Not all that glitters in Las Vegas sparkles along its Strip. There’s plenty of treasure off Las Vegas Boulevard in the form of upscale hotels with panache and pricing below what might be found under the neon.
A block west of the Strip, the 3 towers of the Palms Hotel & Casino dominate the sky. The 55-floor, 703-room Palms is the handiwork of George Maloof, part owner of the Sacramento Kings basketball team. If they hanker for a hoop, the Palms’ 40-story Fantasy Tower has a fantasy suite with a bedroom that doubles as a hardwood basketball court. In the Fantasy Tower, you’ll also find a bowling suite, a “G” suite, a Barbie suite (hope you like pink!) and a super-deluxe Playboy suite. Many of these fantasy suites include revolving lap dance sofas, showers with poles viewed from the living room bar and terrace Jacuzzis for thrill-soaked views. Also find rock concerts at The Pearl, a pool scene that attracts the Paparazzi and 4 nightclubs. Adjacent Palms Place offers a condo-hotel room with kitchen, living room and office area. For dining, there’s cool retro fare from Kerry Simon’s eponymous café called Simon.
Take Harmon Avenue east from the Las Vegas Strip and wind up at a hip junction that started many of the prevailing youth trends in town. Themed bowling suites? A Hard Rock first. Over-the-top and outside-the-bikini pool scenes? Blame it on the Hard Rock. The guest population at this 657-room, “boutique-sized, by Vegas standards” hotel keeps a youth demo of 20s and 30s, bolstered by a sizzling nightclub scene (Vanity), pool scene (REHAB) and intimate, legend-name rock concerts at The Joint (Dylan plays here, Styx and REO Speedwagon are on the roster as are Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, and Incubus). Enjoy the Gambler’s Special at Mr. Lucky’s 24/7 café: a full surf and turf dinner. Ask for it by name. It’s not on the menu.
Traveling south on Las Vegas Boulevard, leave the lights of the Strip, pass the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, and watch for the glass tower rising like a tinted blue cruise ship on the desert horizon. M Resort opened in 2009 about 7 miles from the Strip. The 390-room gleaming oval floats along in this rural spot with spacious, contemporary rooms offering desert views (often toward the distant neon), outdoor lounges, creative cocktail spots, a spa, one of the best buffets in town and an up–and-coming pool scene.
If you are willing to venture way off the path, Ravella at Lake Las Vegas is a destination of its own. This is Vegas done Scottsdale-style on a 300-acre, man-made lake surrounded by miles of golf greens and rolling desert foothills 17 miles southeast of the Strip. The 349-room hotel is now part of the Dolce Hotels chain and offers furnishings and marble accents loaded into a neo-Tuscan theme. The location does come with Vegas benefits. Casino MonteLago connects Ravella to its Moroccan-themed neighbor on the lake, Loews Lake Las Vegas. And in the tradition of Las Vegas’ great faux flair, this destination, too, comes with an “elsewhere” motif. The southern Mediterranean import includes MonteLago Village, which is designed as a meandering Italian fishing village with cobblestone walkways, wine bars, espresso bistros and plenty of clothing and notion boutiques. In the summer, a floating lakeside platform becomes a stage for live concerts under the stars.
This hotel 10 miles west of the Strip in Summerlin, opened in 1999 as a luxury resort anchored into the area’s championship golf greens. The rolling Mediterranean manor features 541-rooms and a 49,000-square-foot spa. Guest rooms remain comfortably luxurious with windows onto the desert, pools and gardens. Find a casino, a buffet and a promenade here, but the spa remains a central attraction mostly for its outdoor pool and watercourse of healing Jacuzzi jet cubbies.
Also about 10 miles west of the Strip is a shiny, red tower accented by the red rock hills behind it. Station Casinos opened the 815-room Red Rock Hotel in 2006 as their ode to hip hotels with a summer rock concert line-up staged at the pool and a Rande Gerber nightclub. The glassy, clean-edged guest rooms run in desert hues. The spa presents unusual experiences, such as a boxing ring for couples and guided excursions into the desert as part of its “Adventure Spa” menu. Dining includes a worthy buffet, a quality steakhouse and options to load up on burgers and tacos.
Most off-Strip properties provide shuttles to the Strip at prescribed times. Better to consider staying where you are, chilling in the relative quiet and indulging in something completely different: a peaceful Las Vegas vacation.
Lark Ellen Gould is journalist who focuses on culture trends and curiosities in Las Vegas. She has written more than 5 books about the city.