It’s not easy falling in love these days-and that’s especially true in Las Vegas. Social distancing is putting some serious limitations on what you can do on a date. Nightclubs and big-name residencies are out of the question and it just isn’t the same when you have to pull down a mask to kiss someone goodnight. But don’t worry. Even though it’s not the best time for random hookups-an age-old Las Vegas tradition-there’s still plenty of romantic options for a night out on the town. So bring a mask, wash your hands, and spend some time with someone you’ve known for more than five minutes. We’ve put together 25 awesome date ideas as we transition from winter to spring. If that’s not enough, keep up to speed in Las Vegas with all the big events happening this weekend.
Check out new restaurants in the Arts District
Downtown So much to eat. So little time. The Arts District is fast becoming a hot spot for independent restaurants. Esther’s Kitchen continues to be a favorite for Italian dining, especially with comfortable outdoor pods available for a new kind of social distancing during a meal. Newcomers like the elevated comfort food of Main St. Provisions, Yu-Or-Mi sushi bar, plant-based Tacotarian, and the incredible pizza of Good Pie are quickly earning fans as well. Meanwhile, Soulbelly is serving some of the best BBQ in Vegas with its pop-up stand outside HUDL Brewing Company. It’s getting ready to convert into a proper permanent restaurant in the near future.
Cheer on the Vegas Golden Knights
Multiple Locations Yeah, the Raiders are fine. But Vegas really loves the Golden Knights. The team is back on the ice at the T-Mobile Arena for a new NHL season, but sorry-no fans allowed. Your best bet is to check out a viewing party at one of the best sports bars in Vegas and BarCanada at The D casino is especially fun. As the name suggests, it’s inspired by a Maple Leaf affection for beer and hockey, but make no mistake: the Golden Knights are the hometown favorites here.
Caesars Palace Now more than ever, date night means dinner at home away from the crowds. There are plenty of options for delivery and takeaway in Vegas, but if you want to go big, do a pickup run at Caesars Palace. Three of the resort’s top restaurants are now offering Take-N-Bake meals to go with at least two hours notice. Order Gordan Ramsay’s Beef Wellington with potato puree and glazed root vegetables from Hell’s Kitchen, penne alla vodka with meatballs from Rao’s, or a half-lobster baked with creamy spinach and lemon aioli with a caesar salad from Old Homestead. The first two restaurants also have options to add on desserts or a bottle of wine.
Grand Canal Shoppes The Museum of Dream Space is a temporary pop-up exhibit of six rooms with colorful immersive environments utilizing lights, projection mapping, and other effects. And let’s face it, we’re all looking to escape reality now, even when on a date. The staff is on standby to help snap the perfect photo, so post one on social media and update your status from “its’ complicated” to “in a relationship.”
Downtown Snuggle up with someone special at the Legacy Club, a rooftop cocktail lounge at the brand-new Circa resort on Fremont Street. The views from the 60th floor are especially engaging at sunset, whether inside by the bar or sitting around a fire pit on the open-air patio. Cocktails tend to be inventive modifications on classic recipes and the spirits collection includes a nice variety of Japanese whisky. Much like the rest of Circa, the Legacy Club has its share of Old-Vegas touches, including busts and portraits of Vegas casino magnates and a tower of gold bars with its fluctuating market value consistently updated on a digital display. Admission is free with a reservation.
The Cosmopolitan Scarpetta’s combination of Italian cuisine and killer Strip views is even better with a brand new multi-course menu at the Chef’s Table-a quiet, private dining room in the corner of the restaurant. Watch the kitchen team in action through a large window or just keep your eyes on the Bellagio fountains next door. The best part-you get a ridiculous amount of food inspired by the Italian family dinners Executive Chef Michael Vitangeli enjoyed from his grandmother growing up. The “Sunday Gravy” of pasta (with meatballs, sausage, and even pork ribs) buried in a date and pine nut tomato sauce is the main course, but the parade of seafood is the most welcome surprise. Between prawn scampi, baked whole branzino, octopus, and mussels, the hard part is finding room for it all. Come hungry and add on the optional Italian wine pours to round out the meal.
Bellagio Need a cheap date? Walking through the Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Garden is one of the best things you can do for free in Las Vegas. The latest exhibit celebrates Lunar New Year with nearly 63,000 plants and flowers. You’ll see two large oxen facing off, a koi fish jumping from a pond, and a jade pavilion flanked by bonsai and willow trees. The entire project was designed with Feng Shui in mind to encourage positive energy and prosperity in the new year. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, admission is limited to small, staggered groups to minimize crowds. Keep your eyes peeled for a colorful spring display to follow in March.
Share a beautiful bottle of wine
Multiple Locations Pop open a bold, robust bottle of wine for a romantic rendezvous. Restaurants like Marche Bauchus at Desert Shores and Aureole at Mandalay Bay are known for their extensive wine lists to pair with dinner. Chinatown French favorite Partage launched its own wine club last year for both singles and couples. Members receive two bottles of high-end wine or champagne each month with discounts on additional wine and a multicourse dinner series. The restaurant also recently opened French Cellar as a gourmet retail boutique with imported wine, charcuterie, and pastries. Another great option is Garagiste, a stylish but casual wine bar in the Arts District that includes a retail shop with regular email specials and curbside pickup.
Downtown One of the best ways to bond with a date is discovering new food together. The quickest way to do that is at the new Vegas Test Kitchen, a different kind of food hall that mixes up a rotating lineup of culinary concepts. Check the online calendar for the latest updates. On any given day you may feast on ramen with Slurp Society, sushi with Sliced, Bulgarian street food with Banichka, Yukon Pizza, Bodega Bagel, or another new idea being tested out by a local chef.
See one of the few shows currently open on the Strip
Multiple Locations Las Vegas is embracing the plant-based dining movement. If clean eating is part of a perfect date, a few new options are proving you don’t have to sacrifice flavor and taste while going vegan. Chikyu recently reopened its dining room, serving some of the best sushi in Vegas, even without seafood or meat. MeDiet Cafe just introduced a week-long cleanse of juices, smoothies, and soups. If you’re sticking to the Strip, Truth & Tonic serves a breakfast and lunch menu that’s exclusively plant-based at the Canyon Ranch Spa inside the Venetian.
Downtown One great photo op deserves another. The Neon Museum, where vintage Vegas signs and marquees are preserved and restored, has a portrait hour for guests to bring their own photographer for a professional shoot in the north gallery. It could be just the thing to take your relationship up a level. It’s also a great idea for engagement photos if you’re planning a spring or summer wedding in Las Vegas. Attendance is limited to maximize space and social distancing.
The Strat Perhaps some scares and excitement will bring you and your date closer together? Venture to the top of the 1,149-foot Stratosphere tower, where four different thrill rides-plus a bungee-like cable jump-dangle over the side. If that seems a little too intense, check out the views from the safety of the observation deck, grab some dinner at Top of the World, sip on drinks at 107 SkyLounge, or maybe just buy a few sweet treats-like chocolate marshmallow or birthday cake cookies-for your sweetie at 108 Eats. And if things really go well, take a detour to the Chapel in the Clouds and seal the deal.
Off the Strip The entertainment, dining, and retail space known as AREA15 is only getting bigger and better in 2021. Todd English’s food hall, The Beast, is now officially open in its home space after previously operating as an outdoor pop-up. That opens up the outside lot for ElectroRoll, a retro-style roller rink. However, the biggest news is the long-awaited February 18 opening of Omega Mart, a massive walkable art installation by Meow Wolf that’s a trippy spoof of a superstore. Otherwise, feel free to grab a cocktail at Oddwood or Emporium Arcade Bar, ride the Haley’s Comet motorized zip-line, play one of eight simulator bays at Five Iron Golf, and check out the Wink World hall of infinite mirrors by Blue Man Group founder Chris Wink. AREA15 is also hosting Cloud 9, a unique indoor picnic experience with food and champagne February 12-14. Reservations for all attractions are available online to limit crowds.
Multiple Locations Las Vegas is a place where art often hides in plain sight. Wander the streets of Downtown, and you’ll see random murals and sculptures, including some left behind by the Life is Beautiful festival (cancelled last year, but scheduled to return in 2021). More recent additions include BLM murals at the site of the long-gone Moulin Rouge (the first integrated casino in Vegas) and efforts by Downtown Alley to beautify neglected back alleys. On the Strip, you’ll find pieces near the front steps of the Fashion Show Mall and inside hotels like the Cosmopolitan and Aria. Galleries by Richard MacDonald and Elena Bulatova are open to visitors at CityCenter while the Art Island installations outside AREA15 are free for anyone to roam.
Henderson For a while, the historic Water Street District was best known for run-down casinos full of old timers. But that’s starting to change. The neighborhood is going through a major rejuvenation with two breweries (Lovelady and Mojave) and fun restaurants like Hardway 8, Sunset Downtown pizzeria, Biscuits & Bourbon, and Triple B – Brooks Brothers Burgers inside the Rainbow casino. There’s even a DIY walking tour and a newly built pair of arches to let you know when you’ve arrived. More changes are on the way. The Eldorado casino was sold and is expected to reopen later in the year with a new look and name.
The Strip Maverick Helicopters has a couple sky-high ways to help plan a perfect night out in Las Vegas. The Savory Bites & Neon Lights Tour begins with a Lip Smacking Foodie Tours food crawl of top Strip restaurants followed by a ride above the lights of the Strip. If you’re a couple that prefers mountain scenery, the Neon & Nature tour flies from the Strip to the colorful sandstone cliffs of Red Rock Canyon with a 30-minute landing, champagne toast, and panoramic views on a private 2,900-foot-high vista.
Venetian You may have heard-karaoke is a thing in Las Vegas. Book a room at KAMU, an Asian-style karaoke parlor at the Grand Canal Shoppes. Each one has a different theme and a booming audio system. Sing along to your favorite hits or just crank music videos on YouTube. With nightclubs currently closed, this is one of the few places in Vegas where you can still order bottle service and feel like you’re in the middle of a party.
Henderson The Ethel M chocolate factory offers treats from its retail shop and tours that reveal how artisan candies are made through a long window. Head outside and you’ll see the three-acre Botanical Cactus Garden with walkways to explore more than 300 species of desert plant life. Visit the Lights of Love display 5-10pm until Valentine’s Day, featuring pink, red, blue, and white colors in romantic-themed designs. Reservations covering up to six people are required with a $5 donation to Three Square food bank. Order hot chocolate (made with real dark chocolate… yum) in advance and have it delivered upon checking in. Ethel M is also bringing back its chocolate and wine tastings in a new socially distant seating arrangement, although the virtual format (introduced during the pandemic) is still available. Sign up here for our daily Vegas email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.
Rob Kachelriess has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than six years. His work has also appeared in Travel + Leisure, Trivago Magazine, Sophisticated Living, Modern Luxury, Leafly, Las Vegas Magazine, and other publications. His favorite idea for a Las Vegas date is drinks on the back patio with his wife. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.
You can’t be all things to all people. Yet a new Italian restaurant strikes an intriguing balance between authenticity and inventive touches while helping to shape the identity of a new community in the booming Southwest Valley of Las Vegas.
Basilico Ristorante Italiano is now open at Evora, a master-planned apartment development still under construction that won’t be finished for at least five years. The 160-seat restaurant follows the vision of chef Francesco Di Caudo, a Sicily native who draws on his heritage and experience throughout Italy to build a compelling menu based on traditional techniques and modern ingenuity.
“I come from a country where farm-to-table is nothing new,” says Di Caudio, while emphasizing the importance of ingredient sourcing and simple, straightforward flavor combinations.
Just look at the appetizers. Americans are used to eggplant parmesan that’s breaded and fried without restraint. Di Caudo sticks to a traditional Sicilian recipe with the vegetable sliced thin, sizzled in a pan, and layered with tomato and basil. No mozzarella. On the other hand, the Smoked Cigar is destined to be a signature showstopper. Duck, foie gras, and porcini mushrooms are packed inside a thin, cracker-like shell, presented in a box, and dipped into a glass ashtray. The “ash” in the centre is a black sesame and truffle mix. Don’t be shy about double dipping.
The risotto is bound to be another conversation piece. The recipe uses Carnaroli rice, a starchy grain from North Italy that produces a creamy texture, balancing the saltiness of a parmesan broth with a sweet splash of chestnut honey. The real surprise is the inclusion of Lavazza espresso, manipulated to crackle in your mouth like Pop Rocks candy.
All pastas are made in-house, from a parsnip cavatelli to a lamb and thyme tortellini in a broth filtered from braised prosciutto. Some dishes have a subtle Asian influence, including a hamachi crudo with pomelo (similar to yuzu), Hokkaido scallops with oxtail, and a planned octopus braised in dashi. The flavours come to life inside a sharp, contemporary dining room with deep red chairs and stone, wood, and marble touches. The wine collection is dominated by Italian labels, with a few California and Oregon picks thrown in to round out the list. Bottles are on display near the front entrance and inside illuminated square shelves. “It looks like a fancy restaurant, but when you sit down, I want you to have fun,” adds Di Caudio.
The bar is the heart of the restaurant, ready to serve up to 16 people inside and dozens more via accordion-style windows that open wide to a covered patio. The outdoor space, temperature-controlled with overhead fans and heaters, effectively extends Evora’s open-air plaza with dramatic water and fire features. It’s a natural spot for tastings and special events with a covered stage for live music. Evora is rolling out in four phases, with the first 342 apartments ready by fall. There could be as many as 1,400 when it’s all said and done. Rent begins at around $1,800 for studios and one-bedroom units and goes up to $4,000 for two-story top-floor residences with a loft and Strip views. The community will include swimming pools, pickleball courts, a putting green, a dog park, firepits, EV charging stations, and pavilions equipped with audio and video features.
“Basilico matches the demographic for our apartments,” says Danny Sorge of Digital Desert Development, the company behind the community. “The term ‘youthful sophistication’ has been thrown around about the restaurant and Evora as a whole. It brings something new to the area.”
The development follows a deliberate strategy to have the commercial tenants in place before the first residents move in, occupying a stand-alone building that strikes a commanding presence on the corner of Patrick Lane and Buffalo Drive. Lemon Tree Cafe & Market is already open as a European-style grocery store with plenty of room to sit down with a sandwich and glass of wine. Keep your eyes peeled for Taps & Barrels (a self-service beer hall), Tachi Ramen, and EVOQ hair salon in the months ahead, with more businesses to come. The timing couldn’t be better. The Southwest Valley is on fire right now, with the Durango hotel and casino and UnCommons mixed-use development taking shape as new attractions in 2023. The Bend, a long-promised shopping and dining district, has been in a holding pattern for years but holds promise in an area where everything is getting bigger and better.
Meanwhile, the team behind Evora is staking a claim with Di Caudio running the kitchen at Basilico. The chef’s recent collaboration with Chef Oscar Amador helped Anima by EDO score a recent James Beard Award nomination and reputation as one of the best new restaurants in Las Vegas. Di Caudio first came to Las Vegas to work at Zeffirino at the Grand Canal Shoppes-a gig he expected to last about six months before returning home. Instead, he stuck around and continued to build his reputation at culinary destinations like Sinatra at the Wynn and Ferraro’s off the Strip.
Ultimately, Basilico will be a restaurant to keep an eye on as it develops under Di Caudio’s guidance. The menu will shift and evolve based on the chef’s preferences and the availability of seasonal ingredients. Di Caudio is also planning a smaller menu and social hour for the bar area and a reasonably priced tasting menu with around 10 dishes served family style.
Rob Kachelriess has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than nine years. In addition, his work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Leafly, Supercall, Modern Luxury, and Luxury Estates International’s seasonal publication. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.