Number of Rooms:
2535 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
$129 and up double
$25 per night plus tax
Lively attitude, great restaurants.
Cluttered casino, small rooms.
Not much within walking distance - for now.
Moderate, which is about right for this property.
The small rooms make it feel a little less like you are getting bang for your buck.
Funky, fun, fresh, and tiny compared to most Vegas rooms.
Smallish and visually chaotic but satisfying.
Rooms are very well stocked.
Multiple restaurants, nightclubs, a pool, spa, gym, shopping, and more.
Friendly and efficient.
The new meets classic vibe is entertaining.
Not quite a home run but close to it.
SLS Las Vegas
By the time it closed in 2011 the venerable Sahara hotel had become a shadow of itself; once one of the most glamorous resorts on The Strip faded to a dusty, worn relic that was really only good if you couldn't afford to stay anywhere else. Now reinvented as the swank SLS Las Vegas, the property is virtually unrecognizable once you step inside, with a level of luxury, service, and amenities that the Sahara never could've dreamed of. But the limitations of revamping an existing building (as opposed to tearing it down and starting over) are evident almost everywhere you look, which makes this transformation a success but not an unqualified one.
More than $400 million was spent on redoing the hotel, with a big chunk of the ground floor demolished and rebuilt and the rest completely overhauled. Because it is so radically different, it is hard to play the "this used to be here" game but for reference purposes, the main casino is roughly where it used to be, the check-in desk is more or less in the same place, the old showroom is now a nightclub, and the glamorous Bazaar Meat restaurant by Jose Andres takes up most of the space that used to be the NASCAR Café and the Cyber Speedway. In fact, one of the private dining rooms at that restaurant was the mechanical room for the roller coaster that used to whirl around the outside of the hotel.
Out front, the main porte corchere is in the same spot but the domed entrance is gone, replaced by open air and a giant statue of a vaguely human, one-eyed figure raising its hands in the air in apparently glee. This is SAAM, a sculpture by designer Phillipe Starke who did most of the visuals in the hotel and is meant to be an artistic representation of the owner Sam Nazarian.
The main entry has mirrors and lighted panels on the floor, giving it an almost dizzying effect at night, and kicking off what is a boldly visual experience. Sometimes the bold works and sometimes it doesn't.
There is no theme, per se. Much like the Cosmopolitan, it relies more on artistic whimsy than anything else, with interesting design touches throughout. The ceilings and walls have various shapes on them here and there - a pair of lips, for example - that gives the public spaces a bit of energy. Notice the heavy use of monkeys in various bits of the decor, which are meant to evoke the mischievous and playful nature the hotel wants to capture. You'll also note a few nods to the hotel's history with designs in the carpeting of old Sahara playing cards or postcards and photos on the walls of 60s era stars like Roger Moore.
But sometimes it goes too far. Let's take the casino for example. It is smaller than most Strip casinos at about 60,000 square-feet. By way of comparison, that's about half the size of the Venetian or Bellagio casinos. That would be fine if they hadn't packed as many things into it as they had, with more than 800 slots and dozens of table games giving the room a hectic, almost chaotic, feeling. Poor spacing between the mostly tall, glaring and blaring machines means it feels like a big jumble instead of a cohesive whole.
There is a nice, albeit small, high-limit room and a sports book inside one of the restaurants for added gaming entertainment.
Restaurants and clubs ring the casino and most of them are transplants from the parent company's portfolio, including the aforementioned Bazaar Meat by José Andrés and other names that are recognizeable if you spend any time in Los Angeles (Katsuya, Cleo, etc.). Of note here is Las Vegas' first branch of the crazy popular Umami Burger chain.
Nightlife is a big deal with no fewer than three clubs including the main high-energy hot spot Life, a live music venue with a dive bar aesthetic The Sayers Club, and Foxtail, an indoor/outdoor club that adjoins the main pool. That has been completely transformed with a South Beach feeling (think lots of white), several swank cabanas, and one visually arresting feature: they covered the adjacent parking garage with white panels on to which they broadcast intricate, 3-D visuals at night that not only enlivens the space but keeps random tourists parking their minivans from watching you party.
Shopping was provided by Hollywood retailer Fred Segal for the first year of the hotel's operation but now the boutiques are home grown offering both men's and women's clothing, jewelry, accessories, and more.
There is a spa and fitness center in case you need some pampering or a workout.
Back in the Sahara days there were four room towers but they tore one down and completely rehabbed the others, leaving 1,600 totally redesigned rooms. This is the area where the bulk of the aforementioned limitations are found, mostly as it is related to size. The rooms are small and feel like it, ranging from only 325 to about 425 square feet. This is about half the size of a standard room at Venetian, by way of comparison, and smaller than your typical hotel room. They cram a lot of stuff into the rooms, which only increases the claustrophobia level.
The smallest of the rooms can be found in the Story tower. Designed to evoke efficiency European apartments, the bed sits in the middle of the room facing a couch under the window, both of which have light-up frames on them. A wall of sliding, mirrored doors reveals the various parts of the bathroom - a toilet, a shower, and a sink that doubles as a wet bar (completely with cocktail mixing tools and Cliel bath products). The furnishings and the design here is spare and minimalist, with exposed concrete and a muted color palette (except for glaring yellow tile in the bathroom area). They have a typical set of amenities from safes and irons to in-room Wi-Fi to massive 55" flat screen TVs and more. In addition to being the smallest, they are also the cheapest and they hotel thinks they will mostly appeal to a younger, party set - hence the mirror on the ceiling above the bed, perhaps.
The World Tower is next up the food chain and features a few extra square foot of space but about the same list of amenities. The bed is underneath the window with a couch at the foot of it and they have thrown in a desk to fill that extra room - they hope this will appeal to a business traveler. Dधcor here is similarly minimalist but with a different color palettte - dusty rose and hints of pink. The bathrooms are more traditional and a bit bigger, also.
Finally there's the Lux Tower, with the "biggest" rooms (425 square feet) and the boldest decor. There are tapestries on all the walls designed to evoke a French boudoir. It's an interesting design concept but it comes off as a little busy for my taste. There is no desk so those wanting a place to park their laptop should go with the World Tower.
The staff I interacted with was friendly. They are trying to lure locals here so they are going for more a personal Downtown vibe than a strictly business Strip one. I think that's a good choice.
Prices are all over the map. You can find the smaller Story and World rooms for as low as $109 during the week and $199 on weekends although prices well north of $200 and $300 respectively are not uncommon. The larger Lux rooms add anywhere from $50 to $100 per night on top of those rates and don't forget about the mandatory $25 per night resort fee.
It is worth noting that there isn't much worth visiting within easy walking distance at this time. Stratosphere, Circus-Circus, and The Riviera are the closest but those are still a bit of hike, especially when it's 110 degrees outside. Luckily the monorail has a station right out back and there is a lot of new stuff planned for the neighborhood including at least two new megaresorts and a big festival ground.
Despite being built from the bones of the Sahara, that hotel is long gone. That's both a good thing when it comes to the visual and tactile improvements and a not so good one when it comes to things like cost. Overall, I like what they have done to place although I'm not sure it will be a top tier pick until more development happens on the North Strip.