You either love Las Vegas or hate it. We are a family that loves it.
A lot of the love (and hate) seems to originate with the location and hotel you choose. Being off The Strip, staying in a seedy part of town just to save a few bucks can often backfire, ruining an entire vacation.
After all, Vegas is all about the glamour, about the illusion, about The Strip. And there is no better way to spend a Las Vegas family vacation than falling in love with a glamorous hotel that transports you to another realm… like the romantic canals of Venice. Even if it’s only an illusion.
At least the airfare is cheaper.
But unlike the city of Venice, The Venetian has everything you could want in one single location. From luxurious swimming pools to sumptuous buffets to live entertainment. The toughest challenge will be bringing yourself to leave.
What Is The Venetian?
The Venetian is one of those colossal hotels you can’t miss on The Strip. This lavish, Italian-themed hotel is adorned with its own replica Rialto Bridge, gondola canals, Italian restaurants and stunning intricate ceilings.
The Venetian stands on the site of the old Sands Hotel where the Rat Pack use to perform regularly at the Copa Room. Its history is also one of its most endearing aspects.
Towering 36 stories high with 4,049 rooms, The Venetian resort complex is the world’s second largest hotel. In addition to its neon drenched casino, the hotel features an arcade of 20 restaurants, bars, a nightclub, a theatre, dozens of retail stores, and a wax museum. But the most prominent feature is the artificial canals, complete with singing gondola rides. The hotel also houses an upscale spa, fitness facilities, meeting space and between 8 and 10 swimming pools (after asking several staff, the answer was still undecided).
What’s The Room Like?
Each suite represents the combination of Vegas glamour with the elegant touch of Italian inspiration. Furnishings are plush, making you feel like a winner without ever needing to step into the casino. Our Luxury Suite, covering 650 square feet, included a pillow-top king-size bed, sunken living room (where our kids made the sofa bed their home), and floor-to-ceiling marble-clad bathroom with double vanity. Egyptian cotton sheets are the icing on the cake. In fact, the bed is so comfortable, it’s rated as top 20 most comfortable beds in the US according to Travel + Leisure Magazine. I just couldn’t bring myself to getting out of bed. Good thing Josh pushed me out.
Fascinating fact: The Venetian Luxury Suite are around twice the size of the average Las Vegas hotel room.
Why I Just Can’t Leave The Hotel!
There’s plenty of pools to choose from. Kids pools, adults pool, small pools, big pools. Whatever your mood, there’s a pool to match. The Venetian is connected to The Palazzo, and guests may use the pools of both hotels.
Romantic Gondola Rides
No trip to Venice would be complete without a genuine gondola ride, right?
The indoor Grand Canal holds more than 273,000 gallons of water while the outdoor canal holds over 570,000 gallons.
Fun fact: Using a standard garden hose for 24 hours a day, it would take 65 days to fill the indoor canal.
We took the kids for a 15-minute indoor ride through the hotel, underneath bridges, alongside cafes, and past balconies, the whole time under the glorious Venetian blue sky. Our lovely gondolier, Isabella, sang beautifully. From the Italian songs to genuine outfits, this was about as authentic as anything you could find anywhere in the world, without being in Venice.
Purists might flinch at the motorised vessels (although I found them surprisingly silent), after all, they were specifically designed for the hotel’s canals. But the finishings are flawless – eye-catching chrome-like black paint, individually stained intricate wood trim, plush upholstery. It’s easy to tell no expenses was spared in creating these craft.
If you can’t get enough, separate rides are available in the external canals too. While the ride isn’t cheap, it definitely makes for one hell of a romantic date. Especially if an impromptu flight to Italy isn’t on the cards.
From the moment I first stepped into The Venetian’s lobby, I was blown away. Looking past the crowds of tourists, and the lustrous golden water feature, I lifted my eyes up. A magnificent painted fresco modelled after Michelangelo's masterpiece ceiling in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel. Jaw dropped.
And if that’s not enough, the Grand Canal Shoppes are covered by a magical blue sky painted ceiling, complete with vanilla fluffy clouds. You have to look pretty closely to work out if its real or not. Can you tell?
Part of the hotel complex, situated across the Bridge of Sighs, is the world-famous Madame Tussauds wax museum. Compared to others we’ve visited around the world, it’s not overly large, so you can polish it off in less than 2 hours. In addition to an endless reel of selfies with celebrities, sports stars, music stars and even superheros, the kids really enjoyed the interactive exhibits, dress-ups and even a fake Vegas wedding!
Old School Motown
One of my favourite parts of The Venetian was their resident act, Human Nature. Human Nature, in case you’ve been living under a rock, is Australia’s very own 1990’s boy band, and top-selling vocal group. We watched their new show called “Jukebox”, mixing pop classics with doo-wop, motown, soul and more.
This was our kids first concert ever and while my 6-year-old fell asleep (after a full day exploring Vegas), my 7-year-old bopped along the entire way with me.
The show is very family friendly. However, I almost lost myself to a long-dormant adolescent boy band crush. While I channelled my inner teenager I saw the future teen in my daughter. I don’t know what was scarier! Haha!
Of course there are plenty of other things to do in the world’s second largest hotel from shopping to clubs to the casino. None of those things I managed to find time for, but there’s always next time
Oh, and if you love travel (you must since you’re reading this article), take a look at the gallery of Josh’s favourite photographer, Peter Lik. While he might be famous (at least in photographer circles) for selling the most expensive photo of all time, his fine art pieces are amazing.
And What About The Food?
The Venetian and The Palazzo combined host more than 40 restaurants. Another reason why I didn’t have to leave the hotel. Granted, we did not make our way through all 40 restaurants. However, we tried the food court one night where a wide variety of cuisines were available at budget-friendly prices.
The culinary highlight was a lunch at Buddy V’s Ristorante. You might know that name from TLC’s series Cake Boss. This restaurant’s dishes are inspired by Buddy’s family recipes and popular American-Italian favourites. Charming, homey décor (like family photos on the walls) are blended with upscale Italian fixtures in an unexpected harmony.
I expected great things from the brainchild of this lovable, exuberant TV personality. While overall it was a positive dining experience and I’ll happily go back, some of the dishes didn’t hit the spot. Here’s a play-by-play breakdown:
Verdict: Win. Caius devoured this delicious soup packed with flavour.
Verdict: Win. The melted mozzarella & fontina was utterly delish.
Verdict: Win. I never knew this Jersey-inspired combination of cheese, crostini, tomato ragu and genovese pesto would taste so good. Totally moreish.
Verdict: Fail. Erin’s choice for mains was relatively bland and unmemorable. Shame.
Verdict: Win. Josh’s choice for mains was rich, meaty and flavourful.
Verdict: Eh. Mia’s choice for mains was fine, I’m assuming toned down for kiddy palettes.
Verdict: Fail. Caius’ choice for mains was nothing like any mac & cheese we’ve ever seen, and not in a good way. Watery, bland sauce and slightly undercooked pasta.
Verdict: Win. While the cake was delicious, the salted caramel ice cream stole the show.
Verdict: Eh. Erin had sky-high expectations for this iconic pastry, but the pastry shell was a bit chewy and custard cream bland.
Verdict: Good. Josh was expecting big things from a renowned pastry chef. This fun, modern twist on a classic Sicilian dessert was a solid contender, but not in the same league as cannoli tastings in Rome and Sicily.
Verdict: Win. Dish of the day! As an experienced connoisseur of crème brulee, Josh described this as the smoothest custard he’s ever tasted. He crowned it “the unicorn of custard”.
The dishes that kicked a goal were fantastic. The disappointment from ones that missed the mark were linked to our high expectations from such a celebrated chef. I’m guessing by the temperature of the pastries that they had been refrigerated for some time, which would explain why they didn’t taste as fresh as I was hoping. All in all, I’d still highly recommend a visit for lunch or dinner, and hopefully our experience can steer you in the right direction.
If you’re not looking for a full meal, but perhaps just a sweet treat, across the walkway from Buddy V’s is a branch of his iconic bakery, Carlo’s Bake Shop. Every time I walked past there was always a queue stretching outside. Must be a good sign.
The Bottom Line
The Venetian gives you plenty of excuses to never leave – luxurious accommodation, oodles of pools, delicious food, world-class entertainment, ultimate relaxation and retail therapy. It’s easy to spend an entire vacation here without walking out into the bright lights of The Strip.
And if you prefer effortless done-for-you style vacations, I can’t think of anywhere else in Las Vegas I’d rather be trapped. Forget the cheap hostels, go for the full glitz and glamour.