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Best of Barney Vinson

Gaming Guru

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Barney Vinson's World

25 December 2001

Planning a trip to Las Vegas in the near future? Each month we'll spotlight a different casino so you'll get a better idea of what each resort has to offer. This month, it's the Rio. Located off the Strip on West Flamingo, the dazzling marquee in front is a story in itself. At 125 feet high, the sign has nearly 13,000 feet of neon tubing and over 5,000 light bulbs. Two gigantic maracas shake constantly among a cluster of sheet-metal leaves and fiberglass-confetti strands. The lights change constantly, practically hypnotizing you. Not the marquee lights, the traffic lights. C'mon, move it, butthead!

The Rio has been voted one of the best hotels in Vegas. It's definitely worth seeing, if you don't mind leaving the Strip for a few hours and mingling with the locals.

Actually, the Rio got off to a shaky start when it opened in 1990. Since it was off the Strip, nobody from out of town even knew about it, and locals shunned it because everything inside cost too much. The Rio lowered its prices, loosened its slots, put in a world-class buffet, and started hosting local events like the Italian Food Festival. Now the place is jumping all the time.

The hotel's theme is a Brazilian carnival, with a rain forest thrown in for good measure. The dealers wear festive shirts and the cocktail waitresses wear hardly anything at all! The casino is lit with ribbons of neon: bright pinks, reds, teals, and blues. Even the overhead lighting is on the exotic side, with chandeliers shaped like giant nautilus shells.

One of my favorite spots is B├║zios Oyster Bar, a seafood counter and restaurant overlooking the Rio pool. Named after a sleepy village north of Rio de Janeiro, the food is excellent and the views of the pool area set the mood just right. Actually, the pool is more like a lagoon, with a genuine sand beach sloping down to the water's edge and a waterfall splashing in the background.

The Carnival World Buffet is one of the best in Las Vegas. You've got your choice of Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, English, Mongolian barbecue, and American fare. There are also dessert and salad pavilions, and even a margarita bar. The lines are long, but it's worth it.

If you want to take some great pastries back to your room, make a quick stop at Toscano's Deli and Market. The Toscano bakery does a landslide business, with delicious breads, cakes, and specialty items.

The highlight of any trip to the Rio is Masquerade Village. It's Rio, it's Venice, it's Mardi Gras -- all fused into one big $200 million hodgepodge of shops, restaurants, and entertainment. Dining spots include the Village Seafood Buffet, Napa Restaurant & Winery Tasting Room, and Voodoo Cafe & Lounge.

The highlight of your masquerade escapade is the Masquerade Show in the Sky, an interactive show where onlookers get to put on costumes and join in a Mardi Gras parade! The 12-minute parades, complete with floats, dancers, musicians, aerialists, and stilt-walkers, take place along a 950-foot track suspended above the casino floor. (That's me standing under the safety net.) Showtimes: Every other hour throughout most of the day and evening.

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