This is Las Vegas?
Just after dawn, when the steady clang of slot machines slowed to an irregular heartbeat and most of Las Vegas was soused or sleeping ? I was jogging. The sidewalks were empty. They no longer belonged to hucksters, heartbreakers and flocks of friends, decked out and glassy-eyed. They belonged to me. I ran past the hushed fountains of the Bellagio, over eye-popping cards for escorts and strip clubs that littered the streets like ticker tape on my way to the first of several weekend fitness classes: Yoga Among the Dolphins.
There was a time when yoga and Sin City were like fire and ice. But practicing a tree pose while a family of bottlenose dolphins looks on is just one of many health initiatives being introduced by hotels once known only for bars, buffets and smoky casinos.
The?Mirage Hotel & Casino?has cornered the dolphin-Ashtanga market (we?ll revisit that later), but its competitors have their own offbeat mind-body prescriptions.?Trump Hotel?recently introduced a boot camp class outside on the Strip.?Aria Resort & Casino?offers an hourlong ?indoor hike? through the 3.8 million-square-foot property and adjacent?Shops at Crystals.?MGM Grandhas Stay Well rooms where shower water is infused with vitamin C and air-purification systems promise to reduce toxins. And the?Mandarin Oriental?s Tea Lounge serves vegan food and ?health & wellness? tea blends that sound hallucinogenic, with names like ?peace through water? and ?introspection.?
Las Vegas, it seems, has begun to follow the lead of other major tourist destinations. After all, wellness isn?t just good for you ? it?s good for hoteliers. ?Wellness tourism? is a $438.6 billion worldwide market and it?s projected to grow almost 10 percent a year through 2017, according to a study conducted for the Global Spa & Wellness Summit by SRI International, a nonprofit research institute.
I?d been to Vegas a couple of times, though it?s not my idea of a vacation. I aim to unwind. Las Vegas winds you up. But a healthy Vegas getaway? It was too amusing an option not to explore. To see how far I could push it, I set personal ground rules: No alcohol. No buffets. No smoking. No gambling. All of that, of course, is built into the guts of this town. Yet there are other deeper stories: of railroads, the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and the desert with its wild burros and ancient Joshua trees. Such places provide ample opportunity for fresh air and exercise. But not, it would seem, the Strip, that four-mile or so stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard.
Pity the reluctant visitor who ends up here for the obligatory convention or party. What respite could she (or he) find? There was only one way to know: I would go to the heart of the Strip and limit all healthful endeavors to its environs (with one exception). And with that, I set off alone, with a duffel bag of sneakers and spandex, to roll the dice on wholesome Las Vegas.
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