MOODBOARD / ALAMY
I can't sing. But here I am at a karaoke bar in Las Vegas with my normally reserved sister-in-law and her sister, belting out "Sweet Caroline" as fellow patrons wince and my bride-to-be niece, Carrie, squirms in embarrassment.
Those of us at the microphone don't care. We're in Vegas, baby! Even my sister-in-law's 80-something mom is letting loose. Earlier that day, she'd bought all of us tacky necklaces with flashing lights. And when we hit the casinos to play blackjack and roulette, we had a hard time pulling her away from the slot machines. In fact, she was the one who inspired this multigenerational, all-women family trip to celebrate Carrie's upcoming wedding.
The spa at our resort, the upscale Bellagio, which is famed for its dancing fountains, curtains off an area in its salon for women celebrating special occasions. (You can sip champagne while getting manis and pedis.) For the female shopaholic, there's everything from the high-end Shops at Crystals mall and the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace to the bargain hunter's paradise of Las Vegas North Premium Outlets and the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, featured on TV's Pawn Stars.
And there's no shortage of male strip clubs such as Chippendales and Thunder From Down Under, where the adventuresome can ogle well-toned, oily-chested hunks who dance for an excited and enthusiastic female crowd.
Then, of course, there's the food. In this rising culinary destination, the choices are mouthwatering, and they run the gamut — from wallet-friendly burger joints to the fanciest gourmet bistros. One of our favorite splurges was dinner at Andrea's, Steve Wynn's tony eatery at the Encore resort that is named for his second wife. I'm not sure what we liked the most: the edgy gold-and-cream decor, the menu that included specialty cocktails and delicious sushi or the fact that George Clooney has reportedly dined there.
But the undisputed highlight of our trip was at the Planet Hollywood resort, where we enrolled in a Stripper 101 class taught by an exotic dancer. It included a loosen-up cocktail and a hilarious lesson in pole dancing. Our bride-to-be picked up the moves easily enough, but the older part of our posse discovered that all that dipping and twirling requires limbs more limber than we possess. But who cares? The howls of laughter the class provided were more than worth the price of admission.
Suffice it to say that visiting Vegas with the girls can be as addictive as gambling. When I saw my sister-in-law afterward, she told me she wants us to go back and nail "Sweet Caroline." Meanwhile, someone in our party — I'm not saying who, out of respect for the Vegas code — keeps that Stripper 101 diploma displayed in her bedroom.
- Pack comfy footwear — not toe-scrunching stilettos. It can be a long walk from a megaresort's front door to a restaurant or show venue.
- Buy day passes to use the saunas, steam rooms and fitness centers at top spas such as the Spa Bellagio, Canyon Ranch SpaClub at the Venetian and the Palazzo, or Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars Palace.
- Enjoy free entertainment while shopping, such as weekend runway shows at the Fashion Show mall or a faux rain forest at Planet Hollywood's Miracle Mile Shops.
- Book your stay at a no-gaming, no-smoking property, such as Vdara or Trump International Hotel, if you want to get to your room without trekking through a smoky casino.