Resort Hotels

MGM GrandThere’s a few things to know about hotels in Las Vegas.

  • They are massive, and they all have casinos and other amenities to keep you there as much as possible.
  • Five star isn’t really five star.
  • You don’t stay at your resort, you travel from resort to resort. Vegas resort owners know this, and that is why they have built transportation (such as the monorail) to get you from place to place easily. The faster they can get you there, the more you can gamble.

In most places, a five star resort is deluxe and very service-oriented. In fact, “star” ratings have nothing to do with service or room quality. Rather, they have to do with amenities. In Vegas, they all have the amenities! But rarely do you get outstanding service.

For the uninitiated, we have created our own rating system. We call it our overall experience rating. In Las Vegas, you don’t spend alot of time in your room, so it’s really about the whole package. Definitely experience everything your resort has to offer, and see as many of the rest as you can, too.

The overall experience rating is one star (*) for terrible, and five stars (*****) for a must see! For your convenience, resorts have been split into price categories (although prices can often be all over the board, so shop around). All downtown hotel resorts follow. Visit the downtown page for more information about what this experience is like.

What is old?
By the way, nothing in Las Vegas is old. When we refer to “old” hotels, we generally mean ones older than 15 years. Since Vegas reinvents itself constantly, almost everything is always “new”.

Luxury

  • Aladdin (**1/2) – neat concept – worth a peak, but not too terribly interesting. It’s very new, which I suppose is why it is very expensive.
  • Bellagio (****) – perhaps the most elegant resort, there is lots to see here, but not alot to do. Besides the shows and gambling, the main attraction is the architecture and grandeur of the hotel itself.
  • Caesars Palace (****) – one of the oldest resorts on the strip, yet you’d never know it. Perhaps this is because they are constantly tearing down sections and rebuilding them. At the end of the shopping plaza is the amazing Fall of Atlantis animatronic show which is a must-see.
  • Hard Rock Hotel Casino (***) – not to be missed by serious rock fans. For everyone else, give it a pass – it’s a small cab fare away from everything.
  • Mandalay Bay (***1/2) – this place is tall. Look up when you walk through the corridor to the shark exhibit.
  • The Mirage (****1/2) – this is the place that made “Steve Wynn” a household name. It is an absolutely fabulous tribute to casino resort insanity. Just spend a few minutes in the tropical entrance to see if you forget where you are. See the dolphins, swim in the pools, see the tigers.
  • MGM Grand (***1/2) has the best pools (make sure they are all open). If you are a sucker for kittens, do not miss the MGM Lions – go when they are feeding, for a close-up view.
  • Monte Carlo (**) – another casino, another sort-of theme, interesting, but not amazing.
  • New York-New York (****1/2) – very neat, original “New York” theme casino with connecting “New York streetscape” mall. Ride the roller coaster!
  • Treasure Island (***1/2) – OK, OK, the pirate show outside is an ABSOLUTE MUST SEE! It is simply amazing, and the best streetside attraction on the strip. Why not 5 stars? The rest of the hotel stuff is pretty mediocre, the pools are just OK, and the service was the worst we experienced. They have made a number of changes over the last 4 years since we stayed last, so perhaps it is much better.
  • Venetian (*****) – somebody had to get 5. This place is simply deluxe, has a wax museum, an art gallery, rides for the kids, a very neat casino, and a mall with gondola rides. It doesn’t get any better.

Mid Range

  • Ballys (***) – an older hotel that has a very cool entrance, and not much else. It connects with Paris, and the monorail, and it is very central itself, so it is a good mid-budget choice for people who want to see everything.
  • Excalibur (***) – Honey, I Blew up the Magic Kingdom! You must see this from the air. Everything here is OK – do the dinner show for a neat experience (and food), skip the rides, the pool is OK.
  • Flamingo (***) – Another original that is in a very good location. The “zoo” is a bit sparse, but interesting nonetheless. Penguins in Vegas – who knew?!
  • Harrah’s (**1/2) – it’s always a party at Harrah’s if you listen to the voice outside on the strip as you walk by. Fact is, it is a pretty dark casino, but lots of noise and excitement. Worth a look if you have time. Also, pretty good location for proximity to other interesting properties.
  • Las Vegas Hilton (***1/2) – If this was on the strip, it would be 5-stars. With the new monorail, it’s not as bad a location as it once was. If you are a huge star trek fan, or coming for a convention, this might be a good choice. The Star Trek Experience is easily the best indoor “experience” in Vegas.
  • The Luxor (***1/2) is a huge Egyptian monstrosity. It is very central, but often overpriced for what it is. The rooms are better than it’s neighbour Excalibur. If you only have a little bit of time for the rides, go on In Search of the Obelisk.
  • Paris Las Vegas (***1/2) – overpriced for what it is. Go up the tower and see the Bellagio water show at night, if you can. The mall is pretty neat, too. No rides or other such kids stuff here.
  • The Rio (***1/2) has suites, but is slightly off the strip (though there is a free regular shuttle to take you to the Flamingo). The electronic parade is very neat – just time your trip there right (and make sure it is operational before you go, as the whole trip can take some time).

Economy

  • Circus Circus (***) – off the beaten track, but great for the kids. There is a giant, affordable, indoor amusement park. Looking for super cheap blackjack “on” the strip – go next door to “Slots-A-Fun”.
  • Holiday Inn Boardwalk (*) is on the strip. Stay here to save money, don’t waste your time going here otherwise.
  • Imperial Palace (**1/2) – very central, very affordable (probably the best deal on this side of the strip). Medicore food, service, pool, etc. If your into cars, go see the collection.
  • The New Frontier (**) a bit out of the way, and very old by Vegas standards. If your in town for awhile, check it out.
  • Sahara (**1/2) – a bit out of the way, and a bit overpriced. Fun roller coaster.
  • Stardust is a bit out of the way, but of the cheap hotels on the north side of the strip, this is the furthest south (the south end is where all the best sites are).
  • Stratosphere (**1/2) is a good discount option. It is at the far north end of the strip (if this is really “the strip” at all). Go here to go up the tower at night, whether you stay or not! It is a site to behold. If you are completely insane or wish to subject yourself to an involuntary heart attack, go on the thrill rides at the top of the tower.
  • Tropicana (***1/2) is older hotel with elaborate pool (including the only poolside gambling in Vegas). Given its age, rooms go cheaper. The show above the casino floor is a must-see. Across the street from MGM Grand, New York-NewYork and Excalibur.

Downtown
Downtown is a whole different experience of Vegas. It is very fun, just keep in mind to visit the strip too! The “experience” here is really the liveliness of the Fremont Street Experience. Slim on amenities, and a harder draw than the strip, hotels are cheaper here.

  • Binion’s Horseshoe (***)
  • Fitzgeralds (**)
  • Four Queens (**)
  • Golden Nugget (**1/2)

Most hotels have an extra person charge of $15.00 to $30.00 per night. Some have 3 people maximums and some are 4.

Hotels downtown are about 20-30% cheaper.

Generally, weekends are about double weekday rates on the strip. Thus, Sunday to Thursday is an ideal visit schedule. The higher weekend charge is likely because of the influx of weekenders from California.