The Stratosphere: Overrated!

My trusty sidekick, Tony, got married in Las Vegas in mid April. The wedding was beautiful, the town was welcoming and — as they say — “a good time was had by all.”

Of course, as with all things Las Vegas, location is everything. I opted to pick the discount travel package on the theory that I’d only be in my hotel to sleep and shower. As such, I went with the cheapest deal I could find — five nights at the Stratosphere plus round-trip airfare from Grand Rapids, for a mere $740. And boy, did I ever get what I paid for. I suppose I should have known better, given the amount of time I’ve spent in Sin City, but ….

The Strat itself isn’t a bad place. The gaming floor is nice, the staff were pleasant (the maids even left thank-you notes for my tips) and check-in/check-out was a breeze. If you want to stay relatively close to the Strip, and don’t demand first-class accommodations, then this may well be the choice for you.

A few caveats, however —

  • There is a significant no-man’s land between the Stratosphere and the rest of the Strip. Right now, this is slightly ameliorated by the close proximity of the Sahara, with its access to the Monorail, but when Sahara closes in a few weeks … you will either need a car, or fare for taxis or the Deuce. Walking is an option only if you don’t mind passing empty trash-strewn lots or hordes of homeless people as you trek to the relative safety of the Strip south of Trump and Wynn/Encore.
  • Shopping at Stratosphere leaves much to be desired. There is ample shopping on the second level, but it’s mostly no-name storefronts and places like Auntie Annie’s pretzel kiosks. There is a McDonald’s and a pizza joint but no really nice sit-down restaurant in the commercial space.
  • The room was roughly equivalent to a mid-market Holiday Inn. No real art or color, no amenities like a coffee maker, weak hot water, no free Wi-Fi, and the iron was cabled to the ironing board. Classy — just like the plastic water cups next to the complimentary ice bucket. Maid service was solid and not disruptive, but on two occasions I grabbed an ostensibly clean bath towel that smelled like a mix of stale smoke and sweetly rotting flesh.
  • Valet service was surprisingly slow during busy times. When there was no line, I had my car within two minutes; when the place was hopping, I could wait for as long as 15 minutes. I used valet everywhere on the Strip — Venetian, TI, Mirage, Mandalay Bay — and didn’t experience this diversity of service quality anywhere else.
  • The hotel walls were a bit thin — I could hear people in the hallway, and I was placed next to an employees-only room and they had a penchant for talking loudly at 8 a.m. Not cool.
  • I think I heard more Russian and German than English among the other guests. Kudos to the Stratosphere’s marketing team for cornering the Eastern European tourist market.

Bottom line: The Stratosphere isn’t a run-down property by any means but its location and lack of a clear draw make it a destination only for people on a tight budget who plan to spend their time elsewhere and prefer to rent a car.

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