Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hard Rock Hotel HRH Tower Review

Despite being to Vegas over 80 times through out the years, I never once stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel. With their recent expansion, it was finally time to end my Hard Rock virginity. I arrived around 2PM and there was no one waiting at the HRH Tower check-in desk. I hand the clerk my license and credit card and he starts typing away. After about 30 seconds, he tells me that he doesn't see a reservation for me. I told him that I made the reservation through their website online but it just dawned on me that I never saw an confirmation email. He says that not to worry, that there were rooms available but at what cost. I told him I was quoted $120 and he winced! He says that since I am a "Rockstar Club" member he will call them and see if they can help me. After about 5 minutes on the phone with them, he tells me that he has good news and they were going to comp the room based on past play! Very nice... I was ready to pay $120 and I ended up with a room for free! Kudos to the Hard Rock. A very nice way to start my first stay ever at the Hard Rock. Here is a lesson that I will apparently never learn, ALWAYS confirm your reservations!!!

After getting through the reservation fiasco, I was in my room in a matter of minutes and what a room it was. The standard room in the HRH Tower is a mini-suite with the sitting area seperated from the bedroom room by the entertainment center with a large flat-screen TV on each side of it. As you enter, there is a wet bar along the hallway which leads the sitting area. The couch was a large sectional that was quite comfortable and made for a great place to hangout. The TVs are at least 42" and unlike the night before at the Monte Carlo, they actually have HD programming! The room doesn't have all the wiz-bang technology found at places like Aria or Cosmopolitan but does have a DVD player and cool music system that is controlled by a touch screen embedded in the wall near the desk, which is a nice little feature. You can attach your I-Pod or pick from a pre-selected list of music. The bed was large, comfortable and gave a great night sleep and the bedroom also has the same size TV. The bathroom is huge with dual vanity, big, deep tub and a separate shower stall. It is nicely done, covered with stone through-out. The one feature that definitely stands out is the wall separating the bath from the bedroom, it's nothing more than a sheet of glass! There is a curtain that you can close but it's from the outside so you better really like the other people in the room if you plan to shower!

Outside of the room, I really like the new and improved Hard Rock Hotel. Before the expansion, I pretty much despised the thought of even going to the place. It was always absolutely packed, often with 20-something assholes, which bothered me even in my 20s! The casino was just too small for the crowds they would pack in there. With the addition of the HRH Tower, the casino has at least doubled in size. The same type of crowd still hangs out there but at least you now have room to get away from them. I also like the atmosphere in the casino now that its more spread out. As you would expect, the music is better than most other places; mostly 80s and 90 rock and metal; the drink service was good at all times and there is just a cool, classic feel to the dark decor of the casino. The downside is that they recently pulled out most of their better video poker machines which makes putting through big time play much harder to do.

Also with the expansion, they have added a handful of new restaurants but my only meal was at the coffee shop, Mr. Lucky's 24/7. This is becoming one of my favorite coffee shops in Vegas. You aren't going to find many bargains but the room is nice, the service is good and the food has always been great. This time was no exception. I had just a burger but it was delivered in less than 10 minutes and was great. Its not quite as good as the Burger Bar at Mandalay Place but definitely excellent for a coffee shop. I have been dying to try "Johnny Smalls," an entire restaurant dedicated to appetizers and small plates but it's not the type of thing to do alone. That is on the list for the next trip.

By far, the most famous part of the Hard Rock has to be the pool area. Everyone knows about the "Rehab" party on Sundays so much so that there is even a reality show about it. I was quite eager to finally check it out after all these years and it didn't disappoint. The area is enormous with at least 4 different pools including the now ubiquitous topless pool interconnected by nicely wooded trails. There are also several hot tubs scattered about, even a few cabanas with private ones. It probably has one of the biggest outdoor gambling spaces in town with 2 different swim up blackjack areas and a good sized casino space. There were quite a few cool features like many shallow sunbathing areas and the glass pool on the second floor Sky Bar with holes in it looking down to the bar below. The entire area is just very well done. It might just be the prettiest pool in Vegas. One thing that was striking, however, was that the place seemed way too large for a hotel of Hard Rock's size. It was noon-time on a Tuesday in July and 75% of the place was completely closed, leaving just one pool open and even that one was hardly crowded. Even if the Rehab party really does pack em' in, it all seems like serious overkill for the other 6 days a week. With that said, the Hard Rock pool definitely is top 3 in Vegas, on par with Mandalay Bay and MGM.

It was a great night at Hard Rock overall from getting the unexpected comp room to having some decent play in the casino. I ended up not even leaving during the entire stay! I'm looking forward to staying there again soon with the wife for a few nights to really get a chance to enjoy the place. One night alone just didn't do it justice.

Room Pictures
Pool Pictures

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Weekly Vegas News Roundup

There was quite a bit of news coming from the Strip this week...

What a terrible week for the folks over at City Center. It started out with news that Eva Longoria's nightclub in the Crystals Mall closed after filing bankruptcy. That news was immediately followed by a report that the unfinished Harmon Hotel tower was unsafe and could collapse in the event of an earthquake. The company was given until August 15 by Clark County to come up with a plan to fix it or tear it down. To wrap up a banner 5 days, it was reported on Thursday that an outbreak of Legionnaire's disease occurred at Aria, infecting 6 patrons between late June and early July.

The nightclub closing is not a big deal, those places come and go regularly and the rent for that joint had to be through the roof. I don't know how any of those places survive in that mall. The on-going saga of the Harmon, however, just blows my mind. A half of billion dollar mistake caused by incompetence and gross mismanagement from MGM to the contractors to the county building inspectors. How does so many different groups, with such extensive experience building large structures, screw up so monumentally? I hope someone's head got lopped off for this epic failure. The Legionnaire's disease outbreak is unfortunate but at least it doesn't appear to be all that serious with everyone fully recovering but it's the kind of news Las Vegas doesn't need right now. MGM is really trying hard to get out in front of it, putting up a "facts" page to put their spin on it and even buying up a good chunk of the Vegas Google ads to advertise it. I don't think it would stop me from staying there but I'm glad I don't have a reservation right now!

In other Vegas news this week, one of the men who built the modern Las Vegas, Terry Lanni, passed away this week at the age of 68. He was the longtime head of MGM and oversaw the company's growth from 1 casino to more than 15 including the purchases of Mirage from Steve Wynn in 2000 and Mandalay Resorts in 2005. I am not at all a fan of the massive consolidation of casinos into just a few hands, something Mr. Lanni played a huge role in, but you have to admire someone who built something so large and in the process made Vegas the town it is today. His actions may have came with a price but at the end of the day, I don't believe that the Strip would be what it is without the vision of guys like Terry Lanni. R.I.P.

Lastly, there were a couple of nice fluff pieces that were interesting reads. A story in the LV Sun about some of the projects that never happened and another in the R-J about the few places still running coin operated video poker and slot machines.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Another Trip in the Books

Just back from 3 excellent nights in the City of Sin with stays at Monte Carlo, the new HRH Tower at Hard Rock and finished up in a suite at Sunset Station. It was my first stay, believe it or not, at both Hard Rock and Sunset. Its been a long time since I was able to add 2 new hotels to my list in the same trip. A couple of thoughts and observation from the trip...

  • Happy Hours are all the rage. Every place in town seems to have one now and it's not limited to restaurants and bars, they even have one at the lingerie shop at the Flamingo!
  • Speaking of the Flamingo, they are finally doing something with the long, useless hallway that extends from the casino to Margaritaville and turning it into the Margaritaville Casino. I swear the Flamingo has to be the most frequently changed hotel in Vegas!
  • It was a banner trip for property maps. 15 new maps to go with the 10 from the last trip that I still need to post will make for some busy days on the scanner ahead. I will start getting them posted this weekend. Look for the "first class" Harrah's map. It is a classic! Photocopied with hand-written changes... Nobody knows how to squeeze an extra penny like the folks at Harrah's, err, Caesars Entertainment!

In addition to the slew of maps, look for reviews plus room and pool pictures from all 3 hotels over the next few weeks.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Treasure Island Strip View Room Review

The last night of my stay was in a Strip view room for at Treasure Island. I received a "One Day Sale" email and it indeed had some decent rates. $39 for a regular or $59 for Strip view. Those email signups really pay off sometimes! I haven't stayed at TI since my second trip to Vegas when I was still dirt poor and only had a bed to sleep in because the guy who rented the room didnt come back all weekend! I am no longer broke so I sprung for the extra $20 for the view and ended up on the top floor with awesome view of the Mirage volcano and center Strip.

I arrived around 1:00PM and checked in almost immediately with only about a 30 second wait in line at the Front Desk. The elevators are little bit of a haul from the front desk but closer to just about everything else. The room was a fairly standard newer Vegas room. In a twin queen room there is a combo armoire, desk TV Stand plus another chair and small table. It had been somewhat recently remodeled and everything still looked pretty good, there were no major carpet stains and all of the furniture was in good shape. The bed was the exception as it was pretty saggy. The bathroom has a combo tub/shower and a single vanity. It was also remodeled with stone tile and counter top, although curiously, it looks like they failed slap a coat of paint on the front of the vanity. It looked beat to hell!

Treasure Island itself is probably the smallest of the major Strip casinos in terms of area with everything pretty close by. There is a handful of restaurants including all the Vegas standards; steakhouse, coffee shop, Italian, buffet. There also a Gilley's BBQ, complete with mechanical bull! I only ate at the pizza place and it served up an halfway decent slice at 11:00PM. The location is pretty good as well being across the street from Venetian and Palazzo with a monorail over to Mirage next door. The pool is certainly not in the Top 10 in town but serves it purpose if all you need is sun and water. No review of TI would be complete without a mention of the slutty pirate show, Sirens of TI. Well here it is... I haven't seen it, I have zero desire to see it and I will go out of my way to avoid it. Standing in a packed crowd of people who have been in the Vegas heat all day along with a few pickpockets just to see scantily-clad dancing pirates does not appeal to me.

All in all, my stay at Treasure Island was fairly positive, especially for the price. It has everything you could ask for in a mid-priced Strip hotel in a good location. Like its neighbors, you aren't going to find any good plays at the tables or machines but thats to be expected. Otherwise, TI is a good option for most people especially Vegas virgins and partiers.

Room Pictures
Pool Pictures

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Monday, July 4, 2011

The New and Improved!

After almost 6 solid months of work, the completely remodeled is finally here! This launch marks a major new period for the site, bringing it to a whole new level on par with any other Vegas site on the Internet. The most obvious change is the entirely new interface including a super-sweet new logo inspired by the "other" famous Vegas sign. In addition to the new look and feel, there are a number of other changes as well. has existed in one form or another since 1997 largely without any advertising aside from Google ads, it became time to finally add banner advertising to the site. After long thought about how do to it right, I have decided to team up with MGM Resorts, who own 11 hotels on the Strip, to bring their latest room offers directly from the source instead of some unknown 3rd party room reservation service. I have always advocated booking rooms direct due to better cancellation policies and serving MGM's ads made it possible to reinforce that thought.

Quite a few other things have been added or updated as well...

  • There is now a Las Vegas Newswire on the left side which provides links to the latest Vegas news stories from a variety of sources and is updated throughout each day. Get you Vegas news fix all from one place!
  • All of the hotel room and pool slideshows have been redesigned for easier navigation and a better experience.
  • A complete update of hotel amenities and restaurants was completed.
  • A new weekly newsletter with the latest site news and reviews, a recap the week in Las Vegas plus latest unpublished room offers and other exclusive deals.
  • Ramped up the social media presence so you can now follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Blogger.

It has been a privilege to run this site over the past 13+ years and I look forward to this new, exciting era for A huge thanks to the many frequent guests over the years and welcome to all new visitors who hopefully become frequent guests. Although much has changed, one thing that has not is the reason for why this site exists, one guy's love for Las Vegas. I read and reply to every comment so if you have any thoughts about the site or otherwise, that are even vaguely Vegas related, please feel free to contact me or comment below. As always, thanks for visiting!

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!