In Search of the Perfect Vegas Hotel

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I just booked my airfare for my fall trip to Las Vegas, I’ve arranged for the time off from work, and now comes the fun part: Figuring out where to stay. In the past, I’ve stayed at 2 hotels per week in Vegas to hedge my bets (in case I don’t like one of them, I still have hopefully fond memories of the other). Last winter, I stayed at 4 (not by choice), which was insane; even 3 was too many. I won’t do that again. This trip, I would like to stick to just one hotel, since I’m spending a couple of days in San Diego before I get to Las Vegas, and I’ll have to change hotels once already when I change cities. As I’m trying to narrow down all my choices for this trip, I’m looking at the following criteria:

  • A hotel on the Strip
  • A hotel I’ve never stayed at before (I’d like to add to my collection of hotel reviews)
  • Something conveniently located, since I won’t have a car
  • A hotel with a quiet pool
  • Something a bit more upscale than my last few trips
  • I’d like to spend $150 or less per night

If it weren’t for that last item, this almost might be easy. But it’s not. These are the hotels I’ve looked at so far:

Wynn and Encore

Wynn and Encore

Wynn/Encore

Pros: I’ve always wanted to try these. The location is terrific, and the place exudes class. I’ve heard the pools are quiet and relaxing.

Cons: Price. It’s very rare to get a deal for less than $150 here. Unless a screaming deal comes along, I doubt I’ll be able to afford it.

Venetian

Venetian

Venetian/Palazzo:

Pros: I love this whole property. It’s so beautiful. I spend a lot of time here every trip. And since I didn’t make it to the real Italy this year, I can at least pretend I’m there by staying here. They have some great restaurants, and I like the idea of a suite. I’ve heard the Palazzo has a quieter pool.

Cons: Just price, but I have a deal sitting in my email inbox right now for $119/night through all but one night of my trip. Right now, this one is the leader of the pack.

Caesars Palace

Caesars Palace

Caesars Palace

Pros: This is another property with a great location. I’ve heard the pool area is beautiful and not the rowdy party scene that others are. I love all the entertainment and great restaurants available on-site.

Cons: Aside from the fact that it is a huge property and very spread out (read: lots of walking), the biggest con is the prohibitive price. I don’t have any current offers from them. (Sob.) I did get an offer last week for a Classic Room for $79/night, but I decided to pass. First, because it was one of those “high pressure” deals where you have to book within a short window of time (I don’t like being rushed) and second, the classic rooms haven’t been updated in a long time. If a decent price comes along for one of the other rooms between now and then, I’d consider it.

Pool

The Pool at Planet Hollywood Towers

PH Towers Westgate

Pros: Great location, nice pool area, connected to Planet Hollywood via the Miracle Mile shops, these are suites. I like that it’s a non-smoking hotel. Good prices – I could get a Studio Suite for $119/night.

Cons: I was sold on this place until I heard reports that loud rap music plays at the pool all day. That’s a dealbreaker.

Cosmopolitan pool

Cosmopolitan's Boulevard pool

Cosmopolitan

Pros: I really love the public areas of this hotel, the restaurants that are available, and public sitting areas, and the fact that they have live music on site. I’ve heard there’s at least one quiet pool (the Bamboo Pool). The location is terrific, and it’s the newest kid on the block, so I’d like to think the rooms are still in great condition.

Cons: It sounds as though they still haven’t fixed the customer service issues that plagued them when they first opened, and it sounds a bit too much like a party scene for me. This one’s probably a no.

City Center

City Center, home to Vdara and Aria

Vdara

Pros: Great location, rooms look lovely, the average price for all 5 nights is right.

Cons: I really don’t want to tangle with the Vdara Death Ray out by the pool (I burn easily as it is), and there’s no casino in this hotel. If I wake up at 3am and want to go do something, I’d have to leave the hotel. This one’s probably a no.

Aria

Pros: Lovely hotel, one of the newer ones on the Strip, I’ve heard great reports of it. As I understand it, the pool area is nice. It has great restaurants and a show that appeals. Right now, the average price per night butts right up against my cap, before hotel fees and taxes are thrown into the mix.

Cons: I’m not too concerned about the Legionnaire’s thing; they’re obviously taking steps to address that. It would be unwise not to, with the media watching like a hawk. But when I walked through this property at Christmas, it didn’t feel very “warm and welcoming” to me. I’m not real excited about it.

MGM Grand

Signature is part of the MGM Grand complex

The Signature at MGM

Pros: The suites look terrific, it gets great word of mouth, and it’s attached to the MGM, with all that property offers. There are plenty of pools to choose from, so there’s bound to be a quiet one in the bunch. The price is also right.

Cons: It’s a long walk to anywhere.

Mandalay Bay

Beach at Mandalay Bay, courtesy of MGM Resorts International

Mandalay Bay or THEhotel

Pros: I’ve always liked this property; it’s lovely and offers a lot of great restaurant and entertainment options. They have one of the best pool areas in town.

Cons: It’s a bit too far South on the Strip for me, since I don’t have access to a car. I have a feeling I’d spend a lot of money on cabs. Right now, THEhotel is out of my price range and even Mandalay Bay is butting up against my spending cap before adding in fees and taxes (or cab fare).

So that’s where my hotel selection process is at. I’m starting to feel a little underwhelmed with my choices. A quiet pool in a luxury hotel does seem attainable, but not easily for under $150/night. At this rate, I might just have to fall back to a place I’ve already stayed before, like TI or MGM Grand. (I’d love to stay at Bellagio again, but haven’t seen any good deals for it recently.) In the meantime, you can bet I’ll be monitoring any Vegas hotel deals I see online.

What are your criteria for the perfect hotel in Las Vegas? Is it price, star level, amenities, location, pool area, or something else entirely?

 

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28 thoughts on “In Search of the Perfect Vegas Hotel

  1. Cindy

    What month in the fall are you going, and how long is your trip? As you know, the price can be heavily influenced by any large conferences or conventions – and fall is primetime conference season. Looking at the convention calendar might help you determine what property is not going to lower its prices if they have, say, 8,000 rural veterinarians attending a conference at Mandalay Bay (happened to me!)

    You didn’t mention the Tropicana, I’ve been hearing good things since its renovation. But maybe that’s the place you stayed before that you didn’t like?

    For me its location, price (aka free offers) and feeling of safety. I like to be able to walk to other casinos, so, so far I;ve mostly stayed mid strip (Harrahs, Flamingo)

    Reply
  2. Chris

    I am returning to Venetian next week for part of my solo trip. I love the extra space in the suite and the bathroom, just enough hustle & bustle in the public spaces and the pool was fine the one time I used it. The people watching is fabulous!

    I stayed at Aria this spring and it is very nice but I think it lacks personality. I also felt a little isolated as it is located back from the Strip. On the plus side the pool area was quiet, spacious and beautiful and Julian Serrano is a great spot for solo dining.

    My main criteria is safety, cleanliness and of course, value. I am doing 3 hotels on my trip
    and 2 will be new to me. I love trying new places!=

    Reply
  3. Gray

    Good point, Cindy. I’m going Labor Day week. Sunday night of course is high, because it’s part of the holiday weekend, which means it drives up the average rate per night for every hotel (ugh). (Possibly a good reason for staying just that 1 night at a cheap hotel off the Strip.) But after that, prices go down. Labor Day week tends to be less busy, since school has just started, which is why I like to go then. The only major convention happening that week is 14,000 attendees at a convention at the Sands Expo.

    Tropicana’s new rooms ROCK (I’ve seen them, though I haven’t stayed there); it’s just that I was hoping to go a bit more “upscale” for this trip. Also, with the Nikki Beach Club, I’m not sure how quiet the pool area would be. It’s worth checking into though. Thanks!

    Reply
  4. Gray

    Good feedback on the Venetian, Chris, thank you. Glad to hear I’m not the only one who found Aria lacking in personality. I’m a sucker for the themed hotels, personally. Have a great solo trip–let me know how it goes!

    Reply
  5. JoAnna

    I didn’t realize there was a loud music issue at Planet Hollywood, otherwise I’d suggest that property. If you’re not going to be there most the day, would that matter all that much?

    Also, there are free monorails that bump people down the Strip from Mandalay Bay, so transportation doesn’t have to cost much at all.

    Finally, have you considered Luxor? I’ve heard mixed reviews on that one and would love to hear your thoughts.

    Reply
  6. Gray

    The only reason PH isn’t on the list, JoAnna, is that I stayed there on my last trip (loved it). I’ll only be at the pool for 2 hours/day, but when I’m there, I want to read and relax and I can’t do that with music blaring. Believe it or not, they start that shit up first thing in the morning.

    I’ve always used the monorails, but it’s still a lot of walking. I’m starting to think I may have to do my usual 2 hotels in Vegas after all, and pick 2 that are on different ends of the Strip, then plan my days around those areas. Less walking that way. Or build in a really big cab fare budget.

    I definitely am not considering Luxor. 10 years ago, I’d have loved to stay there. But I’ve heard too many reports of how it’s gone downhill in recent years.

    Reply
  7. lyra

    Gray stay with us! I know you’ve seen the rooms at the new Tropicana, but the beds are super comfy. Id love for our customer service to woo you. If not definitely come visit us. And enjoy your stay!

    Reply
  8. Gray

    I thought about the Trop, Lyra, I did. The rooms are so nice and I was very impressed with the customer service philosophy there. But I was afraid the pool scene would be a little too much “party” and not enough “mellow and relaxing”. Can you tell me what the vibe is like? Is there a quiet pool?

    Reply
  9. Nate

    For me, nothing is more important than the freebies. I was originally planning to spend all of Labor Day week in THEhotel, but wound up cutting 2 days off my trip so I could afford the Mandarin Oriental instead. I’ve heard nothing but glowing praise about the amenities there: free shoe shines, free afternoon tea, cool towels and fruit during check-in, and so on. Sure, it would probably be cheaper to stay somewhere else and pay for those individually, but the smug satisfaction I get from knowing that apple was free makes it so much better.

    If you’re looking for good rates at the Wynn, you might try booking through Southwest Vacations – it seems like they’ve always got unbeatable prices for Wynn/Encore. The downsides are you have to buy airfare with it (although getting tickets from Burbank or Ontario will keep it cheap) and it’s usually non-refundable. But even with the worthless tickets, the final price will often be cheaper than booking through the hotel itself.

    Reply
  10. Gray

    Ack! Wish you’d told me that earlier, Nate. I’ve already booked my flights for my trip. Wow–free shoe shines? You don’t see that much any more, do you? I wonder why I don’t hear much about the Mandarin Oriental in Vegas? I forgot all about it.

    Reply
  11. Nicole

    Hi Gray! Just wondering if you made your decision yet? My husband and I try to stay at a new property each time we visit. We couldn’t pass up a comp at Harrah’s for our trip in October, but I would love, love, LOVE to stay at the Palazzo or Venetian!

    Reply
  12. Gray

    I have not, Nicole. It’s agonizing. The prices are still a bit higher than I’d like to see them before I book something. I keep waiting for a better deal to come along, but one hasn’t yet (except the Venetian/Palazzo deal, which needs to be booked by Aug 3). I don’t blame you about Harrahs. It’s very hard to pass up a comped room, even if you do want to try a new place.

    Reply
  13. Laura

    I stayed at the Palazzo three times last year and loved it. The rooms are wonderful. During one stay we were bumped up to a 1500 square foot suite. I loved the size of the casino (smaller than the venetian and easier to maneuver), the location and the ease of exiting and entering the facility. The pool was very nice and relaxing.

    Reply
  14. Gray

    I’m SO glad to hear this, Laura! I’ve chosen to stay 3 nights at the Palazzo during my upcoming trip! :-) Interestingly, I also prefer the casino there over the Venetian’s. Not sure why. Maybe it is the size?

    Reply
  15. Gray

    Jay, I’ll be interested to hear how you like Aria. Is this a solo trip? If so, perhaps you’d be willing to write up a paragraph review of it for my Hotels page?

    Reply
  16. Melody

    I happened upon your fantastic site today as I was planning my first solo trip to Vegas. Thanks for all of the wonderful info for a solo traveler. I will be staying at Encore, so I’ll let you know how it goes. As a member of their players club, I get regular offers for discounts and comps, which makes it affordable. Again, thanks for the encouragement to get out and travel alone and all of your great tips and reviews.

    Reply
  17. Gray

    Hi, Melody! I’m so glad you stumbled across my site and that you’ve found it useful. I always love to hear that. :-) Oooh, Encore. Everyone says the Wynn properties are the best. I personally haven’t been able to afford them yet, but hopefully, someday. I’d love to hear how your first solo trip goes! Please stop back by and let me know. And have fun!

    Reply
  18. Craig H

    I’ve stayed at several hotels over the 20+ trips I have made to the oasis in the desert. I always try and make my average hotel cost per night somewhere near $70.
    Everywhere from Trop (pre-reno) to Stratosphere a few years before the closing of The Sahara and Stardust. Mostly I have stayed at Bally’s , Harrah’s and Flamingo simply because of the location.
    I’m a nightlife atmosphere / people watching type person the prices of these hotels are very reasonable most of the time. My first solo trip I stayed at MGM and had a blast down that end of the strip.
    I really don’t care what the room looks like because I don’t spend more than a 2 hrs a day , other than sleep time and in Vegas, sleep time isn’t the usual 7-8 hrs the doctors recommend you get at home. :)
    My next trip because of offers and comps I am staying 2 nights at Planet Hollywood and 4 or 5 at Flamingo. This way I can concentrate more on whatever end of the Strip my room happens to be near for that part of the trip. Can’t wait!

    Reply
  19. Gray

    I like to do that on all my trips, Craig–split my stay between 2 different areas of the Strip. Less walking and paying for cabs that way. :-) LOL, at first I thought you were saying you only get 2 hours of sleep a night in Vegas; I was ready to be astounded by that. :-)

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  20. Craig H

    I probably did only get 2 or 3 hrs a night about 10 yrs ago , but these days my body says it isn’t gonna happen that way anymore. LOL

    Reply
  21. OahuGirl

    im headed to Vegas Solo for the third year in a row.. i go once a year on my birthday week to get some down(me) time and to feel the mainland under my feet.. i am on a tight budget because of the flight cost from here (honolulu) to vegas is costly.. the past two years i stayed at Strat and then at Riviera..both too far from the center of the fun so this year ill be looking for something more centralized at a good price. Thanks for sharing all the information You do here, it will help picking a nice place much easier!!

    Reply
  22. Gray

    Hi, OahuGirl! Thanks for commenting, I’m glad you’ve found the information here helpful. What a great idea to go to Vegas during your birthday week. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate. Coincidentally, I’m headed to Oahu in a week. 1st time, can’t wait!

    Reply
  23. Anglia

    I’M GETTING MARRIED IN VEGAS DECEMBER.
    WE’RE LOOKING FOR A PLACE FOR ABOUT 30 PEOPLE TO GATHER
    FOR DINNER AND DRINKS AROUND 7PM.
    NOT TO PRICEY.
    LOOKING FOR PRIME RIB,STEAK,OR ITAILIAN.
    ANYONE HAVE IDEAS?????
    SOMEWERE ON OR CLOSE TO CENTER STRIP

    Reply
  24. Gray

    Hi, Anglia – You’re probably better off asking this question on a Vegas message forum (try Tripadvisor’s) than on a solo travel blog. Not many of us have probably had experience planning a large wedding reception in Las Vegas. I’m sure there must be places that fit the bill. Good luck finding one!

    Reply
  25. Chady

    I love this site.. I’m planning my first ever trip to Vegas myself this Oct-Nov. So many things to plan, hotels, activities, dining, meet new interesting people… oh decisions, decisions.. This site is very helpful.. Thanks Gray for continuing on this effort. This has given me a boost to move forward with my solo plan.. :D….

    Reply
  26. Gray

    You’re welcome, Chady! Glad you find it useful. I think you’ll love Vegas as a solo traveler. It’s great to be able to do whatever you want anytime. Have fun!

    Reply

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