Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
The champion of the Strip in the mid-20th century, the fluorescent-pink Flamingo still recalls its 1970s glory years, attracting a diverse crowd with its picturesque buffet, lavish pool and wildlife garden.
No longer the standard-bearer for over-the-top Las Vegas largesse, the 3,626-room Flamingo nonetheless remains a fun, retro-flavored value option for business travelers, couples, and families alike.
Opened in 1946 by mobbed-up bootlegger and Genovese crime family associate Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, the Flamingo is one of the oldest resorts on the Strip. The hotel boasts a rich history. It figures prominently in Hunter S. Thompson's city-defining gonzo opus Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and both the 1960 and the 2001 versions of Ocean's Eleven were filmed on-site.
In its time, the Flamingo set astronomical standards for luxury and opulence (the janitors wore tuxedos). In recent years, ultra-luxe resorts like the Wynn and Venetian have far surpassed the Flamingo in excess. The Flamingo's former family pool, which boasted a waterfall, three waterslides, volleyball and a basketball hoop, was once the envy of the Strip. Now, it faces fierce competition from the pools at Mandalay Bay, the Mirage, and the Bellagio, among others. But Flamingo has staged a return to form with its newly placed 18+ GO Pool that is now inhabiting the enormous (formerly family friendly) space of the Lagoon Pool. Things are looking promising for the pool area of the Vegas mainstay.
The hotel's decor feverishly recalls Las Vegas' 1970s heyday. Fluorescent pink abounds, and posters advertise entertainment, creating the impression that the hotel wishes the '70s never ended. Yet the retro vibe actually feels less over-the-top than the atmosphere at later Strip additions like the Luxor, Excalibur, or Planet Hollywood. And with total room renovation in 2012, the hotel kept its retro vibe, but added a modern twist.
Most Las Vegas visitors want to explore all of the big properties along the densely packed three-and-a-half mile long stretch of hotel-casinos known as the Strip, and the Flamingo puts guests smack in the middle of that scene. One guest I spoke with, a three-year repeat visitor in town for a real estate conference, said the mid-Strip location was one reason he kept coming back.
Big-name casinos such as Caesars Palace, Bally's, the Bellagio, and Paris are close neighbors, at least on the map -- the door-to-door walk from the Flamingo to the Paris or the Bellagio can take ten minutes. Casinos with lower stakes and less-familiar names, like Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon, O'Shea's, and the Imperial Palace, flank the hotel. Worthwhile activities in the area include the Bellagio's water show, a must-see routine executed by 16,000 "dancing" fountains, and Caesars' 160-store Forum Shops.
Cabs are easy to find at virtually any time of day or night. A generally less expensive option for getting up and down the Strip 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. There's also a monorail, which stops at MGM Grand, Bally's/Paris, Flamingo/Caesars Palace, Harrah's/Imperial Palace, 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 with at least one other person, a cab is often the least expensive option.
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.
Well laid out, with large windows that let in ample light, making the rooms feel more spacious. All rooms were renovated by 2012.
Faintly echoing the 1970s feel of the casino floor, the rooms at the Flamingo eschew Las Vegas kitsch for a more understated feel. At 300 square feet, the Flamingo's standard rooms are among the smallest on the Strip, but they feel spacious, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows and a comfortable seating area. With brown wood paneling, stain-free carpets, tasteful modern furniture, few signs of wear and tear, and a merciful lack of fluorescent pink, they do the job.
Standard FAB and the higher-end GO rooms were introduced in 2011 when the hotel started a massive renovation in all guestrooms. All rooms have the following amenities:
A large adults only area and pool-linking waterslides help the Flamingo's tropical-themed pools stand out from the crowd of great Vegas pools.
Unlike the concrete-dominated massive pools at Planet Hollywood, Excalibur, and the Luxor, the Flamingo's extensive pool area is adorned with a welcoming tropical decor, including a waterfall and abundant plant life. Flamingo completed a major switcheroo in its pool area in 2011. The enormous Lagoon Pool is now the GO Pool, an 18-plus oasis with cascading waterfalls and a seasonal waterslide.
At all the pools, the cocktail waitresses are clad in ultrasmall pink bikinis (which often fail to cover them entirely). Families, couples, and the occasional young partier sip drinks in the lounge chairs, play basketball and volleyball, and frolic in the waterfall's spray.
Unlike the many Strip casinos that sit back from the road, the Flamingo's gaming floor opens right on to the sidewalk, so lots of foot traffic finds its way through the wide doors, livening up the action. Other than the iconic hot pink color scheme, not much distinguishes this game-packed floor from other places on the Strip. The casino has slots, blackjack, roulette, craps, keno, a sports book, and other table games. Minimum bets can reach as low as $5. The poker room offers low-stakes Texas Hold 'em, as well as Omaha and Seven-Card Stud.
To the north, O'Sheas Casino, affiliated with Flamingo parent Harrah's, runs $1 to $5 spread limit Texas Hold 'em, one of the lowest-stakes games in Las Vegas. Home to a tattoo parlor run by Motley Crue singer Vince Neil, it's open 24 hours a day and offers bawdy fun to small spenders.
The Flamingo does not provide as many kid-friendly distractions outdoors. Proximity to the Beach Club Café does not make up for the absence of former family friendly Lagoon Pool's three waterslides, basketball hoop, volleyball net and waterfall. The garden, with a variety of fish and birds(including flamingoes, not surprisingly), will further divert youngsters.
Kids can also visit a modest video-game arcade, but that's as far as indoor family-friendly activities go. Parents should be able to find something kids will eat at the wide range of restaurants. The hotel offers cribs, and guests can arrange for baby-sitting services.
The Flamingo serves up a wide variety of dining options: value at the Paradise Garden Buffet, a fun party scene at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville and slightly overpriced Japanese cuisine at Hamada. The Burger Joint, Pink Bean, and poolside Beach Club offer simple appetizers and sandwiches.
Historic, retro environs but stock options, rotational weddings (up to 40 per day), and extra fees make for an impersonal vibe
First opened in 1946, the 3,626-room Flamingo takes its history seriously. The '70s decor, fabled tropical-themed pool, and scenic Paradise Garden buffet draw couples, families, conventioneers, and occasional partiers. For the price -- midrange for Strip hotels -- it's a fun choice, delivering a retro Vegas experience in a convenient mid-Strip locale.