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VooDoo Nightclub on the Rio's roof (courtesy image)

Urbane Renewal: Chapter 2

Part 2 of the Urbane Renewal series. See Part 1: Hail, Caesars! Casinos Go Green

Donna and Matt never rent a car for their twice-yearly Las Vegas getaways. They don’t take taxis, either. This may seem odd since their lodging of choice, the Rio, is a half-mile west of the Strip and has plenty of free parking. But the savvy couple knows free, reliable and colorful ways to traverse America’s urban fantasyland.

Walkway connecting Rio to the Strip over freeways. Photo by Robin Tierney

For example, they can stroll along a pedestrian walkway from the Rio’s front entrance, across safety-fenced bridges far above the freeways, to Caesars Palace on the Strip. The walk takes under 20 minutes and, helpfully, burns some calories. Matt and Donna also take the Rio’s free shuttle that drops off at two locations on the Strip. I met them on the shuttle going to Bally’s.

Beautiful pedestrian bridges span the Strip. Photo by Robin Tierney

As we walk from Bally’s across one of the pretty stone pedestrian bridges that save visitors from scary attempts to cross Las Vegas Boulevard, they point out the sleek $5 Monorailthat speeds up and down the Strip in 15 minutes. But we bypass the Monorail entrance so they can show me the lovely conservatory inside the Bellagio, and the path to one of several free trams that connect various Strip resorts.

“Always look up – all the casinos have [directional] signs hanging from the ceilings,” advises Donna; each property along the Strip is the size of a village. “You don’t want to get lost. A wrong turn can waste a half-hour, easy.”

We eventually reach a platform for an elevated tram that glides to the new CityCenter and the Monte Carlo, where we disembark and resume walking. They go to shop as I continue sightseeing on the Strip, oogling such spectacles as the Eiffel Tower replica at the Paris resort. I’m walking off the delicious veg-based dishes sampled at the Rio’s World Carnival Buffet.

Perfectly seasoned tofu salad at Carnival World Buffet. Photo by Robin Tierney

In Vegas, business and government endeavors have greatly reduced the number of trips by car and tons of emissions. Commerce may have been a bigger driver than environmental concerns. but a greener Vegas has resulted from providing tourists, employees, gamers and shoppers with walkways, bridges, shuttles, trams, the Monorail and the extensive Citizen Area Transit (CAT) bus system.

The concept of “central location” has been redefined in the Vegas ecosystem. That’s evident at the Rio, a Caesars Entertainment resort, with its shuttle, which runs 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily, and the bridge cross-over. Those transit options made it easy to get to Caesars Palace, where I enjoyed “Absinthe,” a fabulous show at Caesars Palace, vegan selections at Beijing Noodle No. 9, veganized organic dishes at Ogden Bradley and a zen-inducing visit to Qua, the Roman-themed resort’s sumptuous spa.

Making authentic hand-pulled wheat noodles at Beijing Noodle No. 9. Photo by Robin Tierney

The Rio has plenty of entertainment on-site, with a free Mardi Gras-themed shows in the Masquerade Village casino, two of the city’s top-rated buffets, a beach with sand surrounding several pools that are popular during warmer months. Awe-inspiring views compete with hot DJs spinning tunes at the VooDoo Lounge, an indoor-outdoor nightclub on the 51st floor. The glass elevator that speeds along an outer wall doubles as a thrill ride.

Affordable lodging attracts frequent visitors from the surrounding region. Such “staycations” allow travelers to spend less time and fewer miles getting to their getaways. The Rio also welcomes children and companion animals.

The Rio Las Vegas is popular among local and regional residents. Photo by Robin Tierney

Behind the glitz are green efforts undertaken as part of Caesars Entertainment’s CodeGreen described in a previous article. Director of Corporate Sustainability Gwen Migita told me that the Rio was one of seven Caesars properties to earn a Travelife Gold sustainable tourism award. Rio is also Green Hotel-certified from Travelocity. Its measures include:

Energy co-generation. Eight years ago the Rio installed a five megawatt co-generation facility, generating electricity on-site and recapturing waste heat for hot water in the resort’s lodging towers. The facility reduces energy losses through transmission and markedly improves on-site energy efficiency.

Golf course landscaping.Over a four year period, nearly 600,000 square feet of turf was removed from Rio Secco to establish a more natural setting that requires less treatment and water. Water usage has dropped by 23 million gallons annually through using recycled water and other conservation efforts.

Turf is being removed to make the Rio Secca golf course greener eco=wise (courtesy image)

“Green Farmers Market” events. Wares have included fashion and crafts made by employees from recycled materials.

Tree planting. In a partnership with Trinity Oaks, a sustainably produced organic Napa wine, a tree is planted for every bottle sold.

Assuming the trees are native to the area, that’s something to toast.

Biking Vegas? Are You INSANE? Urbane Renewal Part 3

Show at the Rio (courtesy image)