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Playing in Vegas: The Top 13 Casino-Hotels, Part Two23 August 2007
MODERATELY PRICED CASINOS
The absolute gem of downtown Las Vegas is the Golden Nugget. This is one beautiful little casino with some of the best games in the whole state of Nevada. Their blackjack games are traditional, single, double, and six-deck games with 3-to-2 payouts for blackjacks. Their craps games have 6X, 8X and 10X odds on the 4/10, 5/9, and 6/8 respectively. It used to be that Horseshoe was the gamblers' downtown castle (hideously grungy though it was) but now this elegant hotel-casino has become the place to play and stay in downtown Las Vegas. One of the finest restaurants in all Las Vegas, Stefano's, makes its home at the Golden Nugget. Not only is the food superior but also the singing waiters make your meal a show to remember. This is downtown Vegas at its best! Comps are a little tougher to get than at the economic places.
Moving to the Strip to another great hotel-casino, we have Treasure Island, now known as TI. In the past this casino was my favorite in all of Vegas but MGM-Mirage executives have destroyed the best double-deck blackjack games in the city, games that TI once had. Now there is nothing but 6/5 single-decks and continuous shuffle games at the low and medium tables. You can still find a couple of good double deckers in their high roller room, along with an excellent six-deck game, but you have to be willing to play at the black-chip level. So why my high rating of this casino-hotel? First, the place has beautiful, elegant rooms, many with spectacular views of the Strip and the mountains. The restaurants, each and every one, are outstanding. You can have unbeatable gourmet fair at Buccaneer Bay above the "Sirens of Treasure Island" show. You can indulge your love of Italian-Continental fair at Francesco's and if steaks are your specialty, the Steak House is the place to be. In addition there are numerous other dining outlets including the Hawaiian Kahuna. The greatest show in all of Las Vegas makes its home at TI - Mystere - a must see. It is mind-blowing entertainment. TI is now starting to cater to the younger crowd in their late 20s and 30s and has opened several new bars that are attracting them. If TI just went back to their good blackjack and craps games, this would be the number one place in the whole city. Comps are somewhat tight.
Green Valley Ranch has been discovered by celebrities looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Strip. In addition to its great multi-screen movie theatre, Green Valley Ranch has some great restaurants such as Il Fornaio, Bullshrimp, and Fado Irish Pub. The games at Green Valley are superior and so is the pool. It is one of the few pools with sand and a beach and outdoor drink service The nightlife also swings at Green Valley Ranch with outdoor entertainment at the Whiskey Sky Amphitheatre and several great bars. The newest addition to Green Valley Ranch is "the District" - a quaint outdoor shopping mall. So for fun in the sun and a retreat from the high-energy of the Strip, Green Valley Ranch is a great place to stay with lovely appointed rooms. And make sure you visit their terrific spa. And say hello to the celebrities.
Looking to party away the night? Or the day? Or any time? Then the Hard Rock Hotel-Casino could be your place. Depending on the performers, room rates can be very, very low or very, very high - going from $69 to over $400. But for many of California's sexy young crowd, there's no place like Hard Rock. The dining is outstanding with AJ's Steakhouse, Nobu, and Simon among many. There are six bars to choose from and most of them are hopping most times of the day and night. The swimming pool is one of the best in Las Vegas, for swimming and for sightseeing. The Hard Rock is also known as the place to go for your bachelor and bachelorette parties. You'll often be playing blackjack and craps with star athletes and movie stars. This is a young and swinging venue. The comps are somewhat tight.
[When this was written Frank had not yet stayed at Wynn.]
Venetian, Bellagio, the Palms, and Mandalay Bay are the top four high-end casino hotels in Vegas. You might also want to slip in the glorious Rio and Mirage as well. These places are all A+ venues and all of them feature everything you could want from a Vegas stellar property.
Starting at the extreme south of the Strip is the miraculous Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. It's big, colorful, possessed of decent table games (although their craps tables are like trampolines) and thousands of slots, Mandalay Bay is packed with restaurants, nightclubs, bars and its very own private aquarium, housing sharks and other fish that swim over, under, around and almost through you. Mandalay Bay is home to some of the biggest names in boxing and the entertainment industry. It has one of the best swimming pools in the world, a sand covered beach, and some of the most beautiful women (and men) parading their stuff for those interested in such human visions. You'll delight at their restaurants including 3950, Red Square, Rum Jungle, Shanghai Lilly and Aureole. There's always a star headliner and Mandalay Bay is currently featuring the Broadway hit Mama Mia. To make this property all the more appealing, Mandalay Bay has opened a new tower that is all suites. How sweet it is! They are looking for $25 table-game players and up.
In the center of the Strip is one of the world's most beautiful and provocative hotels, the 3,000-room Bellagio, which sits on its own man-made lake. Every 15 to 30 minutes there is a fantastic light and water show on the lake that never fails to attract an enthusiastic crowd of onlookers. Inside the hotel, just off the registration area is a magnificent botanical garden. Bellagio has dozens of fine restaurants, among them Le Cirque, Circe, Prime Steakhouse, Picasso, and Jasmine. Bellagio is home to the second most spectacular show in Vegas, "O" which is another great effort by the troupe, Cirque due Soleil - the same troupe that gave us Mystere. Bellagio is filled with first-class shops and a half dozen lounges. It's an awesome hotel with a glorious pool area. And its games, except for the continuous shuffle machines at blackjack, are quite good. It has one of the best craps pits in all of Las Vegas. Comps are extremely tight.
Sitting on the northern side of the Strip, in the hallowed land of the classic old Sands, you'll find another wonder - The Venetian - the very first Las Vegas casino hotel that made more money from it's renting of rooms, shows and shops then it did from its casino in 2002. Venetian is Venice in the desert, including a magnificent canal where you can rent a boat with your own singing gondolier. Every room is a suite - on two levels! You could actually spend a week at The Venetian and never feel the need to leave the property; it is that extensive. You can shop the Canal Shops, dozens of the finest stores in the desert. You can work out in their spacious Grand Canyon Spa and maybe lose some of the pounds you gained by eating at such fine restaurants as Delmonico Steakhouse, Postrio, Lutece, Valentino, Pinot Brasserie, and Zefferino. The Venetian's outdoor pool is large and spacious. The Venetian has some other treats as well, including Madame Tussauds wax museum, the "V" nightclub, and street performers in the Canal Shops. And, even if you can't afford to stay here, walk into the registration area and - look up! The Venetian has the most awe-inspiring ceiling in Las Vegas. The games are good as well. The Venetian is its own city. Comps are tight.
Now, we go off-Strip, to the fabulous Palms, George Maloof's hot new casino-hotel. The Palms is also the main competition to the Hard Rock because Maloof has spared no expense in making his hotel a happening, party place. The crowd tends to be young, wealthy and ready to play and party hard. And there's no better place to party than at the Ghost Bar, an indoor/outdoor nightclub that is 50 stories above the ground. It has an almost 360-degree view of Las Vegas and it will take your breath away. There's fine dining at Alize, Gardunos, and N9NE Steakhouse. If you like to dance, then Rain's Nightclub is the place to go. The music never stops, nor do the dancers. The Palms, not to be outdone by the locals' casinos, also features a 14-screen, state of the art movie theatre. If you want to know what's happening in Vegas, there a good bet it's happening at the Palms. And the games are good as well. Comps are reasonable.
Finally, I have added a fifth hotel to the high-end level, the Rio. This all-suite hotel features a spectacular pool, a bikini bar, great restaurants, terrific entertainment and a wonderful free show every afternoon and evening, right over the casino floor. The Rio also attracts a young crowd but the mix of old and young is far more pronounced than at Hard Rock or Palms. The Rio is a great place to stay, although its blackjack games are not the best. You can earn comp points at Harrah's that can be used at Rio.
There you have it, Scobe's 13 best properties for staying, playing, and partying in Las Vegas. As you sample the casino-hotels in Vegas, you might find yourself with a different top 13. Viva Las Vegas!
[We'd love your input as to what you consider the best/worst/in-between casinos in Vegas and elsewhere. Just drop me a line at email@example.com)
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Best of Frank Scoblete