Welcome to rsts11 travel, my new effort to share discoveries and recommendations from my travels. Today we’re visiting the Signature at MGM Grand, Delano at Mandalay Bay, Vdara at Aria, and Mandarin Oriental in City Center, checking out coffee-friendly, non-smoking, non-casino options in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip.
Be sure to visit our welcome post, and watch for more Las Vegas-themed posts in the next week to start things with a pop. On the board to round out January 2017 are a mobile power post and a mobile caffeine post.
Full of sound and fury…
When you think of Las Vegas you probably think of casinos. Noisy, smoky, smelly, crowded, unpleasant. Not most people’s idea of a great environment to enjoy a vacation in, unless you smoke, smell, make lots of noise, and, well, gamble?
I started my Vegas experience visiting for work. It was before I got to go to conferences and conventions… my employer sent me to work on their equipment in the area, so I’d stay on or near the strip, leave town for work, and come back at night for dining, people watching, and sleep (or more often, more work from the hotel room).
In the two years and change that I visited for my last job, I found a couple of great strip hotels that had a perfect non-storm of non-smoking, non-casino, and well-apportioned facilities that made it a pretty good visit. And even better, if I did want to visit a casino or a show or find some good food, I wasn’t out in the boonies and could walk wherever I needed to get.
Of the four properties I’ll cover here, three are MGM properties with Mlife Rewards, and the fourth allows room charges to MGM but doesn’t fall under their rewards program. As always, if you’re staying at an MGM property, you can generally charge to your room from any other MGM property, and earn your points as well.
Vdara at Aria
Vdara is between Aria and the Cosmopolitan. It’s a very minimalist facility compared to most Vegas hotels, with a Starbucks and a micro-food-court as well as a bar in the lobby area. You can get some prepared food, and there is table service at the Market Cafe Vdara, but for most people you’ll want to go over to Aria or another nearby property for the Vegas dining experience. There is the ESPA spa at Vdara if you need a massage or treatment. The rooms themselves are spacious–it’s considered an “all suites” hotel although some of the suites aren’t all that big.
The typical room I’ve stayed in, the Studio Parlor Suite, has a divider with the flat screen televisions on it; a kitchenette with two-person table, refrigerator, stove, and sink; a reasonably spacious bathroom with separate tub and shower; and if you’re lucky, a view of the “backside of water.”
One of the things that impressed me most about Vdara on my first stay was that they provided (on request) a Keurig Mini coffeemaker and supplies at no additional cost. On my last stay, they said they would charge $20/night for the coffeemaker. The charge didn’t make it to my bill (either because of my Mlife status or my complaining on Twitter, I suppose), but it’s something to keep in mind.
Signature at MGM Grand
The Signature is sort of the mirror image of Vdara. Located on the other side of the strip behind the MGM Grand Resort, Signature began its life as a condo development replacing the old MGM theme park. There are still individual owners, but most people encounter Signature as an MGM Resorts hotel option on the strip. There is a gated/guarded entrance on Harmon, or you can walk from the MGM Grand casino and lobby through “The District” shopping and dining area toward the convention center. The entrance is just past the Grand Garden Arena, before you go down the stairs to the pool and convention center. It’s about a third of a mile from the first tower of Signature to the main casino.
The rooms I’ve experienced are similar to the smallest Vdara “suites” in that they have a kitchenette and seating area, but no real separation of the sleeping and living areas. Some rooms have a patio/balcony with opening doors, and views vary. I’ve found the rooms to be very comfortable, and when attending an event at MGM Grand I prefer Signature to the MGM proper.
As with Vdara, Signature offers Keurig Mini machines in their rooms. There was no charge for these, and on at least one occasion I was able to get extra K-Cups from the front desk in my tower at no charge.
With the casino a third of a mile away and most noise sources at least 1000 feet from living areas, you get some peace and quiet. There are pools for each of three towers, and meager dining options including Starbucks and a cocktail lounge. As with Vdara, you would go to the adjoining property (in this case MGM Grand) for dining, gambling, and retail options, and there are plenty of each.
Delano Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay
Delano has similarities to the previous two properties, perhaps more to Vdara than Signature. It is the former THEhotel, a tower connected to Mandalay Bay reachable either through a separate back entrance or through the main casino just past sports book and the Michael Jackson One show by Cirque du Soleil. It is non-smoking, has a coffee shop and evening bar in the lobby, as well as a quaint farm-to-table breakfast/brunch restaurant just outside the confines of the hotel.
The suites in Delano are more distinct; I’ve stayed in a King Suite and a Queen Suite, with roomy bathrooms, separate bath and shower (and a bonus lavatory just inside the door, great for couples or roommates), a solid door between the bedroom and living area, and a very small almost-kitchenette. Rooms are quiet, with plenty of space to spread out. The linens are comfortable, although once my robe didn’t show up until the third night (and the gift shop was sold out of them and taking pre-orders for a month later). The spacious desk was great for sorting my day’s business cards and getting some work done.
The in-room coffee (an ongoing concern for me, as you may have noticed) is also Keurig Mini, although Delano charges $4 for a service set including cup and lid, one K-Cup, sugar, and creamer. You’ll find it in the countertop mini-bar. I chose to bring my own cup and supplies, and had no issues, but in case of an emergency, it’s cheaper than a lobby coffee shop and you don’t need pants to get to it.
Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas
I had walked the strip hundreds of times before staying at the Mandarin Oriental, and until my corporate travel department placed me here for a last-minute trip, I had no idea it was here. Nestled off the strip in the City Center region, with relatively easy access to Vdara, Aria, and Crystals, the Mandarin Oriental is a storied chain with a very distinctive experience just far enough away to be impressive. The Las Vegas location also seems to have more affordable rates than the others I’ve investigated in the past, with a very nice room easily booked for $300 or less.
One unique feature is that the main lobby and most of the restaurants are on the 23rd floor. You’ll take the express entrance elevator up to 23 and either check in (with warm towel and tea), dine at the bar, have tea service in the tea lounge, or change to another bank of elevators that takes you to the guest room floors as well as the 3rd floor for MOzen or the 8th for the spa. The express elevator will also take you to 3rd if you’re visiting to dine at MOzen.
MO is the best-sound-proofed hotel I’ve stayed at in Las Vegas. My first stay was on the 6th floor, and I heard pretty much zero road noise. Compared to other hotels where even the 50th floor wasn’t immune, this impressed me. Views from the lower rooms may not be as impressive, but from the lobby, tea lounge, and bar, the scenery is amazing.
The rooms are spacious with very large bathrooms, separate tub and shower with a television, glass tea kettle (no coffee) and tea selection in the room, and turndown service that is remarkably transparent and provides a fresh bucket of ice, change of bedcovers, bottled water and flower petals, and refreshing of any amenities that may be required.
As a standalone property, Mandarin Oriental has better restaurant coverage than the other three. MOzen has the most impressive breakfast options I’ve had, even after they switched to an American breakfast buffet in lieu of the table American breakfast option. I would generally drag friends and coworkers here from any other hotel we might be staying in, and I still try to make it over, although it’s been a while. Twist by Pierre Gagnaire has evaded me, but for upscale dining you’ll want to check it out. The Mandarin Bar provides tapas and cocktails with the aforementioned amazing view.
As MO is not a MGM property, they won’t issue Mlife rewards, but if you charge to your room at an MGM property, you’ll earn the usual rewards on your hotel folio. I’ve read that you can also charge from Aria and Vdara to MO, thanks to the City Center connection, but I haven’t confirmed this firsthand.
So where do we go from here?
The four gems I’ve covered here are all on the MGM side of the world. Have you found another smoke-free, casino-free, or otherwise unexpected gem on the Las Vegas strip (perhaps a Caesars property) that you’d like to share? Mention it in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.
[Casino game photo via pixabay. Other photos by Robert Novak (C) 2013-2016]