Las Vegas can be one wild ride, especially if you step into the chaos of the city’s frenetic nightclub life. Walk the Strip any night around 10 p.m. and watch the sidewalk undulate in a steady snake of roving partiers: girls dressed (or undressed) in tight black strapless sheaths and guys clumped in packs, beers in hand, enacting some group-think entourage fantasy. They roam club to club often aided by pricey VIP servicers, who deliver them in limos and help them proceed safely through the velvet ropes. Once inside, everything seems on the table, from Pussycat Doll-style dancers to $1,500 bottles of Dom Perignon.
Gallery at Planet Hollywood, which opened in April 2011, offers one of the largest layouts in the city. What you can see of the décor in the darkness and strobe lights arcs from French gothic to bordello to artful chic. In one corner, a woman in lingerie and another in a wedding dress dance around a stripper’s pole while a third in a ruby ball gown vamps in a mirror. Follow the crowd to the adjacent Pussycat Dolls Burlesque Saloon and watch a performance of the popular female band slink around a small stage. Reserved tables here are popular with parties of bachelorettes. Cover charge: $20-$30.
Chateau opened in March 2011, at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel. Guests crowd and flirt with the bouncer in the lobby to get a chance to climb the Belle Epoque iron stairs into the compact club of rococo chandeliers and quilted leather banquettes. The security and line management is tighter and meaner here and somewhat ruder than what you might find at other nightclubs around the city, perhaps because of Chateau’s popularity. The venue offers access to a rooftop garden perch, one of the few clubs in Las Vegas to offer outdoor nightlife over the Strip. Cover charge: $20-$30.
Haze is the happening spot at Aria Resort & Casino. There’s plenty of room to move freely around the club, even on Saturday nights. Go-go dancers keep the action pulsing by moving to the music of the DJ and frequent celebrity host performers. An unusual touch of performance art can be found while wandering through the club. A window in a hall beyond the dance floor opens onto a changing tableau of ladies in pose, sometimes dressed as lascivious mermaids. Cover: $10-$30.
XS at Encore Tower Suites brings a cool indoor/outdoor flow inspired by the open and spacious design of the club’s attached Euro-bathing (aka topless) pool. By night the bathers are long gone, except on Sundays when partiers get wet at the weekly Sunday Night Swim. This is a club that money will buy, from the foyer walls of sculptured body profiles bathed in sweeping gold-painted sheets, to the 100 VIP tables and 26 VIP pool cabanas. Table service is the way to go here if you can afford it. You’ll be treated as a VIP, too, rather than as a patron who simply pays the cover and stands around. Cover: $20-$30.
PURE Nightclub is a sprawling affair of rooms and terraces (each area with its own DJ and sound system) that ensures plenty of intimate corners and space to roam. The motif here is “purity” set aglow in a soft purple haze reflecting off white leathers and chrome décor. Club-goers ascend the glass elevator like angels to reach an expansive terrace over the Strip. The view right over the neon truly sets this club apart from others.
TAO brings Buddha to the party with silky and sizzling Asian décor spread throughout 2 cavernous rooms. An outdoor terrace peeks over the canals of this otherwise Venice-themed resort. The club is the epicenter of Kardashian action, if that’s how you roll. All-action VIP passes are quite the party pumper with unlimited access to TAO and LAVO nightclubs and TAO Beach during the day.
Lark Ellen Gould is an award-winning journalist focusing on culture trends and curiosities in Las Vegas. She has written more than 5 books about the city.