The Rise of the Las Vegas Boutique Hotel

By: Kyle Goodwin

December 12, 2014

“˜Small’ isn’t a word you hear too often in Las Vegas. However, there’s a new trend sweeping the Strip – proving that, even in Vegas, bigger isn’t necessarily better.


The rise of the Las Vegas boutique hotel has been gently reshaping Vegas’ general philosophy, offering a fascinating insight into the cultural evolution of this extravagant city.


The Rise of the Las Vegas Boutique Hotel | Bellagio

The Bellagio, Las Vegas © Bellagio


Until now, the “˜build-it-as-big-as-possible’ approach has defined almost every inch of Nevada’s unique escape from reality. From the exquisite luxuries of the Bellagio to the intricate detailing of The Venetian – via the Rio Hotel’s seemingly ceaseless Carnival World Buffet – there has always been one interlinking concept: everything has to be big, bright and attention-grabbing.


When the El Rancho Resort first opened its doors in 1941, it set the tone for all that was to follow: creating a rapid influx of hotel-casinos on the section of highway soon to be known as the Strip.


The Rise of the Las Vegas Boutique Hotel | The Venetian
The Venetian, Las Vegas © The Venetian


Originally, most of these hotels orbited around an Old West theme, drawing inspiration from the popular film genre and regional real-life tales. In 1946, though, mobster Bugsy Siegal opened the Flamingo – a ritzy resort using Hollywood as its muse. With dozens of celebrities attending the glamorous Christmas Day-opening, and a host of first-rate performers booked regularly for its lounges, the Vegas hotel culture had subsequently been altered, spawning a new generation of resorts such as the Sahara, the New Frontier and the Riviera, all fuelled by endless slot machines and gaming tables.


By 1954, the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Elvis Presley had become regular performers at the Vegas resorts – contributing hugely to the glamorous widespread perception we have today.

 The Rise of the Las Vegas Boutique Hotel | New York-New York
New York-New York exterior © New York-New York 


And so it went, until 1989, when long-standing casino developer Steve Wynn launched the now-infamous Mirage: Vegas’ first mega-resort. The hotel-casino went on to redefine Las Vegas hotel culture, and over the next two decades many casinos were demolished to make room for this next generation of super-hotels. Out of the rubble came much of the Vegas we know today, including the Venetian, New York-New York and Paris Las Vegas.


In turn, this led to a boom in grandiose hotels such as Bellagio and the Wynn Las Vegas, costing $1.6 billion and $2.7 billion to build respectively (although Bellagio went through a $70 million upgrade in 2011). These hotels were a shift away from the heavily-themed concepts that were beginning to customise Vegas, and while the extravagance had been maintained, it instigated another sub-division of Vegas hotels.


The Rise of the Las Vegas Boutique Hotel | Wynn Las Vegas
Wynn Las Vegas © The Wynn


The city continued to grow exponentially. Tourism soared, and in 2008 – with the city’s residents facing a bleak financial recession – Vegas received nearly 40 million visitors.


Today, however, with the smaller and more intimate Las Vegas boutique hotel scene beginning to grow, the landscape is changing once again.


The Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas © Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas


When the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas opened on December 5, 2009, it set a new trend – being one of the first luxury non-gaming hotels in the city, with the emphasis moving away from Vegas’ traditional “˜bigger is better’ ethos, and instead channelling their focus towards the subtleties that epitomise the modern boutique hotels of this age. It sparked a surge, with the city’s leading mega-resorts keen to be represented in this new wave of hotels.


And it began”¦


MGM launched SkyLOFTS, a stunning take on boutique themes set 29-stories above the Strip.


Wynn Las Vegas branched out to open Wynn Tower Suites – with its elegant boutique décor providing a new twist on the hotel’s previous ventures.


Caesars completely renovated Bill’s, one of their many popular hotels, which re-opened earlier this year as The Cromwell Las Vegas, with 188 striking boutique rooms in a Parisian-inspired atmosphere.


The Rise of the Las Vegas Boutique Hotel | Delano
The Delano, Las Vegas © Delano Las Vegas


With the city’s biggest resorts leading the way, we’re now starting to see many more boutique hotels arriving on the scene – all hip, all trendy, and all pleasantly modern. Delano Las Vegas, for instance, was launched in September this year by MGM. The peaceful, contemporary hotel is set across 43-storeys, and yet sustains a spiritual serenity that spans the crisp, clean white bedrooms, the sustainable restaurants and the spacious spa.


The Rise of the Las Vegas Boutique Hotel | Delano

The Delano, Las Vegas © Delano Las Vegas


The unveiling of Nobu at Caesar’s Palace is a particularly noteworthy inclusion to Las Vegas boutique hotel scene – as fans of the world famous fusion restaurant will know, it is Nobu’s first venture into the sphere of luxury hotels. Situated within Caesar’s Palace, the atmosphere is one of effortless luxury. Expect VIP treatment, surrounded by glamour, celebrities and cash-flashers, with Elton John and Shania Twain having starred in the hotel’s lounges.


Nearby, positioned in the famous plot dedicated to the Sahara Resort, SLS Hotel and Casino is swiftly updating the Sahara’s reputation for being at the centre of all the best parties. The expansive hotel contains everything you could possibly need with copious bars and restaurants. It even has a salon and a Fred Segal store; so leaving the luxury of your surroundings is a choice rather than a necessity.

 The Rise of the Las Vegas Boutique Hotel | SLS
SLS, Las Veags © SLS Hotel and Casino


Cosmopolitan Las Vegas is another prime example of the rising boutique culture in Vegas. “˜Explore the unexpected’ is their motto – which certainly makes sense considering the wealth of diversity on offer. From the desert-inspired spa to their awe-inspiring pools, Cosmopolitan Las Vegas takes the best elements of the mega resorts and seamlessly applies them to a more intimate setting.


The Rise of the Las Vegas Boutique Hotel | The Cosmopolitan
The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas © Cosmopolitan Las Vegas


Although slightly more established, Aria Hotel and Resort, too, is among the stand out Vegas boutiques. The magnificent property is famous for providing every room with a great view, with the clever design allowing you to enjoy the impressive vistas of the Strip and beyond, whatever your budget. When you’re not in the room, there are all the usual activities, four pools and a Cirque du Soleil show for you to enjoy.


The Rise of the Las Vegas Boutique Hotel | Aria
Aria Hotel, Las Vegas © Aria Hotel and Resort


Indeed, the Las Vegas boutique hotel scene is increasingly becoming an established part of the city’s future, while still upholding the glitz that has become synonymous with the Strip. It seems good things do come in small, well”¦ smaller, packages.

Header Image © SLS Hotel and Casino

Virgin Atlantic operates daily direct flights to Las Vegas from London Gatwick.

Which Las Vegas boutique hotel would you most like to stay in? What are your favourite hotels in town? Let us know in the comments section below.


Kyle Goodwin

Kyle Goodwin is the Founder & Managing Editor at pop-culture magazine, DRAFTED ( Having freelanced regularly for numerous publications, including Vice and Men’s Fitness, he worked as a scriptwriter for London-based political satire show, The NewsRevue, before becoming the Lifestyle & Entertainment Editor at HOTHOT magazine. He currently lives in London and specialises in topical-culture journalism.

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