Plush privacy on the Strip: The Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas
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Back then, as I sat in the lobby bar drinking a neon orange cocktail that featured a floating smear of gold leaf, I thought to myself, “It’s weird that there’s a Mandarin Oriental in the middle of Las Vegas.” To me, the brand’s sense of burnished international elegance felt at odds with the destination’s larger-than-life, faux-everything, ultra-American ethos.
Apparently, someone agreed with me.
Reflagged as a Waldorf Astoria in 2018 and reopened after a renovation, this CityCenter property is located directly on the Las Vegas Strip, but feels fully removed from its 24/7 sense of chaos. The lack of a casino definitely helps.
I recently stayed to get a feel for the Waldorf Astoria. Here’s what I saw.
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I opted instead to prepay my booking with The Platinum Card® from American Express through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts. In doing this, I earned 5x American Express Membership Rewards points, plus some additional FHR perks:
- Noon check-in.
- Room upgrade on arrival.
- Daily breakfast for two, up to $30 per person — including in-room dining.
- 4 p.m. checkout.
- $125 hotel credit that can be used for anything (food and drinks, spa treatments) except retail in the spa.
With rates ranging from $212 to $333 per night, this seemed like the way to go. Ultimately, I paid $219, plus $29.30 in taxes. The property also collects a $45-per-night resort fee, payable at the property.
In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it spot in CityCenter (a large purpose-built district complete with lodging, dining, entertainment and more), right next to the Aria and the Park MGM, the Waldorf Astoria consists of a single, relatively inconspicuous (for Vegas …) chevron-shaped tower.
It’s the least flashy of its neighbors, but venturing any distance from the property means you’ll be bombarded with music from the nearby Bellaggio fountain show, crowds and an array of blinking signage.
It’s a six-minute drive from McCarran Airport, so if you’re looking to bolt from your gate directly to the spa, this is a good choice. From the hotel, cross Las Vegas Boulevard and head to the nearby Park MGM stop on the Las Vegas Monorail to quickly connect to other spots on the Strip — without having to get your car out of valet parking or nominate a designated driver. One trip will cost you $5; an unlimited day pass goes for $13. You can buy tickets online or in person.
Check-in and lobby
One of the perks of staying at the Waldorf Astoria is that it feels separate from the nearby Las Vegas Strip. This also poses a bit of a challenge when you’re trying to find the property. Unlike its flashier neighbors, the Cosmopolitan and the Aria, the signage for the Waldorf Astoria is small, and the turn into its shaded driveway is easy to miss.
Once you pull up, though, you feel as though you’re entering another world. The traffic — pedestrian and automobile — disappears. The neon fades away. You’re enveloped by the steel and glass walls of the property.
The valets were fast and courteous and never took more than a few minutes to retrieve my car, even though I wasn’t driving anything nearly as interesting as the neon purple Lamborghini that appeared several times in the driveway during my stay. Even at its most discreet, Vegas is still Vegas.
There is no self-parking option available at this hotel, so be ready to pay $35 per night to keep your car close by. There are other parking garages at CityCenter ($9 to $16 per day), but the walk from the Aria or the Park MGM garages is not direct or all on one level. This does not seem worthwhile, especially if you’re lugging suitcases or will need to access your car frequently during your stay.
As it was at the Mandarin Oriental, check-in at the Waldorf Astoria is on the 23rd floor in a space that offers dramatic views over the Strip. A textured gold wall — an Instagram favorite — remains from the previous property, as does the Moët & Chandon vending machine. Both are immediately visible as you exit the elevator.
You’ll also see the lobby bar area to the right of the front desk. It has new furniture — it’s lighter and brighter than the former Mandarin’s velvet couches, and seems to include more seating — but the lantern-like overhead fixtures and the colorful dragon-print carpet remain.
Clear plastic barriers had been installed at the front desk in the era of COVID-19, but these may be gone by the time you make your way to Vegas. And while check-in was not completely contactless, I appreciated the ability to text the front desk from my own phone with questions or requests. A full list of the applicable FHR perks was sent to me in this manner, as was a document detailing all of the hotel’s cleaning protocols. I made requests using this texting feature multiple times and received a response within a few minutes each time.
When I first entered the room, I thought it hadn’t been renovated at all since becoming a Waldorf Astoria. Recently, however, Hilton announced it would be completing a refresh of all the hotel’s guest rooms along with the meeting spaces and lobby.
For now, though, what you’ll find is that the rooms still bear the familiar Asian-style motifs that were present at the Mandarin, including dark wood, prints of kimonos and jewel tones with gold accents.
The large closet/dressing area feels like a plush walk-in closet and makes you actually want to unpack. And the marble bathroom with a large soaking tub is especially welcoming after a late night spent in less genteel parts of the Strip.
When I stayed, most of the room’s surfaces were clear — no literature or stationery. And if there was a minibar in the room, we never found it. The TV remote was the only stray item around. These are presumably COVID-19-related precautions and will likely change in the future.
The eighth-floor pool and outdoor spaces, on the other hand, have been or are in the process of being renovated. During my stay, the long lap pool was open and the smaller, diamond-shaped pool was closed. The poolside café was also closed.
It appears as though new chair cushions and cabanas have been added since the reopening.
Like the rest of the property, even this pool space is designed to offer a break from the hectic street scene below — if you can ignore the reflection of the New York-New York Hotel in the Waldorf’s windows.
The hotel’s dramatic two-level spa and fitness center, which I didn’t get to visit on my trip, remains from the Mandarin days. This spa, the signature restaurant Twist from its time as a Mandarin Oriental (the restaurant is now closed) and the property itself once won the hotel a triple Forbes Five-Star rating. Since the hotel was rebranded, it has not recaptured these honors.
Food and beverage
As previously mentioned, Twist by Pierre Gagnaire is now closed.
The hotel’s iconic 23rd-floor SkyBar, however, with its floor-to-ceiling windows and views of not just the Strip but the desert beyond remains a showstopper.
Its decor has stayed largely the same — not that you can see much of it at 10 p.m., and not that it matters.
The glittering view out the windows is the real show, and the straightforward menu of sliders, skewers, salads and flatbreads is as good as it needs to be in a bar where the food isn’t the point.
The cocktail list, on the other hand, spans four pages and is roughly divided into the historic “eras” of Las Vegas. The “Classic Las Vegas” section contains a drink called the Sinatra (Jack Daniels, amaro, lemon juice, honey, dehydrated pineapple), while the “Where It All Started” section’s Mojave cocktail features mezcal, agave, Aperol and grapefruit juice.
I settled for an excellent, ice-cold vodka martini, the star of which was a trio of blue cheese-stuffed olives. I didn’t indulge in the bar’s “luxury” offerings — tequila and scotch tasting menus that go up to $450 per person. But you have to admire an establishment that will happily tack an extra $4 onto your tab for including something called a “Waldorf Astoria Ice Sphere” in your drink.
If you’re famished later in the day, room service is prompt and of reasonable quality — and served on real china with linens, a rarity in pandemic times. I ordered an admittedly weird combo of breakfast sausage, a raspberry and granola parfait with fresh berries, and coffee. (Why go to Vegas if you can’t, at the very least, order an idiosyncratic room service breakfast?)
It arrived within 30 minutes; the hot items were hot and the cold items were cold — a baseline for room service quality. The parfait in particular was a success. I worried about it being slightly gummy from having sat on a refrigerator shelf for too long, as is typical of too many hotel parfaits. But this one was light, the berries were sweet and it didn’t even feel like I was eating dessert at 9 a.m., which I of course was.
If it’s earlier in the day, however, room service may not be available and you can head down to a grab-and-go-style cafe to pick up fruit, granola bars and other snacks.
You expect fast, polished service at a Waldorf Astoria, and you’ll find it here. It does not, however, feel stuffy or overly formal, in keeping with the destination’s ethos. I was met with smiles and pleasant greetings each time I encountered a member of the staff.
As it was before it became a Waldorf Astoria, the property remains a comfortable high-end — and often relatively affordable — stay in the heart of Las Vegas. It’s hard to ignore, however, that this hotel seems a bit stuck between its former identity and its new direction, for now at least.
Its plush sense of privacy, while keeping you close to all the action at CityCenter, however, is a nice feature. And if you’re the type that doesn’t need or want a dinging, flashing, crowd-filled casino inside your hotel, this is a great option.
Featured image courtesy of The Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas
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