The El Cortez opened in 1941 and is the longest continuously running Las Vegas hotel. The El Cortez boasts a history unlike any other standing hotel in Las Vegas. For a number of years in the days of the mob Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Gus Greenbaum, and Moe Sedwayby all shared ownership of the El Cortez. It is situated in the Fremont East district, and though has gone through renovations and expansions, the original skin still exists.
One sound that Las Vegas seems to have lost almost completely is the buzzing that comes with real neon. The dangerous hum the heated plasma makes as it slams inside the glass. It is a sound that reminds you electricity is a dangerous, almost living creature trying to escape. While walking outside the El Cortez, that sound reverberates loudly and proudly, an anthem singing to the world that it will survive. The El Cortez has managed to thrive in a town known for its fascination with tearing down the old to build new. Cigarette smoke whirled in the air on the casino floor before being trapped and dissipating near the chandeliers. The music over the speakers was not raucous and comes from the bygone era, tunes like “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “My Girl” had us singing before we realized we were.
The rooms, coincidently named ‘Vintage’, are from the original structure and sit atop the buzzing casino below. If you continue around on the second floor, the barber shop is still up and running with an older gentlemen that cuts hair in one singular fashion, “as men should” as he has stated previously. The sounds of the casino can be heard through the floors, but unless there was an overly loud exclamation, it blends to a murmur not unlike an ocean side room. From the pistachio painted bathroom walls to the porcelain cross handle faucet knobs, the rooms are certainly from a time not our own, but comfortable and made the past tangible.
Standing in rooms that were once under the control of Bugsy Siegel himself is a strange adventure everyone should partake in. The rooms are not the most up to date nor are they the most attractive, but they are ripe with history, located conveniently, and not cramped like many other older hotels. The rooms either look out onto the surrounding streets or over the roof of the casino. Though the shower was vintage, the water pressured was not lacking and the hot water lasted for a long time. Both the bed and couch were comfortable and could hold more than one person. They even had a Keurig in the room, though to get to the sealed coffees was a task unto itself. When they say the room will be charged once the seal is broken, they mean it requires an industrial jackhammer or a Ginsu knife circa 1980.
Value is found in so many more places than just the price, though the bang for your buck here is excellent. Suites with a king-sized bed, full L-shaped couch, and a mini fridge for under $100 (and sometimes even less on off-peak days). It is a perfect crash pad for a night out on the town in downtown Las Vegas. Regular king-sized rooms can sometimes be found for as little as $27 before taxes. The Siegel 1941, a café downstairs, has wonderful midnight specials and delicious breakfast options. The smoked salmon bagel is a force to be reckoned with and easily shareable, there was more salmon than could fit on either half.
This year the El Cortex celebrates its diamond anniversary, a full 75 years of history, and since 2013 has been in the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel may look familiar to fans of Elle Goulding since her song “On My Mind” almost exclusively here. The El Cortez is a must visit by locals looking for a night away from home or tourists looking for history in Sin City.