Visitors come to Las Vegas to vacation and play—or to attend a meeting or convention. No matter what brings you to Las Vegas, here are the top five hotels we think you must see, even if you don’t stay there.
The Venetian draws its theme from the plazas, architecture, and canals of Venice, Italy. Visiting The Venetian is like taking a trip back to the artistic, architectural, and commercial center of the world in the 16th century.
You cross a 585,000-gallon canal on the steep-pitched Rialto Bridge, shadowed by the Campanile Bell Tower, to enter the Doge’s Palace. Inside, reproductions of famous frescoes, framed by 24-karat-gold molding, adorn the 65-foot domed ceiling at the casino entrance. The geometric design of the flat-marble lobby floor provides an M. C. Escher–like optical illusion that gives the sensation of climbing stairs—a unique touch. Behind the front desk is a large illustrated map of the island city, complete with buildings, landmarks, gondolas, and ships. Characters in period costumes from the 12th to 17th centuries roam the public areas, singing opera, performing mime, and jesting.
Make sure to visit the Grand Canal Shoppes with more than 60 stores, mostly small boutiques. The centerpiece of the mall is the quarter-mile Grand Canal itself, enclosed by brick walls and wrought-iron fencing and cobbled with small change. Gondolas ply the waterway, steered and powered by gondoliers who serenade their passengers. Passing beneath arched bridges, the canal ends at a colossal reproduction of St. Mark’s Square.
The Bellagio is inspired by an Italian village overlooking Lake Como in the sub-Alpine north of Italy. Architecturally, Bellagio’s most creative and interesting spaces are found in its signature conservatory and botanical gardens and in its restaurants. At the botanical gardens, opulent and oversize displays change seasonally according to the theatrical floral whimsies of the supremely accomplished botanical staff.
Art is everywhere, even on the ceiling of the registration lobby, where a vibrant, colorful blown-glass piece by Dale Chihuly hangs. Wonderful works are showcased in the Bellagio’s restaurants. Original Picassos, for example, are on exhibit in the restaurant of the same name. The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art is touted as Las Vegas’s premier art gallery. Make sure to see the show of the dancing fountains outside of the hotel.
An exercise in whimsical fantasy and excess, Caesars’ Roman theme has been executed with astounding artistry and attention to detail. Everywhere fine mosaics, handsome statuary, mythological references, and famous sculptures delight the eye and mind. Creating an atmosphere of informality in surroundings too pretentious to believe is hard to pull off, but that is exactly what Caesars Palace has done.
The Luxor is a huge pyramid with guest rooms situated around the outside perimeter from base to apex. Guest-room hallways circumscribe a hollow core containing the world’s largest atrium. The Luxor’s main entrance is from the Strip via a massive sphinx. From the sphinx, guests are diverted into small entryways designed to resemble the interior passages of an actual pyramid. From these tunnels, guests emerge into the dramatic openness of the Luxor’s towering atrium.
New York-New York
When it opened in 1997, this architecturally imaginative hotel-casino set a new standard for the realization of Las Vegas megaresort themes. Guest rooms are in a series of distinct towers reminiscent of a mini–Big Apple skyline, including the Empire State, Chrysler, and Seagram Buildings. Though the buildings are connected, each offers a different decor and ambience.
A half-size Statue of Liberty and a replica of Grand Central Station lead visitors to one entrance, while the Brooklyn Bridge leads to another.
The interior of the property is broken into themed areas, such as Greenwich Village, Wall Street, and Times Square. The street scenes are well executed, conveying both a sense of urban style and tough grittiness.