THE GETAWAY GALS: Lake Las Vegas Edition
–By Stacey Gualandi and JJ Snyder
This feature goes out to all the ladies in the house:
The struggle is real.
With work responsibilities, household chores and family obligations, we women rarely make time to relax. We start each week with good intentions but make excuses for why we’re way too busy to slow down, sit back and literally smell the rosé.
As host of the Las Vegas talk show The Morning Blend, Deluxe Version Magazine contributor JJ Snyder admits that while she’s with people all day, she almost never spends time with friends outside of work. (“Why do that when I can jump on an unending hamster wheel of dirty dishes, laundry and dog walks?” she jokes.)
Sound familiar? Recently, JJ brought up the matter with her gal pal Stacey Gualandi who confirmed Snyder is not alone. As a Las Vegas-based freelance entertainment journalist, podcaster, television producer, and DVM contributing editor, Stacey’s own desperation for downtime stems from her deadline-driven work schedule that seemingly controls her rather than being the other way around.
In an attempt to carve out some personal QT, our two DVM media mavens hatched a brilliant plan: prove they’re capable of taking a time out. And what better place than in their own backyard…the self-named Hospitality Capital of the World.
New to the concept of “staycations,” it didn’t take long for JJ and Stacey to agree on a place that was a stone’s throw from home yet luxey enough to feel like a getaway. At a mere 20 miles from the Strip—nestled on a Tuscan-inspired village by Lake Las Vegas yet worlds from an ordinary Sin City experience—the Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa was the Getaway Gals’ first destination. Husbands Bill and Marty held down the family forts as the gals set out for 24 hours of spa, golf and late-night girl gossip.
(After all, 42 million annual visitors can’t be wrong about where to slow their roll.)
—Jen Chase, DVM Managing Editor
The Food and Drink
JJ: The night we arrived, Lake Las Vegas (LLV) hosted a Culinary Feast, a big outdoor food and wine event held at Reflection Bay Golf Club, and we were invited!
LLV holds outdoor events like these at Reflection Bay several times a year, and hundreds of locals come out for small bites and cocktails al fresco. Socializing is easy, as you are rubbing shoulders and making friends at every station. We enjoyed samples from some of the finest kitchens in town. Among my favorites: the Ahi tacos from Beauty & Essex and Tao’s Bao dumplings.
Stacey’s ability to have fun while doing just about anything is contagious. For instance, no matter the time of day, when someone offers her a cocktail, her answer is frequently, “Why not?” and I admire her for that. It’s fair to say we both enjoyed our share of cocktails. But there comes a point when you physically can’t eat another roast beef slider…so after a failed attempt at sand kayaking, we checked into our rooms at the Hilton, one of two world-class resorts to visit in Lake Las Vegas (the other is Westin). Onward….
Stacey: JJ is correct: Rarely have I met a drink offer I didn’t accept. My experience also tells me that you must have plenty of prosecco to wash down all the food that a feast like the one we went to that night provides…and boy did I indulge. (Hey, I’m on a getaway! No judgement!)
Featuring 16 chefs, this event was one-stop shopping for tasting the town, all under one roof, and it was the perfect start to our getaway. I, too, thoroughly enjoyed the tacos and dumplings, but I gotta say, Hell’s Kitchen winner and chef Scott Commings had me at bananas foster….
Since we hadn’t checked in yet, we had to eat, (drink) and run, but not before the aforementioned attempt at sand kayaking. Lucky for me, I seem to have found a kindred spirit in JJ: a woman who isn’t afraid to get her feet wet … or in this case, sandy. Sure, we may not get out much, but she is definitely my new sightseer-in-crime!
At check-in, waiting in our luxurious rooms, were strawberries; a note from the staff; aaaaaand…more prosecco! We were feeling the Hilton hospitality love.
JJ: When Stacey and I rolled our luggage into the lobby, my eyes went straight to the high ceiling and then to the view off the giant balcony. On the way to our rooms, we gave a shout-out to a lively group of people sitting at the lobby bar along with one very well-behaved Labradoodle. That’s when it hit me: We were officially on a staycation.
I was settling into my room, unpacking my bag, when suddenly there was a knock at my door. I opened it to find Stacey in her pajamas, declaring, “I lost my tennis shoe!” while holding a glass of bubbly and eating a chocolate-covered strawberry.
“I went to unpack my bag and apparently I lost it, so the valet is helping me look for it,” she explained. (How she managed to change into her pajamas, lose a shoe and make it back and forth to the valet was beyond me. I hadn’t even finished unpacking.)
At that point, there was only one option: Find the shoe! So I put on my PJ’s and a sweatshirt and in true slumber-party spirit, we scoured the hotel.*
Stacey: After a late night of searching for missing shoes and watching TV way past my bedtime (an unwritten rite of hotel getaways), I forced myself to get up promptly and out the door by 8 a.m.
The pressure was on because JJ is an early riser, and I, sadly, am not (evidenced by her beating me to coffee by 90 minutes); but I had motivation. This was a big day for us: We had a tee time…my first in, like,15 years!
When JJ suggested we play golf at Reflection Bay’s award-winning, Jack Nicklaus championship golf course, I admit, I was afraid. Very afraid. My handicap is… me! But outfitted in our newly purchased Tory Sport golf getups (uh, duh!), we were ready for the runway fairway. We corralled a cart and some clubs, and we got some last-minute tips from head golf pro Brad Harmon before making our way to the front nine. Marshal Alan tried to prepare us on the first tee, but much to our horror, there was not one, but two bodies of water. And a bridge. Trees. Oh, and some cute ducks.
I had a great drive, right into those trees I just mentioned. JJ, too. While we looked cute fetching the balls, we took too long, so I remembered rule number one of golf etiquette: let waiting golfers play through.
By the third hole, I was finding my rhythm. Perhaps it was muscle memory, or more likely that Sauza shot I got from Reflection Bay’s bartender-on-wheels (I never turn down a drink…remember?), but we decided to play “best ball” and not keep score.
For a couple of hackers, our selfie game far exceeded our golf game, but I found the experience unexpectedly empowering. I realized I’ve still got a little swing in me, so it did wonders for my confidence. And, my wardrobe.
Reflection Bay’s General Manager Eric Dutt also shared some good news: The course will soon open a new golf academy. So after a few lessons, I’ll hit the links again and actually finish 18 holes. (Can you say more Tory Sport?)
JJ: It was the moment I had been waiting for the whole staycation: walking into Spa Ravella for a massage. There is no better way to turn the tables on a busy schedule than shutting off your smartphone, putting your hair in a pony and slipping into a steam room.
Stacey and I quickly shed our golf wear and put on matching robes. Then, we applied facial masks with one hand while clutching Champagne in the other. Stacey even delighted our fellow spa goers by wearing some authentic Dutch slippers she’d brought back from a recent trip to Europe. We spent a few minutes giggling about literally nothing in the outdoor courtyard as we awaited our appointments.
Point of interest: No matter how fancy the spa, I’ve learned that a great massage comes down to finding a talented therapist, and I found my perfect match in Takeisha. She led me down the hall to her room and asked, “How gentle do you like it because I tend to massage on the hard side?”
(“Score!” thought I. I’m all about firm pressure.)
For the next hour, I believe I visited heaven; but before nodding off and drooling, we chatted about her nearly 20 years as a therapist in Las Vegas. I instantly liked this woman. Years before, she’d traded in the hustle-and-bustle of working on the Strip for escaping each day to the desert bliss that is Lake Las Vegas. Apparently, there are plenty of Las Vegas locals who share in the secret as half of her clients live nearby.
Stacey: Two things I took away from my experience at the 30,000 square-foot Spa Ravella and Salon:
1) It feels like you’re being massaged in a gorgeous (and quiet!) Italian mansion with beautiful views.
2) My therapist, Terra, was right: I need to be getting massages more frequently. I had more knots than an eagle scout convention. (Ba dump-bump).
Actually, there is a third thing: Make sure to eat before you go. JJ and I were staarrrrrving when we arrived—I mean, come on, we just played five… er 18 holes! But no fear, the spa team was on it and got us salads and fruit so you couldn’t hear our stomachs growling over the drooling. Same time next month, Terra?
As a wise (and probably just little bit sad) woman once said, all good getaways must come to an end. But like so many staycation warriors before them, DVM’s JJ and Stacey have decided to escape their routines more frequently to decompress and report on it. So for all you over-worked ladies reading and the men and women who love you…our Getaway Gals dare you to do the same. If only for 24 hours, it’s well worth it.
(*) Editorial Note: Cinderella’s tennis shoe was under her hotel room bed the whole time.