IMG 7206My stay at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino was a very, very pleasant surprise.  

Located on the Vegas Strip between New York New York and CityCenter, I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Monte Carlo when I booked my trip.  I mistakenly thought it would be a slightly dusty relic of mid-90’s Las Vegas.  What I found was a beautiful resort, originally opened in 1996, and inspired by the grand casinos and hotels of Monaco, in the South of France.  According to one of their tag lines, they strive to provide “unpretentious luxury” and that’s exactly what I got.

IMG 7678The Monte Carlo’s main lobby entrance, with it’s polished marble floors and long, elegant registration desk, is actually found off a side street,IMG 7216 away from the Strip.  Although the lobby itself was quite crazy and crowded at times, it was empty and quiet when I got there.  I had arrived early, but the friendly desk clerk found my reservation, assigned me a room and sent me right upstairs.  Perfect!  I had reserved a Strip View Deluxe room, which are all on the highest floors of the hotel.  Mine was on the 31st floor.  Perfect!  As I got off the elevator, I noticed the surprisingly pretty decor of the landing on my floor.  I began to realize truly what a lovely hotel this was.   At about 400 square feet, my roomIMG 7178 was very nice, if not state-of-the-art luxurious.  A simple marble entryway led to the bathroom on the left, and a single, but perfectly spacious closet a little further in.  The room itself contained a king-sized bed and two nightstands - one with an iPod dock/clock-radio IMG 7176combination.  There was a small bureau with a flat screen TV, a desk, and a small coffee table with an easy chair.  I’m not a coffee drinker, but the Keurig coffeemaker on the desk was a nice touch.  The bathroom was much the same as the rest of the room - not fancy, but perfectly adequate, with a black granite countertop, a shower/tub combo, and extra towels piled high on a rack.  The entire room was done in a palette of creams, muted golds, and earth tones.  The overall effect was very comforting.

IMG 7207By today's Vegas standards, my window wasn't very big, but I was still very pleased with my view: part of The Monte Carlo itself, the Mandarin Oriental and one of the Veer Towers at CityCenter, the MGM Grand, and more.  Perfect!  

I unpacked and went shopping for provisions.  I usually get a few bottles of water and some snacks for the room, and find that if I go to any of the local drug stores, I’m able to get what I need to last me a few days, and save money, as the convenience shops in Las Vegas casinos tend to be rather overpriced.  One of the great things about The Monte Carlo, is that there is a CVS right next door, just a few feet away.  I returned to my room and decided to grab a nap and sleep off the jet lag.

IMG 7213I slept pretty hard and when I woke, I found it was a bit too late to hit any of the good restaurants, so I went downstairs to explore, and to find someplace nearby for dinner.  As I looked around the casino, with it’s 102,000 square feet of gaming space, I realized how much nicer it was than I had remembered, having walked through it on various occasions years before.  It had always seemed smoky, as if a pall of cigarette smoke hung in the air, imparting a yellowish haze to everything.  It felt a little claustrophobic to me, with too many machines crowding the floor - just another gaming area to pass through on my way to other casinos.  Now that I was actually getting a feel for the place, I saw how charming it was; how reminiscent of a long lost elegance.  I loved the molded ceilings and the recessed lighting combined with classic crystal chandeliers.IMG 7684  The casino seemed more spacious and people-friendly.  The haze was gone.  It was grand, yet unpretentious!

IMG 7210Again, most of the better restaurants had closed for the night, but I knew that The Cafe, The Monte Carlo’s version of a coffee shop, would be open late.  This was definitely one of the nicest coffee shops I’d ever seen and the food was quite good.  There are other restaurants from which to choose during regular hours - the most popular being Diablo’s Cantina, a loud, colorful space serving up Mexican food in a festive, casual environment, and The Pub, for classic  American pub fare, beer, and sports on the big screens.  Andre’s Restaurant is a lovely contemporary French restaurant tucked away in a tiny corner of the casino - my friend Danny took me here a few years ago and I recommend it highly!  I must say I’m also looking forward to trying Brand Steakhouse, a sleek, sexy space that opens out onto the casino.

IMG 7690If you want to take in a show, Blue Man Group presents their "smokin'" new offering at the Blue Man Theater, after successful runs atIMG 7680 the Luxor and the Venetian.  This new production features their trademark state-of-the-art, eye-popping visuals along with percussive music, played on wildly inventive instruments created from PVC piping and more.  This audience interactive spectacular is not to be missed!



IMG 7692There’s plenty of nightlife to be found here: The Minus 5 Ice Bar - a refrigerated space where the seats, the art, the bar, and even the glasses from which you drink are all made of ice.IMG 7694  There’s the Ignite Lounge, a hopping 24 hour bar at one end of the casino floor, with a lively crowd, energetic music, signature cocktails and an ever changing light display.  You can also try the Brand Lounge - a sophisticated bar just off the restaurant floor of the steakhouse.  Wednesdays through Sundays, Brand Lounge becomes a hip nightclub, where crowds of young party-goers line up to experience top DJ’s and bottle service.

To one side of the casino, you’ll find the Street Of Dreams shopping area, with retailers like Optica, for designer eyewear, Marshall Rousso, for women’s clothing and accessories, Lick, a fanciful candy store, and more.IMG 7674  

IMG 7672One of my favorite spots on the Street Of Dreams is The Cupcakery, a wonderful little shop specializing in gorgeous cupcakes which come in more flavors than you can probably imagine - from the Boston Dream, to the Southern Belle (Red Velvet, of course), to the Kir Royale - a moist raspberry cake topped with a bubbly champagne frosting!  My friend Russ recently told me about a truly sinful indulgence: the Cupcakery’s “Frosting Shots” - if you’re not in the mood for an entire cake, a buck will buy you a tiny cupful of one of their signature frostings, all made with fresh butter and cream cheese.  So bad but SO GOOD!!

If you want to work off some of those calories, there’s a nicely equipped fitness center and four beautiful pools, including a wave pool and a “Lazy River”.  If you need pampering, there’s a full service salon, and for sheer relaxation, there’s a small but excellent spa, where you can decompress in the steam room, sauna and whirlpool, or find all manner of massages and treatments, like their Champagne and Caviar Facial.

The Monte Carlo was a big surprise to me.  With those touches of unpretentious luxury everywhere and generally decent rates, I think you might find this an affordable indulgence should you want to stay in the heart of the action on the Las Vegas Strip.  If you can’t make it to the French Riviera, then The Monte Carlo is the next best thing!