Things here are getting stranger all the time.
This is a city where someone actually thought, “Hey, let’s have people jump off the top of our hotel on a vertical zip line.” Where someone said, “Forget about strip shows, let’s have day clubs with topless pools where we charge male tourists a lot of money to stare at female tourists.” Cha-ching! It worked.
Las Vegas is building a pro hockey arena on the Strip. Ice skating in the desert? No problem. It also decided it absolutely, positively had to have a giant observation wheel that lights up pink and purple at night – and voila! The High Roller became a reality.
This city shows what money can do. Enough money, and anything is possible: bizarre dreams and odd quests and strange sights. The music is constant and pulsing here. I saw three showgirls on break standing on the sidewalk eating pizza in the dark, their feather headdresses resting on the grass like sleeping birds. I saw a couple emerging from the Little Vegas Wedding Chapel, the bride’s long dress slashed to a miniskirt in front. Thank you, thank you very much.
In on the secret
This trip, I am staying at Hotel 32, a little-known boutique lodging high atop the Monte Carlo Hotel. It has just 51 rooms, separate check-in, a view of the shimmering Strip and little chocolates served on small white trays. I have a personal concierge who called me two days before I arrived to ask if I needed anything. Book a suite, and they even will pick you up in a limo from the airport.
My studio room cost $258 a night, including resort fees and taxes, about $200 more than a regular room at the Monte Carlo, which can start as low as $49 a night.
And guess what? Las Vegas is actually full of these secret hotels. Caesars Palace has the tiny Nobu Hotel inside its vast white edifice. MGM has the Skylofts, a separate small hotel within the blocky blue exterior of its massive resort. Mandalay Bay has the Four Seasons.
Why do they do it? Snob appeal.
The Monte Carlo is a huge, beige resort wedged next to the kitschy New York New York Hotel. It caters to the budget-minded. So why pay for Hotel 32? Well, you get your own elevator, and that’s cool. I also sweep past the long check-in lines into the hushed VIP room, where in two minutes they check me in and call me “Mrs. Creager.” Upstairs, they have a lounge with snacks and breakfast so you don’t have to mingle with the riffraff below.
And isn’t that the whole point? To avoid the riffraff? Except that in Las Vegas, it turns out to be sort of boring to sit in your expensive hotel room staring out the window on the 32nd floor instead of wandering amid the riffraff below, who seem to be having a whole lot more fun than you are.
Ways to spend
Whether you stay at a secret hotel or not, Las Vegas has many ways to part you from your money. Here’s what’s new:
This year, 36 day-club resort pools are open to non-guests, and 12 have topless, adults-only hours or sections. Admission is often free for women – but up to $40 for men. Nightclubs also cost men more.
The average show ticket price is now $85.20, according to analysis by the Las Vegas Advisor, with the highest price for Donny & Marie at the Flamingo (top ticket $310). Look for the duo to return to Vegas this fall, as will Celine Dion at Caesars Palace. Mariah Carey entertains this month.
As usual, gaming halls will burn through your cash faster than a fire in a bank vault. Gaming was down about 3 percent between November and April, according to the University of Nevada Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research. Still, the Strip alone takes in a jaw-dropping $500 million a month in gaming revenue.
Your funds will dwindle further as you wander the shopping malls, halls and restaurants. The Linq shopping district in the center of the Strip is now fully open. The Strip now has shops from high-end to lowbrow to, yes, even those selling books (OK, typical titles I saw were “Dude, You’re Getting Married” and “Hangover Cures,” but hey, at least they’re books). Vegas experienced record revenue from nightclubs, retail, entertainment, alcohol and restaurants last year.
Hotels may offer deals, but watch out for those relentless, additional mandatory “resort fees” of up to $30 a day, plus taxes, tips and even charges for water (yes, I accidentally drank an $8 bottle of “premium” Fuji water in my room one night when I fumbled for it in the dark).
At any rate, like every other Vegas visitor, pretty soon, you’ll have just a few measly dollars left.
Was it worth it?
So was it worth it to stay at the exclusive boutique hotel? Yes and no. Hotel 32 (about $250 a night) is a bargain compared to MGM’s Skylofts (about $900 a night). It was quiet. It had beautiful teal drapes and furniture. The service was excellent. But glamorous? Not really. Not enough to make the extra expense worthwhile.
Book Hotel 32 directly with the hotel only (www.hotel32lasvegas.com, 844-479-4625, rates starting at $177-$401, depending on room you choose).
How do prices for the secret hotels stack up against those of their mother resorts? Here are sample lowest rates per night in late June. Rates include taxes but not resort fees. All rates found on Expedia.
Monte Carlo Hotel: $82.60. Its secret hotel is Hotel 32, $229.60.
MGM Grand: $121.73. Its secret hotel is Skylofts at MGM, $1,005.76.
Caesars Palace: $137.36. Its secret hotel is Nobu, $199.36.
Mandalay Bay: $239.33. Its secret hotel is the Four Seasons, $244.16 (the Mandalay Bay complex also has an all-suite hotel, Delano, where rates start at $288.68).
Also check out semi-secret sections of resorts, such as the Tower Suites at the Wynn Las Vegas; the HRH All Suites Tower at the Hard Rock Hotel and Palms Place, an all-suites tower next to Palms Casino Resort.