CNN Travel Now Insights
Big-dollar resorts give Las Vegas an upscale look
LAS VEGAS, Nevada (CNN) -- There's a lot more to Las Vegas these days
than Wayne Newton and neon.
You can stroll down a Parisian boulevard, navigate a Venetian canal by gondola
and sun yourself on a tropical beach -- all without leaving the city limits. And,
of course, you can still play the slot machines.
"It's interesting what 5 or 6 billion dollars will do to change a city,
particularly when it's along a strip of maybe only a couple of miles," said
William Weidner, president and chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands,
Inc., which owns the new Venetian Resort.
| INTERACTIVE GALLERY |
| GAMING GUIDE|
| CITY GUIDE|
The Venetian is one of four huge resorts that have opened in the strip in the
past two years, adding 13,000 hotel rooms and a new level of sophistication
to the desert gambling town.
The Venetian's lobby is reminiscent of Europe's great museums, and
the complex boasts the largest rooms in the world, according to the "Guinness
Book of World Records."
But aside from the popular gondola rides, the most distinctive element is the
architecture, from recreations of St. Mark's Square to the Doge's Palace and the Campanile Tower.
To re-create the Italian landmarks, the resort brought in a company that
specializes in period architectural detail.
"We went over to Venice and we spent about three weeks taking about 3,000
photographs of the things we were going to replicate," said Bob Hlusak, vice
president of Treadway Industries. "But obviously we couldn't do that in stone and marble because they had about, oh, 600 years to do it and we had about two."
Treadway used a lighter, fabricated material. A sculpture of the archangel
Gabriel, for example, is made of foam and polyurethane and coated in 22-
"If you think for a moment, if you're tricked for a moment, if you just turn
the corner and say, 'I thought I was in Venice,' then we've done our job,"
A popular destination
Nearly 34 million travelers visited Las Vegas in 1999, an increase of 10.5
percent over 1998 and the most visitors ever. The new resorts can claim some
credit for that growth.
"Everyone wants to see the new place," said Scott Doggett, author of "Lonely Planet Las Vegas." "The Strip is constantly reinventing itself, and it's doing that because the competition to bring people into the casinos is greater and greater."
The illusions and amenities change from one resort to the next, but the main
source of revenue remains the same.
"They make their money in gambling," said Doggett. "It's not at the health spa, it's not at the
bar. It's gambling."
According to Doggett, the reported revenue
from casinos exceeds $5 billion a year -- more than $10,000 a minute.
Competition for those dollars continues to change Las Vegas, with new
resorts catering to different age groups and budgets.
For example, Mandalay Bay sports a tropical theme, including a pool with 6-foot (1.8-meter) waves and a beach. The resort boasts one of the city's hottest nightclubs -- Rumjungle -- and the Russian-themed Red Square restaurant, an offshoot of
the successful Miami eatery.
"People like to be seen at a property like this, and that's exactly why we
designed Mandalay Bay to attract a young, hip crowd," said Michael Starr,
the resort's vice president and general manager.
Food, fountains, fun
If you're not into gambling and glitzy nightlife, Las Vegas has more sedate options -- for example, garden strolls through the conservatory at Bellagio, one of
the strip's most exclusive resorts.
Bellagio also is home to many of the city's top restaurants, including Olives,
Prime and Le Cirque, all branches of famous restaurants in other cities.
"There is now a concentration of restaurants in Las Vegas which rivals both
New York, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco," said Mario Maccioni, executive
director of the Las Vegas Le Cirque. "It has now become a culinary
Bellagio may be most famed for its fountain show, which spans more
than 1,000 feet (305 meters) and features water shooting as high as 240 feet (73
meters), all of it choreographed to music ranging from classical to Broadway.
Another familiar landmark is the Eiffel Towel -- a half-size replica of it, anyway. It's the focal point of the $785 million, 2,916-
room Paris Las Vegas, where visitors walk inside and discover what looks
like a Parisian street, complete with shops selling French goods.
Inside the structure is the elegant Eiffel Tower Restaurant. Overlooking the Strip, it puts all of Las Vegas in perspective.
"I think this is the pinnacle. This is it," one visitor declared. "This is what
America is all about!"
Weather: Las Vegas, Nevada
City Profiles: Las Vegas, Nevada
World Maps and Guides: Nevada
Las Vegas restaurants earn coveted five-star rating
January 14, 2000
New resort builds its own Eiffel Tower
February 18, 1999
Las Vegas transforming itself with big building boom
November 3, 1998
Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority
Bellagio Las Vegas
Paris Las Vegas
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.