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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's Editor in Chief and has worked as a writer and editor more than 25 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee.

Contact Gary at and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

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Top 10 reasons to visit The STRAT Hotel, Casino and SkyPod

19 Aug 2019

By Gary Trask
The iconic Stratosphere Las Vegas has rebranded and is now called The STRAT Hotel, Casino and SkyPod.

The iconic Stratosphere Las Vegas has rebranded and is now called The STRAT Hotel, Casino and SkyPod. (photo by Gary Trask)

LAS VEGAS -- For more than two decades, the main draw at the far north end of the Las Vegas Strip has been the 1,149-foot structure with the iconic 148-foot “needle” at the top.

Formerly the site of casino mogul Bob Stupak’s Vegas World, the Stratosphere Las Vegas opened in April 1996 and became not only the tallest building in Nevada, but the highest freestanding observation tower in the U.S, enticing more than a million visitors a year to soak in the vistas of the Strip and beyond.

In recent years, the other amenities at the property have not been attractive enough to keep those visitors on site. But all of that has changed at a rapid pace in recent months. Golden Entertainment bought the property — along with Arizona Charlie's Decatur and Arizona Charlie's Boulder — for $850 million in 2017, and earlier this year began an all-encompassing $140 million upgrade and rebrand.

The property is now The STRAT Hotel, Casino and SkyPod, and visitors are finding out that there is much, much more to see, touch and feel here than just the one-of-a-kind views from the peak of the building.

“I think in the past, a lot of people came to the property, went to the top and then went right back out the front door because there wasn’t really anything to keep them here,” explained Vice President and General Manager Chris Fiumara as he gave Casino City a recent tour. “With the addition of all the new amenities, we’re trying to bring critical mass to the property. We’re trying to create a ‘stickiness’ so people will want to stay.”

Early reviews of the rebrand and refresh show that visitors are indeed getting “stuck” at The STRAT.

With a new name and logo, there is most definitely a fresh vibe and renewed energy throughout the building. It's much more welcoming and guest friendly. The employees we talked to, many of whom have been with the property since it opened two decades ago, are rejuvenated and excited about the new ownership and all the money being poured into the property. “Little things” like shiny employee uniforms, directional signage, video walls at check-in and behind the box office, and the addition of new gift shops and a massive Starbucks next to the lobby are all part of the master plan. There are also some not-so-little things, like renovating nearly 400 guest rooms, with another 250 scheduled to be refreshed by September, before more work begins on the suites and other guest room towers.

Following our recent three-night stay, here are 10 items that we think will make it worth your while to stray away from the heart of the Strip and make a visit to The STRAT.

10. Exterior makeover
You only get one chance to make a first impression. The new owners of The STRAT took that saying to heart by making it a point to revamp the front entrance of the property and help spruce up the neighboring area.

The array of palm trees that dotted the outside of the building are gone, replaced by a fresh coat of paint, a new porte-cochère, new lighting and a huge LED sign with the refreshed logo, which will be completed next month.

The beautification of the exterior comes at an opportune time as the north end of the Strip looks to make a comeback. New major resort complexes within a mile or two of The STRAT, like the $4 billion Resorts World Las Vegas, scheduled to open next year, and Drew Las Vegas, slated to be completed in 2022, have great potential, while SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino is in the midst of a $100 million renovation and last month announced that it would rebrand to its original name, Sahara Las Vegas.

“It’s definitely on the rebound; there’s a lot of activity,” Fiumara said of the Strip’s north end. “Our goal from the get-go was to make the building more appealing to people on Las Vegas Boulevard, while keeping in mind the iconic nature of the building. I think we accomplished that.”

The new stainless steel sculpture outside The STRAT features three figures that face toward the very top of the building.

The new stainless steel sculpture outside The STRAT features three figures that face toward the very top of the building. (photo by Gary Trask)

9. Local art
Another nice touch is the addition of new art pieces all over the property, from the exterior to the restaurants to the guest rooms. The Las Vegas Art District is just a few blocks away, so all local artists were commissioned for the project.

One of the most notable pieces is the stainless steel sculpture called “LOOK!” that sits outside the main entrance on the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Bob Stupak Avenue. Created by James Talbert, Nick Stiley and Adin Fly from Kevin Barry Fine Art, the piece is three ascending figures ranging in size, from eight feet tall and 800 pounds to 15 feet and 1,100 pounds. The figures face toward the hotel’s tower, and when you look through the circular pieces at the top you see the apex of the building. Very cool.

8. New show venue
A new addition to The STRAT is the 200,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art theatrical tent at the back end of the property, which was previously used for overflow parking. The intimate venue seats about 1,000 and hosts the show Celestia, a circus-style production that features performers from 16 different countries who have been seen on America's Got Talent and Cirque Du Soleil. The STRAT is also home to MJ Live and Live Comedy in the Tower Shops.

The price point for Celestia is also quite reasonable, with tickets starting around $29.

“We’re not in the business of trying to gouge people for $120 a ticket,” said Fiumara. “There’s really not a bad seat in the house, and the show is family friendly that’s easy to follow. The reviews have been great.”

7. William Hill sportsbook

Take it from someone who frequents sportsbooks all over town with every visit to Las Vegas. The look and feel of the new book at The STRAT is impressive.

While not as massive as the renowned SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino a mile down the road, the William Hill-powered book, which opened in March, has an inviting floor plan highlighted by a crystal-clear 110-foot high-resolution LED screen that goes the length of the far wall and 12 additional big-screen HDTVs. Love that there are plenty of great seating options, with private wraparound booths, circular tables with leather chairs and individual rows of comfy singular seats.

Looking forward to checking out the book this fall for an NFL Sunday.

6. The View Lounge
Other than the sportsbook, one of my favorite spots in any casino is the “center bar” area, where you can sit down 24 hours a day and gaze at an entire casino floor with a cocktail and try your luck at video poker. The STRAT’s new The View Lounge punches all of those preferred boxes.

There’s a casual menu with items like smoked salmon flatbread and chilled Maine crab rolls, and a unique cocktail menu (try the Innocent Mistake, made with Sauza Hornitos, fresh lime sour, La Pinta pomegranate tequila and cantaloupe juice).

Bonus points for The View Lounge for adding additional seats that overlook the sportsbook and provide a great view of the LED screen and other TVs.

5. BLVD & MAIN Taphouse

There's lots to like about the spacious BLVD & MAIN Taphouse, which can seat 200 people and is named for the location of The STRAT on Las Vegas Boulevard and South Main Street.

First off, this place is built like a sports bar, with multiple TVs and six different configurations, tables with USB ports and great sightlines. Because of that, it serves as a perfect overflow location when the new sportsbook down the hall is packed to near capacity.

Secondly, the menu for both wood-fired food and draft beer is full of eclectic choices. One of the slogans for the restaurant is “Celebrate the art of beer,” which hits home for not only the deep selection of drafts on tap, but for the design and decor, since it’s the home for many of the masterpieces commissioned by the Las Vegas Art District.

Mark this down as one of those “sticky” places that will keep people inside The STRAT after they hit the observation deck or go to a show. According to a recent Golden Entertainment earnings call, the venue more than doubled its revenue in the second month of operation.

“It’s a very approachable venue,” Fiumara said. “This isn’t the Fogo de Chao crowd. It’s a beer and chicken wing crowd where you can come in, have a great time, watch a few games at a very reasonable price.”

4. Casino floor refresh and Link Slot Lounge

By the end of this year, the entire 80,000-square-foot casino floor at The STRAT will be fully remodeled, with much more open space (yes, that’s a recurring theme for the renovation) and a vibrant ceiling design inspired by “the sky, sun, stars and moon,” with a mix of blue and amber tones.

Earlier this month a new gaming area was unveiled, and in late July, the spiffy Link Slot Lounge, a partnership with Aristocrat Technologies, opened on the first level across from the sportsbook. Named for Aristocrat’s Link series, the 2,346-square-foot lounge, which used to be a Starbucks, offers 44 of the most popular games, including Buffalo Grand, Buffalo Diamond, Tarzan, Wonder 4 Spinning Fortunes.

In essence, this is a high-limit-like lounge area without the high limits.

Speaking of limits, Fiumara said that the new ownership wanted to make The STRAT even more player-friendly by bringing back blackjack that pays 3-to-2.

“Now that we are owned by a casino operator, we understand the psyche and mentality of the players,” he said. “We want to keep the player here, make the experience better and give the player value.”

3. SkyJump and Thrill Rides

The above video pretty much tells the story here. If you’re into heart-stopping, adrenaline-filled ventures, you’ll love strapping yourself to a bungee cord and descending off the highest sky jump in the world at speeds of up to 40 m.p.h.

If you’re like me and don’t have the guts to give the SkyJump a shot, there are less frightening options on levels 112 and 109 of the SkyPod, where you can ride Big Shot! (it blasts 160 feet into the air), Insanity (spins 64 feet over the edge of the tower), or X-Scream (catapults riders headfirst, 27 feet over the edge of the tower).

Hotel guests of The STRAT receive significant discounts on all rides and the SkyJump.

2. Top of the World Restaurant and 107 SkyLounge
While I’m too much of a chicken for sky jumping, stepping onto the elevator — which passes three floors per second at 21 m.p.h. — and taking in the staggering views of Las Vegas atop The STRAT with a nice meal and a glass of wine is right in my wheelhouse.

Sitting 844 feet above the Strip, the 320-seat Top of the World Restaurant slowly rotates 360 degrees, finishing a complete spin every 80 minutes, which means during your meal you’ll see the views from all angles. Great food and drink. Impeccable service. And epic views of Las Vegas. You really can’t go wrong here.

The perfect spot for a pre- or post-dinner cocktail sits one floor above at 107 SkyLounge, which has a great choice of cocktails and appetizers, and also serves dinner. And since we love Happy Hours in Las Vegas, the 50% off cocktails and select wine and beer at the lounge from 4 to 7 p.m. will be a regular stop during future trips.

1. Observation Deck

Despite the rebrand and multimillion-dollar renovation project, the Observation Deck at The STRAT remains the star of the show here.

Even if you don’t want to hang off the edge on one of the rides or sit down for dinner, there are plenty of other reasons to make your way to the Observation Deck. The new interactive maps provide a great way to actually learn what you are gazing out at, and 108 Eats by James Trees has some delicious and different menu items, such as panini sandwiches (sliced meatball is outstanding), cookie creations, ice cream and sorbets.

Admission to the Observation Deck is $20, and there are also packages available if you want to throw in a thrill ride or two. Once again, hotel guests receive a discount and can head up for just $5, and keep in mind there is no admission to visit Top of the World Restaurant and 107 SkyLounge.
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