You’ve probably seen the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas – It’s an iconic Vegas landmark. These days the Northern end of the strip, which has modeled itself as Downtown Las Vegas, as most of the Strip is actually in another town called Paradise, NV, has become a little shabbier and so it’s where the value should be. But is it?
As we drove up the strip from the South it was clear that this end of Vegas is in some distress – there’s a selection of huge empty lots and half-built casinos and resorts that are testament to Vegas’ struggle against the tougher times the area is facing.
We arrived around 3pm, valet parked the car (Still free, unlike Caesars’ and MGM properties) and waited a good ten minutes to check in as several of the stations were unmanned – not a great first impression. There’s a $29.99+tax daily resort fee per room, which is two things – among the cheapest in Vegas and pure BS. Just tell us how much the room is ($79+tax, by the way, so cheap for the space before we add the random $30) and be done with it. This resort fee includes discounted access to the top of the tower (whoop – I’d expect that to be included if I were staying there), access to the pools, one of which is outdoors and closed for the season despite it still being over eighty degrees outside, and some other stuff we didn’t care about. Resort fees are a huge con designed to save paying taxes to the City on the actual price of the room, and to make customers angry. Every room in Vegas has them. Doesn’t stop them being BS.
Our room is a Grand King Suite nicely close to the elevators, on the 7th floor, which comprises a 700 sq.ft. two-room suite with a large tired-looking living room centered around a tired-looking table and four big semi-comfortable chairs, along with a smaller table, comfortable sofa and another chair. Two of the base cushions on the wooden chairs were the wrong way round (zips facing out), and there was a general aura of insufficient cleaning. It’s all a little underwhelming once the initial “wow, that’s a big room” reaction wears off. When we raised this with the front desk on checkout the lady just shrugged and said she knew. It’s poor, and someone needs to be fired. I realize that Vegas hotels want you out of the room more than you’re in it, but this was a novel way to make us want to leave.
The room was dark, despite the sandy colors and seemingly large number of lights. One problem was that the central light had one bulb out of three working, and wasn’t clean – the evidence of several inquisitive flies that got too close was sitting in the bowl. What was utterly unacceptable was the door frame leading to the bedroom that had separated – who knows whether this was as a result of the constant drilling, for which the hotel comped us one nights resort fee.. The wallpaper next to it was lifting
too… something wasn’t right. In most other hotels this would be enough to delete the room from inventory until it was fixed. The floor by the fridge was filthy. It’s not right and we said so after the first night. To be fair, the hotel staff agreed and after I told them that moving down a floor or two wasn’t an option, because we didn’t want a worse view, they moved us to the 14th floor so we’d get a better outlook, (and complain less, I’m sure) but where the sound of drilling was worse. The sad part is we really wanted to like this place – it’s inexpensive and it’s old-school Vegas. But so much let it down that it just never felt right, except while we were sleeping!
The bed is nice and big, as you’d expect, on the firm side, but comfortable, with decent, comfortable pillows and half-decent linens. We both slept very well, and woke up late to remarkably good coffee from the one-cup coffee maker. Compared to most of the utter dross served in American hotel rooms this was a revelation! There’s a TV in each room set up mainly to sell you expensive Hollywood movies and those from the Adult selection. After a while we just unplugged the HDMI cable and plugged our laptop in and watched our own stuff.
The bathroom area is pure motel fare, with a claustrophobic shower
and one of those pressure-vessel toilets that scares the bejeezus out of you when you sort-of-touch it the first time. There’s a fluffy bathmat, which is something, but overall it just doesn’t feel even vaguely special. The shower had decent pressure and was easy to control but felt tiny – think a clingy shower curtain and dull lighting – and it wasn’t a pleasurable experience. The hand towels in the 14th floor room were prettier than the ones on the 7th, but apart from that there was no difference in the rooms.
But here’s the big question – should you stay here because it’s cheap or spend a few more bucks and head to the more modern end of the strip?
Our tip – don’t bother, unless you really want nothing more than space for your money. The cheapest rooms here go as low as $30 (plus the irritating extra $30) and at that price point I’d be happy to have less room and know everything was just cheap and Motel-y. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a large space, and it’s not much cash for that space….There’s the option of the higher room with a view of something worth looking at for more money but knowing what we do now the view doesn’t make up for the tired and badly cleaned room. There’s a fine line between cheap and good value and this doesn’t cross it. Sorry, Stratosphere, but you guys need to try a lot harder than that.
We’re going to try to add a dining suggestion with our reviews – And this time you’re getting two! One’s for lovers of ribs and BBQ in general. Go to the Ellis Island Hotel and Casino off the strip, and head for the BBQ joint in the back, right hand corner of the small casino. It came recommended by the locals and with good reason. For less than $20 a head we had a full rack of great tasting ribs, Coleslaw, Corn on the Cob, Beans in barbecue sauce, and bread. It was fantastic. With so many buffets in Vegas having huge lines or being heavily overrated, this was a great find.
The other was right on the Strip. The Peppermill is apparently another Vegas legend and the food was great – we went for breakfast and were thoroughly satisfied. There’s often a wait to wait here and that’s with good reason – while you wait there’s a cocktail lounge with an indoor firepit. It’s great – not quite the bargain of the Ellis Island BBQ but still a decent feed.
Neither of these are a foodies’ delight but there’s the buffets at the Bellagio and W for that!
Please note we paid for the room and all dining ourselves and have not been offered any incentives to write this review.