It’s difficult to believe that Bellagio, which reset everyone’s expectations for luxury along the Las Vegas Strip, opened more than 20 years ago. Its then-owner, Steve Wynn, was inspired by the town of Bellagio in Lake Como, Italy—who bet big on luxury in 1993 when he bought the old Dunes hotel and casino land. Its original cost was $1.6 billion, and although that might not seem like much after he built Wynn Las Vegas for $2.7 billion (and its sister resort Encore for an additional $2.3 billion), it was a coup at the time. Before Bellagio, the most ambitious project on the Strip had been Wynn’s Mirage, with its dramatic erupting volcano, at $630 million. When it opened in 1998, Bellagio was the most expensive hotel ever built.
Bellagio’s elaborately floral lobby, with its blown-glass Dale Chihuly ceiling, remains one of the most fabulous sights in Las Vegas. It opens into the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, inspired by Wynn’s fascination with verdigris-framed Parisian gardens, and is fronted by the now-iconic Bellagio Fountains, where people cluster every single evening to take in the city’s best public show. In other words, Bellagio is one of the best free public spectacles in Las Vegas. In recent years, it has been updating its rooms, dining, and retail. Now in a town that’s constantly remaking itself, Bellagio is as fresh as ever. Here’s what to see.
The Hotel at the Bellagio
In 2015, Bellagio finished a multi-year, $165 million renovation of all its nearly 4,000 rooms. And the freshening up was just the shot in the arm the hotel needed. There is an almost bewildering array of room categories, but among them, you’ll find suites with clubby, lacquered wood accents and rooms that echo its spa tower colors of green and a coral color Bellagio calls “dragonfruit pink.” No matter which room you choose, it will be large: the rooms start at 510 square feet—some of the largest on the Strip. You’ll want to spring for a fountain view, which you can search for directly on Bellagio’s site (or call reservations and get specific guidance on the best view).
Hotel rooms in Las Vegas can fluctuate wildly in price, depending on the season, events, and conventions. Many people don’t know that all MGM properties have a rate calendar (it’s not easy to find on the site). Check it, and if your dates are flexible, you can save yourself plenty of cash.
The Casino at the Bellagio
Bellagio’s casino is one of the Strip’s most elegant, attracting plenty of high rollers—and those who love to watch them. One great vantage point: Petrossian Bar, near the lobby, where you can order afternoon tea (or vodka and caviar) and watch them walk in. Or head to Baccarat Bar in the Baccarat Room, where you can elegantly drape yourself over plush gold sofas and get a view of the high-end gaming. The casino is one of the Strip’s largest—at 156,000 square feet, its elegant floor includes more than 200 table games. It’s perhaps most famous, though, for its poker room, which attracts a roster of professional poker players that fans will recognize from World Poker Tour-partnered tournaments and the high-stakes Big Game in Bobby’s Room, which was named after professional poker player and casino executive Bobby Baldwin.
Where to Eat at the Bellagio
In only the last few years, Bellagio has completely overhauled its restaurants. It relocated the local and visitor favorite, Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, from the Forum Shops at Caesars to a great new location with an expansive patio that sits virtually on top of the fountains. It has a roster of marquee-name chefs that make the resort a dining attraction on its own. Lago by Julian Serrano was a breath of fresh air when its crisp interior, inspired by early 20th-century Italian Futurism, shattered the somewhat baroque mold at Bellagio. Its patio tables look over the fountains, and Michelin-starred chef Julian Serrano serves impeccably fresh crudos, stunning hand-cut pasta, and risotto al frutti di mare that still haunts our dreams. It’s one of the loveliest patios for an alfresco brunch. Serrano’s other restaurant, Picasso, is one of the best-loved fine dining experiences on the Strip, and its dining room holds authentic Pablo Picasso paintings and ceramics. Ogle them while you enjoy regional Spanish and French dishes such as pan-seared U-10 day boat scallops with potato mousseline and black bass with Spanish pistou and olive tapenade.
The opulent, Adam Tihany-designed Le Cirque has been holding court here since the beginning and is modeled on Sirio Maccioni’s New York landmark. It is French-inflected Vegas dining theater at its very best. If you’re up for an evening of full-on fabulous, spring for the 10-course Menu Prestige, then settle in: you’ll be here for a while. Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Prime steakhouse is widely regarded as one of the best steakhouses in Las Vegas (start with a stunning shellfish platter) and is another room purpose-built to take in the best views of the fountains. Another mainstay name at Bellagio, Michael Mina, completely redesigned his seafood restaurant, Michael Mina, in 2018, with a “market list” menu inspired by seafood feasts at marketplaces and seaside villages from Japan the Mediterranean. Happily, his signatures—indulgent lobster pot pie and a smoked salmon and crème fraiche caviar parfait—are still served. One of the most fun brunches on the Strip—with a great view of its own, of the Conservatory—can be found at Sadelle’s Café, the NYC favorite, with its towers of bagels and fixings, and OTT Bloody Marys. And if you like to fuse your dining with a bit of an entertainment vibe, head to recent addition Mayfair Supper Club, whose dishes (think lobster thermidor, filet mignon with truffle sauce) are modern takes on classic supper club dining, and whose energy amps up as the night wears on.
Where to Go Out at the Bellagio
“O” by Cirque du Soleil set the theatrical tone for Las Vegas entertainment when it opened at Bellagio in 1998. The wildly acrobatic water show has been in permanent residence, albeit with refreshing and a renovation to the theater, which added VIP suite seating. It takes place on and around a 1.5-million-gallon pool of water, with synchronized swimming and aerial acts performed by a cast that includes former Olympic athletes. You’ll sit in a theater inspired by the great opera houses of Europe. In 2021, a new VIP experience launches, including a pre-show Champagne reception, meet-and-greet with performers, and private cocktail service in your own VIP suite. After the performance, you might go to Mayfair Supper Club, which transforms from dining by the fountains to an energetic lounge scene after dark, with live musical acts and cheeky performances that hearken to a fabulous era (and are a refreshing change from the Vegas mega-club concept). Or you can have a nightcap in one of Bellagio’s lounges, like Lily Bar & Lounge, whose clubby environs are a sophisticated retreat from the casino floor.
Where to See Art at the Bellagio
Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art is one of the best—albeit, intimate—places to see art in Las Vegas. It has a longtime partnership with the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and presents a rotation collection of artworks from museums and private collections. Shows in recent years have included Town and Country: From Degas to Picasso, Warhol Out West, Yousuf Karsh: Icons of the 220th Century, and Picasso: Creatures and Creativity. The exhibitions are beautifully curated and you almost never know what you’ll find. You can check for the shows at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art site.
Bellagio’s Iconic Fountains
The dancing fountains set on the show lake in front of Bellagio have become emblematic of the Las Vegas Strip. To give you an example of just how awe-inspiring they are, consider the fountains by the numbers: They sit on a nearly nine-acre lake and employ 1,200 sprayers and shooters that send spouts of water up to 460 feet high. Nearly 200 speakers send the music to which they’re choreographed out to the sidewalks in front of the resort but maintain a completely manageable sound level for those dining on the patios behind them (and sleeping in the rooms above). They sway to a catalog of 35 shows, which range from Andrea Bocelli singing “Con Te Partiro” (which you’ll recognize from the resort advertising if you’re of a certain age), to classics by Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, and even Tiesto, Lady Gaga, and Bruno Mars. You’ll invariably see them towering over the Strip if you’re out after dark. The show begins every 30 minutes from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and every 15 minutes from 8 p.m. to midnight.
The Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
One of the most fabulous and mind-boggling free attractions on the Strip, the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, changes seasonally (five times, including for Chinese New Year), with fresh flowers, animatronic tigers, bears, birds, squirrels; plus burbling fountains, and lanterns hung from its 50-foot-high glass ceiling. The original idea for the conservatory was, in fact, hatched by Steve Wynn in the late planning stages of the hotel: he redrew part of the resort to include the central conservatory from his plane after inspiration from the verdigris-framed, Art Nouveau-style conservatories of Paris. Its displays have included a holiday show that included 28,000 poinsettias and a 42-foot-high white fir. The largest-ever theatrical feature was a 110-oot-tall deceased banyan tree, which weighed 200,000 pounds and was transported to Las Vegas and reconstructed in sections for several displays. There are no repeat displays here—and you’ll never be disappointed. Make sure to take a little detour to Bellagio Patisserie, right around the corner from the Conservatory, whose floor-to-ceiling chocolate fountain is billed as the largest chocolate fountain. With all the treasures to explore in this resort alone, you’ll need a little refueling.