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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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

Saving Money with the American Casino Guide 2013

American Casino Guide 2013 Front CoverThe American Casino Guide is a paperback book published annually by Casino Vacations Press and authored by Steve Bourie. It contains all the basics on the major casino games, with honest and accurate information about how to play, what the odds are, and what strategies to use to maximize your chances of winning. It also has detailed contact and property info for nearly every casino in the country. For the third straight year, this edition includes an entertaining and informative seven page story by Dewey Hill of Dewey’s Vegas Adventures (pages 22-28) which tells everything you need to know about resort fees in Las Vegas and how to avoid/protest them – definitely worth educating yourself about.

This is where I first noticed that the editing of the book is not quite perfect. The final paragraph on page 22 and the first two paragraphs on page 23 are a repeat of the earlier text. There are a few other errors, like the reference in the Las Vegas section that points to the wrong page for this article, but please forgive these small foibles. The value of this book far outweighs any annoyance caused by the little errors within. Hopefully, you feel the same about this blog.

American Casino Guide Las Vegas ExcerptGetting to the Las Vegas section (pages 233-256), Steve offers some tips on the best deals in Vegas, the best places to play, his favorite free attractions, and information on nearly every hotel/casino in the valley. Pages 255-256 feature an article by Gaming Today columnist H. Scot Kraus with more free things to do and see in Vegas.

Steve also reports annual statistics for the payback percentages of slot machines broken down by region and bet amount (page 235). These percentages can help give you a clue where the best games are found at each denomination – the higher the better. Las Vegas has some of the highest payback percentages in the country. If you want to know where to find highest payback in Vegas I’ll give you a hint: As a general rule, you’ll have to get off the Las Vegas Strip. Seems like you’re reading the right blog.

Since I first discovered it in 2008, I have bought a new guide every year. In fact, I pre-ordered my copy of the 2013 edition in September. Why? Do I care that much about the payback percentage of penny slots downtown? Do the strategies, rules or games vary that much from year to year? Do I need to know if there are any new casinos in Montana? Nope. In fact, every year since that first year I have torn out the last couple hundred pages of the book and given the rest away.

Don’t get me wrong. The information in the front of the book is great, and I read every bit of it when I first got my hands on this book five years ago. Now I pass it on to friends and keep the best, most valuable part of the book for myself. You see, the back of this book is loaded with coupons, and roughly half of them can be used at casinos in Las Vegas.

American Casino Guide 2013 Discount CardThe coupons come with a card which you will need to show, identifying yourself as a purchaser of the book. You will need this card along with the coupon in some places, so it’s best to just cut it out and keep it in your wallet. The coupons themselves are divided up by state, then region (Las Vegas has its own section) and are listed alphabetically by the business name.

American Casino Guide 2013 El Cortez CouponsHow good are the coupons? This year there is a coupon for 50% off your meal at the Flame Steakhouse in the El Cortez that offers up to $25 in savings. This coupon alone can save you more than the cost of the book. While you’re at El Cortez you can also get $10 free slot play in the casino. There’s even a coupon to give you a hefty discount off of a hotel room.

Bring your coupons to the Four Queens and you can get two-for-one Mike Hammer tickets, two-for-one lunch or dinner entrees at Magnolia’s, and double players club points for a day (up to 500). There are $5, $10 and $25 table game match plays for casinos all over the valley, two for one show tickets, food and drink discounts, bonus slot club points and free slot play. There are even some nationwide coupons you can use on car rental and buying gambling goodies online.

This book easily pays for itself every year. I’ve discovered great places I had never been (like The Flame), and I’ve never had any trouble using the coupons. I was so confident that I would get my money’s worth out of this book that I pre-ordered my personal copy not knowing what this year’s coupons would be. It’s probably the safest bet I’ll make all year.

Thanks to Steve Bourie and Casino Vacations Press for providing a complimentary review copy at my request so that I could share this with you before the book arrived in stores.

Three great ways to get the American Casino Guide:

  • Buy it for $18.95 at your local bookstore when it becomes available (likely mid-late December).
  • Place a pre-order for a discounted copy from Amazon and help out this blog. (A small percentage of your total purchase made after clicking through the affiliate link comes back to LasVegasOffStrip and helps support the costs of providing this site.)
  • Win a FREE copy before you can buy one (US/Canada Residents only) in the next Where In Vegas contest. Stay tuned.

Tips:

  • The El Cortez hotel room coupon states it is for a Vintage or Pavilion room, but when you call for reservations you can use the coupon for a nice discount on the swankier Cabana Jr. Suites as well. Also note, this only applies for a Sun-Wed arrival and a minimum 2 night stay. Details like this (restrictions) can be found in the text on the front and back of each coupon. Though most of the restrictions are quite reasonable, it pays to read closely.
  • Many casino coupons require a trip to the player’s club (and membership, which is free) to redeem, so make sure the player’s club will be open when you get there.
  • Updates to coupons and other valuable information for bargain hunters can be found on the American Casino Guide website. Follow the link below.
  • New this year! Download the free American Casino Guide App for iPhone.

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