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CITYCENTER

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South Strip

3730 Las Vegas Blvd. S.

Las Vegas, NV 89109

866-359-7757

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7,000 Rooms

$159 and up double

$300-$350 per night

FULL REVIEW

It's hard to overestimate the importance of CityCenter for Las Vegas. In many ways, the design and execution have already started to influence everything in Las Vegas, from rooms to restaurants and beyond. Whether or not CityCenter ever makes a dime is almost unimportant - it has set the tone for the future and Las Vegas will never look back.

CityCenter is not a hotel. Instead, it is a collection of hotels, entertainment venues, restaurants, shopping, and more spread out across 67 acres between the Monte Carlo and Bellagio." You can read full reviews of each individual property but this article focuses on the development as a whole.

The primary comment that I hear from visitors to CityCenter is that, from the outside at least, it "doesn't look like Vegas." Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is up to the beholder, I suppose, but the comment is true. The structures look decidedly more urban, like something you'd see in the heart of a major metropolis like New York or Los Angeles instead of crammed between a faux Italian lake and a recreation of the NYC skyline.

But taken on their own, without the contextual issues, the buildings are certainly dramatic. I was cool to their appearance upon first viewing - the heavy use of steel and glass gives the whole complex a stark feeling that doesn't feel very inviting. Sharp angles, density, and minimal landscaping (done for environmental concerns) certainly don't convey a feeling of warmth.

After awhile, however, it began to grow on me. Details emerge upon repeat viewing that softens the perceived hard edges. There are a lot of graceful curves and an overall sense of continuity that creates a sense of purpose when you view the entire thing as one big package.

And big it certainly is.

The centerpiece of the development is Aria, a 4,004 room hotel-casino that is different from any Vegas hotel-casino that has come before it. The interior spaces are simply stunning, with a soaring lobby filled with lots of natural light, sculpture (art and architecture), and plants greeting guests. The casino stretches off in a semi-circle and if you can ignore the slot machines and table games for a minute, you can really start to appreciate the design details.

There are shafts of natural light that peek in here and there and provide interesting offsets to the heavy use of wood, metal, stone, glass, and fabric around the room. It's as if the whole thing is one big art installation, with sinewy colored glass structures, fabric covered walls, and copper and wood clad support columns everywhere you look. To say it is the most visually dramatic casino in town is an understatement.

There are more than a dozen restaurants, nightclubs and bars, shopping outlets, a massive convention center, a pool and spa, and more.

The second major property at CityCenter is the Mandarin Oriental, the first Vegas branch of the high-end Asian hotelier. This chain is known for their luxury offerings and this hotel is no exception.

Although you enter, naturally, on the ground floor, all you get there is a small lobby and an elevator which whisks you to the 23rd floor where the fun really begins. Their so-called Sky Lobby has floor to ceiling windows that offer the most dramatic views of any hotel lobby in town. A small lounge area and an adjacent bar offer more breathtaking views and their dark walls and low-key Asian inspired décor really set the tone for the entire property.

There are just over 600 units in the building, with a few hundred being residential condos and the rest hotel rooms. A pool and spa on the 7th and 8th floors also offer up some pretty nice vistas and the hotel also has its own high-end French restaurant and a more casual bistro.

The third property at CityCenter is Vdara, a condo-hotel located at the back of the development off of Harmon Avenue. The 1,500 units in this building are all available to be purchased by either people who want to live there or who want to put them into a rental pool that will allow them to earn income every time someone stays there.

The building itself is much more low-key than Aria and Mandarin, which is probably good for a residential property but in many ways makes the whole thing feel underwhelming by comparison. A relatively austere lobby is offset by a few impressive art pieces and other than a market, a bar, a spa, and pool, there really isn't a lot to do here.

The rooms, all done in varying shades of dark brown, grey, black, and white continue the simple theme but they are nice accommodations with a small kitchenette and dining table, a studio type living/sleeping area, and a generously sized bathroom.

Crystals is the retail venue and, for many Vegas visitors, will be the focal point upon arrival. Located at the front of the property along The Strip, the building juts up in conflicting angles of glass and steel that are meant to evoke the shape of the building's namesake.

Inside you'll find a variety of retailers and restaurants, almost all exclusively high-end including Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, and a host of others that the average Vegas tourist will only be able to window shop at. The interior space is interesting from a design perspective, continuing the angles and shapes both in walls and wooden structures that are overwhelmed a bit by the massive white spaces of the high ceilings.

The Veer Towers located in the center of the development are residential - you can't stay there, which might be a good thing for those with vertigo considering the dizzying lean to the buildings (done on purpose).

The last major building at CityCenter was to be the Harmon hotel and residences but construction and money issues have doomed that particular project. In 2011 the company was told that the building was so unsound that a strong earthquake could make it collapse and so the unfinished building was torn down.

The entire development is pedestrian friendly but you'll need to have a good pair of walking shoes because it is a hike from just about anywhere to where you want to go. There is a tram that serves CityCenter and neighboring hotels but you'll still be doing some walking to get from the stations to the main events.

For the record, the tram runs from the end of the Street of Dreams shopping gallery at Monte Carlo to the far end of the Bellagio Spa Tower building with a stop at Crystals in between. There are also walkways from Monte Carlo to Aria and from Bellagio to Vdara.

There is a lot more to talk about with CityCenter so check out the related reviews and articles below.

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