Rethinking the Excalibur

Excalibur

After a surprising stay, Kelly Lamrock rethinks the Excalibur…

With an entire week in Vegas and two teenagers in tow, we were looking for a different type of hotel. Specifically, we were going to book two rooms. The teenagers would love the independence; the adults would enjoy the quiet and privacy. But, of course, this meant looking for an affordable option in a family-friendly resort. And, just like that, the Excalibur, with its games room, low rates, and connection to all the MGM Resorts, was in play.

I expected this to be an article on how to survive the Excalibur. I am instead writing an article urging a rethink of the Excalibur, from the perspective of someone who made it the last of the MGM resorts I tried.

The rooms have been redone, and while no one is going to wake up and think they’re at the Wynn, the dark brown tones are pleasant and the rooms are of a decent size. Housekeeping was prompt, and the hotel stay was perfectly agreeable.

Where Excalibur surprised me was with its casino nightlife, which has really improved. What is really working is a large number of lounges and variety of atmospheres each brings. The Lounge at Excalibur, a big space off the casino floor, was busy every night and did a lot of things well.

Excalibur

Specifically, they have live music every night, and the quality is excellent. Our first night there we saw “N-Demand,” a four-piece Motown act that impressed us with the harmonies and co-ordinated throwback dance moves. The veteran group were true pros, interacting with the audience in the break and throwing in some intelligent patter about the music they were reviving. The other nights we saw classic rock cover bands that were, again, musically tight and professional in how they worked the room. The bar has a good cocktail menu, good prices for the Strip, and video poker machines with great sight lines for the music. It makes a great casino hub, and The Lounge impressed me.

Upstairs, across from The Buffet, is the new Octane Lounge, which is Excalibur’s effort to offer an ultralounge with a DJ playing tracks. And it….works, kind of.

Excalibur Excalibur

The beaded cushion tries to obscure the shopping mall feel of the upstairs with minimal success, but the music was good, and the cocktails were well done. We had a $25 coupon thanks to MyVEGAS, and we enjoyed the two rounds of drinks. The traditional drinks, like Old Fashioned and Side Car, were served cold and had the right kick to them, and house recipes like the Octane Ecstasy were fun without being too sweet. Even the shooters of Butterscotch Schnaps and Bailey’s were good. I don’t think any young folks will leave LAX for Octane, but the crowd there seemed happy, and the music was not too obtrusive.

The Sports Bar kept the video poker drinks coming, and the Sword In The Stone Bar had friendly service. There was good energy in the Excalibur casino with lots of $10 tables. I really thought Excalibur mixed informality with good service really well.

The dining options are still dominated by the food court, but Dick’s Last Resort remained fun.

Excalibur

We have been twice this year, and each time the staff managed to be genuinely funny with their schtick (angry, smart-assed dive bar staff) while actually being very attentive with the service. The food is actually decent pub food at a good Strip price point – two of us had decent rib and wing combos with a fair bit of booze for about $50 each before tip (partly thanks to coupons they hand out in the casino).

The Steak House at Camelot has a very standard Steak house menu, but everything was prepared well. Our steaks had a nice garlicky spice and were cooked to order. The French onion soup was wonderful, with onion strings and cheese atop a pretty rich stock. It was a perfectly nice night out in an old school Steak house.

Excalibur

The teens found the pool quite lively with music they liked and plenty of people. We liked the new adults-only section which is quiet and has great drink service, with a decent view of the adjacent Strip. The Drenched bar had decent-enough food and lots of beer choices.

The sports book had many comfy chairs readily available and the staff there was friendly and knowledgable. It was a pleasant place to play.

In all these cases, the bill was less than you’d pay most places on the Strip. Even on a subsequent trip, we found ourselves lounge-hopping at Excalibur as the night wound down because it was fun and didn’t take itself too seriously. Sure, there’s still a baked-in smell of cigarettes and a few too many bros on weekends, but we left surprised at a stay that we enjoyed, not just tolerated until we headed to other resorts.

There are rumours that Excalibur may be next to be de-themed and spruced up. If that means they double the price and make it more bland, I say pass. MGM has raised the game here and created an easy place to hang out, drink and have fun without feeling like you have to dress up and be seen amidst the oontz and $20 cocktails. Frankly, that’s a theme that there isn’t enough of and it can work.

As for the theme, the Vegas Golden Knights are coming to the Park next year. If the marketers at MGM can’t make Excalibur part of that NHL experience, then they aren’t trying.

[Photos and Cover: Excalibur Las Vegas]

About the Author

Kelly Lamrock
Kelly Lamrock didn't see Vegas until he was 40. Now, he goes several times a year. When home in Atlantic Canada, he's a lawyer, international consultant, and former Attorney-General. When in Vegas, he is consumed by the search for the best craft beer, the perfect sportsbook, and a post-show cigar. He loves Vegas because, as Jerry Seinfeld says, "wherever you're from, Vegas is pretty much the opposite of that."

9 Comments on "Rethinking the Excalibur"

  1. I just find myself hard pressed to stay at any MGM property with their reduced pours, higher priced amenities, resort and parking fees.

  2. Jilly From Philly | February 21, 2017 at 7:21 am |

    Is Taco still at Dick’s Last Resort?

  3. Thanks for review. It sounds like a place I would be perfectly content in.

  4. In addition to all that you wrote about, I’d say that the gambling on this HUGE casino floor is among the best in Las Vegas. Great action 24/7

  5. Thanks for the great post. I’ve stayed here and quite liked it. I knew it was a “budget” conscious place when we booked and stayed there because my son was paying his way and had limited means. Knowing what to expect going in is really ideal in any situation, and I have to admit that we really quite liked the place. I guess if you’re a person with more discerning tastes, then it might not be for you. I liked it. Removing the theme and making the place more expensive might do more damage than good though. Not all families can afford the higher prices at some resorts. Either way, I take the good, the bad and the ugly in stride in Vegas. Frankly put, it’s what makes Vegas, Las VEGAS. Thank you for the post – love the read and the pictures.

  6. Narsfweasels | February 22, 2017 at 3:49 pm |

    I can appreciate this re-evaluation of the Excalibur, the only thing that would worry me is the ever-present smoky smell.

    And the kids. >_<

  7. Hey Jilly…no, haven’t seen Taco in years. He was very good, and frankly, the successors have been more annoying than gonzo-good.

    And Aaron….I agree. The great part of Vegas is the variety of experiences and atmospheres, and they can all be good depending on what you want. I’ve stayed at the Wynn and a week later been in Ballys. Both were enjoyable…it’s knowing what you’re choosing and embracing it.

  8. Well stated Kellylamrock. Embracing all the experiences is what it’s about. The place is too amazing not too.

  9. I have to agree with you on rethinking Excal.

    First off I have to say I am very picky with rooms and on our most recent trip, our hotel was over booked and they sent us to Excal. Of course I was in FEAR when I was told we were going to be staying in Excal for the night but after a delayed flight and waiting in check in for 1.5hrs at our original booked hotel I just wanted a place to crash as it was already 3am (6am where we’re from). To our surprise the redone rooms were not as scary as I thought. Of course not Cosmo/Wynn but it was decent. For that price range, I will definitely consider Excalibur for a cheap Vegas trip.

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