Casino hotels dominate the Las Vegas skyline and inside they are just as jaw-dropping, with theatres, clubs, art, restaurants, malls and even the odd gondola ride. So, I will present you the top 10 casino hotels in Las Vegas, real luxury hotels.
Off the Strip by several miles and closer to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Red Rock Casino Resort is a property of Station Casinos, which made its mark in Vegas by appealing to those who actually live there. But Red Rock is as fancy and decadent as any on the Strip, with a masculine design of crimson and burnt orange and a chain of more than 3.1m Swarovski and Preciosa crystals (measuring 99 miles) hanging throughout the resort. During the summer, Red Rock opened a 7,000-seat outdoor amphitheatre, and its pool concert series is one of the most popular of its kind in the city.
A 5 star casino hotel in Las Vegas, Aria is where you play it big in Vegas. There are 4,004 guest rooms, and that doesn’t count the theatre where Elvis still lives, in the Cirque du Soleil production Viva Elvis. The vast, dark-wood-designed hotel and casino is filled with water features, including fountains that greet guests at the porte-cochère. Public art is heavily featured: guests at reception are met with artist Maya Lin’s Silver River sculpture. Aria is home to more than 16 restaurants, including those operated by star chefs Michael Mina (American Fish) and Masayoshi Takayama (Bar Masa and Shaboo).
One of the big “wow” events in recent Vegas history was the opening of Bellagio, which ushered in the era of the “mega-resort” in October 1998. The splashy Fountains at Bellagio water show at the front of the hotel, envisioned by hotel founder Steve Wynn, continues to halt traffic on the Strip. Inside, the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens change with the seasons. Looming at the registration desk is a glass sculpture designed by the artist Dale Chihuly. The resort is home to the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, also a Wynn vision. In the 40-table poker room hangs a painting by LeRoy Neiman, titled simply (and appropriately) The Game.
Encore opened as a twin to the equally giant Wynn in late-2008, and the two properties represent Steve Wynn’s greatest hits: fantastic restaurants, an interior design of canopies and coffered ceilings that bring to mind the effects of Bellagio. Upon opening, the resort threw a stack of cash and the use of a private jet to country music superstar Garth Brooks, booking his one-man show in the theatre next to Le Rêve. Appropriately, those shows meet in the middle of these hotels. For outdoor entertainment, try the Encore Beach Club, which sits nearly atop the Strip and is one of the finest pool clubs in town.
Gondoliers steer you through the Venetian, welcoming guests to the waterway that cuts through a replica of St Mark’s Square. Strolling performers sing operatic tunes, and it is all played out in a winding, pedestrian retail centre known as the Grand Canal Shops. The Venetian opened in May 1999, followed in 2007 by the Palazzo next door. Some of the city’s great shows and restaurants are here: Jersey Boys, Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular and the Blue Man Group. Lagasse’s Stadium at Palazzo is one of the city’s finest sports books, the only place in the city where you can find a man watching sport in the jersey of his favourite team, shouting at a big screen and devouring a banana creme pie dessert conceived by Lagasse himself.
Caesars opened in 1966, has been known as one of the last standing haunts of the Rat Pack, the site of some of the greatest prizefights in history, and the spot where daredevil Evel Knievel went tea-over-teakettle in a 1967 motorcycle leap. These days, the stars are Celine Dion, Elton John and Rod Stewart. All take the stage at various times at the 4,100-seat Colosseum. Another popular show is Absinthe, held in a big white tent in the hotel’s Roman Plaza, near its entrance. One of the city’s first Strip retail centres, the Forum Shops, remains an ideal place to fling your credit card or put that blackjack hot streak to good use.
If the Mirage launched the mega-resort era in Vegas, the Cosmopolitan seems to be its bookend. Built next to CityCenter, the resort stacks 2,995 rooms – the majority of which offer terraces and views of the Strip. Tucked into the Marquee nightclub, a three-storey party space, is an enclave known as the Library, where guests shoot pool and read Vegas-centric books, The signature gathering spot is the Chandelier bar, a bedazzled, multi-decked haven of hobnobbing. A pizzeria called, simply, Pizzeria, sits down an unmarked hallway, giving the impression you sort of have to know somebody to find the place. The concert and party centre, Boulevard Pool, is positioned high above the Strip.
Perhaps the coolest floor in all of Vegas is the 23rd at the Mandarin Oriental, where the Mandarin Bar overlooks the Strip on one end and Pierre Gagnaire’s Twist looks out from the other. This is a non-gaming hotel, it has no grand theatre or any sort of resident production show or headliner. But it is one chic spot, with live jazz playing from the Mandarin Bar and visitors reclining in the lounge next to the reception. Yes, that is on the 23rd floor, too, a spot called the Sky Lobby. The hotel provides one of the great escapes in Las Vegas, a 27,000sqft spa with 17 treatment rooms.
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Laden with deeply coloured floor tiling in its valet entrance and a uniquely curious fragrance that hints at citrus, Mandalay Bay is a genuine mega-resort with 3,300 rooms, and filled with an array of entertainment venues. The 12,000-seat Mandalay Bay Events Center hosts boxing and mixed-martial arts events, the House of Blues features emerging and contemporary pop acts. Upstairs two venues provide terrific views of the Strip: the cozy, pop art-laden Foundation Room and MIX restaurant and nightclub. Shark Reef, the watery walking park filled with sharks and other exotic, aquatic creatures, is the quintessential fun-for-the-entire-family attraction.
The Mirage can often be overlooked these days, as more gargantuan resorts have sprouted since it’s breathtaking opening in 1989. Siegfried & Roy once performed here, and these days the Beatles (with the Cirque du Soleil production Love) and a master ventriloquist (theatre headliner Terry Fator) rule the entertainment scene. Inside, the casino floor is shrouded in tropical surroundings. Guests walk through a glass atrium that lets the sun shine in, hearing the soothing sounds of a waterfall over the action at the casino. Mirage has been upgraded to keep pace with its taller competition, and is still one of the city’s major players on the Strip.