Stop 3 on TX-to-CA Road Trip
This hotel was quite a change from the night before in Arizona. In order to enjoy a little contrast from our stay in peaceful Winslow, Don and I chose to spend the night in lively old Downtown Vegas. We were pretty excited to find El Cortez with its retro neon sign! You can tell it's an original, since I don't think they have neon announcing coffee shops anymore!
El Cortez is the oldest, continuously running casino in Vegas! It opened in 1941 with 59 rooms. Besides a bit of a façade update in 1954, the Spanish Colonial Revival building has remained pretty much the same. You just don't expect a casino hotel to have shutters and flower filled window boxes!
The hotel was owned by Bugsy Siegel and some other organized crime figures back in the day. You can't look at the place today without picturing the Rat Pack or maybe even Elvis. Even though El Cortez has grown a bit by adding newer buildings, it still attracts a local and milder crowd, not wanting to mess with big, crowded casinos. In 1963 Las Vegas legend, Jackie Gaughan bought the place. If our trip had started one month earlier we might have bumped into him. Evidently until his death this past March, Mr. Gaughan (age 93) was living in an El Cortez penthouse and enjoying the casino daily.
This is how a casino looks if you've been drinking a while, or your eyes are irritated by smoke. Actually I just took the photo too fast. I wasn't sure about casino rules and didn't want to make anyone mad. I took the photo from halfway up the stairs to the second floor where the "Vintage Rooms" were. This is the original building, so there were no elevators to the older rooms.
We reserved a vintage room for the true experience. They were located right above the original casino. There's been a little updating, but not much...which is fine. It was just a quick walk up one flight to room 2273. I'm sure the original door didn't have a non-smoking sign, a peep hole or braille writing!
A Suite for $20!
We were upgraded for no charge, to a vintage suite. There really wasn't too much vintage about it. In fact I would have preferred 1940's furniture over the 1980's look. But I was not about to be picky. This suite was TWENTY DOLLARS! I had seen a few reviews that mentioned casino noise or even smoke seeping into the vintage rooms. But there must have been a quieter, less smoky crowd down below. No complaints from us.
Don is posing to show the spacious entry. We really did have a lot of room to spread out.
We kept the drapes closed, however. No view with this room. Just roof and more building.
The bathroom was less spacious, but clean and functional. I haven't had a tub with a sliding glass door in a long time. You don't often get hotel robes with 20-dollar rooms, so that was a plus! But there was no time for robe lounging. We had places to go and things to see.
No. Las Vegas doesn't make a lot of money off Don and me. We took the 5 -dollar gambling cards that we got as hotel guests and embarrassed ourselves with our gambling ignorance. I had to flag down a black suited attendant about 3 times to ask silly questions about using the 25-cent slot machine! After a few minutes we were ready to step out to the neon lights on of Downtown Vegas!
Well, the signs weren't quite lit yet, but they were colorful anyway!
It's been 34 years since I traveled through Las Vegas. The downtown area on Freemont that I vaguely remember, was hard to recognize. The signs were still fun! They have some new neon thrown in with the old favorites.
The Freemont Street Experience
We wandered down Freemont Street from the hotel and enjoyed a little of the "afternoon life". The Golden Nugget was a familiar sight.
The Mermaids Casino...
...was not a familiar sight. I had a hard time figuring it all out, since the street is now covered with a mall-like canopy. It all seemed confusing to my brain.
We wandered and enjoyed the colorful scene till about 5:30. Then the walkways began to fill with some odd characters, men in thongs and tutus here, a topless woman with a cape, there. We decided to move on and enjoy "nightlife" elsewhere.
Nothing better than returning in a taxi after enjoying rum cocktails at Frankie's Tiki Room and seeing all the Cortez neon! El Cortez is not under a canopy, so it felt more like authentic Las Vegas standing beside the street. We had a late dinner that was quite decent at the Cortez Café and a quite decent night's sleep before moving on in the morning.
What was most notable?
Price and Convenience! The room with all the meal & gambling coupons was $19.00 plus tax. That boggles my mind because it really was a comfy stay, even if we didn't make much use of all the nearby gambling and nightlife options. The retro-ness is what I'll fondly remember. I love, love, love the look of the charming building with the turquoise neon signs. And I do appreciate a casino that still has penny coin slot machines!!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!