Published: August 17th 2012 September 27th 2011 Bellagio Lobby
The incredible lobby of the Bellagio
Today was another long day in Las Vegas.
This city may be the most (over) stimulating place on earth.
It contains unbelievable amounts of lights, gaudy architecture, and things to experience at every turn.
All of them, of course, require money.
This may be the best city in the world for people with cash in their pocket, and one of the worst once it runs out.
I’m very thankful I had to develop spending discipline during the previous parts of the trip, because here it is pressed to the limit.
A little unbelievably, I’ve managed to stay on budget.
This morning, I encountered another of Las Vegas’ rip offs.
I’ve survived on this trip by periodically getting cash when I run low.
A casino would seem like a place that would encourage this activity.
Instead, the ATMs at the Venetian charge an
unavoidable service fee
, which is DOUBLE what I’ve seen anywhere else.
The casino is charging me money to get my own money that I will hopefully give right back to them!
Talking to the hotel concierge about this, it’s a pretty standard practice
The topiary filled indoor garden at the Bellagio
along the strip that even the actual banks indulge in.
What a rip off!
I left without my cash.
I first planned to see the
A showy piano player and lounge singer, he was the king of Las Vegas acts for decades.
He did more than anyone except Elvis to create the Las Vegas style.
Sadly, he died of AIDS in 1987.
I finally found the museum in an outer neighborhood, and it has closed.
I didn’t check the website ahead of time because the resort fee at my hotel doesn’t include something as useful as wifi; that costs extra.
The one good thing about driving out here is that I was able to find a bank branch with a normal ATM.
I saw the
The casino was built by Steve Winn in 1998 to be the most luxurious in the world.
Las Vegas is not Monaco, so he ended up with merely the most luxurious casino in the United States.
The place is certainly stunning, although a resort this huge can’t really be exclusive.
It was featured
Display symbolizing fall at the Bellagio Conservancy
in the remake of
'The first thing people see is a vast lobby, done in yellow and white, with a marble mosaic floor.
The central portion of the ceiling is absolutely covered in David Chihuly’s glass flower sculptures (see July 31
That leads into a glass covered courtyard filled with topiary animals and trees, the
The casino branches off from there.
Most of the tables have high limits.
In the late 1990s, Las Vegas casinos went through a brief period of trying to be high brow destinations.
Many built interesting museums.
Steve Winn, who owns an incredible collection of modern art, added a gallery to the Bellagio to show it off.
Most of the other casino museums have closed at this point, but the
It now shows rotating exhibits from art museums around the United States.
When Steve Winn sold the resort, he took most of his art collection with him.
I’m a little bitter about the show I saw, A Sense of Place, because it’s from the
Museum of Fine Art
The Stratosphere, shot while waiting for a light. I love a convertible :)
The bulk of the show was modern art paintings that I’ve never seen at home.
The theme was the evolution of landscape painting.
One of Claude Monet’s
shows up, along with a pop art picture of a field by
One odd work by
featured a near-copy of Piet Mondarin’s iconic
Broadway Boogie Woogie
, tilted at a forty five degree angle away from the viewer.
Overall, it was an interesting way to spend a few hours, but not worth going out of the way to see (which in Vegas is likely by design).
Like the Venetian, the Bellagio contains some
The quality of the food is very good.
I should have expected that the prices would be astronomical.
I had a sandwich and imported French pastry for as much money as I usually pay for dinner.
After the Bellagio, I went to a casino on the other end of the scale, the
Building this one was a huge gamble in many ways.
It’s located at the far northern end of the strip, in an area that was traditionally
Strip from Stratosphere
The best view in Las Vegas, the Strip from the Stratosphere
considered a wasteland of sketchy motels.
The original design featured a huge tower that would challenge the CN tower as the tallest structure in North America.
This was cut back while building, so it’s merely the
west of the Mississippi at 909 feet.
The casino failed as a resort, but survives by catering to low rollers and tour groups.
During slow periods rooms here go for less than $20 a night!
Besides gambling, people only visit for the
, Las Vegas’ equivalent of the Space Needle in Seattle (see August 4
Like the Space Needle, it has a high admission charge and rather long lines.
The lines are bad enough my guidebook has strategies for avoiding them.
Today they were tolerable.
At the top, the tower features a
360 degree indoor viewing area
The view from here is incredible, covering all of Las Vegas and the mountains beyond.
Red Rock Canyon from two days ago is clearly visible to the west.
The mountains to the east hide Lake Mead.
Contrary to the stereotype, most of the city looks normal, because it
The casinos of downtown Las Vegas from the Stratosphere
The first exception is downtown, which has a cluster of old casinos.
The special view is in the other direction, though, where the huge buildings of the strip stick out in a long line.
Bring a map when visiting, because the tower has nothing to point out the sights.
The viewing area has a few things beyond just the view.
It would not be a proper tourist site without a gift shop.
It also has a descent sized bar, which advertises itself has the highest in Las Vegas.
Surprisingly, the area has no gambling at all, not even slot machines.
I suspect the reason is the state’s strict age limit on who can be in a gambling area (21 plus only).
For the brave, stairs lead up from the viewing area.
These go to the roof deck.
The view looks exactly the same, except that there is now no protection except a fence of iron bars.
On a windy day, this is scary.
The roof deck also holds three
All three are the type of thing seen at a
The real Las Vegas
The orginary city beyond the glittery Strip, from the Stratosphere tower. The mountains in the distance hide Lake Mead.
county fair, and totally unremarkable except for their height.
Each one has a separate high admission.
The casino promotes them as the biggest thrills in Las Vegas, but I consider them way overhyped and didn’t ride them.
On the way to my next stop, I got a free show, of a sort.
Steve Winn built the
as the first destination casino on the Strip in 1989.
It ushered in an era of over the top theme casino resorts.
The casino has a
that goes off several times each night.
It’s entertaining enough for anyone already in the area.
Tonight I saw one of Las Vegas’ best magic acts, although ‘best’ applies loosely.
is the world’s most incompetent magician.
He completes few of his tricks, and many of those fail.
Afterwards, he launches on comedic rants, often very blue ones.
What makes him great is that all of this is intentional, a deeply satiric parody of the usual over the top Vegas magic show.
Fans of R-rated humor love it, although those offended by bad words should
Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon from the Statosphere
A typical trick is the interlocking rings.
Every magician knows this one, and the equipment is sold in every magic shop.
The trick starts with the magician showing two separate iron rings.
He waves both in front of him/her, and they stay separate.
He/she does it again, and the two rings are now linked.
Typically, the rings are then passed to members of the audience, who can’t get them apart.
The rings contain a hidden latch, which the magician unlocks and then relocks with sleight of hand while the rings are together.
In Amazing Jonathan’s case, he deliberately left the latch UNlocked, so the rings came apart as soon as an audience member touched them.
Jonathan then went on a tirade about how the whole trick was junk and he should abuse the magic shop clerk for selling it to him.
The show ends with some real, and impressive, tricks.
One starts as a parody, when the Amazing Jonathan wheels out what looks like a table covered in a black curtain with a top hat on it.
He announces that he will
Las Vegas Strip
Another view of the strip at night on my way to PH
pull a rabbit out of the hat.
He reaches in and pulls out….a rubber fish.
He goes on a tirade, directed at his air-headed assistant for misplacing the rabbit.
The tirade turns into panic as he pulls off the curtain revealing a fish tank with a rabbit skin in it.
He pulls out the rabbit skin and starts shaking it, cursing his assistant the whole time.
He then declares “I can fix this! I’m a magician!”
Jonathan drapes the rabbit skin with the curtain and makes some hokey abracadabra moves.
He then pulls off the curtain to reveal a live rabbit.
Amazing Jonathan performs at a
casino called PH
It was built as the Aladdin at the end of the latest Vegas casino boom, and quickly became Las Vegas’ biggest failure.
Visitors are far from the only people who gamble around here.
The Planet Hollywood restaurant chain then bought it, and resurrected the place as PH.
It’s best known for the
, a mile long shopping mall that surrounds the main casino.
To me, the entire place feels like a mall; sleek modern design,
A fake volcano shows its stuff outside the Mirage
lots of lights, and overwhelmingly commercial.
PH does have at least one thing worth recommending,
It’s ranked as one of the five best in Las Vegas, and cheaper than the other four.
The food resembles that from an upscale mall food court, with lots of American comfort food, Italian cuisine, and Asian dishes.
The quality is descent given the setting.
The lines move pretty quickly too.