It seems only appropriate that the retro-cool wave that has been sweeping Las Vegas should finally sweep back around to this place, one of the most famous (and now oldest continually operating) hotels on the Las Vegas Strip: The Flamingo. By embracing its fun and funky past, the hotel is well on its way to reinventing itself for a new generation and, believe it or not, now has some of the most unique rooms in town.
When The Flamingo opened in 1946 it was not, as is often reported, the first hotel on the dusty piece of desert that would eventually become 'The Strip'. The first one was actually El Rancho, which burned down in 1960. But although it wasn't first, it certainly was the most heralded - a million-dollar oasis for the rich and powerful built by legendary mobster Benjamin (Bugsy) Siegel.
Poor Bugsy wouldn't recognize the place now. The last little bit of the original remaining structure was torn down in 1993 to make way for new construction. These days, The Flamingo is a huge, upscale tropical themed palace - not a mobster or moll in sight. Oh well.
The glittering pink and orange neon façade is one of the most famous in Vegas and the casino area is a faux-tropical wonderland. The gaming area wanders and meanders throughout the property so there are lots of different sections in which to spend your money. The front part of the casino, just off The Strip, is brightly lit and heavy on the pink with lots of gaming tables, lower limit slots, and the high-limit slot area. The back part of the casino near the front desk is darker both in lighting and colors and is mostly slots. If you're looking for a little tropical splendor with your gaming, there is a Margaritaville themed area of the casino, which is pretty much like any other casino except with Jimmy Buffet "parrothead" style decor (think foliage and thatched roofs). It's adjacent to the Margaritaville restaurant, appropriately enough.
The overall feeling of the casino is pretty good. This is also one of the few places where you can still find relatively low limits on blackjack tables, although they are becoming more rare here as well. To be honest, this isn't a place that I spend a lot of time gambling in but not for any good reason other than there are places that I like better. They do have a full spectrum of gaming options including slots of all denominations, all the usual table games, a race and sports book, and a poker room.
But it is once you get upstairs that the real magic of The Flamingo begins, with their GO rooms. Done with a big nod to the Bugsy Siegel era, the rooms feature decidedly retro décor with big white padded vinyl headboards, white built in desks and chairs that look like they time traveled from the 1940s, and full walls of white drapes (electronic no less) offset by vibrant pinks and deep browns in the wallpaper, carpeting, and accents. Flat panel televisions, CD players, and high-speed Internet keep it modern so the overall effect is very hip. The bathrooms have frosted glass walls, a television built into the mirror, and modern fixtures, lighting, and amenities.
The FAB rooms are their updated version of standard accommodations. The first thing you notice when you walk in are the hard wood floors. Okay, they aren't really hard wood - they are a laminate that looks like hard wood floors, but the effect is fairly dramatic, giving the room a sense of style and size that it probably wouldn't have otherwise. There are a few area rugs but the bulk of the floorspace is the "wood" so you may want to bring slippers or thick socks, especially on those chilly January mornings. Furnishings and accessories here are vaguely retro-mod (instead of blatantly in the GO rooms) with big vinyl padded headboards, a leather chaise (in the king room), and vintage photographs of The Flamingo and Las Vegas although there are plenty of modern conveniences like flat screen televisions, pillow-top mattresses, and Wi-Fi. Bathrooms are fairly standard (read: kinda small and boring) but there is coffee service in there so at least you have something to get you going in the morning. Although not as big or well-appointed as the GO rooms, the FAB rooms are a nice upgrade over the normal Vegas hotel "box."
Another truly remarkable part of the hotel is the pool that rivals The Mirage for the nicest in town. Dense tropical foliage frames the area and there are even live tropical animals including penguins and, you guessed it, flamingos. Get it?
There are several restaurants, a food court, a bunch of shows, and a health club. If you're really into committing to Vegas you can buy into a time-share.
It's difficult to pin down prices here - sometimes they are higher than they have any right to be, but when they are moderate this is really a hotel you should pay attention to. Note that there is a $30 per night resort fee for things like Internet and gym access and you also have to pay for parking here. It's $13 per day for the valet and while self-parking is free for now, it won't be for very long.
Although the overall package still places The Flamingo in the second tier of hotel choices for me, those GO and FAB rooms make a huge difference and move it up several notches in esteem.