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LAS VEGAS / SPECIAL ISSUE: UPTOWN STYLE, DOWNTOWN BUDGET
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Ultimate low roller's guide

Hotel deals you can dig, baby

December 03, 2006|Beverly Beyette;Catharine Hamm;Vani Rangachar;Chris Erskine;Rosemary McClure | The Times staff

Las Vegas — IF hotel rooms in Glitter Gulch seem outrageously expensive, we have only ourselves to blame.

We just can't get enough of Sin City. Last year, a record 38.6 million people visited here, and the city is on track to best that record this year. That's good news for Vegas.

For those who want to come here to play, that's really, really bad news because finding an affordable room is about as likely as hitting a royal flush at video poker.

Which isn't to say it can't be done, because we did it.

The "we" in this case is the staff of The Times' Travel section. On the first Friday in November, we loaded up a van and headed up Interstate 15 on a mission to find the best hotel deals. Along the way, we also found some no- and low-cost deals on entertainment and food. (See related stories Pages 4, 6, 7 and 8.)

Our quest for a good night's rest for less than $200 yielded some impressive results as well as at least one so-so one and one that was so bad we chose not to write about it. As is always the case with Vegas, some caveats apply to our selections.

First, you won't be staying in the Bellagio or the Wynn on that kind of budget (unless you're such a high roller that you're comped).

Second, you won't have a view of the Strip from the 58th floor. The places we stayed don't have a 58th floor.

Third, our choices aren't always the most convenient to the Strip. Those of us who stayed downtown, though, found a $5 day pass on the Deuce bus a good and economical solution.

To those caveats, we add one more: Depending on when you come here, your hotel room will either mirror the city's average daily rate of $119 or so far exceed it you'll wonder whether we were sniffing glue.

We weren't. The city ordinarily enjoys more than 90% occupancy rates, which can make rooms pricey, but when there's a big convention in town -- say, the Consumer Electronics Show Jan. 8-11 that is expected to attract 150,000 people -- you're going to feel the pinch. And it's going to hurt.

Our advice: Come to Vegas after the National Finals Rodeo, which ends next weekend, but before Christmas. Or come in July, which also tends to be quiet. Or come in midweek, when rates are lower. Or, best of all, follow our suggestions on the road to savings.

*

Artisan Hotel & Spa

1501 W. Sahara Ave.; (800) 554-4092, www.theartisanhotel.com.

Coming in out of the midday sun, I blinked repeatedly. It was dark in the Artisan Hotel lobby, very dark. Candles flickered on tables. From her easel near the entrance, the Mona Lisa smiled enigmatically. Or was she laughing?

The family-owned 64-room Artisan, which calls itself Las Vegas' first "small, luxurious, non-gaming boutique hotel," is bizarre. For starters, there's the wall-to-ceiling art. Even the ceilings display reproductions of the Masters.

Through a pair of iron gates was the dining room, even at lunchtime dimly illuminated by candles, the tables laid with black cloths. Each table had a brown-at-the-edges lily in a vase.

Each guest room is named for an artist whose works (reproductions) hang there. Mine, 522, was the Kazimir Malevich Suite (a Russian abstract artist). It was all black and brown.

The Artisan calls itself the Artisan Hotel & Spa, but when I asked directions to the spa the desk clerk told me, "It isn't built yet."

Bottom line: This isn't a family destination, unless you're the Addams family.

Price paid: $198.61, including tax

Parking: $6.50

Amenities: Restaurant, room service, free WiFi throughout, outdoor pool, free breakfast, air conditioning, all nonsmoking rooms.

Pros: Complimentary wine hour in lobby. The 24-hour lounge is a draw, with live music on Wednesdays and Saturdays and a $19.95 Sunday jazz champagne brunch.

Cons: Rooms overlooking the oh-so-close freeway where it meets busy West Sahara Avenue are so noisy even the drone of the air conditioner doesn't help. Neighborhood is gritty. Bathroom was poorly lighted and water flow inadequate. Hotel is a mile from the Strip, and not a pedestrian-friendly mile.

Beverly Beyette

**

Binion's Horseshoe Hotel and Casino

128 E. Fremont St; (800) 937-6537 or (702) 382-1600; www.binions.com.

I've never been a downtown kinda gal -- until now.

It wasn't really 366-room Binion's, where I stayed in Room 1219, that changed my mind as much as it was the intimate feeling of being downtown.

Binion's, which helped make tournament poker what it is today, has a long, rich history in Vegas.

My room reflected that past. Remember when people smoked and sometimes burned the furniture with their cigarettes? Check. Remember the mauves and turquoise and sea foam greens of an '80s dental office waiting room? Check. Remember when bathrooms were so tiny that the doors had stoppers about knee high to keep them from smashing into the toilet? OK, I don't actually remember that as a style, but it was part of this room.

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