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If you’re making the trek from California on I-15, The M Resort is your first indication that you’re about to enter Sin City proper, but your last chance if you want the Las Vegas experience without being inundated with the Vegas experience. About 10 miles to the south of Mandalay Bay, M Resort has the luxury, sophistication, and swank design that are hallmarks of many of today’s Vegas properties; but with much better value, a low-key clientele of locals, and less sensory overload.

Built by the Marnell family (the “M” in M Resort), who are also responsible for such iconic hotels as The Mirage and Caesars Palace, the hotel’s casino relies on its natural surroundings to accent its beauty. Skylights above the casino floor allow abundant light in, so there’s no casino-cave feeling; decor is in natural materials such as wood, crystal, stone, and mother-of-pearl.

In each of the nearly 400 rooms, dark wood paneling combined with ample natural light make everything seem airy, and the contemporary touches abound. Foreign travelers will be familiar with inserting the key in the holder next to the door to power the room up; remove it and everything shuts down. Windows from the bedroom into the bathroom might make you feel exposed, but once you’re soaking in the tub, with a killer view of the desert, you won’t even notice (and no, no one can see you from outside the hotel).

Some 30,000 square feet of the hotel is kitchen space devoted to food and beverage, including Anthony’s Prime Steak and Seafood (named for M Resort president Anthony Marnell), and the gourmet Burgers and Brews, as well as the hugely popular Studio B Buffet, which puts out a legendary seafood spread on weekends.

Oenophiles can spend time in the property’s own wine cellar, or catch some rays on the glorious pool deck, where most of the restaurants also have patio seating. On weekends, Daydream Pool is a DJ-driven pool party where locals who have worked hard all week take some leisure time without having to deal with over-zealous partiers from the Strip.

It might be a good hike from the Strip, but the vibe and value make this a serious contender for a relaxing getaway.