Booker Glam is W Las Vegas’ handcrafted fortune teller. // © 2017 W Las Vegas
Feature image (above): The design of W Las Vegas is influenced by the desert, Old Vegas and today’s scene in downtown Las Vegas. // © 2017 W Las Vegas
Staying at W Las Vegas and want the scoop on what to do in downtown Las Vegas? Must-visits include the Neon Museum
The Las Vegas Strip tries really hard. Perhaps nowhere else in the world can you find such a density of spectacle.
New hotels slather on the superlatives in an attempt to get some attention and be heard through the noise. They typically do this by screaming louder — and the result can be dizzying.
So, when I heard W Las Vegas was overtaking the SLS Lux tower of the struggling SLS Las Vegas, way over yonder on the north end of the Strip, I wondered what the company would do. The brand is not known for being shy. And Anthony Ingham, global brand leader for W Hotels Worldwide, confirmed that it did, in fact, want to do something that hasn't been done before.
“In some cities that means being the most energetic hotel,” Ingham said. “Here, we would be one more of a dozen. There’s no point to out-Vegas Vegas.”
So, instead, Ingham and his team aimed to create a property that offers backstage access to Vegas. It targets W’s core customer — affluent, professional millennials, as well as the young-spirited — but takes advantage of the property’s small size and location outside of the Strip’s chaotic epicenter and near downtown Las Vegas.
During my stay, my partner and I visited some of our favorite haunts in downtown Las Vegas for the kind of grounded businesses you just can’t find on the Strip — namely, an indie bookstore (The Writer’s Block) and a craft coffee cafe filled with locals (PublicUs).
For insider intel, Romeo Butihi, the property’s W Insider, starts chatting with guests via email before arrival to get a sense of what they want to do. Ingham says Butihi is even known to personally escort guests to downtown Vegas’ lesser-known cocktail bars — something he can do because the W has a manageable 289 rooms.
“The recognition and care you receive is very unique,” said Mark Eberwein, general manager of the hotel. “At W, you don't have to be a serious gambler to be treated like a VIP.”
Instead of being bigger and better, W Las Vegas’ devil is in its details. Take, for example, the actual design of the public spaces, where every square inch has been lovingly lavished with creativity, passion and an undiluted vision to pay homage to the local art scene, in addition to the property’s history as the former Sahara Hotel and Casino, a mainstay of Old Las Vegas.
This is done most excellently in the Living Room, the true meeting place of the hotel. By the bar, there is ample seating underneath circular lights in geometric patterns — originals from the Sahara, I’m later told.
On one wall, there are photographs taken in the style of playing cards where the model appears twice: once as he is perceived in “reality” and once as he is perceived in “fantasy” — or, ahem, at W Las Vegas. These images were taken by a local Vegas photographer and hint at the collaborations the hotel plans to have with artists and musicians.
And in an ode to the tradition of Vegas wedding chapels, the bathroom adjacent to the lobby is a throwback, from the pink-onyx sink to the bulbs that light up above the door when the bathroom is occupied.
Outside the bathroom and underneath a chapel-like arch is Booker Glam, the hotel’s very own robotic fortune teller, handcrafted and decked out in gold chains and a pink suit. When checking in, guests receive a ticket that grants them their choice of Glam’s sassy advice regarding marriage, prenuptials or general fortune.
Glam is a good example of how The Living Room brings a ton of energy, yet isn’t overwhelming.
“You don't have to hear a bunch of people yell, ‘Jackpot!’” Eberwein said. “You are supposed to be comfortable and engage with people.”
There’s also a desert landscape motif that runs through the property via decorative neon cacti. The focus on the desert landscape reappears in the hotel’s multilevel meetings and event center in the building next door, too. A unique feature here is the carpet’s special effect; wave a mobile phone over the carpet and discover 3D visions of the desert floor.
It truly puzzles me why Vegas’ hotels have usually obsessed over tropical and beachy themes instead of the area’s true desert climate and topography, an aesthetic that Palm Springs and Joshua Tree, Calif., have proven to be very cool.
Nonetheless, every desert needs an oasis. Above the meetings space is the recently opened Wet Deck rooftop, where comfortable yellow cabanas surround the hotel’s pool and pool chairs, some submerged in the water. Compared to the neighboring SLS’s pool area, the Wet Deck space is intimate. It’s easy to imagine a group of friends whiling away the hours at their cabana after a morning workout at the Fit gym or spa treatment at Away Spa.
While the cabanas are a W innovation, guestrooms have maintained the original Philippe Starck designs from the SLS. A mash-up of Miami Beach and Marie Antoinette, the aesthetic is edgy, complete with a surprise mirror on the ceiling, novelty wall tapestries and all-white furniture. Once again, I couldn’t help but daydream about planning a return trip to my 955-square-foot Mega Suite. Next time, I’ll bring friends to enjoy the party potential of its living room — furnished with a wraparound white-cloth sofa and a large marble table.
Food is available via room service, downstairs at the bar and at the Wet Deck, though guests can charge orders from the SLS restaurants directly to their room as well. It’s only a five-minute walk to Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres, Katsuya, Cleo and the many other choices that encircle the SLS casino.
But, oh, how nice it is to be in Las Vegas, at a bar, where there’s no smoking or gambling in direct sight.
For me, that’s a real jackpot.