Arriving in Sin City doesn't have to be an exhausting experience.

In Part One of this series, I introduced you to the little-known AHERN HOTEL near the corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. I told you about in-the-making plans that should establish this little red boutique resort as a powerhouse. Now let's check in for an overnight stay.

You've just flown for hours on a crowded plane, walked through a huge airport to pick up your bags, stood in taxi lines, then schlepped your luggage through a massive hotel to check in. When you arrive, the line snakes back and forth, then out into the casino. You're exhausted and just want to get to the fun (or perhaps a nap first). Too bad! The self-serve kiosks aren't operating or have been removed, the counter is understaffed with inexperienced agents, and you're about to waste 90 minutes standing in yet another line. Welcome to Vegas!

This weekend I made the very unfortunate decision to book a night at STRAT Hotel Casino. As is typical for a Sunday evening, most tourists leave for home, and room rates drop significantly. You might expect the check-in process to be smooth sailing...unless the hotel is understaffed AND they've made a WTF decision to eliminate automated reservation kiosks during a nationwide staffing crisis. In their place is a QR code on a cardboard sign, and it leads to absolutely nothing. Admirable customer service, STRAT!

A recent stay at HARRAH's yielded a mirror situation that was just as frustrating. The reservation desk was manned by only two (!) people. One was directing arrivals toward a bank of self-serve kiosks, and another sat behind the counter at the far end, doing absolutely nothing. Approaching the kiosk attendant (a person to assist machines, mind you), I voiced my preference to check in with the human being. She informed me that I needed a certain level of loyalty rewards in order to do so. And they call this the "hospitality industry"?

It doesn't have to be this way. Nearly every travel dilemma has an alternative. There's really no reason to put yourself through torment time and time again in the name of a  "Vegas, Baby!" excursion. AHERN HOTEL is your cure for the bad-service blues. I know because I've stayed just about everywhere. Come along and learn how a getaway at small hotels like AHERN can actually offer a better overall experience than the megaresorts.

If you arrive by taxi or rideshare service, you'll be dropped off right outside the lobby. Just a few steps inside and you're already being waited on. If you're driving your own car or rental, the attached parking garage also leads directly to the hotel building by means of a short enclosed bridge. One floor down in the elevator, and you're there. 

Take a look around and what do you see...chaos and dozens of frustrated travelers? Hardly. A piano. Floral arrangements. Luxurious seating. A view of the small pool and cabanas. Relaxing music playing overhead. And two polite agents who are ready to greet you and assign your keys. Try not to be shocked that you aren't forced to pay a $45-a-day mandatory fee to utilize resort services and amenities. They're included in the room rate, as is the use of the parking garage...the way Las Vegas used to be.

On your way into AHERN, you might also have noticed how clean the common areas are. We've become desensitized to the filth of most Strip hotels these days. The pictures below were taken at Bally's, Flamingo, and Paris. They truly are dirty, poorly maintained, and aging badly. Elevators and escalators are constantly "under repair", sidewalks seemingly haven't been power-washed in years, and parking areas are absolutely disgusting. Not true at AHERN. Everything sparkles and shines....even the garage.

So we've established that the newest boutique hotel is clean, convenient, and friendly. Know that room rates are deliberately comparable to their nearest neighbor, SAHARA LAS VEGAS. A mere two blocks away, SAHARA has the shows, clubs, and gaming that AHERN lacks. That might sound like a negative, but do you HAVE to sleep where you play? Of course not.

One of the most common activities for Vegas tourists is to walk up and down the Strip, visiting as many hotels as their stamina permits. There are plenty of destinations within walking distance of AHERN, including RESORTS WORLD, CIRCUS CIRCUS, the STRAT, and most importantly, the Las Vegas Monorail system. Those elevated trains will speed you all the way down to MGM Grand and back again, stopping at just about every major hotel on the east side of Las Vegas Boulevard. They arrive every four to eight minutes, and a four-day unlimited pass is only $36. So think of AHERN's location as a perk, not a drawback.

After you've received your keys, take a few steps back to the elevators. LED boards throughout the hotel alert you to temperature, weather patterns, and even airport departure information. Corridors are relatively short, with the elevator bank in the middle. So even if you're at the end of the hall, it's not very far. Everything about AHERN centers on convenience, comfort and simplicity, albeit with an elevated flare.

Room selection offers two types of standard, a deluxe king, junior suite, king suite, and a penthouse. Being economical by nature, I purchased the standard king ($93 plus taxes on a non-event Thursday night). Even though the former LUCKY DRAGON is only five years old, new owner Don Ahern invested $10 million in improvements. New color schemes, furniture, bedding, and amenities are evident throughout.

The Standard King comes with luxurious linens, a mini-fridge, and two lighted closets. One contains an iron/board combo, and the other houses a digital safe that is free to use (some Strip hotels now require the use of a credit card and resulting fee). A full-sized desk with a professional office chair has plenty of charging ports to supply your devices, as do the nightstand lamps.

Take note of the bottles of water supplied on the small window-side table. You might expect those hanger tags to say "Enjoy this bottle and $8.00 will be added to your account". Not at AHERN. They're completely free of charge...another small gesture in the hotel's efforts to make you feel welcome and appreciated. 

Bathrooms in the Standard King are relatively basic, although it's important to note the level of cleanliness and newness of fixtures. Supplied toiletries are nothing to brag about, but towels are thick, fresh, and plentiful. Those who despise hotel showers with that absurd half-partition (meaning water all over the floor) will be pleased to learn that AHERN's showers are deep and self-contained behind a separate wall. No slipping hazards here.

It would be nice if AHERN supplied in-room coffeemakers for their guests, but AROMA BISTRO BAR is once again only a few steps away from anywhere in the hotel. Open from 6 am, it serves traditional espressos, specialty coffees, Italian Soda, herbal teas, and matches, along with fresh-baked breads, pastries, and sandwiches.

For a more hearty breakfast, head downstairs to TRATTORIA by Chef Marc. Their $2.99 weekday breakfast special is unheard-of in today's economy, but even more so in such lush surroundings, Learn more about TRATTORIA's breakfast offerings in my brunch review here.

Two things that boutique hotels usually skimp on are pools and fitness centers. AHERN is no different in that department. Their outdoor pool deck is more of a relaxation option than a "pool experience". The same goes for their second-level gym, which only has a few pieces of cardio equipment and a stretching cage. If either of those factors or the need for a spa are on your wish list, neighboring SAHARA LAS VEGAS once more comes to the rescue, albeit at an extra charge. 

No matter what your criteria for having a great Vegas vacation, AHERN HOTEL truly is a little lion you should consider. Offering excellent value, old-fashioned service, top-notch lodging, and extremely-affordable high-end dining, it's a treasure chest that's waiting to be discovered. 

In the finale part of this series, I'll return to TRATTORIA by Chef Marc to experience their dinner menu. 

AHERN HOTEL is located at 300 W. Sahara Avenue. Call 725-214-4800 for more information, or head to the AHERN HOTEL website.


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