By Lani Gering
The MGM Casino and Resort – It’s Grand!
The much anticipated opening of the latest addition to the National Harbor side of the Potomac River has come and gone! Traffic wasn’t half of the nightmare that was predicted – not to say that it didn’t impact late night commuters on opening night but it was not at a stand-still for hours as predicted. And…..it hasn’t impacted the normal rush hour at all for those of us who commute between the Harbor and Virginia. After all, this isn’t the Vegas Strip where casinos are lined up like dominos – it is one beautiful structure on the hill and casino people aren’t driving there in hoards during the normal commuter traffic hours. They tend to hit the slots and tables a little later in the evening! Will be interesting to see what impact the upcoming shows in the “Theater” will have. Having only 3000 seats, it shouldn’t make a major difference. We will have gone to press with this issue before the Bruno Mars concert on December 27th but that will definitely be a test of the traffic.
Opening night had its fair share of maladies as one would expect when there are tens of thousands of warm bodies consuming adult beverages and gambling. But that is behind us and we are moving on.
I’ve got to admit that I spent my fair share of time in Las Vegas, Reno and several other small Nevada towns in the mid ‘80’s. My job took me to these places on a regular basis. And….I do like to play a bit of Black Jack and some video poker so I have been particularly excited for a “real” casino to open up in the area. I know many of you are going to tell me there is a “real” casino in Baltimore – Caesar’s-owned Horseshoe. I have been there and it is very nice but it sure doesn’t have the flash and the glamour that the MGM has brought to the east coast!
I’m not going to go into all of the facts and figures as far as the MGM is concerned since all of that information has been on every local news channel and in every newspaper for the last 6 weeks. I want to take up this space to give you my take on the place. As they say….a picture is worth a thousand words.
We were privy to a special media presentation and tour on the morning of opening day. I was impressed by everything that I saw from the time we drove up to valet park to the time we left. The lobby is impressive to say the least – very classy and elegant. No typical Vegas “over the top” feel in this place. It overlooks the “Conservatory”- the area one floor down in front of the main entrance to the casino – which is decorated for the holiday season with a wintery theme. The photos here don’t really do it justice since some of those trees and sculptures are a story and a half tall. The Theater, the main entrance to the casino, Restaurant Marcus (classic American cuisine), Ginger (Asian cuisine) and the Bellagio Patisserie surround the Conservatory. You also enter The District from this level. The District is an area that wraps around the casino and houses the big name restaurants, the likes of Fish by Jose Andres (5 pm -10:30/11:00 pm Friday and Saturday) and the Voltaggio Brothers Steak House (5 pm – 10:30/11:00 pm Friday and Saturday, TAP Sports Bar (11 am – 11 pm daily), the National Market Food Court and the retail shops.
You won’t find the cheap Vegas All-You-Can-Eat 24 hour buffet here but you will find something tasty to eat in National Market. All very reasonably priced, you will find Amo Los Tacos, Banh Mi Vietnamese Kitchen, Bento, District Deli, George Washington Beer and Wine (GWBW), Honey’s Fried Chicken, S’Cream, Zizi’s Pizza, Pappa’s Crab Cakes and Shake Shack! All of these joints are open from 11 am – 1 am daily. For you Starbucks people, they are open from 6 am – 1 am daily. Not a bad choice in the bunch!
On to what is important to me and several of my close friends…..the Bars and Lounges. The Lobby Bar, the Blossom Cocktail Lounge and Felt Bar & Lounge round out your choices in this department. The Blossom is located in the heart of the casino and is open 24hours a day and Felt is located in the casino as well. It is closer to the gaming tables and the poker room and is open from 4 pm 1 2 am. Felt has live music and “artisanal” cocktails, house-made mixers and craft beer. Blossom is probably going to be the most popular for casino goes due to its proximity to the slots. The Lobby Bar is open from 4 pm-11pm daily and is pretty typical of an upscale hotel lobby bar. When you are here you don’t realize that there is a huge casino just one floor down. There are beautiful bars in all of the restaurants as well.
While anyone who knows me well, you know I’m not a shopper. However, for those of you who are into some retail therapy there are some very nice stores to choose from. As a bonus for all of you Sex and the City fans out there, Sarah Jessica Parker has opened SJP. Her store sells – you guessed it – handmade shoes along with city-chic handbags and some outerwear. I was only able to capture a picture of her back while we were there on opening day but she was very media friendly and the store is cute. I’ll talk about the rest of the retail when everyone is up and running.
There is also some pretty incredible artwork in all mediums throughput the exterior and interior of the property. Referred to as the Heritage Collection, there is even a sculpture by Bob Dylan – yes singer/songwriter Bob Dylan. The artwork will be the subject of a future column I’m sure.
The thing that I think we like best about the MGM Grand is the layout. If you aren’t someone who likes to gamble or the casino-scene, you never have to step foot inside it if you don’t want. All of the shops, the big name restaurants and the National Market are accessible via The District walk way. None of these open into the casino with the exception of the Starbucks.
This is just a brief outline of what the MGM has to offer locals and visitors alike. As far as we are concerned, it is a welcome addition to the Harbor and I am looking forward to some fun times there in the future!