The Fontainebleau Is a Grand, Indulgent Symbol of the New Las Vegas

It took nearly 20 years, but the tallest hotel in Las Vegas has finally welcomed guests.

justin timberlake and tom brady playing craps at fontainebleau on the last vegas strip
Photo by Denise Truscello, courtesy of Getty Images for Fontainebleau Las Vegas
Photo by Denise Truscello, courtesy of Getty Images for Fontainebleau Las Vegas
With a year of unparalleled activity and worldwide attention ahead, Las Vegas is in the midst of a major transformation. This week, all bets are off as we head to the desert to explore this exciting moment and what it means for the future of Sin City. Read more here.

It was a long, rocky road to the December 13 debut of the Fontainebleau in Las Vegas. The hotel tower was originally scheduled to open in 2009, but a recession, a pandemic, and back-and-forth ownership changes fueled a decade and a half of delays, making it the most notorious eyesore on the Strip. After 15 years sitting empty, the greatest symbol of defeat in Las Vegas has become a new paragon of opulence—and it's almost too big to fail.

If you don't count the Strat tower, the Fontainebleau is the tallest building in Nevada, with 737 feet of skyscraping height, 67 floors, and more than 3,600 hotel rooms on a 25-acre imprint once home to the Algiers and El Rancho hotels. And with the arrival of Resorts World, a revamped Sahara, and a growing schedule of events at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds, the North Strip location is no longer the drawback it used to be.

As it turns out, the address is actually the property's greatest asset. The Fontainebleau is right across the street from the Las Vegas Convention Center expansion, ready to welcome any overflow with more than half-a-million square feet of brand-new meeting and event space of its own. The resort has plenty of perks in that department, including an expansive tech-friendly outdoor terrace and the country's largest column-free carpeted ballroom with enough room for two 747 jets to touch nose-to-nose.

The future is wide open for the resort brand, whose legacy dates back to the 1954 opening of the original Fontainebleau in Miami Beach. The company came to Las Vegas when co-owner Ben Jaffe opened the Tropicana in 1957, but the landscape is a little different than it was 66 years ago, and the Fontainebleau is ready to compete, bringing a taste of South Florida culture and style to the Nevada desert.

exterior of the fontainebleau resort hotel on the las vegas strip
Photo by Mark Mediana, courtesy of Fontainebleau Las Vegas

The Tallest Hotel on the Strip

After being vacant for so long, it's almost eerie walking throughout the hotel corridors of the Fontainebleau. Even seeing the windows lit up from the outside is weird. However, the rooms and suites look great with higher-end accommodations listed under the Fleur de Lis Collection—essentially a hotel within a hotel. Any leftover decor or furniture from the scrapped 2009 opening is long gone, with much of it sold to the Plaza for pennies on the dollar. Every room at the Fontainebleau feels bright and contemporary with light color tones, splashes of blue (bleu?), and tall windows to soak in the Strip views. And just like Durango, another new Vegas hotel that opened a week earlier, the closets come with handheld steamers instead of clunky ironing boards.

Everything is designed to make a grand impression, from the purple glow of the seven-lane porte-cochère to large-scale artwork and expansive floral installations by an in-house horticulture team, including an almost overwhelming centerpiece of single stem roses in the check-in lobby. Chandeliers are everywhere. The bigger, the better. Yet for such a large property, sprawl is minimized as much as possible. Guest elevators are right around the corner from optional mobile kiosks that expedite an arrival with the scan of a QR code.

chandelier and interior of casino
Photo by Vivien Killilea, courtesy of Getty Images for Fontainebleau Las Vegas

The two-level spa is indulgent, even in a town full of them. A Lapis Celestial Waters four-hour pass alone is $150, but provides access to a steam room, snow showers, salt cave, vitality pool, and one of the largest co-ed spaces for a spa on the Strip. An Event Sauna is something of a show with music and "towel choreography." If you're short on time, pay a visit to the Reboot Lounge, a separate room of chairs for arm and leg massages, facing a large screen with images of snow-capped mountains and other moments of serenity. It's not quite the Sphere, but it's pretty nice.

All hotel guests have access to the 14,000-square-foot fitness center, included with the $45 nightly resort fee. Workout on stair climbers and other cardio machines facing tall floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the Strip. Granted, it's a view dominated by Circus Circus, but the Strip nonetheless. And if classes are more your thing, they offer yoga, pilates, circuit training and others at no additional charge.

ornate bar at komodo in las vegas
Photo by Jeff Green, courtesy of Komodo

A Vibrant Collection of Restaurants

The Miami spirit is especially strong in the Fontainebleau's dining options, where bars and lounges frequently have their own DJ lineups. Komodo is a great example, mixing beats with dim sum, Peking Duck, and other pan-Asian dishes like caviar-topped otoro tartare, lobster shumai, and a choice of spicy steaks.

The music is just as loud at sister concept Papi Steak, where go-go-dancers perform between tables in a curved, colorful dining room that wouldn't look out of place in South Beach. "Miami became the new Vegas," says founder David “Papi” Einhorn, referencing the party scene, and "people are now going to get a little taste and feel of Miami in Las Vegas."

There's a noticeable emphasis on service. The waiters greet you with a handshake and always make a point of pulling out your chair. The restaurant built its reputation on a 32-ounce glatt kosher tomahawk, and a $1,000 "Beef Case" (a 55-ounce purebread Australian wagyu tomahawk served in a diamond-encrusted briefcase) gets a lot of attention, but you'll also do well with a simple strip or filet. The Wagyu pastrami appetizer is so good, it's almost worth the $95 price tag. The caviar-topped potato is maybe less of a value proposition.

The original Papi Steak in Miami is the top seller of Remy Martin Louis XIII in the country and the bottles look great behind the Vegas restaurant's bar and in a credenza for VIP regulars. A roaming whiskey cart serves a Kentucky Owl 11-Year Rye Old Fashioned with a touch of muddled fruit. It's great, but it costs $135.

mother wolf las vegas on the strip
Photo by Eric Wolflinger, courtesy of Mother Wolf

Don's Prime is a more traditional steakhouse, led by longtime Vegas chef Patrick Munster (who recently helped reinvent Main St. Provisions) with three distinct dining rooms, a deep wine selection, and a beautiful tower of brown spirits behind the bar. Yet it's the neighboring Mother Wolf that could ultimately be Fontainebleau's best reason to visit—the Los Angeles import has been one of that city’s hottest restaurants in back-to-back years. The pink and green color tones, wide arches, and vintage design patterns would look dated anywhere else, but are refreshingly different on the Strip. The menu is a Roman-focused take on Italian cuisine with the flames of a white-oak oven visible from the front entrance.

"Romans, historically speaking, were conquerors," chef and proprietor Evan Funke says, "so they took dishes from other regions and made them their own." Pizzas and pastas helped turn the original Mother Wolf into one of the best restaurants in Hollywood, but you'll want to try a few Vegas exclusives like a whole roasted chicken with wild mushrooms and black or white truffles or a fresh spin on Fettuccine Alfredo with prosciutto and white truffles.

Other restaurants are also worth your attention–La Fontaine serves an ambitious fine-dining brunch by Laetitia Rouabah, a chef who worked under Alain Ducasse, and KYU is a secluded corner spot with Strip views and upscale Asian cuisine, including smoked and wood-fired dishes. Ito, an ultra-exclusive omakase room, is opening soon on the top floor of the hotel tower. A Mexican restaurant, Cantina Contramar, is in the works on the second floor with a Casa Dragones tequila tasting lounge.

Every hotel seems to have a food hall these days, but the Fontainebleau avoids the phrase, referring to its series of food-service counters as a "promenade" with El Bagel, Capon's Burgers, and Roadside Taco, among the top picks. Miami Slice is the clear winner though, serving pizza from a sit-down counter, illuminated by the glow of small lamps. You can order cool stuff like Mushroom Truffle or Leeks on Bacon, but the sweetness of the red sauce on a simple Margherita slice is hard to resist.

performer and large crowd in theater in las vegas
Photo courtesy of Fontainebleau Las Vegas

Taking Entertainment and Nightlife to New Heights

The BleauLive Theater has a capacity of just 3,800 people, with much of that devoted to the general admission floor, making it a more intimate experience than similar venues at other resorts. Justin Timberlake was reportedly paid $6 million to perform a surprise grand opening set and Post Malone played for a pair of New Year's Eve weekend shows. Third Eye Blind makes a stop at the BleauLive Theater on June 22 as part of the Summer Gods Tour 2024.

"We're not really thinking about residencies the way other people do in town," Fontainebleau COO Colleen Birch says, promising announcements to come in partnership with LiveNation. "We probably won't have somebody for 20 shows [at a time]."

LIV Nightclub is just an escalator ride away from the theater with a cozy feel (despite the fact that it's larger than its sister club in Miami) with two levels overlooking a centralized DJ booth, allowing room for an added bar and video wall behind the performer. DJs John Summit and James Kennedy both have residencies this year, plus DJ Tïesto, Metro Boomin, and Summer Walker have all announced shows.

LIV Beach,

LIV Beach, a new day club at the resort's six-acre pool deck, opens this spring.

casino floor at fontainebleau in las vegas
Photo by Mark Mediana, courtesy of Fontainebleau Las Vegas

Gaming, Shopping, and Lounges Abound

The gaming space is the heart of the resort, spanning 150,000 square feet under beautifully layered 45-foot-tall ceilings with 130 table games, 1,300 slot machines, and some of the most comfortable chairs you'll find in any casino. Luxury boutiques are set to line the perimeter with Missoni and Chrome Hearts among the shops already announced.

Bleu Bar dominates the center of the casino and the center of attention. It's one of several lounges under the direction of Juyoung Kang, a talented Vegas bartender who once ran the standard-raising whiskey program at Delmonico Steakhouse. Collins is secluded and stylish with small bites and an intriguing cocktail list of "forgotten" classics, Azul specializes in agave spirits with fun stuff like sotol and raicilla, Nowhere is like a living room parlor, and Tavern is basically a bar built around a sports book. Prices for signature cocktails tend to be a consistent $19 across the board.

The rideshare dropoff and valet are efficiently integrated into the resort, but the self-parking garage is a mess. Traffic coming in from either entrance crosses with traffic coming out–an inexplicable design choice–with a long wraparound jaunt to the ramps leading up to higher floors. At least the first four hours are free for locals.

Fontainebleau gets things right most of the time though, as long as you're willing to pay a premium. There's so much happening, it's easy to overlook the meaning behind the name, which is French for fountain of beautiful water ("fontaine belle eau"). You don't get the surf and sand of Miami Beach, but the resort is something fresh and exciting for Las Vegas–and long overdue.

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Rob Kachelriess is a full-time freelance writer who covers travel, dining, entertainment, and other fun stuff for Thrillist. He's based in Las Vegas but enjoys exploring destinations throughout the world, especially in the Southwest United States. Otherwise, he's happy to hang out at home with his wife Mary and their family of doggies. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.