A French accent in the Nevada desert

Resorts: Replicas of Paris landmarks grace the Strip. Two other resorts are opening a little ways from the crowds and noise.

Destination : Las Vegas

October 17, 1999|By Gary Dretzka | Gary Dretzka,Chicago Tribune

If it's October, this must be Paris.

Paris Las Vegas is the latest megaresort to hit town. But two others are popping up away from the Strip. One is the newly opened (though still under construction) Resort at Summerlin, 15 minutes away, while Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas is coming, in December, in nearby Henderson.

Here's the latest on all three.

Paris Las Vegas

In the 10 years since the Mirage rejuvenated the Strip, reporters have had to make the neck-snapping trek from the Arthurian precincts of medieval England, to festive Rio, Steve Wynn's version of Treasure Island, the pyramids of Luxor, MGM's massive reproduction of Dorothy's Oz, the splendor of Monte Carlo, a compacted New York-New York, and the watery worlds of Bellagio, Mandalay Bay and the Venetian. There were several other stops in between, but who's counting?

Last month, Park Place Entertainment added another stop on the tour when it opened Paris Las Vegas. The $760 million mega- resort managed to squeeze reasonably authentic replicas of the original City of Light's most familiar landmarks into a 24-acre property sandwiched between Bally's and the once-and-future site of the Aladdin.

To counter the fine art and gardens of Bellagio, singing gondoliers of the Venetian and themed restaurants and water park of Mandalay Bay, the Paris Las Vegas offers an elevator ride up a 50-story-high, half-scale Eiffel Tower, a stroll through the Arc de Triomphe, facades of L'Opera and the Louvre, and a winding, faux-cobblestone boulevard. The designers didn't attempt to rechannel the Seine -- as Wynn might have done -- but they did find room for a bridge (the Pont Alexander III) and European-style water closets.

Fortunately for everyone involved, the Parisians' supposed rudeness toward foreigners is missing here, and only dogs of the seeing-eye variety are allowed in the restaurants. Indeed, all Paris Las Vegas employees -- from valet parking attendants and bellhops, to phone operators and maids -- have been coached in the friendly delivery of several rudimentary French phrases. Sometimes the effect is comical, especially when you hear "bon jour," "bon soir" and "merci" repeated in a cacophony of accents.

This might upset Francophiles, but it certainly won't upset the legions of American tourists for whom this Paris might provide their only chance to taste a properly made croissant or discover the difference between pommes frites and french fries.

Anyone who's already visited New York-New York pretty much will know what to expect at Paris Las Vegas.

The high-ceilinged casino hums under a faux summer sky, while the mirrored reception area and Rue de la Paix shops all are given distinctive French touches. A leg of the Eiffel Tower extends into the gaming arena, mimes entertain the sightseers, a singing bicyclist delivers bread to the restaurants and the buffet offers tastes from all regions of the republic.

Richard Melman's Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises -- and chef-partners Jean Joho and Gabino Sotelino -- are in charge of two of the hotel's top-end restaurants. Joho's is the signature Eiffel Tower Restaurant, Sotelino's a copy of the chain's Mon Ami Gabi in Lincoln Park.

Joho's beautifully conceived establishment is on the 11-story-high mezzanine of the tower, and, as such, provides a spectacular view of the nightly Fountains of Bellagio show, across the street. Reservations are essential, as local residents are just as desirous of the culinary experience as Paris Las Vegas guests.

Mon Ami Gabi is the only restaurant on the Strip that fronts a hotel, and the first with outdoor seating (misting machines and awnings will be used to cut the summer heat).

Standard guest accommodations in the 2,900-room hotel aren't significantly larger or more luxurious than other Strip properties. The sleeping space and bathrooms are nice enough, but nothing frequent Las Vegas visitors haven't seen already.

But, then, no one wants guests to stay in their rooms very long, anyway.

Paris Las Vegas is next door to Bally's at Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard. Standard room rates range from $129 to $359, with suites from $350 to $5,000. 888-BONJOUR (www.paris-lv. com).

The Resort at Summerlin

Sometimes, even the most passionate defenders of the Las Vegas experience need a break from all the glitz, noise and traffic.

As big as they are, the mega-resorts -- specifically, Caesars Palace, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay and the Mirage -- have no problem supplying their customers with personalized luxury, fine dining and wonderful entertainment. What they can't provide, however, is sanctuary from the fanny-pack masses.

Until the plush Four Seasons opened last spring, the only remedy for gridlock and slot-machine drone was the Desert Inn.

In July, however, golfers and business travelers were given the opportunity to sample something new for Las Vegas. the Resort at Summerlin -- a 15-minute drive from the heart of the Strip -- offers an experience similar to that provided by resorts in Arizona, Florida and Hawaii.

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