Four Queens: Fremont Street Experience without the Fee

Four Queens MarqueeIf you love the Fremont Street Experience like I do, then one great way to stay in the heart of it is to book your room at 202 Fremont Street – The Four Queens. The Four Queens offers small (by Vegas standards) clean, comfortable rooms with all the expected amenities for a very reasonable price, right in the heart of Fremont. The casino has a classy old-school vibe, yet still contains some of the newer games. There are plenty of good paytables for video poker enthusiasts. You get Hugo’s for upscale, romantic (ladies receive a rose) basement dining, and Chicago Brewing Company for great pizza and beer.

I stayed on a gambling comp, which are easy to come by. Just give them a little play with a player’s card at either Four Queens or Binion’s and you’re likely to get comped or discounted room offers for the Four Queens. That said, even the going rate to the general public is quite reasonable. Midweek rates are showing for $37/night with your third night free throughout the month of July as of this writing. Some nights on the rate calendar are as low as $29.

Four Queens BedMy “Standard Deluxe” room included a comfortable queen bed, flat screen television, coffee maker, electronic safe, hair dryer, iron and ironing board. There were two desks with chairs for work and a clock radio on the nightstand to wake me in the morning. All the basics. The bathroom was adequate with one sink and a tub. The shower head was high enough for a six footer to use without too many contortions. Toiletries were limited to soap, conditioner and shampoo. All were adequate but not fancy.

On this particular trip I decided to go against all the advice I have read online and book a low floor in the North Tower. The common advice is to either request a high floor or the South Tower in order to avoid the noise from Fremont Street keeping you up at night. I figured it’s Vegas… why would I be trying to sleep before 1am?

Four Queens BathroomSo, I will preface this with a word of warning – if it is important to you to sleep between the hours of 6pm and 1am, then you should definitely follow conventional wisdom and avoid these rooms. However, if you love the Fremont Street Experience and you plan to be up during the Viva Vision show anyways, then a room like mine on the sixth floor of the North Tower facing Fremont Street affords a pretty amazing experience.

View from the 6th floor of the Four Queens North Tower

View from the 6th floor of the Four Queens North Tower


If you’re up high like the room I had on the eleventh floor on a previous trip, you look down upon the framing and scaffolding of the Viva Vision screen… it’s not a pretty sight. Furthermore, the screen actually blocks your view of all the cool casinos on Fremont. You might hear the Viva Vision shows, but they’re on the opposite side of the screen, so you see nothing more than a few flashes of light. However, my room on the sixth floor looked right out on Fremont Street. I could see the full length of the screen with very little obstruction, and the music was loud enough to penetrate the window to my room. It was like having a luxury box for the Viva Vision shows!

I’m pretty sure this is the best view you can get of the Viva Vision shows from a hotel room. I took these video clips of the Doors and Bon Jovi shows from inside my room:

Another advantage of the North Tower at Four Queens is that these rooms are the closest rooms to Fremont Street of all the hotels. It takes about fifteen steps to reach the sidewalk from the North Tower elevators. So, if you’re out having a good time on Fremont and want to make a trip back to your room, it’s quick and easy. I find that to be a big advantage staying downtown as I’m often popping back up to the room to change camera batteries, grab a drink, or use the bathroom.

So, grab a room at the Four Queens and ask for a low floor in the North Tower. You get a decent clean room with all the amenities you need, a short walk to and from the Experience, box seats (your room) to the Viva Vision shows, all inside a classy old-school casino with good video poker, good restaurants and beer. You get all of this with no Resort Fees and no “Fremont Experience Fee”. I’d call that a win!

Update (11JUL13): The name of the “Fremont Experience Fee” at the Golden Nugget has been changed. It is now referred to as the “Downtown Destination Fee” and includes a coupon book for local attractions.

Website: www.fourqueens.com

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Gold Coast

Gold Coast Deluxe King BedJust a short drive west of center strip lies a no frills locals casino with a good Chinese restaurant (Ping Pang Pong), a very reasonable 24 hour liquor store (the gift shop), good video poker (9/6 Jacks or Better at the quarter level) and plenty of low-roller action. We spent two nights in a “Deluxe King” (their lowest priced room) at the Gold Coast in March, during Viva Las Vegas.

Gold Coast has to be one of the easiest casinos in Las Vegas to come and go from. There is a large self parking garage with it’s own entrance road and traffic light on the east side of the casino. At 4000 West Flamingo Boulevard, it is about a half mile from I-15, and about a mile from the strip. If you don’t have a car, or don’t wish to drive, there is a shuttle that goes to the Orleans and to Bally’s (mid-strip) that runs every half hour from 9:00am until just past midnight. (During Viva Las Vegas there was an additional shuttle running between Gold Coast and the Orleans, 24 hours a day. Very nice!) Both the Rio and the Palms are within walking distance.

Gold Coast Deluxe King DresserWe arrived Saturday around noon and had no trouble checking in. The front desk staff was very friendly and had us booked into a room on the third floor in just a couple of minutes. The rooms in the hotel are mostly down one long corridor leading from the elevators, so it was a pretty long walk down the hallway to our room (number 370). This was no trouble for us, but if you have mobility issues or a large amount of luggage I would recommend asking for a room close to the elevators.

Inside, the rooms are a little smaller than average (by Vegas standards), but clean and comfortable. Our room had a King sized bed with end tables on either side, a sitting area with a table and two chairs, a flat screen, and a large dresser containing an iron and ironing board that doubled as an entertainment center. The mattress was firm and comfortable, and the sheets were of a good enough quality to not feel scratchy. The view from our room, only three floors up, was nothing to write home about – just a parking lot and a nearby apartment building.

Gold Coast Deluxe King BathThe bathrooms at Gold Coast are more “updated” than those at the Orleans, and like the Orleans they offer a side-hinged window that you can open to let in some fresh air. There was a small coffeemaker on the counter with coffee and cups, and a hair dryer for those more stylish than I. The standard sized tub had a shower head that was high enough for a six-footer and provided decent water pressure.

Gold Coast Deluxe King SinkWireless internet was available for a fee ($4.99 basic/$9.99 premium 24 hours), they offered room service, and wake-up calls. The only things blatantly missing in the room amenities list were a safe and a fridge (there was an ice bucket). In addition to the room amenities there was a small, but very nicely landscaped pool area for guests, and a nice gym with cardio and strength training machines with large windows overlooking the aforementioned pool.

Gold Coast GymDownstairs, the casino has plenty of good video poker, slots of every description, table games from $5 minimums up, keno and bingo, and a decent sports book. The cocktail waitresses are friendly and attractive, and the video poker bar serves New Belgium Fat Tire (a favorite of mine) on draft. There’s a bowling alley, a T.G.I Fridays, a Subway, the delicious dim sum at Ping Pang Pong, a noodle shop, a coffee shop and a buffet. For a more upscale dining experience there’s the Cortez Room.

The Gold Coast offers everything most people need. Rooms are quiet, comfortable and clean, service is friendly, and there’s a variety of food and beverage options. Comps are fairly easy to come by, and room rates are often a fraction of the cost of those just a mile east, on the strip. It’s not huge, it’s not flashy, and it probably won’t impress your friends back home, but it’s a solid option for the budget conscious traveler.

  • Gold Coast charges a mandatory resort fee of $3.00 plus tax per night. This is typically waived for stays comped through the player’s club.
  • Prices on beer and liquor in the gift shop are competitive with local liquor stores and the selection is very good for a casino gift shop.
  • Gold Coast also sports an arena which hosts occasional concerts and sporting events and a comedy club with shows Wednesday through Sunday Nights.

Website: www.goldcoastcasino.com

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Golden Nugget Rush Tower – Downtown Luxury

When I first started going to Vegas I was a bit enamored with the beautiful luxury properties that were available. This probably has to do with the fact that the average hotel room in my hometown of Boston is about $150 – and that is hardly top of the line. So I was very excited to find out that $150 in Vegas could get me entry level rooms at such places as the Palazzo and the Venetian (and at one point even the Wynn). Over time, as we ventured out and got to learn more about the city, we stopped staying on the Strip and  I slowly forgot about the ‘luxury’ rooms I used to love staying in.

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But I was pleasantly surprised when we decided to try out the ‘new’ Rush Tower at Golden Nugget. We had stayed in some of the older rooms, which I felt were nice but nothing to write home about. It was when we were offered a discounted rate based on our previous stay that we decided to do something different and try out one of the newer rooms (opened in 2009).

The first thing you notice when you enter the Rush Tower (which you can do from both the separate outdoor entrance or by going through the GN casino) is the 75,000 gallon tropical aquarium that appears behind the check in desk in the large, modern lobby. This technically belongs to a small restaurant/bar that I have not yet tried called Chart House but the overall effect on the first time visitor can be impressive. In fact, we took some first time visitors to see the lobby on our last trip and they stood there for 5 minutes gaping.

Golden_Nugget_Rush_Tower-sitting-areaThe rooms themselves remind me a lot of the entry level rooms at the Palazzo – though they cost quite a bit less and are a bit smaller. The furniture is modern, yet comfortable and decorated in soothing, earthy colors. A basic Rush Tower Deluxe room (pictured) includes a king-sized bed, a 42-inch tv, an iHome stereo and sectional couch. The bathroom includes two sinks and a large soaking tub, with a separate toilet room.

Golden_Nugget_Rush_Tower-bedIn addition to their own entrance and valet, guests can also enjoy some of the great Golden Nugget amenities – like the shark tank and pool. I am not even a fan of pools in general yet I love the pool at the Nugget. It has a great lounge area and an amazing slide that brings you down through their shark tank and into the pool. If you are ever in the Nugget you should go and check it out – security is usually willing to let people in for a quick look if you ask politely and they are not busy.

I would definitely recommend the Rush Tower to anyone looking for a little bit of luxury in downtown Las Vegas. I find it to be especially effective if you’re trying to convince someone who has only ever stayed on the Strip that downtown can be just as classy.

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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

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