- No pool, spa, or entertainment options
- Few dining options
- Some rooms overlook the freeway
A vintage value hotel on a quiet block, just a short distance from Fremont Street Experience
With its Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and timber-framed driveway lit by heavy faux-candle bronze chandeliers, it is immediately apparent that El Cortez is a throwback. (Indeed, the 1941-constructed property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.) Once inside, the hotel's style remains ensconced in the past -- a past that includes years of ownership by Bugsy Siegel, the notorious Las Vegas mobster. The hotel is the longest continuously operated hotel/casino in town, and that fact comes as no surprise based on the interiors. The dim lobby of the main building has a dark, diamond-patterned marble floor and a recessed bronze-panel ceiling; to the right lies the relatively small gaming floor and to the left is the casino bar and front desk. In the center, a grand(ish) red-carpeted staircase wraps above a piano. Depending on your outlook, El Cortez is hopelessly behind the times, or a charming slice of the Las Vegas of yesteryear.
One block from the pedestrian-only, casino-saturated heart of "Old Vegas" on Fremont Street
On Fremont Street, in Las Vegas' older downtown section, El Cortez Hotel and Casino is just east of the densely arranged, small-scale hotel-casinos. Guests are minutes by foot from the Golden Nugget, Binion's, and the Fremont. With the exception of the Nugget, which has spent years undergoing renovations, El Cortez's neighbors generally look like the weather-beaten 20th-century relics they are. In the hotel's most immediate environs lie high-rise condos, Las Vegas' burlesque museum, a supermarket, a pool hall and live-music venue, and a modern American restaurant and bar.
Known as "Glitter Gulch" or "Old Vegas" -- where the city first started to develop its hotel-casinos back in 1906 -- downtown Vegas consists of about 15 smaller-scale hotels and casinos on the westernmost four blocks (about a half-mile) of Fremont Street Experience, an area closed to vehicular traffic and lined with mobile stands selling T-shirts, caricatures, jewelry, and other touristy gewgaws.
Though typically cheaper, the hotel-casinos here -- save the famed Golden Nugget -- are a bit less wild and exciting than the dazzling stretch of newer giants along the Strip (about two-and-a-half miles south of downtown). The area is quieter, the average visitor tends to be closer to retiree-age than clubber-age, and the main draws tend to be low-minimum tables, nickel slots, and cheap eats.
But there is a kitschy charm to these brightly lit streets. You can spot the neon cowboy, Vegas Vic, waving howdy from over a gift shop. And anyone visiting Vegas shouldn't miss downtown's nightly music, light, and video show cast over the evening skyline, the Fremont Street Experience.
Basic standard rooms, bright cabana rooms, one-of-a-kind suites
Standard Pavilion rooms (265 square feet) and Tower rooms (340 square feet) are a bit older and smaller than the typical hotel room in Vegas; each has either two queen-size beds or one king. They're definitely basic, and even borderline boring (thin carpeting, beige curtains), but even these standard rooms have flat-screen TVs, plus a few charming vintage details, like antique lamps, gold-framed botanical prints, and carved-wood headboards, bedside tables, and dressers. Tower rooms have semi-separate seating areas with loveseats and bathrooms with pale peach fixtures.
Junior and Superior Cabana Suites start at 400 and 550 square feet, respectively, and have vivid Kelly green walls (plus a patterned black-and-white accent wall behind the bed) and retro-style furniture and decor, as well as flat-screen TVs, snack bars, mini-fridges, and Keurig coffeemakers. Cabana bathrooms feature white marble walls, black-and-white tile floors, and glass shower stalls with rainfall showerheads.
There are also four Designer Suites, each conceived by a different artist. These rooms feature cool design elements like wall-to-wall desert photography (Big Sleep suite), shag area rugs and high-back tufted chairs (El Contempo Suite), and wood-cutout wall panels and starburst chandeliers (Rec Room suite).
A casino, two restaurants, and two bars
Like most downtown hotels, El Cortez is less dazzling on the features front than its Strip counterparts. Its main restaurant, Siegel's 1941, has a retro brasserie vibe, with a bronze pressed-tin ceiling, red-leather circle booths, and large-scale black-and-white archival photography. Pizza Lotto is a casual by-the-slice pizza joint with counter service and flat-screen TVs. Like Siegel's 1941, Parlour Bar recalls a bygone Las Vegas time with its heavy decor, which consists mostly of burgundy carpeting and drapery and dark tufted leather seating. Ike's Lounge, near the Keno area of the casino, is a sports bar featuring 13 flat-screen TVs (all between 55 and 65 inches) and a food from Siegel's.
The casino itself contains slot machines (which are purportedly some of the loosest around) in denominations from one penny to five dollars, as well as Keno and table games like Blackjack and Baccarat.
El Cortez's fitness center is small, but it features ellipticals, treadmills, and cycling machines. A computer center and conference facilities are available for travelers on business, and a gift shop sells everything from apparel and jewelry to soda and liquor.
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