These top-floor Las Vegas restaurants give new meaning to ‘high roller’ – Star Tribune

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Going up was fine. It was when we stopped at the top of Liftoff, a 150-foot-tall open-air elevator of sorts that resembles a space-age hot-air balloon, that the nerves set in.

“Don’t look down,” I told myself.

That was the easy part. The twinkling neon and bright lights of Las Vegas had me fixated.

Sure, my seat had nothing but a waist belt to secure me. The unusually windy evening whipped my hair aloft. My feet dangled with nothing below them — explaining why, down on the ground, I had seen signs banning flip-flops.

But I had a paper cup with an Irish cream-spiked hot chocolate for liquid courage, and a 360-degree view of the Strip’s lustrous radiance.

More nervous than I was, one of my companions gripped his seat and winced the whole five minutes we spun slowly around, like we were in a nightmarish version of a revolving restaurant. Sensing his fear, my other friend started to get jittery, too.

“When you’re this high up,” she said, “there needs to be a floor.”

How about 64 of them?

On a recent trip to Sin City, I felt like a high roller — all without dropping a penny at the slots. Restaurants and bars perched high above the Strip give visitors an opportunity to eat and drink with altitude. It’s hard not to feel important, exhilarated and maybe a little terrified when you’re hundreds of feet above the casino floor. Up there, you’ll find all the thrills Las Vegas promises, no gambling required.

I sipped cocktails from an open bar in a Ferris wheel that rotated 550 feet in the air at the center of the Strip, where we ogled the digital projections on the massive Sphere, the newest addition to the Vegas skyline. At night, my friends and I ladled a purple drink from an antique-looking crystal punch bowl at a rooftop nightclub tucked under the arched lattice-iron legs of the Paris hotel’s replica Eiffel Tower.

I nibbled a global star chef’s lobster risotto 485 feet above ground on the south end of the Strip one night, and wound down with a martini on a 66th-floor terrace on the north end the next.

Tower after tower brings drinking and dining to new heights. Just last December, the Fontainebleau Las Vegas opened as the city’s tallest building — though the 63rd floor is reserved only for VIP guests of the hotel, and for diners willing to spend $400 for an intimate omakase. But more often than not, top-floor venues are within reach of anyone on a Vegas vacation, even those that promise a top-shelf experience.

I shared an elevator up to the 64th floor of the Delano with a rowdy group of sequin-wearing Realtors in town for a convention. At the top, we diverged, they to the window-lined Skyfall Lounge, where they flirted (hey, it’s Vegas) over drinks on a balcony that was surprisingly well-shielded from gusty winds. I went to Rivea, a French Riviera-inspired restaurant from chef Alain Ducasse.

From the tableside window we looked down upon the beam emanating from the tip of the iconic Luxor pyramid. Next to that, the Excalibur’s castle-like turrets glowed, and New York New York’s ersatz Empire State Building shone as it does on 34th Street.

Below us, the skyline of Las Vegas didn’t just twinkle, it glittered aggressively, luring our gazes downward, but making it hard to imagine the windowless, drop-ceilinged casinos beneath those sparkling facades.

We were above all that.

Vegas venues for sky-high dining and drinking

If you want to do Vegas like a literal high-roller, check your fear of heights at the door and make a reservation for these high-in-the-sky dining and drinking destinations — plus rides that’ll make you feel like you’re in the air without leaving the ground.

Sip a creamy dessert cocktail in the library-like Allē Lounge at the newer Resorts World on the north end of the Strip. The sophisticated 66th-floor venue, named for a Botox loyalty program, lets you look down on the resorts’ five pools from a terrace. Cocktails start at $20;

The rooftop lounge Chéri is designed like a garden party atop the Paris hotel, beneath the legs of the replica Eiffel Tower. Get a large-format cocktail in an elegant crystal punchbowl and share with the friends you make on the dance floor. Go at midnight to catch the spectacular Bellagio fountains doing their dance across the street. Cocktails start at $18;

The Fontainebleau (opened Dec. 13) is Vegas’ tallest building, 67 stories high, and filled with restaurants and nightclubs, including an ultraexclusive omakase, Ito, on the 63rd floor. Rooms from $176, Ito omakase $400;

The High Roller Observation Wheel, part of the Linq Hotel, takes you on a ride 550 feet above the Strip in a Ferris wheel pod that comes with your own bartender for the 30-minute trip with 360-degree views. Happy Half Hour from $61.50, 21+ only; $25 ride only, all ages;

At AREA15, a warehouse-like district of quirky re-creation off the Strip, Liftoff Bar & Ride is an open-air balloon ride that takes you 130 feet in the air — legs dangling — with cocktails to help you work through the fear. While there, it’s worth checking out the rest of this complex of entertainment venues, bars, a combination circus and distillery (Lost Spirits) and a trippy immersive art show (Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart). $15 adults, ride only;

Rivea‘s window-lined dining room sits some 485 feet above ground, atop the Delano, a boutique luxury tower connected to the larger Mandalay Bay resort. Under an amorphous chandelier made of thousands of glass bubbles, dine on rustic roast chicken and delicate citrus-marinated sea bass. Spend as little ($12 for chickpea fries) or as much ($160 for a four-course tasting menu) as you’d like.

If you’re downtown, reserve a cabana and a platter of lobster corn dogs at Stadium Swim, an impressive complex of heated pools and massive sports screens at Circa, just above the famed Fremont Street. General admission $25; cabanas, daybeds and water couches available for a minimum spend;

On the 108th floor of the Strat, the country’s tallest free-standing observation tower, grab a drink or ice cream, or dine on the 106th floor in the revolving Top of the World restaurant surrounded by outstanding views. Observation deck access $20, Top of the World reservation $25;

Rides to feel like you’re flying

You won’t actually leave the ground at two attractions, but you’ll feel like you did. Flyover is a ride that simulates soaring over places like the Grand Canyon and Iceland; its in-house bar, Lost Cactus, has themed drinks to match the films. From $32;

And Vegas’ newest attraction, the Sphere, isn’t just for major concerts. A film, “Postcard From Earth,” by Darren Aronofsky, shows off the immersive magic of the world’s largest spherical structure, on a screen that’s said to be the highest resolution in the world (16,000 pixels by 16,000 pixels). As far as arenas go, this one has some better-than-average food and drink stands. Order a shaken rum punch, take it inside, and go along for the ride. From $79;

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