There’s more to Las Vegas than just gambling, shopping and shows. And yes, more even than drinking, fornicating and otherwise embarrassing yourself in ways you pray will “Stay in Vegas.” For travelers like us who are uninterested in those things (well, many of those things anyway), we found in Vegas a surprising opportunity for world exploration; if only in a manner of speaking.
It’s fitting that several of the massive casinos dotting The Vegas Strip are themed after actual world cities. Many are large enough to qualify as cities themselves; complete with shopping, dining, entertainment and even museums. Once inside, there is no real reason to ever leave – which is entirely the point. But no matter how captivating a city or casino may be, we’re always looking forward to our next destination. So join us as we travel the world, Vegas style.
New York, New York
For us, New York City is home. It is also where our hearts are. So we were delighted to find in Las Vegas a New York replica that paid homage to the city’s wonderful neighborhoods. It probably would have been easier for them to simply exploit well-worn New York images by constructing a mock Times Square or 5th Avenue. Instead, they chose a more genuine approach that reflects a true version of New York City street life as it unfolds daily in front of beautiful brownstone facades.
Walking through the familiar yet foreign streets was enough to make these longtime New Yorkers smile. That and the chance to whiz past Lady Liberty’s head on a roaring rollercoaster. And why not? This is still Vegas, after all.
Venice (The Venetian)
Zebra-striped vaporetto operators navigating canals may be a clichéd depiction of Venice, but it’s hard not to be impressed by a hotel cleaved in half by an artificial river. Just as in Venice, the Venetian vaporettos ferry travelers along the waterway, through canals and under bridges.
Back on land, lancet arched porticoes guide pedestrians past high-end retail shops while canal-side patios provide the perfect environment to enjoy a gelato in faux-Venetian splendor. Stepping away from the canals visitors find themselves in another Venetian staple: the opulent palace.
From outside, the hotel recreates the famed Doge’s Palace and campanile of St. Mark’s Square. Although, being Vegas, they apparently couldn’t resist the opportunity to foul the Doges façade with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill advertisements.
Who needs Paris, France, when you can visit a one-half scale replica of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Las Vegas? The original hotel blueprints envisioned a full-scale version of the famous Parisian landmark but it would have been so large as to interfere with flight routes from the nearby airport. The downsized version doesn’t diminish its appeal, though. It also has the added benefit of being just around the corner from a two-thirds sized Arch de Triomphe, and directly in front of a facade that fuses elements of the Paris Opera House with the Louvre. Had Napoleon III’s 19th century renovation of the actual city been as well thought out as this Vegas replica, tourists would save a bundle on Parisian cab fare.
Rome (Caesars Palace)
Caesars Palace isn’t intended to mimic Rome in the same way the other hotels replicate New York, Venice and Paris, and it shows. Mostly Caesars gives the feeling of an ordinary luxury hotel adorned with faux empire-era statues. Would-be world travelers, however, can still visit landmarks like the Trevi Fountain and prowl through The Forum Shops, which are ironically housed in an ornate cylindrical building seemingly patterned after the Pantheon instead of the rectangular Forum – consider it a Roman twofer because the building really is worth a second glance.
The Luxor Hotel’s striking pyramidal exterior held promise for an amazing Egyptian experience the interior just couldn’t deliver. Riding the escalator to Luxor’s main floor didn’t give us the impression we were entering the ancient city of Thebes, but rather a modern movie theater. A handful of Egyptian style statues and obelisks fight a losing battle with undisguised concession stands and neon lights that mostly wreck any attempt to create an ancient aura.