El Cortez Cabana Suites

El_Cortez_Cabana_Suite-lobbyI have stayed in so many hotels in Las Vegas at this point that I feel like I have seen it all. But while I used to spend a lot of time at hotels on the Strip, I have found that there are often just as interesting (and often cheaper) hotels nearby – if you are only willing to drive a short distance.

The El Cortez Cabana Suites are located downtown, near the El Cortez hotel and casino. The El Cortez, while typically more of a local’s casino, is only a short block away from the Fremont Street Experience. I had been in the casino before (they have an excellent steakhouse which I will soon review) but I wasn’t that interested in staying at the hotel. Then my boyfriend told me about their newer, more modern hotel across the street. The rooms were a good deal so I figured, why not?

The building itself is fairly non-descript and located next to both of the parking garages owned by El Cortez. I was surprised to see a security guard outside. Though, to be fair, this is on the edge of a more ‘run-down’, less ‘busy’ section of downtown. The main doors are also keycard-only access.

El_Cortez_Cabana_Suite-deskInside, you will immediately notice the modern feel. Think lots of black, white, green and glass. The receptionist’s desk is located right inside the entryway. There is a sitting area with a candy dish. There is also a small but decent gym – though be warned that the front wall is all glass. (Since mid-workout is not a great look for me, I tend not to put myself “on display” when I work out).

El_Cortez_Cabana_Suite-bedThe room itself was easy enough to get to via elevator. And be forewarned it is a very tiny elevator. Two people with luggage can just about comfortably fit in it.

My first thought when I saw the room was that it was colorful but dark. And by dark, I mean that there was one tiny window that letEl_Cortez_Cabana_Suite-bathroom in a small amount of light. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as the desert sun shining through your window when you are trying to sleep can be brutal. What I could see of the room was very modern and clean. It even had it’s own refrigerator.

While I am still not sure if I am a fan of the decor, I would definitely consider staying here again. It was cheap and was great for getting to and from the Fremont Street Experience while being a bit removed from the crowds.

  • The room type pictured is a “Junior Suite”. Other room types at the El Cortez Cabana Suites include “Deluxe Room” and “Super Suite.” – BAUSTIN

www.eccabana.com

Pinball Hall of Fame: The Most Fun You Can Have for a Quarter

Pinball Hall of FameThe Pinball Hall of Fame is located in a large nondescript warehouse building at 1610 East Tropicana Avenue. There are easily a hundred pinball machines here, new and old, as well as a few vintage video arcade games. It’s like the pinball arcade you dreamed of when you were a kid. There is even a coin operated fortune teller and a “Peppy the Clown” musical puppeteer.

According to their website, this interactive museum is completely non-profit. They spend no money on advertising, heck they didn’t even spend money erecting a sign out front! Any profits above and beyond basic maintenance and operating costs are donated to the Salvation Army. This is clearly a labor of love.

Popcorn Machine at Pinball Hall of Fame 25 centsThe space is pretty basic. It’s a warehouse. Floors are cement, a plain drop ceiling hides wires, girders and pipes. Food and drink are available in the form of cold soda, candy and hot popcorn – which are sold from old fashioned vending machines for just a quarter or two.  Much like the nearby casinos, the only flashing lights and ringing bells come from the machines themselves.

Yes! You read me right, the machines are working. All of them. You can change your bills in for quarters and play any one you like. They work like they did when they were new – every light, every sound effect. “Hey Chucky, quit playing with the clock!” begged the clown in my “Funhouse” machine, plastic eyes darting around trying to follow the ball. Twenty years melted away while I played.

Dr Who Pinball Machine Information CardIt’s like an electromechanical museum, where they actually let you touch and play with stuff. Many of the machines have handwritten cards attached offering the history of the machine, numbers produced, etc. There are rare machines like the Gottlieb “Canada Dry” machine, released in 1976 as a promotional item, and available only in Europe. There are antique machines like Bally’s 1947 pitch and bat game “Heavy Hitter”. There are not only traditional pinball and pitch and bat machines spanning generations, there are also viewing galleries, shooting galleries and other historic electromechanical machines as well.

Target Roll Electromechanical Craps MachineIf you are a fan of the game of craps you definitely need to check out the Bally “Target Roll” machine. This machine was released in 1959 after it became illegal to sell gambling machines in all but a couple of US states. Cleverly disguised as a harmless pinball game, this machine is actually an electromechanical crap table! Roll a 7 or 11 on your come-out roll and the machine knocks loudly to signal that you should be paid. Roll 2, 3 or 12? Game over. Roll any other number and you have to match it. If you match, it knocks again and you start over, if you 7 out it’s game over. The “score” is random, simply there to fool the authorities. It’s brilliant!

There is also an area to the far left of the building where machines are repaired and restored. Peek here for a preview of what new games might be available soon. Last time I was in they were working on some interesting looking machines like “Safe Cracker” and “Alien Dunk.” I can’t wait to try them out.

Pinball Machines at the Pinball Hall of Fame Las VegasIf you’re old enough to remember pumping quarters into a favorite machine, they probably have it here. Drop a quarter in your favorite game – it’ll likely last longer and bring more smiles here than at any of the casinos down the street. It’s cheap, it’s nonprofit and it’s a chance to relive your childhood. It’s the most fun you can have in Vegas for a quarter, short of winning a jackpot.

Peppy The Clown Coin-Op MarionetteTips:

  • Check out their website (below) for a full list of games.
  • Quarters are available from a change machine inside, no need to bring your laundry money.
  • Unlike many places in Vegas that are open 24/7 (love that!) the Pinball Hall of Fame is only open 11am-11pm, midnight on Friday and Saturday.
  • If you can’t make it to the Pinball Hall of Fame, you can still play some of their machines. A few of their machines are on loan to the Riviera Casino, where they can be played 24/7.
  • You can bring the kids here, but you can’t just drop them off. Kids under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Website: www.pinballmuseum.org
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Las Vegas Tips: The Two Dollar Trick

Two Dollar Bills - HorizontalLas Vegas runs on tips. You can tip the maitre d to get that table by the windows, you can tip the concierge for scoring those hard to get tickets to the latest show, sometimes you can even tip the hotel desk clerk to get a nicer room. But that’s not all, there are tons of little tokes to give when you’re out on the town in Las Vegas: bartenders, cocktail waitresses, pool boys, bellmen, coat check, the maid (if you have a hotel room), the valet (if you’ve never watched “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”).

The general rule of thumb for the average low-roller like me is to tip $1-2 for most of these services: A dollar a drink, a buck or two per night for room cleaning, one or two clams per garment at the coat check. The purpose of these tips is to reward proper service, and tips can become a large part of a service-person’s income.

The cocktail waitresses at your favorite casino (and the bartenders at your favorite bar) see a lot of George Washington’s. So, while a one dollar bill may be sufficient, it doesn’t really grab anyone’s attention. That’s no good. You want to make a positive impression – one where you are remembered as a good customer (tipper), worthy of the extra effort to provide exemplary service.

You could use two Washingtons at a time, and that might help, but in practice I haven’t really noticed much difference in the reaction I get with one bill vs two. You could tip with Lincolns (fives) or Hamiltons (tens), and that should get you noticed, but most of us regular folk simply can’t afford that. Besides, what’s the point of getting a free drink if you’re tipping more than the drink is worth?

Two Dollar Bills - BundleSo, you want to garner some attention without breaking the bank. The key to getting a reaction is to be different from all the other dollar bills out there – this is where the two dollar trick kicks in. Go to the bank and ask for some two dollar bills. Keep them separate from your other bills and use them for the small tokes. A wad of twos takes up less space in your pocket than the equivalent amount in ones, so you’re already ahead of the game.

The great thing about two dollar bills it that they are unusual. They look different enough from a one dollar bill that almost everyone gives them a second look. They get people’s attention. Some people collect them. Some save them to give to children. Some people believe they are lucky. Others will just cash them in. Whatever they do with them, they’ve just noticed you. They noticed that you’re tipping differently (and better) than most of their other patrons. You’re now the guy/gal that gives out the two dollar bills. You will be remembered as such. In fact, your server might even tell other servers about you.

Two Dollar Bills - VerticalThis little trick has gotten me free drinks at bars. Hotel maids have stopped me in the hall to thank me for the “lucky” bills. The cocktail waitress at one casino was bringing drinks so fast I couldn’t keep up. Lots of people ask where I got them. If nothing else, it’s a conversation starter. Try it next time you’re heading out. You might be surprised at the results!

Tips:

  • Any bank should be able to get two dollar bills for you, but it may take a few days to get them, so place your order in advance.
  • I’ve also had some luck getting twos at a casino cage. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  • I have heard that some clubs give out two dollar bills as change to their (mostly) gentleman patrons. Perhaps one of my astute readers can confirm.

Have you tried the Two Dollar Trick? How has it worked for you? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Coffee Pub – Breakfast just off the Strip

Coffee Pub Las Vegas entranceWhile for me, the concept of eating breakfast in Vegas is new (I used to get up at the crack of noon – there is just to much to do in Vegas after hours), there are a lot of great breakfast options to be found. One of these places, located off-strip, is the Coffee Pub.

The Coffee Pub is located at 2800 W Sahara Ave and can be a bit of a trick to find. The sign is fairly obvious from the road but you have to drive into and towards the back of what appears to be an apartment complex. The place itself kind of blends in.

Lobster Omelet at Coffee PubWe were actually confused about how to get into the building when we arrived since there was work being done on the sidewalk. A waitress kindly came out and directed us. We ended up sitting on the patio since the weather was so nice.

The waitstaff remained happy and attentive throughout our meal. We both ordered omelets and shared a “Famous Frozen Mocha Java”. The food was great! The mocha java was a perfect blend of coffee and chocolate, not too sweet. And the lobster omelet was cheesy and creamy with a ton of lobster in it. I was very full when we left.

Famous Frozen Mocha JavaOverall, I thought this was a great little breakfast place. (They also serve lunch, though I have not tried that yet). I will definitely go back and try more of their food.

www.coffeepublv.com
Coffee Pub on Urbanspoon

Rick’s Restorations: Reality TV, Take Two?

Rick Dale's Truck parked outside Rick's RestorationsNot long after Rick’s Restorations got their very own television show (American Restoration) they packed up their shop and moved closer to downtown Las Vegas – into a new, larger shop at 1112 South Commerce Street, a somewhat industrial area a short drive from the Fremont Street Experience. The new space has a decent sized lot out front for visitors to park, a room for each of the steps of restoration, a big yard for storing big stuff, and yes, a gift shop. Like Gold and Silver Pawn, they also have some History Channel merchandise for sale, but it’s not quite as plentiful or as in-your-face.

Brettly's Truck parked outside Rick's RestorationsRicks_Restorations-yardWhen I arrived there were no lines out front. There were half a dozen cool restored and rodded out cars in the lot, including Brettly’s truck, which looks even better in person than on television. Inside there weren’t a lot of people around. After a few minutes of browsing the shop, checking out some vintage coin-op machines and slot machines that were restored for the show, I was approached by a staff member who offered a tour.

The tour took about 15 minutes. The guide was personable and funny. He showed us the workshops and some more items from the show, adding in some details about the show and how it is presented that you wouldn’t learn without taking the tour. We also got to see a couple items that were featured in episodes that hadn’t yet aired. Overall, not a bad take… especially for the low low price of free.

Rick Dale posing with meAfter the tour I was browsing in the gift shop when my girlfriend spotted Rick Dale (owner and star of the show) on his way into the shop from outside. He was chatting with a lone fan. We went outside to join them.

In person, Rick is exactly as he is portrayed on television. He seems an honest, hard working guy that still hasn’t quite figured out why a bunch of strangers want to shake his hand. He was very gracious, shook my hand, made some small talk about the shop and let me get a picture with him. I hope the “fame” doesn’t ruin him or his shop.

Ricks_Restorations-vending-machinesGet there before the word gets out. It’s definitely worth the trip for any fan of the show, of antiques or of classic automobiles.

  • Rick’s Restorations holds a car show in their lot on the first Friday of each month from 5-8pm. Tours are available and you just might meet someone from the cast while you’re there.
  • There are some restored items available for sale in the shop. Many were featured on the show. Prices are in line with the quotes you see on TV.

Website: www.ricksrestorations.com
Related Articles:
Gold and Silver Pawn: Long Lines, Short Changed
Count’s Kustoms: The Reality TV Tour Continues

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Orleans Hotel

Photo - Boyd Gaming (Facebook)

Photo – Boyd Gaming

One of my favorite places to stay when I’m in Las Vegas is The Orleans hotel. Located a bit off strip, it is definitely more of a locals hotel and casino – which is kind of what makes it so cool.

Let’s start with some of the amenities. There are the typical things one would expect – a gym, pool and spa. The rooms are comfy, spacious, clean and reasonably priced. But they also have some other great extras – including a shuttle to the strip, a movie theater and a bowling alley.

Orleans-standard-roomAs someone who rents a car each time I go to Vegas, I really like the convenience of this hotel. Being off strip makes it a lot easier to get to during busy times. It has a huge lot so there is always parking (even when they have conventions). And, if I don’t feel like driving for a few days, I just park the car and take the shuttle. The free shuttle has two stops – at the sister property (Gold Coast) and right outside of Bill’s Gamblin Hall/across form Bally’s. For those of you who don’t know, that is right around the center of the strip. It’s a great starting point to head out from. Or, if you want to relax for a few minutes, Bill’s has been known to have some nice drink specials – like $1 Newcastles.

Orleans-deskThe rooms, like I mentioned above, are clean and spacious. Nothing extraordinary but they are a decent bargain. Since you are away from the noise of the Strip and downtown, it is pretty quiet.

The pool and the gym are very nice – especially when you consider that they mostly cater to locals. While I have only seen the pool from behind some windows (I am not a lounge around by the pool type) I can say I was impressed. The Viva Las Vegas convention is hosted here each year and they hold a lot of events by the pool. The gym looks right out onto the entrance to the pool and, let me tell you, when we stayed there during Viva I had the most memorable workout ever. I was able to watch as the Viva people came and went from the pool – it was like a Rockabilly parade!

Seriously, though – if you’re looking for a place to stay that is a little quieter but with easy access to the strip, try the Orleans.

  • Update: Bill’s Gambling Hall is closing for renovations on Feb 4, 2013. Starting Jan 28th, the Orleans shuttle will stop at the North Flamingo Entrance of Bally’s.

www.orleanscasino.com

Welcome ANantais, from NotJustForGamblers

Crazy thing, my girlfriend and I both have Las Vegas blogs. She started NotJustforGamblers, as a site to chronicle her non-gambling related adventures in Las Vegas, then assisted me to get LasVegasOffStrip up and running. Since we often travel together, we are finding a lot of overlap in our experiences and our blogs. It just makes sense to consolidate. So, NotJustForGamblers is getting a redesign and repurposing, and the relevant posts will be slowly updated and integrated into this site. Going forward we will both share our views, tips and experiences here. More content and variety for you, less work for us. Yay!

So, please help me welcome ANantais to LasVegasOffStrip! Her first contribution is coming up next.

Another Winner Already!

In just six hours we got the correct location of the photo from our third “Where in Vegas” contest. The photo was taken in the parking lot of the Pinball Hall of Fame on East Tropicana. Dean was the first to get it correct, and if he provides a US/Canadian address, he’ll be the proud owner of a brand new copy of the American Casino Guide 2013.

Thanks to all who participated. If you didn’t win, keep checking back. We’ll have another contest with another great prize early next month. We’ve got lots more great stuff to share with you, so join the RSS feed or keep coming back to the site, so you won’t miss a thing.

Contest: Where in Vegas – Round Three!

Coolest Handicap Spot in VegasContest time again! By now you probably know the drill: Tell me Where in Vegas this photo (left) was taken and you could win bragging rights and maybe something cool. The subject of this month’s contest is the coolest handicap parking spot ever! Your job? Just tell me where I found it.

The Prize? I got my hands on another American Casino Guide 2013 to give away, so if you live in the US/Canada and you didn’t win last month, here’s your second chance!

Our last winner got the correct answer in just 29 minutes! Better act fast!

American Casino Guide 2013 FrontAmerican Casino Guide 2013 Back

  • One entry per person, please.
  • Due to the high cost of international shipping, I can only offer this prize to those with a US/Canadian address.
  • You must provide a valid email address so that I can contact you for shipping info if you win.
  • Have fun!