Travel Weekly senior editor Amy Baratta recently stayed at the
MGM Grand Hotel Casino in Las Vegas. Her report follows:
LAS VEGAS -- In a city where hotels are torn down and put back
up faster than you can say blackjack, much can change in five and a
half years. That is how long it had been since I had stayed at the
MGM Grand Hotel Casino.
Back then, in December
1993, this giant of a property with its four emerald-green towers
was busy making its debut on the Strip and creating headlines as
the largest hotel in the world. At 5,005 rooms, the resort still
tops the list for most guest rooms, but other than that, I found
very little during my recent visit that resembled what I remembered
of the property.
For starters, gone are the references to "The Wizard of Oz" that
had supported the resort's overall entertainment theme; they had
included an Oz Buffet -- now known as the Grand Buffet -- and
animated Wizard of Oz figures that had greeted visitors at the
Even the original front entrance -- shaped like the famous MGM
lion -- is gone. In its place is a huge bronze statue of a lion
stationed outside at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and
Tropicana Avenue that fits in better with the more sophisticated
look that the property has acquired over its relatively short
Inside the front doors -- where the Oz figures and a simulated
thunder-and-lightning storm used to be -- is an elegant Art
Deco-style rotunda-like room containing a handful of the resort's
3,700 slot machines.
When I visited in March, one part of the room had been earmarked
as the future location of the property's new lion habitat. Slated
to open this month, the three-story habitat will house as many as
five adult lions and cubs -- including Goldie, Metro and Baby Lion,
a direct descendant of Metro, MGM Pictures' signature marquee lion
-- in an enclosed jungle-like environment that will feature four
waterfalls, overhangs, a pond, trees and foliage. Visitors also
will be able to view the animals as they walk through a glass
tunnel that will run through the habitat.
There also will be an area designated for photos that can be
reproduced on T-shirts, mugs and other items sold in the MGM Grand
Lion Habitat retail shop, which will be located adjacent to the
On the room's second level is Studio 54, also a relatively new
addition to the MGM Grand. Opened in February 1998, the
22,000-square-foot nightclub features three separate dance floors,
four bars, a VIP area and several semi-private lounges.
To celebrate its original New York predecessor, the club has a
gallery of black-and-white celebrity photographs taken during the
original Studio 54's heyday in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Also off the main entrance is the Rainforest Cafe, a tropically
themed casual eatery that introduced me to all of the new
restaurants that have made the property their home since I last
Like most of the megaresorts that have sprung up on the Strip in
the last few years, the MGM Grand has attracted several well-known
restaurateurs, including Emeril Lagasse, Mark Miller and Franco
Nuschese. Their restaurants -- Emeril's New Orleans Fish House, the
Coyote Cafe and Grill Room and Tre Visi and La Scala, respectively
-- form a sort of restaurant row along the property's Studio Walk
Other dining options at the resort include Gatsby's, Dragon
Court, Wolfgang Puck Cafe, Ricardo's Mexican Restaurant and the
Brown Derby. I dined at Emeril's New Orleans Fish House for lunch
and can wholeheartedly recommend it as a place to get a light meal.
For dinner, I tried the Brown Derby and was not disappointed; the
service, as well as the food, was exceptional there.
The Studio Walk area in itself was another attraction for me,
since it was not there in 1993. Interspersed with the restaurants
are several upscale shops, including Peruzzi, Bernini, Marshall
Rousso and the Art of Entertainment.
This last store actually is an art gallery that displays and
sells a range of works created by artists as well as celebrities
who are artists. Even if clients aren't in the market for, say, an
original Tony Curtis, they really should take a peek in here.
The property's entertainment motif also extends to its 4,254
deluxe guest rooms and 751 suites. The rooms, which are roughly 450
square feet, are decorated according to four different themes --
Wizard of Oz, Hollywood, Southern and Casablanca.
The suites, which range in size from the 675-square-foot
one-bedroom to the 6,040-square-foot, two-story Grand Class, also
are decorated according to themes, including Traditional,
Marrakech, Oriental, Bahamian and Las Vegas.
By early next year, all of the rooms in the resort's Grand Tower
as well as several suites will sport a fresh look, thanks to a
comprehensive refurbishment program -- part of an overall $575
million property enhancement.
The Grand Tower rooms will be redesigned and themed around a
classic Hollywood look, according to a spokeswoman for resort.
Average room rates start at $110 per night.
MGM Grand Hotel Casino
Phone: (800) 929-1111 or (702) 891-1111