Published in the Sept-Oct 2012 issue of MyLIFE magazine
Editor’s Note: DESTINATION is a new MyLIFE column focusing on a resort or property we recommend to our readers in their travels.
When it opened in April of 1996, the Stratosphere instantly became a unique, iconic symbol on the Las Vegas horizon. At 1,149 feet, it was the 9th tallest freestanding structure in the United States—in many ways the symbol of a reimagined Las Vegas, one that was Disneyesque and one that revolved around far more than gambling.
While the vision of the original Stratosphere quickly evaporated in the wake of financial difficulties, a new more realistic vision has been embraced by new ownership.
It’s 16 years later, and much has changed—for the better. This isn’t the same “old” Stratosphere. Mark my words: Raise your expectations, and don’t be surprised when they’re exceeded. From the rooms and the casino to the food, the service and the entertainment (especially the entertainment), everything is new and revitalized.
In 2010, the Stratosphere underwent an ambitious $20 million, stem-to-stern remodeling and rebranding effort.
“A lot of our image makeover happened organically,” said General Manager Paul Hobson. “A lot of it was not planned, exactly. What we wanted to do was make sure people knew that the Stratosphere is new. It’s not the same Stratosphere you remember.”
Indeed it isn’t!
The changes are evident from the moment you arrive, as the hotel entrance offers a sweeping indoor marble tile ramp that leads guests to a hip new VIP lounge and the glistening hotel lobby and reception area.
At the centerpiece of the renovations are the Stratosphere Select rooms—909 spacious, tastefully furnished guestrooms that were beautifully redesigned with guests’ comfort in mind, featuring king and queen beds, flat-screen TVs and updated bathrooms with granite countertops and new tile and tubs.
On top of all that, the Stratosphere’s rates can’t be beat anywhere on The Strip, ranging from $39 to $129 a night.
Also in 2010, the hotel added SkyJump Las Vegas, which captured international attention. SkyJump Las Vegas provides a controlled free fall from the 108th floor of the Stratosphere Tower, 855 feet above the Las Vegas Strip—the highest in the world. Thus far, more than 75,000 people have taken the plunge. In addition, the Tower features the highest thrill rides in the world: Big Shot, X-Scream and Insanity.
Let’s not overlook entertainment, which thanks to Entertainment Manager Chris Townsend and Vice President of Food and Beverage Matt Mascali has been re-energized with the addition of Frankie Moreno and his 10-piece band on Wednesday through Saturday nights.
Offering his incredible original hits along with classic covers, Moreno has given the Stratosphere the kind of premier entertainer the hotel hasn’t had since Danny Gans broke out there in 1996. Moreno is a singular Las Vegas sensation who transcends any particular genre. Some say he’s old Vegas, some say he’s new Vegas … I say he’s simply great! This the best show in Las Vegas, bar none, and certainly the best deal, with tickets starting at just $19.99 for hotel guests. Voted Las Vegas’ Best All-Around Performer in 2012, Moreno is the real deal in every sense, and his band is as tight as it gets. Don’t miss this show!
Next, let’s move on to the Stratosphere’s award-winning food and drink.
Dining at the hotel has been reimagined as well, under the direction of Executive Chef Rick Giffen (formerly of Red Square and China Grill at Mandalay Bay). Giffen was recently featured on the popular Food Network TV show Chopped.
Let’s start with the award-winning, reasonably priced Top of the World restaurant, which features an eclectic new menu and unparalleled views, as it rotates 360° every 80 minutes. Voted the best place to view the city, the restaurant is a 2012 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner and is consistently ranked amongst the best in Las Vegas.
The sophisticated Level 107 Lounge and the more casual Air Bar, the highest bars in town, offer happy hours with sensational food, live entertainment and spectacular views you can’t get anywhere else. Personable lounge manager Gaby Warfel has made both of these lounges top spots to see and be seen in while you’re visiting Las Vegas.
The Buffet is bright and spacious, offering a wide variety of delicious choices and a tremendous dining value as well. Roxy’s Diner, a favorite of mine, has been expanded to include a new menu and patio seating. Try the prime rib hash or just about anything else. You’ll go away smiling and quite pleasantly full.
Although the major renovations have been completed, finishing touches on the property will continue throughout the end of the year. The Stratosphere seems to have finally found its place on the Las Vegas landscape and is delivering on its promise.
“We’re not necessarily going to be able to compete with the highest-end properties on The Strip, but we’re certainly looking to be at the top of the moderate price segment,” Hobson said.
All of these changes provide a serious elevation of comfort, gaming, dining, nightlife, entertainment and thrills that will continue to make the Stratosphere unique in Las Vegas.
The transformation of the Stratosphere offers a great opportunity to elevate your own expectations of a Las Vegas icon, and at a very reasonable price.