As I arrived in Las Vegas for a 12 day trip across Utah, Nevada, and California, I was already lucky. Purely by chance, I was arriving in Sin City just two hours before the Strip was set to go dark — or at least, dim — in recognition of 2009’s Earth Hour. The 60 minute blackout was supposed to raise awareness about energy use, while forcing people in green households to trip over the coffee table in pitch blackness. The intentions didn’t matter much to me. I was just excited to get the chance to photograph the Strip during a very rare state of darkness.
While watching the clock tick down to Earth Hour, I rented my car, then headed immediately to Las Vegas Boulevard, which on this night was even more clogged with traffic than usual. Frustrated with the molasses-like speed of the jam-packed lanes, I impulsively swerved into a turn lane, which ended up taking me into the Bellagio parking garage. It was a fortunate turn. Although I had been in Las Vegas many times before, I had never taken the time to see the Bellagio, one of the Strip’s most posh casino-hotels, or the famous dancing fountains out front.
The Bellagio is quite amazing. A huge installment of hand blown glass covers the ceiling in the lobby, directly behind the front doors. More than 2,000 pieces of glass are included in the display.
Just beyond the lobby, you pass into the Bellagio’s Botanical Gardens. The indoor conservatory is simply remarkable. During my visit, it was packed with tulips, grouped by color.
Walk down the paths, past the flower beds, and at the end, there’s a greenhouse filled with butterflies. Water from fountains shoots in arches over the path. There will be, no doubt, dozens or hundreds of people in the botanical gardens, but it doesn’t seem crowded. In fact, dare I say, it’s downright peaceful — an amazing accomplishment, for a spot in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip.
Of course, the main attraction at the Bellagio is the choreographed fountains, hidden beneath the surface of the small lake that separates the casino complex from Las Vegas Boulevard. I arrived outside the casino just in time to catch a performance synchronized to Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. But even a Celine Dion song couldn’t ruin this amazing display.
The show began with a fog rising up from the surface of the water. As the wind blew the fog towards the crowd of people, who had lined up on the long walkway that partially encircles the lake, I felt a cool blast of air hit me. Then…
… the jets of water appeared. Some shot into the air, at times completely hiding the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Casino across the street. Other jets danced back and forth, creating arcs and crossing one another. It’s quite difficult to capture all that dancing in still pictures.
The Titanic tune was the last dance for the Bellagio Fountains before Earth Hour was to begin. So I made my way down the crowded sidewalk, towards the strip (anywhere along here is a good place to view the fountains, and so is the lake frontage along Las Vegas Boulevard).
As Earth Hour approached, lights started going off, one by one, at Paris, Bally’s…
… and eventually the MGM and other stores and casinos down the street.
Once in full swing, the neon hot-air balloon and Eiffel Tower at Paris were dark, as well as some of the signage on Planet Hollywood’s hotel tower. Plenty of lights remained on, though — so many, that the display of eco-consciousness wasn’t overwhelming. In fact, the first picture on this page (of the Bellagio) was taken after the lights were off. I’ll still give them an “A” for the effort, though.
Eventually, I put the camera away and headed off to my own persona Vegas first-stop — dinner at my favorite restaurant. I’ll explain how that went, on the next page.