Montecasino entertainment complex
Montecasino is a casino, hotel, leisure complex and general den of iniquity masquerading as a fake Tuscan village off William Nicol Drive in Fourways, just north of the highway. It is indeed bizarre to see a pretend Italian hilltop village rearing from the depths of cluster complex suburbia, and the entire architectural confection is a cultural abomination that you can only hope was conceived as 'tongue in cheek' (because otherwise it would be too depressing to believe that anyone could actually believe that this is in good taste!)
Having said that, Montecasino is a really fun place to spend time. The interior of the entertainment complex is possibly even more bizarre than the exterior, as they have reconstructed the twisting streets of a village at dust (complete with stars twinkling on the painted ceiling and fake storks roosting on window sills) - you just have to admire the outlandishness of the place, which is utterly fascinating in an over-the-top Liberace sort of way!
The quality of entertainment offered at Montecasino is outstanding. There is an excellent cinema complex and two theatres - one smaller one, which is more focused on local content and comedy, and the Teatro, which is a brand spanking new, out-of-the-box, state-of-the-art theatre. Theatro productions are predominantly musicals (the Lion King and Beauty and the Beast have shown in recent years, and Grease is coming in April 2010, followed by Mamma Mia towards the end of the year) and the quality of sets, costumes and performances is the rival of the West End or Broadway at a fraction of the price (and amid newer, nicer surroundings). Shows often open here and then progress on to Cape Town and Durban (or vice versa).
There is also a wide range of restaurants to suit most palates and pockets - including outdoor venues around the Piazza (overlooked by faux campanile, of course). And of course there is the casino (which I can't comment on, as gambling bores me rigid).
The adjacent Montecasino bird park is also a must, particularly (but not only) if you have children. It showcases a great selection of birds - mostly but not exclusively African - as well as some reptiles, and the grounds are very well laid out. The bird show - which happens several times a day and is included in the admission price - is really excellent, and although my daughter has persuaded me to sit through it several times, I always find it fresh and enjoyable. There is also a moored hot air balloon close to the entrance of the bird park which you can go up in, although I haven't done this as I can't quite see the point of paying to look down on soulless suburban sprawl!
Security at Montecasino is excellent, and of course there is the option of staying at the over-the-top fake Tuscan hotel, which then means that you can walk under cover to the entertainment complex, restaurants and bird park. There are often good packages advertised which include accommodation, a show (and sometimes even a meal) - not sure how you'd find out about these, as I hear them advertised on the radio, but either the Montecasino Hotel website or perhaps www.computicket.co.za would be a good place to start?
Montecasino is also a short drive (less than 2km) from the Fourways Mall, which is a good mid-range shopping complex that offers the standard South African chain stores. Although it is close, I would suggest either driving or getting the hotel to organise a cab (worth checking to see whether there is a shuttle bus?) rather than walking as it would be silly to spoil the experience by putting yourself at unnecessary risk).