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.

Big Bucks

Harrahs has one of the smokiest casinos on the Strip.

Even before I got sick, the levels of cigarette smoke in the casino 24/7 was killing me. I walked quickly between my room and the Strip and tried to hold my breath for as long as I could during the walk. (Newsflash: I can’t hold my breath that long.)

But in case cigarette smoke doesn’t bother you, let me go into other details about this property.

I was in Mardi Gras Tower, room 524. This room had a view of the roof HVAC system. I didn’t care. It was supposedly an upgrade from the Classic room I booked–it had a little TV in the bathroom and a coffeemaker, neither of which I used. The bed was comfortable, and the water pressure fine. The towels could have been fluffier.

Mardi Gras Room 524

Mardi Gras Room 524 at Harrahs

Housekeeping was good, but not as prompt as I would have liked. On the days I removed the “do not disturb” sign (every other day), housekeeping took their sweet time getting to my room, usually not making it up until around 4pm. This really sucked when I returned from my Red Rock Canyon outing around 2pm feeling lousy and just wanted to lie down and nap, but I knew housekeeping would show up sooner or later, so I forced myself to go down to Starbucks for some coffee and hang out down there for awhile.

The room was showing its age. There was a hole in the side of the mattress box (which I noticed because their bedding is all tucked in above the box). The drawers in the closet were all scuffed up. The minibar in the room was empty. Why bother having a minibar in the room if it’s going to be empty? Also, I wish the bathroom were better lit; it was very dark in there. Still, the room had everything I needed (including adequate wifi), and for the price I paid it was plenty good enough for me.

Empty Minibar

Nothing is sadder than an empty minibar

(How much did I pay for this room? $352.80 for 6 nights, including a Saturday night. Almost half of that was the resort fee, which is outrageous: $165 for the room, $150 in resort fees, $37.80 in taxes. The room came with a lot of coupons, none of which I actually used.)

Whenever I book a room anywhere, I make one “special” request: A quiet room. My number one priority is that the room be nonsmoking, but after that, the most important thing is that it be quiet, because I’m a very light sleeper. For the most part, it was very quiet (except on Saturday night, of course), even though it was pretty close to the bank of elevators. So I was pleased about that.

There are several restaurants and eateries here, and I ate at several on this trip: Ruths Chris (which was phenomenal), KGB (which wasn’t), the buffet (mediocre as ever), and Fulton Street Food Hall (which looks nice and is convenient, but the quality wasn’t what I’d hoped for). If you’re looking for healthy snack options, Starbucks, the sundries store and Fulton Street Food Hall all sell fresh fruit. Having two Starbucks locations on site was handy as heck, though the prices were outrageous (and don’t even bother trying to redeem any free birthday drinks here, because they don’t honor those).


You can get fresh fruit at Fulton Street Food Hall, among other places at Harrahs

I didn’t gamble here at all because of the cigarette smoke, so I can’t tell you anything about that experience–except that the casino was hopping at all hours of the day and night (table games and machines), so people must have been winning. The staff at the 24 hour sundries store (“Essentials”) in the lobby were very sweet and friendly. I can’t complain at all about any of the service I received here–except for the buffet, where my waiter had an “I don’t give a shit” attitude. Naturally, I had prepaid the tip here. Grrr.

Without a doubt Harrahs’ greatest selling point, though, is how convenient it is to get from there to anywhere else. It’s easy to walk up to the Palazzo/Venetian or down to the Linq or across the street to Mirage and Caesars. They have a shuttle that goes to the airport if you want to save money over a taxi. There are shuttles to Rio and Sam’s Town. I know a lot of people bitch about the monorail, but it was so damn handy for getting up and down the Strip, especially when I was sick and didn’t have the energy for walking.

Walk to Monorail

The walk to the Harrahs/LINQ Monorail

Something I would keep a much closer eye on if I ran this property is the situation with the homeless people in Carnaval Court. As I noted in my trip recap, I was out there on Sunday morning and in just a short period of time, witnessed what appeared to be an overdose and three homeless people fighting loudly over panhandling territory. It doesn’t give a great first impression of Harrahs, the Strip or Las Vegas.

The elevators here are awfully slow, considering they have different banks for different floors. And the doors close very quickly. Many of my fellow passengers and I risked our arms trying to keep the door open so we or someone else could board. One guy caught the door for me one day–but just barely. It was a gasp-out-loud moment, because it was such a close call. Another guy looked at him and said “I wouldn’t have done that.” We all laughed nervously and I said “Yeah, please don’t lose an arm on my account.” Because, really, he could have.

I had to check out of the hotel in person instead of using Express Checkout because there was an error on my bill with Internet charges. They tried to add extra Internet charges for every day I was there, even though Internet is included with the resort fee. Sneaky, Harrahs, very sneaky. Because this took so long, I couldn’t catch the airport shuttle to the airport and had to take a cab instead. Luckily, I got a great cab driver who did not longhaul me.

Long story short: As noted above, Harrahs has some positive qualities that could make this a great place to stay, especially for a traveler on a shoestring budget who is not bothered by cigarette smoke. But if smoke bothers you, stay away from this place. While I will always remember my first trip here with fondness, Harrahs is no longer the property for me.

14 thoughts on “Harrahs Revisited: Nostalgia Isn’t Enough

  1. Linda R.

    I stayed at Harrahs around 2011 and the smoke was bad at that timers well. My sister wanted to stay there since it was so cheap and a good location. I got the recently remodeled room which was in a different tower and much nicer than expected. I had the same issue with the bill upon check out though. They tried to charge me for the Internet each day as well. This was 4 years ago and they are still trying this scam? I haven’t stayed there since then but it doesn’t sound like it has changed. I used to stay only at Harras properties as they had no resort fees but those days are long gone. Now I have no incentive to stay at one of their properties especially since MGM/Mirage properties offers such nice rewards for playing their free slot games.

  2. Jay

    Great read. My first stay was Caesars Palace — but I’ve never been back to stay. Other properties have won me over — Aria, Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand.

    Travelling while sick sucks. Sounds like you were a trooper to keep going ..

  3. Jeff Broman

    Interesting review. Harrahs was the first place I stayed that I actually had a bed. Circus Circus was the first during a spring break trip with way to many people packed in a room.

    I think I stayed there three times total. The last time was 15 years ago and it was not so great then.

    I have pretty much given up on Caesars/Harrahs properties because I think the MGM ones are much better and usually better priced.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      That was an interesting first sentence, Jeff. I thought “When did hotel rooms not have beds???” LOL. I guess that’s what happens when you’re traveling with a group. I agree, MGM properties in better shape overall than Caesars properties.

  4. Stephanie

    I stayed at Harrah’s for my first trip to Vegas in October of last year because all the positives you mention. Tried it again this past April (comp rooms) and it probably will be my last stay. There is just too many nicer places to try. I didn’t even play there in April. I played mostly at Mirage and Plazzo and those offers are rolling in now. Will stay at Plazzo in July and I’m sure it is a big step up from Harrah’s!!

    I really didn’t notice the smoke but the food choices and elevators were enough to not get me back. In fact, people got stuck on the elevator once and the fire department was there trying to open them. I was so glad it was on my last night there. I was a little nervous taking them down to the lobby the morning I checked out.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      You are so right, Stephanie. There are much better properties. You will love Palazzo! It is one of the nicest places on the Strip. My favorite stays so far have been there.

  5. Butler

    I actually like the monorail!

    I’d happily re-visit Harrah’s for the shows (Mac King and Million Dollar Quartet were both excellent) and maybe try the food-court thing, but the casino has never appealed to me. It sounds like I’d be happier in the Bally’s Jubilee tower, and taking the monorail to the Linq. I can tolerate a little smoke but in bulk it can be irritating.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Butler – Yay, another monorail fan! 🙂 Yes, Mac King is another good reason to visit Harrahs. I haven’t seen MDQ yet. Maybe next time.

  6. David

    Harrah’s is definitely the older smokers crowd these days…But I have to say I have won my fair share at there casino. Nice review~!

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