Resorts, Hotels and Casinos & Hotels – East and West - Central Las Vegas Blvd.
If you mention casinos to people who know Las Vegas, they think of two primary areas. Freemont Street and the Las Vegas Boulevard area. As of August 1, 2019, there are a reported 51 casinos in Las Vegas. These are the casinos in or around the two primary strips. Overall there are 214 casinos in Clark County Nevada, so visitors intending to do a little gambling are spoiled for choice.
In the past, when visiting Las Vegas, I spent my time in the city and surrounding area, admiring the architecture/décor of the resorts/casinos and the natural scenery within easy driving distance. In addition to some impressive architectural and interior designs, this city is a people watchers paradise with loads to see and do. If you visit a resort, hotel or casino, you can be entertained for hours by simply parking yourself in a comfortable location and watching the activity around you.
When booking a hotel, make sure to understand all the costs, such as the now regularly featured “resort fees”. Most hotels now use the moniker "resort and casino". Offerings that used to be free, such as use of pools, internet etc, are often part of the resort fees, which means you will pay more for the amenities that used to be included. You may also find that the same room mid week, will cost double or triple on the weekend.
I chose to book a room at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. Located at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue, it is centrally situated on the strip, which made it easy to walk to many places. Featuring the Miracle Mile shops, there was plenty to see and do in the resort and a good selection of restaurants.
Check-in was easy and finding my room was quick once I figured out which elevator bank to use. The room was large, clean and very comfortable. The bathroom was an impressive size and well laid out. The pros of this hotel and casino were numerous including the shops, restaurants and convenient location. The downside was the smoke. The smoke from the casino permeated throughout and even in my non-smoking room; I was stuffed up due to smoke. In the casino, when I asked to be directed to the non-smoking section, I was shown a very small bank of slot machines, many of which had ashtrays at them. When I pointed this out to one of the casino workers, the staff member told me that the non-smoking section was not policed, and people often smoked at the machines anyway.
As for restaurants on site, I had previously been to the buffet at this location and enjoyed it however this time I found the Spice Market Buffet to be smaller in size, overpriced and the food bland. Consequently, I was not inclined to suffer a repeat visit. Meals in other onsite facilities were very good and my visits to PF Chang’s, Café Hollywood and the KOI Japanese restaurant were all excellent experiences. On the advice of persons who frequent Las Vegas, I gave the Earl of Sandwich a try. Open 24 hours a day, it always had customers and seemed to be popular. The Holiday Turkey sandwich I ate was good but very filling and I could not finish it. In speaking with people around me, they all thought their sandwiches were excellent and each one recommended their selection. I scribbled notes re their suggestions. When I go again, I will choose a sandwich from the recommendations I was given.
In order to truly absorb the Vegas experience, it was necessary to wander the strip and visit various resorts/casinos on offer. My intention to write about Las Vegas as a travel destination was premised on providing an overview of places and not a comprehensive review of all that is offered. I personally believe that I can not speak with authority on any resort/casino unless I stay there. Clearly, that was not possible. The best I could do was to stop in and visit as many places as I could and provide a comment or two about those I visited. So without further ado, I will take you, the reader, on a walk along the boulevard.
Upon exiting Planet Hollywood and walking north, you will quickly come to the Paris, Las Vegas. It is certainly not hard to find as there is a large replica of the Eiffel Tower outside of it. Sporting a Parisian theme throughout, this hotel is affiliated with Planet Hollywood, Bally’s (located next door), the Flamingo and Caesars in the “Total Reward” system. For more information, go to the TotalRewards.com website as there are 40 affiliated locations around the world. If you gamble at one, you can use the Caesars reward card at all of them. I have to say I like the theme and look of the Paris and the numerous restaurants offered a wide choice of food. On a previous visit, I ate at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant which provides a fantastic view and on the occasion of my visit, outstanding food. Another time I enjoyed the Le Village Buffet which also had delicious offerings.
Personally, I found the Paris casino itself to be pretty much the same as the Planet Hollywood one. I did read that there are “high-limit Champagne Slots” in the courtyard but as a travel writer who was just there to do general research on Las Vegas as a tourist destination, the penny slots were the best my budget would allow. Consequently, no champagne slots for me. If any of you find them and give them a try, shoot me an e-mail or post a comment on this blog.
The next up as I headed north on the strip, was Bally’s Hotel and Casino. Much to my dismay, I found, as with the others, the casino area smokey and I was seriously concerned that I was destined to spend the day fighting my way through smoke filled casinos in an effort to get an overview of as many places a possible.
When researching places to stay, I noted that Bally’s website indicated that its rooms had recently undergone renovations and appeared quite large in the photos. I was determined to chat up some people and find some who were staying there and who could offer up some “room intel”. I located a few in the casino and in a conversation with a woman playing the penny slots beside me, I was told that her room was large and newly renovated. She also recommended the BLT steakhouse for food quality and portion size. I spoke with several other people, who offered up similar comments and recommended the Sunday brunch. Having no firsthand experience with anything other than two slot machines and a walk around, I can only say that my main impression of Bally’s Hotel and Casino was the smokey casino, pleasant staff and the fact that the people with whom I conversed, spoke highly of the place.
Exiting Bally’s and continuing north, you will soon spot the Flamingo. With a storied past, and the resort/casino I stayed at on my second visit to Las Vegas many years ago, it felt like an old friend. The front was familiar and the lighted signage smacks of old-style Las Vegas. I love it. The interior has undergone significant changes and updating so it has a modern feel inside. I wandered back to look at the pool and with the help of a guest, I was able to see what that area looks like now. It is amazing with a rock waterfall and comfortable loungers. There is a memorial to Bugsy Siegal also located in the resort.
As for my gambling experience in the Flamingo, once again I found it smoky, so I played the penny slots, won a couple of dollars and left. A Margaritaville restaurant is attached to the hotel and overlooks the strip. I don’t know if the presence of the Margaritaville restaurant contributed or not, but every time I walked by the hotel there was a vibrant, young, party atmosphere in and around the restaurant.
The LINQ hotel and casino is located next to the Flamingo and a quick stop there showed me that the place is trendy and appeared to attract a younger crowd. It was quite the contrast from the Flamingo which had an older crowd in the casino, but younger partiers at Margaritaville. The LINQ was quite a rewarding stop for me in my quest to find the perfect slot machine. I came out $45 dollars richer and still had a nice tour of the facilities, all in an hour. I cannot guarantee that you, the reader, will enjoy success at any casino but I can say with certainty that they all will give you the opportunity to try.
Continuing north, I spent an hour and a half in the Venetian as there was a lot to see and do. My casino stop was short and a quick $5 dollars loss on the penny slots convinced me that I really needed to spend more time looking at the shops and décor. The ceiling of the main shopping gallery is impressive and in Italian renaissance style. The waterway, where you can have a gondola ride was fun (but short). The shops were amazing and I bought a beautiful 1920’s style hat as a memory of my stop at this hotel. The price of the hat was reasonable and affordable.
Much like the Paris, this hotel and casino is a reflection of a European city and offers a wonderful taste of cultural offerings to those who cannot travel to the actual locations in Italy and France. I wanted to try the Majordōmo Meat & Fish restaurant but sticking to a travel writer’s budget, I opted for the less expensive, but excellent option, of Buddy V's Ristorante.
The Wynn Resort and the Sahara were within sight to the north as I exited the Venetian but it was late and I hoped to get to the west side of the strip the following day so I retraced my steps, stopping along the way to people watch and avoid being given more cards touting the offerings of certain strip clubs, exotic dancers and escorts. I also found myself becoming adept at avoiding the time share offerings of preloaded credit cards or shows. I will touch on those little hurdles later in my Las Vegas blog.
The following day I was determined to investigate the offerings of some of the casinos on the west side of Las Vegas Boulevard. I started at Treasure Island, which is just south of the Fashion Show Mall.
Once again, I found the casino smoky and marveled at those hardy souls who were chain smoking their way through the morning. Unable to find the no smoking section, I asked for assistance. I was directed to an area that was sparsely populated but still had ashtrays at the machines. I was told this was a non smoking section. Soon two ladies sat at slot machines nearby; both were smokers. It is not my job to police the smoking/non-smoking areas of casinos so I said nothing. I struck up a friendly conversation with the ladies. As a writer, I like to chat with people about their experiences and impressions. I don’t judge other people on their habits, but I do judge the casinos for failing to ensure designated non-smoking areas in casinos are indeed non-smoking.
The ladies told me they visited Las Vegas often and they always stayed at Treasure Island. Based on my experience of the previous day, and on other visits, I began to form the opinion that gamblers show loyalty to casinos. My favourite line was from a fellow who told me "Sometimes I win a lot, sometimes I lose a lot but it is like home so I always come back." Following my usual 15 minutes in the casino, I came out a whopping $2.73 up and went to check out the facilities on offer.
The resort itself is fun and with a replica period ship in the water in the front of the resort. There are a number of restaurants on offer but given the early hour, many of the restaurants were closed so I could not enter to take photos. I had, on a previous trip, eaten at Pho at the Coffee Shop (Vietnamese food which was very good), and Pizzeria Francesco's (which my notes reflect was average).
Exiting Treasure Island, I moved south to the Mirage. I am not a fan of aquarium type facilities where creatures are kept captive for our enjoyment. So I was not, and am not, keen on the idea of captive dolphins such as those found at the Mirage.
I had thought the Mirage was an older hotel but in chatting with one of the casino employees, I found it was built in 1989 and opened on November 22, that same year. It has the distinction of being one of the first casinos to have security cameras over each gaming table. With the security cameras now ubiquitous in Las Vegas, it was interesting to hear from him how people reacted to the advent of cameras at each table. I found the staff of this casino friendly and informative as to the history of the casino and I picked up a few tidbits about Las Vegas as well. I also managed to win $52 in the 15 minutes I allotted to playing penny slots. Suffice to say I left more favorably disposed towards the resort and Casino.
Next up, as I moved south, was a visit to Caesars. I entered via the Forum Shops at Caesars and looked into the goods sold at the various high-end stores located there. Clearly not the shopping grounds of penny slot players. I enjoyed the feel of luxury as I wandered about and the employees in the stores I went into, treated me well and with great difference. Surprisingly, I found a few things I could afford and liked but, in the end, I found my way into the hotel and casino without having made any purchases.
The casino was in better shape than many of the others and I did not find it as smoky. I had a little luck on the slot machines and came away with a few dollars more in my pocket. So far, the day was going well in penny slot land but as I was more interested in the décor of this establishment, I moved on. There is a lot to see. On a previous visit to Las Vegas, I had eaten at the Bacchanal Buffet which was exceptional.
The Bellagio is located just south of Caesars. In front of the hotel we find the famed Bellagio fountains which do not disappoint and throughout this trip, and on all previous trips, the fountains, when active, were a great attraction that always forced me to pause and admire. If you visit Las Vegas, this is a must stop. The fountains put on a display every 30 minutes from 3pm to 8pm and the frequency increases to every 15 minutes thereafter up to midnight.
Prior to going to Las Vegas, I had bought a ticket online to see the story of "O" by Cirque du Soleil which shows at the Bellagio. I attended on my second night in Las Vegas and found it well worth the money. Consequently, when I went to the Bellagio a few days later as part of my resorts/casinos research, I was well disposed towards the place. The casino was OK but I had an issue with a slot machine and could not get the payout card to come out of the machine. Even though I pressed the assist button, and the light flashed on the top of the machine for 15 or more minutes, no casino staff came to assist. I was not impressed. I gave up and left with $7.50 still in the slot machine since the cashout option did not work (out of paper perhaps?). I hope whoever used the machine next, was able to use that money. I left with the impression that staff were in short supply for those of us who play the slot machines.
A source of great delight is the atrium in the Bellagio which always has some type of seasonal display in flowers, trees and plant life. Officially called the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden, it is a must see, free display. I have included photos I took on this trip to provide you with an idea of the magnitude of the display.
Time to move on.
I want to give a nod to the Vdara, which is located between the Aria and the Bellagio. It is smoke free so it holds a great attraction for those who do not want to be exposed to second hand smoke.
A move further south found me in the Aria. I had actually stayed here with my husband on a previous trip and I found it modern and quite clean looking. Best of all the Aria is a non-smoking facility and it was a pleasure to be in this establishment. It seemed fresh and clean. I tried out the casino and had my biggest win here. So far on the day I was up and in the land of the penny slot players, being ahead a hundred dollars or more, was a pretty good day. Having exhausted my 15-minute rule of play, with great reluctance, I moved on and visited the Waldorf Astoria.
I had been to the hotel prior to this walk about so I was familiar with it. On my third night in Las Vegas, I had gone to the Waldorf Astoria to look around as I was going to the Las Vegas Golden Knights hockey game and this hotel is close to the T-Mobile arena. Smoke and casino free, the Waldorf was clean and quiet.
Continuing to the next place, I soon found myself in the New York, New York Hotel and Casino. A very interesting hotel with a replica of the Statue of Liberty in front and a very frightening/exciting roller coaster on top; this place is amazing. On previous trips I had visited this hotel and casino so I did not spend a lot of time here as the day was moving along and I still had the MGM, Excalibur, Luxor and Mandalay Bay to visit. Suffice to say, I recommend a stop at this hotel/casino as there is a lot to see and do.
I will cover more of Las Vegas in my next blog posting. As always, please e-mail me any questions or comments you may have.