Let’s rendezvous!

Jun 17, 2003 3:19 AM

Las Vegas is a great party town, with its shows, nightclubs and casinos churning away every night, seven days a week. But there’s also a more intimate side of Las Vegas, one in which star-crossed lovers can escape and find romance, far from the madding crowds.

Cozy cocktail lounges, off-the-beaten-path pubs and rooftop taverns are the bill of fare for couples seeking romance. Here’s a quick tour to get the juices (gulp!) flowing.

A Las Vegas classic, the venerable Fireside Lounge in the Peppermill on Las Vegas Boulevard across from the Stardust, seems to be caught in a time warp. Waitresses in long evening gowns are straight from the 1970s, yet they’re a refreshing change from the hot-pants servers found at nearby casinos. And the candlelit tables and fireplace surrounded by plush sofas create the feeling of a living room cocktail party.

Another blast from the past is the Dispensary Lounge in the Ocotillo Plaza on East Tropicana. The room is dark and dated with a retro decor accented by a churning water wheel, wood fixtures and background music that seldom includes a song made after 1980.

For the flavor of a genuine British pub, as opposed to the franchise variety, check out the Crown & Anchor on East Tropicana. True to its roots, it has a warm neighborhood feel enhanced by dark wood furnishings, wooden staircases to the two lofts, and masts, rigging, nets and other nautical artifacts throughout. There’s even a buxom blonde figurehead over the bar, which serves up nearly three dozen draught beers, ales and stouts including among others Bass, abbot Ale, Whitbread, Woodpecker and John Courage. The best spot for couples is the loft with parquet-top tables and brocade-back chairs ”” a quaint setting beneath the tulip ceiling fans, peaked ceiling and skylight.

Moving into the 21st century, Little Buddha at the Palms is reminiscent of its Paris, France namesake, and features soft lighting, and soothing Asian decor and accents. The entry features floor-to-ceiling statues of Buddha, and the main room is highlighted by two 10-foot tall statues. The decor is warm with mahogany furnishings and Asian art. For a quieter experience, try the backroom and, weather permitting, there’s seating poolside.

When you get the spirit, take the Palms’ elevator to the 55th floor and the Ghostbar. Because of its glass walls, you’ll have the feeling of floating over the city of Las Vegas. Although it’s a breathtaking view, it’s still Âí­eerie because of the neon goblins that hover over room. The decor is dark and of the minimalist Hollywood, but what better place to lounge than a silver sofa?

For something more traditional, Jack’s Velvet Lounge at The Venetian is reminiscent of the old Sands’ Copa Room with its overstuffed red love seats, candlelit tables, high ceiling, wood accents and long white curtains. If the weather’s warm enough, you can enjoy a beverage on the patio, which has a front row view of the Mirage’s erupting volcano across the street.

It may not be the most romantic spot in town (depending upon your taste), but it’s certainly the most intriguing. The Horse-A-Round Bar at Circus Circus was immortalized in Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and if you visit it you’ll see why. Never mind the trapeze artists overhead, you actually sit in a slow-moving version of a carousel while sipping your drink. Whether your experience is sublime or ridiculous, it’s Las Vegas kitsch at its best.

One of Las Vegas’ best-kept secrets is appropriately named Hush, formerly the Polo Lounge at the Polo Towers. This tiny hideaway, which has found favor with visiting celebrities, boasts cheap but reliable drinks and a mostly unhip clientele. There’s also a magnificent view of Bellagio’s dancing fountains minus the Sinatra and Pavorati music. Still, it’s the perfect place to escape the crowds.