I had a nice two-night trip with the parents recently. Rather than give a full play-by-play as I usually do, I just thought Iâ€™d throw out some thoughts, highlights, and even some not-so-pleasant times. I was over at Bellagio this trip. After eight stays at Wynn and having not stayed at Bellagio in six years, I was definitely due to give Wynnâ€™s closest competitor another shot. Sorry to beat a dead horse, but Iâ€™ll be making natural comparisons to Wynn LV here and there. In short, Bellagio impressed me in ways I had forgotten, but Wynn will remain my home. Bellagioâ€™s detailing is exquisite and walking the public areas several times a day made me appreciate it even more. Forget the flowers in the conservatoryâ€”the highlight for me is the completely mosaic-tiled floor carving your path through the display. Wynn LV had to use glass mosaics to achieve its vivid colors, but Bellagioâ€™s subtle shades allowed for a higher quality marble. Another great example of stunning detail is the guest elevators. No other hotel in Vegas can match the main tower's elevators or elevator foyer; one look and itâ€™s obvious no expense was spared. The spa tower, while it tries hard to match the original Wynn product in these details, simply falls short. Service at Bellagio was goodâ€”or at least the megaresort definition of â€œgood serviceâ€ it seemsâ€”efficient but completely impersonal. Everything was done quickly and with a half-smile. Only once was I asked how my day was going and never did a random employee greet me after making eye contact. While itâ€™s probably only a subtle change in employee training, it makes a huge difference in how welcome you feel. The best boutique hotels do it, Wynn LV makes an effort to do it. No matter how big a resort, it should be standard practice. While standing at the entrance of Jasmine, Bellagioâ€™s high-end Chinese restaurant, you have a completely unobstructed view down a long path to the Baccarat Bar and baccarat high-limit room. Knowing that baccarat is predominantly favored by Asians, that spacial relationship between the restaurant and gaming is no coincidence. Genius casino design. Lounges: Bellagioâ€™s got â€˜em covered in spades. Encore, Palazzo: take notes. I took my parents to Fontana for drinks on the patio. We all loved it. I have always been curious about the stairway that leads down to the patio literally on the water. Iâ€™ve never seen anyone on there, but itâ€™s obviously more than just aesthetic. I asked the waitress if I could go down and she said the only person who was allowed down there was Celine Dion for a private dinner. Somehow I feel that thatâ€™s a generic answer they give to anyone who asks. Anyone know what the real story is on that patio? I rave about Wynn LVâ€™s convenient, guest-oriented design again and again. Staying at Bellagio confirmed my ravings even more. At Wynn, Iâ€™ve forgotten the sunscreen while at the pool or my camera while in the lobby. Itâ€™s usually a quick trip back up whether youâ€™re staying on Resort or Tower side. While I was waiting at Bellagioâ€™s valet to leave town, I realized that I either left my Mont Blanc pen on the desk in the room or in one of my pantsâ€™ pockets stuffed in my luggage. To put it bluntly, I was so sick of all the walking (and in all fairness, our room was nearly at the end of the hallway), I just said Iâ€™d take my chances and hope my pen will be in my luggage when I get home. Fortunately, I found it unpacking. The spa tower is only slightly better with this distance issue, but then youâ€™d be closer to a casino in Reno than Bellagioâ€™s own. I finally visited Red Rock Station. Stunning, beautiful, classyâ€”the adjectives can go on and on. Bar none the best vibe a local joint can have, which unfortunately, still falls short of a good strip casino vibe. Itâ€™s not an â€œIâ€™m in Vegas, baby!â€ kind of feeling; it leans more to the air of â€œMy nine to five shift is done so letâ€™s go blow off some steam at the local joint.â€ I had heard mixed reviews on the buffet, but I tried it anyway. Donâ€™t mean to keep spurting out the superlatives, but this was the best buffet Iâ€™ve had and Iâ€™ve tried all but the Sterling Brunch. I liked that it wasnâ€™t row after row presenting 800 different ways to cook a salmon as most other high-end buffets tend to be. Some really creative dishes, phenomenal dessert selection, and only $17 for dinner with a Station card. Minimums were surprisingly low as well. Maybe the floor doesnâ€™t see tips too often because I bought in at a $10 pai gow table, immediately tipped a buck, and placed another buck for the dealer which won. He was surprised and told me that he doesnâ€™t see that often around here. I was really glad to see it made someoneâ€™s day. Did a quick visit to Wynn. The CafÃ© and Drugstore are now separated by a mosaic wall that looks great. Itâ€™s nice to see that some of the best dealers Iâ€™ve had have been promoted to floorâ€”guess not everyoneâ€™s complaining about the new tipping policy. I always thought coupon runs were kind of stupid, but I did a mini-run at Barbary Coast. Drank plenty, got my souvenirs, and hit all my matchplays. Low-limits, high fun. I joked with my parents that the Coast will go bankrupt with all the free crap they were giving me. Lake Las Vegas: I didnâ€™t think it was worth the trip. Am I missing something? I thought that maybe if I were 30 years older Iâ€™d appreciate it, but my parents didnâ€™t like it either. Those press photos do the place way too much justice. Myself, Hunter, my friend David, and Tim and Michele Dressen of Five Hundy by Midnight hung out for a bit at Flamingo and then later at Bellagio. Good times. I later ran into my friends Matt and Jeff at Bellagio and we headed towards Caramel. I remember the good old days when you could get a seat here on a packed Saturday night. Now even on a dead Sunday night, you either pay for a bottle or donâ€™t sit down at all. Some of us split while Hunter, David, and I enjoyed cocktails at Petrossian until 3amâ€”besides gambling, this is really what Vegas is all about to me. Too bad my next night wasnâ€™t nearly as funâ€¦ Gambling was awful this trip. My ritual was to walk across the street to Barbary Coast and milk them for every drink I could on the $5 pai gow. Once I was thoroughly hammered, Iâ€™d walk back over to Bellagio, Caesars, or Mirage and play big table baccarat. Talk about extremes. Of the three baccarat rooms I played, I think I had the most fun at Caesars. Great players and some of the best dealers around. Worst was The Mirage. While Iâ€™ve spent plenty of time gawking at the gorgeous dÃ©cor in their new high limit and baccarat lounges, I was left cold when I finally played there. First of all, they donâ€™t even open a big table except for on busy weekends so I played some mini-baccarat and got whooped. I didnâ€™t win a single hand; it was almost embarrassing. Mind you, I donâ€™t mind losing within my means at all so long as Iâ€™m having a blast socializing, drinking, and giving a good fight. Definitely not this time around. I walked off the table angry with myself, completely sober, and humbled with nothing more than a single dollar left in my wallet. I knew what would fix me right up so I walked into the gift shop and [over]paid $7 for an Arturo Fuente Exquisito I could smoke on my walk back to Bellagio. Stepped outside, lit the stogie, and for a moment, life was good. Just a couple steps later I tripped on a crack and the newly lit cigar fell out of my hand and into a puddle. Ugh. So then I thought to myself that a nice martini at the Baccarat Bar inside Bellagio would make for a pleasant nightcap. I order the martini only to have the worldâ€™s loudest jackass sit next to me. I left, but hereâ€™s where it gets really patheticâ€¦ I knew Iâ€™d have a hangover the next day, so I took that last dollar out and put it in a freakinâ€™ penny slot and played one penny at a time in hopes that a cocktail waitress would walk by and I could get some water before heading to bed. Money gone and no water. At that point, I just thought the best way to end such a crappy night was to go to bed. Easily one of the worst nights Iâ€™ve had in Vegas But despite its ups and downs, it was an enjoyable trip. I donâ€™t get to spend as much time with my parents as Iâ€™d like so itâ€™s always a treat to take them to Vegas. Bellagio is awesome. Having stayed at Wynn so much, Iâ€™ve really forgotten the joys of a center-strip location. Nevertheless, itâ€™s size and unwillingness to go the extra step in service knocked it down a couple notches in my book. Canâ€™t wait for December when Iâ€™m back in Tower Suites.