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Vegas loves a comeback story, and The Rio is in the midst of a major one. Owned by Tony Marnell (remember that name!), The Rio opened in 1990, just a few months after The Mirage. It was the first all-suite hotel on the scene, boasting spacious rooms and an upscale vibe. Foodies flocked to the Carnival World Buffet, once the king of Vegas buffets. The Rio even hosted The World Series of Poker for many years.

Time has a way of shifting the spotlight in Vegas, though. The Rio Hotel & Casino, while still a familiar landmark, began to lose some of its luster. Enter Dreamscape Companies, a savvy New York real estate group that purchased The Rio in 2020 for over $500 million.

Recognizing the potential beneath the surface, Dreamscape embarked on a massive $340 million renovation project. Their vision? To revitalize The Rio, restoring its former glory and propelling it into the future as a modern Vegas destination.

A Look Back: The Rio’s Legacy

For those who’ve known and loved The Rio over the years, a trip down memory lane adds a touch of nostalgia to the current transformation.

The brainchild of Tony Marnell, The Rio was designed by his Marnell Carrao Associates – a name you might recognize from other iconic Vegas properties like Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas.

This pedigree hinted at The Rio’s initial ambition – to be a high-end destination. It certainly delivered on that promise with its spacious suites, all clocking in at a minimum of 580 square feet – a rarity in those days.

Once a Foodies Paradise

Another key element of Rio’s early success was its focus on food and beverage. It wasn’t just about attracting tourists. The Rio actively catered to locals, particularly those from the neighboring Gold Coast.

The Carnival World Buffet, with its mind-boggling array of over 300 dishes, became a legend. Food & Wine magazine’s Anthony Curtis of the Las Vegas Advisor called it a “mini food city,” a testament to its sheer scale and variety.

Unique Entertainment

Beyond the buffet, The Rio offered unique experiences that added to its charm. The rooftop VooDoo Nightclub & Lounge, a vibrant hybrid of restaurant and lounge, was a popular nightspot. They even had a dedicated team of “BevErtainers” – male and female cocktail servers who brought a touch of performance art to the casino floor.

For some of our team members at Premier Vegas, becoming a BevErtainer was a teenage dream (though sadly, their hidden talents never quite made the cut!).

The Rio also housed the prestigious Danny Gans performance venue. For poker enthusiasts, it was the home of The World Series of Poker from 2005 until its recent move to The Horseshoe in 2023.

From Faded Grandeur to Renewed Energy: The Rio Hotel & Casino Transformation

While The Rio undoubtedly had its shining moments, it also faced challenges. Caesars Entertainment, which acquired The Rio at the turn of the century, shifted its focus towards other properties like Caesars Palace. The economic downturn of 2008 added another layer of difficulty.

The rise of high-quality food options on the Strip also eroded The Rio’s initial advantage as a foodie destination.

Yet Dreamscape Companies saw the potential that others might have missed. They understand that a well-built property with the right leadership can be revitalized. Their focus on maximizing The Rio’s potential aligns perfectly with the spirit of Vegas itself—a city that thrives on reinvention.

While initial plans were discussed in 2021, the transformation truly kicked into high gear in 2023 when Dreamscape took over operations. The good news for visitors? You can expect a rolling renovation that touches every aspect of The Rio, from the food and beverage scene to the guest rooms, conference spaces, and even the pool deck.

Just like the upcoming Hard Rock Hotel (formerly The Mirage), The Rio will remain open throughout the renovation process, allowing guests to experience the ongoing transformation firsthand.

A Glimpse into the New Rio: What to Expect

The first wave of renovations has already yielded some exciting changes. The Ipanema Tower’s guest rooms have all been remodeled, offering a fresh and modern aesthetic compared to their previous look.

For transparency’s sake, the hotel’s booking website clearly distinguishes between renovated and yet-to-be-renovated rooms, making it easy for guests to choose their preferences.

The Rio has partnered with Hyatt, integrating with their reservations and conference sales systems. This opens The Rio to a new clientele base, particularly meeting planners.

Premier Tip: Don’t forget to sign up for a Rio Rewards card! It unlocks a treasure trove of benefits, including room discounts, free slot play, and even the chance to snag complimentary show tickets if you earn enough points within the first 48 hours.

Here’s a closer look at some of the other exciting changes that are already underway at The Rio:

Food and Beverage Revolution

The legendary Carnival World Buffet has undergone a complete metamorphosis, transforming into a vibrant food hall named The Canteen.

Here, guests can embark on a culinary adventure, with options ranging from Southland Burrito Co. and Shogun Ramen to Tony Luke’s (Philly cheesesteaks), Tender Crush (chicken tenders), Nama Nama (sushi), and Attaboy Burger.

The inviting décor features a bright, airy atmosphere with ample communal seating, perfect for social gatherings.

Guy Fieri’s El Burro Borracho is still going strong. See our rankings of Guy Fieri’s Vegas restaurants.

A Taste of the English Countryside

For those seeking a more traditional dining experience, Luckley Tavern & Grill is currently under construction. This new American pub promises a warm, inviting atmosphere reminiscent of the English countryside.

At the helm is Chef Oliver Wharton, whose impressive culinary resume includes stints at renowned Vegas restaurants like Stack (The Mirage), Fix (Bellagio), Yellowtail (Bellagio), and Nobhill (MGM Grand).

Elevated Entertainment

The Rio remains a haven for entertainment enthusiasts. Penn & Teller continue to astound audiences with their mind-bending magic, while Chippendales, Wow, and The Comedy Cellar provide a range of options for a memorable night out.

Relaxation Redefined

The pool deck has received a refresh, boasting 500 brand-new lounge chairs, six luxurious cabanas, and 16 inviting daybeds, perfect for soaking up the Vegas sun.

Modernized Gaming

Get ready for an enhanced gaming experience, as 500 new slot machines have been added to the Ipanema side of the casino floor.

Convenience at Your Fingertips

The Rio is committed to guest convenience. Check-in kiosks have been installed at the hotel front desk, expediting the arrival process.

Plus, The Rio is actively petitioning Clark County to create a more user-friendly walking path connecting The Rio to the Strip. While the distance is only a quarter-mile, the current route is separated by Interstate 15, making a dedicated path a welcome improvement.

Intentional Architecture

Dreamscapes is taking a thoughtful approach to the Rio’s transformation, capitalizing on the property’s legacy knowledge.

Interestingly, Tony Marnell’s original architectural firm, Marnell Carrao Associates, serves as the architect of architect for this $340 million project.

A Work in Progress with a Promising Future

The Rio’s transformation is a multi-year project slated to continue throughout 2024 and well into 2025. This ongoing evolution offers a unique opportunity for visitors. You can experience the property’s ongoing transformation, returning every few months to discover new restaurants, amenities, and experiences.

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