Golden Nugget in Las Vegas is a “best pool” hotel

The slide winds through a giant fish tank where sharks swim

“Pick a ‘best pool’ for kids hotel,” I told my husband when he asked about where we should stay in Las Vegas at the tail end of our road trip to Montana.  Golden Nugget, a hotel/casino  combo came up a winner with a quick Internet search.

The end of the slide after a zip past sharks

As anyone who has ever traveled with a 10 year-old knows, a best pool can be a great bribe. It was  for our son when we left the Thunderbird Hotel in Pocatello, Idaho for the several hours drive to Las Vegas and our flight home.

Admittedly, I was skeptical. Built in the mid-1940s, Golden Nugget is one of Las Vegas’s oldest establishments. I thought tacky and dated. I was wrong. Happily, the intrigue of a swimming pool with a shark tank that a slide goes through reeled us in.

Since its opening way back when, Golden Nugget has gone through major renovations and additions– the latest a few years ago. Five hundred more rooms and another restaurant were part of the expansion. What could have been tacky is tastefully done with enough glitter and glam in public spaces for those who like fancy without turning off folks whose tastes run subdued. (That would be me.)

The pool’s fish tank at night

The pool won our son’s heart immediately. The slide was the circular type that followed through on it’s promise of a zippy ride from three stories up that included a quick trip through the tank where not blinking helped bring the swimming fish into view. Some people figured out techniques to slow down enough for a better look. I never mastered the slow down, but was satisfied with fuzzy shapes as I sped through. Sitting up seemed to be the key.

Because the pool closes at 8 p.m., we had an hour of swimming right after we checked in and before dinner.

For dinner, instead of opting to head to a cheap buffet along Fremont St., the main walking area of downtown where Golden Nugget is located, we ate at Grotto, one of the hotel’s eight restaurants. Grotto’s Italian cuisine was quality fare and the service attentive. Our order of the Calamari Toto appetizer and  Penne Con Camberi Al Limone  and Rotisserie Chicken main dishes, a beer, a glass of wine, a virgin Pina Colada, and a child’s portion of lasagna ran us about $100, including the tip. This was a splurge for us, but worth it.

With the Freemont St. laser show still going strong overhead

After dinner by merely heading outside, we were able to catch the Fremont Street Experience–a laser light show accompanied by rock music.  Along with the light show, Fremont Street buzzes with activity that ranges from free concerts to guys making art with spray paint.

Like the restaurant, the rooms (ours was a double queen in Carson Tower) are appointed with quality. Even though we were in the older Carson Tower which offered the budget rooms, nothing looked budget. For example, the shower curtain included a fabric drape that framed the shower/tub combo, the sink vanity was marble, and the mattresses were pillow tops and comfy.

Although there was a coffee pot in the room, the coffee costs–$10 for a four cups of one-cup brews. Breakfast was not included. We grabbed a muffin and coffee at Starbucks in one of Golden Nugget’s lobbies since we wanted to hit the pool one last time before our flight home.

The pool opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m. so if you go, plan accordingly. We were able to snag cushioned lounge chairs without a problem and the pool also provides towels.

Well done comfort at a budget price

As people who don’t gamble (okay, I did lose $3 playing 25 cent slot machines), we appreciated the ambiance of the casino parts of the hotel without feeling as if we had to weave through them to head where we wanted to go.

As a further endorsement, when I was heading up the steps for a trip down the slide, I talked to a man who lives in Las Vegas. He was on a “staycation” with his kids.

The cost of our two double bed room was $49 for the night. Click here for special deals. For $30 more, if you book online, you can get a room in the new Rush Tower and a coupon book.

Golden Nugget Hotel
129 E. Fremont St.
Las Vegas, NV 89101

Call 800-634-3454 to book a room or book online at this link.

Check prices or book online at or Priceline

Extra travel hint: Montana is a cheaper place to reach via Las Vegas. A flight there from Ohio cost $400 less per person than a flight to Montana. Car rentals in Las Vegas are also much less expensive.

Photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein

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