Published: August 18th 2012September 28th 2011
Las Vegas Gondoliers
Gondoliers on the canal at the Grand Canal Shoppes. All of this is indoors!
Today is my third day in Las Vegas, and this city is wearing me out.
In many ways, it’s the dark reflection of Burning Man (see Sept 1st
Like the festival, this place creates its own world, where things exist that are not possible outside its borders.
Unlike the non-commercial community orientated Burning Man, this world revolves completely around money.
Las Vegas is the most materialistic city in the United States, if not the world.
Almost everything here requires cash, and extracts it with amazing efficiency.
My trip discipline is the only way I’m staying on budget.
The city does have a few things worth experiencing that don’t involve opening a wallet.
The view of the strip at night is amazing, at least the first few times.
The Elvis impersonators on the strip can be fun.
Many of the theme casinos have amazing architecture that must be experienced in person.
Finally, there is the window shopping.
This city’s incredible materialism means that luxury shopping
now completes with gambling as the highest spending activity on the strip.
It has a number of malls, most of which are
Grand Canal Shoppes show
The Grand Canal Shoppes version of a Venice Canivale show
attached to casinos.
Two of them are well worth seeing even with no intention of buying anything.
The Venetian features one of those malls, the Grand Canal Shoppes
on its second floor.
in imitation Italian storefronts line a miniature version of the Grand Canal.
It leads to a miniature copy of Saint Marks Square, indoors.
Real gondoliers offer rides on the canal.
Parse that until it sinks in: real gondola rides…on a fake canal…inside a casino…on the second floor.
Only in Vegas, baby!
Actors wearing Venetian costumes and masks give a regular version of a Venetian Carnivale show
in the square.
The first part is in Italian, and then they switch to English.
The singing is quite good, and a character in a fool costume gets members of the audience involved.
Show times are listed, and people wait around to see them.
The Grand Canal Shoppes now has an extension called the Palazzo Shops
The only theme here is luxury.
It has even more expensive shops
, and is lined entirely with marble.
A branch of super-expensive department
Forum Shops center court
Proof that the Grand Canal Shoppes does not have a monopoly on over the top shopping
store Barney’s New York sits at the junction of the two. Caesar’s Palace
sits across Las Vega Boulevard from the Venetian.
Walking there would be easy, except that the boulevard is ten lanes wide.
The Palace was the first themed casino built in Las Vegas, back in 1968.
The theme is ancient Rome at its decadent best.
The entrance road has a huge statue of Augustus Caesar
, the first Roman emperor.
I think Domitian
(the thirteenth emperor, notorious for both his through administration and his decadent parties) would be more appropriate.
The resort at this point has become a vast and confusing complex with multiple hotel towers and casinos.
Part of this large complex contains the Forum Shops
This mall is designed as a copy of an ancient Roman street.
Lots of plaster copies of soaring arches, columns with capitols, and similar architecture appear everywhere.
The mall has a circular roof over it carefully designed to look like the sky, lit by LEDs.
The color changes so day cycles to night and back every half hour.
The mall contains three large courts which
Bellagio fountain water ballet in a relatively quiet moment
have fountains copied from Roman originals.
Looking closely at the statues in these fountains shows that some are made of plastic and metal.
These statues are animatronic, which means they can move.
The mall used to have dozens of them, but they break down regularly and most have been taken out.
The remainder still break regularly, so I never saw one move.
The last court contains a huge fish tank.
Colorful tropical fish swim around a copy of a reef.
It’s here because Roman emperors allegedly had similar things in their own palaces, not that the casino needs the excuse.
Show up at a marked feeding time to see a diver swim around the tank along with the fish.
The times are marked on a schedule near the tank.
Late in the day, I found a shop selling something unusual and affordable.
The store sold surplus gambling supplies from casinos.
They had rack after rack of old playing cards, dice, and other things, all with famous names.
A sign mentioned that everything is clearly marked as used, so bringing it to a casino
Bellagio water cannons
The water cannons behind the Bellagio fountains shoot blasts over a hundred feet in the air!
table will result in being arrested for fraud.
I ate dinner at the Bellagio Buffet
The Bellagio pioneered the concept of the buffet as a gourmet dining experience, and it still has one of the two best
on the strip.
The downside is that it has a gourmet price to go along with the food, something approaching the final tab at a steakhouse, along with truly atrocious lines.
With proper planning, it’s worth it.
The food comes in wide variety, with remarkable high quality given the amount they serve every night.
Desserts are heavenly.
They cook enough that nothing runs out either.
Drinks must be bought separately, and include champagne and cocktails in addition to the usual soda and beer.
Afterwards, I saw the best free show on the strip, the Bellagio fountains
They have been pictured in every guide to Las Vegas in the last decade, as well as featured in the Ocean’s Eleven remake.
Those depictions can’t compare to the overwhelming spectacle they present in real life.
The Bellagio hotel sits behind an eight acre artificial lake, which takes up
Bellagio fountains water wall
The Bellagio fountains most famous moment, the water wall
an entire block.
The lake is lined with hundreds of water jets, most of which can move.
They sway back and forth, blast water in patterns, and otherwise create a huge ballet.
Behind them sit water cannons, which can blast geysers over fifty feet in the air.
Behind those are even more powerful cannons, which top out at over a hundred feet in the air!
The water is lit by white spotlights, some of which are below the surface of the lake.
The whole thing is synchronized to music.
This show gives production shows a run for their money, and it’s free.
Arrive early to get a good spot.
Speaking of production shows
, Las Vegas was once famous for them.
They consisted of a long series of song and dance numbers, all performed by young women wearing the now iconic showgirl outfit of a huge feathered headdress, skimpy bodysuit with lots of sequins, and feather tails.
Some of these shows were topless.
The arrival of Cirque du Soleil in 1993 made these look staid by comparison, and virtually all closed.
Only one still performs regularly,
Las Vegas showgirls
Showgirls along the Las Vegas strip
the last one created: Jubilee
. [WARNING: May be offensive]
I saw it tonight at Bally’s as a piece of Las Vegas history.
Most of the crowd was either older couples or tour groups.
The show certainly felt dated compared to other shows, especially Mysterie.
The production design was straight out of a 1950s movie musical.
The opening number featured three male singers in top hats and tails, singing about “hundreds and hundreds of girls”, as a large number of showgirls danced on a pyramid structure behind them.
A second number recreated the last moments of the Titanic with the showgirls in sailor costumes.
In the final number, a bridge dropped from the ceiling over the audience and the showgirls danced on it.
For every song, they changed into a different costume covered in feathers and glitter.
Between the dance numbers the show had different acts, such as a strongman act and a hokey comedian.
Both of these were worse than their equivalents at Cirque du Soleil.