This review is dedicated to the memory of my friend, Alan Reed, an even bigger Vegas fan than I. The Mirage was his favorite property and I would learn at his memorial that he spent his final night in his favorite city in one of these suites.
In the late 90s, my family and I would take a two-car caravan to Las Vegas once or twice per year. We’d almost exclusively stay crammed between a couple rooms at Luxor and Dad would occasionally splurge upgrading one to a Pyramid Corner suite. At 590 square feet, teenaged me felt like a king luxuriating under the slanted windows in a hot tub that—perhaps thankfully—always smelled overwhelmingly of bleach. At home, early stages of the internet meant that I could peruse tiny gifs of fancy suites before a landline call interrupted my hotel fantasies loading at dial-up speeds.
Around this same era, the Chevy Chase comedy “Vegas Vacation” hit the theaters. Set predominantly at The Mirage, it featured a teenaged kid named Rusty Griswold who under the alias “Nick Papagiorgio” got comped a suite with its own pool. What the hell was this room?! The nicest suite I’m seeing online is a Penthouse! The 16-year-old dork I was called Mirage out of morbid curiosity: “How much are the rooms with the pools?”
“Sorry, those are by invitation only.”
Fire sparked. Staying in one became a life goal.
Self-help gurus frequently talk about “visualizing.” More than simply dreaming, it’s the concept that what your mind sees vividly to exacting specifications consciously and subconsciously inspires you until your visions eventually manifest themselves to reality. Looking back, I had our most recent trip almost entirely visualized before I even turned 21.
This trip is just my parents and I. We fly semi-private, the host sends a limo, and we don’t wait in line. I receive a warm welcome from the front desk inside the VIP lounge. My parents have a two-bedroom Penthouse suite comped while I’m in a standard room at the MLife Platinum rate. I saw this in my teenaged mind and now these fantasies have almost become reality.
I ask the same question I’ve asked nearly every time I’ve checked in to Mirage: “Can I upgrade my room to The Villas?”
For those of you who don’t know, The Villas at The Mirage are a hotel-within-a-hotel comprised of six opulent Lanais and eight palatial Villas on the ground floor extending out from the west side of the tower just north of the pool and Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden.
The Lanais opened in November 1989 with the rest of the resort. As the story goes, several months into operation, Steve Wynn requested to see a print-out of all the names of players who had established seven-figure credit lines with the casino. Expecting only a few clients, he instead received several pages of names and quickly realized that his resort was short of mega-suites. The remaining Villas were built and in operation by the very next year. Ranging from 2,650 to 8,554 square feet with swimming pools and putting greens, these 14 suites are still among the most sought-after accommodations in Las Vegas. Held almost exclusively by hosts for the resort’s biggest players, they literally release just one or two to general reservations on slower weekdays.
The front desk gets on the phone with management and after a few moments utters a phrase I’m by now all too familiar with: “I’m sorry, but The Villas are fully occupied.”
Yet another trip where I fall short of my teenage visions. Maybe that Tony Robbins guy is full of shit.
We continue check-in proceedings when she gets a call back and is informed that there is a one bedroom Lanai—THE Nick Papagiorgio suite—the renovations of which having been completed literally a few days ago. It’ll be available the second night of my stay for $1400. That’s not the kind of number one would expect from an upgrade. It is, in fact, the midweek rack rate in the rare occurrence that this room is available. Take it or leave it.
The idea of changing rooms mid-trip doesn’t appeal to me and I tell them that I’ll have to think about it. My parents get situated in their Penthouse. Meanwhile, as I’m in my standard room, I live entirely out of my luggage to ease packing back up in the chance that I go for tomorrow’s upgrade.
That evening’s gambling turns out to be one of my worst sessions in recent memory. I rarely get the opportunity to press even three hands in a row and my night’s budget is wiped out in less than an hour. I have that dejected feeling where one starts questioning their role in Las Vegas and gambling in the first place. “That was money you could have spent on the upgrade you’ve always wanted. Maybe I should stop gambling for good. Maybe I’ll become a foodie and scope out new restaurants each trip. Maybe I’ll get up-to-date on all the shows.” These are the things I tell myself in bed as the room is spinning. Forget the upgrade. My dreams of staying in The Villas will have to wait another trip.
Funny how the mind works late at night after a bad run of cards. I wake up feeling a lot happier, sober, and far more irrational. It’s a new day in Vegas! I convince myself that I can’t spend the rest of the trip in 400 square feet and that I need an additional 2250. I go down to VIP and let them know that I’m ready to upgrade. They place a rush on the Lanai. Then I stop by to say hi to my host who’s already in the know. He half-jokingly suggests I call the butlers up and let them do my packing for me. No, for real, they’ll do that.
I pack up my belongings and pass the time by walking over to Wynn to see the new Plaza Shops. While there, I get the call: “Mr. E, this is the Villa Services Coordinator. Your Lanai is ready.” I request that the limo pick me up from Wynn.
Here. We. Go.
The arrival experience is extraordinary. Limos access through the private gates behind the resort to the small porte-cochere where guests are greeted by the butler team and are walked to their Villa or Lanai for in-room check-in. There’s nothing Polynesian-themed about this entrance. The manicured gardens and cypress trees unquestionably inspired Wynn when he later built Bellagio.
Once through the doors, you’re overwhelmed by the palatial space and original art. Two bronze statues on ornate consoles greet you on both sides. One features a reindeer held by its antlers, the other wings. These motifs run evident throughout the space as will be apparent later.
Taking a few steps in. On your right is a small presentation of goodies rotating all hours of the day. This particular urn had coffee. Another later in the evening provided seasonal spiced cider. A concierge desk is available until 10pm. Butler service is 24 hours. Many of the things they do includes clothes pressing, packing and unpacking of luggage, providing in-room dining from any of Mirage’s restaurants, and acquiring hard-to-get reservations. You can bet that the tables and seats they get you, especially at spots under the MGM Resorts canopy, aren’t available to general reservations.
It’s truly another world in here. The seasonal décor is tasteful and not overdone so as to not take away from the antiques and art adorning the space. Walls are deeply upholstered. Ornate crown moldings abound. The double doors at the end lead to Mirage’s pool. All three entry points (porte-cochere, casino, and pool) to The Villas require room keys or have phones beside them to have you paged in.
On the other end looking back towards the entrance. While visually overwhelming, your olfactory senses are also delighted with a tropical smell that’s distinctly different than the one they pump into the rest of the hotel. Furthermore, the silence in these hallways is astounding. When first entering The Villas from any entrance, allow the door to shut behind you and the sudden absence of sound is deafening. It’s like a bank vault in here except with a lot more money.
There are essentially two separate corridors connected by this reception space. The corridor on the left foreground leads to eight Villa suites. Excuse the hyperbole but it’s the most lavish space in Vegas; you’ll see why when I cover it thoroughly later in this review. But first, my Lanai! Its corridor begins in the right background beyond the armoire.
These hallways remain more casual and toned down than their Villa counterparts. They’re unbelievably long. This image was taken at about the halfway point of the space!
The door at the very end leads to the casino. Duh.
Here’s my door, Lanai 17.
Open up and wow. Floor-to-ceiling windows and a sunken living room enliven the space bringing a sense of the outdoors in. You can literally smell the fresh paint and carpets from this new redesign. The goal of these renovations was to step away from Polynesian bungalow in their original iteration and bring in more contemporary California beach house. They’ve done this successfully by using deep blues, greens, beiges, crosshatched textures on the wall coverings, and ocean-inspired décor.
On the left is a small hallway with a mirror. There are mirrors everywhere in this suite; you can’t avoid me. Be warned.
The door on the right is a coat closet, a feature I’ve rarely seen.
On the left, the guest bathroom with deep blue-green and brown walls. The blown glass sculpture by the toilet might be a Dale Chihuly. Or it might not. Regardless, it’s probably very expensive and surely has traces of human excrement on it but it’s okay because these are The Villas and that’s real luxury.
Turning around and back to the right of the foyer. What’s this door? It was a butler’s pantry in 1989 and I’m pretty sure it was meant to be locked because now it’s predominantly storage housing IT stuff, a vacuum, iron, and ironing board.
Should I open it? Are you sure?
You can’t unsee that. Please feel free to show this to anyone who says “I miss old Vegas.”
Next to the butler’s pantry/storage room is the fire escape plan. I happen to love analyzing these things to understand the room make up of a certain floor.
Lanais 19 and 20 are two and three-bedroom units, respectively. Lanais 15-18 are one-bedroom. Villas 1, 2, 9, and 10 are two-bedroom units while Villas 3, 6, 7, and 8 are three-bedrooms. Asian superstition mandates that the number four be skipped; we here in America hate 13. I have no idea why five is skipped (Wynn’s Apartment Villas skip five as well, but there is a Villa 5 at Bellagio). As of this writing, all of the Lanais have been renovated as well as Villas 7, 9, and 10. I was told they plan to renovate one per year so as to not disturb guests. Furnishings and finishes alone have run in the millions per Villa.
Units 11 and 12 are the most unusual guest rooms at Mirage. These are accommodations about the size of a standard room in the tower. 12 has a small courtyard. “They’re for the help,” one butler tells me, “Pilots, nannies, bodyguards. That sort of thing. Villa guests frequently have their own entourage.” Being the weirdo I am, I insist on seeing one. I refrain from taking photos, but it’s as if I’ve stepped back in time. Remember Mirage’s standard room before the last renovation? It’s exactly that: massive armoire, floral patterns, semi-canopied bed, the works. One thing that I couldn’t help but notice was how a room so dated could be so impossibly well-kept—not one nick, scratch, or scuff on the walls or furniture; they’re the single-most underutilized guest rooms in the hotel.
Moving away from the foyer and back into the meat of the suite. Here’s the Lanai from the dining table. The lemons are fake. Acquiring real ones is no problem in these accommodations. Obscured behind the fruit bowl is a little welcome cake. It was delicious.
Behind the dining table is an alcove continuing the ocean theme.
At the opposite end from the bar. Carved circles in the television housing give a sense of energy to the space. A beautiful ceiling reminiscent of a thatched hut frames the living room.
The colors and distressed wood finishes continue the ocean theme. The bowl is made partly of small shore pebbles. Even the plants look like anemones.
There’s no shortage of reading material placed amid coral sculptures. They could have easily overdone it with nautical references but thankfully there’s no “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” and the only “Moby Dick” here is the guy taking pictures. “Ocean Racing and Offshore Yachts” is about as aquatic of a title I could find.
The wood sculptures at the steps are inspired by kelp formations along the seafloor. Larger, painted stones adorn the walls of the bar. Lighting is spectacular. Not surprisingly, the television is by default set to an underwater scene. One visiting friend joked, “Is that a live feed from inside your pool?”
Opposite side. Geodes and conch shells appear in the shelves. No, the light fixture over the dining table is not made of real pearls.
Audio, television, and lighting can be controlled via the Crestron app on provided iPads. I consider myself fairly tech savvy, but while the menu looks somewhat intuitive, it isn’t.
On the initial tour of the suite, the butler shows me how to play my music from my phone through the Apple TV (the Lanai has got a wicked sound system). I try to do it myself later in the day and can’t figure it out. On the bright side, this gives me an opportunity to test the butler service. She’s at the Lanai within seconds after my phone call to fix my tech issues. Thankfully, tactile switches throughout the suite let you control everything the old-fashioned way.
Moving towards the sunken wet bar, it’s apparent that some of the more expensive finishes have remained untouched post-renovation (this is especially apparent later when we get to the master bath). The granite countertops are dated but work well with the ocean color scheme. While massive amounts of brass got removed from the suite, some of the simpler fixtures have remained. Surprisingly/not surprisingly, there’s no alcohol. You’re encouraged to use the butler to order whatever you’d like. Everything else in this space is complimentary and restocked often. If booked in advance, they can stock with whatever you reasonably desire.
Keurig coffeemaker with no shortage of selections.
The fridge has most the basics you’d want.
Glassware is short for a suite of this caliber. I suspect this may have to do with me upgrading last-minute. Again, these can be rushed to you with one phone call.
The bedroom is awesome. The low furnishings make the 12-foot ceilings feel even higher. The deep blue headboard and ottoman framed by the gray wood paneling is contemporary without being cold.
The telephone on the nightstand has essentially three buttons beyond its numeric pad: “Butler,” “VIP Concierge” (who reverted my requests to the butler), and “Hotel Operator” (who also reverted my questions to the butler). Pro tip: all you need is the butler button.
A pillow menu is a nice touch.
The bedroom feels just as open and airy as the living room. Gone is the stupid, square-foot-hogging, always-breaking pop-up television at the foot of the bed. It’s replaced with a more sensible, less finicky set mounted above the door.
On the opposite side is the master bath. Dual vanities frame a large whirlpool tub. The deep blue paint and sparkling strings help modernize a space that is otherwise impossible to bring up to date without a jackhammer. Mirrors abound. Like I said, you can’t avoid me. Gold accessories such as tissue box covers and soap dishes help the otherwise outdated brass feel more coherent with the rest of the design language.
The massive shower. Sadly, a steam function is only available in the larger Villas.
On the opposite end is a water closet with toilet and bidet. It was so not-special that I actually forgot to take a picture of it. Whoops!
The bathroom has not one but two walk-in closets opposite one another.
Look, a shoe buffer! More suites need these.
Bath products are predominantly Molton Brown and absolutely phenomenal surpassing the Bvlgari stuff at MGM’s Skylofts. You can even request different fragrances of the same products! I rarely take bath goodies home but I knew after one use that these were going with me.
Products that aren’t Molton Brown are presented elegantly in boxes with The Villas own branding.
And speaking of branding, The Villas, perhaps more than any other ultra suite product in Vegas, take every effort to set themselves apart as their own hotel-within-a-hotel by stamping their logo and/or name on everything.
Room keys? Of course.
Robes? You bet.
Room service and directory menus? Check.
Writing pads? Yup.
Do not disturb sign (even though there’s an electronic switch as well)? Mmm hmm.
Floor mats that read “V” which obviously stands for “The Villas?” Indeed.
A bag that holds the extra emergency toilet paper? Sure.
The motherfucking toilet paper itself?! Are you serious?!
Stepping outside, the patio can be accessed from either the bedroom or living room. The pool is actually larger than it appears in pictures. There’s also a small table with umbrella, two loungers, television, excellent speakers, phone, and misting system. The foliage is new with the renovation and will look better in the coming years as it grows up the lattice. Guests can request pool floats.
A unique perspective looking up the tower from the pool.
A simple handheld remote controls the pool jets and misting system. I never figured out how to adjust the temperature for the pool but it didn’t matter; it was steaming hot throughout my December stay and there’s a butler if I need it to be any different.
I can’t keep this space to myself so I text my old college friends Dan and Cara, fellow Vegas fanatics Crishna and Matt, and even Emily from last year’s adventure! They have to see this room before we grab drinks together. Charging to The Villas is sometimes an event in itself. I was told to “simply sign Lanai or Villa 17.” A few employees had no idea what I was talking about, would get their managers, and their managers would come with effusive greetings and heartfelt apologies for the confusion. I learn after the fact that internally, my room is 41017. Yes, The Villas start with “4” in the system.
After drinks, we hit the tables hard. While the monetary outcome isn’t positive, the cocktails flow endlessly and I put up a far better fight than the previous night. Now the sun is rising and I realize I’m too drunk to go to bed so I decide to scope the art in the Villa (not Lanai) corridor to sober up a bit. I have yet to show you guys this “amenity”—a freakin’ guest hallway!—but it might be my favorite feature of The Villas.
When starting from the reception, a left leads into the Lanai corridor, but instead keep walking and make a right…
Holy shit, right? It’s an absolute palace back here.
In these wee hours of the morning, I cross paths with a butler and he gives me the backstory which I only knew pieces of. Long before Bellagio and much to the chagrin of shareholders, Wynn was buying big name art—Picassos, Cézannes, Renoirs—cycling them between executive offices, private high limit rooms, and of course, the long-shuttered Renoir restaurant. But while the biggest names were getting placed in, at best, high-security and admire-from-afar spaces, a large portion of the smaller names from the collection made it into this hallway. Imagine having a museum almost exclusively to yourself with the privilege of getting as close to the art as possible. What a spectacular treat! This, and the five remaining Villas that have not been renovated, are the final vestiges of designer Roger Thomas under MGM Resorts.
Here’s a small selection of the art and antiques that run the corridor from east to west. From an interior design perspective, I see that a motif of horned and/or winged creatures reoccurs throughout the space. I won’t pretend to know my art history nor am I an expert in antiques. Please do chime in if you know anything about the artists, subjects, etcetera.
At just a hair over six feet, I still stood below the halfway point of this massive armoire.
What a handsome work of art. The vase looks beautiful, too.
A real standout among the classical and rococo works.
A sphinx intertwines beautifully with French and Italian pieces.
A bust of Marie Antoinette, I believe, caps the end of the hallway.
Looking back from where we started.
You guys, when it comes to luxury corridors, I’ve been in Bellagio’s Villas, I’ve seen Wynn’s. I’ve found myself in the Sky Casinos of both Wynn Palace in Macau and Encore Las Vegas. Maybe, maybe Encore’s Sky Casino is the closest thing to the extravagance of this space. But the real charm is that for these wee hours of the morning, this is my secret slice of heaven inside The Mirage—the same hotel with a California Pizza Kitchen that I would eat at later.
I prepare for bed and call the butler with only three and a half hours remaining before check out: “My host had set up all my rooms for 5pm check out but that was before I upgraded. Is there any way I can have that 5pm check out at the same time as my parents upstairs?”
“My apologies Mr. E., but I can’t grant you that at the moment. Our executives will be meeting in a few hours to decide on the status of our guests.”
Translation: if big player we know is in town and so much as hints at getting in, you’re out.
She continues, “What time is best I call you with a response?” I request 10:30am. Like clockwork, the phone rings and I get the confirmation for 5pm check out. Beautiful. The Villas will do everything in their power to make you happy, but I find that certain entitlements I’ve admittedly grown accustomed to aren’t as freely given when my neighbors are betting 10 times per hand what I’m paying per night.
I catch another hour of sleep and call Dad to come down so we can enjoy the Lanai pool together. It would actually be my first time using it. Here’s something to give you nightmares:
After lunch with my parents, I pack my bags, walk over to The Villas desk and inquire about my bill. I find that my host has automatically deducted all charges off the Penthouse my parents are in which leaves me with only tips. I ask what the balance on the Lanai is. After taxes, fees, and a few drinks, it came out to $1800. Oof.
I go to my host’s office to say bye and see if he can take care of the few beverages I put on the Lanai. He gets on the phone for a bit, hangs up, looks at me and says, “I zeroed out everything. You’ll only see remaining tips on the bill.”
I’m completely speechless. He continues, “The room was going to sit empty anyway. Happy holidays.”
I sit back on the chair opposite his desk and take a breath, my eyes watering slightly. No, comps don’t make me teary-eyed. The generosity is more than appreciated, but in that moment, I realize that my ultimate teenage vision—to stay in The Villas at The Mirage and get the whole thing comped—had pretty much manifested itself.
The limo is waiting at the The Villas entrance where I’m regaled with unbelievable stories from the butler team while my parents enjoy the last few minutes in the Lanai. They send us off with a parting gift prominently branded, of course, with their logo. It sits on my desk reminding me to come back.
And I’d come back in a heartbeat.