Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

Mike Ch is back again with his Strip Walk column. This time around, he shows us what's going on at The Mirage, Bellagio, City Center, Caesars and more.

Personally, I think that new entrance at The Mirage looks terrible - that sign is totally out of place.



At long last, CityCenter is beginning to look like an actual destination. All the buildings are far along enough to have their glass panels put on and it will not take as much work for the mind's eye to figure out how this place is going to look. It is immediately apparent that the dimensions aren't quite the same as all the concept work shown to the public. The buildings are a bit more bunched together than we may have been led to believe. The lower levels are now so dense that much of the work of the buildings that was visible to the naked eye a few months ago is lost in the steelwork, and now for instance the Veer Towers currently just peek above the roof line of the ground level structure. On the other hand, Vdara is a few floors of glass panels from being done on the outside, and the Mandarin isn't too far behind.

Things are so densely packed in there that I have a feeling that the final product will look as if the concept buildings were told to squeeze together to all fit in for a picture. But that said, it's a bit of a relief that the buildings are all past a certain level of completeness that you can mentally just extend them to the sky and picture how it's going to look. I have more confidence in CityCenter now than I do something like...


This project is moving ahead regardless of how big a meltdown is going on behind the scenes, So far, I have to say that I don't understand the design. With it's boxy shapes and glass balconies, not to mention it's fairly small footprint along the sidewalk, the Cosmo presently looks like another condo tower going up instead of one of the mega resorts. I'm not sure what the deal is with the balconies. In a lot of odd places they don't have a glass panel wall installed along the balcony and have simply put up some 2x4s and caution tape to ward anyone up there from stepping off to their doom.


A minor acknowledgment of a small detail, to begin. As you come down the escalator from the bridge linking the Bellagio entrance to the sidewalk, you walk across a fairly nice stone tiled floor. This continues west past the rental car office and over to the tour bus area. But right here in front of these escalators, these tiles have become very cracked over the years. And it's not been very pretty. Someone finally did something about this, not only sealing up the cracks but then painting them brown and painting little green "leaves" off them (see photos.) Now they look sort of like they were intended to look like this.

To any close observer they're still cracks in the ground modified to not look so ugly, but if nothing else it's creative. I said about a year ago that Bellagio is getting older and it would be interesting to see how it handles the wear and the elements. If management won't tear up concrete and disrupt traffic and sidewalk access to replace things, then at least it's aging as gracefully as possible.

Yellowtail opened. I scoped out the new entryway because, let's face it, that's about all a schlub like me is ever going to see of the place. It has mood lighting of darkened amber that fits in quite well with the similarly dark entrance of Le Cirque right nearby and FIX across the way. The original Bellagio restaurants except for Circo originally had a somewhat European taste of decor at the entrance regardless of what culture's cuisine was being served inside, and that's been lost again here. I couldn't see all the way back into the dining room, but there's modern shapes hiding in the shadows again. A nice touch is a wall covered with an artwork of scaled metal with a large shape that looks like the rear end of a fish. In front of that artwork, there's some small tables (I presume for having drinks) right out there by the public. So if you enjoy proximity to the casino and shopping, and people-watching those milling around, this space is for you. It was too dark to look into the dining room, but I think I spied some modern shapes hiding in the shadows.

Also, a big thumbs down for the restaurant sign, another one of those backlit designs that show up all over the old Mandalay properties but look out of place at Bellagio anywhere but the box office. A backlit (think in the terms of the Bellagio's BUFFET sign, or the traditional directional signs around a casino) cartoon of a fish skeleton that serves as the restaurant's logo, and the name in black lettering with indirect lighting shining on the dark wall behind it, giving it the appearance of black lettering in the midst of a grey fog. It's all typically modern and fairly common for casino design nowadays, but Bellagio used to have a lot of well-made signs that looked hand-made and were well lit by external lighting. Let's hope they don't remake the front-end of Jasmine, hm?


First of all, the volcano has gotten it's concrete spray but hasn't been painted yet. Next, the sidewalk entrance is back, and the people movers are indeed gone. You want into the Mirage? Haul your own butt in there! Then again, this does appear to have stopped a lot of the traffic jams since nobody feels compelled to just stand there and soak up the atmosphere anymore. The columns holding the roof up have that "stacked up shale" look that is commonly used by Station.

We had intended to have lunch at BLT Burger, but the prices were rather shocking and so one other person in my group who was hungry enough ate while everyone else sat around the table. Prices may have bumped up after opening, because I heard about $7 burgers but saw $9 burgers instead. A burger, fries, milkshake combo is $17. Service was lacking for as little as there was to take care of. There's a grill in the back of the dining room but I didn't see things coming off of it too often. If you're going to spend money for a sit-down burger place, I'd probably go to Le Burger at Paris if given the option. You'll get a quieter room and probably better service for it. According to our diner, the burger was just a burger, nothing fantastic. There is take out.

Cranes 'n' Things

The Ocatvius tower at Caesars is now along enough that they've put some external panels along the bottom of the tower The P-Ho condos are about 2/3rds to the top since the bottom of that red jaggy point sticking out up top. Fontainebleau is at "I can see that from my house" level. If you can see the Turnberries from where you live, you can see the building frame, too.


Read archived comments (34 so far)
July 26, 2008 12:01 PM Posted by detroit1051

Mike_ch, great photos and word-pictures. I think I'd like Yellowtail. It looks great to me in photos, even the sign.

I agree with Hunter. The south entrance into The Mirage looks tacky and cheap with all the restaurant logos, and I've never been a fan of ledge rock or whatever they call that.

BLT Burger looks quite nice. I assume the back center bar is where the tigers entered and exited to their "dressing rooms"?.

I looked at the photos before I read Mike's comments. When I saw Cosmo, I thought, "That's a great looking property; I like it better than CityCenter." Different strokes...

Finally, regarding Jasmine, I'll bet anyone it's the next place MGM will do a makeover. It's very elegant but in a Steve Wynn prissy sort of way. As nice as it is, it doesn't fit MGM. Another Light Group combination restaurant/nightclub?

Thanks for the tour.

July 26, 2008 4:15 PM Posted by Wilson

so personaly what do you guys thing of what MGM is doing to the bellagio? In my opinion, think they are making everything modern renovation by renovation I want to say its the best resort in the world but I just can't. It doesn't compare to the wynn anymore. I wish that Steve Wynn could one day buy back the bellagio but that will never happen.

July 26, 2008 7:02 PM Posted by Nathan Boone

I'm curious how MGM will sell their rooms at City Center. "Mountain View, Strip View, Skyscraper view?" Something like that?

July 26, 2008 9:50 PM Posted by Joe

Crap! I just saw a city called Dubai. Its CRAZY! theyre useing 15% of the worlds cranes! hows vegas gonna compete with that?!

July 27, 2008 12:57 AM Posted by PeterF

There's no gambling in Dubai.

July 27, 2008 1:48 AM Posted by Mike E

Creative? Yes. Cheap? Beyond belief.

The thought of making "vines" out of cracks in the tile (and the cheapest tile at Bellagio at that) has me speechless. I'd hate to beat a dead horse, but Steve Wynn would *never* allow something like that.

July 27, 2008 9:44 AM Posted by Mike P.

mike_ch, I'm surprised you didn't mention the phalanx of whatevers that have been placed in the Mirage pond in front of the "volcano." Any idea what they are? I'm guessing mechanical dolphins: here's a link to a picture I sent to Hunter last week:

FWIW, after flirting with Wynn for more than a year we've gone back home to Bellagio -- they offer two things that we value in a hotel experience where Wynn just can't compete.

July 27, 2008 10:01 AM Posted by detroit1051

Mike P, are they machines to shoot up flames and/or water to create a more dramatic show?

What are the two things Bellagio offers that Wynn doesn't? I'm guessing, based on your past comments, a quieter room without nightclub noise coming in, and the other???

July 27, 2008 10:02 AM Posted by Wilson

Mike E, Who cares if Steve Wynn would never alow that. The point is that its better what was there before and looks very earopean to me. I just saw it yesterday and it is very pretty

July 27, 2008 12:43 PM Posted by detroit1051

I saw this link to CityCenter's peoplemover on It looks impressive in the eight renderings:

July 27, 2008 1:03 PM Posted by Hunter

"Wilson" (what's up with the different names on each post, btw?) -

I totally disagree that it looks good. It does not look 'earopean', or even European. When I go to a cathedral in France, the cracks and vines are real.

This smacks of a facilities department without the right budget.

July 27, 2008 1:04 PM Posted by Hunter

Yeah, its a re-do of the BellagioMonte Carlo system, with a new CC stop.

July 27, 2008 2:45 PM Posted by Mike P.

detroit -

The two areas where Bellagio is superior: You're right about the first - I was trying not to belabor the point.

The second is just that Bellagio has superior workout facilities and a full time staff of certified personal trainers that we know and like. I really need a structured exercise program; my wife is a little more self motivated than I am about exercise but she likes working out with a trainer too. I've been working out with the same trainer there for at least 5 years, and I'll see him typically 2 or 3 times in a trip. So that's a fairly significant amenity for us, especially since we've been spending a lot of time in Vegas and always eat too much.

July 28, 2008 7:36 AM Posted by Phil

That Mirage sign is terrible. Did they just go to Signs-R-Us an get those made for $70 bucks. It looks like the entrance to the food court at the Rivera. Why spend billions and then put a $50 sign up. I often think part of the problem is the marketing people these days are a bunch of 20 somethings with no clue of what the class of Vegas should be.

July 28, 2008 12:02 PM Posted by Andy S

Thanks for the update Mike!

The new signs at the Mirage entrance look really cheap and tacky. Who thought that was an improvement on what was there before? Lets hope for a renovation to replace it soon!

Wonder what they have in store for the front entarnce now.

Cheers, Andy

July 29, 2008 5:40 AM Posted by Sam

Totally agree about that Mirage sign � absolutely terrible. I don't mind the slate, but hate the signs for each restaurant. A resort of Mirage's caliber should be able to advertise only the Mirage. Not its food court. Saying, "Come in here because we have a CPK" seems really beneath such a strong property.

July 29, 2008 6:37 AM Posted by mike_ch

Sam: Did you see the one furthest on the left? Maybe you couldn't identify it at that size, but forget about CPK, they have a little Starbucks logo with a "COMING SOON" across it. Like that's a unique feature worthy of marquee status.

I didn't think it was too terrible until I searched for pictures of the old design to compare and now I can say wow that looks cheap.

July 29, 2008 3:30 PM Posted by Sam

Ugh! I thought it looked like a Starbucks logo, but wasn't sure so I left it alone. That makes the sign even worse. I'd also be curious about how this looks at night -- the restaurant signs look like they'd be simple backlit fluorescents, like a damn strip mall.

July 30, 2008 8:40 AM Posted by steve_c

It's funny that Starbucks is reentering the Mirage, IIRC Mirage had a Starbucks at one point (I know it was there in 2003 during my first visit). There may have actually been two Starbucks on the property, I am not sure.

Anyways, minus the signs (which I don't think look THAT bad) I like the new entry much better.

I wonder if they ever plan to remove the original Mirage logos off of the tower and replace it with the newer "Wynn-esque" Mirage logo.

July 30, 2008 3:55 PM Posted by David McKee

"That Mirage sign ... looks like the entrance to the food court at the Rivera."

What Phil said. I honestly never expected anything so cheaptastic from MGM.

Since the initial renderings of the to-be-redone Mirage volcano (c. 2005) showed a veritable lake of fire, I'm guessing those mystery objects are meant to spout tongues of flame.

August 15, 2008 11:58 AM Posted by Joe

Has MGM done anything good with the bellagio? I have seen yellowtail and it just doesnt fit with the bellagio or fix. I heard on this blog someone saying about the b's original restaurants having European entrances at every restaurants (exept for circo and olives) no matter what cuisine it served. I guess they were right and MGM is taking it away. Any pros that MGM has done to the restaurants? Decor renovation?

August 15, 2008 12:47 PM Posted by detroit1051

Yes, MGM has done a lot of good at Bellagio. MGM Mirage is not Wynn Resorts, so it's understandable that MGM would put its own mark on the property. Bellagio will be ten years old this October, and it is still maintained very well.

I haven't seen Yellowtail yet, but the photos and description are appealing to me. Shintaro was nice, but it was a typical, staid Steve Wynn type room. MGM added Sensi which I think is a very good restaurant with a relaxing atmosphere.
Bellagio has 3 master sommeliers and 13 additional sommeliers. Michael Mina, LeCirque and Picasso are all excellent. I've never been a fan of Prime, but that's OK. I like the looks of Salon Prive which is contemporary. I haven't seen the renovation to the high limit baccarat area. When I go back early next year, it will be two years since my last trip, so we'll see what my reaction is. For now, I have no complaints about Bellagio.

August 15, 2008 1:33 PM Posted by Joe

Thanks Detroit! That helped a lot

August 17, 2008 2:29 AM Posted by motoman

Joe & detroit, I'm surprised by two things: That Joe would cast doubts about the B, and that detroit would discuss the positives in terms of design! detroit's always pointed out any improvements in terms of operational efficiency, whereas most here seem divided about the changes in design.

But I guess, it goes along with the detheming of other formerly themed resorts. The original B was pretty heavy-handed with the upscale Italian Lake Como thing....

August 17, 2008 7:00 AM Posted by detroit1051

Motoman, since I haven't been to Bellagio in so long, maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder. I really do like the contemporary, rich appearance of Salon Prive and hope when I go back that the baccarat area looks equally as nice and that the look is extended to the high limit slot area. I have no idea whether it's been renovated or not. It's been pushed back multiple times since 2006.

August 17, 2008 6:43 PM Posted by Joe

Really, I LOVE the bellagio in fact I like it better than the Wynn :). Im just wondering if the bellagio is still as good as when it opened but I wasn't sure if it was cause of all the reviews on the internet, "MGM Mirage is ruining the bellagio every renovation it makes" (I have been hearing most of this stuff from you vegas professionals on this blog).I have been hearing this and thats why i'm on this blog- to see if its true, to see if it lost its theme. Mabe everyone will forget about the B when Encore opens. :(

August 17, 2008 7:05 PM Posted by Mike P.


I'm not a high limit slots guy, but Bellagio's high limit room hasn't been touched as far as I can tell from an occasional peek in.

I thought you were kinda cool to the look of Salon Prive -- must really be a case of the heart growing fonder. I'm a big fan of mid-century modern design, so I liked it from the start. But I never go in there because it's way over my bankroll.

August 18, 2008 10:06 AM Posted by mike_ch


Joe: From 2003-2005, MGM Mirage really let the Bellagio slide. It's not that they went around actively ruining things, but they didn't do anything at all. They were just kind of content to let it run along on it's name value and must have been using it as an ATM to fund CityCenter construction. It seemed like they were thinking that they didn't have to do anything to keep people coming so long as the fountains kept working and the ceiling didn't cave in.

Olives got a renovation that got a mixed reaction, Sensi was widely approved of but since it opened management saw fit to end lunch at Circo, Aqua was renamed afte it's chef Michael Mina after the nakesake resaurant's management pulled out, and it's reputation seems to have floundered although Mina has expanded elsewhere into the MGM fold like StripSteak at Mandalay. It was just a give and take as things got older and older.

The Sam's American space briefly became this space called Nectar that had a bar which looked like an Apple Store vomited everywhere. Then they added a nightclub and gave the Nectar space to Light Group among other spaces in Mirage and other hotels. Really, the contracting out to the Light/Pure/etc groups is one of the reasons Vegas hotels all look the same, and it seemed really odd that Bellagio went from practically demanding a certain level of sophistication from it's usually older guests. It was what set it apart from the other two big hotels of the year, Venetian and Mandalay.

The refurbishments all around the casino a few years ago look good, but they are definitely less ornate and prissy pretentious than what used to be there. So basically, in a few years we went from classical music in ads, standards on the casino PA, and no strollers allowed, to ultralounges and pop music in the casino.

And that's really what most people here have against Bellagio, if they have anything against it, I guess. It used to be that walking into the place you'd get measured up by a stern-faced guy in a jacket just inside the door and anyone trying to get in with a hawaiian shirt (for guys) or a "yes they're real" tank top (for girls) would feel really intimidated walking into the place. There'd be people who are either rich or pretending to be rich everywhere, there'd be Italian tenors that Joe from Omaha has never heard of before playing, and the slots would didn't blink and flash their lights as much and almost seemed to have their volume cranked down. The lighting used to look extremely ornate, like they raided every grandmother's attic looking for antiques to decorate the place, and now it's more of a modern room with lots of cremes and marble everywhere. Bellagio used to sell itself as this place for people who were tired of the big noisy casino as tourist attraction, and now it's the nicest looking big noisy casino as tourist attraction on the street.

The service is still really top notch when you open your wallet and get their attention, but that pretentious "I don't care about the typical visitor and quite frankly don't want their business" attitude that used to permeate the place is gone. And the new dining rooms eschew Mirage Resorts era design of making rooms so frilly and baroque that you're waiting for Queen Elizabeth to walk in. So if you like your casino lighting to be huge chandeliers with 18 lightbulbs each wearing little shades with tassells hanging off them, you won't find that at Bellagio anymore. Heh.

August 18, 2008 10:30 AM Posted by Joe

Mike, I never really saw the bellagio slots noisy but only for a little while back in 04 05 and MGM hasn't pulled a mirage . Dude mabe you got mixed up with other hotels like TI or Luxor with the ultra lounge/modern thing. The bellagio isn't like that but I agree about the bellagio slump back in 03-05.

PS look at the spa tower MGM made, its not modern at all. (well exept for sensi kind of but that has the AAA 4 diamond award)
Well the point is that MGM Mirage has not ruined the b like they did with TI, Mirage, Luxor etc. I have got to admit that its lost about 10-15% of its theme.

August 18, 2008 10:43 AM Posted by motoman

Wow, mike_ch, A+
You nailed it.

Now I guess it's a matter of how much one preferred the prissiness and baroqueness vs. hearing Top-40 tracks over the Fountain....

August 18, 2008 2:35 PM Posted by Mike E

Mike really nailed it.

To give credit where credit is due, I *love* all the changes at Mirage and think Luxor looks promising as well. Bellagio was just too much old world elegance for MGM Mirage to chew.

August 18, 2008 3:56 PM Posted by mike_ch

Joe: I agree with a lot of what you say, actually. I`m one of the people who think it`s splitting hairs too much to complain about "dips in construction quality" through Spa Tower.

The fact is, and the reason I think a lot of these changes are seen for the worse, is that like a lot of people MGM is looking out for it's stockholders. Take a look at Wynn LV. No overly detailed exterior buildings with little logo touches all over the place. Nothing like the exterior details with the big iron gates, the belltowers ringing on the hour, and the framed tunnels the taxis drive down into.

And when someone opens a Staff Only door at Wynn, peer inside. It's totally blank with simple lighting, whereas parts of Bellagio's employee areas look fancier than the casino itself! Stand by that employee door next to the buffet sometime as a shift changes. You'll see paintings on the walls, even fancier moldings around the ceiling than are in the casino, that big full-length mirror with "Check your appearance" written on top, and so on. That kind of crazyness doesn't exist at Wynn.

Why is this? Well, I think Steve Wynn got a big ego and went a little over the top. At Mirage Resorts, the money he was spending was often the money of the stockholders he hated being tied up to. At WYNN, he has a significant amount of stock and he and Okada have the largest amount of shares. That means any money spent at Wynn/Encore is a good deal his own money. And I think he's gotten out of the clouds and is spending a bit more intelligently than he was at Mirage.

Basically, I love Bellagio to death, but I think the stockholders probably got bent over a barrel for it.

August 18, 2008 4:04 PM Posted by mike_ch

Also, I'm not sure why you think I mistake Bellagio with Luxor or TI?

With Light Group, Bellagio has made Light, then The Bank, and Fix, and Yellowtail. Mirage has Stack, TI has Mist I think, Monte has Diablo's, and Luxor has LAX and Company. And of course Light will begin running their own condo-hotel with Harmon at CityCenter. And we mentioned Caramel earlier which didn't succeed but was supposed to compliment Light.

I guess this stuff isn't too bad, but at the turn of the decade it seemed outrageous to even have a nightclub at the Bellagio, though I will confess that Bank is well isolated and doesn't boom out into the casino the way the club scene does at Wynn.

August 18, 2008 4:38 PM Posted by Joe

thanks mike. Sorry about the Luxor TI thing it was an expression I made up. A couple of comments back Mike I've got to say was a bit to far with the service ultra lounge dethemeing thing.