Bright and cheerful entertainment is ongoing at Montecasino
Montecasino has buskers, street performers, wandering around and entertaining people.
Busking dates back through the ages to earliest times, with performers often literally “singing for their supper” as they were allowed to entertain patrons in return for their bed and board. The patrons paid them in tips if they enjoyed the performance.
The term “busk” comes from the Spanish root word for “wander” and has been applied to wandering minstrels since at least the Middle Ages, but it is the Romans who threw coins down to show their pleasure, although there was a law against “Libelli Famosi” which meant that parodies about the government or its officials was a crime, and the penalty was death. Louis the Pious excluded buskers from the privilege of justice. Presumably he didn't like them much. In 1530, King Henry VIII of England ordered that beggars, pardoners, fortune-tellers, fencers, minstrels and players must be licensed. If they were not they could be whipped for two consecutive days. In 1887 British law stated that street performers should be watched by the police (presumably for criminal activity rather than pleasure). Gypsies or Romanies, as they are now called, also often busked for a living. In Japan Chindoya, buskers, use their skills for advertising. Mariachis are Mexican street bands. Many circus performers began tweaking their acts to suit street performance work, and it is this style we see most often today.
Entertainments in the streets attracts pedestrians and increases business. The buskers at Montecasino certainly add to the festive atmosphere of the place and they are absolutely free for people to enjoy. These performers are a permanent feature at Montecasino, although different buskers are used at different times.
While Montecasino is not specifically a recommended tourist activity, if you are there enjoy the buskers.
The Tuscan (Italy) themed Montecasino is one of three casinos in Johannesburg, and it is one of Gauteng's hottest spots for entertainment for the locals. Movies and shopping draw in the crowds who live close by, but it is the theatre that gets me there and the restaurants that double the time I spend there.
One of my theatre escorts enjoys a little “flutter” once he has made the effort to get there, although he acknowledges that he wouldn't bother if he wasn't going to be there for some other reason. He mostly plays the slots, but blackjack, poker, dice, baccarat, punto banco and roulette all conjure up images of glamour, intrigue, excitement, myth and mystery.
Apparently the gaming staff are only too happy to help gamblers familiarise themselves with the rules and to answer questions. The casino staff stands when guests wins because guests who win often tip generously. Part of their training is in dealing with some of the myths surrounding gambling, for example they can assure one that the Gauteng Gaming Board, an independent body, checks that the roulette wheels are balanced, and that neither the dealer nor a control room can control the roulette ball. Roulette balls are made from “ivorine”, an artificial product resembling ivory in colour and texture, but does not allow any form of magnetism. Craps dice are similarly sourced from the Gauteng Gaming Board and are perfectly balanced. A new set is used each day with the old set being distroyed at the end of each day.
Playing cards are also new decks opened daily under camera surveillance, and about 750 decks of cards are shredded monthly. This seems a bit of a pity as those decks of cards could surely be enjoyed by children in townships and rural areas for games of rummy and snap. Blackjack is a game of skill and strategy and dealers draw cards according to a standard set of rules which they will happily explain. That way the gambler can make smart decisions which, with a bit of luck, will make them winners.
The vast majority of people who gamble enjoy casino games as a form of entertainment, a thrill, risk assessment, and for the adrenaline rush. However Montecasino supports the National Responsible Gambling Programme which offers counselling to people who have problems in this regard. Montecasino also ensures than only adults are permitted to gamble.
As a personal note I don't often gamble, but there is a lot of other interesting ways to spend time while one's partner is caught up in the hope of fortune.
The physical address is Montecasino Boulevard, Corner William Nicol Avenue and Witkoppen Avenue, Fourways, Sandton. GPS coordinates 26 01’ 32.11’’S and 28 00’45.20’’E.
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).
Update: of of July 2011, it will be possible to travel to Montecasino and Fourways on the Gautrain feeder bus from the Gautrain Sandton station( see my travel tip for more details).
its huge building enclossing shops, restaruant, cafe, but in the form of a city walk.... so you are in a city but you are sure its safe and closed and everone is checked before entering......
i loved the light and music fountain show
i loved the atmoshphere, and the food
its reallly amusing place
Just infront of the Bird Gardens at MonteCasino is the Hundai Balloon. It`s a helium balloon in which you can go up into the air with and get great views of Johannesburg ,Sandton and the Magaliesburg Mountains and also the surroundings. It last for 15 mins and then the balloon is lowered by a under ground cable. Cost is R70 per person.
This is a nice garden to visit. They have alot of different birds here including reptiles and some small animals. They also have various shows here at the Ampitheathre. One of the things I like here is that they got alot parrots here all walking around ,the wings is clipped so you can get really close to them and so seem to follow you around.
The bird avaries is really great to visit as they have a wide variety of birds there.
A nice place to check out when at MonteCasino.
This tip is for receptive audience only!
The casinos as part of gambling experience should be classified as a vice in general and a sin in particular but this does not seem to bother the South African government with its "lassez-faire" attitude. What is even more disturbing is the notion of the populace that this is the way probably to enlightenment and surely enrichment. The vast majority of clients are not some bored well-to-do whites but rank and file of the township population which is coming to this shrine of sorts in their snickers and tucks.
As a visitor with lots of time on hand you might end up willy-nilly in one or more of these establishments and try your luck as well. The chances of winning the big prize are as distant as the moon but being there reinforces the notion that you have run out of venues to go to in a city physically hemmed by barbed wire and electrical fences and intellectually resigned to siege mentality.
The Bird Centre is part of the Montecasino entertainment complex which also inlcudes two hotels, a casino, a cinema and a number of restaurants and bars. As much as the whole complex is worth a visit for me the bird centre is the "jewel in the crown". Although some birds are behind bars in cages, there are a lot either roaming free or within the two massive walkthrough aviaries. All which is good news if, like me, you like to take photos.
This theatre was built about 2 years ago, seating up to 1800 people.
Shows like "The Lion King" ( a local production) with a true South African flavour, "Chicago", "Beauty and the Beast", "High School Musical" (currently running) and "Cats" which opens in September.
A wonderful place to spend the day or evening. I prefer the evening as this is an open air setting. Lighting always plays an important part with the fountains. I have taken a daylight picture.
Performances take place at 19h30, 20h30, 21h30 and 10h30 every night of the week - weather permitting. This area is also surrounded by restaurants.
During the Rugby World Cup this area was stacked with seating and a massive TV screen. Thousands of fans flocked here to watch the live recordings.
Venetian architecture - copied, even the indoor trees are fake. It all looks stunning, as you have no daylight inside.
Monte Casino - situated in the Northern suburbs of Johannesburg has a variety of "things to do".
Whether it be the movies, bird park, restaurants, the theatre or shopping.
I have some tips for restaurants, theatre's and movies under "things to do" and "restaurants"
The Palazzo Hotel is situated next door to Monte. 5 Star
The Bird Gardens houses a collection of over 142 African cycads species, the biggest in the world and in total over 1000 reptiles, small animals and birds. All the animals are housed in their natural surroundings and walk through the aviary.
Bird shows take place twice a day.
Lovely place for children.