“My velvet escape travel tip” is a guest series about what the name ‘Velvet Escape’ evokes and what that would be in the hometown of the guest writer. With this series, I hope to uncover travel tips from places around the world to help visitors have a truly local experience.
Anyone who has been reading my blogs for any length of time knows that my favorite vacation destination is Las Vegas. Anyone who knows me in person finds that strange, because I don’t seem like the Las Vegas “type”. When most people think of Las Vegas, they automatically think of gambling and showgirls, drinking and debauchery. But that’s not the Las Vegas I experience when I visit there. Some consider it a city of excess. To me, Vegas is a city for the senses, a city you can see and hear and smell and taste and touch–in extremes. There’s a buzz of excitement there that I just can’t get at home in sleepy Vermont, and the hot, dry sun of the desert thaws bones chilled by six months of winter. While I love the whole Las Vegas vibe, and the variety of activities it offers, if I had to choose one place in the city that is my “velvet escape,” it would be the Bellagio Resort.
The Bellagio premiered in 1998 as one of the most luxurious resorts in the city, with a convenient location in the Center of the Strip. The Bellagio is meant to evoke the image of a hotel on Lake Como in Italy. On my first trip to Las Vegas, I was intimidated by the luxury of this place. Everything about it seemed so expensive–worlds away from my lower middle-class background. But the more time I have spent here, the more I’ve come to appreciate it as a treat for people like me, an escape from our everyday lives. Staying here is heaven, but you don’t have to stay here to enjoy the resort. I enjoy walking through the Conservatory gardens here, where they create whole tableaus out of flowers and change them out by the season. The best time to enjoy the gardens is very early in the morning, with the sun streaming in through the glass skylight, before most people are awake.
But by far my favorite element of the hotel is the 8.5 acre man-made lake out front, facing the Strip, and its “dancing fountains”. I suppose it’s not surprising to be drawn to water in a desert, but to have such an emotional reaction to a tourist attraction while standing in a crowd of photo-snapping strangers still catches me by surprise every time. This is what my velvet escape moment is like:
The night air is hot and dry, but not as scorching as the daytime sun was. I stand with a tightly-packed crowd under the streetlight, watching spellbound as illuminated jets of water shoot up out of the lake in front of me, swaying and dancing to Luciano Pavarotti’s “Rondine al Nido”. As the tenor’s voice soars and falls, the water soars and falls with it like a living thing that dances for the sheer joy of dancing. Tears form in my eyes. For a few minutes, I have forgotten the endless line of limos and taxis and rental cars grinding their way up the Strip behind me, the non-stop flashing neon advertisements for Cirque du Soleil and $13.95 prime rib dinners, and the clanging slot machines I left behind in the smoky casino. I forget in the spectacle of this moment that in fact, the dancing water is controlled by computers, and the ubiquitous music is coming from speakers attached to the streetlights above our heads. A final explosion of water nearly eclipses the hotel behind it, and the music stops. The spray dissipates, revealing the Tuscan architecture of the Bellagio Hotel and its lights reflecting on the still, calm lake once more. The spell is slowly broken. Around me, tourists with video recorders and cameras shuffle off to the next attraction on their checklist, while lovers twined in each other’s arms linger, staring at the lake or each other, murmuring softly. I linger, too, wondering what it is about this combination of music and dance and water that is so magical to me.
The Bellagio Fountain Show is free to everyone and occurs every 15-30 minutes throughout the week, starting at 11 or 12 on the weekends and 3pm on weekdays. It is the number one tourist attraction in Las Vegas and the one thing I tell all Vegas visitors they must do.
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About this week’s guest writer
Gray Cargill is the author of The Vegas Solo, a website to help travelers plan their first solo vacation in Las Vegas, and of SoloFriendly, a blog for solo travelers. She is a native Vermonter, passionate traveler, and amateur photographer. Follow Gray on Twitter.
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