Don’t let the glitz or the modern glam fool you. There is still some of that Old School Las Vegas out there. And believe it or not, you don’t have to look too hard to find it. Here are two classic Vegas hotels for anyone interested in walking in the footsteps of the Rat Pack, Liberace and the original architects of this neon jungle.
Circus Circus has been a Vegas mainstay since 1968
Opened in 1968, Circus Circus may have started out as homage to the big top but it’s become a Las Vegas legend. “People recognize this hotel throughout the country and worldwide,” says Don Thresh, vice president and general manager of Circus Circus Las Vegas, which is now owned and operated by MGM-MIRAGE Corp.
Today the resort has 3,767 guest rooms, including 135 suites. For those wanting to stay in the original building, ask for the Casino Tower, which has 770 guest rooms. The Steak House still features its original style of decor, with rich woods and deep red accoutrements. It’s also been voted Best Steak House more times than any other Vegas restaurant.
Be sure to recommend watching performances high above the crowd to get a glimpse of dazzling aerialists and trapeze artists. The Midway is like an indoor carnival where players of all ages have a chance to win stuffed animals by beating an array of traditional carnival games. Added during the modern era is the Adventuredome at Circus Circus, Nevada’s largest indoor theme park and the only theme park in Las Vegas.
There is also more than 100,000 square feet of gaming space and a Race & Sports Book. Those looking for a freshly redesigned room are in luck; all Tower rooms now have flat-screen TVs and pillowtop mattresses. For more information, visit the website or call 702-734-0410.
The last of the resorts still in existence when the Rat Pack ruled the roost is the Sahara, a desert jewel for more than 55 years. The Sahara served as the backdrop in the original Ocean’s Eleven and hosted legendary celebrities such as the Beatles, Dean Martin and Marilyn Monroe.
Suggest a stay in one of the guest rooms in Sahara’s Vintage Suite Collection. The Beatles Suite celebrates their only visit to Las Vegas, in 1964, and features decor mimicking the original room with pop-art colors and retro furnishings. The Presidential Suite has seen its share of famous folks, but perhaps none more so than Elvis Presley, who stayed here while filming Viva Las Vegas. The Ambassador Suite is the closest thing one can get to reliving the 1960s and ’70s. This suite has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a double shower, dining area, conversation pit, wet bar, original 1970s artwork, vintage wallpapering, mirrored ceilings, wood-paneled walls, a wraparound outdoor patio overlooking the Strip, crystal chandeliers and a standalone marble Jacuzzi in the master bedroom.
Touch history at the House of Lords Steak House, which was one of the Rat Pack’s favorite places to grab a steak and drink some martinis. The space features a Moorish theme with Moroccan tile and fixtures. “We are very proud of our history and our place among the few remaining true Las Vegas steakhouses,” says Robert Leck, vice president of hotel operations for the Sahara.
For more information on the property and The Vintage Suite Collection, visit the website or call 888-696-2121.
Binion’s Gambling Hall & Hotel
It may be called Binion’s today, but this intimate property is actually comprised of three historic buildings: The Apache Hotel, The Boulder Club and The Mint. The accumulation of property began when Benny Binion purchased The Apache Hotel in 1951 and renamed it the Horseshoe Club. His sons completed the current footprint in 1988 when they purchased Del Webb’s Mint Hotel.
The property features 366 guest rooms and suites, including one- or two-bedroom small, large or deluxe suites. It also has an audacious way to attract guests: A $1 million display features a million dollars in a pyramid design of acrylic glass boxes filled with cash from ones to hundreds. Today, the display is set on a poker table, a nostalgic tip of the hat to Binion, who is the father of Las Vegas poker.
Downtown in the Freemont Street district, Binion’s is getting a new poker room, which opens next month and has a newly remodeled steakhouse. The just-opened new Benny’s Bullpen Sports Bar & Cigar Lounge is a perfect complement for a newly redesigned Race & Sports Book. For more information, visit them online or call 800-937-6537.
Originally opened in 1955, the Riviera Hotel and Casino was recently purchased and is in the middle of a $20 million renovation that includes remodeled guest rooms, 100,000 square feet of refurbished casino space with a revamped VIP slot area and updated convention facilities. The idea here is to keep the essence of the original casino alive while delivering a more modern and comfortable facility.
Phase one of the renovation is already complete and now more than half of the Riviera’s guest rooms have been refinished. Remodeled rooms feature completely renovated interiors, including new wall coverings and carpet, new bathrooms with ceramic tile, marble vanities and bath fixtures. Each room is appointed in a contemporary style, with all new furniture, sleek lighting fixtures, new artwork and European-style beds. New room amenities anticipate the wants and needs of today’s business and leisure travelers and include flat-screen TVs, wireless Internet connection, iPod/MP3 alarm clock radio and refrigerators.
The Riv, as it’s affectionately called, also features six full-service restaurants, including the gourmet steakhouse, Kristofer’s, and nine nightly live entertainment production shows. For more information on the Riviera, visit the website or call 800-634-6753.