The Plaza Hotel Las Vegas just celebrated its 50th birthday when I visited, making it downright historic in this city where some Vegas Strip hotels have changed names and even whole buildings several times. While a 50-year-old hotel can be trouble if it hasn’t been updated, The Plaza has a nice combo of renovated rooms in a property that embraces its retro side with full gusto.
If you want to experience a less sprawling version of Las Vegas, stay downtown and be able to walk out your door to attractions, multiple casinos, and what feels like 100 bars. In the heart of it all is The Plaza Hotel, across from The Fremont Street Experience and within blocks of other casinos to try.
I’m a big fan of downtown Las Vegas, as opposed to the Strip, mostly because it just feels like a lot more fun. While The Strip seems designed to separate you from your money at every turn and force you to use car services to go almost anywhere since the hotels are so far apart, downtown feels like it was built for humans of normal means. The gambling odds are much better (see below), cocktails won’t cost you $30 each, and much of the entertainment is still free. There are also two notable museums downtown to visit: The Mob Museum and the Neon Museum.
There’s plenty of neon at The Plaza as well, plus thousands of light bulbs in the porte couchere you pull up to when arriving. The lobby check-in area is just steps from where a taxi drops you off, another welcome change from most strip hotels. You just have to navigate your way to the right elevator for the tower you’re in, but one of the two is in that main building, so you don’t even half to walk through the casino for that one. The downtown Plaza hotel has nearly 1,000 rooms though, so you may get a bit of exercise going to and from yours.
Downtown Vegas Pool and More
It wasn’t easy finding my way up to the 5th-floor roof deck to find the pool, but once I did there was a strange surprise when I emerged into the sun: The Plaza Hotel has a pickleball court. Well, 13 courts in fact.
I’ve never played pickleball before and was traveling solo, so I passed on that and headed to the pool. This downtown Las Vegas swimming pool is not as elaborate as the one at the Golden Nugget, but it does have a large deck with lounge chairs that looks out at other downtown buildings. Plus there’s a bar on the side ready to mix you up a cocktail if it’s pool season. A few people had gone BYOB with beer coolers and nobody was giving them any grief.
There are some shaded areas to escape from the Nevada desert sun and some lounge chairs in water to keep you cool.
Dining at The Plaza Hotel Las Vegas
You can go lowbrow or highbrow at the Plaza when it’s time to eat. At the low end, there’s a mini food court with a McDonald’s, a Subway, and a Chinese Manchu Wok outlet. One step up is a highly regarded pizza outlet and a Mexican Grill.
Two notable sit-down restaurants are in the hotel, however. The famous one is Oscar’s, an old-school Las Vegas steakhouse that embraces its stuck-in-time aspects. (The slogan is “Beef, Booze, and Broads.”) This is a serious steakhouse serving quality aged beef though, plus you get the benefit of a Fremont Street view out of the glass dome, plus some historic memorabilia to check out. With semi-circular booths to slide into and chandeliers overhead, it’s a unique special occasion spot. I didn’t get a chance to eat here, but if I had stayed longer I definitely would have checked out their bar’s 5:00-7:00 happy hour, with $6 cocktails and $7 wines by the glass. See more info here.
Hash House a Go Go is right off the lobby, billed as a farm-fresh place that won’t leave you hungry. They use the phrase “oversized portions” twice in their description. They’re especially well-known for their big breakfasts, but they serve lunch and dinner too. For a quick caffeine jolt on the go, there’s a coffee bar in the lobby.
There are several bars and lounges scattered around the property and in 2022 there will be a Sand Dollar live music venue in place as well.
The Plaza Hotel is right across from one entrance of Fremont Street and near multiple other casino hotels, so you won’t get bored with the nearby dining and drinking options, even if you stay for a week. A few blocks past the other end of Fremont is the Downtown Container Park with some fun dining spots in and outside of former shipping containers.
The Plaza Hotel Downtown Casino
The official name of this property is Plaza Hotel & Casino Las Vegas, so much of the ground floor is taken up with gambling options. You’re far less likely to lose your shirt here if you know what you’re doing, however, than you are on the “sucker strip” uptown. Downtown Vegas casinos pull far fewer of the gambler-unfriendly odds tricks than the Strip ones do and the table minimums are lower overall.
At the Plaza’s casino, you can expect normal Blackjack payouts of 3 to 2 and favorable rules on doubling down and surrendering. They have single-zero roulette. They have 10X odds on craps. A fair number of the video poker machines have payout tables the way they’re supposed to instead of being adjusted to give you worse odds. If you don’t know what any of this means, do a little research before you plunk down your hard-earned cash and understand the math. You’ll have a much better chance of walking away a winner here, or at least not losing your whole night’s bank.
Waitresses are circling to take drink orders for those who are playing for a while.
Rooms at The Plaza Hotel
It’s not easy keeping a busy 50-year-old hotel looking fresh, but The Plaza owners made the most of the downtime in 2020 and put through some major room renovations with a bill in the millions. They went for “chain hotel standard” rather than making any bold design choices, but most Vegas visitors didn’t come here to hang out in their room anyway. What you get now is a very clean-feeling, modern room with all the expected amenities.
There are 12 room classes here, ranging from the decent-sized starting level up to a penthouse suite or two-bedroom suite that will make you feel like a real Vegas whale. Most rooms have a similar decor and size (325 square feet) and either laminate or carpet floors. You get a nice desk chair, plenty of drawers and closet space, and ample outlets for charging your gadgets. All have cable TV, but upper categories get a larger one. A few rooms open onto the pool deck and have a patio area. Otherwise, none of the rooms have any outdoor space.
I liked the reminders of the hotel’s history throughout, especially the framed Kodachrome-style photos from what must have been a fun shoot by their ad agency. This one from my room is a great example, with period hairstyles by the pool:
See more information at the official Plaza website and book there, or check rates at Hotels.com. Be advised that the whole city of Las Vegas has been infected with the mandatory resort fee pandemic and you can’t get vaccinated for that. The rate you see online is just the starting point: add $31.64 to that to get the actual room price for the night. Since weeknights rates can start as low as $40 plus tax, the resort fee can add 50% or more to the actual nightly tab. As usual, the resort fee just covers items that are normal services in less sneaky cities, like WiFi and use of the pool. There’s also an additional charge of $23 for a late check-out and the same again for a fridge in your room if you book the cheapest option. (The “Deluxe” rooms include one already, so as with being a casino winner, sometimes you need to do some math…)
Overall, with attractive new rooms, a fun retro vibe, and a gambler-friendly casino in a convenient location, The Plaza Hotel Las Vegas is a good choice and a solid value downtown, especially if you want to be in the heart of the action.
Review and photos by Tim Leffel, who was hosted at The Plaza Casino and Hotel Las Vegas for one night for purposes of review. As always, all opinions are his own.