Our own mike_ch is back with a 'mega' Strip Walk, including his first time at CityCenter.
As regular readers know, Mike is never short of opinions - you'll get his full take on the new MGM Mirage development as well as a boatload of photos.
This is a good one - you don't want to miss it. Enjoy.
Complete gallery: http://photo.ratevegas.com/Other/Stripwalk-January-2010/10930508_gxkui
I start off in the convention entrance at the far south of Mandalay Bay, and immediately notice that a "text for offers" banner has been placed over THEhotel's model room display near the food course. Trying to look around/behind it didn't help, so the question remains: why don't they want anyone looking inside? Do they just want to use the model room for something else (storage, perhaps) or are rooms at THEhotel getting a renovation? Time's about due for one, but I just don't expect MGM Mirage to be able to swing the cash to bring THEhotel in line with rooms at Aria. If they're lucky they'll be brought up to standards with Vdara.
As I walked to the casino, I noticed that the buildings along the dining row facing the pool complex seemed to have particularly fresh paint. Still, on the other side of the window frame was a reminder that small problems persist.
I remembered a few months ago saying that Lupo had largely disposed of it's villa look and gone for dark woods, and so I tried to capture it. You can see pretty well in there even with all the darkness.
Mandalay's casino was being worked on the last time I was there, but upon walking around I didn't see anything different where barricades and maintenance teams had been. There's a watch store over near the entrance, but I can't remember how long that's been around because, honestly, all sorts of stores have been using that location in the past eight years.
While I've been gone, activity has been stirring in the old, hidden Forty Deuce location. The plan is to open up something called The Rose, but the plan has stumbled here and there due to a number of reasons that include some old drama from Prive's licensing issues spilling over here. But for most of the time (including nearly all the hours I'll be awake), the area is just a very dark area with a door hidden in the wallpaper.
On the other end of things, Hussong's Cantina looks pretty close to done. There's a curtain over the entrance, but peeking behind reveals a mostly finished place illuminated mostly by the obligatory neon beer logos. This place looks like it's 70% bar, 30% restaurant. As a belly-up bar it will have competition immediately nearby at the Fat Tuesday's that opened up several years ago.
The Elements Atrium goods store at the edge of the pyramid is now LX Fight Shop, aka another place for TapOut shirts. The section in the back with the refrigeration units is still selling soft drinks and stuff, so I don't think they're too committed to this idea.
The eco-friendly effort from CityCenter is spilling over here with LEDs replacing conventional bulbs all over, giving many things a bluer tint. You'll find them on these guys near the entrance, around the crown molding details near the lobby, and a few other places where I passed on photos. This carries on all the way through to the oft-ignored tower registration, so they're pretty serious about it.
I talked last time about MGM "adding cash registers" by putting shops, carts, bars, and other ways to deposit your income at spaces that previously existed for decoration or simply didn't have anything for sale. We have two of those here: a sunglasses store just past the registration desk by the inclinators, and a store selling, uh, bags.
All this additional retail space comes with a drawback: the original retail space is practically gutted. Aside from the Believe store, the old Galleria between the pyramid and the towers is a total ghost town. One-locked cages that used to be used to store souvenirs for passing by are sitting bare and open and even the discount cart that used to fill up about a third of the space is gone. As you can see in the last picture, the large lights there aren't working and even the themed doo-dads that sat on these pedestals are gone.
The path into Excalibur from the hallways connecting into Luxor is now a lot more crowded than it used to be. In addition to carts selling gizmos and the massage machines, the Guess Your Weight setup that used to live across the buffet was moved into this hall and that space is now, yep, expanded trinket retail.
They finally have put a wall around Sir Galahad's, though just the entrance. Also upstairs, the Marshall Rousso is gone. That was basically about as sophisticated and classy as Excalibur shopping ever got, and now it's another non-specific Vegas goodies store quite similar to ones you see downtown.
Outside, I was glad to see some new paint. The turrets and roofs of Excalibur's land bridge, especially down by the street intersection where almost nobody ever goes, had been getting extremely faded in recent years. So, it was about time to see freshly painted turrets (no more black zigzag pattern either) over there and on the NYNY bridge .
If it's after New Years, then they drained the water feature again. Please have it full by February? Please?
At the edge of the road, a timeshare building stands abandoned. See? Good things still happen.
Monte Carlo still had their Christmas stuff up when these pictures were taken. Tis the season to raid Bellagio's warehouse for holiday touches.
The Street of Dreams mall is now up and kickin', though there's still a shop here and there that is walled up. Marshall Rousso moved here from Excalibur, I guess. It's still called the Street of Dreams, even if it's not particularly well themed anymore. Some people with sharp memories may recall that The Pub's Keg Room was once a cigar bar. There's also Harley-Davison, The Art of Music (also at Mirage), The Cupcakery, and Sugar Factory will be bringing their cheesy jeweled lollypop sticks from Mirage soon.
Go a bit further down and it begins to look like a subway station before you reach the fork in the road to Aria or the tram station.
No, no; hold that thought...
There's been a growing chorus on the Internet over the past month that Bellagio just isn't what it was supposed to be anymore. I always have a hard time making a good judgement for a few reasons. One, I'm always a visitor and never a guest, if you get what I mean, so a lot of my impressions about the resorts these days are formed on the ground floor since I've rarely had a room key in the past five years. Secondly, I'm a total mark for that appearance of an Old World Europe Stately Function that Bellagio puts forward, and so minor problems are swept away under the feeling that I'm in some sort of Parliament building.
Well, nobody is ever going to feel like they're making a grand and elegant entrance descending from the tram platform. You do get half a view of a pool, but also a full view and then some of many of the lower rooms in spa tower. They've probably shut these floors down for now, who knows about the future. Many of the rooms which now have a Jockey Club-like view of the station and passing tourists are end of hall "panorama" rooms, whose value probably just went down significantly. MGM's West Wing proves that there's some people who don't care about a view at the right price, so maybe these will be on sale at some point.
So, the first thing I see upon arriving in familiar territory is a napkin being used tojam open an employee door in the back of Sensei. Classy.
Christmas was literally finished with here, and the concept art was placed on stands up front, as is the tradition when the Conservatory is swapping styles. Chinese New Year again.
Gift shop find: Women's Butterfly sweater. When you think of casinos and butterflies, you automatically think of Bellagio, right?
Last time I was here, the Finding New Cash Registers initiative had walled up a pay phone room around the corner from the registration desk and was planning to open an eyeglasses store there instead. And so, they did. But here's the problem with this idea: look at the store, and how featureless it's design is. The wall just simply turns into a black square with some illuminated letters and windows. Not any consideration was given at all to the Old Europe design that Bellagio had been well known for in the past decade.
Compare that to the old Tesorini store that has been around since I've been coming to Vegas. It has appropriate design features like the awnings, the marble along the bottom of the wall, a paint scheme that matches the rest of the room, the archway inside, and so on.
I used to make comments that MGM's design team simply lacks someone with enough vision to pull off anything but this same look in every environment, but CityCenter proved me wrong. I no longer think this is the problem. I think the problem is that they just don't care.
Speaking of old Bellagio design, if you've never been too interested in the cuisine at Jasmine, the Fountains Brunch is still running strong but will end on February 14th to make room for a dim sum brunch. I went in to ask some questions and gawk at the room, and when I asked what food was available the hostess invited me to walk into the dining room and browse. The fountains brunch is a nice little setup with one of those classy blocks of ice that has had "Fountains Brunch" embossed into it and lots of fancy meats that blow away anything you see in a proper buffet. The desserts are located on a table in a one-table dining room that can be closed off from the main dining room, and upon sticking my head in to look the smell of chocolate was so strong that it nearly smashed my face in.
As for the facility itself, Jasmine is a charming room for all it's painted walls, which carry off even down to the washroom. The furniture might benefit from some TLC, at the breakneck pace I had to move at I noticed that the lamps could use some minute adjustment and the curtains appeared somewhat faded after so many summers. I doubt any renovation team will want to stop there, though, and that's too bad.
The marble in the room connecting the bridges to Caesars and Ballys is getting more and more dinged up.
In conclusion, I can see that the growing criticism has a legitimate point, and I hope they can turn things around in the year ahead. Bellagio seems to be once again sailing along on the momentum of it's own name and that only lasts so long before it quits and left to pass for enough time it will eventually transforms into negative equity.
BB King's has been open for a while, though there's not much to see from the outside. Expect the StripMunch to make it's way over there eventually.
What be this on yonder directional sign? We'll get to that in a moment.
The walkway to Mystere is changing. The old TI Kids/Purse Store location is to be the new location for Francesco's. There's a gap in the doors, so take a peek. It looks more deli than dining room, but they've just gotten started and there's still ladders and table saws hanging around, so give them some more time.
This next bit makes me cringe a little since it seems pretty downmarket: Ruffin complained in an interview months ago that the Watch Store wasn't making any money and he was going to replace it. Thing is, he replaced a store selling real Rolexes with a store selling fake diamonds. Some marketing person somewhere had the unfortunate idea to name it Bling. You heard me: Bling.
In a hurry to make room to sell more fake diamonds, the gift shop immediately next door is having a clearance sale on real diamonds.
Now, back to those black spots on the directional sign...
What they've carefully blacked out on all the signs is any reference to the spa, which was given a makeover (pardon the pun.) The spa was formerly known as 'wet' and now is marketed simply as 'O', given that visitors might have difficulty grasping "Oleksandra Spa & Salon".
In case you didn't know, Phil Ruffin is married to a Ukranian beauty contestant, and according to the TI website, the spa is "designed by Oleksandra Nikolayenko-Ruffin."
This was the Ruffin team's first substantial renovation to the facility since Khotan turned out to be Social House with Bling (uh, I mean Jade) everywhere. I was curious to see how substantial the rebranding effort was here. Good start when I see they've made new elevator buttons and directional signage. Head around the corner and here we are.
I never saw the old TI spa, so I really don't know how much changed. And since I didn't really have any business there except to see how much changed, uhhh... Well, some searching turned up this photo of the lobby on another web site, and here's my photo of how it looks now .
Back downstairs, The Steakhouse is now Phil's Italian Steakhouse.
This makes me smile, since back before the Frontier closed the only times I ever went into the place was to announce that Phil had named another steakhouse or pizza joint after himself. The steakhouse seems to be filling in a role previously held by Francesco's but no longer since it became a simple pizzeria. As a result, the room is now often opened for lunch though isn't serving steaks until 4:30 or so.
There was a commercial on the marquee about a place called Smokin' Hot Aces and it opened on New Years and though this sign was placed next to the Palazzo entrance in about the same space where the entrance to the old Vivid club used to be. There wasn't any signs of a club or lounge just inside the front door, maps were no help, and I'm not crawling the MEGACENTER(tm) to look for a place that probably wouldn't be open in the middle of the afternoon.
Palazzo's conservatrium had holiday decorations too, y'know. Sure, the trees are a little Charlie Brown lookin' and Polar Bears made of flowers were done better for the past three years at Bellagio, but a good attempt anyway.
The Country Club is hosting a "Don't You Dare Call It A Fountains" Brunch on Sundays. Live jazz is promised though by the time I got there it was almost shut-down time.
Some artwork in the meeting area was being replaced, hence this curtain.
Finally, here's the Beach Club site.
It works a lot easier to break this stuff down into components.
A while ago, a marketing email went out advertising hotel rooms at Aria for $109. In what seems like it had to be an error, New Years Eve was included in the list. So we booked it and waited for that "sorry for our error" email, but it never came. Eventually, December 31st rolled around and we showed up for the first time at CityCenter, long-hauled to the registration desk, and by this point odds were still at 20% that we'd hear, "Oh, I'm sorry..."
Instead they printed out a receipt and we're off. So, thanks to some marketing IT dude who must have ruined his career, I got a better look than usual at Aria. For what you think of when you think of NYE, the place wasn't really all that packed for many hours. In fact, walking to Bellagio caused crowds to get much worse.
I do like the look of the hotel, but I'll need to visit the casino again on a regular day to figure out if I like it or not. For most of the day and night it was filled with noise. Not so much people screaming and talking, but very loud slot machines all playing their sound effects and reverberating around in my skull.
At one point, I did something I've never done before and stepped outside due to overwhelming gambling sounds. The weather was nice, there's stuff to lean on, and the Lumia watershow is varied enough to hold your attention for a good long time. It's better in the day, however. The lights are actually powerful enough to illuminate the water even in the sunlight, where as at night it can be almost overwhelming as lights from the fountain can be seen illuminating the roof at Monte Carlo and some unfortunate rooms at Aria itself.
Do be careful on the slot machines. Max Bet and Spin Reel have swapped places on a good many machines, causing this column's sole gambling to story to involve betting 3X the intended bet without knowing it until it was over. Fortunately, on the second spin a big result was hit.
There's a few floor plan issues that will probably never be resolved. The walk between registration and the elevators is a pain, but the walk from self-park to registration is far worse, requiring that guests haul their luggage across the entire casino floor. Putting registration where there's presently a sports book or even where there's presently a coffee bar would have built a better mousetrap, but then you wouldn't have that grand view in the lobby.
From a design standpoint, I feel like a lot of things at Aria are a response/evolution of things at Bellagio. Restaurants have their own districts again, though they don't circle around the casino now. I spot I've always loved is that little skylight villa garden behind the registration desk, though it's purely for decoration (nobody goes back there except decorators) it's pretty well detailed. It looks nice, but you'll never be able to experience it. At Aria, the scene behind the registration desk is the pocket park, which is usually active and busy with people AND you can go over there and be a piece of the registration scenery if you so desire.
The room itself has had a lot of technology that has been talked to death, though I'll throw in my unique two cents and suggest you use the bedside panel to turn off the water closet lights while somebody is in there. That's always fun.
Whoever invented the tub inside the shower concept at Aria deserves a promotion or something. It is possibly the greatest new idea on property for two reasons. First, it's something that would be VERY difficult for Steve Wynn or Sheldon Adelson to recreate in their own hotels. Putting an additional channel on the TV system that shows you the current flight status at McCarran is easy and I suspect that very quickly you're going to see that adopted everywhere. And I'm sure that Wynn the person has directed his IT people to investigate the Control4 room automation system, to be included in the almost-due renovations of Wynn the hotel. But the shower is a different story.
Why is the shower so great? First of all, you can pre-shower while the tub fills. Or if you wish, turn the showerhead so the tub fills faster. When the tub is ready, you can dive in and splash around put the watermark well over where it should be and cause water to come spilling out over the sides, and none of this matters because "the side" is the shower floor, so you can be as sloppy as you want to be. I tried even having the shower spraying on the tub while in the tub, which feels a bit like being rained on, which can be refreshing to some people or an annoyance to others.
Is the shower as grand as the degree-precise automatic rain room shower at the SkyLofts? Probably not, but it's as close as you're likely to get for under $300 a night, and for now it's only at Aria.
The Control4 system could use a little instruction pamphlet or something. With all the lights, presets, plus manual controls like the Goodnight button by the beds, there's quite a bit to grasp even for a technophile. For instance, I consider myself to be a pretty big tech user but I have no idea why the remote has a Room Off button that not only turns off the TV but also all the lights and closes the curtains. Do you really want to enter to a pitch black room?
A table lamp under the TV in the desk area had no bulb in it, which is an easily forgiven "new hotel" flaw, but more troubling was that the USB ports (which actually say iPod on them) had trouble charging a Blackberry 9000 and iPhone 3G at once. The Blackberry had no problem, but the iPhone was constantly switching between charging and idle mode and making it's chirping sounds. Upon removing the Blackberry, the iPhone charged normally, so there just doesn't seem to be enough juice in this thing to support two phones at once. If you do want to charge multiple USB devices at once, and have an AC adapter charger like the iPhone's, you may want to consider charging one device over USB and the others over the couple of AC plugs provided right next to it.
I could be getting into more, but I'd tread familiar ground. I do like the "sawtooth" design of the building, though it means looking out your window to the left or right can sometimes give you a view of the person in the next room looking right back at you (hopefully everyone keeps their clothes on.) We were in the shorter north tower, and the hallway corner's window view next to the elevator bank made a great viewpoint from which to sit and watch fireworks shoot off MGM Grand and the roof of the southern tower.
Normally, sitting in a hotel hallway isn't my idea of a great time, and the view was a little obstructed by the white steel panels placed along the building, but it was great fun to sit and watch fireworks blow from the roof of the building I'm sitting inside and the roar of the crowd below. Particularly noisy was the the loud roaring sound when those sparkling fountains erupted on the roof, akin to an air conditioner set to MAX even 30 floors(!!) down the tower.
The bed was very comfortable, though I didn't sleep much because I was writing a long email for half the night.
Though it was only one night, I did enjoy this hotel.
I have to give some razzies to my two reliable options in food: the buffet and cafe. The buffet is alright in that campus cafeteria kind of way, and the views of the pool might pay off in summer, but the food has more artistic value than practicality might demand. We were there for a $35(!) "Holiday Brunch," but good luck finding a roll. You could find English Muffins and "Continental Rolls" or something like that, but the traditional kind of rolls you expect to open and butter and eat were missing.
Next to the carving was some hard biscuits, and next to that was the chunky biscuit gravy for some biscuits. But people were mostly confused. A British gentleman at the next table showed up next to me pointing at it, labelled "Country Gravy" and saying "This doesn't look very much like gravy does it? It seems more like porridge." I would have told him that regular gravy is on the other end of the carving station, except this was just as new to me as it was to him and I wouldn't find that either until the end of our visit.
Basically, the Aria buffet felt less like a conveyor line and more like a bunch of people cutting in and out of each other in a line because of what was offered and where it was all placed. Service was very slow until we casually mentioned it to the waitress and then she started deliberately showing up very frequently to top off glasses. My first fork didn't look clean and needed replacement.
Obviously, I'm too hooked to buffets to say that I'll never try it again, but I would have to put this one below the the Wynn/Bellagio/P-Ho top standard until I can try it on another time. It reminded me of how far Paris has fallen recently.
The other place we tried was Cafe Vettro. Much has been made about the arching airport-like entrance glass, the water walls floating in the air, and the green sculptures hanging around the dining area. When you go and are standing in line, I'd like to draw your attention instead to the building that appears made of rock on the right hand side/north end of the dining room. The rocks are all smooth river rocks that can't be found anywhere near the Strip, and had to have been hauled en masse from somewhere else at a pretty penny.
Now, as for the Cafe food itself, meh. The menu is trying too hard to be sophisticated, and leaves the diner with less to choose from than other "don't call it a coffee shop" experiences like Society Cafe and Tableau. I complained up a storm about this on Twitter, but the only choices for cheese on the burger was bleu and cheddar. If you want American, too bad. If you want Jack, good luck. If you wanted Swiss, no dice. As odd as some of these cheeses might be to put on a burger, the fact is that this is one of the basic, fundamental kitchens for one of the most hotsy-totsy places in town, so they SHOULD have these varieties carried in their kitchen stock. But they don't, or they refuse to offer it on a burger even when asked.
That the menu even mentions bleu then cheddar speaks of someone who initially wanted everyone to eat Bleu Cheeseburgers but thanks to lobbying from higher offices had to relent and include cheddar for those unsophisticated idiot tourists who don't understand couture cuisine. And if you're wondering why I'm railing so hard on Bleu Cheeseburgers, consider how the cheese is made: it basically is left to mold. The kind of people who will order cheeseburgers at this place are the kind of people who would shy away from that kind of thing, assuming they know what it is.
Giving up on that (as much as I like the taste of cheddar, I dislike all the grease and opt for american), I instead fell back on the fish & chips. They were tasty, and weren't soggy in grease, so that went well. Service was simply okay (though others have reported much worse experiences.)
Next to us, some guys in suits who were clearly here to ring in the new year with a fat bill at some lounge or club, ran into the same restrictive shackles of the chef that I did. "What, no chicken sandwich?" The waiter suggested a chicken salad in response. You are simply not welcome to personalize your food here.
One small note of interest on the Vettro menu: this is the first time I've ever seen poutine, a popular item in Canada, show up on a Vegas menu.
I do not think I will return to this cafe again, given that there's so many better options right around it. Why would go here when you're a tram ride from Cafe Bellagio? A reasonable walk to Planet Dailies? If you really wanted to dress up your food, take a casual stroll to Union or man up your wallet and walk a bit further to MOzen. I can't give any personal experience about Silk Road, but I'd give even that a try sight-unseen before doing this again.
The JP bakery at the base of the elevators is pretty nice and serves up some good treats for breakfast. I like this location much more than the Bellagio one.
Room service exists, and is much more compatible to middle-class American tastes than the attempt at foo-foo dining going on at Cafe Vettro. Unfortunately, food can cost $6-$8 more than Vettro, so you're better off not using it.
I didn't walk through here on New Years, but on a comeback visit for the column. I arrived through Bellagio and was a bit surprised to see that the bridge from Bellagio, which also means the bridge from the CityCenter Tram, was going to close at 10PM or something like that. It was on a sign sitting on the bridge. Really? Then how do they expect people to get there at night?
This place seems nice, though perhaps a bit small. Silk Road seems to be having difficulty attracting customers according to others, and it was dead empty in there when I went by. I walked into the spa and it was comfortably cozy though basically everything was closed and only a receptionist was there. But at least I wasn't getting the hairy eyeball I had seen elsewhere in the day.
I walked through here once. A lady that I overheard summed it up perfectly: "So much empty space!" The worst part of it is how the level just below the tram curves around a wall and then turns into a dead end. Coming back, I saw more people heading for the dead end and started telling everyone to just turn around because there's nothing there. Then after going down a couple escalators and walking around, I reach the bridge level on the other side of that angled wall. There's no need to have that wall there except to funnel people downstairs to walk along the shops almost nobody can afford. This place is, basically, ridiculous. Their No Booze policy is a godsend for reasons I'll explain later.
I did almost nothing here except drop by the bakery on the way back from a run to CVS. Looked nice. Sorry I don't have more.
Well, you know I had to visit this almost immediately, right? Some trees, a lake, the Moore sculpture, and a couple benches for those times when you want to be Jim Murren. Although I'd highly suggest that somebody install a trash/ashtray in the Pocket Park. A lot of people are lighting up here because they can't get their nicotine fix in Crystals and the benches offer a place to sit without having gambling pushed into your face, and people are throwing their butts on the ground since there's no clear place to use them.
The biggest threat to the whole ecosystem here is how well the maintenance team takes care of things. Checking out on New Year's Day, an elevator (between the casino floor and the tram/garage level) had a big dent in the ceiling like someone had really beaten and pulled on it. A few days later, the boarding under the chairs of a tram car had visible dents of people's heels kicking against it, and the entrance to the parking garage had ugly stickers slapped on it.
A certain amount of wear and tear is inevitable, as heartbreaking as it may be to watch something that so much blood, sweat, and money was poured into be rudely manhandled by the visiting public. But Vegas hotels basically get the hell beat out of them, and if maintenance wants to place to still look new by summer, they have a lot of ground to cover.
I went into Aria/CityCenter expecting "MGM Grand on Steroids" and was pleasantly surprised. There's plenty of new hotel issues to be worked out all across the property, many of which involve information or a lack of it (for instance, a traffic navigation sign facing the Strip outside Crystals is obscured by a tree) but I still had a good time.
One thing I want to mention is that the first time I saw the place when I arrived was on the self-park garage's top floor. If you have the moment to be up there, it's a nice view and a good welcome to someone like myself who has been watching this property rise out of the ground since I moved here. As I've been taking pictures of this site for now a fourth year, standing on the garage gave me something I hadn't experienced until I arrived: depth. You see, standing there you have a great angle of Aria in front of you, Mandarin behind you, and Veer leaning over the street. It's wonderful to finally see this project in all degrees after having seen it from the same angle so repeatedly that it begins to feel like a two-dimensional portrait.
CityCenter almost really is like a world unto itself, and our view of Vdara and the Harmon traffic circuit helped block out visions of Vegas past (those on the other side of the tower, who see the itty bitty Polo Towers sitting like a centrepiece between Veer and Mandarin, won't have it so lucky.) When standing around waiting for the tram at Monte Carlo, I looked around and noticed that from where I was standing, the only signs of Vegas beyond CityCenter that I could see was some of the Monte Carlo south of me, and half the Eiffel Tower hiding behind Veer. The rest of the view was filled with modern steel and glass.
But it's not just artificial. Time will tell how well it fares, but for the moment all the tacky signs of Las Vegas are somewhat rebuffed. A large part of it probably has to do with people associating the property with the Crystals station on the tram, and Crystals barring alcoholic beverages. But at least for the moment, it really does feel like there's this invisible forcefield around CityCenter, where stuff like giant margaritas, Ed Hardy shirts, and escort cards are repelled and unable to penetrate the bubble. There's no constant advertising in your face, and what advertising there is typically isn't using the visual of a naked woman concealed in shadow or an obstructing object.
It is un-Vegas. And as someone who always feels an ounce of shame returning "home" after visiting other cities who take urban planning and design a little more seriously than we do, seeing the boxy carnival skyline and promises of carnal pleasures fulfilled, let me just say that it's about time.
Twelve years ago, Bellagio promised a future where resorts would shift from dressed up gambling halls to lifestyle hubs where gambling was just one component and attempts to draw money from the visitor would be, if not reduced, made more subtle with the addition of public displays that didn't have a cash register in front of them.
Since then, resorts took another turn and have become more and more concerned with manufactured exclusivity, and hiding their charm and atmosphere from anyone who hasn't paid up for an admission or a drink or a meal. Phrases like "if you're visiting from another hotel then you won't get it" started being spoken more and more. Spun as "looking inward instead of outward," this phase of Vegas once again re-established that you're only as good as your budget and the allure of a hotel was proportional to how much of it's appeal you could afford.
CityCenter is excluded instead of exclusive: Aria isn't exactly an easy reach from Tropicana or Flamingo avenues, and guests in any hotels other than the three gateway hotels (Bellagio, Monte Carlo, and Planet Hollywood) will have a bit of a trip to get there. The real "move aside, poor person" stuff seems to be placed up front at the sidewalk's edge, giving the wealthy the benefit of access to the rest of Las Vegas while taking all others into a sort of quiet getaway of it's own.
It took a long time, but the project followed through on the potential of what Bellagio offered a lot of years ago. It's surprising that The Artist Formerly Known as MGM Grand Inc took more than a decade to build it's next hotel, and perhaps the city would be better off if they had started earlier instead of buying more properties, but here we are.
They succeeded in building something that isn't flawless but for this city is quite special, but it remains to be seen if they can afford to make it last.