By Michelle Railey
1.) The Flamingo is a casino and resort: it offers shopping, a spa, a pool, restaurants, a casino, lounges, and a hotel all on site. It is located on the Las Vegas strip and if its iconic pink flamingo-ness seems like old-school “Fabulous Las Vegas,” well, it was opened in 1946 and is the oldest casino-resort still in operation on The Strip. It looks like old-school “Fabulous” because, despite changes in ownership and multiple renovations, it’s still a bit old-school.
2.) The old-school-ness is sometimes less than “Fabulous,” however. For example, our room featured an actual hole in the wall, cracks in the ceiling, and a bathroom vanity that was falling apart, despite paint that was newer than the vanity. Our room had clearly been renovated fairly recently: clean lines, new faux hardwood floor, retro glam photos from the Flamingo’s heyday. And even a chaise lounge. But the bathroom was not re-done, according to the vanity. It was also the smallest bathroom I’ve ever been in (and I’ve lived in both New York City and in an abode I labeled “the Tenement” which maxed out at 400 square feet including the porch.). And I’m just going to reiterate for a second: there was a literal hole in our wall. In a hotel room we paid, like, real American money for.
3.) Every single fixture in our room and bathroom was crooked. Mirror? Crooked. Light fixtures (all of ’em)? Crooked. Pictures, sconces, closet doors, drawer fronts. Crooked, crooked, crooked. The fixtures did not date to 1946 and Bugsy Siegel’s Flamingo, by the way. And even if they had, well, building management somewhere there presumably knows how to wield a screwdriver. They just hadn’t done it in our room. And if you stay at the Flamingo, won’t it be a fun surprise to see if your fixtures are flush?
4.) Re: Bugsy Seigel and Flamingo. Yeah, the resort was opened by the mob at a cost of $6 million and originally had 105 hotel rooms and a secret ladder leading out of the presidential suite (because: mob). The property now has 3,626 hotel rooms. Some of them, maybe most, do not actually have holes in the walls.
5.) Mentioning that you have an actual hole in the wall, plus cracks in the ceiling, lack of maid service for an entire day, and a vanity that is broken will net you two free buffets from the manager who will say things like “I’m here for you” and “a hole?” You might think you’d get moved to a different room with apologies for the one-room-in-the-place-that-slipped-through-the-maintenance-cracks. But no, you get buffet credit and a smirk.
6.) In a town of good buffets, the Flamingo’s is underwhelming. Not bad, just tepid. All the way. Even free.
7.) The bed was fantastic. Despite the cracks in the ceiling, the dismal bathroom, the hole, the strange skunk-like smell permeating the hallways on our floor; despite the chaise that was there but had no working springs and therefore couldn’t be actually sat, laid, or otherwise perched upon, the mattress was wonderful and the pillows were both firm and soft. The bed was the best thing about our room.
8.) The lack of an in-room coffee-maker was the worst thing about our room. (Let that sink in for a second. In this remarkable, free, liberty-filled and capitalist, God-fearing country, the Flamingo did not have in-room coffee makers. And the mob isn’t even running the joint anymore, according to Wikipedia, so I can’t fathom what the excuse is, other than to encourage room service orders. It didn’t work on me, which probably showed them, alright.) Lack of in-room coffee is basically both unchristian and un-American. What’s the point of a really great mattress if you wake up from sleeping on one and can’t access coffee immediately?
9.) Speaking of coffee: you can only take it to the pool up until 11 am. After that, you can’t take your coffee into the pool area. At any time, you can’t take any other beverage in to the pool area. The Flamingo is quite serious about their pool concessions. Security looks into everything and everywhere on your way into the pool just to make sure you aren’t cheating the F&B profits. The only reason you can take coffee in (before 11, don’t forget) is because the pool does not sell coffee. Apparently, the Flamingo F&B folk believe us all to be animals; nothing but a herd of not-to-be-given-coffee-animals.
9.) However, the plentiful security at the pool is pretty great: you never have to worry about leaving your stuff by your chaise because yellow-shirts are everywhere.
10.) And the pool has waterfalls and orange-and-white striped beach umbrellas. It’s nice. Trying too hard to be a glam thumpa-thumpa club, but still, it’s nice. (Though if you’re booking a Las Vegas vacation hoping to relax by the pool for part of the time, the Flamingo’s pool is not quite that. Fun. Not relaxing.) (See also: Carlos ‘n Charlie’s, which is a restaurant in the Flamingo and is equally not maybe what you were expecting.)
11.) So, it can be notoriously difficult sometimes in a casino/resort in LVNV to find a spot to catch up on email, or decompress, or sit quietly. Thank god the Garden Bar exists (right by the Habitat doors). It’s closed during the day, but it is the perfect, comfortable place to sit, charge your devices, and/or catch up on work and find quiet and calm in the Flamingo. Just grab a drink from another bar first and then move the chairs blocking your path into the garden bar like you just don’t care (because you don’t). And enjoy it. The only spot in the Flamingo to sit and relax like you’re on vacation or something.
12.) The best thing at the Flamingo, hands down, is the Habitat: a black swan, multiple flamingos, two pelicans, many turtles and koi, and ducks: the Habitat is one of the best things in Las Vegas, overall. Totally free and endlessly enchanting if you love animals (and how could you not?). And you don’t have to stay at the Flamingo to enjoy it, which is a plus (see also: hole in the wall).
13.) There’s a certain amount of sub-par that goes along with the Flamingo: the check-in experience, the management style, the toiletries and room amenities, the hit-or-miss maid service. The elevator lobbies on the hotel floors (oh my god, sub-par, pro-parking-garage). In the casino area and on the main floor, everything seems to be a bit dated and yet still trying. The things sub-par? Not trying. And that doesn’t seem worthy of Fabulous Flamingo.
14.) Room rates are very comparable with its sisters, Harrah’s and the Linq. The Linq has plastic chains in the lobby but still a somewhat appealing aesthetic (spring for metal next time, designer, would you?). Harrah’s is thankfully replacing the hideous yellow-orange 1970s Colonel Sanders on Parade murals but still, presumably, has dust on the vents. But given our experience at the Flamingo, Harrah’s looks good and Linq seems like an option. I think we are done with the Flamingo, despite the mattress.
15.) J.B. (Hi, John!), as far as I can tell, does not work there anymore. Consequently, the Bloody Marys have no flavor. The poker bar is (or was when I was there) shuttered and sad as Bob Barker’s underwears (ah, language: the music of the soul). The world is sad because, as everyone who is me knows, the Poker Bar at the Flamingo, with John, was the Best Vegas That Has Ever Vegased. It was like basically being a Rat Pack. Minus the powder blue tuxes and ex-wives, of course. Actually, now that I think about it, John and the Poker Bar were the reasons we booked at the Flamingo to begin with. (You win, Flamingo. Well played.) Hmmmph.
16.) Bob Barker’s underwears. I’m just going to type that again.
17.) 2.5 out of 5 stars on Yelp, 3.5 of 5 on TripAdvisor, 3.5 of 5 on Travelocity. I rate it 1.5 Bob Barker under-britches out of 4. The Flamingo can increase a full point if they re-hire John, re-open the Poker Bar, and add more flamingos. And a coffee maker in each and every room. Oh! And fix the damn hole in the wall.