Category Archives: Hotels

A Long-Awaited Stay at Aria

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Aria entrance

Welcome to Aria

I’ve been wanting to try a stay at Aria for years, but it’s almost always outside my budget during the times I’m in Las Vegas. Late last summer, it was finally within reach, and I’m so glad I booked it. I loved staying here! What a beautiful hotel. Obviously, it’s not the right hotel for anyone on a tight budget, but if you can afford places like Palazzo, Bellagio, Wynn and the Cosmopolitan, you can afford Aria.

Anyone can enjoy the casino and restaurants here, as I have on many occasions while staying at Aria’s less expensive neighbor, the Monte Carlo. But there are certain things you only notice once you’re a guest of the hotel.

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Happiness is a Leisurely Morning by the Pool

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One of Aria's pools

One of Aria’s pools

When I first started traveling, I had to be active every minute of every day, or I’d feel as though I were “wasting time” on my vacation. Oh, how I’ve changed as I’ve gotten older. I’m still not the kind of person who just wants to sit by a pool all day long on vacation, but the older I get, the more I enjoy a leisurely morning reading by the pool. To me, slowing down like that really feels like I’m on vacation.

What makes a perfect pool experience for me

It’s sometimes hard to find the perfect pool in Las Vegas. I’m one of those fair-skinned people with a family history of skin cancer, so ample shade is a MUST. It’s ridiculous how few pools in Vegas offer decent shade–despite temperatures soaring well into the 100s. Also, many of them play music way too loud, and some have the DJ party scene going on, and that’s just not relaxing to me. Don’t even get me started on cover charges just to sit by a pool for a couple of hours. In the past, I’ve enjoyed the pools at the Palazzo, Bellagio, and Monte Carlo. On my most recent trip, I struck gold with both the Downtown Grand pool and the Aria pool. For me, they each represented the perfect pool experience. Continue reading

Harrahs Revisited: Nostalgia Isn’t Enough

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Harrahs will always have a special place in my heart as the first hotel I ever stayed at in Las Vegas. I stayed there another couple of times after that, but eventually found other properties I preferred. Last summer, when my flight home was cancelled and I was rescheduled on a redeye, I booked a room here for the day so I’d have a place to change and take a nap. (I was sick at the time.) I was only there for less than a day, so it was hard to judge, but I liked the room they gave me and how easy it was to use it as a base for the day, and also the fact that they had an airport shuttle (not free, but cheaper than a cab).

When I was looking at winter escapes this year, I knew I would be on a tight budget, because my May cruise was very expensive and took up more than its fair share of my annual travel budget. As usual, when trying to find an inexpensive trip, Vegas emerged the winner. Harrahs was offering unbelievably cheap hotel rooms (cheaper than the Riviera even!). Since it was winter and not pool season, Harrahs’ lack of a decent pool area wasn’t a strike against it. I decided it was time I revisited the experience of staying at this budget hotel.

Now, I remember why I stopped staying at this property.

Don’t get me wrong, Harrahs has a lot of positive features going for it–cheap prices, small property (so less walking between your room and the Strip), lots of eateries and entertainment on site (I can especially recommend Big Elvis and Mac King), as well as being a monorail hotel located in a very desirable area of the Strip.

But the smoke. Cough, cough. Dear God. Continue reading

The Downtown Grand: I Love an Underdog

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Chip-shaped signIf you follow Vegas news on blogs and social media, you can’t avoid hearing about the problems the new Downtown Grand has–restaurants and bars reducing hours (or closing altogether) and a casino that’s not exactly jumping with customers. I saw this with my own eyes during my June trip to Las Vegas, because the Downtown Grand was my home for two nights. I might have passed it off as mid-week low crowd levels, except the hotels on Fremont Street were very busy, so the lack of business was unique to the Grand. For instance:

Commissary at the Downtown Grand

Maybe it was too hot for people to eat outside at the Commissary….

I desperately wanted a shave ice to cool off in the 100 degree Vegas temps, but Ninth Island was never staffed. The casino was never busy; the bars and restaurants were mostly empty. People cluster around check-in, where there are no queues, making it hard to know who’s next “in line” and who’s just standing there waiting to meet the rest of their party to go out for the day. And that half-wall of glass in the shower is a bathroom flood waiting to happen.

So yes, the place has problems. Let’s get the biggest of those out of the way first, shall we? Continue reading

Thoughts on the Monte Carlo-NYNY Renovations

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Monte Carlo

The Monte Carlo

In the past, I have been pretty vocal about my feelings about the construction of Diablo’s Cantina in front of the Monte Carlo: I hate it. In one fell swoop, the Monte Carlo’s exterior transformed from a very classy, old-school resort casino facade with sweeping steps, a beautiful fountain, and lovely statuary leading into the front doors to a cheap, tacky carnival in a white trash neighborhood, thanks to that gigantic She-Devil out front.

So you can imagine how much my head spun around when I heard they were going to be renovating the front of the Monte Carlo with multiple new restaurants with outdoor seating. Oh boy, I thought. There goes the neighborhood.

Well, I was wrong. So, so wrong. Continue reading