When I first moved to <span>Las Vegas , one of my chief pleasures was to sneak into hotel pools. It might have been eight years ago, it might have been a hundred — they both seem the same at this point. But I do recall that it took a bit of finesse. My usual method was to wait for a visiting-for-the-holidays relative, bachelor-partying friend or conventioneering acquaintance, and somehow wind up with one of their key cards, to be blithely waved at pool attendants at a later date. Especially when friends were staying at the Super 8 Motel or on my futon: Over breakfast and bloodys at the Peppermill, I would fan a handful of plastic and ask whether they’d prefer the afternoon’s dip-and-drink to take place at Caesars or the Mirage, maybe Paris….</span>
These days, infiltrating casino pool complexes is a bit more difficult, what with the magnetic strips and changing colors and all. At the same time, we’ve seen the rise of the pool club, playing to the human inclination to hang out in places that are nicer than the ones where we live (however temporarily). But while the idea of cocktail by the pool seems soothing, many are horrors of <span>fratboy/skank excess, where you’re lucky if you pay less than $15 a drink — which hopefully doesn’t have a rufie sidecar — and none of the douchebags in attendance pukes on you or accidentally breaks your nose while flailing at another douchebag.</span>
But fear not! There are still plenty of places in <span>Las Vegas to have a pool party that’s actually relaxing. Distance from the black heart of the Strip is probably part of the secret of the low-key vibe at the </span><strong>M</strong> (12300 <span>Las Vegas Blvd. South, 736-7611). The best part of the setting is probably the panoramic view of Mount Charleston, a range of russet rocks against blue sky with no shiny towers in the way. The pool itself is actually two pools laid out side-by side, with a walkway in between that cries out for runway struts and/or room-service (and has seen both). There’s plenty of cabanas, a stage and a tent-topped bar, which features cocktails of the sort that go down so well by the pool – mojitos, daiquiris, coconut rum drinks. But if you’re in for something simultaneously more exotic and apropos, how about an alcoholic popsicle? The cosmopolitan-flavored variety is OK, kind of berry-like, but the margarita’s lemony-lime is better in 100-plus degree weather and, yes, you can taste the tequila. Want further adventures with the boozy Good Humor man? They’ve also got adult ice cream in flavors like pink squirrel, brandy alexander and other retro cocktails.</span>
If you want the vintage vibe to suffuse more than your drink-desserts, consider the daily poolside happy hour at the <strong><span>LVH</span></strong> (3000 S. Paradise Road, 732-5648). There’s 2-for-1 drinks, shrimp cocktail and a DJ who takes requests. Located on the third floor, it’s just far enough from <span>Las Vegas Boulevard to give a view of the casinos and the mountains beyond the cabanas. There’s kids splashing in the pool, but there’s also space for grown-ups to paddle around, linger by the bar or relax on a lounge chair.</span>
Of course, the ultimate old-school pool party is probably the weekly ones at <strong><span>Binion’s</span></strong> (128 Fremont St., 382-1600). Sure, the pool is the size of Hugh Hefner’s hot tub, but it’s on the 24th floor. It’s probably the most chill place at Fremont Street on a Friday night. Recline on one of the <span>doublewide chairs and take in the glitter of the valley. Drinks are cheap to reasonable. The guests aren’t fancy, but neither are they pulling up their Ed Hardy T-shirts and undulating their beer bellies to the Motley Crue cover band like they are downstairs.</span>
And if you want to pool party-hop, you can always walk across the street to the H2O pool bar at the <strong>Golden Nugget</strong> (129 Fremont St., 385-7111). The complex still epitomizes Vegas-glam, with gaming tables staffed by <span>swimsuited dealers and a pool built around a shark tank. If the lounges and the hot tub are a bit too crowded with families and photo-snappers, slip up the staircase to the appropriately named Hideaway Bar. It’s a long, narrow space with a bar, wading pools and plenty of spots to lounge out; there’s even a flatscreen behind the bar to keep up on the ubiquitous game.</span>
It’s not quite as thrilling as the old days of sneaking in, but as long as my toes are in the pool and there’s a libation in my hand, I’ll be fine.