Six Sumptuous Casinos in Vegas that Will Take You To Another World
By sumptuous I mean that the décor is jaw dropping.
By Margie Pignataro © 2017 Gifts for Card Players
When I was a kid visiting Las Vegas in the eighties and nineties, the casinos were in the era of Theme decorating. The Hotels and Casinos were aesthetically focused upon a central theme or idea. Caesars is ancient Rome, Excalibur medieval England, Luxor ancient Egypt, etc. These casinos are fun and dazzling and even amazing, but they aren’t sumptuous.
The Sumptuous era began, I feel, with the Bellagio and reached its epitome with the Wynn. By sumptuous I mean that the décor is jaw dropping. What you see makes your mouth fall open because you can’t have imagined that a hotel/casino would have put so much investment into making something so beautiful. Sumptuous is more than luxury: it is a visceral experience.
This list is my favorite. I go to these casinos just to look at the walls and ceilings. I stare at the chairs poker players get to sit in. I walk through their indoor gardens and imagine I’ve been transported to Neverland.
Let’s allow the Bellagio to describe itself: “This sprawling high-end Strip casino resort is housed in an Italian-inspired, 36-story tower fronted by a man-made 8-acre lake featuring dancing fountains.” This description is, of course, modest. The “dancing fountains” is in actually a regularly scheduled, musically accompanied spectacle that involves dozens of fountains choreographed to be a ballet of water. This performance has already become a cultural icon representative of the best of Las Vegas—see the movie Ocean’s Eleven.
I wonder if the inside of the Bellagio can compete with the ridiculously breathtaking lake outside, but if it can do better, I have no idea how it could. Inside the Bellagio has a Conservatory and Botanical Garden. This also sounds like a modest description. Their designers and gardeners create seasonal displays. The result is hundreds of tourists stopped dead as they stare and desperately attempt to capture what they’re seeing. The Bellagio has a live view of their conservatory which can be found here
Unfortunately, it is a poor example of the experience. You can only get the slightest idea of what it’s like to walk among towering figures constructed of flowers, in a surreal, fairy-tale environment.
I have spent many, many hours wandering around the Venetian. My husband has played several poker tournaments there (it’s a major center of poker in Vegas), and I’ve always decided to stay in the casino and wait for him to finish. Much of my wandering consists of circling the massive, Renaissance style hotel and staring at the walls and ceilings (sometimes painted like the Sistine Chapel, sometimes realistically appearing to be a pleasant cloudy blue sky), at the canals (which begin on the second level), and listening to the gondoliers sing opera as they slowly guide their gondolas through the bizarrely vibrantly blue water. I’ve sat in their version of St. Mark’s Square and watched “Living Statues” stand perfectly still in period costume while children leave tips at their feet. I’ve paid eight dollars for a cappuccino for the privilege of sitting in a cafe near a fountain several stories tall and falling with perfect verticiality. And, yes, the cappuccino was worth it.
It is also my favorite hotel. Each room is a suite, and very reasonably priced for what you get. When we stayed there, the room was split level, large sofa and chairs, and three televisions (one in the bathroom). Photos of the place don’t do it justice, but at least they prove I’m not making this up: https://www.venetian.com/home.html.
The Aria is my husband’s favorite of the casinos: it’s ultra modern and unabashedly luxurious. It is also the center of poker in Las Vegas, with a high stakes poker room named after one of the world’s best poker players, Phil Ivey.
The towers of Aria are beautifully curved, lithe structures, covered with glass and standing on the strip like a group of supermodels thrusting out their hips. At first glance, they resemble a corporate skyrises, and perhaps that’s partly the intention. Nothing like that exists on the Strip, and Aria’s corporate feel screams and pants Money.
The Aria website doesn’t include images of its lobby, but a simple Google image search will find a few. I don’t know why the Aria wouldn’t want to humble-brag about the enormous, multicolored glass butterflies suspended mid flight over entering hotel guests. When I was there, their lobby garden had a horse with a hat on it beside an enormous apple (image attached). I felt like I was simultaneously in an episode of Land of the Lost directed by Rene Magritte.
The Wynn understands sumptuousness on a deep level. The hotel/casino models itself subtly after the south of France and Monaco. This isn’t a theme hotel, but a hotel which is designed around letting in air, light, and luxuriating in the outdoors. The Wynn is composed of two tall, curved bronze towers which look as if they’ve been tanning in the Vegas sun since their inception.
The front of the hotel has a lagoon, trees, a waterfall, and vast expanses of grass and flowers. The large interior garden has lighted trees and large colorful ornaments hanging like bloated fruit. There is a flower decorated French balloon at one end and at another a life-size working carousel—no guests allowed, though. Everything seems too big and too real to photograph adequately.
The colors of the interior of the casino are stunning, aided by the sunlight which seems to ooze through the pores of the rooms. Even the floors have intricate artwork, influenced no doubt by the Ancient Romans and Pompeian villas.
There is always some piece of décor to look at which is dazzling and unexpected. The casino is big, roomy, and seems never to be clouded with cigarette smoke. This is a different kind of Vegas experience and one I highly recommend to anyone going for the first time.
Luxor Las Vegas
This hotel is named after the city of Luxor (ancient Thebes) in Egypt. Luxor is the fifth-largest hotel in Las Vegas and the ninth-largest in the world. 4,407 rooms, including 442 suites, lining the interior walls of a pyramid-shaped tower and within more recent twin 22-story ziggurat towers. When the resort opened, it featured the Nile River Tour which was a river ride that carried guests to different parts of the pyramid and passed by pieces of ancient artwork on a river that encircled the casino. The casino also featured King Tut’s Tomb and Museum, a duplicate of King Tutankhamen’s tomb as found in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor, Egypt. Today the casino, after extensive renovations, much of the ancient Egypt theme was removed, but the hotel still features a massive pyramid and the Great Sphinx of Giza and the Luxor Sky Beam as its entrance.
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