By E. C. Gladstone
It happens: Every so often, I’ll meet someone who tells me they “just don’t like Vegas.” Now, everyone’s entitled to their opinion, of course, but when I ask a few more questions, the issue usually involves an aversion to staying in the casino environment.
I could argue that every casino is a little different (some are so clean, quiet and elegant, you’d be shocked to learn there’s gambling going on!) but why bother? The fact is, if you’d like to experience all the amazing shows, restaurants, nightclubs, natural wonders and more that Vegas offers while keeping casino exposure to a minimum, there are plenty of great “non-gaming,” non-smoking Las Vegas hotels. I enjoyed stays at a few of them recently and came away impressed:
If you’re thinking Grand Vacations is a “vacation ownership” property, you’re right. But when rooms are vacant, they also offer them for the night just like a hotel.
Located on the Strip between the Sahara and Encore resorts, HGV has a lot of destination resort elements: a pool area well suited for couples and families alike, with a full bar but also self-serve grill pit; 24-hour fitness room, business center and lounge (with ping pong, pool, foosball and huge TV); and a minimart with reasonable prices for breakfast, sandwiches and pizzas, as well as basic convenience foods, beer and wine (open 5 a.m. – 1 a.m.).
I loved stretching out in my conservatively modern one bedroom suite, which featured a full-size, fully appointed kitchen, dining area, flatscreen TV with a Bose DVD system, pullout sleeper couch, soaking tub open to the bedroom and soft bedding I didn’t want to part from. Crabtree & Evelyn products and a massaging showerhead in the bathroom lessened the blow. Making a pleasant finish to my stay, I enjoyed a very relaxing Grand Aromatherapy Ritual (using oil candles for both scent and skin) at their moderate sized but modern spa. They charge for parking (unusual on the Strip), but Wi-Fi and Starbucks coffee in the rooms are included — nice touches.
There are two other HGV properties in Vegas too: one by the LV Hilton (rooms are a little smaller but feature Jacuzzi tubs) and another adjacent to the Flamingo (almost entirely occupied by owners).
Standing on my open-air balcony just east of the Strip (a real rarity here) last week, I wondered how the Platinum has remained such a secret in town. Even the smallest suites here are over 900 square feet, the hip lobby bar Stir has a funky-mellow happy hour, there’s a good fitness center (included) and perhaps LV’s only heated indoor-outdoor pool (take note if you’re visiting in December-January)! My urban-elegant one-bedroom suite had a bed comparable to the best on the Strip (really), pull-out sleep sofa, swivel-mounted flatscreen TV, Bose wave radio, full kitchen (with icemaker in the fridge — nice) and an unusual wide-spray shower. But perhaps the strongest selling point of the property would be the two-person jacuzzi (standard). There’s also an intimate spa here with a fun Pittura Festa couples treatment that I’m eager to try. Small surprise that Platinum seemed to be particularly popular with groups of smart-shopping cute girls.
Element by Westin
Consider Westin’s new Element concept the hybrid vehicle of hotels: It’s a cross between an extended-stay hotel and a chic urban retreat, emphasizing eco-friendliness without sacrificing style.
Upon entry, you first experience the intriguing and inviting multi-use common room, including several cozy-cool sitting areas with cool books to peruse, Wii gaming, chess and backgammon , and an open business center (with printer — computer use and full-property Wi-Fi are included). Complimentary breakfast (smoothies, egg white sandwiches, etc.) and an evening snack are served here.
My room was more like an ultra-mod efficiency apartment than a junior suite, with
baby soft white linens over a thick “Westin Heavenly” mattress, a sitting area with a Simmons pull-out sleeper, very functional kitchenette, swiveling flatscreen TV with DVD player and big workspace. The bathroom featured a big multi-option shower with liquid soap and shampoo in eco-friendly dispensers. I felt hipper just staying here. Located on Town Center drive off I-215 west in Summerlin, the property also sports a 24-hour fitness center, heated pool deck with gas grill, launderette and includes shoe shines and even mountain bikes.
Gold Coast new “Premium Rooms”
When it comes to older Las Vegas hotels remaking themselves, travelers tend to be dubious. People still don’t believe me when I tell them about the fantastic GO rooms in Flamingo, but are even more skeptical when I endorse last year’s remodels at Excalibur and Circus Circus. You can read more about them in my Top 10 new Las Vegas hotel rooms story. (Palace Station and Four Queens have also made some respectable improvements.) Now the venerated locals casino Gold Coast has redone some floors in a satisfying modern style that is a worthy alternative available for a very modest upgrade (as little as $14 more than a standard room).
Using an urban-geometric palette that wouldn’t be out of place in New York or Cologne, the rooms aren’t massive, but use space efficiently, with a big flatscreen and wardrobes built into one unit, while a small two-sided table works as desk or sitting area. The bathroom sports a good pressure rainfall-head open shower, large towels and lots of counter space for getting ready. Coffeemakers in the room, and fitness center use are included in a $3 resort fee. Beds aren’t quite four-star deluxe, but they aren’t stone slabs either.
Insider tips: You don’t need to stay at Grand Vacations to shop the minimart — just use the 10-minute parking spaces in front; Platinum’s rooftop function room and Kilawat on the pool deck both make excellent wedding locales; Element offers extended-stay rates; Gold Coast has a free shuttle bus to the Strip and to sister property Orleans, which hosts many big shows.
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Veteran entertainment and travel writer E. C. Gladstone writes regularly for Las Vegas Magazine and the Las Vegas Weekly, also interviewing top Strip entertainers, restauranteurs, moguls and behind-the-scenes players for other local and national publications and websites. Like many Las Vegans, he sleeps only when absolutely necessary.