EXCLUSIVE | Las Vegas: Where to Stay Part Two
By Joe Okonkwo | AN OUTTRAVELER.COM EXCLUSIVE
Giddy guests are already raving about the just-opened Trump International Hotel and Tower (2000 Fashion Show Dr.; 702-982-0000 or 866-939-8786; $199+), which added 1,282 ritzy rooms to the Strip mix in March 2008. Every room within the Trump's gilded 64 stories features floor-to-ceiling windows offering gorgeous views of the sprawling city and its picturesque mountains beyond, plus marble baths with 13" TVs embedded right into the vanity mirrors.
On the 24-acre grounds of Paris-Las Vegas (3655 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 877-796-2096; $90+), you'll find replicas of the Arc de Triomphe and a half-scale Eiffel Tower. The resort has done nearly everything possible to simulate an "authentically French" environment (e.g., placing armoires instead of closets in each guest room) and a recent ad campaign features plenty of rainbow flag-waving as well. Eleven mostly French-inspired restaurants are on-site, as well as the 25,000 square-foot Paris Spa by Mandara.
The former Aladdin was reborn in late 2007 as Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino (3667 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/785-5555 or 866/919-7472; $109+), and despite a glitzy launch featuring no less than Barbra Streisand, the hotel's since met with mixed reviews. Still, it's a decent medium range choice, and those who come for the Vegas nightlife will appreciate that it's both home to mainstream newcomer/powerhouse (and Miami import) Priv?, and directly adjacent to gay club kingpin Krave.
Caesars Palace (3750 Vegas Blvd. S.; 866-227-5938; $120+) still reigns as one of the classiest of large hotels. The tower rooms, pool and spa are among the town's best. Its Forum Shops are home to some of the fanciest shopping and dining in town, and they're forever expanding. The Augustus Tower saw Guy Savoy's dining room and a 35,000-foot spa open in 2006. Caesars was also one of the first casinos to boast top-name dining options, and the roster remains highly impressive, with Jean-Marie Josselin's Hawaiian fusion room 808, Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill, and Bradley Ogden's eponymous restaurant. And no place else in Vegas (nor likely the world) can match Caesars' powerful gay performance lineup, currently serving as the showplace of living legends Cher, Bette Midler, and Elton John. Indeed, it was Celine Dion's smash 4-1/2 year run at the Colosseum that paved the way for Caesars' current $1 billion expansion and renovation, to be unveiled in 2009 with the debut of its new 665-room Octavius Tower.
The Mirage (3400 Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-791-7111 or 800-374-9000; $99+) is another class act, with a tropical motif that makes its casino one of the most pleasant to sit in. Service and facilities are excellent, and a sleek renovation begun in February 2008 is bringing Sealy Posturepedic beds, 42-inch LCD TVs, and iPod docks to every room.
Bally's (3645 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 877-603-4390; $99+) is a solid non-themed choice, with a sophisticated, comfortable casino and a monorail connection to the MGM Grand. It does a large convention and meeting business, making it comfortable for business travelers.
The Luxor (3900 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-262-4444 or 877-386-4658; $80+) has long been a gay favorite, but it's currently somewhat in flux, having seen loftier days. Thankfully it's strongly on the mend courtesy of a major overhaul that's already brought the trendy LAX and CatHouse nightclubs, and will include Criss Angel's new Cirque du Soleil show later in 2008, plus complete room redos in 2009. A high-end mall/walkway connects the Luxor to Mandalay Bay. Kudos, too, for adding a gay section to its website.
The Flamingo Las Vegas (3555 Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-733-3111 or 800-732-2111; $75+) has historical appeal (it was Bugsy Siegel's dream back in 1946) and has been refurbished and updated with fun touches like real pink flamingos and penguins frolicking near the great outdoor pool/grotto complex. The crowd's a bit mid-America, but Toni Braxton keeps it real here with her live show entitled Revealed.
For now, The Sahara (2535 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-737-2654 or 866-382-8884; $43+) is a great budget option, with rooms and suites in a Moroccan motif and a 5,000-square-foot pool. Room prices may soon spike when -- if as rumored -- Sam Nazarian (co-owner of L.A. gay hotspot The Abbey) brings several ultra-trendy Brent Bolthouse-helmed clubs to the property.
If you're on a tight budget and want tacky Vegas in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip, the Imperial Palace (3535 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-731-3311 or 800-634-6441; $50+) is the place. Don't say we didn't warn you.
Formerly the Barbary Coast Casino, Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon (3595 Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-737-2100 or 866-245-5745; $60+) offers similar savings and a great location dead center in the Strip.