How Will Changes at Mandalay Bay Affect Attendees at JCK Las Vegas?

Mandalay Bay’s revamped dining and nightlife scene is so good that while you can check out anytime you like, you may never want to leave

Just when you thought you knew the lay of the land at Mandalay Bay, think again. A long list of changes will be implemented at the luxury resort before the next edition of JCK Las Vegas, marking the most significant lineup of improvements and investments introduced to the destination in a decade. All of which means big-time room renovations, imaginative dining venues, and a slew of groundbreaking entertainment possibilities. When you arrive, you might not recognize the place, but it’s safe to say you’ll be more than pleased.

New Year, New Seasons

Courtesy of MGM Resorts
The Four Seasons is coming off a top-to-bottom renovation that includes rooms and a new lobby bar.

Chuck Bowling, president and COO of Mandalay Bay, calls the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas the “jewel in the crown” of the sprawling property. That description goes a long way toward explaining its popularity with JCK attendees. But the luxe hotel hadn’t been renovated since it opened in 1999, he says. That all changed at the end of January, when every one of the 424 rooms at the Four Seasons, located on floors 35 through 39 of the Mandalay Bay Tower, was redecorated with an Art Deco–influenced aesthetic. Expect chic, relaxed interiors accented with mirrored and chrome surfaces. Bowling excitedly reveals that the hotel will have a “great new lobby bar experience, which didn’t exist in the past.” By the time work is complete on the space, just in time for the JCK show May 31–June 3, there will be indoor-outdoor areas to entertain clients, as well as all-day refreshments, from pastry and espresso in the morning to wine, cocktails, and specialty beers in the evening.

Chat and Chew

Courtesy of MGM Resorts
A Four Seasons room with a view—of the Deco-inspired interiors that will greet guests this spring.

It’s a universally accepted truth that show business continues long after the exhibition floor shuts down. The grueling work of entertaining or—better still—being entertained extends well into mealtime. Three updated restaurants are redefining the Mandalay Bay dining experience, along with existing gourmet destinations from chefs Michael Mina (StripSteak), Charlie Palmer (Aureole), and Alain Ducasse (miX).

Citizens Kitchen & Bar has replaced the restaurant formerly known as Red, White & Blue. The newcomer serves classic comfort food (think bread ­pudding, banana pancakes, and baby back ribs) devised by Brian Massie, executive chef at The Light Group. Open breakfast through dinner, the expansive dining room looks like a vintage-inspired canteen.

Courtesy of MGM Resorts
Find classic comfort food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Mandalay’s new Citizens Kitchen & Bar.

While not technically brand new, Red Square will still feel that way. The Russian-themed bar-slash-restaurant adjacent to Citizens Kitchen & Bar has an overhauled menu featuring contemporary interpretations of dishes like beef Stroganoff and chicken Kiev and a refreshed interior. Fans of the kitschy-cool bar composed entirely of ice will be comforted to know it remained unscathed in the transition. Sidle up and order a themed vodka flight like Made in the USA, a tasting of four American vodkas.

Meanwhile, the bar at Wolfgang Puck’s Lupo is getting a major makeover, with new lighting, bar stools, and artwork. And the restaurant itself—a Roman-inspired trattoria with an exhibition kitchen—will have a new pizza, sandwich, and light appetizer counter to create additional seating for dinner and late-night dining.

After Hours

Courtesy of MGM Resorts
The hotel’s new LIGHT nightclub will feature Cirque du Soleil performers swooping up and around.

Mandalay Bay’s extracurricular options will improve this year, too. Exhibit A: The hotly anticipated arrival of a permanent Cirque du Soleil production that celebrates the music of Michael Jackson. Details about the project are tightly guarded—at press time, Cirque had revealed little more than the title (Michael Jackson ONE), start date (May 23), and running time (a Vegas-friendly 90 minutes)—but Mandalay’s Bowling refers to it as the “A-act” the property has been seeking. Cirque du Soleil’s frequently sold-out Las Vegas track record—there are currently seven productions running in the city—means purchasing tickets before getting to the Strip is a must.

There’s more than one way to capture the latest Cirque du Soleil experience. The high-flying troupe is entering the nightlife business for the first time with the new club LIGHT, created in collaboration with hospitality brand The Light Group. Scheduled to open its doors in April, guests should expect an environment that inundates the senses, with performers strategically placed throughout, including suspended from overhead rigging. Light Group vice president of public relations Casey Brennan touts “high-tech video mapping and LED lighting systems” designed to make the space infinitely flexible. “One moment it can look like it’s underwater and the next like outer space,” Brennan says.

The Mandalay Bay venue has booked an impressive roster of resident DJ talent for its inaugural season. International superstars Skrillex, Sebastian Ingrosso, Zedd, and Baauer are among the hard-to-pronounce but very of-the-moment talent that will cycle through the mega-club, which measures 38,000 square feet and is reputed to have the largest dance floor and general admission area in Vegas.

The city’s habitués know better than anyone that any ill effects from a late night are best remedied poolside. Daylight, Mandalay Bay’s new adult pool, began construction in January and finishing touches should be in place just in time for JCK’s arrival.

The sum total of refinements will offer JCK attendees their most varied and welcoming experience yet, all under the same roof as the show. Mandalay’s Bowling makes it crystal clear: The property’s mission is “to focus on being a real, true destination resort where everything is at your fingertips.”