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.
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.
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.
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.
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]