Let's be honest: when this place was known simply as Santa Fe, it was a dump. There, I said it. But awhile back local giants Station Casinos bought the place and redid it from top to bottom, expanded it, and made it a beautiful, lively, inexpensive alternative to stay and play.
The casino and the public areas got the facelift several years ago but it's aging gracefully. It has a more upscale feeling than Santa Fe of old, mimicking on many levels
The casino is a large, rambling affair with plenty of gaming options in a nice room that is similar in look and feel to sister property Green Valley Ranch. Stonework, plants, iron fixtures, and lots of indirect lighting have added an intimate air to a space that used to be a riot of southwest kitsch. Historically, neighborhood casinos like this one tend to pay out better than those on The Strip and you may use your Station Casinos Boarding Pass, the players club that will reward you with comps and cash at all of the hotels in the corporate family. Adjacent is the sports book with plenty of seating and individual station monitors if the giant wall-mounted screens aren't doing it for you.
They also have bingo, keno, and a poker room offering a variety of "Hold 'em" style games at much lower limits than what you'll find on The Strip. This may be a good place to come if you feel too intimidated by the money or the people at the bigger rooms.
If you need something else to do other than gamble, they have you covered there as well. They have a showroom/nightclub with frequent live entertainment, a video game arcade, a Kids' Quest day care center, a 16-screen movie theater, restaurants, and a state-of-the-art 60-lane bowling alley.
Around the edges of the casino are the entertainment and dining options including The Charcoal Room, an upscale steakhouse; a 24-hour café offering some amazing looking pastries; a food court with a Fatburger and a branch of locals favorite Capriotti's, which pretty much takes care of your food needs right there.
You don't have to schlep through the casino to get to the rooms from the front desk - always a good thing. There are 214 rooms on five floors, all of which feature simple but comfortable furnishings and just about all of the amenities most travelers need. The bathrooms are postage stamp size so it's not really the place for luxuriating in the tub but at prices this low you can roll around in all the cash you're saving and get a similar effect.
They're pretty hotel basic in terms of layout and space, offering a couple of beds, a table and chairs, irons and boards, hair dryers, and wireless high speed Internet.
Friendly service is a hallmark of the Station Casinos chain and it's no different here at Santa Fe. Everyone we encountered had a smile and a hello, which may sound simple but considering the brusque manner we've encountered at other places in town it can make all the difference in how much you enjoy your trip.
Rates here are usually substantially lower than what you'll pay elsewhere. We've seen promotions as low as $20 during the week although $35-50 is more common. Weekends start as low as $50 and go up from there - sometimes way up depending on what is happening in town. That can represent a huge savings over the $300 a night rooms on The Strip even with the $19.20 (including tax) nightly resort fee they add on top.
Of course Santa Fe Station isn't on The Strip, which is its primary stumbling block for the ordinary Vegas visitor. It's located about 10 miles north of The Strip in a primarily residential and commercial area. That's a 15 minute drive via the freeway if there is no traffic and double that if there is so of course if you are serious about wanting to stay here a rental car is a must.
But even if you're not staying at Santa Fe Station a visit to check out all of the other things the hotel has to offer may be worthwhile. Get away from The Strip and it's high prices and sensory overload to grab a great meal, and do some laid back gambling. True it's not a volcano or a white tiger enclave but add it all up: clean, comfortable rooms at a fraction of the cost of Strip competitors; high quality, low-price restaurants; lots of entertainment diversions; a giant casino with all of the latest slots, video poker, and table games, all with lower limits; and incredibly friendly service. If all of those things sound more important to you than a volcano perhaps you should take a look at Santa Fe.