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Beyond the strip: Simple pleasures--the desert outdoors, soothing spas--on the fringe of Las Vegas.

There's no denying that Vegas's nonstop collection of renowned restaurants, phantasmic architecture, people-watching, and entertainment is a one-of-a-kind spectacle that has something for just about everyone. But there comes a point in every visit when the relentless clanging and chinging of the casinos begin to rattle and echo against the inside of the skull, and when the prospect of one more crowded ride on a people mover begins to feel more like a forced march than a vacation. It's no secret that, apart from the high-wire act at Cirque du Soleil, balance is in rather short supply in Las Vegas.

But there are alternatives, if you're willing to stay off the Strip. Two luxury resorts on the edge of town offer the opulence of the best Vegas hotels with the tranquility of a Southwest-style retreat. The Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas Resort, Spa and Casino, located on the fringes of Henderson southeast of the Strip, and the Regent Las Vegas in the community of Summerlin to the northwest show a departure from the Strip-centric development of recent years. Believe it or not, you won't even have to walk through a casino to get to your room.

Of course, the public may not be looking for the experience the resorts are offering. The Regent has struggled financially and was sold this fall. Hal Rothman, a professor of history at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and author of Neon Metropolis: How Las Vegas Started the 21st Century, observes: "People don't come to Las Vegas to hang out at a resort. They come here to play and play hard."

On the waterfront

That said, there's plenty of play at the resorts. The Hyatt at Lake Las Vegas is built around a purely recreational lake; its 10 miles of shoreline provide the setting for luxury residential and resort developments that are still being built. A Jack Nicklaus--designed golf course also sits along the lakeshore, with jagged desert mountains for a backdrop.

You won't find any pirate ships or a regularly scheduled volcano eruption, but guests can kayak or take out a paddleboat to explore the lake and its bays, some with new luxury homes, others thick with reeds and wildlife. The lake offers the kind of serenity all but impossible to get on the Strip.

With its earth-tone exterior and tile roof, the Hyatt, which commands an impressive site on the lake, manages to blend nicely into the setting. Inside, the decor is understated, with an airy lobby Lighting and furnishings are imported from Morocco but show none of the theme park--style excess of the Strip's new Aladdin Resort & Casino, which also features a North African motif. The Hyatt also has a spa, as well as its own casino--about the only reminder that you're anywhere near Vegas.

With no other hotels currently open along the 320 acre lake (ground has been broken for a Ritz-Carlton), dining choices at Lake Las Vegas are limited. You'll find casual dining in the Moroccan-inspired cafe Tajine, but don't miss Japengo, which has a Pacific Rim menu. It's a must for sushi lovers thanks to the creative ways of its sushi chef, Fujita Osamu. For that matter, it's awfully hard to pass up their Kobe beef fillet.

Subdued Summerlin

Located amid the explosive growth on Las Vegas's northwest side, the Regent doesn't have the isolated setting of Lake Las Vegas. But within its lushly landscaped grounds, there's definitely a resort feeling. Even with its casino, foot traffic is considerably less than what you would find at any Strip hotel.

The Regent's European decor is classy and understated. High-ceilinged rooms are more spacious than those' found in the typical Strip hotel, and they have sitting areas and marble baths complete with spa tubs. More exuberant is the restaurant design, such as at OXO, a steak and seafood restaurant, owned by chef Gustav Mauler, that announces itself with bold neon lighting. Mauler also operates the resort's Italian restaurant, Spiedini, which has a subdued decor accented by colorful glass art.

While you can take the resort out of Vegas, you can't fully take Vegas out of the resort. The Regent does have one eccentricity--an Irish pub, J.C. Wooloughan, plunked down in the middle of the desert. But in a land of make-believe, this is as close as you're likely to get to authentic; the pub actually came from Ireland-- it was taken apart, shipped here, and reconstructed.

What's nice about the Regent is that healthy, soulful indulgences are also available. You can work off your meals hiking the stunning desert canyon trails in nearby Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area or doing laps past the thundering waterfall in an 11,000-square-foot pool. There's also an expansive fitness center that is the antithesis of the laundry room-size workout facilities shoehorned into some hotels. The resort's spa, Aquae Sulis, features a series of therapeutic baths in a palatial setting.

So you hike for a while, then soak for a while. Get a treatment or two. And somehow, against all odds, Sin City becomes Zen City.

RELATED ARTICLE: Travel planner

* Lake Las Vegas

Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas Resort, Spa and Casino. About five minutes from Lake Mead in Henderson. You need to be a hotel guest to rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats or to fish for stocked largemouth bass and rainbow trout. 496 rooms from $99; ask about spa and golf packages. 101 MonteLago Blvd., off Lake Mead Blvd.; (800) 554-9288, (702) 567-1234, or

Spa Moulay. An assortment of Moroccan-inspired treatments, including desert stone massage, herbal wraps, and skin care using North African clays, is available for both guests and nonguests. Fees include use of a small fitness center and sauna. From $55 for a 30-minute treatment session. (702) 567-6049.

Japengo. Fine Pacific Rim dining overlooking the lake. (702) 567-1234.

* Summerlin

Regent Las Vegas. 541 rooms from $89. 221 N. Rampart Blvd., at Summerlin Pkwy; (877) 869-8777, (702) 869-7777, or

Aquae Sulis. A sumptuous 40,000-square-foot water-themed spa with bath therapies, mud baths, and a full range of massage treatments. Fitness center and spa access $15 for guests, $30 for nonguests. (702) 869-7807.

J.C. Wooloughan. Pub favorites from bangers and mash to Knappogue Castle single malt Irish whiskey. (702) 869-7725.

OXO. Delicious steaks and grilled foods in a spacious, dramatically designed room. Closed Sun. (702) 869-2335.

Spiedini. Grilled and spit-roasted meats as well as a good selection of pastas. (702) 869-8500.
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Author:Jaffe, Matthew
Geographic Code:1U8NV
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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