El Cortez Hotel exterior at night in Las Vegas picture

The El Cortez proper, across the street from the Cabana Suites.

El Cortez Cabana Suites guest room in Las Vegas picture

El Cortez Cabana Suites guest room.

El Cortez Hotel Cabana Suites lobby in Las Vegas picture

Cabana Suites lobby.

Las Vegas: Chic hotel stay off the Strip

Road Journals Blog—When it comes to swanky digs, downtown Las Vegas has a way to go. The scene—far grittier than the Strip—just isn’t compatible with the likes of a Mandarin Oriental or Encore.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t cool places to stay. The coolest by far is the Cabana Suites at the historic El Cortez Hotel & Casino.

The Cabana Suites is in an entirely separate building, across the street from the main El Cortez, which Bugsy Siegel owned back in the 1940s. The building used to be a drab motel called the Ogden House, until El Cortez owner Kenny Epstein undertook a $20 million overhaul a few years ago.

The transformation was striking and very reminiscent of South Beach. The décor is a fusion of Hollywood Regency and mid-century modern, with some art deco thrown in. The walls of the guestrooms (they’re not really suites) are an eye-popping apple green, with black-and-white, Imperial trellis wallpaper, and tufted, white, patent-leather headboards that reach nearly to the ceiling.

The colors and textures are all repeated in the cozy but dramatic lobby, which features a white curved sofa and trellis-patterned chairs. A small library is stocked with art titles. Glass jars in the lobby are filled with free Mike and Ikes.

The Cabana Suites is a good choice if you want to check out downtown’s burgeoning hipster scene. There’s been an explosion of interesting new nightspots, coffeehouses and art spaces downtown, in the district known as Fremont East.

Although you get a lot more for your money there, downtown Las Vegas is not for everybody. It’s like any urban core. Some of the faces on the streets tell sad stories.

Still, in many ways I prefer downtown to the Strip, if for no reason other than, without having to walk through a half-mile gauntlet of chirping slot machines, it’s much easier to get into and out of buildings.

Anne Burke writes about Las Vegas for an upcoming issue of VIA.

Photography by roadsidepictures/Flickr (El Cortez Hotel); El Cortez Hotel (Cabana Suites lobby, guest room)

This blog post was first published in June 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.


Going next month and I couldn't be more exctied to stay here! We prefer downtown and what a nice fresh (and afordable!) place we have to stay in!

Alice, thank you for your comment.
I agree. I stayed at the Cabana Suites and thoroughly enjoyed my stay.

I have stayed at the Cabana Suites and it is wonderful. It seems much quieter than other downtown hotels, and it is beautifully decorated. The staff is very friendly, and it's just a few steps from the great gaming at the El Cortez. I would highly recommend it!