Staycation, All I Ever Wanted


The mercury is higher than seems legally permissible, and most everyone who can get out has left town. Don’t believe me? Try getting in touch with a top-level casino executive or politician.

Odds are, he or she is somewhere much cooler, using up some vacation days and enjoying being away from the heat.

Not everyone has the luxury of a Malibu summer home or the accrued sick/personal leave to spend their summer crashing in the Pacific waves or touring the Continent, so Las Vegans have increasingly turned during the recession years to a marriage of convenience: the Vegas staycation, where locals stay on the Strip and act like tourists.

The staycation usually isn’t Plan A for either party. Frankly, if the Strip hotels could get big-spending out-of-towners to fill every room, they would. And if Las Vegans had the time and money to retreat to Newport Beach, they would.

The concept of renting a hotel room in the same metropolitan area in which you’re already paying rent or mortgage is an old one, but it wasn’t until the gas crunch of 2008 that the word “staycation” was popularized. It gained even more currency during the Great Recession as hotels across the country, desperate to keep occupancy levels up, started pitching their rooms to locals who were frankly too busted out to travel anywhere else. It was a way for suburbanites to have a little vacation without breaking the bank: spend a night or two in a ritzy hotel, have dinner, catch a show and stay out late at downtown nightspots without the hassle of a drive back to the ’burbs.

Las Vegas staycations are different. They aren’t about bridging the urban/suburban divide; they’re about the Strip, or even the posher neighborhood casinos. These aren’t just hotels—they are resorts that can swallow up guests for days at a time. Our staycations are all about the property, not its surroundings.

On the plus side, locals choosing to staycation on the Strip get to experience luxury that others travel hours to get to. They have an unparalleled choice of celebrity chef restaurants, eye-popping entertainment, etc.

You’ve heard it a million times before. But none of that is sufficiently alien to make the stuff of memories, something every good vacation should do. And realizing that what you’ve just gotten stung for in resort fees could have paid your power bill for the month … well, it can be a buzz kill. And then there’s the constant bombardment by mobile billboards offering girls direct to your room. Nothing like getting away from it all.

Even worse, you don’t get the relaxing dampness of a sea breeze or an exhilarating breath of brisk mountain air. And you’re just a few miles, at most, from all of your daily hassles. Plus, if you can see your house from the window of your room, are you really getting away from it all?

Still, staycations still have a certain appeal. Recently, Las Vegas local Kristin Pino and her husband celebrated their anniversary with a three-night stay at Aria, where they did the spa/pool thing by day and made the rounds of the restaurants and shows of the mid-Strip by night.

“Vegas has such amazing things to do,” Pino says, “So why not just stay here? We still had all of the luxuries of being out of town, but we were still close to the kids [who were being watched by family] in case something happened.”

And that’s an important point. Those with young children or other dependents are the ideal staycationers—even if they have the means to travel, they often prefer to stay near home.

So while you don’t hear much about “family-friendly” Vegas these days (well, unless you wander into Circus Circus’ AdventureDome, or Excalibur’s Midway, or the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay), Strip hotels with rooms to fill are glad that some locals, at least, are keeping their families in mind when making their travel plans.

And as long as their options remain limited, either by economics or circumstances, locals will keep playing tourist, even if they’re just around the corner from home.

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Armon Gilliam, one of the greatest players in UNLV basketball history, died from an apparent heart attack during a pickup basketball game outside Pittsburgh on July 5. Fans will remember him as an indomitable power forward who led the Rebels to a 37-2 record and the NCAA Final Four in 1987. But many Las Vegans have fond recollections of Gilliam off the court as well. Here are some of ours: