With about 150,000 hotel rooms you can take your pick. Occupancy rates however are over 91% on weekends and average 84% for the whole week, compared to a national average of 62%. Most of the major hotels and casinos are in two areas: Downtown and on Las Vegas Boulevard, known as the Strip.
Las Vegas Lodging Choices: Downtown versus Strip – this is the question
The Downtown hotels and casinos are often characterized as older and smaller than those on the Strip. While this is true in a general sense, there are both large and elegant hotels Downtown. What really differentiates Downtown is the incredible concentration of casinos and hotels in a relatively small area. Along Fremont Street, Downtown’s main thoroughfare, the casinos present a continuous, dazzling galaxy of neon and twinkling lights for more than four city blocks.
Contrast in the size, style, elegance, and presentation of the Downtown casinos provides a varied mix, combining extravagant luxury and cosmopolitan sophistication with an Old West–boomtown decadence. Though not directly comparable, Downtown Las Vegas has the feel of New Orleans’s Bourbon Street: alluring, exotic, wicked, sultry, foreign, and, above all, diverse. It is a place where cowboy, businessperson, showgirl, and retiree mix easily. And, like Bourbon Street, it is all accessible on foot.
If Downtown is the French Quarter of Las Vegas, then the Strip is Plantation Row. Here, huge resort hotels–casinos sprawl like estates along a 4-mile section of Las Vegas Boulevard South. Each hotel is a vacation destination unto itself, with casino, hotel, restaurants, pools, spas, landscaped grounds, and even golf courses. While the Downtown casinos are fused into a vibrant, integrated whole, the huge hotels on the Strip demand individual recognition.
Although the Strip is literally a specific length of Las Vegas Boulevard South, the large surrounding area is usually included when discussing hotels, casinos, restaurants, and attractions. East and parallel to the Strip is Paradise Road, where the Las Vegas Convention Center and several hotels are located. Also included in the Strip area are hotels and casinos on streets intersecting Las Vegas Boulevard, as well as properties to the immediate west of the Strip (on the far side of Interstate 15).
Variables that figure in your Las Vegas lodging choices
The variables that figure most prominently in choosing a hotel are price, location, your itinerary, and your quality requirements. There is a wide selection of lodging with myriad combinations of price and value. Given this, your main criteria for selecting a hotel should be its location and your itinerary.
Though there are some excellent hotels on the Boulder Highway and elsewhere around town, the choice for most vacation travelers is whether to stay Downtown or on (or near) the Strip. Downtown offers a good choice of hotels, restaurants, and gambling, but only a limited choice of entertainment and fewer amenities such as swimming pools and spas. There are no golf courses and only four tennis courts Downtown. If you have a car, the Strip is an 8- to 15-minute commute from Downtown via I-15. If you do not have a car, public transportation from Downtown to the Strip is as efficient as Las Vegas traffic allows and quite affordable.
If you stay on the Strip, you are more likely to need a car or require some sort of transportation. There are more hotels to choose from on the Strip, but they are spread over a much wider area and are often (but not always) pricier than Downtown. On the Strip, one has a sense of space, as many of the hotels are constructed on a grand scale. The selection of entertainment is both varied and extensive, and the Strip’s recreational facilities rival those of the world’s leading resorts.
Downtown is a multicultural, multilingual melting pot with an adventurous, raw, robust feel. Everything in this part of town seems intense and concentrated, an endless blur of action, movement, and light. Diversity and history combine in lending vitality and excitement to this older part of Las Vegas, an essence more tangible and real than the monumental, plastic themes and fantasies of many large Strip establishments.
Though Downtown caters to every class of clientele, it is less formal and, with exceptions, more of a working man’s gambling town. Here, the truck driver and welder gamble alongside the secretary and the rancher. The Strip, likewise, runs the gamut but tends to attract more high rollers, middle-class suburbanites, and business travelers going to conventions.
In his book The Unofficial Guide to Las Vegas, Bob Sehlinger describes, ranks and rates over 100 hotels and Las Vegas’s 70 best shows. He offers detailed reviews over more than 70 restaurants and lists the best buffets in town. Almost 50 pages provide of gambling tips, including how to play, recognize sucker games, and cut the house advantage to the bone.