Yes you see that correctly, a rating of 5. For the El Cortez.
I have been going to the El Cortez since the early 2000’s. It is, in my opinion, the last bastion of Classic Downtown Vegas. Part of the reason is probably that the owner, Jackie Gaughan, just passed away about a year ago. Until then, he would regularly visit this casino. I believe he was the one who kept it the way it is.
And we can all thank him for that. What I love about El Cortez is that since I’ve been going there in the early 2000’s, they’ve always had the attitude that they wanted to keep the casino and hotel attractive to customers but without ruining the old-time charm of it. Sometimes they’d fall a bit short, sometimes they’d do a great job. Overall, though, I could always tell that with each new visit they had made some improvement or another, even if just a small one. They would change the signs. They would update the restrooms. Small things, little by little, but always to make it a better experience for the customer. Yet, always keeping the classic style and charm of the place.
In the past 5 or so years they stepped up that game. Bigger improvements to the rooms and facilities. They didn’t gut and renovate the place – but they fixed things so that everything works and is not damaged. They upgraded the TV’s in the rooms (which is more than many other “budget” hotels can say in Vegas. They upgraded the elevators to the tower – you tap your room key on a circular area by the buttons to access your floor, which is a great and easy security feature! Overall, they cleaned up the place. To me it appears they updated many lighting fixtures but with new ones that look old, to keep the style of the place. Also, always improved signage throughout the property.
The rooms are the same but fixed up so that things are not broken or inoperable. Their Tower rooms are a generous size, with a small seating area with a couch by the window. The bathroom area is good – there is a small toilet and shower room with a dressing area (with sink, mirror, etc.) and clothes hanging bar just outside it. I also stayed in a pavilion room (above the parking deck). For a couple bucks more a night the tower room is worth it, but if a Pavilion room is a considerable amount less and you only need a room for sleeping and bathing, it’s a good option. The room has just enough space for you to walk around and change clothes. It has the amenities of the tower room just in less space.
The beds are big and comfortable. The sheets were new and clean. They also had upgraded the towels so they are not the cheap, think, “budget hotel” type but rather they are pretty thick and plush. Their toiletries are nice – just the basics but a nice brand that they use. The Wi-fi worked great.
They always have low rates – sometimes lower than other times. The beauty of it is that for the lower rate you get to enjoy a classic, old Vegas experience but one that’s cleaned up enough to be palatable to our modern (spoiled) Vegas tastes. They even are pumping a “scent” throughout the casino, probably more to mask the smell of smoke, but this is something all the hot strip casinos do. I don’t care for it. I always think the scent is too strong (at ANY casino). But this is one example of how they are trying to make it better for people without compromising the old Vegas style of the place.
They have a lot of beautiful design elements like dark woods and old lighting fixtures and they are smart to keep those and try to work with them rather than gut the place and replace everything. Other casinos on Fremont (like the D) seem more anxious to just update the place with no thought to the classic history of the place, but El Cortez clearly wants to retain that charm and style while modernizing the functionality of the place.
The location is just a block from the end of Fremont Street which is nice because you have easy access to Fremont but also you get to escape the noise and crowds when you go back to the hotel. The casino is nice – old style again, of course, but enough tables and very low minimums make it so enjoyable and easy that I end up playing here a lot. Dealers are friendly, they have good game selection, and they’ve really upgrade their slots area in terms of layout and machines.
As for the staff – they have always been trying to improve their staff and their service, and with great results. They are always helpful, always eager to make your stay pleasant and to make you happy. They seem to have improved over the years. Still, they are a little less polished than you’d experience at a strip hotel, but the attitude is good and you can tell they want to please you.
This is probably the best value in all of Las Vegas. For a low rate you get a nice room in a nice hotel that retains the original, classic Vegas styling. The people are great. The eateries on the property are decent. I usually stay several nights here on every trip. Parking is available on the street at certain times and in their deck which is quite big and accommodating.
I love when I land in Vegas and get my rental car that I can drive right to the El Cortez, park right out front while I go and check in… No need to go to the parking deck first and lug everything, no need to valet or pay for parking…it’s really like old Las Vegas. Like pulling into an old western town and not having to deal with nonsense. Yet, it’s a modern enough place… You just can’t go wrong with this place. Of course, if you (or your wife or g/f) are looking for pampering, crazy huge pools, trendy modern rooms, spas, etc. then this is not the place.
But if you just need lodging, don’t want to spend too much, and have an appreciation for Las Vegas’ history and past, then the El Cortez is the place for you.
El Cortez Hotel Casino
600 Fremont Las Vegas, Nevada
Located on the historic Fremont Street, this Las Vegas hotel features an on-site casino. Free parking is available at the hotel.
Las Vegas Boulevard is a 5-minute drive from the hotel.Café Cortez, a 24-hour coffee shop, is available at El Cortez Hotel & Casino.
A fitness center and a beauty salon are located in the hotel.Guest rooms at the El Cortez Casino provide cable TV. Select suites feature a 42-inch flat-screen TV and an iPod docking station.
McCarran International Airport is a 20-minute drive from the Hotel & Casino El Cortez. Nellis Air Force Base and the Hoover Dam are also within driving distance of the hotel.