In 2019, more than 3 million visitors flocked to Las Vegas every single month. All told, the gambling capital of the world had 40 million tourists touch down last year, per the latest data compiled by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA).
And among the masses of gamblers arriving in Nevada from every corner of the globe, the vast majority stayed somewhere on the world-famous “Strip.”
In the 21st century, five glorious monuments to glitz and glamour were added to Sin City’s skyline with the opening of the Wynn, Palazzo, Encore, Aria, and Cosmopolitan.
Over the next few years, gamblers will also see a pair of newcomers join the fray, with Resorts World scheduled to open in 2021, and The Drew slotted for 2022.
The Strip’s status as the world’s undisputed casino capital of the world is clear, but even regular visitors don’t see everything that’s worth seeing. To help make your next trip to the Las Vegas Strip a highlight reel of the area’s best attractions, dining, entertainment, and of course, gambling, check out my personal list of the six coolest Las Vegas casinos to open in the last 25 years.
1 – Aria
One of the most breathtaking sights on the Strip has to be the Aria Resort & Casino, what with its absolutely stunning architectural flourishes.
Seriously, if you have the opportunity to visit the Aria, the tribute to adventurous design will leave you in awe.
The building has gold-flecked towers in the heart and they lean and undulate like all those folks streaming up and down the Strip in the early morning hours.
They’re called Veer Towers, and while you can’t stay there without signing a residential lease, just walking by down below and gazing up at a building that seems to be waving in the wind gets me every time.
As for the Aria itself, this glass and steel casino resort straight out of futurist flick is the centerpiece attraction of the Aria campus—a mixed-use urban complex spanning nearly 17 million square feet across a 76-acres footprint. It also includes the high-rise luxury hotel Vdara. But, since opening in 2009, Aria has been where the gamblers in the know go to enjoy everything modern Las Vegas has to offer.
The accommodations at Aria are AAA 5-Diamond rated, thanks in large part to ultra-chic amenities, like the 215,000-square-foot pool area, 80,000 square-foot salon and spa, massive convention centers, and an 1,800 square-foot theater.
Don’t forget about the gambling though, as Aria’s 150,000 square-foot casino is widely regarded as a unicorn of sorts, combining the hand-catered customer service of an off-Strip joint with luxury and beauty that can only be found on the Strip.
Players here have turned Aria poker into a bona fide brand, with World Poker Tour (WPT) tournaments, the PokerGo studio, and one of the city’s nicest poker rooms.
And if slots and table games are your thing, look for the latest machines, favorable table game odds and limits, and a full-scale sportsbook where bettors sweat their action in style.
2 – Park MGM
Formerly known as the Monte Carlo after opening in 1996, this 360-foot tall hotel tower and 102,000-square-foot casino was rebranded as Park MGM in 2018.
But this wasn’t a matter of simply removing the old Monte Carlo signage and slapping up a new logo, as operator MGM Resorts went all-in on a full renovation and remodel project valued at $500 million. Today, visitors to Park MGM will find a fully-modernized casino resort planned around the idea of an urban nature preserve.
Instead of the often claustrophobic feel of the old-school casinos, Park MGM takes its cue from the nearby The Park, an outdoor promenade designed to evoke Central Park West and other urban hotspots. Everything here is open-air and expansive, allowing patrons to stroll down sidewalks while they explore boutiques and bakeries on their way to the blackjack table.
By co-opting the old Monte Carlo’s gaming floor, and outfitting it with the latest table game equipment and machines, Park MGM boasts 1,400 slot installations, 60 table games, and a 15- table poker room.
And when you’re done mixing it up in the pit, why not walk a few minutes to adjacent T-Mobile Arena to watch the Vegas Golden Knights compete on the ice in NHL action?
Park MGM bills itself as the “newest casino on The Strip,” so if you haven’t been in a while, make sure to pay a visit and see this innovative new way of creating a comfortable casino climate in person.
3 – Wynn and Encore
After the rousing success of his self-named casino resort in 2005, mogul Steve Wynn doubled down by opening its twin sister Encore right next door three years later.
Together, the Wynn and Encore pairing form a formidable duo for mega-casino chains like MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment to contend with. Between the Wynn and Encore combined, these two sleek 614-foot hotel towers house 4,750 guest rooms, making the complex the seventh largest hotel venue on the planet.
For folks who appreciate the finer things in life, Wynn and Encore rank among the most decorated casino resorts anywhere in the world. I’m talking AAA 5-Diamond, Mobil 5-Star, Forbes 5-Star, Zagat Survey Top US Hotel, and oh, a Michelin 5-Star rating to boot.
In case you couldn’t tell by now, the Wynn and Encore have separated themselves from the rest, even outclassing the Strip’s more well-known luxury resorts.
Decadence is the name of the game here, from operatic in-house shows like Le Rêve to the legendary musician Diana Ross, to the mesmerizing Lake of Dreams outside, and even the opulent casino itself.
Between the two sites, Wynn and Encore share 189,000 and 80,000 square feet of gorgeously appointed casino space, respectively.
4 – Bellagio
Trending toward the older side of the spectrum with an opening date of 1998, the Bellagio Hotel & Casino nonetheless holds up when compared to its younger rivals.
The dancing fountains outside are still considered to be a must-see Strip experience, while the interior’s Italian Renaissance décor manages to inspire awe and wonder even after repeat visits. Personally speaking, I’m partial to taking slow walks underneath the Fiori di Como, a 2,000 square-foot handblown glass art exhibit created by world-renowned sculptor Dale Chihuly.
Even after a bad beat in Bellagio’s world-famous poker facility, where legends like Doyle Brunson, Gus Hansen, and Phil Ivey meet daily in Bobby’s Room to play the highest-stakes games in the country, I feel just fine gazing up at that breathtaking rainbow of glass.
5 – Venetian and Palazzo
Another pair of sister casinos, Venetian (1999) and Palazzo (2007) immerse guests in Old World Venice.
This place is practically built for romance, with the Venetian’s famous gondola ride featuring tour guides who serenade you and your paramour as you float down bright blue canal waterways.
Speaking of the canal, don’t forget to stop by the Grand Canal Shoppes to find a full-scale high-end shopping mall tucked neatly within the combined property of the Venetian and Palazzo.
6 – Cosmopolitan
Three years after opening in 2010, the Cosmopolitan casino resort was named “Best Hotel in the World” by Gogobot.
That honor was followed in 2015 when the Condé Nast Traveler magazine’s Gold List included the “Cosmo” as one of its “Top Hotels in the World.”
If you want to see what all the fuss is about at the Cosmopolitan, check out our review of their operation and learn more about its rewards programs, accommodations, restaurants, and stores.
The Strip will always be a true icon of Americana, a testament to this country’s unbridled willingness to put everything on the line. Before the first enterprising casino entrepreneurs realized their vision, imagining a thriving cityscape being built in the harsh Mojave Desert was the ultimate pipe dream.
Today, however, millions of visitors from all corners of the globe save up just to make their annual sojourn to Sin City’s fabulous Las Vegas Boulevard, one of those rare places where the bold still make their fortune.