Top eleven? You bet. Numerous individuals, groups, and Vegas – related websites offer their own “best of Vegas” lists regarding attractions, gaming, shows, dining venues, and casino – hotels… among other things. Vegas patrons are attracted to different activities, environments, and locales for different reasons. The available offerings in Vegas are so expansive that most visitors can eventually determine their favorite places and attractions at which to spend their time…at least until the next trip. The reasons behind those selections are as varied as the visitors themselves but are at least partially dictated by chosen activities, preferred themes / environments, and trip budgets.
All the Vegas casino – hotels offer something unique that is appealing to some patrons in some form or fashion. For some, it’s about rooms with decisions based on costs, comfort, or level of luxury. Others stay at certain hotels because of their existing comp programs which often involve a free room for a specified number of days due to past or expected future gaming activity. Some patrons elect to stay at a specific hotel strictly because of the dining / buffet options. Additional considerations regarding Vegas hotel choices include offered nightlife, specific entertainment / gaming events, costs for or lack of resort fees, level of service, past stay or gaming experiences, hotel theme / decor, surrounding amenities / sites /options at a given locale, and location within town (eg on vs off – Strip).
The following represents our top eleven choices (in no particular order, although MGM Grand is the favorite) for Vegas casino – hotels based on actual past visitation experiences. All but one are located on the Strip. A few specific reasons for each selection are included, and we recognize and respect that these choices and reasons certainly won’t apply for everybody. We receive room offers routinely from several of the MGM Resorts International group of hotels and often our trips are planned around these specific comps.
We haven’t lodged at all eleven of these hotels, but have stayed at most and found that we enjoy spending time at the others for different reasons. One appealing element about Vegas in general can be summed up with one word…options.
As a prelude to this list, our general approach to Vegas trips centers around cost – consciousness. Thus, comped room offers, past specific gaming experiences, overall comp offers, and budget – oriented choices for dining and shows are important in our selections. I enjoy playing blackjack and devote efforts to locating the better games in terms of rule sets and player favorability ( they change often). We both enjoy playing and attempting to locate higher payback lower denomination slots. My wife appreciates the multi – faceted decor options at Vegas hotels (eg the pretty and foofy places) and we both prefer to stay on the south end of the Strip. She’s a voracious reader and simply likes to be surrounded by classy and attractive things while she’s turning pages. We’re well beyond our partying days so nightlife and bar options never enter into our hotel selection decisions. We like free stuff, too.
1. MGM Grand : This is our first choice because we routinely have comped room offers from this MGM Resorts International property and they provide unsurpassed service. Their Hotel Operations Manager has always been gracious and provided the best in personal customer service. Other plusses include specific Strip location, decent blackjack rule sets w/ reasonable table minimums, very comfortable Strip – view rooms ( Grand Tower), and overall offered comps. In line with the budget concerns, they have a massive food court area that includes a McDonalds , Nathan’s Hot Dogs, and a Haagen – Daz . Their buffet is quite good and my wife has several little favorite areas (near the pool) at which to relax and read. Further, in our experience they have the best valet service in all of Vegas.
2. New York, New York : Specific Strip location, routine comped room offers (part of the MGM group), reasonable blackjack rule sets, and simple yet well – appointed rooms put this hotel on our list. The casino environment is enjoyable here and the proximity to MGM Grand, Excalibur, and that south end of the Strip is important for us. There’s a tiny convenience shop near the sports book here that sells Krispy Kreme donuts, which is an enjoyable eccentricity for my wife and I. How truly sweet.
3. Excalibur : We’ve stressed the importance of the south Strip locations above, and Excalibur fits into that category. The corner triangle formed by MGM Grand, Excalibur, and New York, New York along Las Vegas Blvd and Tropicana is our chosen area to spend time when in town. We both enjoy the Strip views there and my wife particularly likes to sojourn across the crossover bridge between MGM Grand and New York, New York at night to admire and inhale all the visualities in that spot. Additionally, we enjoy the fun casino environment at Excalibur (though the blackjack games are not player-friendly) and have stayed in comped rooms ( part of the MGM group) here several times. They have a group of renovated strip view rooms that face New York, New York that my wife has particularly enjoyed in the fairly recent past. Their advertised room rates are often among the lowest on the Strip. Finally, the facade exterior of this medieval castle hotel provides some colorful allurement at night.
4. Mandalay Bay : This hotel offered the best blackjack rule set on the Strip during our most recent June 2010 trip. They have an excellent buffet, a very interesting decor and interior design feature set, and for some indefinable reason it’s just relaxing for us to visit this south Strip hotel. We’ve visited the Shark Reef attraction twice during previous trips and it’s well worth the money.They have that extravagant wave pool that’s often rated as the best in town. We appreciate that massive gold exterior as well. We now have comped room offers ( another from the MGM group) from this hotel, and will lodge here on the next trip.
5. Venetian : Comped room offers, the biggest and most comfortable rooms we’ve encountered, outrageous and kitschy decor and architecture, Grande Canal Shoppes area, and an inexpensive food court are the reasons here. There are a few specific penny slots with decent payback percentages and I once placed third in an invited slot tournament here that eventually paid for most of the trip with the winnings. Sizable gaming wins will drive most of us back to a given locale ( if we’re honest ) and that applies for us here. My wife truly admires the decor and places to relax and read here.
6. Wynn & Encore : We have never lodged at either of these Steve Wynn kitsch palaces because of the cost. We enjoy visiting both of these opulent locales simply for the extravagant decor and all the visual stimuli to be had. Collectively, these two properties likely offer the best sensory cues, class, and over-the-topness of all the Vegas hotels ( along with Bellagio, another Wynn creation several years ago). Additionally, the Wynn Buffet is our second favorite in terms of quality in all of Vegas. Mr Wynn knows how to design, furnish, and fluff a hotel..now if he’d just send us a free room offer…
7. Flamingo : Comped room offers, the wildlife habitat attraction, it’s “old – Vegas” history (see the Bugsy Siegel Memorial here) and aura, and the attractive gardens area in the rear of the property land this one on our list. This hotel also represents one of the first Strip properties we stayed at in the early years which adds some sentimentality elements. It’s one of the Caesars Entertainment properties.
8. Caesar’s Palace : This Caesars Entertainment property simply belongs on any top ten Vegas hotel list. We’ve had comped room offers from Caesar’s in the past but for whatever logistic reason we could never make it fit the trip. During our most recent visit to Vegas in June 2010, we were adamant about spending some time at this historic Strip hotel. We did and now understand it’s appeal. We visited the Lago Buffet and were quite impressed with the breakfast offerings. The Roman architecture and fixtures along with all that marble in the lobby impressed us from a visual standpoint. We were able to locate a few low denomination slots that had decent payback percentages with some consistency.
9. Mirage : This is simply a gorgeous MGM group hotel that begins in the exterior entry area off Las Vegas Blvd with lush foliage, waterfalls, and small fountains. It’s free erupting volcano attraction along the Strip at night is among the best and most popular in town. Upon entry, patrons find a lush botanical garden area that is exquisitely maintained. The front lobby area houses a huge saltwater aquarium behind the check – in desk with numerous species viewable. They maintain and offer guided tours through their Dolphin Habitat attraction which is quite professionally managed. Their blackjack pits at times offer some of the best $25 minimums or less games in town and in particular offer some decent double – deck games. We’ll certainly exercise our free room offers here on the next Vegas visit.
10. Bellagio : This MGM group property epitomizes opulence and belongs on anyone’s list simply because it’s so classy and fun to look at. We really admire the seasonally changing themes at their free Botanical Gardens / Conservatory which is exquisitely maintained and presented. We rank the Bellagio Buffet as the best in town. The dancing fountain water show in front of the property along the Strip is an absolute must – see attraction that is a huge draw and quite impressive, particularly at night. It would simply be completely asinine to not include this gorgeous property on a top Vegas hotel list, despite it’s pricey nature.
11. Terrible’s : This may be the first time this off – Strip casino – hotel has made anyone’s top Vegas hotel list. Some will consider this selection as laughable relative to some of the other included choices above, but we have our reasons. There’s a sentimental consideration here because it was one of the first hotels we stayed at years ago. There’s an older Vegas aura that emanates from this locale rendering it as perhaps the epitome of a common man’s Vegas casino and I appreciate that. We overlook the lack of extravagance of any kind and the smoke blanket that shrouds and permeates the entire casino for one primary reason…lower costs ( along with comps). We’ve routinely received very good comps from Terrible’s including free rooms, meals, and free play galore and have received great treatment and personal service from a specific casino host here. We often intersperse a comped stay here in between stays at the above Strip properties on each trip to lower costs and attempt to remain grounded. It’s occasionally important to get off the Strip and breathe in ( or in this case choke down) some different recycled air. Relatively speaking, there is an inherent lack of pretentiousness here that is appealing after one has meandered through nothing but that at the fancier places.
That’s our favorite Vegas hangouts for our reasons. I tried to insert the Downtown area’s El Cortez but my wife started throwing things at me. Please feel free to leave comments on your disagreements with the above and your own choices for favorite Vegas hotels and why. Everybody’s list will be different for different reasons…and that’s cool.