Traveling Healthy: Destination, Las Vegas?

by Alex Kim

SmartyPants on the go

Staying healthy when traveling to Las Vegas seems like a contradiction in terms. How could you possibly be mindful of your physical well being in Sin City? And why would you want to?

Leaving the latter question alone for the time being, a recent trip led me to realize that it is quite possible these days for the health and fitness conscious traveler to have an outstanding trip to Vegas.

One of the biggest negatives about visiting Las Vegas from a health perspective: secondhand smoke. Most of us picture Las Vegas as one big casino, swirling in a haze of cigar and cigarette smoke. While the tobacco biz is certainly still thriving in LV, it is possible to mitigate your exposure to the stuff.

You can start by picking a smoke-free hotel. The Signature at the MGM Grand, for example, is a completely smoke free environment. The hotel is attached by a walkway to the larger resort and casino, but doesn’t feature gaming. As a result, the place has a quieter, relatively sedate feel. The Signature also features one of the better hotel gym facilities that I’ve ever seen, with numerous high-end Cybex treadmills and ellipticals, weight machines, and complete dumbbell racks. I was seriously impressed. The clean and efficient rooms, and extremely friendly and welcoming staff are the kind you might expect to find at an upscale resort, but the rates are very reasonable.

Want to get your exercise in the open desert air? I’m with you. One of my favorite runs: the Vegas Strip. I’m not kidding. Beat the crowds, and hit the Strip before 9 am, and you’ll be treated to the famous vistas and frequently hilarious people watching. The stairs to the elevated walkways make for excellent interval training. During the day, skip the cab line and hoof it. Although be warned, that casino that looks nearby can actually be a pretty good hike, but that’s a good thing, right?

For the more adventuresome, or those with a rental car, the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area offers some truly awe inspiring hiking and jogging trails with plenty of challenges for even the fittest traveler. The formations and colors are dramatic, and some of the views are breathtaking. Well worth the 17 mile drive to the outskirts of the city.

There are also some great running trails around the Hoover Dam, though it’s a bit more of a car ride, and best suited for those looking for longer runs and hikes (you’ll want to go 6-8 miles to get the best of the views).

I know that eating in Vegas probably brings to mind endless buffets and $3.99 sirloin, not exactly clean eating. In reality, the Las Vegas restaurant scene has evolved well beyond the steak houses of the Rat Pack era. Every celebrity chef of note has got a footprint in Vegas, and healthy options abound.

Take advantage of happy hours and small plate restaurants to find reasonable portions and good deals. American Fish at Aria offers an impressive happy hour array of seafood themed bites. At just $5 each, you may be tempted to order everything on the on the menu. The tiny lobster rolls were tender and seasoned perfectly, and crab stuffed deviled eggs rocked. We also ordered a kale Caesar salad and a side of brussel sprouts — both outstanding.

The fresh salads at the Spanish tapas restaurant Jaleo in the Cosmopolitan were like a Platonic ideal of the dish — soft Boston bibb lettuce, peeled and perfectly ripe tomato slices, green beans, soft-boiled eggs, red onion, fingerling potatoes, pickled peppers and just a bit of albacore tuna, all dressed in a sherry vinaigrette. I’ve never had better. But the delights did not stop there.  The beet gazpacho was as rich in flavor as it was in color — savory with just a hint of sweetness, the cold soup was perfectly balanced and a sensory delight.

Did you hit the gym or the trails? Then indulge in a glass of the house Sangria — sweet yet herbal, this brew pairs beautifully with the flavors of the meal.

After your meal, get your dose of “fitspiration” by watching the unbelievable athleticism of the performers in a Cirque du Soleil show.  Cirque shows blend theatricality, spectacle, live music and stunning physical displays like nothing you will ever see. A not-to-be-missed part of the Vegas landscape. But they are pricey.

half price tix

Discounted day-of tickets are available at the Tickets4Tonight booths that dot the Strip. Lines at these booths can be very long, and the inventory can be unpredictable, but for us, a little procrastination paid off. We walked right up the to the booth at 5pm, scored discounted (but still $100) tickets to Zarkana, the newest Cirque show. The booth issues vouchers, so you won’t get seating until you check in at the box office of the particular show, an extra step we did not realize was required, but we ended up with excellent orchestra level seats. The show did not disappoint — acrobatics, clowns, jugglers, world class voices.  A blast.

And, of course, you will want to throw a few packets of SmartyPants On The Go when you are packing for Vegas. I like to have them with me in case I get a late afternoon snack craving when I’m between buffet visits (kidding). SmartyPants On The Go are super convenient and a must for the frequent flier.

Whether for work or pleasure, Vegas is a frequent destination, but a visit to the bright lights doesn’t have to mean that your health and fitness regimen craps out. Double down on eating light, using the Strip as your treadmill, and finding smoke-free accommodations, and you’ll cash out a winner.


photo courtesy Madcoverboy at en.wikipedia

Posted on March 22, 2014

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Alex Kim