Out with the old and in with the new: The Sahara Las Vegas closes two towers as City Center forges ahead

by Kelsey Blodget on December 17, 2009

View of City Center from the Las Vegas Strip

View of City Center from the Las Vegas Strip

Old Las Vegas – the Las Vegas of ridiculously cheap hotel rooms and steak-and-egg buffets – is disappearing. The Sahara, a fading icon of the Strip that once hosted performances by members of the Rat Pack and was featured in the original Oceans 11, just announced that it is shutting down two of its towers due to lack of demand. When we visited Las Vegas last spring, their rooms were going for $29 (although now they’re a whopping $66) — you know business is bad when you’re all but giving rooms away. Binion’s Gambling Hall downtown is faring even worse, and closed all of its rooms indefinitely.

Meanwhile, the long-anticipated, fantastically expensive City Center – which we recently previewed — is forging ahead, adding thousands of new rooms to the Las Vegas hotel market. The hotels of New Las Vegas are elaborate (economy be damned), and it might be that the days of underpriced hotel rooms — when hotels kept prices low to keep casino traffic high — are ending. These days, folks seem increasingly to prefer relatively cheap rooms with over-the-top luxury to more modest but dirt-cheap accommodations.

But double-digit rooms rates still exist. For a taste of Old Las Vegas, at Old Las Vegas prices, check out these alternatives to The Sahara and Binion’s:  

Luxor Hotel & Casino
Location: The Strip, Las Vegas
Price: $85/night

A colossal, ancient Egypt-themed, pyramid-shaped hotel-casino with decent service, a great Strip location, and features on par with several midpriced neighbors on the Las Vegas Strip — and very low room rates. An excellent budget option, especially if you opt for one of the newer tower rooms over the dated pyramid rooms.

Flamingo Las Vegas
Price: $89/night
Location: The Strip, Las Vegas

The Flamingo celebrated its glory years in the 1970s. Today it’s a fun, retro-flavored value option smack on the middle of the Strip. Rooms are understated and comfortable; and the spa, fitness center, and Lagoon Pool are impressive amenities for a hotel that often charges less than $100 a night.

Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino
Price: $70/night
Location: Downtown/Fremont Street, Las Vegas

For the price, the Golden Nugget is a steal, provided you don’t mind staying in Vegas’ older downtown neighborhood instead of the newer, livelier Strip. In exchange for giving up the prime location, guests can enjoy clean, well-appointed rooms, excellent service — and a top-notch pool complete with a shark tank. New York Magazine rated Golden Nugget the best cheap hotel in Vegas.

California Hotel and Casino
Price: $55/night
Location: Downtown/Fremont Street, Las Vegas

The pool and casino at California Hotel and Casino may be small, but rooms are clean and comfortable, full meals cost as little as $9, and the room rates are astonishingly low. (You won’t find many clean rooms anywhere for around $40/night). The hotel is quiet and away from the action, making it popular with an older crowd.

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