The Un-Vegas Las Vegas
By Rubin Carson
The Green Valley Ranch is a $300-million resort designed for those thrill-seekers who love everything about Las Vegas except the traffic jams and long restaurant waits. Located seven miles from the Strip at Interstate 215 and Green Valley Parkway (minutes from McCarran International Airport), the approach feels like one is entering an Argentine estancia, sans cattle.
The lobby is built around a huge 16th-century navigator's globe that would fit nicely into Hearst Castle. Walls are hung with Renaissance tapestries, ceiling beams are hand painted, and sofas, settees, and conquistador-size hassocks are upholstered in expensive damasks and plush fabrics. Most impressive is that amid all this opulence, a bellman will walk up and offer a cold bottle of Evian.
The 201 guest rooms, 45 suites, and presidential spread (aka "high roller" room) are reached by a private elevator which is guarded by an ex-lineman clad in black. A basic room is oversized and could easily be mistaken for what passes as a suite anywhere else. Most accommodations have dramatic views of the mountains and the twinkling lights of the Strip. There's a mini-bar, in-room coffee, high-speed Internet access, large TV, down comforters, and incredibly comfortable beds. The bathroom features a spacious tub and an all-glass shower stall.
There are no dinner shows or lounge acts to distract from the 2,500 slot/video poker machines and 53 gaming tables. The frenetic ambience at the 170-seat race and sports book can be compared to a 50-yard seat at a Raider game. The casino's features cater to every level of play, from five-cent poker machines to special high-stakes rooms. For the non-indulgers, there's a 10-screen, stadium-seat cinema offering the latest films.
The dining facilities are as if the "foodie fairy" created a utopia were every craving can be satisfied. There are four self-contained major restaurants: Original Pancake House, Trophy's, Border Grill, and The Feast Buffet. The international cuisine at the buffet is several cuts above the typical Vegas gorge-a-thon, and the never-ending lines attest to it. General manager Michael V. Mecca recommends the gigantic, pancake-style Gouda cheese omelet at Original Pancake House as one of the world's great experiences. He is right; it's better than anything similar at Amsterdam's famous Pancake Bakery.
Somewhere between Shangri-La and The Last Days of Pompeii is a good description of the remaining Green Valley Ranch features. There's the ultra-hip Lobby Bar (formerly Whiskey Sky), described by internationally renowned designer Michael Csysz as having "all of the sex and sin of Las Vegas without any of the garish design to dilute the experience."
The 10,000-square foot European day spa includes a state-of-the-art workout facility and massage rooms with glass ceilings offering an underwater view of the lap pool. The main pool area is surrounded by futuristic, self-contained cabanas equipped with full-size mattresses and TV sets.
The pièce-de-resistance, a first for Las Vegas, is an on-property, working vineyard surrounded by inviting pathways and unparalleled views of the Strip. It's a spiritual, almost Biblical retreat in which to contemplate one's penchant for doubling up on the hard eight.