Usually when I harp on you to get off The Strip and check out some of the so-called locals' casinos it's because I'm encouraging you to save money. Most of the neighborhood joints offer accommodations, dining, entertainment, gambling and other diversions for significantly lower investments than what you'll find in the main tourist areas, and often offer experiences that are just as satisfying.
Red Rock Resort, on the other hand, is not what you'd call a bargain. Just about everything here is pricey, bordering on expensive. But visitors to the hotel can expect a level of service, amenities, and atmosphere that goes beyond merely "satisfying" into territory that can best be described as excellence.
Located about 11 miles west of The Strip, straddling the border between the vastness of suburban Las Vegas and the even greater vastness of the Red Rock National Conservancy Area, Red Rock Resort is part of the Station Casinos chain of properties that include other winners like Green Valley Ranch, Sunset Station, Boulder Station, and the Fiesta hotels to name a few. This is their most ambitious project to date, a nearly $1 billion resort in an area far removed from where most tourists will ever tread.
Getting there is time consuming. It's located on Charleston Blvd. along the 215 Beltway, a pseudo-freeway that loops around the entire city. You can take city streets or the 93/95 to the Summerlin Parkway but no matter how you go, figure 30 minutes and longer during rush hour.
But once you arrive it's easy to forget about all that traffic silliness. The building itself is integrated lovingly with the surrounding scenery, using natural sandstones and other material from the area to create a beautiful desert retreat. A series of water features in front of the building aren't quite as dramatic as the Bellagio Fountains, but add a nice flair. The entire thing has a vaguely retro '60s feel with long sleek lines and dramatic curves evoking the Vegas and Palm Springs resorts of the era.
Inside the all-natural feel continues with every surface turned from a simple counter or wall into a work of art. Done in bold reds, deep chocolate browns, and other earthy tones the interior spaces are at once exotic and comfortable, combining materials like ebony, walnut, mahogany, teak, and other fine woods with sandstone, onyx, marble, etched glass, gold leaf, and chrome and stainless steel accents. Take some time appreciate how they didn't make just a support column - they turned it into a wood and glass masterpiece, with flowing lines blending organically.
Then there's the crystal. More than three million pieces of fine Swarovski were used in the chandeliers that fill the public spaces - gigantic, breath-taking modern interpretations of the kinds of things that Vegas hotels used to include at every turn.
I'm spending a lot of time describing the surroundings simply because they spent a lot of time creating them and it shows. This is not another bland Vegas hotel/casino, nor is it an over-the-top, themed kitsch-fest. This is what a true luxury resort looks and feels like.
The lobby spills out into a dramatic rotunda with a 32-foot chandelier hovering over the lounge/bar area. From there you can get direct access to your room without ever having to into the casino, a welcome relief from the norm of having to schlep your luggage past the hordes of people at the blackjack tables.
The 800 or so rooms are just as beautiful as the rest of the place, with your choice of views of Red Rock canyon to the west or The Strip far off to the east. Each is done in more of that dramatic dark wood, marble, fabrics, and even leather on the walls. There are fine linens, a 42-inch plasma TV in the bedroom and a 15-inch LCD TV in the bathroom, Bose stereos with iPod connectivity, VoIP phones, high-speed Internet service (wired and wireless), a mini-bar, plush robes and slippers, a safe, an iron and board, and more. The furnishings are super comfy although the platform beds are a bit of a stubbed-toe nightmare for klutzes like me.
The casino is "only" 80,000 square-feet, smaller in terms of floor space than many Strip casinos, but it feels more expansive and certainly isn't lacking in gaming options. There are more than 3,000 slot machines, 60 table games (including all the basics like blackjack, craps, roulette, and more), a high-limit lounge, a poker room, a bingo hall with an enclosed area for the smokers, keno, and a race and sports book with a 96-foot video wall and individual monitors at each seat. There is a lot of vertical and horizontal spacing in the room, eliminating the claustrophobia found at many casinos but still providing intimate areas for gambling away your life savings.
The entire resort was built around a circular 3-acre pool and beach area with luxury cabanas, several pools, a bar and café, gaming tables, and a stage where big name acts perform regularly. An adjacent 25,000-square-foot spa offers full workout facilities, massage and other treatments both standard and exotic, indoor, outdoor, and couples treatment rooms, sauna and Jacuzzi facilities, and a boxing ring because... well, just because.
There are about a dozen restaurants including a steakhouse, Italian, Mexican, buffet, café, an oyster bar, and a food court with a Fatburger AND a Capriotti's sandwich shop, which makes it the Best. Food Court. Ever.
And just in case all of that isn't enough there's also a 16-screen movie theater with private VIP boxes, a 72-lane luxury bowling alley, several boutiques, and, for the recreation minded, hotel sponsored rock-climbing and white water rafting excursions.
A new, exterior facing restaurant row is under construction at the front of the hotel along Charleston Boulevard and other outside changes are being made to help integrate the property into the new Shops at Summerlin outdoor mall that is expected to open by the end of 2014.
Service from beginning to end was superb, as you would expect in a hotel of this caliber.
As mentioned, this is not a bargain motel. Room rates start at $129 per night but that's during the week and very rare. The more normal going rate is between $150 and $200 weekdays and between $200 and $300 and weekends. There's also a nefarious "resort fee" of $36.15 per night tacked on top of the room rate but it does offer some niceties like a shuttle to and from the airport or Strip, full access to the workout facilities, and more.
Those are not shockingly high rates for Vegas anymore but they are a bit gasp-inducing for a hotel that isn't right on The Strip. However, if you are looking for a true luxury spa resort style getaway you will absolutely not be able to do better for the money in this city. Forget Wynn Las Vegas, Bellagio, and the Venetian, all of which charge similar prices - there's no way a place with several thousand rooms can compete with a smaller hotel like this when it comes to personalized service and attention to detail.
Even if you don't plan on staying there, you really should make the effort to get out and visit. The casino is fantastic (yes, because I won money there - shut up), the restaurants are more than worthy of your attention, and the nightlife is a blast.
If the room rates were a little cheaper and it was a little closer to the heart of the action I'd call this hotel perfect. Close to perfect is nothing to be ashamed of.