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Best of Barney Vinson

Gaming Guru

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Barney Vinson's World

17 May 2001

Planning a trip to Las Vegas in the near future? Each month we'll spotlight a different casino in Vegas so that you'll get a better idea of what each resort has to offer. This month, let's explore the Mirage.

A Vegas casino executive recently said, "To be competitive in Las Vegas, you have to damn near have one of the seven wonders of the world." The dazzling Mirage Hotel may not compare with Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon, but chances are it gets just as many visitors.

Within walking distance of other top Vegas resorts, the Mirage reminds me of a British colonial plantation set back in time a century or so. Lush tropical landscaping highlights a dramatic entrance, which includes roaring waterfalls and a sleepy lagoon shoring up to a sinister volcano. Nestled in palm trees, the resort can be seen for miles, its stark white exterior banded with stripes of gold mirror. Why, it's almost a -- mirage. (Ouch.)

Incidentally, Steve Wynn (who built the Mirage and then sold it to Kirk Kerkorian) paid big bucks to every other business in Las Vegas that had "Mirage" in its title just so he could have the name all to himself. One property owner wouldn't sell to Wynn, so there's a small apartment building still tucked away on the property.

See the aquarium in the hotel registration area. This wall-length, 20,000-gallon fish tank is home to sharks, tropical fish, and other sea life.

See the volcano blow its top. It erupts every 15 minutes from dusk to midnight, weather permitting. Flames, smoke, noise, pickpockets. (Hang on to your wallet or purse.)

If the wind is blowing at over 15 miles per hour, there's no show. In that event, signs will be posted along the sidewalk in front of the volcano, and at the hotel entrances. Another tip: Watch the volcano show from Casino Royale across the street. The view is just as spectacular, and it's not as crowded.

See the Royal White Tiger Habitat. Here's your chance to get a first-hand look at Siegfried & Roy's rare white tigers. The habitat is designed to duplicate their natural home in the Himalayas (not Siegfried & Roy's, but the tigers'), and it's free.

See the Secret Garden of Seigfried & Roy. Bottlenose dolphins cavort in a million gallons of man-made sea water. You get to watch through glass windows, and it's almost like being in the water with them. (Guided tour.) Then you edge into the Secret Garden sanctuary and come face to face with the black panther, Asian elephant, white lion, striped white tiger, snow leopard, and snow white tiger. (Self-guided audio tour.)

Strolling through the Mirage is an adventure in itself. You're lost in a Polynesian village, only instead of bumping into scantily clad island girls, you're bumping into slot machines. Take a break. Head for the Lagoon Saloon (Who thinks up these names anyway?) and suck up one of the best piƱa coladas in the civilized world. While you're sitting there in your high-backed rattan chair, enjoy the view of the rain forest. Velvety tropical gardens abound under a glass-enclosed atrium, while smoky mists swirl around orchids and other tropical foliage. Say, isn't that a dwarf canary palm over there by the waterfall? Nope, it's just my wife's uncle from Texas.

Restaurants at the Mirage include Kokomo's, Mikado, Moongate, and Ristorante Riva. Reservations are required, as well as an 8 by 10 Visa card. If these prices are a little rich for your blood, try the California Pizza Kitchen. The menu features 28 kinds of gourmet wood-fired pizza, including my favorite -- pepperoni and cheese.

Headlining at the Mirage is Danny Gans, one of the most popular performers in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to get reservations. If you really want to see his show, stay at the Mirage on your next visit, or at another MGM property (Golden Nugget, Treasure Island, Bellagio, Paris, MGM Grand). Guests can make reservations up to three days in advance. Non-hotel patrons have to buy their tickets in person. If you still can't get tickets, call Danny at home on his private unlisted telephone number: 702-555-1282.

Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson
Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson