The Bellagio Vrs The VenetianThe Bellagio
The sumptuous Bellagio is arguably the centrepiece of today’s Las Vegas Strip. It’s stunning lake and fountains are one of the big draws for tourists visiting the city. A Las Vegas jaunt is no longer complete without standing to gawp in wonder at the choreography of the regular fountain shows set to music. Owned by MGM Mirage, Bellagio is the brainchild of Steve Wynn and was built by his firm Mirage Resorts following the demolition of the famous Dunes hotel and casino in 1993. Inspired by the Lake Como resort of the same name in Italy, Bellagio was built for a total cost of $1.6 billion.
Stroll into Bellagio’s light and airy lobby and two things strike you. Firstly, the beautiful display of hand-blown glass flowers that dominate the ceiling have the same revitalising effect as a fresh spring breeze. A vivid work of creative expression by world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly, the 2,000 glass flowers in an assortment of uplifting colours are the perfect welcome to arriving guests and tourists alike. Proceed from there to the conservatory and botanical gardens and you walk into a world that is akin to Alice in Wonderland. A giant snail built from tulips; a huge frog made of moss sitting on a lilypad in a pond; a wise-looking tree creature; and a canopy of butterflies will delight children and adults alike. Even the lulling muzak-style background tunes do nothing to temper the unusual and magical effect created.
Hotel rooms and suites are exceptional as standard, but it’s the range of other treats on offer that make Bellagio stand out. A shopper’s delight, fans of high fashion will love the stores in the shopping arcade: Armani, Gucci, Prada, Chanel and Tiffany & Co all feature. And later on there’s plenty of luxurious nightlife on offer. The Bank nightclub is unashamedly targeted at a wealthy and discerning crowd. The queue outside as GOM walked past looked like they’d dressed entirely from the aforementioned shops, so if you like that sort of expensive elegance you’ll fit right in. And even if you’re not down with that, it’s no doubt an excellent spot for a bit of people watching. This is very much the stomping ground of Vegas’s A-list.
Bellagio’s large and impressive casino has an open and uncramped feel. The three or four elegant brides that GOM saw strolling around the floor is all the indication you need to realise that this is no seedy gambling den. With games including blackjack, roulette, craps, baccarat, three-card poker, pai gow poker, and Let It Ride, there’s certainly something for everyone. And the slot floor has an enormous collection of 2,400 machines with denominations ranging from a distinctly un-Vegas 1¢, to a far more Bellagio-esque $1,000. The high limit lounge, Club Privé, offers seclusion and exclusivity with a drinks menu to send your tastebuds into overdrive.
Probably Las Vegas’s most famous poker room along with Binion’s, the Bellagio is the popular hang out for many of the Vegas-based professionals like Daniel Negreanu. It is their home base to such an extent that they tend to refer to it as ‘The Office’. Within its 7,000 square feet are 40 tables and two high-limit areas. One of these is the legendary Bobby’s Room—an exclusive two-table area named after 1978 WSOP champion and MGM Mirage chief design and construction officer Bobby Baldwin. With complementary drinks, 24-hour tableside dining, safe deposit boxes and a plethora of flatscreen TVs to keep tabs on news and sport, this really is a poker player’s heaven.
Final Score: 89
Las Vegas loves a good explosion, and in 1996 a famous Vegas institution, the Sands Hotel, was imploded to make way for a new mega-resort: The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino. The resort opened in May 1999 with the release of white doves to the sound of trumpets. Venetian chairman and owner Sheldon G Adelson and actress Sophia Loren were in attendance for the opening of the $1.5 billion resort.
The Venetian theme is not purely a gimmick. It has been well executed, with a lengthy indoor canal system populated by singing gondoliers who ferry paying passengers up and down while serenading them. The entire resort is lavishly decorated in a Roman architectural style, complete with columns and statues. The Grand Canal Shoppes arcade, with its cobblestone walkways, has a roof that mimics a bright blue sky, giving the area an illusion of permanent daylight—all part of that famous Vegas trait for being the city that never sleeps. New neighbouring sister resort The Palazzo continues the décor theme seamlessly too.
The Grand Canal Shoppes offer one of the finest shopping experiences available in Vegas. And for beautiful threads (and eye-popping price tags) head to Palazzo and the Barneys New York store. From smart and understated suits to wacky and outlandish footwear (pictured), there’s something for everyone here, as long as you’ve got the funds. And once you’ve worked up an appetite, there’s no shortage of tasty treats on offer. The Grand Lux Café and its sister restaurant, The Cheesecake Factory, both offer a delicious menu and over 20 exceptional desserts. The architecture at Grand Lux was inspired by the look and feel of classic Venetian cafes and retains the levels of intimacy and attention to detail you would expect. And once night falls, head to Tao nightclub for a decadent evening of high-class socialising. Tao’s 40-foot outside terrace provides stunning views of the Strip, while the elegant bathtubs lining the entrance hall often contain beautiful girls whose modesty might only be protected by a few strategically positioned petals.
The large casino floor offers all the usual classics, including a dedicated baccarat area, high-limit slots room, and less ubiquitous games such as 357 Poker, Big Six, Spanish 21 and Casino War. The Venetian offers the full range of table games in lavish and friendly surrounding. With over 139 games in total, there's sure to be something for everyone. Slots include the enticing Megajackpots machines. Jackpots here have gone higher than $30 million in the past—good luck carrying all those quarters to the cashier.
One of the city’s largest poker rooms at 11,000 square feet, the Venetian caters for most variants of poker including Texas hold’em, stud and Omaha, with limits starting at $4/$8. A separate high stakes area features seven high-limit tables, two relaxation areas, a butler service, and gourmet dining—all in a comfortable and smoke-free environment. Adjustable chairs and the 21 large-screen plasma TVs help to make players feel more comfortable. And the fact that most of the pro superstars are sharking away over at Bellagio might entice you to play high stakes here with more confidence.
Final Score: 85
An epic battle between two truly original mega-resorts. Both Bellagio and the Venetian are globally unique destinations, with an emphasis on providing luxury to all their guests. Bellagio edges it for the gorgeous lobby area, the spectacular fountains and its famous poker room. But Venetian is no slouch, and if poker’s not your game then it’s almost a coin toss as to where you should stay. The great thing about the Strip though is that whichever one you stay at, you can easily walk to the other in minutes and make use of the same facilities that guests enjoy there. Alternatively, if you’re on a budget, you can stay at Hooters around the corner and visit both.