From the Inside Flap
What's NEW in the 2018 edition of The Unofficial Guide to Las Vegas?Updated coverage of Cirque du Soleil's recently revised Beatles and Criss Angel shows.Review of nearly a dozen new magic, music, and variety productions Information on the new T-Mobile arena and The Park performance venuesA look at Las Vegas' latest crazy craze: close-quarters gun fightingTouring tips of Las Vegas' vibrant Downtown Arts DistrictHints on how to get around town using ridesharing services like Uber and LyftReview of family-friendly attractions including the Marvel Avengers STATION, SeaQuest aquarium, the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, and the Discovery Children's MuseumEXCERPTS - Part I ACCOMMODATIONS AND CASINOS
HOTELS WITH CASINOS
WITH ITS MAIN ENTRANCE OFF THE STRIP just south of Flamingo Road, the Bellagio is inspired by an Italian village overlooking Lake Como in the sub-Alpine north of Italy. The facade of the Bellagio will remind you somewhat of the themed architecture Steve Wynn employed at TI, only this time it’s provincial Italian instead of Caribbean. The Bellagio village is arrayed along the west and north sides of a manmade lake, where dancing fountains provide allure and spectacle, albeit more dignified than the Mirage’s exploding volcano.
Rising behind the village facade in a gentle curve is the 3,933roomhotel, complete with casino, restaurants, shopping complex, spa, and pool. Added in late 2004 was a 33story Spa Tower with 819 hotel rooms and 109 suites. Bundled with the tower are a restaurant, four shops, and additional convention space. Imported marble is featured throughout, even in the guest rooms and suites, as are original art, traditionally styled furnishings, and European antiques. Guest rooms and meeting rooms also feature large picture windows affording views of lushly landscaped grounds and formal gardens.
The 2,568 guest rooms in the original Bellagio Tower feature jewel-toned color palettes derived from the property’s extensive gardens, floral pageants, and fountains. Inspired by the hotel’s renowned horticultural exhibits, botanical photographs line the walls, and there is enough lighting to illuminate a Cirque du Soleil performance. Most welcome is the laptop-sized safe and iHome docking station in the nightstand. Each room features a minibar and high-speed Internet.
Surprisingly, the Italian village theme of Bellagio’s lakefront facade is largely abandoned in the hotel’s interior. Though a masterpiece of integrated colors, textures, and sight lines, the interior design reflects no strong sense of theme. In two steps, passing indoors, you go from a provincial village on a very human scale to a monumentally grand interior with proportions reminiscent of national libraries. The vast spaces are exceedingly tasteful and unquestionably sophisticated, yet they fail to evoke the fun, whimsy, and curiosity so intrinsic to the Mirage and TI.
Perhaps because Las Vegas has conditioned us to a plastic, carnival sort of stimulation, entering the Bellagio is like stepping from the midway into the basilica. The surroundings impress but do not engage our emotions―except, of course, for the art, and that is exactly the point. Seen as a rich, neutral backdrop for the extraordinary works of art displayed throughout Bellagio, the lapse of thematic continuity is understandable. No theme could compete, and none should.
The art is everywhere, even on the ceiling of the registration lobby, where a vibrant, colorful blown-glass piece by Dale Chihuly hangs. Wonderful works are showcased in the Bellagio’s restaurants. Original Picassos, for example, are on exhibit in the restaurant of the same name. The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art is touted as Las Vegas’s premier art gallery.
Architecturally, Bellagio’s most creative and interesting spaces are found in its signature conservatory and botanical gardens and in its restaurants. As you walk into the main entrance the primary garden is straight ahead. The opulent and oversized displays change seasonally according to the theatrical floral whimsies of the supremely accomplished botanical staff.
If you spend time at the Bellagio, visit each of the restaurants for a moment, if only to take in their stunning design. Many of Bellagio’s restaurants, including a Las Vegas branch of Le Cirque, feature panoramic views. Some offer both indoor and outdoor dining experiences. In addition to the restaurants, Bellagio serves one of Las Vegas’s best―and not unexpectedly one of the city’s most expensive―buffets. With the exception of the buffet and coffee shop, Bellagio’s restaurants require reservations, preferably made a month to six weeks before you leave home.
The Bellagio’s showroom hosts a production of the justly acclaimed Cirque du Soleil. Though terribly expensive, the show is one of Cirque’s most challenging productions yet, featuring a one-of-a-kind set that transforms seamlessly from hard surface to water. Like Bellagio itself, the Cirque production “O” (from the pronunciation of the French word eau, meaning “water”) lacks the essential humor and humanness of Cirque’s Mystère at TI but is nonetheless one of the hottest Cirque tickets in town.
Retailers in the shopping venue include Chanel, Tiffany, Prada, and Giorgio Armani. Bellagio’s purported target market includes high rollers and discriminating business travelers who often eschew gaming properties.
If you stay at Bellagio, you will find the same basic informality typical of the rest of the Strip, and, surprisingly, you will encounter in the hotel more people like you than superrich. Expressed more directly, Bellagio is a friendly place to stay and gamble and not at all pretentious. PART 2 ENTERTAINMENT AND NIGHTLIFE CIRQUE DU SOLEIL SHOWS
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL has taken Las Vegas by frontal assault. As of 2015, there are eight Cirque du Soleil productions playing Las Vegas showrooms. First to open was Mystère
at TI, followed some years later by “O”
at the Bellagio. The third show to premier was Zumanity
at New York–New York, with KÀ at the MGM Grand following close on its heels in 2005. Cirque’s production LOVE, based on the music of the Beatles, opened in June of 2006; CRISS ANGEL Believe opened in September of 2008; Zarkana
, an acrobatic tour de force, opened in November 2012; and Cirque’s latest effort, Michael Jackson ONE
, opened in 2013, celebrates the music and dance of Michael Jackson.
If you’ve never seen a Cirque du Soleil show, understand that Cirque productions completely redefine and elevate circus as a genre. They feature the best and most original circus acts you’re ever likely to see, but those acts are woven into a whole that includes beloved characters, stunning costuming, deep symbolism, poignant drama, cutting-edge theatrical technology, and original musical scores. If you’ve seen a Cirque traveling production and were awed, you won’t believe what Cirque is capable of in its Las Vegas custom-built theaters. Zarkana
, and “O”
are representative of Cirque shows everywhere, albeit on a grand scale, and are appropriate for all ages. Also appropriate for families is Michael Jackson ONE
, an acrobatic and choreographic spectacular. Zumanity
, an in-your-face celebration of everything sexual, is much different from the other productions. CRISS ANGEL Believe
likewise breaks the mold and has only staging, lighting, and costumes in common with the other shows. All Cirque shows provide an awe-inspiring evening of entertainment, so you really can’t go too wrong (assuming, in the case of Zumanity
, that you’re comfortable with the sexual content).How to Choose a Cirque du Soleil Show
In choosing a Cirque show, I suggest you start with Mystère
.That’s where it all started, and it’s still the best. From there, let your taste guide you. If you’re really into the Beatles or Michael Jackson, see LOVE
feature unique technological stagecraft that is totally captivating. Zarkana
is most like Mystère
, only darker Zumanity
celebrates all manner of sex. It’s a great show, and steamier than any topless production in town, but don’t see it with anyone you wouldn’t feel confortable watching soft porn with. Tickets for Mystère
sell at $25–$45 less than for the other Cirque productions, making them by far the best value. For discounts on all eight shows, see lasvegasadvisor.com. Cirque du Soleil’s KÀType of show
Fearsome ballet as epic journey. Admission
Adults, $76–$180; children, $38–$83 (no tax or fees included). Note: Wheelchair-accessible seating available at all ticket levels. Cast size
80. Night of lowest attendance
Wednesday. Usual showtimes
Saturday–Wednesday, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Dark
Thursday and Friday. Topless
No. Special comments
Guests age 12 and under permitted only if accompanied by an adult; no children under age 5. Duration of presentation
90 minutes.DESCRIPTION AND COMMENTS KÀ
is a departure for Cirque du Soleil in many ways. Most striking is the menacing atmosphere of the KÀ
Theater. It has the look of an enchanted Asian foundry from space complete with 30-foot bursts of flame, performers hanging bat-like from girders and scampering along catwalks, and industrial clangs reverberating as you find your seat. You are shown to your seat by one of many hair-raising Gatekeepers, who also serve as security during the show. (This reviewer would not advise breaking theater rules; it will be a Gatekeeper who sees to your punishment.) At the center of the theater, a gaping pit lurks where the stage would rightfully be. The overall effect, while chilling, isn’t off-putting, but the proscription against very young children makes good sense.KÀ
is also unique in that it is the first Cirque production that attempts to tell a linear story that follows twins who have been separated and must each make a journey to meet their destiny. That journey is the focus of the show, and the twins travel through beaches, mountains, forests, and blizzards, face warriors and whimsical sea and forest creatures, and witness remarkable feats of strength and agility. All these, of course, completely overshadow the storytelling and relegate the story to something you’re vaguely conscious of from time to time, but nothing more.
If there is a single star of KÀ
it is the gantry stage. From the pit emerges a large deck, supported by a boom, that is manipulated with computer precision to spin, tilt, raise, and lower throughout the show, all with surprising fluidity and speed. Not to knock the performers, who are as lithe and powerful as any cast of humans has a right to be, but the stage is an incredible industrial achievement. In one of the most breathtaking scenes, the stage tilts fully vertical as warriors loose arrows toward it and their intended victims scramble to find purchase. The arrows appear to stick in the stage, giving the “attacked” performers the handholds they need to dance and spin and flip their way up the vertical wall. As the performers ascend the wall, the “arrows” (which are actually 80 retractable pegs built into the stage) retract and the stage appears to shrug off the performers like so much detritus―an effect that is both unforgettable and disturbing.
In short, KÀ
is a spectacle, and arguably the most technologically complex show in Las Vegas. The story line fails, but the production as a whole doesn’t suffer from the loss. KÀ
is a new breed of Cirque show, though it still contains the elements of all Cirque productions: elaborate costumes, haunting scores, physical prowess and beauty, and acrobatic feats. If you’ve already fallen hard for Mystère
may not be quite what you expect of a Cirque performance. While KÀ
does display some of the whimsy of Mystère
the overall impression is shock, awe, and menacing power. If you are in a show-going mood, you can easily see both KÀ
in a singlevacation without feeling over-Cirqued. In fact, we recommend it. KÀ
is a fearsome production, and an elegant foil for the playful Mystère
.CONSUMER TIPS KÀ
is a fine show―as virile and stirring as anything on the Strip―but the tariff is steep.Comparatively, though, the mid-priced seats are a better deal than similar seats at “O¨
Theater was thoughtfully designed without “limited-visibility” seats. Note: there are wheelchair-accessible seats in all three of the theater’s ticketed sections. If you do see KÀ
and if you can manage to remember this tip with menacing creatures dangling overhead, arrows zipping at the performers, and a stage that’s come shouldering to life in front of you, try to spot the three “performers” on stage who are actually technicians in costume. PART 3 GAMBLING
POKER, A GAME OF SKILL AND CHANCE, has come a long way from the kitchen table. In its most elemental form, it’s a simple game, one that children can easily grasp. Played recreationally by adults, the game admits more sophisticated strategic play. At the highest level, poker combines psychology, probability theory, laser focus, steely calculation and a universe of nuance.
The game has enjoyed an extraordinary renaissance over the past decade, with televised poker tournaments, such as the World Series of Poker, and an unending profusion of poker apps, websites, and books. It has become the subject of higher mathematics and academic research. Today, the complexity of the game in all of its manifestations requires a player to study poker in the same way that serious chess players study chess. Poker 101
Poker embodies essential elements of other card games. Like bridge (depending on the game dealt), it’s necessary to keep track of cards played and not played. It’s necessary to pay close attention to the playing style and decisions of your opponents, and to disguise your own playing style to render it unpredictable. Poker requires that you understand the psychology and utility of bluffing, including under what circumstances and with whom to do it. Also key is the importance of managing the game rather than being swept away by it. Most of all, poker demands a well-considered reason for everything you do. It’s about maximizing skill and minimizing chance.
In casino play, a variety of poker and poker derivative games are dealt, including Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride, Three Card poker, Crazy 4 poker, 357 poker, and the Asian favorite, Pai Gow poker. Though all have their advocates, by far the most popular game is no-limit Texas Hold ’Em, both in ring games (a “live” poker game where actual money is in play) and tournaments (buy-ins for tournament chips). The combination of procedures, strategy and tactics, and psychology can take a lifetime to perfect, but the rules of no-limit Texas Hold ’Em can be learned from an hour of study and another hour of practice. Texas Hold ...
About the Author
Bob Sehlinger, a Lowell Thomas Award-winning journalist, is best known as the creator and producer of The Unofficial Guide series.
He is credited with being the first to apply research techniques from the fields of operations research and statistics to travel guides. Among other projects, he was able to develop mathematical models that could save theme park patrons more than three hours of standing in queue in a single day.
Bob Sehlinger is founder and co-owner of Keen Communications, a book publishing company that includes Menasha Ridge Press, Clerisy Press, and Wilderness Press. The author of 27 books, Sehlinger is a past president of the Publishers Association of the South, and has served at the invitation of the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Information Service on educational missions for publishers in Hungary, Romania, and Russia.
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