can enjoy the facilities by renting a reserved seat ($50 to $100 daily), daybed (from $375) or cabana ($600 to $1300); daybeds and cabanas can be used by four to 10 people.
Shark Reef Aquarium
Adults, kids and lovers of marine life flock to Mandalay Bay for its unique and unusual walk-through Shark Reef Aquarium. Here you'll find around 2000 species of submarine critters, including jellyfish, moray eels, stingrays and, of course, several species of shark. Also on display are some of the world’s last remaining golden crocodiles. Scuba-diver caretakers and naturalists are available to chat as you wander around. Open 10am-8pm Sunday-Thursday, and to 10pm Friday and Saturday, tickets to the Shark Reef Aquarium cost $22 for adults and $15 for children.
Can you even call yourself a chef if you don't have a restaurant at Mandalay Bay? There's 27 – yes, twenty-seven – places to eat at the hotel; an entire town's worth. Most are headed up by household names like grand French chef Alain Ducasse, Wolfgang Puck and even the James Beard Award-winning chef Shawn McClain.
With colorful murals and views over Mandalay Bay Beach, this festive eatery dishes up modern Mexican fare designed by chefs from Bravo's Top Chef Masters and the Food Network's Too Hot Tamales. Come for the weekend brunch of unlimited Latin-inspired tapas ($38) and bottomless mimosas (extra $15). Border Grill uses only hormone-free meat and sustainably caught seafood. Reservations are helpful.
The first 'clone' of Charlie Palmer's flagship New York restaurant serving modern American fare has debuted on the strip at Mandalay Bay with critical acclaim. For show-offs, the 24oz bone-in ribeye is $115.
Esquire magazine once named chef Michael Mina's butter-poached, bone-in-top loin one of the USA's very best steaks. The chef's minimalist steakhouse knifes into an exceptional menu of all-natural Angus and American Kobe beef, taste-awakening appetizers like ahi tuna and hamachi poppers, and classic side dishes with a twist, from truffle mac 'n' cheese to soy-glazed green beans. Reservations essential.
At 135,000-sq-ft, the 24-hour casino at Mandalay Bay is a whopper. There's over 1200 slot machines to try and tackle as well as table games like Baccarat, craps, poker, blackjack and roulette wheels. It's also home to the BetMGM Sportsbook — a huge betting palace where you can bet on live sports and look for that edge in front of Nasdaq-style stock market screens.
Rooms, suites and other sleeping options
For overnight accommodations, take your pick of three separate hotels. The traditional choice is Mandalay Bay, where simple but stylish rooms feature large plasma TVs, high-end linens and warm earth tones. On the highest floors of the Mandalay Bay Tower, and accessible only by private express elevators, the Four Seasons Hotel is the picture of elegance. Standard rooms feature deep tubs for soaking and mountain views through floor-to-ceiling windows. In the adjacent tower, with an entrance at the opposite end of the casino, the hip Delano boutique hotel makes the standard room a suite complete with a wet bar.
The mandatory nightly resort fee ($25 plus tax) includes in-room wi-fi access and entry to a cardio workout room (but not the fitness center at either spa).
One of M-Bay's lesser-known drawcards is the fabulous, dress-to-impress Skyfall Lounge, atop the Delano hotel, from where you can enjoy unparalleled views of the southern Strip and sip cocktails as the sun sets over the spectacular Spring Mountains. The bar's classy, subdued vibe gets ever so slightly more tactile when top DJs start spinning mellow beats after dark and the more self-assured (or inebriated) guests get primed to dance the night away.
Michael Jackson ONE
While the documentary 'Leaving Neverland' has cast a shadow on his legacy, Cirque du Soleil's musical homage to Michael Jackson ONE is still going. It features show-stopping dancers, graceful acrobats and aerialists all moving to a soundtrack of MJ's greatest hits, the show moon-walks all the way back to his break-out platinum album Thriller.
In 2017, Mandalay Bay made headlines when a gunman killed 58 and wounded 413 people from his 32nd floor suite in what went down as the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.