Normally, I don't go near a shopping area in Vegas unless A) I really feel like people-watching, B) I am eating at a restaurant located in or near the shopping area, or C) I forgot something very important at home that I can't do without.
Like most malls in the U.S., there are plenty of food court-type options available for those who need a break and a little sustenance from all the foot-pounding they endure. The four malls we visited have a few similar food stalls and options to things you might find at your local mall, but the shopping areas themselves have very different feels to them. Let's take a little visit, shall we?
Miracle Mile Shops - Planet Hollywood
These shops probably have the worst layout of any mall I've ever been in: set in a horseshoe shape AROUND the Planet Hollywood casino, it is literally a mile from one end of the shops to the other. There are two things that save this mall from going onto my "do not visit" list: 1) there are two entrances from the mall areas directly into the casino, so you can stop roaming the mall area if you so desire, and 2) they have a "cut across" so that you don't have to make the entire mile-long trek ALL the way around it if you know of a shop that's somewhere near the middle on the other side of the mall.
The shops within are a mix of upscale, like Versace and Hermes, and affordable, like Hollister and Guess for the teen set. There are more of the latter, though, so you don't necessarily have to break the bank to do a little bit of shopping in here. Hayley's favorite place to shop was Max Rave, a shop that can only be found at one of our malls locally, and they have some really great deals on clothing. In fact, she walked out of there with 26 items of clothing for under $200, so I find that to be a really good bargain, indeed.
The restaurants include Earl of Sandwich (one of our favorite places to eat a good sandwich) and Cabo Wabo Cantina, which is a hugely popular bar and grill in Vegas and is always busy.
This mall is easy to navigate, but the floors of are still covered in the uneven tiles left over from the previous Aladdin decor, and they are definitely hard on the feet. If you plan on traversing the entire area, be sure to wear comfortable shoes or be prepared to make a few stops along the way.
For a complete list of the restaurants, shops and entertainment available in the Miracle Mile Shops and to download a detailed map of the mall's floor plan, visit their website:
Fashion Show Mall (across from Wynn and Encore)
A truly typical American mall on a bigger scale, Fashion Show Mall has the major stores that probably anchor your hometown mall; Nordstroms, Saks Fifth Avenue, Dillards and Macy's are featured here, but a variety of specialty stores and truly "mall" shops like Kay Jewelers and Bath & Body Works are found here, too.
The problem with this mall is the sheer amount of open and wasted space. There are three levels of shops, and they are spread out with a lot of wall space in between. While this would be great in most places, in Las Vegas it's a bad thing for me, personally. I already walk a LOT when I'm in Vegas, and having to walk such a long way just to get to the next shop is a bit of pain. Add on a somewhat grumpy teenager who doesn't like to walk and it's even worse.
What do I really like about the mall? They have several live fashion shows that take place daily near Saks Fifth Avenue. The fashion show runway comes up from the floor, and there are lots of couches and tables placed around the runway area for your comfort. It was a great way to relax in between shops, and a nice way to check out some of the latest styles from some of their anchor stores. Very interesting.
Another great thing about Fashion Show Mall is the food. I don't mean the regular food court fare, either, but fantastic food from national chains Maggiano's Little Italy (so yummy!) and California Pizza Kitchen, plus a few more unusual choices to boot. For a place that really IS a big mall on steroids, their food choices are great.
So, while it's a lot of walking, the ability to take a break and see a fashion show before heading to dinner at a great restaurant on the property make it okay in my book. The fact that the floors are NOT made up of uneven, old-looking tiles is another benefit for my feet.
For a listing of shops, restaurants and other activities, visit their website: http://www.thefashionshow.com/
Forum Shops at Caesars - Caesars Palace
A formidable pile of stones, mortar and quite a bit of plaster, the Forum Shops at Caesars is by far the most spectacular of the four malls in my opinion. Once again, the floors are made up of uneven tiles, and your feet can take a beating.
The Forum Shops are accessible directly from the Strip or from the Caesars Palace casino, so it's easy to find your way in and out. The recent addition in 2008 of 500,000 square feet (yes, I mean half a million) of additional shopping and eating space make it one of the largest in the country at almost 1 million square feet of retail spaces and restaurants. The newer addition boasts a three-story, spiral escalator while the original mall area can lay claim to another wonder: a sky that changes from dawn to dusk over the course of an hour. Check out the statuary and shows throughout the mall - where else will you see Elmer Fudd dressed as a Roman senator?
I am not particularly fond of the newer part of the shops because it is difficult to navigate the turns or find your way from one level to another without getting completely turned around and lost. The original area of the mall is set in a basic "T" formation, so you can backtrack easily to find your way to the casino or to the outside world.
As a whole, the Forum Shops contain a host of upscale shops that I can't even afford to walk into, including Louis Vitton, Chanel and Coach, but they also have a few "normal" mall shops like Victoria's Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch. What I really like about the Forum Shops is the people-watching opportunities that you find at every turn. So many people from so many extremely different walks of life all over the world visit this mall daily just to window shop and gawk because of its central location and size, and just watching them react to the scenery and changing sky is interesting and very entertaining.
The restaurants here include Trevi (see my review from a previous trip), The Palm (where David Cassidy often dines) and The Cheesecake Factory, so there are tastes and price ranges for everyone.
The Forum Shops are located mid-Strip, and they are easily accessible by car, bus, taxi or on foot. For a complete listing of shops, restaurants and shows, visit their website:
Grand Canal Shops - The Venetian
Entering these shops is like entering Italy itself, with frescoes painted on the ceilings and strolling musicians and street performers wandering hither and yon. Like Caesars' Forum Shops, you can access the shops easily from the Strip and find your way into the casino with no problem at all, but the maze of shops and walkways heading to Saint Mark's Square can be quite intimidating for someone who is directionally challenged. The shops themselves wind around and follow the basic route of the indoor canal, and several bridges allow you to access one side or the other in order to get to the shop you've been looking for OR take a better photo of the gondoliers as they pass underneath your feet.
I would say that this would be the best mall for people-watching in Vegas except for the fact that the mall walkways are separated and you can't really position yourself to watch people effectively unless you're sitting in Saint Mark's Square, which is open but not conducive to watching people without being obvious. Otherwise, it's very much like Caesars' Forum Shops in both quality and quantity of shops. One has a changing ceiling, and the other has an river running through it. It's all about what you're looking for.
The Grand Canal Shops do have some really great options for foodies, including restaurants owned by Mario Battali, Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck (they all have restaurants elsewhere in Vegas, too, so don't get too snobby), as well as the restaurant with the "Best Bathroom in Las Vegas", Zefferino's (check out my restroom review) not too far from the mall entrance. The listings include Grand Lux Cafe' in the restaurants, but that is only accessible from the casino floor as far as I know.
This is the only place in Vegas you can find genuine Venetian glass or masks, so it's definitely the place to visit if you're looking for a truly unique collectible. However, like some of the other malls, it also has a floor that's hard on the feet. Why the owners of these beautiful, expensive buildings insist on laying floors with uneven tiles is beyond me! The same effect could be achieved by getting tiles that LOOK old, but are far less difficult to walk on.
For a complete listing of shops, restaurants and entertainment, visit their website:
So my shopping report comes to an end. My feet hurt just thinking about it!