Peace and quiet aren't exactly attributes most people associate with a trip to Las Vegas. But towers are popping up all over town right next to some of the Strip's noisiest resorts promising a somewhat more laid-back experience, within steps of one of the famous big casino hotels.
THEHotel at Mandalay Bay was the first to get the idea: it's a boutique hotel of 700-square-foot suites that's basically embedded in the much larger Mandalay Bay resort. Over the past few years though, competition has become intense, with "sister" properties popping up at the MGM Grand, Wynn, Venetian, Palms, and soon the Hard Rock.
While Vegas struggles to attract tourists, you can snatch these suites and apartments up for cheap. When we searched, we found rooms at newer sister properties typically cost around $20 a night more than their "classic" brethren, and with a lot more space and amenities.
You can think of these places as dividing into two groups: apartments and suites. The apartment towers we surveyed are typically a longish walk from the main casino building, through a covered walkway. They have fewer restaurants and less shopping than a traditional Vegas casino tower. But their suites have kitchens, which help make them feel much more like home than the standard hotel room.
The new all-suite towers, on the other hand, provide a more traditional Vegas experience with multiple restaurants, shopping esplanades and big casinos. They're just a bit quieter, with bigger rooms than the usual towers.
Here's how they shake out.
Signature Suites at MGM Grand: My pick for one of the best-kept secrets in Vegas is this set of ex-condo towers that have been turned into a relaxing, luxurious, low-key hotel. Frederic Luviutto, vice president of Signature, said "each tower is operated a lot more like the Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton" than the cavernous 5,000-room MGM, and he's right in that the whole place has a hush -- not the hush of a dead hotel, but the hush of a place where things happen quickly, quietly, politely and on demand.
Think of Signature as a bunch of apartment towers with high-end hotel services, and you're pretty much spot on. There's 24-hour room service, small restaurants in towers 1 and 2, and three pools with pool bars. Luviutto says Signature tends to attract an older, more sophisticated traveler than the MGM, and when I've been there, I've generally been getting business done. The kitchens in every suite offer a lot of flexibility for families, though.
The main minus of the Signature is that it's a bit of a hike through a covered walkway to the main MGM property. You can get taxis and park at the Signature's own lobby, but expect a 15-minute walk to the Strip.
When I checked, "junior suites" (which aren't actually suites) at the Signature were running $149/night for 550 square feet of space. True, 900-square-foot one-bedrooms ran $199/night.
Palms Place at the Palms: Maybe Palms Place will open up a new clientele for the Palms. As our review says, the main building of the Palms is party central, with beautiful young things stumbling over each other to get into the hotel's super-hot nightclubs and the perpetual private parties in the Fantasy Tower. Beautiful young things also stalk the pools and Alize restaurant, which makes the Palms' child-care facility, movie theater, and food court seem a little bit out of place.
But maybe it's not so much out of place when you're staying at Palms Place. Like Signature, Palms Place is a condo tower that's a bit of a hike from the main hotel. Owner George Maloof touts it as "a non-gaming experience and a super-high-end product with a spectacular spa, a great restaurant, and kind of a boutique feel." The studios and one-bedroom suites all have kitchens, and they have a more modern, hard-edged feel than the Signature rooms: you've got marble and hardwood floors as opposed to wall-to-wall carpeting, and multiple 42" TVs.
Maloof suggested that a slightly older clientele who might want to dip into the Palms party scene but still escape from it would enjoy the Palms. To that, we'd add families. The laid-back, residential feel of Palms Place -- with a spa and pool, but without huge lines of scantily clad teenagers trying to get into a nightclub -- makes the Palms' child-care facility start to make sense. When we checked, we saw studios starting at $159.
The main down side: The Palms is a mile west of the Strip.
Palazzo at the Venetian: The Venetian's new sister hotel hasn't gotten great reviews, in part because it's almost painfully bland compared to the exuberantly-themed Venetian. On a clandestine visit to the two hotels this January, we found that the Palazzo just seems to lack some of the Venetian's verve. Sure, it has its own upscale shops, nightclubs, and restaurants (including the mandatory celebrity chef.) But we kept smoothly segueing back into the Venetian for the buzz at its better-known nightspots and the enduring, kitschy charm of the Grand Canal.
So why stay at the Palazzo? Size. For $20 more -- $159 compared to $139 -- you'll get a 720-square-foot basic fake-suite rather than a 650-square-foot one. The Palazzo's basic suites also have larger TVs than the Venetian's. And it's really just a short walk between the two "properties."
Encore at Wynn: When you think "Vegas casino," you don't usually think "natural light." But the Encore, the new sister resort next to the Wynn, has lots of big windows and natural light; you can even see the outdoors from the casino floor, said Wynn and Encore president Andrew Pascal. Flowers, trees and gardens play a major role in the casino's decor, giving it a bit more of an outdoorsy, natural feel than the usual tower.
The Encore has its own pool, spa, salon, restaurants, bars and nightclubs, but connects to the Wynn via the shopping esplanade. To some extent, it benefits from the Wynn's lack of a coherent theme. The Wynn's theme, really, is "rich." The Encore's theme is "also rich." The two go together better than the Venetian and Palazzo.
The Encore's "suites" (they're fake suites, with no walls) are some of the biggest in town. The basic rooms range from 700-745 square feet, with 42" television sets. Prices run as low as $179/night, Pascal said. That's still one of the more expensive resorts we surveyed.
HRH at the Hard Rock: Coming soonish (December 2009) the upcoming HRH tower will bring an all-suite experience to the off-strip Hard Rock Hotel. Yale Rowe, Hard Rock's vice president of marketing, promised that the new HRH Tower will be fully integrated into the Hard Rock, not a separate hotel like the Palazzo and the Encore are. It'll be closer to the main body of the Hard Rock, connected via a retail and dining area. But it'll be a bit of a "sanctuary" away from the Hard Rock's party scene, he said. Suites will run 710 square feet with at least two plasma TVs per room, and each suites will have a spacious bathroom with a separate shower and tub.