Just like the LA Basin, this place goes on and on and on. It's the largest resort in a town famous for enormous resorts. That makes it perfect for go-getters who love a brisk hike from check-in to the elevators. Other than its size, some very good restaurants and a lot of entertainment options.
Room Quality: The West Wing are the smallest rooms: smaller than Grand Tower rooms at a typical hotel-room 350 s.f. They are in an older building, but do have nicer-than-average bedding and furniture, modern fixtures, a "boutique" hotel vibe, flat screen TVs in the bedroom and bathroom, and no bathtubs. The Grand Tower is preferable to us, because the rooms are an average 100 s.f. larger. They are well-appointed. The king rooms have nice settees. The colors are light and the furnishings are fairly high quality with a modern feel. The bathrooms are spacious, with marble, but not fancy. No matter where your room is in this monstrosity, it'll be a long way from the front desk. For some, a hotel with absolutely everything under one roof is attractive. If that describes you, this is your place. For something a bit fancier, check out the Signature, which is sort of a hotel at the hotel that is all suites (for more dough, of course). Fancier beddings, jacuzzi tubs, flat-screen TVs, kitchenettes and just plain bigger rooms. Be forewarned that MGM does not guarantee any room type, so you'll probably get what you book, but not always.
Service Quality: Good. This place is enormous and it's trying to please both the gamblers and visitors with kids. Room service is as slow as one would expect in a 5,000 room hotel. Also, avoid trying to check-in at rush hour because there are few casinos in the world with longer lines than this place when it's busy. Specifically, avoid Thursday and Fridays between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m.
What You Get Bottles of in the Bathroom: Shampoo, conditioner, bath gel, plastic shower caps, lotion, and a "vanity kit" with Q-tips. We hope you brought a big suitcase for taking it all home.
Clientele: The young and old converge on Las Vegas' largest hotel. There are very few locals mixed in with the wide range of tourists.
How's the Pool? Big and nice, with a huge main pool and cool palm trees. It's crowded in the summer. The coolest part of the pool area is the lazy river. The pools are heated, and at least one is open all winter. The adults only "Wet Republic" is a swankier party pool.
Resort Fee: (What is this?)
$22.40 per night. You get high-speed internet, $15 beverage credit per stay (not per night), USA Today, local and toll-free calls and limited business center services.
Table Games: As Las Vegas' biggest casino, they have a bit of everything. High-roller salons, and hundreds of tables for blackjack, craps, roulette, pai gow, the bad-bet Big 6 wheel, Let It Ride and on and on. The Asian high-rollers play in the salon for tens of thousands of dollars each hand, and get put up in fancy mansions behind the swimming pool. Oh, there is also a very small pit of non-smoking tables.
Bet Minimums: Expect to see $10 and up (although we did see $5 tables off the main casino floor), and it can go high faster than you can say "I have to walk how far to the bathroom???" Carnival games (table games you've never heard of) start at $10, roulette is $1 chips with a $5 minimum. Craps is 3x4x5x odds.
Machines: From pennies to $500. See, you start on the pennies, win a jackpot, move up to the quarters, and so on until you're playing the $500 machines. Then you lose it all. There is very little to no full-pay video poker. MGM Grand is home to the last working Sigma Derby in Vegas.
Cocktails? Good, but with this much space it is not as fast as some of the smaller places. And, you can lurk in some corners where a waitress will never find you. Nickel players often have to be vocal to get attention. We never have a problem being vocal.
Who Gets Comps? The big boys. We have not heard many reports of free room offers in the mail, or them showering low-rollers with undeserved buffet comps. The M Life slot club is meant to make you very loyal to the MGM casinos.
Diego: Mexican food that is pretty decent. The only big difference is the room is nicer. They kind of mock Mexican cuisine with things like margarita popsicles and tequila sorbet shooters. It must be one of those hip, young things. One nice touch is the mobile salsa cart, but they won't let you push it around. Trust us on that.
Emeril Lagasse's New Orleans Fish House: Now, here's some real Cajun cooking. This is a Las Vegas staple where the cooking is authentic and quite good. Expect to shell out $100 for dinner for two after the wine is added to the bill. Oh, and don't miss the key lime pie or banana cream pie for dessert.
Fiamma: This is good Italian. Transported from New York, the restaurant serves a lot of traditional dishes like spaghetti, ravioli and lasagna, but they really make them over quite nicely. They want you to also get a meat with your pasta, though, and a salad, and a dessert. No, thank you, we'll just eat the pasta and have the cookies we pocketed at the morning buffet for dessert. Dinners only.
Grand Buffet: This is an average Las Vegas buffet. It can have long lines during mealtimes.
Grand Wok: It's a mid-priced Asian restaurant serving a range of Asian dishes (not just Chinese) like Tempura and sushi, Peking Duck and Thai-style noodles. The good news is the prices are fair and the dishes aren't the same-old thing. The restaurant has a pretty water theme and the food is good. The variety is welcome.
Joel Robuchon at the Mansion: This chef is so great he has to put his name on everything. Sort of like the Bob Stupak of cuisine. This exclusive eatery (make reservations) is unbelievably expensive and very traditional French. Expect the typical high-brow dishes of grilled sea bass (although here it might really be sea bass), caviar, some fancy seafood and meats with rich sauces. This is the only restaurant in town to receive three Michelin stars, which is very, very impressive.
L'atelier de Joel Robuchon: Can't afford the super fancy place with Joel Robuchon's name on it? Try here. It's still Frenchy and sort of snooty, but served more casually and at a much lower cost. In fact, you watch the people making it, so you can be somewhat assured they don't blow snot in your Mediterranean vegetables with buffalo mozzarella. Other dishes include seafood, meats, heavy sauces and loads of foie gras.
Nobhill Tavern: Some sort of fusion cuisine goes on here, with lots of seafood, but also Asian food and just about anything else you can think of. Chef Michael Mina says it's San Francisco cuisine, but it doesn't taste like the asphalt we've eaten there. It's a "neighborhood" atmosphere.
Pearl: A chi-chi Chinese place. Very elegant, minimal, neo-deco decor and a menu with entrees ranging from under $20 to almost $50. The restaurant area is decidedly upscale, with Emeril Lagasse's Fish House across from Pearl looking only slightly more family style, but just as upscale.
Rainforest Cafe: It's a coffee shop. Okay, the food is better than a coffee shop's, but not by much. What you're paying for is the rainforest atmosphere and all of the animatronic animals and running water. Consumers should be aware that the Rainforest Cafe does not give a dime of the money you pay to any sort of rainforest preservation. It all goes into fat cats' pocketbooks.
Seablue: It's a seafood restaurant. Yes, in the middle of the desert. It's not the only one, you know? They have a fish tank and fresh fish jetted in daily. We sure hope the stewardesses treat the fish nicely because nothing tastes worse than a Chilean bass with jet lag. There is also "angry" lobster fideo. Gee, what could they be upset about? The fish are grilled on a wood-fire, and appetizers are pan-world. Oh yeah, and not that we can afford any more than a Pabst Blue Ribbon, but the wine menu is fa-a-a-a-ancy.
Shibuya: Fancy Japanese dining complete in a restaurant that serves sushi, teppan and a la carte. There are three separate dining rooms within the restaurant for the different types of food. They say the sake cellar is spectacular, but don't take our word for it. We think a cold forty of Olde English 800 is the peak of hooch guzzling.
Studio Cafe: A coffee shop with food basically. The place has a long cocktail menu, so at least you can feel as drunk as Hollywood stars.
Tom Colicchio's CraftSteak: This is a fancy modern steakhouse with prices to match. It looks nice, sort of like an Ikea catalog. The food, though, is very good. Dishes are served a la carte, and you know what that means: the prices add up quick. Especially if you start with one of the waygu beefs that start at over $200 just for the meat. If you don't have a big appetite, they offer a lower-cost, smaller portion menu. The wine list is massive and more expensive than our cars.
Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill: Italian, American and some German. The prices are somewhat reasonable. This restaurant is open to the casino floor and can be very noisy.
There are plenty more eating opportunities at the MGM Grand, including Bonanno's Pizza, Cabana Grill for Mexican, McDonalds, Nathan's Hot Dogs, Asian Fresh, Haagen Dazs, 'Wichcraft for sandwiches, and Stage Deli for even more sandwiches. Oh, and three Starbucks serve up coffee in an adult contemporary atmosphere.
Centrifuge Bar: Near the front of the casino is a massive dome with a huge bar, and it's also where the poker room is. You can watch better-than-average lounge acts perform for free.
Crazy Horse Paris: This transplant from Paris is supposed to make nude ladies somehow more classy. You know, because the French with their non-bathing, non-shaving ways are the epitome of class. It's for people who want to see pretty naked ladies but are too ashamed to go to strip clubs. If you're one of these folks, get your dough ready and see the boobies all classed up with music and dance.
CSI: The Experience: Finally, your chance to pretend to be a real criminal forensics expert. The CSI: The Experience plays off the show based in Las Vegas, in which moody people solve crimes by using technology to analyze evidence. Here, you can choose among three murders and 15 lab stations to solve a crime every bit as real as the ones on TV.
Hollywood Theater: This is where the Vegas performers like Tom Jones work their show business magic on the masses. It seats 620 people.
Ka: The expensive folks at Cirque do Soleil put their acrobatic circus touch on "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" with a martial arts-themed show about two Asian brothers who choose paths of good and evil. Simple, obvious story, but you're really there for the physical feats of derring do that the performers stage. While it's the latest and most advanced Cirque show, it's still a Cirque show and how much you like it depends entirely on how much you like their style of sort-of-pretentious artsy stuff.
Lion Habitat: Get up close and personal with lions and tigers. Only a thick piece of plexiglas separates you from the kings and queens of the jungles.
MGM Grand Garden Arena: A 15,000 seat arena, where they have stuff like heavyweight title fights or Barbara Streisand, but never Babs in a heavyweight title fight.
Studio 54: Vacuous people in tight dresses meet vacuous people in silk shirts in this pulsating nightclub. You'll feel like somebody important just for being here. Or, if you're like us, you'll feel like a loser for blowing all that cash and then standing on the side thinking nobody would ever want to dance with us.
Tabu: At this nightspot they claim you're welcome but your inhibition is not. Yeah, right. If inhibition is prohibited, why was security on us like flies when we took off our pants? Anyway, Tabu is a "sensual" lounge with dancing, deejays and attitude.
Number of TVs: About 36 big 60-inch flat screens with a dozen smaller ones. There are also three monster-screens. That is not to say they will eat you, just that they are rather large, like a monster.
Number of Seats: About 104 in sports book, set up movie-theater style. In the back it's lounge style, with seats at small tables. About 50 seats are for the race room, each with its own little monitor. The seats are above average in the comfort game and are leather, or something like leather. Oh, and by the way, they have fancy "skyboxes" for their well-to-do clients.
How Many Betting Windows? 17, with electronic signboards.
Free Drinks? Yes, but mostly just if you bet huge amounts. Unless you bet ponies. They get their hooch for cheaper bets.
Snack Bar? Stage Deli for sandwiches and such.
Minimum Wager: $5 sports, $2 for racing.
Number of Tables: Twenty-two tables makes it one of the bigger rooms in town. And, unlike most of the other rooms late to the game, this one is pretty dang nice. Expect games 24/7 with almost all tables going on weekends.
Comfort of Chairs: The chairs are very good. The tables are cool.
Closed Room or Open to Casino? Not really. There is the sports book to one side and some hipster nightclub on the other, so you're gonna get noise. Still, this is a nice room with cool tables and a vibe that attracts young, overconfident kids.
Game Spreads and Limits: Texas Hold Em from $3-$6 up to some mid-level games for fixed limit. They also have several no-limit games available starting at $1-$2. They also say they deal stud, Omaha and mixed games, but mostly expect to find Hold'Em.
How Crowded is the Room? It's a popular room, but it's also big enough that you usually have a short wait. Even on weekends, you likely won't have more than a half hour wait.
Comps? The standard $1 per hour up to a whopping $10 a day. Whoop de doo.
How Good Are the Players? Man, there are so many young kids with backward ballcaps it'll make you cringe. In general, this is a good room to fleece some kids, so long as you know how to play tight aggressive and go for the jugular with strong hands. Some of these knuckleheads will chase you to the river.
What Else Do I Need to Know? Lots of fancy televisions, and a very nice computerized wait list. This is a hipster room, which is sort of good, but sort of lame if all you want to do is play poker without distractions. It's a non-smoking room, and they have tableside massage and food service. Yeah, the other players at your table will be thrilled when you order a jumbo platter of onion rings.