Sheldon Adelson's Venetian manages the neat trick of recreating the city of canals in the desert. To-scale replicas of the Rialto Bridge, the Doge's Palace and the Campanile are rendered with affection, and the singing gondoliers and itinerant 'street' performers in St Mark's Square perform with gusto and a wink. It's less tacky than you might expect.
Attractions here are, with the arguable exceptions of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera and the adjacent Madame Tussaud's, pretty cultured. The Grand Canal Shoppes is a meandering mall with flowing canals and faux façades that curve around to St Mark's Square. Another key draw is the Canyon Ranch SpaClub, which offers a full range of spa services along with movement and wellness classes, a climbing wall and a café. The resort connects to the Sands Expo; indeed, the Venetian pulls in much of its business from conventioneers, especially midweek.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Adelson will unveil the adjacent $1.6-billion Palazzo in late 2007 or early 2008. Aiming for an upper-crust Beverly Hills feel, the resort will feature a new mall, the Shops at Palazzo, connected to the Venetian via the Grand Canal Shoppes and anchored by Barneys department store. Directly above it will be 300 condo units that are expected to sell for $1,500-$2,000 per sq ft, the Strip's priciest residential offerings.
The standard suites (there are no regular rooms) at the Venetian are far larger than the Vegas norm. The sumptuously appointed suites underwent renovations during 2007, no doubt to keep them on a par with the Palazzo. The 12-storey Venezia Tower atop the car park has rooms that are similar to those in the original tower, but that now come with some extra amenities (private elevators, complimentary newspaper delivery, access to the secluded Italian-style pool garden and arboretum). For more exclusivity, the tower's top five floors contain an old world drawing room-style lounge and speciality baths.
Eating & drinking
Where to begin? The Venetian's restaurant roster reads like a Who's Who of top chefs. Thomas Keller (of French Laundry fame) oversees stellar brasserie Bouchon; Wolfgang Puck and Emeril Lagasse respectively run the San Francisco-style café Postrio and the Cajun Delmonico Steakhouse; Joachim Splichal's Pinot Brasserie brings a lighter taste of French cuisine; and Tom Moloney's AquaKnox serves Californian cuisine. This being ersatz Venice, there's plenty of Italian food: Piero Selvaggio's dual rooms Valentino and the Grill at Valentino; Zeffirino, a Genoan-style seafood restaurant with a fan club that includes Pavarotti; and Canaletto. New arrivals include Tao, an Asian bistro related to the fashionable New York restaurant-club; Mario Batali's B&B Ristorante and Enoteca San Marco; and David Burke's signature American restaurant. Less pricey options (it's all relative) include Noodle Asia for pan-Asian noodle dishes, Hong Kong dim sum and vegetarian specialities; the excellent 24-hour Grand Lux Café; and Taqueria Cañonita.
The Venetian has improved its night-time entertainment options, ditching the tiresome Lord of the Dance in favour of the Blue Man Group and all-round entertainer Phantom. Tao moved into the old Guggenheim Las Vegas space in the spring of 2006 to wild acclaim; when the Palazzo opens, it'll host Broadway hit Jersey Boys.
After numerous attempts at starting a nightclub scene stalled at the gates, the Venetian finally hit the bullseye with V Bar, a pan-Asian boîte, nightclub and rooftop lounge that entertains thousands on weekends. For more lounge and less club, check out the sizzling minimalist .
In the casino, the 140 table games include blackjack, craps, Caribbean stud, Let it Ride and pai gow. The casino's 2,600 slots are weighted toward reel games, with a large mix of $1 machines. For the player with pull, there are high-denomination machines - $5, $25 and $100 - in the casino's high-limit salon, which also includes a baccarat pit and 12 table games (blackjack starting at $10,000 a hand).