Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

April 12, 2009

Strip Walk - April 2009

Posted by Hunter

Here's your latest Strip Walk, for April 2009.

Photos are here, check after the jump for the details.


Having returned from a six week stay in California, I returned to LV just in time for another visit to the MGM Grand.

Room 5-224 was more or less the same as the previous MGM Grand room I stayed in, just in a different wing with a view of the airport. There was a huge line to check in, late on a Sunday afternoon even, and so rather than get in another huge line to get food I simply hit up the food court.

Aside from a VP win that was eaten up by the slots, most of this visit was spent gathering stuff for this column, so don't expect anything in the way of play. This is also a sort of "it's new to me!" version of the column, as being out of state for so long has caused some things to come and go that I haven't yet noticed but you may have heard about already from other sites. So if the closure of the Excalibur beer store happened all the way back on February 19th, well, I only just learned about it.

That evening I visited the other MGM south strip casinos. Upon going to NYNY, I was pleased to see that Times Square has actually been spared de-theming, at least for now. The new flooring I had talked about previously only covered a small area, as this horribly blurred photo will show you.

Can you figure out what's changed in this photo? "The lagoon is finally filled after a very VERY long dry spell starting New Years 08" says the cynical mind. "Actually," chimes in the observant mind, " the tugboat by the statue's base is missing." For whatever reason, the green boat that used to live by the statue is gone. The red boat is still there on the other side.

At Excalibur, I noticed that this location was closed. Starting out the decade as a store for themed RenFaire style gifts like humes and honest-to-goodness swords (just the kind of thing TSA enjoys finding in your bag), it became a sundries store in 06 and then a Carona themed crap store in late 07. Strangely, the body armour store had the longest lifespan.

Speaking of closed stuff at Excalibur (and speaking of beer), the Jewelry Box store is shuttered and someone was inside there pulling out... Caseloads of beer! Why? Because Sir Galahad's Prime Rib was briefly reopened as... A beer pong hall! ("ta-da" trumpets here) Now only the bar at the front of the restaurant was opened, with some cheap tables sitting out, but even though it wasn't working it didn't take much work to figure out what it was (all the signs everywhere also helped.)

In these tough economic times, we're certain to see more closures at hotels like Mandalay Bay. Why? Because we have no more money to spend on things like dog clothing or specialty chocolate. Actually, that second one is a bit of a surprise since the Chocolate Swan and Burger Bar are about the only two businesses in the mall there that got much press for years.

Also running through the middle of the mall are these huge signs advertising Lion King. There's about four or five of these with different images on each side and some of them have scale-model show concepts in a box.

I trammed back up to NYNY, and hiked up north. At CityCenter, I noticed that one of Aria's crowns is already illuminated. This grid-like pattern was being applied to the base of Mandarin Oriental (the red light is the neon from CVS nearby). This was one of Vegas' windiest nights in years, so I didn't spend much time taking photos at night. The wind was roaring, dust from the construction sites would spill out and threaten to blind you, the cones barricading off the entrances to CityCenter and Cosmo were knocked over in the gusts and even some of the large road barriers (orange plastic, not concrete thankfully) were drifting off their location and into the Strip. It looked like a disaster waiting to happen, and when a strong wind blew out of the cavernous entrance of Cosmo and threatened to knock down the cyclone fencing that forms the pedestrian fence, I decided to just stop shooting and run.

There's more photos of CityCenter, mostly in daylight, in the gallery, by the way. The window panels of the Crystals are getting the metal framing around their panels, making the building look less 'delicate' than I had said earlier. I still don't think it's as striking as the building it was based on without the criss-crossing window stripes, but hopefully it's more practical inside for it.

Recession has hit Bellagio, particularly where the Conservatory is concerned. Though the glass butterfly house is back, the garden near the Cafe and near the CityCenter booth aren't quite as fancy, with one being a Japanese rock garden and the other a simple waterfall. The other areas around it are as pretty as always (I like the three water cans hovering in air by the garden store), and the whole display isn't bad at all, it's just not as eye popping, outrageously detailed as it has been in years past. It's nicely done and all, but it's not like a rock garden is heavy on cost or maintenance.

Spring is here, and Bellagio turns into a bit of a zoo every year for this season. I spotted a Momma Duck in the lake outside. And yes, Momma seemed to instinctively know that when people crowd around the edge of the water, it's time to haul the family to the perimeter of the lake.

At night, some parts of the western Cosmopolitan tower have blue neon. There's two tubes (pictured) on the north side, and one on the south. I'm a bit concerned about how those wide shots over the lake at night will look if the whole tower is clad in blue neon. One of the reasons that Bellagio looks so good at night (and Paris as well) is the lack of bright attention-grabbing signs or decorations nearby.

The next day I looked at the northern casinos. The special menus at Wynn & Encore have been discussed here already, so I decided to just continue on. I did notice that Stratta is now open for lunch on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday only.

The Rhumbar at Mirage has opened. It's a fairly typical glowy letters bar with a very white interior and an outdoor patio that tried to fit in between the taxi sidewalk and the southern entrance. I know you're excited that Starbucks is coming, taking up the other side of this formerly huge gift shop, leaving the gift shop with a tiny space between Starbucks and Rhumbar, similar in size to the sundries store that used to be on the other side of this walkway next to the tiger tank. They'll be grinding beans in here soon.

There's not much happening at Treasure Island yet (and from all reports we shouldn't hold our breath) though within 15 minutes of walking around the casino I spotted Phil Ruffin walk out from the Mystere area to the middle of the casino and chat with another guy in a suit.

There has been little progress on the Palazzo Walgreens. It's still mostly just aisle signs over an empty floor at this point. I guess they're waiting until they can have an official opening night event with the national press in attendance and fireworks. Considering the Sands group's openings in the past, I'm surprised they don't just stock the makeup and candy sections and throw open the doors, and tell anyone looking for frozen foods or one-hour photo that this is only a soft opening.

Moving to less exciting subjects, the transitional room between Palazzo and Venetian has been decorated with lots of umbrellas that also carry little LED glowsticks that make it appear to "rain." At the base of the falls were three women doing that moving statue thing to that kind of opera music that you used to hear a lot of at Bellagio before it was all kicked out for pop. Their dress is actually detailed with a waterworks. One had water coming out of her head, and this woman appears to have water flowing from her fingertips. It's kind of cheesy but it's free themed entertainment (or as the Disney wonks call it, streetmosphere) in a town that for some reason has decided that concepts like "free" and "themed" should be abandoned. As such, no matter what you think of it, it is pretty popular. I just do think if they decide to use this room for more free entertainment that they should find a way to hide speakers in the room rather than putting up large black temporary speakers by the falls. That is, again using Disney terms, bad show.

Also, the bridge connecting the garden between TI and Mirage with the Venetian will be getting Palazzo access soon, for those of you who feel like going there but don't want to walk all the way up to Sands Ave.

Maintenance Update: Good and bad. I'm glad MGM Grand fixed that bronze mirrored panel that was gone in their lobby gift shop. On the other hand, here's another mirrored panel that needs replacing, and it's not nearly as unique as that last one. This mirror is being held together by ugly red tape (I guess Palazzo took all the blue stuff) and it's location is especially noteworthy: Directly above visitor heads coming up to the lobby from the Star Lane stores. For all I know, there isn't any danger of this mirror falling, but if it did there'd be a lot of apologies and possibly another lawsuit. At minimum it's VERY ugly and plan square mirrors shouldn't be that expensive to replace for the world's second largest hotel.

Twitter: I'm promoting myself on Twitter again (I'm @mtc) simply because so much of this update was posted to Twitter immediately as it happened and then this update is posted when schedules (both mine and Hunter's) allow. Many other regulars here use it as well, so you join the conversation as we discuss things like why don't luxury hotels have southwestern cuisine, Terry Fator's huge contract, the Paris Transformer, and whether Botero is better than Switch.


Read archived comments (11 so far)
April 12, 2009 12:47 AM Posted by mike_ch

By the way, these in-room magazines you get are all starting to resemble one another.

April 12, 2009 4:39 AM Posted by detroit1051

Mike, I checked Treasure Island's website to see whether Ruffin is referring to it as TI or Treasure Island. The site didn't look any different, but I did see the notice to become an "MGM Affiliate". Is this something new? It looks like MGM has added this to each property's website.
Why does Treasure Island still promote MGM? I know they use MGM's players card, but there aren't any other connections, are there? Thanks.

April 12, 2009 5:49 AM Posted by TC from Boston

comments on the walgreens might be the funniest thing i've read in a long notch sir top notch

April 12, 2009 7:03 AM Posted by Brian Fey

On a serious note, What's really up with the Walgreens in Palazzo? This place has made very little if any progress in months. Why would they be moving so slowly on such a prime location, which could surly be one of their top performing stores. I am just amazed, its not open, as it was so close when I was there months ago. When I was there just a week ago, it did not seem like there were even any workers working in the space, and its so close to being done. The flooring is down, the shelves were up, it seems like all that's left to be done, is stocking the shelves, and a few other small details. What's going on, did I miss something obvious?

April 12, 2009 8:47 AM Posted by Hunter

The affiliate program has been around for a few years.

TI will be removed from the affiliate program soon. They notified members not long ago.

As far as still promoting MGM, I don't know the answer but I can tell you that to this day, Phil Ruffin's own Web site still lists The Frontier as one of his assets. Traditionally the Web is not high on his list of priorities.

April 13, 2009 2:10 AM Posted by Edgar

hey there everyone.There was an interview on 60 minutes with steve wynn check it out guys.

April 21, 2009 7:06 PM Posted by Joe

Actually, I thought that the Bellagio's new spring exhibit had more flowers and plant rather that all of those cartoonish figures made of flowers (bears, snails, penguins, etc). Next, I don't know if I posted this on here before but, as I was strolling down the Bellagio's casino floor, they were playing classical music at a normal volume (which really surprised me). Maybe MGM realized how they must maintain its 5 diamond award to and to keep its cover. Have any of you guys witnessed this lately? Oh, and also, would there be a chance that the Bellagio (despite its massive size), in 60 years or so become a "historic landmark"? I had always been curious about this.

April 22, 2009 7:46 AM Posted by Mike P.


Bellagio's casino has been playing their old soundtrack of rat pack era jazz/pop vocalists & light classical music in the mornings for at least the last year. I'm not sure what hour of the morning they start playing it, but they transition back to inoffensive pop sometime around noon.

On another note, there were some comments a week or so ago about the facade of the Crystals mall at CC. Somebody posted a picture on skyscraperpage a few days ago showing recent facade work in progress. That white siding that's visible now turns out to be just an under layer. The real one will be something different -- hopefully better looking. Here's a link to a flickr photo showing workers hanging some metal framework:

April 22, 2009 9:45 AM Posted by detroit1051

Mike P, you're a Bellagio aficionado. How are the restaurants being maintained? Have you dined at Yellowtail or Sensi recently? I'm surprised Jasmine has been left untouched for eleven years. I keep expecting MGM to make it more contemorary. Perhaps they're waiting to see how Aria and Bellagio complement each other before making changes (if MGM still owns Bellagio at that time).

April 22, 2009 12:28 PM Posted by mike_ch

Joe: You may be mistaking the protections that come with being a landmark.

As a landmark, a resort would not be protected from being demolished at some point. However, it would not be able to modify (add another tower or what have you) without losing it's status as a landmark.

April 22, 2009 8:58 PM Posted by Mike P.


I really like Sensi a lot. Innovative menu with something for just about anyone to enjoy, contemporary decor (but nothing like the Light Group operations sprouting up in every MGM property), and relatively reasonable prices. Unfortunately what we really liked Sensi for was lunch, and thanks to the recession they've stopped serving it.

Last trip we ate at both Circo and Le Cirque. We hadn't been to Le Cirque in a few years, but except for relaxing the dress code a little it was the same place with the same high standards as always. Circo still has a lot of old timers on staff, and we were treated exceptionally well and had great meals.

As far as I can tell all of Bellagio's restaurants are well maintained, and food and service standards haven't changed. In fact, and this is true at any strip restaurant, if you're recognized (in a not bad way) as a repeat customer you can expect really, really good service and probably comped extras. It's a great time to sample Vegas's fine dining options.