Sometime during the ’90s, someone dreamed up the idea that Las Vegas should raise its crazy another notch by building an 8-acre lake on Las Vegas Boulevard. The lake would come with a choreographed dancing water show, something to blast traditional expectations of fountains into the stratosphere. How fantastic! This is a desert. Not only is water scarce, it doesn’t actually dance. It waves, it bounces off objects, it falls and it erupts from the ground on occasion, but it doesn’t shimmy in time to “Viva Las Vegas,.” unless it's tamed and made to do so by whatever means necessary.
So employing gallons of water for a little song and dance set a new standard for bodies of water everywhere. Suddenly Yellowstone Park’s Old Faithful had competition -- sexywith a PR machine to flaunt it to the world. And the world came, took pictures and the rest was history.
Some surely scoff at the idea of hordes traveling the globe to see an artificial water-based wonder, so it’s likely their jaws dropped when Bellagio’s fountains placed first on Trip Advisor’s top 10 list of U.S. landmarks, beating out Broadway in New York City and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Sure, it’s a commercial website, and the list was generated by user reviews, but this isn’t the first time the fountains have gotten such grand attention. And what’s more interesting here is that Trip Advisor’s full list of 25 landmarks around the world places the Bellagio’s waterworks at No. 12, sandwiched between the Temple of Karnak in Luxor, Egypt and Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The top 25 list is led by Machu Picchu in Peru, with Cambodia’s Angor Wat and India’s Taj Mahal following.
The Great Wall of China, which covers more than 13,000 miles and cost hundreds of thousands of human lives, came in at 17, five spots below Bellagio's dancing water.
Within the context of history, this makes perfect sense. It’s a timeline of engineering—and maybe even more importantly, value—through the ages. The fountains, a capitalist venture thumbing its nose at scarce resources in an unlikely city built for entertainment, speak volumes about contemporary society.