- On the Strip, convenient for exploring other hotels and casinos
- Low room rates
- Serviceable restaurants, ranging from affordable to fancy
Dated and drab, Harrah's doesn't have the elaborate theme, charming history, or glitz and glamour of most of its neighbors. It's a cheap Strip option, but you can get more for your money elsewhere.
With a court jester on the facade, a Mardi Gras Tower and a Carnaval Tower, Harrah's suggests a vague Mardi Gras theme, but the party isn't here. A less-than-fresh property (management estimates that the oldest rooms in the Mardi Gras Tower haven't been renovated for 10 years), everything at Harrah's feels old. With no dancing fountains, shark reefs, faux Venetian canals, or restaurants with celebrity chefs, the focus at Harrah's is on gambling. The casino features the popular Harrah's Total Rewards incentive program, penny slots, and a large Sports Pit. But at 87,000 square feet, it's only average in size (the MGM Grand's is 170,000 square feet).
The 2,500-room hotel is one of the least expensive on the Strip, and it feels it. It doesn't have the elaborate themes of neighboring hotels like Caesars Palace, or the feeling of history you'll find at the Flamingo, even though the 1949 building is one of the oldest on the Strip. Most of the hotel's features are dull and worn, offering little of the glamour, glitz, and hedonism associated with Vegas. The dirty pool, while popular, is not a swinging singles scene like Bally's, nor does it have a waterfall, waterslide, adult-only area, and gambling tables, like the impressive pool at the similarly priced Flamingo.
The hotel's one bright spot is the lively Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill. Patrons both young and old dance dance to live country and classic rock until 2 p.m. The outdoor Carnaval Court Bar & Grill offers unpretentious nightlife with guest DJs and happy hour specials on Jagermeister. On the entertainment front, the hotel hosts comedienne Rita Rudner, an improv show several nights a week, and a magic show every afternoon. And the 20-year-old Legends in Concert Show features impersonations of "legends" ranging from Gwen Stefani to Elvis Presley.
For an even better party scene at a similar price, try the Flamingo two doors down. For more family-friendly accomodations, try the Tuscany Suites Casino. It's only two blocks from the Strip, and its casino is housed in a separate building from the lobby.
Good for the price
With bellboys at the entrance and short lines at check-in, service is above average for a big, inexpensive Vegas hotel. A kind but harried bellboy offered me help with my bags, and I faced no line at check-in. (Neither is typical of low-priced Vegas hotels, which often eschew bellboys and have waits over 30 minutes at check-in.) The woman who checked me in even asked what floor I'd prefer.
Services in the restaurants, especially Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill, was attentive and pleasant. A request for extra towels delivered to my room was filled in just six minutes. The only thing that annoyed me on the service front was the difficulty in reaching the front desk. While room phones have buttons for things like "room service" and "housekeeping," you won't find a button for the front desk. As a result, connecting with a person at the front desk required transfers and holds. Checkout was a breeze, and the bellhops who helped with my bags were extremely kind.
Drink service is provide around the pool, and room service is available 24 hours a day.
Harrah's is on the north end of the Strip, the densely packed, three-and-a-half-mile-long stretch of hotel-casinos. Most Las Vegas visitors want to explore all of the big properties 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 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 along the Strip 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.
Dated, dingy standard rooms are little more than cheap crash pads, and, with hard mattresses and scratchy sheets, not particularly comfortable ones.
The standard room has no closet, just hanging space in the wardrobe that also housed an old tube TV. On the plus side, it feels roomy, easily fitting two queen beds and a sitting table with two chairs (but no desk). Standard rooms are 340 square feet, significantly smaller than those at Bally's (450 square feet), but slightly bigger than those at the Flamingo.
The bathroom has a garish, dated shower curtain and no artwork. Gilchrist & Soames toiletries are a rare bright spot. The beds are topped with classy white duvets and subdued tan blankets. But the off-brand mattresses are hard, sheets are scratchy, and the poly-filling pillows are stiff, calling for a stiff drink or four before bed.
Rooms have minibars, but they're stocked only with Aquafina water and non-edible items like a disposable camera and a first-aid kit. If you want booze, or even mixers and snacks, you have to go down to one of the convenience stores in the lobby. As a sign warns, the minibar can't be used for guests' food. Removing anything from it triggers the sensors, which trigger charges on your bill. Renting a refrigerator runs $10 a night.
For another $30 or so a night, guests can upgrade to a Luxury Room or a Premium Room. Luxury Rooms have the same layout and décor, but you're guaranteed a view of the strip. Premium Rooms, also called Deluxe Rooms, were freshly renovated about a year ago and feature flat-screen televisions. But the extra money is probably better spent upgrading to another hotel altogether.
The hotel's Olympic-size swimming pool is a place to take in some sun, get wet, and little else. Aside from a sparse scattering of small palm trees, the dirty pool deck has no landscaping. The cabana walls are liquor advertisements, adding to the junky aesthetic. The lounge chairs are dusty. Messy drink spills go uncleaned. Things get worse on the sundeck above the pool. I spotted lounge chairs caked with dirt and rust that had turned unsightly shades of brown. For a better pool scene at a similar price, check out the Flamingo two doors down. Its free-form pool has waterfalls, a volleyball net, and a basketball hoop.
The fitness center on the 4th floor costs $25 a day, or $10 after 5 p.m. (it's open until 8 p.m.) -- pretty standard for Vegas. The fee includes use of the spa's sauna, steam room, and Jacuzzi, which are decent but not fabulous. The fitness center itself is large with numerous LifeFitness cardio and weight machines. There are some nice touches such fresh fruit, but cardio machines don't have individual TVs, which, for me at least is a deal breaker, ladies.
The Spa at Harrah's offers facials, massages, manicures, pedicures, a few body wraps, and haircuts and color. With the purchase of a treatment, guests also get to use the fitness center, sauna, steam room, and Jacuzzi. For a more luxurious spa experience, wherever you're staying, head across the street to the Mirage.
A 87,000-square-foot casino with everything from penny slots to high stakes tables
Harrah's midsize casino features more than 1,200 slot machines with stakes ranging from one cent to $500. The nonsmoking Poker Room has 10 tables. The rest of the casino, however, is typically smoky. The large Sports Pit features more than 40 high-definition televsions, including two 100-inch projection TVs for watching the big game or race. The Sports Pit also has its own gambling tables and video poker and keno, allowing players to watch the game as they play. Harrah's Total Rewards program allows frequent gamblers to rack up points across Harrah's properties, from its namesake to the Paris, which are good for rewards and discounts. Depending on their membership tier, Total Rewards players also get to skip the line in some of the hotel's restaurants, including Flavors, The Buffet and The Cafe.
Even with a pool and adjoining rooms, this is a hotel for gamblers, not families.
With it's focus on gambling and its grungy pool area, Harrah's isn't a good choice for families. Rooms are priced for double occupancy, and even babies and young children are counted as a third person, costing mom and dad an extra $30 per night. Most hotel don't charge for extra guests under age 12 or even 16.
Once you've paid the extra $30 a night, cribs and rollaways are free. Rollaways can fit in Classic Rooms with one king bed. A family can request adjoining rooms when making a reservation, but they not guaranteed. Only Carnavale Court and The Cafe have children's menus, but there's a McDonald's next door.
Rooms are old and stained. The pool and hallways are even worse.
Guest rooms approach a level of cleanliness just above that of your average European hostel. I found a hair in the bathtub. The chalky, crunchy white stain on one of the chairs wasn't the sort of faint, innocuous stain that's left a bit of discoloration but has clearly been treated. This stain appeared not to have been dealt with in any way. The curtains let out a puff of dust when I moved them. The stained carpets felt dingy, and hallways were littered with crumbs.
The worst problem was the pool area, which one guest described as "raunchy." Lounge chairs and the pool deck were dirty and dusty. At the sundeck upstairs I spotted chaise lounges caked with dirt and rust. Messy drink spills go uncleaned. Dust and dirt seem ever present, as if the area hadn't been given a good rinse after a big, muddy rainstorm.
The hotel's nicest restaurant, The Range Steakhouse, has wall-to-wall windows with views of the Strip from the 2nd floor. Nearly all entrees are under $50 -- reasonable for steak in Vegas -- but the restaurant doesn't typically land on "top 10 steakhouse" lists or attract attention for its celebrity chef, like Craftsteak in the MGM Grand or CUT in the Palazzo do. Should guests want to try any restaurants on the Strip with a notable chef, be it sushi or steak, they simply have to walk out the door. All the hotels on the Strip are a walk, monorail trip or taxi ride away.
For a more down-home options within the hotel, Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill, is one of the most popular. The country singer's namesake restaurant serves southern comfort food delivered by comely waitresses in cowboy hats and chaps. I tried the "she's a hottie" chicken wrap ($11.99), which was tasty. Specialties include a fried bologna sandwich ($11.99) and theme drinks ($15) served in ginormous mason jars. Don't worry though, waitresses are ready and willing to pour anything you can't finish into a to-go cup. Viva Las Vegas... At night, Toby's is one of the most happening places in the hotel, with live music until 2 a.m. and a large dance floor.
Flavors, The Buffet isn't worth it. Breakfast is $14.99, and while the options are numerous, they're not appetizing. Money is better spent grabbing a light breakfast at one of the hotel's two Starbucks. The popular 24-hour restaurant, The Cafe, also serves breakfast, inclusing a $5.99 steak-and-eggs special from midnight to 6 a.m.
Celebrity chef Kerry Simon opened the hotel's newest restaurant, KGB (short for Kerry's Gourmet Burger), in July 2010. This joint is open from 11 A.M. to 11 P.M. on weekdays and from 11 A.M. to 2 A.M. on weekends and serves dishes like tater tots and strawberry shortcake push pops. Vodka hostesses attend guests at the restaurant's full-service bar, which serves specialty drinks made of vodka.
Other dining options include Pepper Rose, a casual deli; Penazzi Italian Ristorante; Oyster Bar at Penazzi; Carnaval Court Bar & Grill; and Ming's Table, a Chinese restaurant that's closed Wednesdays and Thursdays. Like most hotels in Vegas, room service is available 24 hours.
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