You can't get much closer to Venice in America than this $1.5 billion resort built to re-create it.

By Wayne Curtis
March 18, 2009
Werner Dieterich/Getty

A stroll through the Venetian resort in Las Vegas is a bit like clicking through a Viewmaster loaded with slides of historic Venice. Here’s the narrow canal with a singing gondolier, there’s the miniature Piazza San Marco, and just outside is the Bridge of Sighs. When Sheldon Adelson, the hotel and casino’s developer, asked his builders to re-create the historic Italian city, he said he wanted it to look aged but not weathered. They delivered. The $1.5 billion Venetian, which opened a decade ago, lacks the patina and history of the actual city. But it has the mask painters, strolling minstrels, delicious food, and a surplus of striking architectural details―such as the capitals atop the columns of the Doge’s Palace―that make it evocative of the original.

Eat smart: The Venetian has done a stellar job transplanting the cuisine of northern Italy to the Nevada desert. Several excellent Italian restaurants dot the casino’s narrow streets. Mario Batali’s Enoteca San Marco sits in a tiny replica of the famous square; settle in at the white marble counter and sample pungent cheeses and thin-sliced cured meats. Superb Italian wines may be sampled in two-ounce tasting portions. Other fine choices include Canaletto (702-733-0070), noted for its delicious traditional breads and succulent seafood, and Zeffirino (702-414-3500), which features many ingredients imported from Italy, then combined into rich dishes like fettuccine with crab, lobster, and shrimp with a piquant tomato sauce.

Be fit: Walk off your meal with a long stroll through the colorful, maze-like corridors of the resort. Prefer your workout without crowds? Head to the Canyon Ranch Spa’s opulent outpost, complete with soaring rock wall. A day pass is $40.

Live Well: What’s Venice without water? Unwind at the four-acre pool complex, designed with an alluring haute-classical motif. Swim a lap or two, or just relax in the battery of lounge chairs set in the shallow pool, making the desert heat nearly bearable. At night, there’s dancing at Tao (702-388-8338), the late-night venue at the Great Hall.

Where to stay: The Venetian resides amid the distracting hubbub of the Las Vegas strip, but once inside it can feel like an oasis. The resort has more than 4,000 rooms in two towers. Even the standard rooms at this all-suites hotel are about 700 square feet, and all have amenities like sunken living rooms and flat-screen televisions in the bathrooms. Pricewise, there are two seasons in Las Vegas―midweek and weekend. Plan on a midweek trip for better deals, and check discount Web sites like for bargains.