It's hard to believe but 2013 marked the 20th anniversary of the MGM Grand. A lot has changed in those nearly twenty years, but that's what a Vegas hotel has to do to stay competitive. Sit still too long and other, newer, more contemporary resorts will pass you by.
I bring this up because the MGM Grand has undergone a major overhaul that has resulted in what is, by my count, the third incarnation of the property.
When the hotel opened in 1993, it was designed as a family destination with a "Wizard of Oz" theme from its emerald green exterior to the animatronic Dorothy in the front rotunda to the big theme park out back. It was the biggest hotel in the world at the time, with more than 5,000 rooms, and had a 171,500 square-foot casino, the biggest in Las Vegas. The girth of the place was celebrated: bigger was definitely better. Heck, they even put "grand" right there in the name.
But a funny thing happened on the yellow brick road. The Vegas as a family destination experiment failed and all of that stuff that was designed to appeal to them was removed (Bye Dorothy! By log flume ride!). And along with it, the folks that run this place started trying to disguise just how big it is. Smaller and intimate became the buzz words in the late '90s and the MGM Grand has been playing the downsizing game ever since, dividing up the casino into smaller more manageable areas and even separating parts of the hotel tower into different boutique style accommodations.
As newer hotels came along that were grander in terms of luxury and amenities, the MGM Grand became something of an upper-mid-market property. The rooms, the facilities, and everything else were fine but not the nicest, fanciest, newest, or most expensive. It wasn't often people's first choice, but you could almost always get a room at a competitive price and so that was good enough.
This new version of the MGM Grand aims a few notches above "good enough" with a hip, modern design and a newfound attitude of cool. Unlike most things that try to be cool and usually fail, here it succeeds for the most part.
The bulk of the rooms have been remodeled, turning what were fairly pedestrian affairs into sexy, modern digs. Filled with sleek, contemporary furnishings, lots of high-tech wizardy, bold color schemes, and energetic patterns in the fabrics, they are significantly more "grand" in just about every way. Judicious use of mirrors makes them seem bigger than are and while they may not be as mammoth as some of the suite-like accommodations at places like The Venetian or Cosmopolitan they are more than big enough for most Vegas visitors. The list of amenities certainly is big: 40" flat screen HDTV; a media hub to connect all your devices; minibar; laptop sized safe; iron and board; electronic drapes; and more.
I found the new decor to be a bit on the busy side but that's just my personal taste. As stated above they are a vast improvement over the old rooms so I am willing to overlook carpeting patterns that have enough squiggly lines in them to make me seasick.
There is another section of the hotel with rooms thare not getting the remodeling love. Formerly known as the West Wing, this tower now houses rooms known as "Petite King" and although they may not be as luxe as the new digs, they are still fine for most people. The rooms themselves are tiny - only 375-square-feet - but they have done a lot with a little amount of floor space. Just inside the door is a wash basin surrounded by mirrors (with an embedded flat-panel television) and frosted green-glass doors to the water closet and shower (no tubs here). Past that is a super-comfy king bed under the single window, more mirrors, a closet, a writing desk, a chair, and more high-tech amenities like another flat-panel television, a DVD player, and touch sensitive light fixtures. If you're by yourself or on really good terms with whomever you're visiting with, these are a good option.
An interesting option are the Stay Well rooms, which add a bunch of health and wellness amenities at the standard rooms including healthier snacks in the mini-bar, a HEPA-standard air purification system, a special water purification system, a vitamin C infused shower, electromagnetic field protection, dawn simulator alarm clocks that wake you up gradually, and more. Whether you get one of these rooms because you are health conscious or because you are looking to mitigate your decided unhealthy Las Vegas choices is up to you, but it'll cost you about $30 more per night. They are obviously popular; what started as a couple of dozen rooms is now an entire floor.
There are, of course, a number of additional room configurations from small suites to residential style units in the Signature buildings out back to the epic Skylofts atop the main buiding, which are huge and come with their own personal butler. If you can afford one of these you probably aren't reading a review of the hotel anyway.
Other areas of the hotel are got a redo as well, with the casino floor and other public areas getting new fixtures, furnishings, paint, and wallpaper. New bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and attractions have been added and old ones went away. This includes the long-running Lion Habitat animal exhibit and the stalwart Studio 54 nightclub, both of which shut down in early 2012 to make way for the massive, multi-story Hakkasan nightclub.
Keep in mind that ultimately they can throw in as many décor tricks as they want, this is still a huge place. Allow extra time to get from your room to just about anywhere and bring comfortable walking shoes.
Take a deep breath, here come just some of the facilities: At last count there were at least 20 different restaurants, several bars and nightclubs; three performance venues including the 15,000 seat MGM Grand Garden; the tremendous Cirque du Soleil production called KÀ; Brad Garrett's Comedy Club; the shock and awe nightclub Beacher's Madhouse; a huge recreation deck with four pools, three Jacuzzis, and a lazy river ride; a wedding chapel; a spa and health club; two shopping arcades, the MGM Grand Underground and The District; and that tiny little casino with every slot and table game imaginable plus a sports book with luxury VIP skyboxes (one of which has its own poker table). There's also a station on the Las Vegas Monorail right out back, ready to whisk you to points northward on The Strip.
There's more but my fingers are starting to hurt from all this typing so just check out the related reviews below.
The service used to be somewhat impersonal here, but among the changes they are making is a focus on friendliness. I was actually surprised at how well they managed to treat their guests, especially considering how many of them they have to deal with.
Which brings up a point. This is a huge hotel with space for a LOT of people and those people will often be between you and where you want to go, whether that be the front desk to check in or out, the elevator bays to get to your room, the blackjack table, the restaurant, the club, and on and on. It's not unique to the MGM Grand, but expect lines; really long ones on busy periods.
Prices have come down across town and you'll find that at the MGM Grand for sure. You can find rates as low as $60 during the week and $100 on the weekends but figure on average figure around $100 weekdays and $200 weekends. Also, they do add in one of those nefarious resort fees ($39.68 per night) so keep that in mind when you book. As with all Vegas hotels, prices fluctuate madly so they may be significantly higher when you book.
And don't forget about the fees for parking that were instituted in 2016. It costs $10 per day for self parking and $18 per day for valet for hotel guests and non-guests alike. The only way to get out of it is if you have a players' club card at the Pearl or above level, which gets you free self-parking and the Gold or above level, which gets you free valet.
The improvements at the MGM Grand have made this a much better hotel in my opinion and if you can put up with the crowds and the sometimes overwhelming size of the place, it's a really terrific option for a Vegas visit. It may not be my number one choice but it has definitely moved up a few notches on the list.