Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

May 9, 2009

Strip Walk - May 2009

Posted by Hunter

Here we are with another Mike_Ch Strip Walk for late April / early May 2009.

You'll visit Luxor, Excalibur, Monte Carlo, Bellagio, Caesars Palace and more.

Everything is after the jump. The full photo gallery is here.


A commenter asked where the advertised Baja Fresh is. Well, it's where the Snack Bar used to be, between Dick's and the pool. Speaking of the pool, I thought I'd go check out Drenched, a poolside diner in a new building constructed next to the pool. However, the room key checkpoint is in the way. I thought about asking if I could just go straight to the eatery, but figured that being a fully dressed guy with a camera raises too many flags to even bother.

An ongoing theme in the casinos these days is that every restaurant has a deal being advertised. At Excalibur, new directional signs put a greater emphasis on deals than the restaurant name, even. (sorry that photo was not flipped). There's also new signs over the escalators.


Oh, look, another gift shop was renamed to something that sounds like a fictional store in 90210: LX Logo was formerly the completely tame and un-themed Luxor Gift Shop.

I decided to ride the tram, and noticed a few things. One, despite rumors of it's demise, the Sphinx is still a pretty popular photo attraction (especially if you're waiting for a tram with nothing to do). Two, the Criss Angel wrap is gone, finally. I can tolerate staying in Donny Osmond's teeth, but a few nights in Criss' sideboob wasn't very appealing. Secondly, the wraps must prevent the washing machines that clean the windows from working because that is a dirty pyramid (might need to blow up to extra-huge original size to get the full detail.) With big YOUR AD HERE wraps still on half the building, it will probably be a brown pyramid in another two or three months.

One last thing: this is unacceptable. Either move the tram back to it's original hours or change the sign. Don't scotch tape on a confusing paper add-on that is easily ripped off, potentially hard to read depending on who is writing it, not friendly to those with limited vision, and likely to fade over the summer.

Anybody else think the tram was closed Saturday and Sunday for maintenance?

Monte Carlo

I thought I'd take a trip over to the MC's self parking garage to scope out some different shots of CityCenter. That was a big waste of time, since the garage still isn't open yet. However, both Dragon Noodle Co and Market City Caffè (which is the Italian word for coffee, which seems like a strange name for a place that isn't known for it's coffee) are closed for the summer. Also, continuing our theme of every restaurant having a deal, Brand has one, too.


I dropped by Bellagio, where there wasn't much new, to get a lunch buffet and take some pictures of the conservatory display. They're in the gallery. If you remember, I wasn't much of a fan of this display because it's fairly short on wow compared to previous works. Now that I take a harder look at it, the details are all still there but the room just isn't jumping alive like I feel it did in years past, like it did with the model train displays or even the ferris wheel one of years past. For some reason a lot of previous decorations from this display are missing, like the giant hat and the huge overturned flower pot. They were replaced with rock gardens and a stone face in the middle of a mostly empty space.

The buffet line at Bellagio wasn't moving, so I continued to Caesars where I was surprised by the number of things that I hadn't noticed before.

Confession time: I've sometimes wondered if this column has a bit of a selection bias. It started with me just visiting places I wanted to go, which meant lots of visits to Bellagio and Luxor and originally downtown (because my original bus route into the city went through downtown, and all the best lunch deals were there.) Then the feedback came and it was obvious what the blog crowd wanted updates on (hint: Wynn Resorts) and so in that time I've been visiting some hotels more and more and others less and less. Caesars is one I don't visit too often anymore, and I feel like things have come and go an I missed them.

Well, it probably isn't just me. Harrah's people might disagree with me on this, but the company is sometimes loud and sometimes quiet about their openings and closings. MGM Mirage will buy billboards around town and use their video screens to market almost anything new to their hotels. Harrah's is a little more subdued. If a restaurant has a celebrity name attached like Bobby Flay's Mesa at Caesars or even Toby Keith's Grill at Harrah's LV, you bet you will hear about it. Something like Voga at Flamingo or Le Burger at Paris, though, not really. So I don't really feel like the column is so much against Harrah's properties but unaware of what's going on there. I've since signed up to a Harrah PR person's Twitter feed so hopefully I'll be more informed.

Caesars Palace

So with that in mind, I'd like to mention a number of things at Caesars that I didn't see before. First of all, the outdoor cafe is occupied again. This space was originally a high end restaurant and then it went under and they've done very little (other than a few tapings of The View) here. There's now a restaurant and take out window called Serendipity in this space. Here's the menu. I saw this place being renovated during my last, MGM Grand focused visit, but didn't write anything or take any photos because it was dark at night and I couldn't see what the space was supposed to be.

I stepped inside and saw that even at Caesars there's food deals being advertised and moved along to the buffet. I passed a place called Beijing Noodle No. 9 that I hadn't ever recognized before, and I don't know how long it's been open or what was previously in this space (808, perhaps?) The design is bright and with lots of windows that makes the kitchen quite an attraction; and though the picture came out a bit blurry and dark, the dining room with many fish-tanks is striking.

There was also a dessert place nearby similar to Jean Philippe at Bellagio or the old Chocolat at Wynn (curse you, cell phones!) In general I kind of felt like the place had significantly changed while I wasn't looking, though the amount of effort it takes to get around the whole casino is probably why I can miss a corner for a year.

Cafe Lago, the former 24 hour coffee shop turned buffet, doesn't serve dinner anymore. Ever. Every single day, it closes for the remainder of the day at 2PM. Just not that many people wanting gluttonus maximus there at dark.

In case you don't know, the Palazzo Walgreens is open, in case that $150 meal gave you the 2AM cramps.

I wandered over to Mirage, where the Love wraps were being replaced with 20th anniversary wraps. The Starbucks is open. Woo. Also, the Roasted Bean down by the lobby and Jet is still open if you care.

I was simply starving (was relying on Bellagio and then Caesars for buffets, and it didn't work out) and knew there was little to see at Encore (and besides which, Hunter would be visiting it shortly), so I went home.


Read archived comments (15 so far)
May 9, 2009 1:53 PM Posted by Anthony

Just wanted to mention that the metal cladding for the Crystals is being installed. It's good to know that the white material that is visible is not the final product.

May 9, 2009 4:56 PM Posted by Phil

You would think these big operations would have their own internal sign shops, not for neon signs, but simple stuff like a redo of that Luxor sign. Hell, go to a darn "Signs-R-Us" and spend $50 and have it done in a few hours. A piece of paper is unacceptable, somewhere down the line a manager said just throw a piece of paper up there and apparantly that person's boss is ok with that.

May 9, 2009 8:50 PM Posted by Erich L

Thanks for pointing out he change in schedule for the MB/Luxor/Ex tram. Those hours are really crummy.. shutting down at 1030 weekdays and 1130 weekends. Hopefully this is something very temporary..

May 10, 2009 9:33 AM Posted by detroit1051

Mike, those are your best photos yet. You must have a very good camera. Bellagio's Conservatory looks great; not as gimmicky as some past exhibits. Very nice.
Mandarin Oriental looks good in the photo, but when you're seeing it in person, do the windows seem small?

May 10, 2009 1:33 PM Posted by Jason Robar

Mike, thanks for the info on the Baja Fresh. I'll try to see if I can get any info about Drenched when I go to Vegas in a copule of weeks.

Curiously, is there a matching directional sign at the other side of the Excalibur escalators?

May 10, 2009 5:49 PM Posted by Jinx

Thanks for the information Mike. To your question, yes when I read the hand written sign I definitely saw how it could be intepreted as closed on Sat. and Sun. The sign stinks and so does the hours for the tram. But good to know.

May 11, 2009 7:52 AM Posted by TC from Boston

Hey Mike good job as usual, your columns get me through trips because I think we look for similar things while wandering around.

The stone head in the Conservatory looks like its just surrounded by empty space but there are jumping fountains in there. Maybe you noticed them and failed to mention them but its not totally empty in there mostly empty space.

May 11, 2009 7:48 PM Posted by mike_ch

Detroit: No, they don't really. I think it's just a perspective thing.

Jason: Yes, there are.

TC: I saw the fountains but them immediately forgot about them. They're used in most displays nowadays and whenever I see that big sideways face I'm too busy trying to figure out what MGM big-shot's face that is supposed to be. :b

May 16, 2009 9:40 AM Posted by Alfie11

If you only had one last chance to eat at a Las Vegas buffet, which one would you choose and why?

For me it would be Bellagio buffet so I was just wondering what a Vegas local would choose as their favorite


May 16, 2009 10:06 AM Posted by mike_ch

Unusual question.

It's a close one between Wynn and Mandalay. I'll pick Mandalay because it has more options for my (admittedly limited) pallate. Wynn has so much variety that it's almost a bad thing.

May 20, 2009 3:40 AM Posted by absolouteseabliss1

I love most of Vegas' hotels, but have you stayed at the Jockey Club next to the Bellagio??? It is nice and inexpensive. Read more about it at:

May 20, 2009 7:44 PM Posted by Joe

Hey check out Bellagio's new summer conservatory exhibit (scroll down a little to see them:

May 21, 2009 3:39 PM Posted by Joe

I have a question. Is it true that the Bellagio had boats that flowed on their "lake" for customers?
(not to be confused with the boat that is used to fix the fountain tubes)


May 21, 2009 4:07 PM Posted by Hunter

There was a boat on the lake originally but I never saw it cruising around and I don't think customers rode around in it.

May 21, 2009 7:39 PM Posted by detroit1051

The only boats on the lake are for fountain maintenance.
Steve Wynn had a classic 1928(?)wood Chris Craft speedboat permanently docked on the lake, near Picasso's patio. He removed it when he sold Mirage Resorts to MGM. I've searched for photos or information but can't find any. The boat was in original promotional photos of the lake when Bellagio first opened.