Started going to Vegas as a college student in the outskirts of LA, when it was a nice easy drive. Now living outside NYC, whose 5 hour flight means I get 2 trips per year, no more no less.
|Location:||New York, Connecticut, US|
Vegas Fave 10 (The Hard Way)
|1:||Blackjack. Vegas wouldn't be Vegas without it.|
|2:||Come to think of it, craps too.|
|3:||And free booze. Key benefit of playing higher limits - free top shelf|
|4:||Tetsu at Barmasa. I keep changing this entry, but Tetsu feels like it's gonna stick around for a while. You just won't find simple preparations of quality ingredients that taste better than this.|
|5:||Vegas trip inside jokes.|
|6:||Low rolling at Royale/IP/Barbary back in the day, getting smashed and playing $10 hands|
|7:||(Omitted for the superstitious craps players)|
|8:||My one stay at the Skylofts. Greatest. Bachelor party pad. Ever. (and at a recession-value price)|
|9:||All the girls dressed up to go clubbing. Sue me.|
|10:||Planning my next trip! (Also, lets not forget about Tetsu. Its so good it deserves to be mentioned twice)|
Aria is my regular home in town and I can't call the experience anything short of exceptional. Beautiful rooms, an exceptional casino with fair rules and limits and great design and architecture, very cool technology, top notch casual dining (the convenient and delicious Jean-Phillippe Patisserie) and fine dining (standouts include Sage and American Fish). The knock on Aria is the service - I'd argue that its as friendly as you can expect from a hotel of this size and price, but if you're looking for serious pampering, this is not the Wynn Tower Suites, Mandarin Oriental, etc (though its perfectly competitive with Bellagio, Caesars, Cosmopolitan, etc). You can't ask for much more at the price than Aria.
Bellagio is a real classic - the blown-glass in the lobby will undoubtedly make this the nicest hotel lobby ever, the conservatory is a wonderful feature, and of course the lake is inimitable. The casino is only okay though, the nightclub is awful, food isn't as good as it should be (Cafe Bellagio has declined and most of the fine restaurants are overrated, especially Picasso) and then there's the hotel. These rooms simply have nothing to recommend them at their price point (note my last stay was pre the recent room refresh). Its a pity, this place deserves to be pulling down the full 6.
MGM Grand deserves the 5 dice for great food, a massive casino, great restaurants (regardless of where you stay, don't miss Craftsteak, aka Earth's Greatest Steakhouse), a great pool area (including Wet Republic, the original and best pool club) and okay rooms. But if you're willing/able to shell out for a Skyloft, take the express right up to 6 dice and beyond, cause the Skylofts are the most awesome rooms you will ever stay in (two words: POOL TABLE). I can't fathom paying up for a Wynn Salon Suite, which I'm sure is lovely but at the end of the day is just a big room in a fancy hotel, when you could do a Skyloft instead and get the multi-story area and the multiple sitting rooms and the amazing everything.
Finally stayed at Wynn this year, on a business trip no less. The strangeness of a solo trip affected my opinion of the place, but the bottom line is I found the gambling conditions too poor to allow me to come back regularly. To be exact, in the Wynn casino there was only 1 table of shoe-dealt blackjack with S17/RSA/DAS available (at $100 naturally - the high limit room started at $500, and the only occupied table was a Russian looking guy playing in his bathrobe). The room was lovely (though club noise was a major problem even very late at night) and the food was exceptional and the casino hosts very friendly, but a real shortage of quality blackjack tables means I won't be back anytime soon.
Its easy to forget about what is essentially the annex hotel to Aria, and there's no reason to step into Vdara beyond sleeping there. But I've given Vdara 5 dice because 1) its essentially an extension of Aria, and Aria is awesome and, more importantly, 2) its suites are an exceptional value for money. Think big, modern, well furnished/decorated rooms, a la suites at Aria, only at half the price as at Aria for a comparable room. This can be a great place to stay if you want to get a top end product without paying a top end price
I have a bias against the Mirage because I always lose whenever I play in their casino. But having stayed in a renovated Penthouse suite a few years ago, I would point out that there is no kind of high-end service here at all. The "Penthouse" is just a big room on a high floor - and its room rate isn't that low compared to Mandarin Oriental cityscape suites or the like. Otherwise, I'd call the Mirage unremarkable. This place is the oldest of the Strip's megaresorts, and while its not as worn down as, say, the Luxor, the age shows. The casino is dark, the food is generally unimpressive (I'll call BLT Burger the exception), and drink service in particular is lacking (not enough bars for good comped drinking while playing VP). There are worse out there, but for the price you'll see me in Aria or the like before I shell out for the Mirage again.
I had high expectations for my stay at Mandarin Oriental but I'm sorry to say that I was deeply disappointed. This isn't a bad hotel mind you, its merely unremarkable. I found the service to be not hugely notable, beyond the service-heavy spa and the better-than-average concierge. The Sky Lobby (and the elevator change you have to make every time you want to go to your room) was more annoying than I expected it to be, but the most annoying part of MO for me was not being in a casino. I thought a 5 minute walk from Aria was no big deal but in retrospect I was wrong. MO didn't do it for me.
Years ago P-Ho was my home base casino for a couple trips, back when it was an independent. I swore off it when the spawn of the devil (occasionally called Harrah's) bought it, but when I went back on a whim on my last trip I actually had a pretty good time at the Ho. The Spice Market is still pretty good, Pink's Hot Dogs are amazing, and the blackjack was fair at higher limits (though the craps tables had a 2x on 12 field, a major disadvantage to the player). But its a long way from good enough to make me want to stay here again.
Haven't made it back to Caesars post the hiring of this ex-Wynn hotel manager, but a stay in the Augustus tower prior to that left me underwhelmed. The poor layout of the casino complex really makes it hard for me to enjoy Caesars. In the same way as MGM Grand, it ends up being defined by its vastness.
I've never stayed at Royale, but the casino here is so much fun, and the drinks are so cheap (dollar michelobs as fast as you can drink them) that it deserves a mention. If you're looking for cheap and party, look no further than Casino Royale. (unless you're looking to play blackjack - all Royale has is blackjack switch. On the other hand, this is heaven for craps players)
Avoid the hotel - as of my last stay at least (circa 2006 admittedly) the place was falling apart, notably with water stains all over the walls. This also isn't your destination for fine dining, and the gambling is nothing to write home about. What does Luxor have going for it? LAX is a really solid nightclub, and the gaming is pretty good at low limits (avoid the high-limit room, which is completely dead and has no amenities worth mentioning anyways.) The whole pyramid thing is pretty cool, even if its a shame that MGM got rid of most of the wonderfully tacky Egyptian stuff. I guess you could do worse.
Back when I first started going to Vegas, I liked to play at Paris. The theme was cute, the buffet was world-class, and I wasn't discriminating about finding good rules or getting decent comps. But time has passed, and during that time Paris has gone downhill and I've wised up about what makes a good game. I still love the theme of Paris but its getting kinda grimy, Le Village Buffet has degenerated from a smorgasbord of fine French food to a supremely generic buffet, and I've realized that this is not a good place to gamble. But if you're looking for a lovely romantic meal, seriously consider the Eiffel Tower Restaurant. It may not have the name of a celebrity chef on the door, but it does have wonderful French cuisine in a truly exceptional space. The rest of Paris may not be recommended, but the Eiffel Tower is.
Bill's makes me ANGRY. The old Barbary Coast was the low-roller joint that helped me fall in love with Vegas - low limits, awesome bathrooms, the cheap and great Victorian Room, and especially strong and frequent cocktail service, particularly for playing 25c video poker at the bar. After loss limiting the first night of a recent trip, I pulled out a couple hundred and went to Bill's with a buddy - what a disappointment. The formerly elegant bathrooms are now run down, the drink service is a shell of its former self, you have to play max coins at 25c to get comp drinks and even then its only well and draft beer (used to include bottled beer) and not at the fast rate that the old Barbary used to manage, and then to top it off the Victorian Room has more than doubled its prices! What a trainwreck. Harrah's continues to be the bottom of the barrel. I considered hitting the implode button on this review because that's exactly what Bill's deserves!
I never have stayed at Harrah's and I can guarantee that I never will, but just walking through it when walking the strip is infuriating. Harrah's manages to be expensive for what it is, full of godawful gambling (it is literally infested with 6-5 tables at low limits no less, the mere sight of which is enough to send me into a flying rage) and incredibly unappealing restaurants. I think my personal hell might be being trapped at Harrah's Las Vegas all the time.
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