It wasn’t our original intent to go from the newest property in Las Vegas to oldest it just happened to work out that way, so woo hoo bonus for us
First City Center, WOW. MGM/Mirage decided to take a different approach, instead of bringing a destination from some where in the world to Vegas, they chose to make there own mark into the Las Vegas skyline. The six new skyscrapers they have added are unbelievably cool curving pillars of glass and steel that stretch high into the sky. Though from what I’ve heard the Harmon only topped out at 28 stories down from the 49 it was originally schedule to have due to construction problems. It does end up looking like the runt of the litter, and the one they splash the Elvis show advertising on. Which is really to bad, I really like the blue tones they used to color the building’s windows.
You almost feel bad for the Monte Carlo as it’s ivory tower simply pails in comparison to all of the shiny reflective surfaces of the City Center. For the main resort Aria they have taken the Wynn type curved wave and made it an X with spectacular views from all around. The walk down the hall to our room just begs you to walk to the end so you can check out the view. They have managed to place Aria in such a way that you can view up and down the strip, but even from our room we could see Planet Hollywood on the Strip and the Rio which is a ways off.
Now this is going to sound odd, but the customer service was excellent, exceptionally professional, at times a bit odd, and yet very cold. I’m not a big spender when it comes to hotel rooms, the only other time I’ve stayed in anything I would equate to Aria was Wynn, and that’s because they seemed to have gotten us confused with high rollers and offered us a free room for a weekend. An error they quickly corrected when the next offer they sent was for $150 a night . But back to Aria, they were exceptionally kind by letting us check in early. We arrived at 5am Vegas time which was perfect, there wasn’t a soul in site which translated into no lines at the check-in counter. There was one single front desk attendant, he was very professional and kind. Though there was this hand gesture he did as he handed over everything, and I mean everything. It’s like he rolled it out of his hands and into mine, it was interesting the first time, but when it came to the Credit Card, ID and room map it got to be a bit much. Maybe it’s something fancy that I’m just not accustom to, regardless it was harmless and gave Matt and I something to chat about as we wandered through the surprisingly dark wood themed casino. The walls and decor ooze money, from the bakery with high shinny silver steel curved room separators painted to look like they were made of sugar. With colors that made you think that you could eat right through it. To the deep gold colored tree trunks that stretch into the ceiling whose branches radiates across the casino blending into the wood theme throughout.
After stepping off the elevator on the 22nd floor we started down the sleek curvy hallway and admired the decor, commenting on some of the one that looked like blurry colored digital dots. As we approached the end of the hall and near our room we had to walk to the end to peer out pass the glass to observe the incredible collection of lights that reflected perfectly off the shimmery reflective surfaces of the different buildings that they radiated from though out City Center. The view was awesome.
Then we walked to the room. Even the lock was a little different, instead of inserting the card you simply wave it in front of the “lock”. As we opened the door and took the first steps into this mini luxury abode, the room came to life and greeted us by flicking on the lights, turning the TV on and opening the black out and shear covering on the window. As the blinds curled back and Vegas peaked in we were in awe of the view. Even though the building next to us, (which we think is the Cosmopolitan) was incomplete the view was breath taking. Looking out to the right we could see Planet Hollywood and even sit and watch the huge LCD screen splashed across the front of their building if we wanted to. Or we could look to the left where the other branch of Aria reflected back the lights from the strip. The floor to ceiling windows went across the room with a bend to the right, I’d guess a good foot or two. The pictures can not do the view justice.
This isn’t your average Hotel room, though Aria would like you to believe this should be the new standard. When the TV turned on it went to a custom menu setup just for Aria, it has my name, the room number and notifies you if the dead bolt and privacy settings are turned on. You have a couple of options to control the room. You can use the TV interface with the sleek black remote that lights up when you move it. The touch control panel that doubles as your bedside clock, or via various panels through out the room. Though if you flip the wrong hard switch you won’t be able to control it via the room system.
The bathroom lights of course can be controlled bedside by the same system, or through the panels on the walls. The tub was a great big soaking tub that you enter though the pass thru shower. And I am assuming that because the building is the largest Leed Gold award building in the United States that the water pressure is set to the optimal which isn’t the strongest but still works well.
The deep rich colors of the casino are reflected in the rooms decor. A very nice built in work station, fresh with connection for most modern devices. In fact it had an odd iPod/iPhone connector that leads us into an interesting story. This being a new property, I figured it would have a way for me to connect my iPod into the system. However this connector was one I had never seen before. Of course I had to know so I called down to the front desk, which will repeatedly become an annoying theme throughout our stay at Aria. After about 10 to 15 mins on hold they were unable to answer the question, but no problem they would pass me on to engineering, simple enough as I sat on hold for another 10 to 15 mins until I was told they would send a tech up to help us out.
Enter the maintenance man. He was trying to explain to me that I should be able to connect my iPod, iPhone ect via USB to the system. ”Oh Really! Wow I’ve never heard of that” I proclaimed. Of course that didn’t work, there was no video or audio transferred to the screen. But there was still that odd connector. So since he admitted that he didn’t know but wanted to know, we were willing to go on the journey of learning together with him. He called down to his “tech support” and while I only heard his half of the call, I’ve been through plenty of tech calls to understand how the conversation was progressing. They covered the basic, including ‘reseting’ the room to the point that all the lights were turned out and the blinds were closed and we sat in the dark, waiting for guidance to come from the other end of the telephonic device that was our lifeline to understanding. The maintenance man then stepped into the entry where the room once again came to life as if it were the first time we walked into the room. None of this helped the situation of course, and they didn’t have an answer better than, we don’t support the iPod/iPhone connection, but they would do some research and if they came up with something they would leave me a message. Translation into regular folk english, “Hell if we know, sorry dude your shit out of luck.”
But we weren’t there to hook that up, so after the maintenance man politely left, we explored the rest of the system. Not only does Aria have picture perfect signals to every channel, in what feels like a private cable system they provide with widest selection of channels to watch that I’m aware of in Vegas (including a channel that pulls the arrival departure screens directly from the airport). Typically the resort wants to give you a few basic channels to encourage you to spend more time in the casino, but Aria had just about every channel we typically watch at home there and in HD.
The room was a technical marvel, however with the latest cutting edge come some new problems, in the middle of the night the phones started flashing like we had a message however there was no dial tone. Our original plan was to maybe check out the buffet but when we read reviews that it wasn’t the best we thought we’d use the resort credit we received for room service, but with the phones not working that wasn’t an option either. So we headed down to check out the cafe.
Cafe Vettro was the only thing open by the time we got around to actually eating our dinner. Though I wasn’t feeling well so we mostly enjoyed the view and took the food back up to our room. Everything at Cafe Vettro is organic so that’s a plus when you aren’t up to par. Again the staff was very polite, though I did stump them with a question about being able to by the wonderful robes that came in the room. Which turned into it’s own little adventure.
So of course the room has robes that were nice, thin and just really cozy to wear around the room. So I wanted to find out how much it would cost. Of course I didn’t figure I would actually get the price while we were eating at Cafe Vettro, but I figured they could at least steer us in the right direction. Of course their answer was to check the Aria gift shop across the lobby. Makes sense, but when we asked the sales associates there, they said they didnt’ carry the robes and that we would need to contact house keeping. “Oh!” I thought to myself, “maybe that means ONLY guests can by them right now.” So once we got back up to our room, and the phones started working again I called down to House Keeping to hear some incredible news. “You can just take them.” said the male voice on the other end of the line. “Really?” I queried. “Yeah, sure,” was his response. Well that sounded just TOO good to be true. So after a few hours of rest and getting ready to check out. I thought I better double check because if it sounds to good to be true, well it generally is. Again after several minutes on hold and going around in round in circle between them telling me I have to get them from the Gift Shop. Eventually, I think it was about 40 mins later, I was able to talk to the head of the Front Desk who said that if I really wanted the robe I could take them and they would charge me $100 per robe. Insert >Jaw Drop< here. Mind you if they just simply given me that answer I might have been okay, but after all the hassle they put us through I found it very insulting. In order to actually get to someone to get me this answer, I made about 5 to 10 phone calls, some via the house phone but after being on hold for 20 mins I called in on my cell phone while on hold on the house phone and got to a manager faster (about 15 mins and still on hold on the house line). And get this checking out was just about as much of a hassle. Though it ended up that the system did check us out however it gave us an error on the screen.
All in all we really did enjoy our time at Aria, we didn’t gamble and did enjoyed everything the room had to offer. Of course that’s those are the exact reasons why other Hotel/Resort Casino don’t offer those amenities. But that’s part of why we wanted a nice room for Christmas in Vegas. But now it was Saturday and Christmas was over, it was time for us to move our asses downtown to what we learned was the actual START of Vegas and the first hotel in town.
The Golden Gate hotel is now by far my favorite place to stay downtown. We might try Four Queens again (we noticed they have rooms that also view the Fremont Experience) and I’m sure we’ll try the Golden Nugget someday, but as of this moment Golden Gate is going to be the first place we check from now on when we’re headed north. Now let me also clarify a couple of things, the hotel is OLD, in fact it was where some of the first telephone lines were installed. Wanted to call the hotel? You’d simply pick up the phone and ask for 1 Fremont. So keep that in mind when you put together in your head the size of the room. It was a tiny little hotel with only 4 or 5 floors and two of which face the Fremont Experience. But I tell you what, the first thing I noticed when we got in the room, a bedside radio with an iPod connector. Oh sweet heaven finally a place to plug-in the iPod. Granted it wasn’t connected to the TV, however they did have a nice Flat Panel LCD TV in the room with basic hotel cable and if I had the Apple Composite AV cable (which of course I do now ) we would have been able to watch our own movies at both hotels.
The second best thing at the Golden Gate is their choice of WiFi provider. Wandering WiFi was an AWESOME service at $5 for 24 hours, and the best thing, it wasn’t tied to any one device. So I could update my blog on my MacBook, then switch the connection over to my iPod while I was chilling watching TV or the shows out our window. And speaking of shows, right out our window, WOW. Here is the KISS performance I filmed hanging out the window (okay leaning).
The staff at the Golden Gate is top notch, Julie was very warm and friendly as she checked us in. The dinner had great Prime Rib, and the Golden Gate is also the home of the 99 cent Shrimp Cocktail, though these days in order to get that you need to get a point on the Casino’s Club Card. Which didn’t take us any time at all. In fact we both popped in $20 into the video poker at the bar, had a couple of drinks and cashed out. I came out $10 a head and Matt came out $10 even so we came out even, whoo hoo!
So lessons learned this trip, if you’ve got the money, Aria is a beautiful place to stay but be ready to spend out the nose. Of course this is to be expected it’s a fresh property right on the strip, and they need to pay for the 8.5 billion dollar price tag that came with all of that luxury. But if you’re looking for a really good down to earth time, where you’re entertained by some great performers and some incredible light shows that isn’t going to take a big bite of the bank account, head down to Downtown Vegas. And if you want to put some icing on top, be sure to stay at the Golden Gate and get the Fremont View, it’s probably one of the only places in Vegas with windows that actually open too.
Oh yeah and the other lesson as I mentioned earlier, bringing the Apple AV Composite cable (that I now have) would have been great for reviewing photos and movies that we captured while on the trip as well as given us our own commercial free entertainment while we were chilling in the hotel room.
So all in all it was the best Vegas trip we had in a long while.