Going “Down South” on the Vegas Strip


My latest article spotlights the far southern end of the Las Vegas Strip…

Continuing with my series of freelance articles published via BestOfVegas.com, here’s an exploration into the far reaches of Las Vegas Boulevard….once you venture past the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” landmark sign.

It’s a trip worth taking.

www.bestofvegas.com/articles/down-south-vegas-strip/

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Behind the Mysterious Doors of the 29th Floor

 


A long-touted mystery is about to be revealed…

You may remember the pictoral series I did with photographer Greg C. on the splendid and spectacular Westgate Sky Villas. Ornate and opulent, the Sky Villas are the height of classic Sin City excess. While you can visit them via our articles, these high-roller penthouses are out of reach for just about everyone.

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One floor below, down a quiet and rarely-scene corridor off a private scenic elevator, the north wing of the 29th floor has a series of uniquely designed doors. Behind each is one of a collection of amazing Specialty Suites. Every suite is unique in style and layout, offering amenities in keeping with the theme and atmosphere of its particular presentation.

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Being a frequent and loyal guest of Westgate (as if you didn’t already know that), I’ve been fortunate enough to have access to many of the Specialty Suites….and have actually stayed in several. In fact, I’m typing this piece while reclining in the atrium of the Bahamas Suite…overlooking the lush greens of the  Las Vegas Country Club.

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While I enjoy including photos in my articles to help paint a picture, sometimes it’s best to keep the words to a minimum and let the photos do the talking. So please enjoy this sampling of what lies behind the doors of Westgate’s 29th floor.

The Bahamas Suite –

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The Bahamas Suite is an epic 2,268 square feet of splendor. With a pool table as its centerpiece, the Bahamas Suite has an atrium-style sitting area, suspended swing chair, four-stool bar, king-sized four-poster bed and a large soaking tub with a view of the eastern horizon.

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Velvet chaise lounges, a step-up bedroom area, shower and bidet, a mini kitchen and wall-mounted televisions are enhanced by plush carpeting, deeply-textured wall coverings and a grey-and-purple color scheme. A great place to throw a party…or spoil yourself in the lap of luxury.

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Desert Suite aka “Suzanne Somers Suite” –

2,200 square feet, one bedroom, two baths, large balcony and space to entertain fifty…

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Westgate founder David Siegel has a profound admiration for entertainer Suzanne Somers. Prior to the residency of her “Suzanne Sizzles” musical production, the resort’s CEO commissioned the Desert Suite to be redesigned just for her.

As you may know, Ms. Somers is a survivor of cancer and an advocate for healthy living and natural healing. In order for her to stay here comfortably, Mr. Siegel had the Desert Suite fitted with organic and non-toxic materials that met her lifestyle requirements.

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If you’re a business person (or writer like myself) you couldn’t hope for a more relaxing and inspirational view from your desk. Many a Vegas Unfiltered article was created from this very space.

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Even though Suzanne’s show and personal residencies were short-term, the custom suite that carries her name reflects her role as a crusader for health. I’m betting she felt right at home using the private workout facility.

Under a floor-to-ceiling glass enclosure with retractable shades, Suzanne was able to work up a sweat with a full assortment of free weights and a bench.

Perhaps Suzanne preferred upping her heart rate while drinking in the panoramic view from her own personal treadmill. Afterwards, she (or you) could create a refreshing smoothie in the nicely-stocked kitchenette to enjoy on the expansive balcony.

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What a great cool-down before stepping into the bedroom’s extra-deep tub prior to entertaining in the suite’s sleek, minimalist dining and living spaces.

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The primary bathroom is massive, with dual sinks, a full make-up counter, walk-in shower and bidet.

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          Click here for a 360-degree virtual tour of Suzane Somers Suite…

With all of the comforts of home…and more…you’ll never have to leave the Suzanne Somers Suite. Unless you feel like crossing the hall and visiting…

The Gold Coast Suite

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If minimalist decor doesn’t suit your fancy, perhaps the wilds of Africa’s west coast will put you in the proper mood. Step through these massive carved double doors and into turn-of-the-century British Colonies. The Gold Coast Suite will take you back to a pre-modern era of warm woods, lush textiles and bold animal prints.

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The floor plan of Gold Coast mirrors that of the Bahamas…with the addition of a small balcony off the bedroom. The pool table, spacious living areas and sun room are back. So is the bar…this time enhanced with lots of artwork and expensive-looking accents.

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Nobody wants to “sleep with the fishes” when they get to Sin City, but you can cuddle up next to giraffes, elephants and big cats right here. The Gold Coast Suite boasts a veritable menagerie of African wildlife…so you can throw your own “Hangover”-style bachelor party without the risk of a real life tiger encounter.

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The Gold Coast Suite will surround you in luxury with its elevated sleeping quarters and a jetted bathtub boasting an unspoiled view of the city and pool deck below.

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Enjoy the sight of helicopters flying past in an endless stream of sunset tours from the atrium. Relax on one of the enormous colorful sofas and chairs in front of the wall-mounted high-definition screen.

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With so many amenities to offer, the Gold Coast Suite is clearly ideal for entertaining large groups. But if you’re looking for something a little more intimate, you might want to peek through the keyhole of…

The Bedroom Suite – 

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Westgate’s adults-only Bedroom Suite will alter your perceptions of reality…and forever change the way you think about Westgate Resort. This 918-square-ft one bed/one bath retreat is designed for daring couples…and those who want to “tie one on” while in Vegas.

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Step through the polished and slightly-deceiving doors of this entry into a small world of fantasy, bondage and passion. Prepare to be shocked, titillated, amazed and intrigued. Leave your inhibitions in the hallway and indulge in your deepest desires.

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Drink in the colors of red, black…and several shades of grey…that set a sexy tone for memorable encounters. The large circular bed is nestled underneath a matching mirror, tucked into a plush black headboard that divides the sleeping area from a jet tub made just for two.

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Sip champagne as the bubbles flow over your body…and try not to blush as your eyes are drawn to a St. Andrews cross mounted to the wall, complete with softly-lined handcuffs.

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Slip into something comfortable…or out of it, as the case may be…to enjoy a picturesque sunset. Your full-length balcony offers excellent views of the city and mountains that form the western horizon.

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Click here to enjoy a 360-degree virtual tour of The Bedroom Suite.

There are five more Specialty Suites at Westgate Casino Resort to explore. With any luck, I’ll be able to share them with you in a future article. There’s also a myriad of villas that fan out from a central corridor on the same floor.

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These mystery villas carry names like “Windsor”, “Ambassador”, “Mediterranean” and “Viena”. Perhaps they’ll show up in a future article as well.

Acquiring one of the Westgate Specialty Suites is a bit of a gamble. Quite literally, actually. They’re usually reserved for high roller guests but sometimes show up on the Westgate reservation website. Check out this page from time to time and you might get the opportunity to splurge on one for yourself.

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Before we close this chapter, there’s one more perk you should know about….an over-the-top private penthouse elevator straight to the 29th floor. Take a selfie on the plush settee as you enjoy the gorgeous paintings and polished brass.

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All trips to the top should be this fun.

Photos by Sammasseur, Westgate Las Vegas

Models: Lisa and Scott Land, Jeff Desruisseaux

 

 

 

Your Invitation to “The Magician’s Study”


Be a part of a Vegas Unfiltered exclusive invitation-only event…

Everyone loves a good mystery. And you’re here because you love all things “Sin City”. Put those two elements together and you’ve got another only-in-Vegas event for the top of your to-do list. This one is called The Magician’s Study.

I first learned about The Magician’s Study just last evening. The entertainer behind this unique experience is already known to me…but must remain a secret to you. That is, until you walk through the doors of his (or her) magical lair.

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Your host is an internationally-known (and very charismatic) entertainer. You’ll be drawn into their web of intrigue as you settle in for an intimate evening of astonishment. Here’s an official description courtesy of the star:

The Magician’s Study is a speakeasy-style experience where guests need to first secure a code word to enter. Although you can see available dates and ticket prices on our ticketing page (http://themagiciansstudy.com/tickets ) guests will need the code word to be able to complete their purchase.

Guests will then receive instructions at midday on the day they are attending on where to meet 15 to 30 mins prior to the performance time, adding to the experience and secretive nature of the show.

I have crafted this to be a unique experience where guests feel special being able to attend something so secretive and highly exclusive that not just anyone can purchase tickets to. Guests pass along their code word like passing along a secret to others, allowing them to experience the evening.

The next scheduled session of  is this coming Sunday the 16th at 7pm, with additional dates listed on the official ticketing page. A special Halloween evening performance is slated for 7pm on October 31st. Remember, you must receive the code word before ordering tickets, so follow the full instructions on this page first.

A dedicated Facebook page includes reviews from previous guests and might give you a little more insight into what to expect. This writer isn’t about to spoil anything, but if you’d like to peek behind the magic curtain, it’s yours to discover. You can also reach out by calling 702.934.2481 or emailing info@themagiciansstudy.com.

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Don’t miss this opportunity to be a part of a Vegas Unfiltered exclusive. Have yourself a magical time!

The Magician’s Study is for audiences 21 and older. A mixologist will be present to craft custom cocktails for guests. No food is allowed. Due to the intimate nature of this experience, seating is extremely limited. Please RSVP to be considered for an invitation.

 

Sky Villas Part 3: The Verona


Photographer Greg C concludes his photo essay on Westgate’s Sky Villas…

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In the world of casino hosts, the most coveted type of client is the “whale“. These super-high-rollers are enticed into visiting and remaining loyal by being showered with lavish treatment and perks. Usage of limousines and private jets, shopping excursions, star-studded parties…and of course, lodging in the hotel’s most palatial Sky Villas. All are intended to keep that high-roller on the property long enough to bet (and ideally to lose) large sums of money, and hopefully, to return in the future for more high-stakes wagering.

Sky Villas are rarely seen by the general public, and even more rarely are photographers allowed access to the degree that Greg C has been at Westgate Las Vegas. Today’s tour of the Verona Suite concludes his trilogy of photo sessions (take a look at the previous two here and here).

With any luck, we’ll be able to turn this collection into an ongoing series, one that gives our readers unparalleled access to those dreamy suites that adorn the clouds over Sin City. But for now, enjoy the Verona Sky Villa, courtesy of the staff and management at Westgate.

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“My first impression was like stepping into a palace of Old World splendor…a blend of Italian Renaissance and Roman Glory. They say that you come to Vegas to party and see the sights — the room is just to sleep and shower (and, you know). Well, not so here. The Suite itself is an adventure. You could make a vacation out of it”. – Greg C.

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The city of Verona in northern Italy is known for its art, architecture and spirit of romance. After all, William Shakespeare placed his titular characters in Verona for Romeo and Juliet. Once a colony of Rome, Verona is rich with statues, arches, domed ceilings, pillars and artistic motifs. True to its namesake, the Verona Suite at Westgate is ornate and overflowing with gorgeous detail and accents.

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The Verona was the first of the three to be built (completed December 1994) and is the largest at 15,400 square feet. If you were a fan of the Robin Leach series “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”, you might recognize the three-bedroom Verona, which was once featured on that popular show.

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Filmmakers used the Verona Suite as a stand-in for Liberace’s residence in the 2013 biopic Behind The Candelabra.

“The piano is a nice touch. If you’re a piano player, you have another reason to “stay home” in your suite. Talk about a nice ambiance to practice”.

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“Those statues! The one staring back at you with imperious Roman hauteur….the demure young beauty protecting her modesty in the garden”.

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“Yep…another awesome bedroom “suite within a suite”. And, of course, TV in bed…just what a vacationing Roman senator would require in the 21st century”.

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“Relax by the fireplace AND soak in the tub at the same time”.

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New hotels in Las Vegas have become somewhat clinical, almost office-like complexes. Their suites are tech-heavy and massive, yet could easily be found in any other city. It’s nice to know that glossy, lavish places like the Verona Suite still exist in Vegas and are treated with reverence today. They’re living reminders of a time that represented the true spirit of Sin City.

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You can learn more about these accommodations on the Westgate Las Vegas reservation website. They are rarely seen by the general public and are usually reserved for their top-tier guests. Nine other themed “specialty suites” are also available…if you feel like living large and have the wallet to back it up. Click here to explore them.

There’s always room at the top. Don’t let them tell you that there is not. – Singer Adam Ant

This article previously appeared on another site. It has been updated.

Photos: Greg C.

Sky Villas Part 2: The Versailles


“Themes may be a bygone era in Vegas as a whole, but they live on atop Westgate” – Greg C.

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Wordless sighs…that’s a typical reaction to the trio of Sky Villas that sit atop the Westgate Las Vegas tower. Resting like a crown atop the existing 29 floors, they are brimming with opulence and European style. Ornate, sprawling, and bordering on gaudy, the TuscanyVersailles and Verona Sky Suites are the epitome of Las Vegas excess.

Photographer Greg C. returned for the second day of shooting at Westgate (part one is here) in 2016Having been up there myself, I can assure you that very few things can prepare you for the extravagance…but a fancy-schmancy elevator embellished with artwork, mirrors, and a padded throne…er, bench, certainly helps.

“This suite was called the “Conrad” until recently……IMO the switch to “Versailles” was a good one– the old name was at odds with the classy “Verona” and “Tuscany”…. Conrad sounded a bit too “Joe 6-pack” to my ears…. wonder how they ever picked it.” – Greg C.

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Stepping through the rotunda and into the Versailles Suite, one might expect a choir of angels to be singing overhead. This three-bedroom accommodation spreads out over 12,600 square feet.

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High-rollers with concern for personal safety (and privacy) can bring their own “goons” to man the elevator rotunda’s security station. Bodyguards aren’t included in the villa’s rental rates, which start at $6,000.00 per night…and a three-night minimum.

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Impressive columns, hand-carved furniture, domed ceilings and plenty of genuine gold accents over a peaches-and-cream palette make it easy for you to pretend that you’re in a French castle.

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“Versailles does have plenty of decadent appeals. I could easily picture Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette living here if they got yanked into the 21st century. I almost expected to see servants in powdered wigs and pantaloons walking around in the suite…..those wall-sized paintings (and ceilings) really emphasize the theme.” – Greg C.

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After a workout in the private exercise facility, guests can relax at an intimate dipping pool situated within the grand courtyard.

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The two-story Versailles Suite has three bedrooms that can be accessed by a spiral staircase that rises 30 feet….or a dedicated elevator that is hidden behind an inconspicuous door.

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Luxury abounds in the multiple bedrooms, with mural-covered walls and floor-to-ceiling windows.

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This particular bedroom not only has the modern touch of a flat screen television at the foot of the bed, but also a terrace that opens onto this magnificent view.

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“That open balcony – talk about the ultimate place to watch a sunset. You have a panoramic view of the Strip and mountains up there…a better view than many places, as Westgate is set back away from the Strip and allows you to really catch in the sights.” – Greg C.

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“The upper-level balcony is well-concealed. You have to move back the drapes at one end of the windows to reveal the catches where the window swings out to allow access to the open deck. You can look down on the private pool area.” –  Greg C.

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What happens in Vegas might stay here, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be witnessed by somebody with a well-positioned telescope.

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Guests won’t have to go far to relax in a marble whirlpool bath, which also comes with a view.

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It may seem strange to use the word “small” in reference to the Versailles Suite, but it is the smallest sky villa at Westgate. The massive three-bedroom Verona Suite tops out at 15,400 square feet and will be featured in the final segment of this series.

If you happen to be a high roller in WOW Rewards Program and have scored access to any of the Westgate Villas or Specialty Suites, send me your photos and you might see them here. In the meantime, I’ll be sitting at the penny slots…playing small and dreaming of living large.

This article previously appeared on another site. It has been updated.

Photos: Greg C.

 

Sky Villas That Will Blow You Away


Photographer Greg C. unveils Westgate’s legendary 30th floor sky suites…

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As the sun went down on the final days of Riviera, it’s unofficial title of “the Last Grand Old Dame of Vegas” quietly drifted eastward across Paradise Road. There, another vintage edifice continues to evolve and change while embracing its historic past. The more we explore its various facets and offerings, the more photographer Greg C. and I continue to be enamored by Westgate Las Vegas.

Westgate Las Vegas Resort began life as the International Hotel Casino back in 1969 and it rightfully took its place as one of the premiere destinations in the city. Elvis Presley was associated with the property much like Riviera and Sahara shared the Rat Pack. These days, while SLS Las Vegas has scraped away any significant remnants of the SaharaWestgate salutes its history with a bigger-than-life statue of Elvis right in the heart of the lobby.

As Greg puts it, “I have to admit I really like how the place looks and feels. It has the nostalgia of the 20th century blended with the hustle of the 21st. Kind of like Caesars on the Strip, they have managed to keep the place going without getting stale and musty”.

While roaming the property on my own, I noticed the care in the details with which the resort had changed over the logos from “Hilton” and “LVH” (Westgate’s other former names) to the current one. It was evident in the ones laid into the marble flooring, etched into door glass and positioned on directional signs…as if they had been there all along. Brass accents, gold-toned trim, and glass chandeliers had been lovingly restored and polished, too, giving a vibe of “old Vegas” that still looked somehow contemporary.

My three-night stay a while back included a sleepover in the massive and ornate Hollywood Suite, which was stunning. So much so that I requested that our resident photographer Greg C have the opportunity to visit and shoot more of the upper levels. Well, it took awhile for things to come together, but now I have plenty of Greg’s photos to share with you.

One of Westgate’s representatives was kind enough to take Greg on a tour in 2016. Their first stop was the four-bedroom Tuscany Suite.

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As Greg describes it: “The Tuscany is one of three Sky Villas built on the top level (30th floor), this one atop the east wing. Its decor dates back to the Hilton era. When you go up by elevator, you step out into a rotunda with three doors, one for (each of) the three high roller suites”.

“The Tuscany is the second largest of the villas at 14,500 square feet. It was opened in 1995, and some of the space that it occupies had once been a penthouse that Elvis stayed in back in the 1970’s. It was vastly enlarged in the 90’s”.

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The pool view is an interior view as it is completely surrounded by the suite”. Greg C.

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You can learn more about these accommodations on the Westgate Las Vegas reservation website. They are rarely seen by the general public and are usually reserved for their top-tier guests. Nine other themed “specialty suites” are also available…if you feel like living large and have the wallet to back it up. Click here to explore them. They range from a serene Napa Valley decor to the pristine bliss of the Bahamas…and of course, that glitzy Hollywood Suite (below).

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Next up will be the Versailles Sky Suite

This article previously appeared on another site. It has been updated.

Photos: Greg C., Sammasseur (Hollywood Suite)

Hidden Vegas: Aladdin’s Desert Passage Shops


Looking skyward for curiosities that make up “Hidden Vegas”…

Finding remnants from the bygone days of Vegas is always a treat. I’ve been scouring the mezzanines, peering under tarps and poking my camera through keyholes to find curiosities that sail under the radar for most people.

Last night while meeting friends for drinks and a show, I looked to the skies…from the inside of Miracle Mile Shops of Planet Hollywood. There I found remains of the formerly Arabian-themed Desert Passage Shops.

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I started coming to Las Vegas in 2005, and had only been through the Aladdin Resort once or twice. At that time, the Planet Hollywood restaurant chain was in deep trouble with closures taking place around the country.

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The announcement that Aladdin would be re-branded as Planet Hollywood Hotel Casino seemed very foolhardy. Sure, the movement to de-theme Strip resorts was in full swing and Middle-eastern-flavored places like Aladdin and Sahara had fallen out of fashion in a post-9/11 world. But Planet Hollywood??? That decision seemed as out-of-touch as renaming it after dying restaurant chains like Chi-Chi’s or Kenny Roger’s Roasters.

Shows how much I knew, as Planet Hollywood Hotel is now a hip, popular middle-tier destination, with stars like Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull frequently on the marquee. Of course their biggest draw is Britney Spears, so there’s still plenty of dried-up cheese on the Planet Hollywood menu.

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The existing hotel is the second Aladdin to be built on this part of the Strip. The original opened in 1966 and was imploded in 1998. A new Aladdin was rebuilt from the ground up and opened its doors in 2000. Seven years later it officially became Planet Hollywood Resort.

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The Arabian motif was gradually stripped from both the hotel and adjoining Desert Passage Shops, which received a new frontage and glossy modern exterior. Inside, the corridors got a top-to-bottom makeover. Most of the ceiling was painted into a matte-gray finish, discouraging shoppers from gazing upward at the former faux skies.

However, not everything was taken away. There are two distinct areas within the mall where the original decor survives. One surrounds the V Theater complex and fountain show.

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The other is nestled under the indoor rainstorm.

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Perhaps it’s telling that the domes, citadels and faux village structures that comprise the Desert Passage remnants exist where other attractions demand your attention…and offer a convenient distraction. You’ll find be hard-pressed to find any mention of them on the glitzy, contemporary Miracle Mile website.

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The Arabian architecture of Desert Passage is clearly…and hilariously…out-of-sync with the rest of the Mile.

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Until very recently, the south-facing exterior of the mall along Harmon Avenue still carried the Aladdin facade. The removal of Krave nightclub and opening of Buffalo Wild Wings and another Nacho Daddy finally jump-started the finishing of that section.

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It’s uncertain if the remaining Arabic interior will eventually get stripped out and de-themed. But for the time being, it’s another chapter in our book of Vegas curiosities.

This article previously appeared in a different form on another website.

Images: Sammasseur with additional stills from Miracle Mile Shops via Facebook, wishuwerehere.com and Greg C.