Thursday, April 5, 2012

Escape from Douchery, Part 16: The Cabana Suites at El Cortez

As often as I sing the praises of Downtown Las Vegas, I had never stayed in a hotel on Fremont Street before my last Sin City excursion. I might slag off on the legendary D-Bag element that populates most of the popular spots on The Strip, but the main drag of Las Vegas Boulevard is where most of the action is. Plus, since the economy tanked, you can get really nice rooms at multi-bazillion dollar mega resorts super low rates... compare that to most Downtown lodging options and it's hard to turn down a $150 a night room at The Wynn (when you can find a miraculous deals every once in awhile) compared to a $90 room at one of the outdated Hotels on The Fremont Street Experience that are haunted by the permanent stench of stale cigarettes, sour booze, the perfume (and tears) of cheap hookers, and general desperation. You might not think desperation has a smell, but walk through The Las Vegas Club at 3 in the morning and you'll see what I mean.

But I finally bit the bullet on my last trip when I stayed a night at The El Cortez Hotel's semi-new Cabana Suites. Yes, I hedged my bets by booking a room at Aria on my second night (because they had a great deal that weekend and I was anxious to see what their almost completely automated future rooms were like) just in case staying Downtown turned out to be a tiny-huge mistake. The only mistake, it turned out, was not staying at the super cool suites for the entire weekend.

The El Cortez (double "thes" in the name for those who failed Spanish in high school) bought out The Ogden House Motel, a truly revolting old cheapskate fleabag relic, and smartly tapped into the growing hipster sensibility of the neighborhood by transforming the place into a uniquely designed 64 room non-gaming, smoke-free boutique hotel with style to burn. Suddenly, a hotel that had been open since the 40's and was once the property of Bugsy Segal was connected to one of the hippest spots to lay your head in Las Vegas.

The hotel's first smart move was to team up with The Las Vegas Design Center where they created a competition in which four winners were chosen and given free reign to "design a suite." These rooms are some of the most unique in Vegas, infused with the creative energy of young and hungry designers eager to share their vision with the world for the first time. These distinct suites range in their influences from retro 1950's hepcat cool to clean modernism, but they are united in the fact that they were designed with singular visions in mind. Very cool stuff.

Unfortunately, all of the Design-a-Suite rooms were booked solid on the Friday night in question (because I always have been and always will terrible at planning ahead for anything ever), but I was able to book one of their Junior Suites on the hotel's semi-frustrating website  (and while booking the room was a pain in the ass, the super cheap nightly rate more than made up for it). Once I checked in, I discovered that even the lobby was cool, with  a an art-deco design that was weaved throughout the entire property (including the hallways, with their funky carpeting and funkier wall art), that lent the place a coherent vibe.

 My Junior suite was not massive (as the term "Junior Suite" might indeed imply), but it was more than big enough for myself and my small band of merry travelers. The design was funky-fresh, with a that art-deco look subtly weaved throughout the room. We scored a flat screen television (which one of my suite-mates immediately turned on to flip through premium channels in search of any flashes of nudity), an iPod doc to curate our own pretentious playlist while we pre-gamed before hitting the bars on Fremont Street, and couches on which to chill out after tiring from one of our legendary in-room dance parties (to which you can only hope to one day be invited). Even the bathrooms were tastefully cool, with colorful walls and unique, raised sinks. I'm sorry, but a cool sink will always impress me. It's the little things in life, you know?

I stayed at The Cabana Suites before they opened their brand new pool area, which is set to start operating before summer. I'm sure that they've done just as nice a job on the renovated pool area as they have with the rest of the Boutique (after all, they did call it The Cabana Suites) and I'm secretly hoping it becomes the Vegas version of The Ace Hotel in Palm Springs' totally bitchin' Swim Club

While the small boutique hotel doesn't have its own bar or gaming floor (which is actually nice when you get back to your room late at night and you don't have to stumble through the haunting site of desperate souls losing their money at 4 in the morning), you can walk across the street to the El Cortez's main tower and enjoy a drink at the old-timey Parlour Bar, a reasonably priced yet delicious meal at The Flame Steakhouse, and some low-stakes gambling in one of the longest operating Casinos in town. And The Cabana Suites are conveniently located in walking distance to all of the great stuff Fremont Street has to offer, as the place is an extremely short walk from quirky Downtown hotspots like Insert Coins, The Griffin, The Downtown Cocktail Room, The Drink and Drag, and The Beat Coffeehouse.

While a hotel in Vegas is really just a place to do a few shots before spending a wild adventure on the streets of the city until the wee hours only to stumble back into for a few short and fitfully drunken hours of shut-eye, I will definitely be staying at the hip boutique in the near future. With its location in the heart of Downtown and super cool retro-modern design, The Cabana Suites at The El Cortez is the closest thing Vegas has to a truly hipster-approved hotel (at least until they get their act together and open an Ace in Downtown).


  1. The ElCo actually already owned the Ogden House. It was their overflow hotel. The Ogden House never advertised & could always be counted on for a cheap room, even at the busiest of times.

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