Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
An unremarkable, 2,814-room Harrah's hotel packs in young partiers and devoted regulars -- lured by the cheap rates on big rooms.
Put simply, Bally's is where casinos go to die. Sounds harsh, but due to hard financial times, the daily buffet, poolside cafe, and race and sports book here have already been shuttered. The last meaningful attempt to gussy up the place was in 1994, when the hotel spent $14.5 million on an already dated-looking gigantic blue-and-white plaza with people-movers at the entrance.
The hotel lacks grandiose luxury or a campy theme, so it tries to market itself as a "classic" Vegas hotel. Images of Sinatra in the breakfast cafe try to evoke Vegas' golden age, when the Rat Pack held court at the Sands. But Bally's only opened in 1973. Attempts to revive old Vegas allure don't extend far past Jubilee's showgirl performances or the $85 "Sterling brunch", at which a tuxedo-attired maitre'd greets every guest as Madame and Monsieur. A more telling image of the hotel is the Sbarro's fast food pizza shop in the on-site mall.
But still, Bally's pulls in a solid customer base, as evidenced by the long check-in lines and significant waits at Sidewalk Cafe. Large groups of single young girls and guys (many in town for bachelor/bachelorette parties) pack into the huge suites -- and can often be seen poolside with a bucket of Coors ordered up from the waitstaff. For them, this is a cheap, non-uppity place to party without problems. And after a couple beers, Bally's must look a whole lot prettier.
It could be argued that for a cheap night on the central Strip, Bally's is still worth it. But just five or 10 minutes off the Strip, you can find better hotels that cost around the same price. That extra walk is worth it. If you're looking for a low-maintenance party hotel, Hooters can offer a similar experience but has the sexy staff, a livelier bar scene, and it won't charge you $22 just to use its gym. Families should check out Tuscany Suites with its budget-priced, quality restaurants and mellower pool.
For such cheap room rates, Bally's service delivers: It's hard to argue with a 24-hour concierge, 24-hour room service with such cheap service charges ($2.50 plus gratuity), and a poolside waitstaff that doesn't leave you wanting for a beer or cocktail for long. As with all larger Vegas hotels, a bellman is stationed outside 24 hours a day to assist with hailing cabs and storing luggage.
A long check-in line is not uncommon at a nearly 3,000-room hotel on the Strip -- I experienced the same at Rio and Paris. Even with about eight front-desk receptionists, expect to wait anywhere from five to 15 minutes.
Bally's is located where the Strip meets Flamingo Road, at what is roughly considered the center of the densely packed three-and-a-half mile Strip. The Bellagio is right across the street, Caesars is catty-corner, and the Flamingo (bordered by Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon) and Paris are on either side. An adjoining walkway connects Bally's to Paris, and many guests at Bally's take advantage of Paris' restaurants, casino, and attractions.
To visit all the other attractions along the Strip, cabs are easy to find at virtually any time of day or night. A generally less expensive option is the Deuce, a double-decker bus that runs up and down the strip 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and costs $3 to ride. There's also a monorail system, which stops at Bally's, Harrah's, the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Hilton, and the Sahara. A single-ride ticket is $5; a one-day pass is $13. If you're traveling along the Strip with at least one other person, a cab is often the least expensive option. Or just walk. It's safe, there's great people watching, and a lot of people do it.
Virtually every hotel on the Las Vegas Strip is a 10- to 15-minute cab ride from McCarran International Airport; the ride typically costs about $15.
While the standard rooms at Bally's clock in at a sizable 450 square feet, the browned caulking in the shower doesn't drawn you in, there's no Wi-Fi, and and the decor is fairly dated. My standard Classic in Bally's South Tower featured:
For as little as $20 more per night, it can be well worth upgrading to the Deluxe rooms in the North Tower. The rooms are the same size as the Classic rooms, but featured:
My firm Serta Sleeper mattress was covered with a thin duvet and, in lieu of a fitted sheet, an extra flat sheet was just tucked into the sides. The latter routinely came off during the course of a night, exposing the old mattress. But at least four comfy full-size pillows lay propped up against it.
The hotel charges for even minor extras, like use of the in-room safe ($3/day) and hard-wired Internet ($13.99/day). Wi-Fi isn't available.
Bally's pool is clean, and large enough to give families and quiet couples a little space on their own lounge chairs, but it only overlooks the parking garage and the occasional passing monorail. Still, the less-than-ideal space doesn't stop the party. Groups of guys guzzle buckets of longnecks they've ordered up from the poolside drink service and couples can be found horsing around in the 30-person spa tub.
Bally's is one of the few Strip hotels -- the next-door Flamingo hotel is another -- to boast its own tennis courts. Guests can reserve one of the eight courts (all in great condition) to play during the day or after hours for a reasonable fee, and rent a Wilson racquet in decent condition for about $10 a day.
The Bally Avenue Shoppes is an unimpressive mini-mall of 20 stores, including a We-R-Nuts and a discount shoe store. For some designer shopping, you can just head over to the Fashion Mall, across from Trump hotel.
As with many Vegas hotels, the fitness center costs extra to use but includes access to the spa's eucalyptus steam room, sauna, and hot tubs. A day pass gives guests access to the small amount of good-condition StarTrac, Precor and StairMaster cardio equipment -- but the real focus is on the surplus of weight-training machines that take up the entire back room. There were no exercise balls and few mats.
The cookie-cutter Spa by Bally could be swapped with Rio's spa (another Harrah's property) and you wouldn't know the difference. While it does offer the full range of facial and spa services, it's probably better to cough up an extra $30 for a massage at Bellagio's more luxurious spa across the street.
To connect to the Internet, you're better off using the Internet kiosks scattered throughout Paris or Bally's than trying the joint Paris-Bally's business center, stocked with six Hewlett-Packard desktops that cost $10 to use for a measly 15 minutes. (The kiosks charge $.35 a minute.)
Though the rooms are big and the restaurants affordable, the lack of kiddie attractions and the drunken bachelor party scene at the pool don't really make Bally's the most ideal family vacation spot. Parents will probably feel more inclined to bring their kids to the themed Paris-- with its painted-sky ceilings, fun Eiffel Tower Experience, and restaurant with singing waiters -- than Bally's, which has little kid-appropriate entertainment to offer.
At 450 square feet, the Classic and Deluxe guest rooms (with one king or two queens) can easily accommodate a family of four. Want more space? Suites range from 900 to a whopping 2,600 square feet. None of the rooms come with pullout sleeper sofas, but cribs and rollaways can be rented for $30/day and connecting rooms can be requested.
Affordable, kid-friendly cuisine abounds, including Sbarro's pizza, Nathan's hot dogs, and the Tequila Bar & Grill with a nacho platter big enough to feed five. Paris' fun French-themed buffets and sweet shops are also just a short, connected walkway away.
The pools and restaurants at Bally's were very clean, but some of the furniture in my room (namely, the dark-oak dresser) was chipped and worn and the molding between the tiles in the bathtub had turned brown.
Big portions and affordable prices -- food can be bland, but 24-hour room service is ideal for post-party noshing.
With the occasional exception (like the all-you-can-eat Sturgeon caviar, roasted lobster tails, filet mignon, oysters, endless Champagne at the $85 "Sterling brunch" every Sunday), most of Bally's eight restaurants seem to serve gigantic portions of affordable but bland, greasy food. Lunch can be had for under $15, but don't expect that giant-sized cheese steak or nacho platter with stale chips to be the culinary highlight of your trip -- or even on par with a meal at your favorite greasy spoon. I'd head across the street to Bellagio's buffet for breakfast -- and for a cheap dinner, walk a few blocks to the off-the-Strip Tuscany Suites for a hearty Italian meal.
On the plus side, room service does run 24 hours a day, and service charges are extremely low: just a $2.50 charge plus gratuity. Another bonus: The entire menu -- breakfast, lunch, and dinner -- can be ordered at any time, making it ideal for just-back-from-the-bar noshing. With the classic American menu, I'd go for the cheaper, huge sandwiches that run around $12-$13 before chancing it on costlier entrees like the shrimp scampi and chipotle chicken fettuccine ($25.99 and $21.99, respectively).
Tequila Grill offers over 50 types of tequila, but everyone just seems to order the value-sized Jose Cuervo Cadillac margarita to go with their hubcap-sized Mexican platters (my nacho platter was huge, but the chips were stale).
The yogurt and granola parfait at the Sidewalk Cafe was better -- nice, light, and filled with fresh, ripe blackberries. Why it's called Sidewalk Cafe remains a mystery though -- the windowless restaurant doesn't overlook any street.
A midsize casino with a non-smoking poker room and an older, slot-loving clientele.
The sexy young clientele who stomp around the Wynn and the Venetian in short dresses and spiked heels don't really make it over to Bally's. The midsize casino (70,000 square feet versus MGM Grand's 170,000) is filled mostly with older gambling devotees feeding the slots. Because of its low ceilings, Bally's casino stays routinely smoky (unlike Paris').
Most notable games here are Bally's $1,000 "Champagne" slots (one of the world's first) that offers a payout of up to a $1 million. Bally's sadly closed its race and sports Book -- guests must go next door to Paris instead.
There's nothing exciting or glamorous about Bally's 2,814 outdated rooms, subpar restaurants, or pool with a view of the parking lot. But that doesn't stop herds of partiers and Harrah's Total Rewards devotees from booking -- they're sold on the central Strip location and big rooms for the buck.