Regular suites in Caesars Palace don’t look like this. But you will find that accommodations – and service – are bumped up a notch at the boutique Nobu Hotel within the huge Caesars Palace resort. Photo: Caesars Entertainment
If I could stay anyplace in Las Vegas and money was no object, it would be an easy decision: there is little doubt that the Mansion is the finest luxury property in a city full of luxury properties. And if you can stay at the Mansion, then money is indeed no object.
Yet few visitors to Las Vegas have heard of the Mansion, or know it exists. Even many local residents are largely oblivious, and for years it has been wrapped in such mystique that many considered it an urban legend. But it is real, a standalone boutique property very well hidden within the larger MGM Grand – by most accounts the largest hotel in the nation. It is just one of many “hotels within hotels” hiding behind bigger, better known names up and down The Strip. And in almost every case, these lesser known satellites eclipse the mother ship in terms of luxury – and sometimes value.
If you look at the big name casino resorts as campuses, it can be surprising how many discrete hotel options each contains. The MGM Grand has four; Wynn Las Vegas four; Mandalay Bay three; Caesars Palace three; and the Mirage, Aria, Venetian and Monte Carlo each have two. Some of these are big enough to not be Vegas “secrets,” such as the Four Seasons and thousand-room Delano (at Mandalay Bay), the 5-star Tower Suites at both Wynn and attached Wynn Encore, Palazzo at Venetian and the 5-star Sky Suites, a separate tower at Aria. But the smaller properties like the Mansion remain mysteries, and very few visitors know about the Villas at the Mirage, though they should. Likewise, when I wrote about Hotel 32 in the Monte Carlo two years ago, I called it “The Best Kept Hotel Secret in Las Vegas.” It still is.
The biggest advantage across the board to these hidden hotel-within-hotel gems is that they almost all have some kind of special check-in, with a dedicated entrance and lobby, standalone check-in area, or check-in through the VIP high roller welcome suite. On the other hand, large Vegas Strip hotels, even the glitzy famed 4-stars like Bellagio and Caesars, often suffer from painfully long and slow check-in and check-out processes. The same goes for bellmen, room service, and taxi lines, especially at peak times.
Between arriving, departing and grabbing a cab to the airport, it’s entirely possible for the average visitor – at a nicer hotel – to spend up to two hours in line. Add more if they want to try to talk to the concierge in a three to five thousand room property. That is annoying, and a big chunk out of a weekend. The good news is that staying in any of these hidden gem hotels alleviates that, and they almost always have much nicer rooms that come with a slew of extras, from butlers to preferential restaurant and nightclub access to private club lounges, concierges and transportation. All of the MGM Resorts hotel-within-hotel properties below include roundtrip airport limo transfers in room rates (SkyLofts, Sky Suites, Mansion, Hotel 32, Mirage Villas). With the extras, better rooms can be cheaper than their less opulent neighbors – within the same building.
These are the top Vegas secret hotel gems, hiding in plain sight within the properties you are probably considering anyway:
The Mansion (MGM Grand): It has a separate entrance and private driveway, but you can’t see it from the street, hidden behind a gate so secure you can’t even arrive by taxi. That’s because you never need to – all room rates include unlimited chauffeured in-town transportation and airport transfers in the hotel’s fleet of Rolls Royce Phantoms. Designed as an 18th century Florentine mansion, it’s split into 29 hugely oversized “villas,” each unique and each with a full-time butler – no sharing required. Even the smallest one-bedroom villa has private dining room, bathroom with jetted tub and walk-in steam shower, original museum quality art, and no expense spared finishes like mohair blankets and alpaca drapes – over automated blackout curtains. Each villa is different but they have an assortment of lavish features such as full-sized private swimming pools and hot tubs, professional-style kitchens, wet bars, wood burning fireplaces, private gyms, grand pianos, “Spa rooms” featuring barber chairs and salon sinks, automated Japanese toilets, home theater media rooms, and so on. The “public area” within the not at all public Mansion features another pool, gardens and 125-foot glass atrium. The Mansions’ private restaurant has no menus, since full time chefs simply cook whatever guests want. Likewise, there are no room service menus, as butlers can arrange brought in food from a hundred-plus eateries, many of them celebrity chef run fine dining, across all nine of the city’s MGM-owned resorts. Want to eat legendary Chef Masa Takamaya’s sushi from BarMasa in Aria without leaving your hot tub? Send your butler. Late night pizza jones? Send your butler. Basically, staying at the Mansion offers all the bells, whistles, gaming, nightlife, dining and facilities of the nation’s largest hotel, but on the other hand, you never have to set it in it. The internal connection to the main MGM Grand is staffed 24/7 by security guards and hidden near the casino’s high-limit gaming area (where gambling Mansion guests still enjoy their butler service). Low season rates for the smallest rooms start north of $5,000 nightly.
Hotel 32 (Monte Carlo): Arguably the best value in all of Las Vegas, this “Boutique Hotel Atop Monte Carlo Resort,” sits at the other end of the price spectrum from the Mansion, with room rates for studios starting under $150 a night. When you throw in all the extras like VIP check-in, a personal suite assistant, rooms that are physically much nicer and bigger than the regular Monte Carlo, and Lounge 32, it is hard to beat. In fact, even the fanciest hotels in Vegas don’t have club floor lounges like this, serving free breakfast, snacks, hors d’oeuvres and evening cocktails for Hotel 32 guests only, on the same floor. Just fast access to morning coffee is a huge edge in a city where it can be easier to get a martini than a mochaccino at eight in the morning, and when you do find the lobby coffee stand, the line often stretches across the casino floor. After a 2008 fire ruined the Monte Carlo’s top floor high-roller penthouses, MGM Resorts converted the 32nd floor into a self-contained boutique hotel with 50 studios and suites. The suites are sumptuous and very well appointed, and despite starting at under $250 a night, all suite guests get round trip airport limo transfers and amenities like pillow menus, free pressing and shoe shines, high-end Swiss Jura espresso machines, jetted tubs and separate walk-in chromatherapy rain showers. Read much more detail about Hotel 32 in my earlier review.
The Villas at The Mirage: One of the most famous hotels in Vegas, the Mirage has 3,044 guest rooms, of which just 14 villas and lanais comprise a much less famous hotel, The Villas at The Mirage. In fact, it might well be the most secretive on this list, as it was only opened to the public within the past two years, previously reserved exclusively for invitation-only high rolling gamblers. Set in an enclosed outdoor area of lush gardens, the villas all boast extensive indoor and outdoor spaces, and each has its own dedicated 24-hour butler dispensing special treatments such as nightly fresh flowers at turndown. Guest sleep on pima Egyptian cotton and silk blend sheets custom-made for the hotel, atop custom made European pillow top mattresses, then bathe in an oversized steam shower or oversized “Champagne bubble bath.” Villas have Crestron wireless remote systems controlling lighting, TVs, music system and drapes, there are iMac computers and iPads for guest use. All have private patios or backyards with pools, many adding hot tubs, fire pits, bars, dining tables and outdoor flat-panel televisions. The largest runs about ten grand nightly and sprawls over nearly 7,000 square feet, divided equally between indoor and outdoor living space, with dual master bedrooms, each with offices and his and hers bathrooms, plus parlor, sitting room, media room, dining room and 4.5 bathrooms. But even the smallest one bedroom lanai, starting at $1,500 nightly, is pretty deluxe, spanning 2,650 square feet with private pool, wet bar, large living and dining rooms and much more. Like the other MGM hotels-within-hotels, all guests in The Villas receive complimentary airport limo transfers, arriving via a private gated entrance.
Nobu Hotel (Caesars Palace): A peaceful Zen oasis in the eye of the storm, the Nobu Hotel uses its elevator bank as a private lobby, with secure elevators and check-in desk/concierge, all in the beating heart of one of the most energetic casinos, between the Cleopatra’s Barge nightclub, Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill and Gordon Ramsay’s Pub. It is literally steps from the casino, the Forum Shops, the main theater, the poker room, sports book, and so on. Yet it is a fantastic escape with sleek rooms and stellar bathrooms patterned on a Japanese bathhouse. This was the first hotel by famed chef Nobu Matsuhisa and business partner Robert DeNiro, and because it also has a Nobu restaurant downstairs, it is the only place you can have Nobu breakfast, via 24-hour room service. There are lots of nice touches like the separate bell staff and gourmet mini-bars stocked with Nobu sake and Japanese craft beers, but the best thing is access to all the features of Caesar’s with less hassle, better rooms and better service, at prices reasonable enough to be considered a good value. Read much more detail about Nobu Hotel in my earlier review.
Laurel Collection (Caesars Palace): The most creative take on the hotel-within-hotel concept, the Laurel Collection is sort off a virtual hotel that still manages to earn 4 Forbes Stars. It couples a private valet entrance, check-in and concierge with selected better rooms within the large Augustus and Octavius towers. These guest rooms are larger and better appointed, but it lacks the self-contained feel of the other boutique properties. Still, you get a much smoother travel experience, nicer accommodations, and while others are traipsing across the casino in bathrobes, the private lobby has direct access to Caesars’ fantastic signature Qua Baths & Spa as well as its extensive Garden of the Gods pool complex.
Skylofts (MGM Grand): When the Rolling Stones played Vegas, this is where they stayed. If the Mansion strains your vacation budget, the Forbes 5-Star Skylofts is the next best thing – and also within the MGM Grand campus. Skylofts has a private entrance lobby and cabstand off of the main hotel driveway, eliminating all hassle. Since rates include airport transfers by limo or Rolls Royce, arriving guests are met and taken up secure elevators to the 29th floor, where their butlers do check-in within the suite. Like Hotel 32, Skylofts occupies the top floor – actually the top two, since all the units are residential style luxury duplexes that feel like apartments. There are just 51 of the Tony Chi designed 1-3 bedroom suites, starting at a very generous 1,400 square feet. All have 24-foot high windows spanning both levels and covered by automated blackout curtains. In fact everything is automated through high tech touch panels, and they add Bang & Olufsen home theaters, mini-offices, Jura robotic bristas, whirlpool infinity bathtubs and walk-in steam showers so big and with so many jets they called them “immersion chambers.” Larger units add extras like a billiard tables and all have niceties including personalized stationary, pillow menus, pressing, shoe shines, unpacking, VIP access to MGM restaurants and services, and much more. One bedroom Skylofts begin at as little as $700, another relative bargain for the luxury suites and included services.
The Signature at MGM Grand: This is a high-rise condo complex connected to the MGM Grand by a series of walkways, rather than a hotel within the main hotel. I have not stayed or visited personally, but it is all residential suites and has its own pool, lobby, restaurant and other amenities you’d expect in standalone condo hotel. Once again, it offers a best of both worlds approach, with access to all the many restaurants, shops and activities within the mega-resort, but adds a more user friendly lobby experience and escapism. The suites also offer tremendous value: starting at under $100 a night, they all have complete kitchenettes with high-end European appliances, whirlpool tubs, separate walk-in showers, and separate living rooms with flat screen HDTV. Even the smallest have both a king sized bed and queen pullout couch – in separate rooms. That is very hard to beat.
Las Vegas is a great destination, but for many visitors, its larger than life scale adds travel hassles you would not encounter at similarly positioned hotels in other cities. These can all be avoided without sacrificing any benefits simply by choosing a lesser known hidden gem hotel-within-a-hotel. Oh, and you will also enjoy nicer accommodations and better service.
(All “starting prices” above are based on low season rates verified at the time of publication).