The number of original Roger Thomas interiors commercially available in Las Vegas currently sits at just 23. Now retired from decades of creating Steve Wynn’s most extraordinary spaces, Thomas’s rooms are an increasingly endangered accommodation requiring travel to Macau or Boston to readily stay in one. In Vegas, eighteen of them are locked down for Wynn’s most premium players and the other five are for people obsessed enough to justify paying several thousands per night. I fall among the latter.
Enter The Villas at The Mirage. A private enclave originally comprised of six smaller Lanais, Wynn was surprised at the number of million-plus credit lines that had been established after only a year of operation and built the eight Villas shortly thereafter. Five of The Villas’s total fourteen rooms remain Thomas’s original design and in his own words
Conceived, built, and completed in nine months, they were to be the most extraordinary accommodations on planet Earth and became the first completed Las Vegas design to enter the hallowed pages of Architectural Digest [September 1992]. I was told that I was to have an unlimited budget, but then I was told I had exceeded that unlimited budget.
Specifically, these eight units cost nearly $26 million to construct and in 1992, ran an inconceivable $2000 per day, per villa to maintain. They paid for themselves in six weeks and in their first year of operation hosted the likes of Jimmy Carter, Michael Jackson, Arnold Palmer, and Calvin Klein. Sean Connery and Paul Anka were noted regulars. Today, thanks to their unrivaled privacy, they’re MGM’s go-to accommodations for headliners at Dolby Live and T-Mobile Arena.
“And maybe one day, they’ll host me,” I’d kept telling myself for the better part of a decade, kicking the proverbial can down the road as I again and again abandoned a five-figure shopping cart on Mirage’s website. But now with The Villas’s legacy and Thomas’s early 90s extravagance facing a Tommy Bahaman makeover under the guise of “Hard Rock,” paying $4,500 per night for a three-bedroom unit quickly evolved from an outrageous splurge to a downright necessity. I’d be spending my 40th birthday in Mirage’s largest and most palatial suite.
Not since the great recession had I seen any kind of offer for The Villas and had accepted that securing one would mean paying full rack rate. Imagine my surprise when several months after my first night’s deposit, Mirage had a ten percent discount code across all their rooms, including The Villas. This was obviously a mistake, but I locked it in immediately and with two confirmations on the same dates, called their Luxury Suites department and voluntarily exposed my hand: “If I’m under threat of getting bumped, I’ll gladly pay full price.” They confirmed that the discount code was indeed a mistake but honored it (I saved $1500!) and ensured me that barring an extreme extenuating circumstance like a fire or pipe burst, reservations at The Villas are always confirmed.
But Now, The Social Dilemma
I didn’t even think I had 41 friends but that’s how many people confirmed for this birthday.
I’m eternally grateful, but a group this size presented a serious challenge: picking my roommates. Simple generosity to a few besties in exchange for dinner and drinks would clearly be playing favorites, harvest animosity, and build butthurtedness among the bros. My other idea of choosing among the highest bidders still wouldn’t get remotely close to an equitable split of the $13,900 total. And I wasn’t even going to entertain the idea of bed-sharing and sofa sleeping to manage costs—a space so sacred to me was not about to turn into a fraternity house.
I was losing sleep over this until one night some three months prior, a friend quipped, “Three bedrooms, three nights. Just take a bedroom to yourself each night.” He was joking but in that moment, I don’t think he understood the wisdom he uttered. Problem solved. What better way to experience vintage Roger Thomas than to rest my head in a unique bedroom each night?
Pre-Arrival Services and My Slippery Slope to Entitled Asshole
Upon booking, The Villas sent a welcome email and two months prior to my check-in, a Luxury Experience Host reached out. This is a newer position under MGM Resorts for ultra high-spend, non-gaming guests. He had the pull of the most powerful casino executives (sans comping privileges) and insisted on taking care of every detail. I had six additional standard rooms under my reservation. All of them were coded to use the VIP Lounge, all of them got to check in early and received 6pm check out, all of them were placed on the 20th floor with strip views neighboring each other, and all this was done without my asking.
As expected, round trip stretch limousine service is provided to and from the airport, but I was told guests staying in the Villas proper are provided one daily limo to anywhere on the strip. That said, I was constantly offered transportation and got the impression that a limo is always reasonably available for the duration of my stay.
I shared my arrival flight with five other friends and asked for two separate limos: one for them heading to the main entrance, and one for myself heading to The Villas. Asshole move? Maybe. But I figured having them experience the pageantry of a multi-butler welcome only to be banished to their standard rooms would’ve been worse.
A reservation for eight people at Otoro was handled with ease. Eighteen at Heritage—a party size that normally constitutes prix fixe menus—was offered a la carte no problem.
Another reservation for 40 at Rhumbar was effortless. I was told “I’m easy” and so I started getting creative. I asked for a unicorn floaty in the Villa pool upon arrival. They did it.
Then I asked that all references to my birthday indicate that I’m 21. Done.
I was later informed that one regular guest creates a haunted house and hosts an epic Halloween extravaganza every year while another insists on having a petting zoo and zip line set up for his grandchildren.
Indeed, I’m easy.
The suite was ready by my early afternoon arrival and I was met at the small porte-cochere by two butlers, a bellhop, and my Luxury Experience Host. They walked me to Villa Eight where the concierge stood by the door. I’ve already waxed poetic about the stunning beauty of the common spaces in my Lanai review, but to summarize, its preservation means more to me than the volcano out front.
We completed check-in proceedings in the room and I was offered a small tour which I politely declined. They also presented me with my itinerary for the trip, had several of my MGM Rewards cards already printed, and a number of room keys ready. The butlers offered to unpack my luggage, take any clothes for complimentary pressing, and shine shoes. I politely turned down all of these services.
They then informed me that my status is non-registered (in other words, that there’s no record of me in the system) and that I needed to create a password to share with visitors. I got immense joy sending this message to my guests:
Welcome to Villa Eight
The Villa makes a spectacular first impression. A welcome foyer with crown moldings accentuated by silk piping that frame heavily upholstered walls sets the theme for the rest of the room. The stained glass skylight with its crystal chandelier heightens the drama of the cathedral-sized ceiling. Mirrors double the already massive space.
A corridor furnished with art and antiques branches off the entry and feeds into the bedrooms. The Villa’s 8500 square feet is most-visible in the sheer length of this space. The priceless vase underneath the console was often mistaken for a trash receptacle.
The narrowness of the guest bath off this corridor accentuates the height of the ceilings.
Hardwood floors are inlaid with the same Emperador Light Marble topping the console, dining, coffee, and side tables. The original art pops off the beige and brown color scheme. Surround sound speakers throughout the Villa makes it ideal for entertaining. A working fireplace is a nice touch. Nearly every surface is clad in precious materials.
Anything that wasn’t custom crafted in-house by Mirage Resorts’s design team is a one-of-a-kind antique. Chandeliers are modeled after leaves and vines while twelve foot tall French doors give view to palm trees; these are the only hints that you’re in a tropical-themed resort. Various treats of fresh exotic fruits, macarons, and other snacks constantly appeared throughout my stay.
The extravagance continues into the media room. While its design—with its cabinet doors that hide unsightly electronics—is a relic of early 90s luxury, the quality of its components are up to date. The television is one of eleven in the Villa. All room functions can be controlled with tablets or tactile buttons throughout the suite. One small criticism is that I didn’t entirely grasp the technology (i.e. was able to get my playlists going within seconds) until the third day of my stay; The Villas could really explore smart speaker options and ways of simplifying today’s most common technological demands.
The wet bar is adjacent to the media room. There is no minibar as you’re encouraged to order anything you’d like from their in-house services. You can make your own coffee with the Keurig machine or help yourself to coffee as well as Fiji waters and treats available in The Villas’s lobby. Ample glassware is provided. I never witnessed a butler take or bring an ice bucket, but it was always there fresh as the first hour I checked in and evidence of their exemplary, transparent service.
The cabinets contain a first aid kit. Everything in the refrigerator is complimentary, restocked daily, and can be customized to your preferences. I understand that they make note of what you indulge in most and provide more in future stays. I should put this to the test and book another reservation in the name of “research.”
The First Night
I spent my first night in the “master” bedroom—somewhat of a misnomer as they’re all equally spectacular. The flower motif on the upholstered walls carries into the fabrics draped over the nightstands. The bed is supremely comfortable with thread counts in the thousands. The Villas offer nine different pillows on their own dedicated menu in addition to what’s already on the bed. A mirrored ceiling is framed by enormous moldings. The thought of turning on the iMac and working disgusted me. Outside the doors was direct access to the outdoor dining set and putting green. I still don’t understand why there’s an armoire except that perhaps mounting a television to an upholstered wall is a potential fire hazard; first world problems of the one-tenth of one percent, I suppose.
Entrances to “his” and “her” bathrooms frame the bed. Her bathroom contains a walk-in closet with large safe, separate commode with bidet, a massive jetted tub, ample amounts of counter space with a TV, and an elegant display of bath products with emphasis on feminine hygiene. For what it’s worth, I was gender neutral throughout the Villa and an equal opportunity showerer/shaver/pisser/shitter in every room with a toilet.
Molton Brown provides the classic hotel staples of lotion, shampoo, conditioner, soap, and body wash. I was a little disappointed to see that since my Lanai stay in 2018, they’d downgraded to travel-sized products, but you can still request different fragrances.
His bathroom features another commode, walk-in closet with shoe shine machine and bath products with emphasis on male hygiene. A frosted glass window has an electric shade featuring a similar motif to the bedroom walls. There’s an antique seat that I’d frankly feel too guilty to rest my wet ass on. The massive steam shower is a thing of beauty but tame your sexual fantasies—occupancy of more than two will ensure that someone gets scalded near the steam element. There’s a total of six sumptuous Villa-branded robes throughout the suite.
The Second Night
The second bedroom is down the corridor and on the opposite end of the living room. Its floor plan is symmetrical to the previous room and its muted, masculine tones are a stark contrast to the floral patterns of the first space. This bedroom’s French doors lead directly to the pool.
Save some minor changes in its layout and finishes, her bathroom is identical to the one in the previous bedroom.
His bathroom is also a respective copy of the previous bedroom’s. The frosted glass window floods the space with natural light. It would appear that the guest before me shined their left shoe too aggressively.
The Third Night
Walking further down the Villa corridor is the third bedroom. At once both fanciful and unabashedly gaudy, its copious use of red would make any Asian high roller forgive the fact that there’s only one bathroom. Its French doors lead directly to the spa tub. A pop-up television at the foot of the bed is another relic of 90s luxury. Curiously, there’s no door separating bedroom and bathroom spaces.
All amenities of his and her bathrooms are combined here in a smaller but no less impressive scale. I actually preferred this steam shower as it reached its desired temperature faster. Laundry bags, slippers, and such are all labeled with The Villas’s own branding. Absent is an iron and ironing board; a pointless amenity when you have access to an exceptional team of butlers.
The Patio, Pool, and Gardens
All eight Villas have extraordinary patios and gardens that are almost equal in size to the interior living space. A small pathway from one of the bedrooms leads directly to the spa tub.
At the center of the patio is the pool. On the other side of the wall is the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. I was warned that I might hear large cats feeding in the early morning. I did and it was fucking awesome.
Giant palm trees frame a fountain which serves as backdrop over a synthetic lawn creating a perfect space for weddings and events. The black box houses controls for pool and spa temperature, jets, and misting system.
A large dining table and putting green completes the yard. Villa branding continues down to the flagstick. The Mirage golf ball may or may not have gone home with me.
This little sign is really just a reminder that your privacy isn’t totally guaranteed during certain hours.
I never seemed to remember. Every morning I’d wake up groggy and hungover, no glasses, no contacts, dick dangling through an open robe as I made my way to the pool for a dip. And every morning, I’d squint just enough to make out the most gracious, courteous person tending to the gardens. You’d think I’d feel more embarrassed, but I’m sure he’d seen his fair share of celebrity sausage and could care less about mine.
“Excuse me sir, but I was wondering, is Jimmy Carter SUPER hung?”
You Can Be Totally Isolated…
Privacy is paramount at The Villas. Despite all fourteen units being fully committed, I only ever saw one other guest. The diversions of The Mirage cannot, at least in the early hours of the day, lure one from the cocoon The Villas have built; I spent a lot of time in the room.
Every meal that wasn’t dinner was ordered off the Villa menu, an extensive (and surprisingly reasonable) spread available 24-hours a day. I ordered breakfast during conventional hours and enjoyed it on the patio dining set, I ordered breakfast in the wee hours and enjoyed it while in the spa. With enough notice, they can bring any restaurant on property to you with their own respective table linens, glassware, plating, and utensils. In-room spa and salon services are common. Even IV hydration therapy is just a phone call away.
My morning hangover cures were these amazing young coconuts.
Every time the butler walked in, he’d say “I have a young coconut,” and every time I’d respond, “What’d you call me?!”
I learned that butlers aren’t required to laugh at guests’ jokes.
…or You Can Have an Epic Party (But It’ll Cost You)
The Villas send you various menus prior to your stay so you can plan every detail. Like most other ultra-luxury hotels, they warn against outside food and beverage. While those rules are hardly enforced anywhere else, The Villas are small enough to know when they’ve been broken.
On the first night, as guests started appearing, we ordered a few cocktails from room service and got sauced. One thing led to another and I wound up cracking open a bottle of Glenmorangie 18 and another bottle of Fortaleza Reposado, polishing both off in the first night. The next day after the room was cleaned, I was very, very kindly cautioned that they’d have to charge corkage next time.
The next night after Rhumbar, most of us made our way back to my room, and now already several drinks in, had a blast smoking cigars and ordering buckets of beers from the butlers the rest of the evening.
I lost my pants so you know it was a good night.
(In truth, I spilled a drink and was handing them off to get them dry cleaned.)
At some point, everyone wound up in the pool and I got to see the sun rise over a whole assortment of swimwear strewn throughout the garden.
In the past, I’ve hosted guests at Skylofts, Wynn’s Fairway Villas and Salon Suites, Bellagio’s Grand Lakeview Suites, and numerous Penthouses at Mirage. Each time, no matter how opulent the room, they really just served as a place to gather and toast with shots before hitting the town.
Villa Eight was different. Everyone loved being there and when we were out and about, we couldn’t wait to go back. My biggest regret is that I wish I took full advantage and let their event team plan a birthday party. In hindsight, what they charge for two hours of premium binge drinking isn’t that bad.
When You’re in a Villa, You’re Just… Better Than Everybody
When The Villas handle everything, the resort knows who you are. And it gets to your head. Restaurants unlock their private rooms and appetizers are sent out compliments of the chef. Rhumbar was packed with a number of birthday celebrations but we were the only party to score free shots. Even the live entertainment dedicated a birthday medley to me. It was embarrassing and I loved every second of it.
There’s a secret passage from The Villas to the main pool. It’s roped off, rarely used, and makes the guest look like they’re cutting through the gates of the Secret Garden. It was fun to get chased by security each time.
“Excuse me sir, you can’t go baaa [sees me turn around and flash The Villas room key]. Oh sorry, carry on.”
Room charging is fun, too. Uttering “Villa Eight” when asked for your room number brought out an extra level of kindness from every employee who knew and mass confusion from those who didn’t.
I spent a few hours at the Lobby Bar where my friend Paolo, a Vegas native, struck up a conversation with the bartender. We spoke about our love for the city, my job (I described myself as a professional musician), and the influence of 80s music in our lives. When it came time to room charge, all the pieces of a very wrong puzzle came together.
“We don’t have that room here,” he replied.
“I know, it’s weird. They’re in the back and I guess they’re hard to find. If you wouldn’t mind, could you please ask your manager?” He took a moment, asked a colleague, went to the computer, found it, and took a very inquisitive look at us as our check was printing. He must’ve seen that in addition to my occupation, our love for Vegas, our adoration for 80s music, our general cool scruff and Paolo’s badass tattoos, that I’m also a non-registered guest.
He came back with the check, looked left and right to make sure nobody was listening, and quietly asked…
“Are you guys… The Killers?”
Carry wads of cash in mostly denominations of 20s. $5 daily for the housekeepers won’t cut it here. You’re surrounded by butlers, your transportation is always a limo, and just expect to drop the equivalent of a typical midweek night at Bellagio in the first few moments of your arrival. The guy tending the gardens needs hush money after seeing your tiny dick. Everyone at the VIP Lounge knows you before you’ve walked through that door, and in my case, handled my six other reservations flawlessly. Take care of them, too. When ordering room service, gratuity is already added. Add more, because guess what?
You’re in a motherfucking Villa.
Beyond automatic service charges, tipping an additional $300-$500 per day is typical if you’re moderately living it up.
Just Accept Living Like Royalty
It takes a few days before a “normal” person can get accustomed to this lifestyle, but the faster one acclimates, the more fun they’ll have. Take advantage of all the intrusive services from the get-go. This is probably the most established butler team in Vegas—there’s nothing they haven’t seen and nothing that could embarrass you. Absolutely let them unpack your clothes, use the pressing services, and let them customize the hell out of your stay. Next time I’m going to ask that I arrive to a bucket of beers on ice awaiting me in a running steam shower.
My understanding is that the folks at Hard Rock are overwhelmed with what to do with this space and it’s the last area of the resort they plan to address. The current consensus is that The Villas are safe for the next five years. I asked for dibs on any art throughout the rooms and hallways if and when they go under renovation. Apparently, I’m not the first guest to make this request. This massive four by six foot elephant penetrating a lion will hang in my office one day.
My departure was less ceremonious than my arrival. On my last night as I lazed on the unicorn floaty, ruminating drunk and reflecting upon myself, I began to weep, not because the trip was nearing an end, but over fear of the monster I sensed I was becoming, the entitlement I’d grown accustomed to, and the guilt behind the gluttony. I’d been very fortunate, especially over the last few years, and was panicking over fears of losing touch with myself and the world.
For several weeks prior to the trip, I flirted with the idea of extending the birthday and heading out alone to Death Valley—the hottest, driest, and likely most inhospitable place on the planet—for a couple nights. This last evening’s ordeal settled that decision. No limo back to the airport for me; I’d be renting a car at The Mirage and heading into the most barren part of the Mojave.
I needed to come back down to Earth.
My Luxury Experience Host texted me in the morning to see if I needed a late check-out. I greedily asked for 3pm and scored it no problem (in most circumstances, they don’t overlap check-out days with check-in as it takes a staff of half a dozen an entire day to turn over a Villa). This gave me plenty of time to finish packing, grab the rental, and drive it to The Villas entrance to load everything up. I then met with a host on duty and having only given about a third of the time I typically do at the tables, asked what was possible. He looked at his computer for an extended moment, then looked at me slightly confused. I said, “I know. The room was nice and it kept me from the tables.” He responded, “Your bill is over $21,000. Do you even care if I’m only able to take off… $300?”
I laughed so hard. Hell yes I care!
I walked back to The Villas where the butlers were awaiting with a parting gift: an elegant, embossed leather toiletry bag. Inside it were the very full-sized Molton Brown bath products I so dearly missed.
I headed out to Death Valley and watched the sun set through humbling desert landscapes, felt infinitely insignificant as I observed millions of stars overhead, left fresh footsteps while watching the sun rise over desolate sand dunes…
…and returned to my 250 square foot hotel room where a black and red, unidentifiable species of insect was resting on my pillow.
Fuck coming down to Earth. Take me back to The Villas.