This spring I was telling my sister I needed to do something for my birthday. A trip. A concert. Vibes. She circled back weeks later noting that Usher just so happened to have a show the day after my birthday in Vegas! It did not take much to sell me. Just like that we were purchasing concert tickets and planning our trip for the Usher Residency in Vegas.
Where to Stay
If you are going to the Usher concert, be sure to stay at the Park MGM. If you have an MGM account or players card, check your account offers to see if they offered you a free night at the Park MGM. I took advantage of that and saved about $150 after a friend told me about the offer. Park MGM has a smaller casino, and a few restaurants. It’s biggest appeal is that it is connected to the Aria, one of Vegas best hotels in my humble opinion. You pay less than the Aria, have fewer frills in the hotel room, but still get to experience the Aria.
Silk Sonic also performed at Dolby Live when I visited last year. That trip I stayed at the Paris Hotel. That walk back after the concert was no fun. Save your feet and time, stay at the Park MGM.
Big Vegas fans are there for the pool parties, nightlife and casinos. Those do not really excite me at this age, however a trip to a good spa? Will always be a win for me. I waited till the last minute to book, and the only MGM property with a time that worked was Aria. How lucky was I? I didn’t even google to see who had the best spa and happened into the best one!
I went for a massage and didn’t even think about bringing my swimsuit. This is a true spa with saunas, salt rooms and pools. After booking a service, you have access to the spa for the rest of the day. If I did not have the concert that evening, I would have come back swimsuit in hand to enjoy. The service was great and the facilities were amazing!
Dinner and Drinks
I asked my IG followers for recommendations for Las Vegas. You all gave me tons! In addition to the buffets below, here are a few dinner stops I made during my weekend trip. The other two that I really considered were Catch and the Delilah. Both book up fast, so book those as soon as possible.
Listen! I am a faithful Bravo watcher who has been obsessed with Scandoval since March. Of course, I was going to visit Vanderpump Paris this go around. It happened to be the site of one of the pivotal scenes for this season! We reserved a table about an hour before they opened at 4pm. The space is beautiful and attracted a diverse crowd, well beyond the typical Bravo watcher which surprised me. We came for drinks and light apps. I had to get their version of the goat cheese balls (real ones know!) and the birthday cocktail which is served with a crown. I would not recommend stopping there for dinner, but the vibes and drinks are worth the stop!
Beauty & Essex
Located in the Cosmopolitan, Beauty & Essex is a speakeasy. Guests enter an actual guitar store then sneak through a side door into Beauty & Essex. This restaurant was lively with a large crowd. Here, we ate tapas style and enjoyed the cocktails. There were several great items but the beef tartare stands out to me.
If you have visited the other Toca Madera in Arizona or California, note that this menu is a bit different. Less Mexican food, more steakhouse. Now I will say it is still good, but Mexican food Toca is top notch! I ordered the queso fundido, salmon and a margarita. We also enjoyed a performance from a fire breather. It is also a beautiful restaurant that I think many of you will enjoy.
When I turned 21 in the early 2000s, Vegas was THE place to be. And one thing I remember fondly was the Vegas buffet culture. On my trip to Vegas last year, I looked to see if the Carnival Buffet at the Rio was still THAT girl because 10 years ago it was the must visit buffet! That place had lines that rivaled the lines at Disney World. So imagine my surprise when I learned that it actually closed, a victim of the pandemic.
As we all become hyper aware of germs in communal spaces, buffets became a no no. According to my research, about half of the Vegas buffets on the Strip closed following the pandemic. Many were replaced with food halls, which offer a similar benefit in that you can eat together while each deciding on a different cuisine. I get it, truly, but nostalgia still makes me say a visit to a Vegas buffet is a must. On my last visit we went to Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars. I loved it, but decided to do the Wynn this time just to mix it up. While the Wynn was not bad, it was nowhere near as good as Bacchanal so we had to go there the next day. Some of the articles noted that with the mass buffet closings, the value between the remaining few makes them more distinctive.
At the Wynn, you can enjoy a smaller buffet that is a cheaper price point and likely less overwhelming. The aesthetic is whimsical and pretty if that is your vibe. The items we had there were not bad, but also were not remarkable at all. After that, I needed them to experience the Bacchanal! I would recommend making reservations for both and going early to avoid the crowds. Bacchanal is double the size, and has so many more cuisine options and outdoes itself on the seafood section. There are SO many good options. If you have to pick one, I would definitely go with Bacchanal, but note that it costs about $20 more!
I felt like I was late to the party on seeing Usher and didn’t think people would have many questions. However, my Instagram DMs let me know that plenty of people still have yet to go and want all of the tips.
Some people are saying they waited until the day of and got their tickets much cheaper. We booked back in March not long after these dates were announced, so they were not resale. We opted for standing room seats in the pit so we could see everything! Money well spent. For the pit, you definitely need to wear flats because you stand for about 4 hours. For the assigned seats, you could do heels, but you are going to walk a distance to the Dolby Center even if you are staying at the Park MGM.
There are a variety of seats too, from the pit, tables on the stage, sections up front and regular concert seats. I sat further up to see Silk Sonic and felt like I could see so well. Essentially, get what you can afford and you will enjoy it. Usher moves throughout allowing everyone to get a good view at some point.
The tickets say the concert starts at 9pm and doors open at 8pm. Since we were in the general admission section we had to arrive early to secure our spot! The pit is situated between two stages, the main stage and the one in the middle of the arena. Usher spends most of his time on that smaller middle stage. On the advice of the stage hand, we situated ourselves in the middle of that stage. When he turned to the perform for the pit, he was always right in the middle by us! Totally worth it.
If you are going to eat before the concert, I would recommend during a dinner reservation for 6pm to give yourself enough time. I would also stick to restaurants in the Aria Hotel. It’s about a 15-20 minute walk over to Park MGM from Aria, but it’s indoors and much better than fighting through traffic on the strip. The Aria is home to hot spots like Toca Madera and Catch. Book early!
So insanely good! Usher in his 40s now and has not missed a beat. The vocals were excellent, the dancing is great and the concert is LONG (in a good way). His DJ is excellent and gets the crowd hyped before the show starts. They transition so well from the DJ to the concert and from there Usher performs for about two hours straight. He’s throwing it all the way back to You Make Me Wanna, giving you so many hits from Confessions, 8701 makes an appearance and newer songs like Good Kisser. Usher is on stage at about 9:30pm, but you would be whack to miss that pre-party. Be in your seat by 9pm to get ready for the show. There is also an after party that you will see on ticketmaster and promoted at the event. We had a 5am flight home so that was a no go for me.
This was such a fun birthday weekend filled with so many great experiences! I hope this information helps with planning your trip.