Accommodation

Las Vegas Hotels & Casinos

Since your hotel's your playground, where you stay can make a big difference to your experience of Las Vegas. Here's how to find the hotel of your dreams.

For the first time in years, the number of guest rooms in Las Vegas will grow only slightly in 2001 - by 3,000, pushing the total to about 127,000. This modest 2.5 per cent increase from two years ago is in stark contrast to the extraordinary growth rate of the late 1990s, when the Strip provided fertile ground for a bumper crop of ever more elaborate hotel-casinos, culminating in the arrival of the Aladdin in summer 2000.

This latest wave of construction, and the numerous expansions and renovations of existing resorts, have each been characterized by two key features: hotel-casinos are becoming more and more luxurious, and they are relying far less on frivolous, Disney-like attractions. The result is a much greater range of hotel choices for the upscale traveler. The newest resorts tempt visitors with large shopping malls, internationally known restaurants, elaborate pool complexes and star-quality entertainment. Spas and health clubs offering massage, tanning booths and other creature comforts have become hugely popular accompaniments to the standard aerobics classes and weights room. Of course, the downside to this trend is that room rates have climbed considerably: at the last survey, average weekend room rates were $190, while weeknight room rates had soared nearly 18 per cent to $119. Luckily, there are still (relative) bargains to be found, depending on the property and the season.

Where to stay

If you want to stay on the Strip, remember it's a 32-mile (5.6-kilometre) hike from one end to the other. You could spend a lot of time tramping from casino to casino, so consider whether you want to be based at the north, center or south. The more recent mega-resorts are the most attractive places to stay, but there are also older properties that retain a charm that hints of old Vegas. The cluster of Downtown casino-hotels do a good job with accommodation, although their dining options are more limited than those on the Strip, and non-gambling entertainment is practically non-existent.

Of course, you don't have to stay in a casino. Off the Strip, in the area surrounding the Convention Center, rooms are aimed at the business traveler. and are generally unencumbered by noisy casinos, while out of town, the Regent in Summerlin and the Hyatt at Lake Las Vegas cater for visitors who want to combine casino luxury with easy access to the golf course. Casino rooms offer such good value that the budget accommodation sector is relatively small. In addition to the hostel there are any number of fading 1950s motels cluttering up the more unfashionable stretches of Las Vegas Boulevard; their modern counterparts, the chain cheapies, can be found all over town.

What to expect

Because the majority of casinos continue to use amusement as a means of inducing people into their fleecing pens, their attractions - the thrill rides, virtual-reality dens, magic shows and belt-popping prime-rib buffets - take precedence over guest rooms. As a result, although the newer resorts offer high-class rooms (at high-class rates), most Las Vegas hotel rooms tend to be of the Holiday Inn variety - clean and modern but nothing that would rival a Ritz-Carlton.

Generally, however, they do a good job and typically provide valet parking, dry cleaning/ laundry service, room service (usually 24 hours), swimming pool, rooms adapted for disabled visitors (except in the older hotels) and no-smoking rooms (an increasing trend - two thirds of Bellagio's rooms are no-smoking). Some hotels offer a shuttle to and from the airport: ask when you book. You'll find a phone and TV (usually with cable and pay movies) in your room; VCRs, mini-bars and refrigerators are usually only available in suites, though you can always request one (for a charge). Don't overlook the fact that mini-bars and in-room bottled water are often painfully overpriced, so it's a good idea to supply your own.

Rates

Expect to pay (for a double room, per night) from $50 to $75 in a budget hotel, $60 to $150 in a mid-range hotel and from about $180-$225 in a first-class property, plus hotel tax (currently at 11 per cent Downtown and nine per cent elsewhere). However, remember that rates fluctuate hugely as the listings below will indicate. They are typically lower from Sunday to Thursday, when it is easier to find a room, and higher on weekends, during holidays and special events, such as Memorial Day, New Year's Eve and Super Bowl weekend, and during the busiest conventions, such as Comdex and the Consumer Electronics Show.

Rates vary seasonally, too. From Thanksgiving to Christmas and during January, rooms are usually cheaper and easier to find. The city is busiest in March during Spring Break, when room rates may be driven up considerably. The price categories in this chapter are meant as general guidelines only; it is important that travelers call ahead to query about rates for specific dates. If price is your main motivation, you may find exceptional bargains - even at the very expensive hotels - during mid-week, off-season times, when $200 rooms often drop below $100, so do not hesitate to try. Bear in mind, too, that the room rates listed below are based on information received from the hotels and are subject to change. For tips on keeping the costs down.