Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas: Come here, just don't stay here

I haven't posted in a while, and I just came back from a trip to Vegas so come, sit.  Let me tell you a tale (or scroll down for a synopsis).

When I first stayed at the Stratosphere eight years ago, it was my first vacation with my now husband, my first time in Vegas, and I was in that stage of pregnancy where everything is awesome *cue Lego Movie song*, so it was hard to go wrong with me.  This time around, I came here with my best friend to celebrate her 30th birthday.  She and I were tight on cash, and I had a great experience at the Strat last time, so I figured this would be the best place to stay this time.  

Oh how wrong I was.  

When we checked in, I slipped the front desk clerk $20 thinking it would give us a good upgrade and he made a good show about that being the case. Depending on how you define upgrade, I suppose it was.  We were "upgraded" to the top floor, but he claimed we were in the newly renovated rooms (which I had booked and paid for in the reservation), but we had one of the older rooms.  So, I'm thinking I got jobbed there. 

The room we had was nice enough.  As standard hotels go, there really wasn’t anything to complain about there.  If you’ve stayed in Vegas, and on The Strip (which the Strat technically is a part of.  It’s closer to Freemont though, in my estimation) enough times though, you come to expect a certain standard with your room and the Strat just doesn’t live up to it.  The Select Rooms were recently renovated, however, and they’re quite a bit nicer.  If you must stay here, make sure you get a Select Room.  Seriously, don’t budge on this one at all. 

The casino floor is poorly lit and reeks of old cigarette and cigars.  I know you have to expect a certain amount of stench on casino floors, but the more main stream casinos at least have the decency to try to mask the stench with their own unique perfume they add to the AC.  The Strat doesn’t bother with such niceties.

The overall appearance of the hotel seems to have taken a consistent downswing over the years.  Recently they've made some improvements (McCall's is an AWESOME restaurant, you must eat there at least once!), but they fall much too short of enticing me to ever stay here again.  Everything just had a feeling of desolation and sadness.  I probably would have had a better experience staying at the Nugget or some other sad little hotel in Freemont.  

My husband had the desk fall apart on him – literally ON him – and they didn’t even bother to report it to facilities.  They just left this GIANT piece of desk continue to rest where my husband had left it. When he phoned to address this issue, the front desk clerk told him he’d send security up to prove my husband didn’t break the desk himself.  After an hour or so later, security came by and actually sorted things out.  A concierge came by too and was suuuper magnanimous and offer him two buffet passes, totalling a whopping $15.  That’s right.  The room fell apart on him, he was accused of being a vandal, an hour+ of our night was wasted, and for that, my husband was offered a pretty lame $15 buffet.

I will, however, tell you about some things they do well (or at least don’t completely mess up). 

Club 107 is pretty decent.  There are GREAT views, but overpriced drinks and a teeny tiny dance floor keep me from getting super excited about this place.  If you go, don’t go when there’s an event up there, and if you want to drink while you’re up there, go after 1am.  They have a 2-for-1 drink special.  The drinks are $15.  FIFTEEN DOLLARS!  It’s not like you’re getting top shelf hard bar, either.  So definitely wait until the drink specials come into effect before you imbibe there.  Better yet, don’t drink there. Don’t go there if you don’t want to dance in Vegas’ smallest dance floor, and dance with strippers either.  Because that’s a thing that happens... apparently.  (It happened to me). 

Roxy’s is a 24 hour 50s diner that’s pretty good and well priced. Sometimes some of the servers will break out into song.  That’s always a nice touch.  Keep in mind, however, that they shut down every Wednesday morning for cleaning.  So if you’re there on a Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, and you get a hankering for their brisket burger at midnight, you’re just going to have to wait for another night.

McCall’s is their pièce de résistance.  Do yourself a favour and order their garlic rubbed steak.  You can thank me later.  Easily the best steak I’ve had in my life, and I’ve had a lot of steak in my lifetime.  If Willie is your server, you’ll be in terrific hands.  He has the class and elegance of a server at a very formal restaurant, with just enough charm and wit to make you feel like you’re at your favourite neighbourhood restaurant.  The bread they serve you is varied and interesting, and their sweet butter is different, but not at all unpleasant.  If you’re with a group, and/or VERY hungry, order the Sampler Platter.  Again, you’re welcome.  You get two jalapeño and bacon wrapped prawns, a half pound of chicken wings, and four smoked cheddar and steak potato skins.   Good grief, it is good!  If you’re a fan of mojitos, make sure you also order their Black and Blue Mojito.  If you prefer the sweeter cocktails, the Heartland Peach is the drink for you.

Synopsis: McCall’s will keep me coming back to the Strat, but just about everything else will keep me from staying here.  Spend the extra $20 - $50 and stay anywhere else on The Strip.

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