Home REVIEWS Have A Grand Vegas Time at the MGM Grand
Have A Grand Vegas Time at the MGM Grand PDF Print E-mail
Have A Grand Vegas Time at the MGM Grand

There have been two MGMs on the Las Vegas Strip. The first opened in 1973, and after a disastrous fire in 1980 that killed 85 people and injured more than 600, mostly from smoke inhalation, it was gutted. The rebuilt hotel on the site today was opened as Bally's in 1986. In 1992, a brand new hotel complex was erected about a mile south on The Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard), and today it is known as the MGM Grand Resort.

When the new resort opened, with the exterior all emerald green glass panels with a big golden lion outside, the entire inside entranceway was a big fake forest maze. Among the plastic trees were life-sized images of Dorothy and her pals on the Yellow Brick Road along their way to Oz. It made a fun free tourist attraction, but because it brought in no money, the hotel owners tore it down several years later and put in stacks of 24-7 revenue-producing slot machines. Vegas is about money, not fantasyland.

The MGM casino area today, including hundreds of machines and table games, is now the largest in Las Vegas, and occupies nearly 200,000 square feet. Sorry, Dorothy, you're not in Kansas anymore, but in a glittering Oz in the middle of the Nevada desert.

After nearly a decade since my first visit, I went to MGM Grand recently with my son. It’s a beautiful, luxurious and impressive resort, and we were happy to discover that the hotel still has its indoor lion habitat, a large, comfy-looking, two-story cat condo, including several den areas where the lions can find relief from the 24-7 parade of staring tourists, the bright lights and the clanging of nearby slot machines.

The upper area includes a large glass tube that winds around for a hundred feet above gamblers and gawkers. It's a unique experience to see huge lions and cute little cubs strolling and stretching just 18 inches above your head, safely housed within their glass walkways.

As we watched, several young keepers walked calmly around inside the lion enclosure, offering meat snacks to the cats and occasionally scratching some friendly ears and bellies. Another feature offers photo shoots of visitors with not-quite-grown lion cubs for $10. My son now has a souvenir photo of him petting his 30-pound purring pal.

The MGM Grand is one of the largest resorts in Vegas, and is actually a city within a city. Its main structure has more than 5,000 rooms for people who just want to pay $100 a night to sleep, swim, eat and gamble. For those with higher tastes, there's the Signature towers with 600 super-luxury condo suites. It was built over what was an amusement park in the mid-90s, which failed miserably after some Vegas brains got the dumb idea of making Sin City a family destination. For people with tons of money and want to stay in Vegas permanently or can afford an extra home, there are also the Skylofts and Mansion condos. If you have to ask what they cost, you can't afford them.

Throughout the property, which includes a magnificent pool area with two-story waterfalls and scads of tropical plants, there are scores of shops featuring overpriced designer goods, a dozen expensive gourmet restaurants, and two food courts for ordinary folks who just want quick, cheap eats.

A Vegas tradition in every hotel is the scarf-till-you-barf buffet, and the MGM boasts a very attractive one, with scads of ethnic food stations and all the trimmings. Like the rest of Sin City, prices keep going higher and higher. The buffets we visited in the early 90s featured $4 breakfasts, $5 lunches and $6 dinners.

We had a very good buffet lunch at MGM on our most recent visit, but the cost is now $20.99. Incidentally, I don't know why, but all meal prices at Vegas are tagged with the confusing 99 cents, something like service stations do to make you think you're not being robbed blind for gasoline. I guess since Vegas is all smoke and mirrors, they figure they must add the 99 cents to fool their already foolish customers, too.

For entertainment, the MGM Grand is a Broadway extravaganza all wrapped up in one resort. If you like acrobats in silly costumes climbing and slithering around, there's the Cirque du Soleil stage show called KA. From France, complete with the required nudies is Crazy Horse Paris. If you like to pay enormous prices for watered-down drinks while rubbing shoulders with never-were celebs, try an evening at the Vegas version of Studio 54. There's also the Hollywood Theatre, where major comedy, band and singers perform at equally outrageous prices. When we wandered by, Jerry Seinfeld was performing there at $150 a ticket.

If you're planning a Vegas vacation, and you want to experience the very best all within one property, by all means, try the MGM Grand.
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