It’s time again to return to our series about finding the best hotels in Vegas for various types of visitors. This week’s topic strikes a personal chord with me because I like to make the most of my money whenever I travel.
I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m a penny pincher…or I prefer the phrase “financially cognizant individual.” That doesn’t sound as cheap.
First, let me start out by saying there’s nothing disgraceful about hunting for bargains in Vegas. I know this goes against all the ads you see promoting Sin City, where everybody seems to stay in luxury suites. But a room is just a place to crash. With so many things to do here, you won’t necessarily be hanging out in it much. And then the money you save on accommodations can be used for more meaningful pursuits – like buying front-row seats to see Celine Dion, dining at Gordon Ramsay Steak and getting bottle service at LiFE (or whatever shows, restaurants and nightclubs appeal most to you).
When it comes to hotels, there are a few things to keep in mind if you want to conserve your cash. Room rates fluctuate hugely. They are lowest from Sunday to Thursday (when occupancy is down) and highest during weekends, holidays and special events.
Hotels located on the Las Vegas Strip charge the most expensive rates – especially those at the center and southern ends. In downtown the rates are about half of what they run on the Strip. And although we’re not including off-Strip and neighborhood hotels on this list, they’re known for offering inexpensive rates too.
The most important thing: Book early to get the best deals. We can’t stress this enough. Even if you’re just mulling over a trip to Vegas, start researching room rates. You’ll pay less when you select a hotel and make reservations well in advance.
All right, we’ve done our research and picked a handful of hotels that are a great value for your money. They span the south end of the Strip to downtown. In order to be truly budget-friendly, we considered more than just the room rate. We also took into account if the hotel was within walking distance to major attractions or public transportation, along with things like low-cost restaurants and free amenities. (Keep in mind the starting room rates listed below are based on what’s available today, exclude resort fees and – as always – are subject to change.)
So here they are…our five favorite hotel bargains in Vegas.
Location: Near the south end of the Strip
Rooms start at: $33 a night
OK, so Excalibur is a castle but not the palatial kind. Better suited for regular folks instead of royalty, it fits the bill for frugal Vegas travelers (and not just for families but for everyone). Excalibur has a great location on the busy intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. It’s within walking distance to MGM Grand, Tropicana Las Vegas and New York-New York as well as a free tram ride away from Luxor and Mandalay Bay. The 378-square-foot tower rooms cost the least. Although basic, they’re not medieval. You’ll get a cable TV, a table with two chairs and a hair dryer. At Excalibur you’ll also find several affordable places to feast. There’s Buca di Beppo and the Castle Walk Food Court, which is the largest food court in a Las Vegas hotel. Or save money by trying the recently remodeled Buffet at Excalibur (we love the hand-dipped ice cream bars). If you want to be pampered, The Spa at Excalibur won’t charge you an arm and a leg to massage and exfoliate your arms and legs…along with the rest of your body.
Location: Smack dab in the heart of the Strip
Rooms start at: $31 a night
With a pulsating pink and orange neon façade, the Flamingo is an attention grabber. However, your heart will be won over by the hotel’s great location combined with rates that won’t drain your wallet. Seriously, you’ll be steps away from some of the most exciting sights and attractions on the Strip. Here’s betting the Fountains of Bellagio, the half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower and The Forum Shops at Caesars are on your “Must See in Vegas” list. And if you exit the Flamingo’s north doors (the ones marked by two giant pink flamingo statues), you’ll be on The LINQ Promenade and a short stroll from the High Roller observation wheel. Oh, one more thing: There’s a Las Vegas Monorail station at the back of the property that will take you almost anywhere you can’t walk to. The Flamingo’s base-level accommodations are the 350-square-foot Fab deluxe rooms. Remodeled a few years ago, they’re surprisingly contemporary with pillowtop mattresses, wood-toned floors and 32-inch flat-screen TVs. Considered one of Sin City’s most affordable picks, you’ll also enjoy staying at the Flamingo because of its storied past. Infamous gangster Bugsy Siegel opened the resort in 1946. Be sure to snap a photo at his memorial, which is situated outside the resort’s wedding chapel. And it won’t cost you a dime to check out the adjacent wildlife habitat filled with pink Chilean flamingos (we could watch that flamboyant flock strut around all day long).
Location: Near the center of the Strip
Rooms start at: $37 a night
Harrah’s is positioned slightly north of the Flamingo. So remember everything we just mentioned about that hotel? Well, ditto for Harrah’s. It too has a wonderful almost-in-the-heart-of-the-action location and a Las Vegas Monorail station. Although Harrah’s doesn’t have a mob-related background, it’s been around for more than four decades. Originally boasting a riverboat theme that long ago set sail, today Harrah’s exudes Mardi Gras spirit while offering inexpensive accommodations. The 350-square-foot classic rooms cost the least. Simply furnished, they are cheerful enough and perfect if you want a place to sleep and not lounge around in. You see, when it comes to hanging out, there are plenty of fun bars at Harrah’s where you can kick back without having to fritter away a small fortune. The open-air Carnaval Court is like a street party with live DJs and cocktails poured by flair bartenders. Things get wild and crazy at the indoor Piano Bar thanks to The Twins Dueling Pianos Show and Pete “Big Elvis” Vallee. You can also mosey over to country superstar Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill for live music, dancing, beer and good ol’ home-style food (like a fried bologna sandwich).
Location: The northernmost end of the Strip
Rooms start at: $30 a night
Unless you have some kind of hard-core walking routine, you won’t be hoofing it anywhere around the Stratosphere. This hotel is approximately two miles from the heart of the Strip and downtown Las Vegas. But if you plan to spend time in both areas, then the Stratosphere is an ideal base. The Deuce and SDX buses have nearby stops, providing cheap and easy transportation. Of course, the accommodations at the Stratosphere are also a great value. The tower deluxe rooms measure 350 square feet and contain all the conveniences you’d expect including a cable TV, an iron/ironing board, a hair dryer and a work area. What’s best is you (and whoever is staying in your room) can swipe your room keys for free admission to the observation decks on the Stratosphere Tower. No visit to Vegas would be complete without exploring this 1,149-foot-tall landmark that dominates the skyline. In addition, save money by chowing down at Roxy’s Diner, where the singing waitstaff often put on a show, or The Buffet with its array of cuisines, carving stations, a deli spread and freshly baked pastries. The Tower Pizzeria & Creamery is another inexpensive place to grab a slice or a scoop of ice cream.
Location: Downtown in the Fremont East Entertainment District
Rooms start at: $17 a night
Take a guess at what the longest continuously operating hotel and casino in Las Vegas is. Go ahead. (Hint: Its name is written above.) El Cortez was built in 1941. Next year will mark its 75th year in business. Another claim to fame at El Cortez is that the aforementioned Bugsy Siegel is counted among its former owners…along with other organized crime figures like Meyer Lansky, Moe Sedway and Gus Greenbaum. The rates here are incredibly low. You can often book the original “vintage” rooms for less than $20 a night. Now these rooms are small, come with one queen bed and have only stairwell access, but the old school experience is something you’ll always remember. El Cortez is located one block from Fremont Street Experience and surrounded by an ever-growing list of hip bars and shops in the Fremont East Entertainment District. By staying here, you’ll also be able to take advantage of great deals on food inside Café Cortez, like the $10.95 prime rib special.
A final thought: Even with our constraints, it was difficult selecting just five bargain hotels. There are several others on the Strip (such Bally’s, Circus Circus and The LINQ Hotel & Casino) and in downtown (like the D Las Vegas, Golden Gate and Downtown Grand) that could easily have made the list. They’re also affordably priced and perfectly placed for a fantastic Vegas vacation.