Sarah Feldberg
Sarah Feldberg

There it is at No. 13 on the New York Times' "52 Places to go in 2019" list, sandwiched between Williamsburg, Va., and Salvador, Brazil: Las Vegas. 

"Sin City bets big on culture," the paper says by way of recommendation, illustrating its point with a picture of a hair-flipping Lady Gaga in an outfit best described as a futuristic Joan of Arc.

The Times nods to Gaga's recent residency debut at the Park MGM, where she's performing two entirely different productions, along with other big openings at the rebranded resort: upcoming shows from Aerosmith, a new restaurant from Los Angeles chef Roy Choi, a sprawling Eataly market. 

The Times name checks the Venetian's lineup of curated cocktail bars, rounded out in 2018 with the opening of Electra; the Wynn's continuing catalogue of culinary classes, which teach visitors to decorate cakes and make dumplings; and Downtown's Life Is Beautiful Festival (still going strong in its seventh year). 

The paper is right, of course. Las Vegas -- Sin City, if you must -- has bet big on culture, with headliner residencies up and down the Strip, new restaurants being imported and created and an expanded focus on art. But in its recommendation the Times actually sells the city short. There's so much more to Las Vegas's culture boom than fresh pasta and bread lessons.

On the culinary front, a burst of openings is continuing into 2019. Adjacent to the Park MGM, Daniel Humm and Will Guidara debuted NoMad Restaurant this fall, delivering a fine dining menu in a setting that matches its modern elegance. Mott 32 restaurant recently arrived at the Venetian from Hong Kong, serving Chinese fare in a high-design space; Italian icon Cipriani opened at the Wynn; and Cosmopolitan created the Block 16 Urban Food Hall with fast-casual outposts from national chefs like Andy Ricker. At the Palms, a spate of new restaurants are already cooking or on the way, including Vetri Cucina from chef Marc Vetri and the Michelin-starred dim sum spot Tim Ho Wan.

In fact, the Palms was absent from the Times write-up altogether, despite being in the midst of a $600-plus million renovation that has littered the resort with art from blue chip names and up-and-comers alike. Just this month, the Palms announced one of its largest acquisitions to date: Damien Hirst's 60-foot-tall bronze "Demon With Bowl" sculpture that will add an aesthetic twist to the resort's new pool. 

Art is infused throughout the Strip these days, from the Bellagio's dedicated Gallery of Art -- where an infinity room by Yayoi Kusama is on display through April 28 -- to the Wynn's evolving collection, which includes a collaborative neon piece by Virgil Abloh and Takashi Murakami at the Wynn Plaza installed last fall. 

One of the most anticipated happenings in 2019 is an art show heading to Downtown Las Vegas in October, where director, artist and animator Tim Burton will open his first fine art exhibition in years at the Neon Museum. Spread across the institution's indoor and outdoor venues, the show will feature large-scale, site-specific installations and previously displayed pieces that tell the story of Burton's artistic development. 

"When you think about it, Tim is one of the few artists who can match the great imagination of Las Vegas," Rob McCoy, president and CEO of the Neon Museum, said via press release. 

In a destination increasingly dedicated to culture, it's a destination-worthy cultural happening. It'd be a shame to miss it.

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