Useful info you won't find anywhere else


 
Reviews of Las Vegas Hotels


Stratosphere

Best value on the Strip, best view of the Strip (from the tower), awesome thrill rides

The Stratosphere is the best value on the Strip hands down. Rooms are often as cheap as $37/night, and they often send out offers for free rooms to people who have signed up for a player's card -- especially if those customers have actually done any gambling with the card. They also give out the 2-for-1 coupons for the stage shows Bite and American Superstars like candy. (Ask when you check in or when you sign up for a player's card.) The Strat used to be an even better value -- they used to throw in a free afternoon show for all guests, Viva Las Vegas, which was actually pretty good. Alas, they killed that show at the end of 2006, ending what they claimed was the longest-running afternoon show in Vegas.

The Strat competes so heavily on value because they're at the very edge of the Strip, and they have to do something to lure people from the big megaresorts in the center.

They're not without some problems, though:

  • Aggravating Website. Their website is extremely user-hostile, and got listed as an example of how not to do a website at ProblemWebsites.com.
  • Thrill ride fiascos. In two separate incidents when riders were left danging a sixth of a mile above the Strip for an hour and a half when the thrill rides unexpectedly shut down, rather than the Strat making profuse apologies, they did the opposite: They said they did nothing wrong and took no responsibility. And what consolation did they offer the two young girls who were stuck on one of the rides in 50mph winds for an hour and a half? A year's free pass for the ride! It's hard to think of a stupider response.

reviewed January 2008


Wynn Las Vegas

The impression I get from this property is that it's just full of itself. The first clue is from their website, which is done in Flash and super-slow, because they're more interested in presenting the site the way they want to present it rather than helping you get what you're looking for quickly. I bought a banana in the gift shop for $2, making it the most expensive banana I've ever purchased in my life. Heck, even at the airport they're only a dollar. The buffet was unimpressive. I don't normally expect great quality in hotel food, but when a hotel is as full of itself as this one, bragging up and down the street about their excessive quality (and charging you accordingly), then I expect organic produce and brown rice to be available. But it's not. You get the same pesticide-laden, tasteless tomatoes and de-nutrified white rice that you'd get at a place that charged half as much. The service I got from casino staff wasn't very good, and I can get the same poor service from a cheaper hotel. The rooms are enormous (640 square feet), as large as a suite at some other casinos, but then again they cost more than suites at other places. A room at the Wynn goes for as much as $439 during the week, and is even pricier on weekends. All in all, I can't imagine any reason to stay here unless you want to be able to brag about how much money you spent.

reviewed July 2006


Treasure Island

TI is right smack dab in the center of the strip, in the heart of the action. It's not the best value, though, as you can usually get similar quality for a lower price at places like the Mirage (right next door), New York New York, and Excalibur. But it's a fine hotel and there's nothing wrong with it.

I've stayed here twice. The first time I got a room with lots of mirrors which were great, and the second time I didn't, so if you like mirrors then be sure to ask about that when you check in.

TI is home to my favorite Vegas show, Mystere, which is the most impressive of all the Cirque de Soleil shows I've seen. (I've seen all of them except "O".) There's a massive cast, doing acrobatics that aren't just interesting, but also sometimes seemingly impossible -- stuff you wouldn't believe people could do unless you saw it with your own eyes.

Comps are super-easy to get. I played maybe two hours of blackjack at $100-$500 a hand, and while that's probably more than you'd bet, that's equivalent to a weekend of gambling at much lower stakes. And remember, I played for only two hours. And what did I get? I got a mailer offering me three free nights and an entry into a slot tournament, where everyone got $125 in slot play, minimum. The tournament itself was pretty well done, with a bumblebee theme, and they even had an emcee bouncing around in a bumblebee outfit.

There's no bicycle rack in the parking garage but you can lock your bike to the cable fence right across from the security guard.

reviewed May 2008

Sahara Hotel

[Update: The Sahara closed May 16, 2011.  R.I.P.!]

The Sahara ties with the Stratosphere on being the cheapest hotel on the Strip, but the value isn't nearly as good, since the property is older and a bit more rundown vs. the more modern Strat. The furnishings at the Sahara are a lot more worn and dated, and not especially clean. The mini-fridge in my suite had so much dust on the top that it clearly wasn't cleaned in the last year.

Like the Stratosphere, the Sahara imposes what I call a "bullshit fee" of $6, which is a gratuitous fee they charge everyone for no reason other than to make more money. But unlike the Stratosphere, they don't disclose it well. At the Strat the fee is mentioned on posters at the check-in desk, and the clerk specifically points the fee out to you. At the Sahara they made no mention of it when I checked in. When I checked out I asked when the "Daily Activity Fee" was, and the clerk (the same one who checked me in) immediately pulled out my check-in form and said, "It's a fee we charge everybody, and you agreed to that when you signed the form right here!" (Yes, I signed the form, and no, I didn't notice the fee listed. Who reads the fine print on everything they sign?) The B.S. fee is bad enough, but staff are apparently trained to blame the customer when the customer inquires about it. For this reason alone, I'll never stay at the Sahara again.

On the plus side, all the local calls I made were free -- a rarity in Vegas. Hotels here usually nickel-and-dime you for everything, so this was a nice bonus.

I got a room here because I wanted to test the tip that you can often get a free room upgrade at Vegas hotels by giving the clerk a $20 tip, sandwiched between your ID and credit card. (Innocently ask if there happen to be any complimentary room upgrades available.) Your chances of success are greater if you try this mid-week, Sunday through Thursday, when there are lots of vacant suites. Anyway, my clerk said there weren't but she could upgrade me to a suite for $50. Between the $50 and the $20 tip, that's a $70 upgrade. The upgrade would normally cost $120 (I checked online rather than take the clerk's word for it), so my tip got me a $50 discount on the suite, even after the cost of the tip. If you want a suite at a Vegas hotel, the $20 tip is definitely worth a shot.

I had a harder time getting comps here than any other casino I've ever been in. At the level I bet I've never had trouble getting a coffeeshop or buffet ticket anywhere else, but here it was like pulling teeth. When I colored up my chips I asked the pit boss if I'd played long enough to get a coffeeshop ticket. He said they'd evaluate me when I was done playing. I said I was done, in fact he'd just okay'd the color-out. He said it would take a while to get everything into the computer. I asked how long that would take. He said they'd evaluate me when I was done playing. We went round and round on this for quite a while until I finally gave up. At the coffeeshop they checked my card and told me my cash value balance. (Apparently you get actual cash value on the Sahara's card even if you play just tables and not machines.) I got the veggie wrap and it was smothered in grease. I ate only half of it. In my entire adult life this is the only occasion I can think of where I intentionally didn't finish what I ordered because it was so bad.

The Sahara has an excellent roller coaster called Speed. It does a loop, right in front of the hotel, clearly visible from the Strip, and when it hits the end, riders do the whole thing again backwards -- including backwards through the loop.

reviewed May 2008


Why are there only four hotel reviews on this page?

I'm building this page slowly, one property at a time, so I've got only four reviews for you now. But there are reviews of the other places all over the net, so if it's not here, you're not out of luck.

 Related articles:

Related websites:

Last updated: May 2008

 


Gambling Problem?
Call the 800-522-4700 hotline, and read this.

Also, know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling


Reason I like Bovada #3:

One-stop shopping

Let me share my experience at another online casino whose name I won't mention: I wanted to try out their free-play games, and they made me sign up for an account. That was annoying, just for free-play, but actually most casinos make you register, so they can annoy you by email to pressure you into depositing real money.

I didn't get to choose my own username, they assigned one, and it was long! An astounding twelve digits of mixed numbers and letters. There was no way I'd be able to memorize it, I'd have to write it down.

After trying out the free-play games I decided to deposit money and play for real. And guess what? I had to register a separate account to play for real. They assigned me a brand-new twelve-digit username. Great.

Shortly thereafter they started offering play-in-browser games. That's convenient, so I wanted to get in on that. Guess what? Yet another username.

And guess how they handle they money they give you as a matching bonus on your deposit? You guessed it, another account.

Okay, now let's fast-forward to Bovada: One account gets you everything. And I mean everything. Real money, fake money, bonuses, you name it. I didn't get to choose my account name, but at least it's easy to remember.

And if you want to play for free with fake money, you don't even need an account at all. For example:

Play for free, no B.S.
One click and you're in.

All in all, I think Bovada is the best bet for U.S. players.


Gambling problem?
Call the 800-522-4700 hotline, and read this.

Also, know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.