In a city that seems to delight in tearing down (or blowing up) its history, the fact that the Golden Gate is still standing is shocking. The fact that it's actually a decent, affordable, and interesting place to stay - even more so now that an expansion and remodeling project is complete - is nothing less than a miracle.
The hotel and casino opened in 1906. No, that's not a typo. About a year after the land auction that essentially created the city of Las Vegas, it got its first place to stay and gamble in the form of The Hotel Nevada. With electricity and the city's first phone it was quite the revolution but it still aimed to provide nice accommodations for a reasonable rate - $1 per day got you a room. Of course, they didn't have air conditioning but what do you want for $1 per day?
Over the years the hotel changed names, closed the casino when gambling was outlawed in 1909, reopened it when it was legalized in 1931, added rooms, and practically invented the shrimp cocktail - or at least perfected the 99-cent version of it.
Today the Golden Gate acts as a bit of a time capsule. Sprinkled throughout the building are old slot machines, photographs of the city in its infancy, hotel and gaming registries from the early 1900s, antique furnishings, and more. It's charming and completely unique in this era of bland, streamlined luxury.
So great; it's historic and quaint. But how does it stack up as an actual place to stay in Las Vegas during the era of bland, streamlined luxury?
The hotel is small in just about every measure. The casino is postage-stamp sized, just over 10,000 square feet although a 2017 expansion is expected to add room for a few more slots and tables. By way of comparison, most Strip casinos are at least ten times that size. There are a handful of gaming tables (blackjack, craps, roulette, three-card poker, etc.) and about 300 slot machines and video poker, most of which have lower limits than what you're used to on The Strip. So the good news here is you can play for less but the bad news is there is less to play. Luckily you are only steps away from a dozen more casinos on or near Fremont Street in case you get bored.
Instead of a dozen restaurants there are currently none. The famed Du-par eatery, which is where they served coffee house fare and that famous shrimp cocktail (which had gone up to $3.99 - yes, time marches on) closed suddenly in February, 2017. No word yet on what will replace it or if the shrimp cocktail will come back when a new restaurant takes its place.
Most Strip hotels have thousands of rooms but here at the Golden Gate there are just over 100 of them and most are generously described as "cozy." No two are exactly alike but all are small with one queen or two double beds, a leather club chair, and in some a small writing desk. But these are not 1906 accommodations by any means. All of them come with flat screen televisions, pillow top mattresses, wireless Internet access, iPod radios, coffee makers, and a retro-stylish wood, leather, and wrought iron decor scheme that gives them personality despite their size.
Bathrooms are also very small - no Venetian style airplane hangars here - but they have some really cool retro tile work and nice amenities. Some of the niceties you may have gotten used to are missing in these rooms but things like irons and hair dryers are available upon request.
The 2012 expansion project added a small but important new bit of square-footage to the property that includes a much needed upgrade to the parking area and porte cochere, a formal lobby complete with comfy seating and historical artifacts, a high-limit room (three tables, TVs, and some club chairs), 14 new suites, and two penthouses. A 2017 expansion is making the casino bigger.
The suites are a lot bigger than the standard rooms but not much bigger than your standard Las Vegas hotel room. Note that they are not "suites" in the traditional definition with a separate sitting and sleeping room, but there is a big L-shaped sectional sofa (that converts to a queen-sized bed), a suitably plush bed, a massive 50" flat screen television, MP3 player clock radios, and all of the other amenities that the standard rooms have. Done in masculine dark browns and earthy oranges, they feel like a warm den of a space.
One odd touch is the configuration of the bathroom. The vanity area is open to the rest of the room but can be closed off with a curtain. Two frosted glass doors hide the commode and the shower. It's a strange layout but functional and really, isn't that all that matters?
The penthouses are grand affairs - multi-room suites with more flatscreens than you'll know what to do with, a kitchenette, an outdoor patio with a BBQ and fireplace, etc. - that you can't actually rent because they reserve them for their high rollers.
A couple of bars both inside and out facing the Fremont Street Experience, and that's pretty much the sum of it for the Golden Gate. There is no pool or fitness center; no showroom or roller coaster; no all-you-can-eat buffet or celebrity chef restaurant.
But the other sum that is probably going to be important to you is the one you pay when you check out. Weekday rates for the standard rooms are usually in the $30 a night range while weekends may creep up to $75 or so. Those are the kinds of prices that you would normally pay for a bland, 70's era chain motel that counts a vending machine as its sole dining option and requires you to take a cab to get to the nearest slot machine.
The newer suites will crack $100 but not by a lot.
So the answer to question posed above is this: the Golden Gate does not even come close to comparing to the level of amenities, facilities, and luxury that most modern Las Vegas resorts offer. But it's not trying to. Instead what this hotel aims to do is provide nice accommodations at reasonable rates - almost exactly what they were doing back in 1906.
Only, now you get air conditioning.
Recommended for: People on a budget; history buffs.
Not recommended for: People who need their space.