RESEARCH QUESTION: The $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas resort opened its doors on April 28, immediately becoming the Strip's It casino. With more than 2,700 rooms, it's also one of the largest. We wondered: With the surfeit of big-budget options available in Vegas these days, is the Wynn a winner?
METHODOLOGY: After giving the resort about a month to work out any kinks, we checked in on a Thursday night, securing a surprisingly reasonable rate of $209 for a double through www.wynnlasvegas.com. (According to the resort, in its first 34 days of operation, the Wynn operated at 91 percent capacity with an average room rate of $308.) We spent a day and a half exploring the casino, health club, pool, restaurants and anything else we could sneak into.
RESULTS: Steve Wynn has excellent penmanship.
Thank goodness. The developer's artfully scripted surname is stamped everywhere on his property, from the tip of the hotel tower to the teensy pillow atop the downy mound on beds. And Wynn Las Vegas is replete with touches from his previous Sin City projects -- Treasure Island, Mirage and, particularly, Bellagio.
We sat by the resort's entrance for 20 minutes and listened to the first reactions of other visitors. "This looks just like Bellagio!" was a common refrain. And so it does.
With its flowery entryway and corridors, giant water feature (fountains built around and on a pine-studded mountain), sumptuous casino, A-list restaurants and shops, and de rigueur mega-budget stage extravaganza ("Le Reve"), Wynn's new resort does its best to mimic its more opulent predecessor. Unfortunately, it has several things going against it.
The location doesn't help, surrounded by a big hole (the new Palazzo resort), the Fashion Show mall (interesting to look at but a mall nonetheless), the lowly New Frontier casino and the edge of Treasure Island, a 15-minute walk away. Skywalks are being built to adjoining properties, and ongoing development will make the site more dynamic, but right now it's in a world unto itself.
While golfers will adore the resort, with its on-site course (it's $500 a round, by the way) designed by Tom Fazio and Wynn himself, there's not much else for non-gamblers. You can pay $15 to see the Wynn Collection -- a dozen or so works by the likes of Picasso, Monet and Warhol -- or $10 (!) to visit . . . a Ferrari and Maserati dealership. Because we'll wait on line for anything, we queued up for a quarter-hour to look at shiny snobmobiles that sell for more than 100 grand.
Oddly enough, and by all reports intentionally, the fountains and their nighttime theatrics are not visible from the street -- and barely from within the resort. We struggled to find a good spot to watch the sound-and-light show, which can be viewed up close only from the Wynn's bars (with long waits to enter) and restaurants. It's off-putting, to say the least. We retreated to our room on the 52nd floor and watched it from there; while the swirling lights are neat, they're no match for the Bellagio fountains.
The room was entertainment enough. Because we were only staying one night, a clerk at the front desk -- packed into a room that seemed a size too small for the mob waiting to check in -- had upgraded us to accommodations with a Strip/fountain view. We loved the floor-to-ceiling windows (we're suckers for electronic drape openers), flat-screen TVs (there's one in the bathroom, too), comfy couch, burnt-orange walls and bed piled high with pillows for four. The bathroom was a standout, with soothing lighting, a glass shower with a bench and a tub for two that filled in minutes. When we asked for a two-hour late checkout, we were graciously given three.
Unlike many other Strip giants, the property is easy to navigate, and we're happy to report there's no need to trudge past the poker tables en route to the lushly landscaped pool. We'd put the massive Wynn watering hole in our Vegas Top Five, though the midafternoon shadow from the tower forced sun-seekers to congregate (unpleasantly so) in a relatively small area.
We saved some money for the penny slots by dining at the Terrace Point Cafe, which is expensive by most casinos' 24-hour offerings but cheap for the Wynn. Sandwiches and cocktails for two were about $45. The meal was fine, but we're still puzzled by our server's drink suggestion: a pineapple mojito, a nasty slurry of mint and tropical fruit. Other restaurants include the Daniel Boulud Brasserie, Eric Klein's SW Steakhouse and Alessandro Stratta's Alex.
CONCLUSION: It's nice enough -- $2.7 billion will do that -- but color us underwhelmed. We'd go back for the rooms, to golf (if we had $500 to spare, that is) and to see the puppet musical "Avenue Q" (which opens in September). But until the area becomes a little more developed, we'll probably stick to the mid-Strip area -- near, uh, Bellagio, where we found rooms for $20 less this summer.
-- John Deiner
Wynn Las Vegas is at 3131 Las Vegas Blvd S. Double rooms start at about $179 midweek. Tickets to "Le Reve" are $110, plus tax. Details: 888-320-7123, www.wynnlasvegas.com