Tuesday, May 15, 2012
It May Top Off The Strip, But The Stratosphere Is A Dud In My Book!
Click here to reserve a room at the Stratosphere Casino & Resort
The Good: Good burgers at their obnoxious diner, Decent entertainment options (for those into them)
The Bad: Dull slots, Loud, Expensive shopping/food, Rides
The Basics: Musty and dank, the Stratosphere may try to trade on being family friendly, but it wasn't friendly: it was loud, boring and gaudy.
As I have begun reviewing my various casino experiences from my latest trip to Las Vegas, I've discovered a new and interesting writing challenge for myself: panning casinos. It is so easy to gush and write all of the good things about the better casinos, but when I hit one that is a surprise disappointment, I've discovered that I am at a strange loss for words and writing up a review of such a casino is like chewing through a roll of quarters (it takes forever and it is not at all fun).
That is the distinct feeling I have as I sit tonight typing my thoughts about my experience at the Stratosphere Casino in Las Vegas. This is one of those casinos virtually everyone tells you you must go to when in Las Vegas and I'm sure if you're a kid sick of being dragged to casinos you can't do anything in, the Stratosphere might be nice. After all, there's some form of amusement rides at the top of the giant spire of the Stratosphere that kids can ride in (I didn't even go that far), but for adults looking to gamble or be entertained, the Stratosphere is a loud, annoying, unimpressive casino not worth the hype granted to it.
The Stratosphere: came in with $5.00, left with $0.00 (after fifteen minutes of slots).
The Stratosphere is located at 2000 Las Vegas Boulevard South. This casino defines one end of The Strip, the monument to gaudy entertainment and gambling for which Las Vegas is pretty much known. Internet direction sites like MapQuest have no trouble finding the Stratosphere, but when in Las Vegas, this is one of the landmarks that is almost impossible to miss. From almost every vantage point, the Stratosphere Casino is the highest building in Vegas, so all one needs to do to find it at any given moment is look around and up.
Parking at the Stratosphere is available at an adjacent parking garage and it was easily one of the least clean places I was while in Las Vegas. That said, it did seem to be relatively secure and it was free.
The Stratosphere Casino is not one of the largest casinos in Las Vegas, at least as far as gaming goes. It is bigger in the entertainment sector and in that regard it is, admittedly, one of the casinos that offers visitors the most options. I made my sojourn to the Stratosphere on a Friday night in the summer and the place, despite being fairly large, was packed.
However, the Stratosphere Casino is fairly poorly ventilated and as someone who is generally sensitive to cigarette smoke, this was one of the casinos I enjoyed least for actual atmosphere. With all of the people in the casino, it was hot, smelly, and I was glad to leave the gaming floor as quickly as possible. This, fortunately, did not take long (see gaming below).
As far as the "atmosphere" of the Stratosphere, I honestly cannot recall what the servers were wearing anywhere, save the '50's style diner I had dinner in. In Roxy's Diner, the women were in poodle skirts and the guys were decked out like greasers. Actually, this is very much germane to the discussion of atmosphere: if anyone from Roxy's Diner happens to be reading this, please do your patrons a favor and shut the hell up! I get that casinos are not necessarily the best place in the "civilized" world to try to have a conversation, but when dining, it's nice to be able to hear whomever you are dining with. As it was, I was having a perfectly nice dinner, talking with a companion about racism, sexism and prostitution in the fine state of Nevada and almost constantly our conversation was interrupted by the annoying singing waitstaff. It's a cute gimmick, save that those of us stuck next to a speaker get both deafened and constantly interrupted.
It's probably cute to the children. For those unfamiliar with my reviews, I pretty much loathe children (though I am told I was one once). I have a particular distaste for Las Vegas being made over into a "family destination" and the Stratosphere seems to be a part of that whole phenomenon. As a result, in addition to them popping up while gambling, I encountered children at the restaurant and I can only hope at some point some enterprising parent sues their parents for child abuse for taking them to places like casinos that are ridiculously high in second hand smoke. Such a lawsuit would either keep kids out of casinos or push Nevada to go nonsmoking in public places and either way I'd be happier in Vegas.
Gaming Options/Player's Club
The Stratosphere does not seem to be all that big on the slot machines for a casino. They were appropriately proud of their new slot machine based on eBay (reviewed here!), but while my mother was playing it there was a technical difficulty that led to her and two other people being locked out of their rightful bonuses (it's a community game in some phases and the machines broke down for which my mother and the others locked out were given no recompense).
But for my money, I found the slot machines at the Stratosphere largely boring. The Stratosphere advertises 1200 slot machines and I found two to play. They had Mermaid's Gold (one of my favorites) and the only instance of the Alien Vs. Predator slot machine I could find in Las Vegas! Yes, that's a machine based on the b-movie (reviewed here!) from a few years back and it makes a slightly better slot machine than it did a film. I turned my $5.00 into ten playing Mermaid's Gold, but lost it all on Alien Vs. Predator, hoping to see a bonus game. Fortunately, as soon as I was done, another player came on and hit it after a single spin, so I got to see it.
For those who might be into games of chance and card games over the delightful, the Stratosphere has some fifty tables including blackjack, roulette wheels, craps and (I kid not) crapless craps tables. There is also a pretty standard sports betting area as well as a poker room, but I became hungry and didn't explore those very much.
There is a player's club at the Stratosphere, called the Ultimate Rewards program. It is anything but ultimate and after betting (and losing most of) a hundred dollars, my mother was able to cash her points in for a t-shirt. Given that she had to wait an hour and a half for her dispute to be resolved - and it was resolved in a fairly unsatisfactory manner - one might have thought the casino could give her a t-shirt, especially considering she wanted a t-shirt from the casino she was rapidly coming to hate. For my $10s in bets, my points did not add up to much and I was happy to leave to get into an oxygen environment as soon as possible. In addition to earning points to get the free t-shirt, we were given a coupon book (called the Funbook) for signing up. At least this player's club point system was pretty transparent. Betting accrued points at a rate of $1 to a single point. Of course on slot machines where one is betting only a quarter each time, this means one has to make 400 bets to get a t-shirt, but the Stratosphere pretty much expects people in Las Vegas to either be stupid or crazy.
The Stratosphere Casino in all about the entertainment options, many nauseatingly family friendly. There are roller coaster type rides at the peak of the needle at the top of the Stratosphere. There is a show involving celebrity impersonators (American Superstars), as well as a vampire revue (Bite) and an all-male strip show (American Storm). As well, there is dancing at a disco. Only the disco has a discount in the book and with shows like Bite running $45.99, I looked at the signs and spent my evening elsewhere. The American Superstar show was $51.50 and American Storm was $50, which I suppose means the glass ceiling is alive and well in the stripper industry.
Because of the mall-like nature of the Stratosphere, there are a fair number of places to eat on premise. The '50's diner, Roxy's Diner, had prices one would expect for dining out in a big city and were it not for the loud atmosphere, it might have helped redeem the Stratosphere in my mind. As it was, it was loud, annoying and the staff seemed to care about little other than singing to the patrons. To be fair, the bacon cheeseburger I had was good and the onion rings were actually the best I had on this trip.
In addition to Roxy's Diner, there is a gourmet option, the Top Of The World (fancy dress up food). As well, there is a Chinese restaurant, cafe, buffet and Italian restaurant option all on premise. Somewhere in the Stratosphere, there is a Ben and Jerry's as well, according to the coupon book.
The Stratosphere has - essentially - a mall inside with shops that are pretty much what one would expect: jewelry, souvenir, clothing stores. The mall type experience is less developed than the malls at the Rio and MGM Grand, but it is clear that shopping is one of the things people go to the Stratosphere for. Sadly, they did not have a Barnes and Noble there, but I suppose most people do not go to Las Vegas to get a lot of reading done. The Funbook offered minor discounts at a few stores (like the crystal emporium), but nothing significant enough to get one to rush right out to the Stratosphere on a shopping endeavor.
I had heard wonderful things about the Stratosphere, but all of them (save good onion rings and burgers) turned out to be overblown. The atmosphere was smoggy (the mall did have an oxygen bar, but I resented that on principle), the slot machines were all of the dullest ones (save one!), and the staff was not accommodating when their machines failed. I did my time at the Stratosphere and I was happy when I moved on from it.
That's right, because after I was done having a miserable time at the Stratosphere, I went to the Sahara next door . . . You need not make my mistake; you can skip this one.
For other casino reviews, please check out my takes on:
MGM Grand Casino - Las Vegas, NV
Las Vegas Hilton Casino
Fallsview Casino - Ontario
For other casino reviews, please be sure to check out my Travel Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the destinations I have reviewed!
© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
Click here to reserve a room at the Stratosphere Casino & Resort