It’s no secret that hotel prices can fluctuate wildly in Las Vegas, shooting skyward when some of the most popular conventions are in town, such as the Consumer Electronics Show, or parties like Electric Daisy Carnival and Life is Beautiful, and of course New Year’s Eve. Stay when the Strip isn’t humming with as many conventioneers or partiers, however, and rooms can be a downright bargain. (Good tips: MGM Resorts properties and some others have booking calendars that show you when room rates go down, and you can see—and avoid—all the coming conventions on the Las Vegas tourism website.) Some hotels are a bargain for other reasons, such as massive square footage compared to price, or because they are located off the Strip. Of course, there are plenty of less desirable hotels that will take you for $18 a night, but we’re talking about value for money here, not strictly the bottom line.
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Downtown Grand Casino and Hotel
Once the down-and-out Lady Luck, this 629-room hotel has been revived into an urban cool resort in the heart of the Downtown entertainment district. It’s across the street from the Mob Museum, a quick walk to the Fremont Street Experience, and a wobble away from the great bars on Fremont East. The rooms are basic but chic, with contemporary touches and flat-screen TVs. And “Picnic,” a retro-feeling pool with firepit and daybeds, outdoor gaming, DJs and great food is a fun spot to relax. We’ve seen rates as low as $29 per night.
Platinum Hotel and Spa
Platinum started life as a residential property whose residents could turn their condos into a rental pool—which means that the Platinum, which is now a hotel, has condo-sized rooms (they start at 950 square feet). Because it is located a block off the Strip and is non-gaming and non-smoking—all three advantages or disadvantages depending on how you look at things—the Platinum is a bargain. When rates are down in the city, you can snag a huge room for $120. Plus, all rooms include gourmet kitchens and living rooms with sleeper sofas.
Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa
In the Summerlin neighborhood west of the Strip, and abutting the just-opened Downtown Summerlin complex of restaurants, movie theaters and retail, Red Rock Casino is one of the Station Casinos, well-known for catering to locals. But Red Rock avoids the down market connotation: stacked sandstone brick, backlit onyx, and ebony wood channel nearby Red Rock Conservation Area, and the three million crystals that drip from its light fixtures invoke the glamour of vintage Vegas. Plus, it keeps adding and renovating: terrific restaurants like Mercadito and Hearthstone are part of a $35 million reno being completed by the end of 2014, and parents will love Kids Quest, an indoor recreation area for kids under 12 (locals park their kids there while they go to the movie theater next door). Rooms can be had for a more-than-reasonable $85.
The Golden Nugget
Right in the heart of Downtown, the Golden Nugget is definitely vintage, but constant refreshes have kept it relevant and even hip—plus, those who love the Fremont entertainment district will love the fact that you can walk right out of the doors and onto the Fremont Street Experience. Rooms in the old Carson Tower are small, but you can snag them for $49. And get lucky and you might get a room in the Rush Tower, the most contemporary of its four towers, for a similar rate. Don’t miss the pool, which has an enclosed slide that runs right through a shark-filled aquarium, and the Chart House restaurant, whose bar wraps around a 75,000-gallon tropical aquarium.
The oldest continuously run hotel casino in Vegas, El Cortez in Downtown’s Fremont East district is still priced like it’s 1975, despite the fact that in recent years it has undergone a multimillion-dollar transformation. A design competition yielded fun new rooms; among them, 1950s glam and vintage Vegas, and a mob-inspired renovation with “The Big Sleep” suite. The hotel’s Cabana Suites across the street are 64 bright, South Beach-inspired suites with their own fitness center. And they’re still adding: Soon, Siegel’s 1941, a classic Vegas surf-and-turf restaurant will open (the name capitalizes on the fact that Bugsy Siegel once owned the hotel). We’ve seen rooms as low as a shocking $16, though keep in mind the lowest prices are reserved for the truly “vintage” rooms.