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As I prepared to board my flight out of JFK to Las Vegas, I felt conflicted and a little bit anxious. There was excitement because it has been nearly a year since I travelled last, and also hesitation—should I even be doing this during a pandemic? The airlines all claim that flying is safe, but will the events that I attend in Vegas follow the appropriate health and safety protocol? Am I making a huge mistake? Did I bring hand sanitizer?!

Despite the large crowds at the airport, my flight was not crowded, and I felt safe for the entirety of the commute. A sigh of relief. Walking into my hotel, the Bellagio, was like entering a Christmas wonderland. They spared no expense when creating a jaw-dropping display of florals and over-the-top Holiday props. The lobby was carefully designed to allow for social-distancing, and MGM implemented a Seven-Point Safety Plan to ensure their guests’ safety. Read more about the plan they’ve created to help keep their doors open here.

Las Vegas is the event capital of the country- perhaps the world. When shutdowns began back in March 2020, the hospitality-driven city was faced with unprecedented setbacks. Over the past year, industry leaders have pivoted their operations to stay open safely. My team and I set out to see the magic and creativity for ourselves.

But first, we ice skate. Each winter, The Cosmopolitan hotel transforms their Boulevard Pool into an ice rink wonderland, suspended high above the Last Vegas Strip. I was especially excited for this, as not only I was able to glide across 4,200 sq ft of ice with breathtaking views, but my colleagues and I were able to roast s’mores, watch a Holiday flick on their gigantic monitor, and enjoy an impressive selection of seasonal foods and beverages. Visitors were required to wear masks at all times, except when actively eating or drinking. Throughout our stay, social-distancing, limited capacity, and other safety guidelines were strictly enforced. No more than 60 guests were allowed on the ice rink at a time, which gave us all plenty of room to show off our skating skills (or in my case, the lack, thereof).

Next on the list was a visit to AREA15, an experiential retail and entertainment complex located just west of the Las Vegas strip. After several Covid-19-related delays, they were finally able to open in September 2020. One event we attended was ‘Winter 360: The Dream Before,’ an immersive sound and light experience inside their projection-mapped space. We were dazzled by the display and transported to a euphoric, multi-colored world. It was captivating enough to make us temporarily forget about the dumpster fire year that was 2020.

Just a few doors down was The Neon Museum, a non-profit that dedicates all proceeds to collecting, restoring, studying, preserving, and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs. The historic relics date back to the 1930’s and attract tourists from around the world. The outdoor exhibition space known as the ‘Neon Boneyard’ displays signs from the iconic former ‘La Concha’ Motel lobby and giants such as the ‘Moulin Rouge’ sign (we won’t give any spoilers- so you’ll have to visit for yourself or visit their new 360 Virtual Tour to hear more about the famous hotel’s short but impactful life). Taking advantage of the open-air space, the Neon Museum is currently offering small weddings, special events, photoshoots, and educational programs. As a lover of both history and events, this stop on our tour was quite the treat.

Our final destination was the CIRCA Resort and Casino located on historic downtown Fremont Street. This adults-only 1.25 million-square-foot (yeah you heard that right—million) casino is the first resort-casino built from the ground up in four decades. Everything about this place was larger than life. We took a swim in their rooftop pool- the country’s largest destination pool experience for sports fans that is open 365 days a year. Did I mention that there is a 14-million- pixel screen to watch while you swim? Oh, there’s also two swim-up bars and 30 cabanas (heated in the winter), if you’re looking for some privacy. We were drooling thinking about the incredible large-scale events that can be held here one day. As a venue that opened in the midst of a pandemic, their enormous size has worked in their favor. There was no shortage of room for social distancing. Circa had all of the Old-school Las Vegas charm and hospitality, while introducing high-tech features and cutting-edge amenities. This place had me feeling like a high roller.

As my trip came to an end, I felt grateful for the opportunity to experience all of these incredible venues. Seeing the innovation and creativity at each location gave me hope for the future of hospitality and events. Not only did my colleagues and I have a blast, but we also agreed that at each venue, our safety was a top priority to the hosts. What’s next for the event industry? Stay tuned for more in person stories as we travel through 2021.