With its Polynesian village decor, lush landscaping, lagoon-like pool and waterfalls, the $650-million Mirage set the standard for modern resorts when it was opened by Steve Wynn in 1989. But in much the same way that the likes of the Tropicana and the Flamingo were left standing at the gate when the Mirage welcomed its first guests, so the Mirage was in turn overtaken by its sassier competitors, who shrewdly realised that there was money to be made from a younger, more fashionable generation.
However, changes are afoot. Not in the guestrooms themselves, at least not yet. And not so much in the main public areas, which retain their longstanding island-paraside theme. But by vastly improving the hotel's dining options, introducing nightclubs and lounges aimed squarely at the under-thirties rather than the over-forties, and replacing the Christmas-camp Siegfried & Roy with a vibrant Beatles-based show, the owners have pepped things up no end. The Mirage might not look like a different resort, but it certainly feels like one.
For all that, many of the old favourites remain. The mocked-up volcano at the front is no more realistic than it ever was, but its hourly shows (evenings only) remain a draw. Also still here are the 90ft rainforest atrium filled with fresh and faux palm trees and orchids, the much-imitated 20,000-gallon aquarium behind the registration desk, and the Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat. And do make time to stop by the gorgeous pool area, which comprises a series of blue lagoons, inlets and waterfalls, plus two islands exotically landscaped with various palm trees and tropical flowers.
The redecoration of the Mirage in 2002 freshened the colour scheme from pale pastels to deeper cranberries, greens and yellows, with cane furnishings and crown mouldings. Several years on, the slightly stuffy design is somewhat at odds with the type of crowds that the hotel is trying to draw to its bars and restaurants, but the rooms are kept in good shape.
Eating & drinking
The ongoing regeneration here has taken hold of the catering. The Samba Brazilian Steakhouse, surf 'n' turf favourite Kokomo's and Cravings, hardly 'the ultimate buffet experience' but good nonetheless, have all survived. However, they're been joined by some eye-catching newcomers. Chief among them is Japonais, imported via Chicago and New York, and the swanky Stack, which places American cuisine into a tapas-style menu. Other options include Onda, a smartish Italian restaurant; Chinese-oriented Fin; the almost forcibly casual California Pizza Kitchen; and, from New York, the Carnegie Deli.
The big show at the Mirage is one of the biggest and best in the city: Love, Cirque du Soleil's surprisingly successful reinvention of the Beatles' back catalogue.
The nightlife here has received a not-before-time overhaul of late, and the changes have made a huge difference to the atmosphere throughout the Mirage. The Cirque-designed Revolution Lounge grabs the headlines, with its novel interactive tables and moreish speciality cocktails; however, the putative Beatles theme doesn't extend as far as the soundtrack, which (with the exception of a BritPop themed Thursday) tends towards polite house. Things are a little livelier at chi-chi Jet, a little mellower at the wine lounge at Onda, and a little breezier at the poolside Dolphin Bar.
The Mirage has nearly 100 blackjack tables, most dealt from six-deck shoes. Minimums are high: $10 for 21, craps and roulette, $25 for mini baccarat, $100 for baccarat. You can find a good game of poker at any hour; since many players are tourists, the action, both on the low- and high-limit tables, is plentiful. For a break, check out the high-limit slots. If you're polite, and it's not too busy, an attendant might offer you some freshly sliced fruit, normally reserved for players who insert $100 tokens five at a time (their generosity truly knows no bounds). The Red, White & Blue slot offers a $1 million jackpot.