IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Best hotels in Vegas

What are you in the mood for? Whether for debauchery, a quiet escape or family fun, these are the top places to stay in Sin City.
Image: Bellagio
The Bellagio is known for its massive pool, where tasty, freshly made cocktails flow.Courtesy the Bellagio Hotel / Courtesy the Bellagio Hotel
/ Source: Forbes

In 2001, fresh from a $200 million renovation a few years earlier, the Desert Inn imploded into a towering cloud of dust, courtesy of its new owner Steve Wynn. In its place now stands his flagship enterprise, the Wynn Las Vegas, which opened in 2005. It's a massive jade arc that contains a large waterfall in its nightclub, Tryst, not to mention a Ferrari/Maserati dealership.

Rather than rest on his laurels, Wynn decided to outdo himself by opening the $2.3 billion Encore casino right next door at the end of 2008. Sure, it was right in the middle of a recession, but Wynn didn't cut corners there, either: There are 5 restaurants and 11 high-end boutiques, and guests can even gamble by the pool.

The Vegas hotel industry is all about one-upping the neighbors — even if that neighbor is yourself. And it works: In 2009, even amidst an economic crisis, the city saw 36 million visitors drop more than $5 billion in casinos on the Strip (and more throughout the rest of the city). They stayed in the city's 150,000 hotel rooms at an occupancy rate over 80 percent — that rate hovered near 90 percent on weekends. Room rates in Las Vegas are still relatively low — around $90.

But when you're deciding on a hotel in Vegas, a decent room rate only answers one part of a larger question. Namely — what are you in the mood for?

We polled 10 luxury travel agents who live and breathe Vegas. They visit several times a year to keep their clients apprised of the latest developments, and they have strong opinions about what's worth a visit, and what's not.

"If a client comes to me with a hotel where they want to stay, I always ask, 'Why?' to try to find out how much they know about the property, and if they would really be happy there," says Monika Dystart, travel specialist at Sixth Star Travel in St. Louis.

Are you a high roller? Try Wynn Las Vegas, which features the only golf course on the Strip, or the Bellagio, where highly liquid visitors are given their own playing rooms. Partial to swimming pools? Check out the minor ocean at the Mandalay Bay, replete with waves lapping against a powdery sand beach. Is this a romantic trip? The Four Seasons takes serenity very seriously.

"Las Vegas is constantly evolving," says Anthony Adler, CEO of California-based Cruise and Resort, Inc. "New isn't good enough anymore. Each new property has to successfully raise the bar on luxury guest offerings. And the best part is, you can now find luxury options in Vegas without getting a penthouse suite."

Case in point: the MGM Skylofts, which wins high praise for its sleek, airy rooms and boutique service — a concierge calls before your visit to make dining and entertainment arrangements. While weekend rates for a suite can hover around $3,500 per night, during the week some rooms run for a decidedly more reasonable $700.

And while Vegas will always be synonymous with gambling (the house politely accrued over $15 billion last year, thank you very much), hundreds of thousands of its visitors take more interest in Nemo than Keno.

"I think that Vegas is often overlooked when families are planning vacations," says Nancy Yale, owner of Cruise Resort & World Travel in Fairfield, Conn. "I think it can be a great stop for a few days while visiting the Grand Canyon or Hoover Dam."

Several agents recommended New York-New York for its rides (including the Manhattan Express, which hurtles patrons across a faux Manhattan skyline at nearly 70 miles an hour), but the Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas was the top choice as a family hotel. This Tuscan-themed resort is about as far away from the old, off-the-strip Binion's as you can get: Scenic hiking trails, panoramic lake views and a robust array of activities for the kids.

For folks who like to play the ponies, a trip to the Sports Book at Caesars can constitute a near-religious experience — you could easily spend all day gazing up at dozens of jumbo plasma screens while lounging in their narcotically comfy recliners (many people do). But when it comes to live events (and reports of boxing's demise have been greatly exaggerated), the Garden Arena at MGM Grand is the place to be.

But in the end it's all about picking your agenda.

"The best advice I can give is to choose the hotel that is best for your visit — don't base your choice on the ads that you see, or where your friend stayed," says Yale. "Also, it's always a good idea to secure show tickets ahead of time."