At a Glance
What is it?
A computerized water and light show that shoots geysers of water hundreds of feet in the air in time to various music pieces. It doesn’t sound very impressive on paper but it is when you see it, trust me.
Is it worth the cost?
Yes, it’s free.
Where is it?
In the big lake in front of Bellagio on the Center Strip.
What else do I need to know?
Shows are every 30 minutes during the day and then at 8pm go every 15 minutes.
Inclement weather and high winds can cause the show to be canceled. Also, this is a very popular attraction so the crowds can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, blocking the best views. Try to go during an off-period for the best viewing options. Plus you really should see this one at night to get the full effect. For a truly great viewing area, go up in the Eiffel Tower Experience at Paris Las Vegas across the street.
What’s the bottom line?
This should be on every Vegas visitor’s list. And did I mention that it’s free?
Anyone who has been to Las Vegas has probably seen the Fountains of Bellagio. Heck, with movies like “Ocean’s 11” and TV like “Las Vegas” or “CSI” you may have seen it without even ever visiting the city. The dancing water, light, and sound effects show in the lake in front of Bellagio has become an iconic Sin City visual.
But what does it take to make those shows happen with such perfect precision and high-flying drama? I got a peek behind the curtain (so to speak) for an exclusive look at the technical side of the Fountains of Bellagio.
It takes a team of 36 engineers to run the show, controlling more than 1,200 water-shooting devices, 5,000 lights, and a sound system cranking out more than 56,000 watts of eardrum pounding music. The computerized system pumps water from the 22 million gallon lake into pressurized tubes that shoot the water in whatever direction they happen to be pointing based upon the intricate choreography.
The lake itself is filled with well water so it doesn’t draw from the city system and in the event of an emergency at Bellagio or any neighboring casino, water can be pumped from the lake into firefighting equipment. The lake is treated with mild chemicals, not unlike a really big backyard pool, and a massive HEPA filtration system keeps the water clear. A water skimming barge and specially trained divers can remove any debris on the surface or underneath.
There are five primary types of water devices used in the show. The Oarsman is a robotic water gun that pivots and swivels, allowing the comparatively thin streams of water it emits to go up, right and left, and forward toward the street or backward toward the hotel. 208 of these devices throughout the lake make the water appear to dance in time to the music.
Next in line in terms of size and drama are the Mini-Shooters, a water cannon using 120 psi to blast water through a nine-foot long, 4″ diameter tube. These and the other water cannons only shoot straight up and that percussive bang you hear when they go off is not an explosive charge of any kind, it is merely the release of the air from the device as it shoots the water.
The Super-Shooter uses the same concept only it is a 12″ diameter tube measuring in at approximately 12′ in length. It pumps out 70 gallons of water at 250psi, blasting geysers as much as 250 feet in the air.
Then there are the Extreme Shooters; sixteen 14″ tubes using a remarkable 500psi to gain 500 foot altitudes in the water streams. Just hope you aren’t taking an afternoon nap when these things go off. Better than any alarm clock I know of. They are used sparingly in each show simply because it takes time for enough pressure to build up to shoot them off.
The last water emitting devices are the Foggers. These tanks collect water and put them under enormous pressure, turning it into a fine mist that looks like fog. These things are strong enough to make Paris Las Vegas across the street look like foggy London if they want.
The lighting system is comprised of 5,000 575 watt light bulbs, each shaped like little miniature versions of what you might find in a halogen lamp (they look like tubes instead of bulbs). Despite the colorful display, these are energy saving devices and each water show only eats up about $65-70 in electricity.
Throw in that 56,000 watt sound system (with massive speakers lining the balustrade along The Strip) and you’re ready for a show.
Well, almost. First they have to set one up. The designers choose a piece of music and load it into the computer system. Then each of the water-shooting devices and the lights are accessible through a quick click of the mouse so they can decide the most advantageous moments to use those Extreme Shooters. Once the whole thing has been programmed and saved, a show operator can pull up any show from the menu and basically press play. The computer does most of the rest of the work (although to say that diminishes the accomplishments of the folks who are running all of this, which is not what I intend in the least).
I was lucky enough to get an up-close show played just for me off their normal schedule – Sinatra’s “Luck be a Lady” pounded through the sound system as the Oarsmen danced and the various Shooters blasted the columns of water high into the air for more than five minutes. The word incredible doesn’t even come close.
The Fountains of Bellagio run Monday through Friday every half hour from 3pm until 8pm and then every 15 minutes from 8pm until midnight. Saturday shows happen every 30 minutes from noon until 8pm and then every 15 minutes until midnight. Sunday shows begin at 11am and run every half hour until 7pm and then every 15 minutes from then until midnight. The schedule may vary and high winds can bring about cancellations since they don’t want to be knocking people out of the Eiffel Tower across the street by accident.