On the eve of my first trip to Paris, France, I thought it might be fitting to blog a little about the Paris Las Vegas. (But no, it’s not technically an “ode”.) The Paris Las Vegas opened in 1999, making it eleven years old this year. Vegas years are similar to dog years, so that’s ancient. But I think Paris has held up pretty well for an old girl, given her many, erm. . .”relationships”. Over the years, she’s been affiliated with Ballys Entertainment, the Hilton, Park Place Entertainment, Caesars Entertainment, and now Harrahs. So yeah, she’s been around the block a few times. (But don’t call her cheap: She cost $760 million to build.)
One of the more heavily-themed Strip hotels, Paris features replicas of the Eiffel Tower (half-scale of the original) and the Arc de Triomphe, while the facade of the hotel mimics the Paris Opera House and the Louvre Museum. Inside, you’ll find French restaurants, French pastries, signs in French, and bars and a theater all named in French. There is a cobblestone boulevard with a boulangerie, a creperie, and restaurants with patio seating under a fake sky painted onto the ceiling above.
I love the themeing, because when you’re here, you know you’re not in a cookie-cutter chain hotel. Some might call the heavily-themed hotels the Disneyfication of Las Vegas, but I’ve always loved them. I think it takes a hell of a lot of skill to create replicas of famous buildings, statues, and monuments from elsewhere convincingly and to do so in a way that is also functional as a casino-resort. Vegas has a talent for this, though that talent is going to waste these days, as it seems recent casino-resorts are moving away from themes. It’s a shame, in my opinion. So to the architects of Paris Las Vegas, Bergman Wall Associates: I salute you.
I stayed at the Paris Las Vegas in 2003 and 2004, and at the time, it was one of the nicest hotel rooms I’d ever stayed in. The pink marble floor and tiles in the bathroom were gorgeous and the bed oh-so-comfortable. Back then, they played French music in the elevators. It made me forget for a little while that I was in Las Vegas. (Until I went downstairs and saw them selling drinks in souvenir Paris balloon glasses.) It’s when you’re a guest of the hotel that you realize the theme is a bit of a double-edged sword; the hotel draws a ton of lookie-loo tourists every day. They clog the promenade that connects Paris to its sister hotel, Ballys, and create very long lines to the popular Le Village Buffet. So if you’re staying at the hotel, the crowds can get a bit annoying as you’re trying to get to and from your room or if you want to grab a meal at the buffet.
For one of the best views of the Las Vegas Strip, you should go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Though the Stratosphere tower gives you the highest view in the city, I prefer the view from the Eiffel Tower, because you’re a lot closer to everything on the Strip. From there, you get a fantastic view of the Bellagio fountain show across Las Vegas Boulevard.
The Paris has an enviable location at Center Strip, with the Bellagio and now City Center across the way, Ballys on one side, and Planet Hollywood on the other. Paris also has a reputation for having some of the best restaurants on the Strip, including Mon Ami Gabi and the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, both of which have enviable views. Le Provencal has singing waiters and waitresses, if you’re into that sort of thing. Which I am.
Speaking of singing, the Paris has had some interesting entertainment options over the years, including the Queen musical We Will Rock You and the Producers, a stint for Cheap Trick’s “Sgt Pepper Live” concerts, and now, Barry Manilow. They also have a fine dueling piano bar, Napoleon’s.
I was dismayed recently when I heard that the hotel had removed its beautiful fountain from the sidewalk in front of the hotel, due to construction of a new Sugar Factory restaurant. It was a gorgeous replica of La Fontaine des Mers in Place de la Concorde in Paris, and one of my favorite iconic Vegas fixtures. I realize that Las Vegas is constantly changing, but when they do away with classic and beautiful fixtures like this for something trendy, it really breaks my heart.
But then, maybe that’s a good argument for going to the real Paris. The fake Paris probably won’t be the fake Paris for too many more years. I imagine someday someone will think it’s a great idea to turn it into just another bland, upscale hotel like you can find in any other city in the world. And that will be a shame.