Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thoughts on Vegas. . .

After years of not taking a vacation, and under orders from one of my bosses, I finally went on a short vacation - four days - and headed off to Las Vegas.  Although Vegas is a common tourist destination, I'm not a big fan of gambling and I'm not good at it.  Still, Vegas looked better than all the other contenders for what was potentially a rainy weekend, so I went.

And I had a fabulous time.  Seriously.  Rather than stay on the strip, I stayed at the Golden Nugget Hotel in downtown.  Had drinks at the Griffin, a truly phenomenal bar on Fremont East, saw a band at the Beauty Bar, and enjoyed coffee at the Beat and even did some gambling at the Golden Nugget - won $100 a blackjack.  Oh, and there was this:

That's right, its an aquarium.  With sharks.  And that tube you see, its part of a 30 foot water slide. . .through a shark tank.  Even though it was not pool weather (I think the temperature topped out at 65 degrees), I had to give it a shot.  Luckily the pool is heated, but it was still very, very cold. 

Anyway, the whole trip got me thinking - the downtown Las Vegas hotels are doing it wrong.  Right now, the key market for Downtown hotels been the budget conscious tourists and locals, which could give the whole place a sleazy vibe.  However, the Fremont Street Experience, which connects most of the Downtown hotels in a walkable neighborhood is fantastic, and a lot less sleazy than parts of the Strip. . .and MGM Grand, I'm looking at you. 

At the same time, the hotels are pretty damned cheezy.  The Golden Nugget, which is a pretty decent hotel, couldn't help but pimp this guy:

That's me in the bottom. . .anyway, everywhere I looked, I saw posters for "Gordie Brown" and the Golden Nugget was pimping this guy like he was the lovechild of Sinatra and Wayne Newton.  Whatever.  By the end of the trip, and this took all of three days, I would say "Gordie Brown is sooo dreamy. . ." every time I passed by his poster and crack up my traveling companion.

But back to my point - there is a niche market that the downtown casinos are leaving untouched.  Rather than continue to cater to the older and/or budget conscious crowd, Downtown could cater to the younger, more independent-minded professional crowds who find the Strip nauseating.  Here are my tips for any hotel that follows my advice (all I ask is that you comp me a room the next time I go):
  1. Get a kickass pool - seriously, everyone, even hipsters, love pools.
  2. Skip the Starbucks, and get a real coffeehouse.  Seriously, you're making enough money from the gambling, get your own coffee.  Seriously, the best coffee I had in Vegas came from a hipster coffeehouse and a coffee cart.  You can, and should do better.
  3. Put in a dive bar, a lounge and a kickass bar - with all three, you can reach all aspects of the hipster going out.  At the dive you can offer PBR on tap, put on punk bands, etc., the lounge can offer decent DJ's and dancing, and the bar. . .well, the bar has to be old school.  Dark, dank, classy, and offers GOOD liquor.  Its something to do for a long weekend.
  4. Have a vintage clothing store.
  5. Free internet access. Enough said.
  6. The art should be local - I get the feeling that there are plenty of local artists who could and would be happy to display their latest artwork at a hotel - turn the whole place into an art gallery (and allow the guests to buy artwork they like).  And if there aren't enough artists in Vegas at first, there will be really, really soon.
  7. Ease up on the decor.  Seriously, my hotel room was ugly - nice, clean, comfortable, well laid out, but ugly.  Go minimalist. 
Until a hotel gets religion and does these things, I'll remember to cobble together pretty good times all over Vegas.

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