We just returned last night from a Tuesday - Saturday stay at downtown at the Golden Nugget. Here's a collection of rather random observations and insights: We'd booked the room through Expedia. I often find lower rates for the GN on third party sites, and despite their "best rate" claim, they won't typically beat them (I've called and tried). The Expedia rate for the four nights (including Halloween) was $162 all-in. With the "downtown fee" of $22.50 (four nights) we paid about $185 total. Had no luck with my Landry's upgrade attempt. She explained that the room has to be booked directly. The only time I've ever gotten an upgrade, I'd booked through a third-party site. I know the official rules, but there seems to be some flexibility. No biggie, as it was merely a "try for." We requested "up and back," and she gave us a king non-smoking strip-facing room (Carson Tower). It was clean, quiet and comfortable. I asked for the coupon book. She said she shouldn't but gave us one anyway. Now it's two sheets with your name and stay dates printed on each coupon. They check your ID when you use them. The best deals are the two coupons for 2-for-1 breakfast or lunch buffets, Monday - Friday. There's also a $10 match play and some smaller discounts at some other on site eateries, plus a few drink coupons and show discounts. They now check that you have a working room key when you go to the pool. Nice move. They said they were getting too many pool crashers. While we don't gamble there much, I was surprised that they had $10 Pai Gow. The Cal is now $15 minimum, and all but the Downtown Grand are at least $10. The Downtown Grand was $5 Tuesday through Thursday, $10 Friday and Saturday. The D table never drops below $10 any more. The Golden Nugget's buffet continues to shrink. We only used one of the 2-1 coupons (for breakfast). The Fremont breakfast buffet is very comparable, and with just the B Connected player's card discount is about the same price for two as the GN's 2-1. Good food deals - For those over 50, the Cafe Cortez has all entrees half price on Wednesdays. It's inexpensive to begin with, and the food's generally good. The Downtown Grand offers a 50% discount off the total bill to those over 50 at the Stewart and Ogden (S+O) restaurant on Thursdays. They also give you a $5 match play coupon, entry into blackjack and slot tournaments, and 5x points on slots and video poker. The new grocery store across from El Cortez is really nice. Prices aren't inflated. For example, a bottle of wine that was $16.99 at the ABC store near the Golden Gate was $11.99 at the market. They've got a nice deli section and fresh baked goodies. Large cookies are only $1, and they are tasty! VPfree2 is not current on their Downtown Grand info. The only decent machines at the 25 cent level are six 8/5 Bonus Poker machines (3 back to back) near the south wall. We played them on Thursday and ended up with $65 of food credit at S+O, entry into some drawings we weren't there for, and $12 of free play. Of course all those perks cost us more than they were worth, but the comp percentage on Thursdays is really strong compared to anywhere else. Thanks to those credits we ended up eating a couple more meals at S+O. The food was very good, but the service was always slow, even when there weren't many diners. The DG's beer selection isn't the greatest. The most exotic thing is Newcastle Ale. Their floor drinks pretty ordinary too. Smaller glasses and weak. We checked out the Plaza video poker and played some at the smaller bar. Their bonus point days (Tuesday and Thursday) don't apply to video poker. Because they still have that odd perfume smell we didn't play there much. They still have one of the better beer selections though. Paid homage to Jose at the Boar's Head bar at Main Street Station, but didn't play there much since the only good game at the bar is Jacks or Better and my wife finds the machines too horizontal to see or play comfortably. Jose takes real pride in his work and will make you great drinks if you're playing. The Four Queens still has some of the better VP choices, but their floor drinks are awful (juice glasses) and beer selection very tiny. One night we were at the Vanguard Lounge on East Fremont and started talking with a couple next to us at the bar. He works at the Chicago Brewing Company at the Four Queens, so I asked him why the place seems to be slipping. He said the owner over extended himself buying a bunch of local bar/casino properties around town that pretty much haven't panned out. Comps have been cut (as many of us have noticed), and maintenance has suffered. The next evening when we were playing there we heard some angry guests complaining that the elevators weren't working and they were having to walk five flights up to their rooms. Same conversation, our bar mate said Binions is too expensive to remodel and the owner is hoping to sell it. Not much new at the D. Same too-loud music and challenged dancers downstairs. Didn't notice anything different upstairs. The bar progressive 8/5 bonus poker upstairs is a good game. Halloween downtown - OMG! Incredible. May have to make it an annual event. Maybe it was even bigger because it was a Friday night, but it was packed from the Golden Gate all the way to the Container Park. Halloween night I'd say over 75% of the people were wearing some sort of costume, or lack of clothing non-costume. Despite the crowd and crowding (it was impossible to walk at times), people remained in good spirits. It was an amazing spectacle. The Halloween Parade was pretty cool. A big part of it was Tony Hsieh's collection of sea-creature themed vehicles from this year's Burning Man festival. Gosh, what you can do with a zillion dollars! Some breathed fire, some had special effects lighting, some played rave music, most had robotic movement, and all looked really expensive to build. The parade started at 13th street and Fremont, headed west, and ended just after the Container Park. There the vehicles became the stages for a street rave that spanned several blocks and went into the wee hours. The crowd was thick everywhere, but average age dropped considerably going from under the canopy to East Fremont. Saturday the sports books were slammed due to the Breeder's Cup. Even the Plaza's had nowhere to sit. I wanted to find a spot to watch some college football but couldn't anywhere. Out and about there were still party-minded folks wandering around who figured Halloween costumes are appropriate weekend attire. That diluted the normal costume character factor quite a bit. In fact, they must hate this weekend. Bums and safety - we walk a lot throughout the downtown area, from the Bonneville Transit center to the Mob Museum to Atomic Liquors to Main Street Station. As usual, we never felt unsafe at any hour anywhere. We did get asked for money much more often than usual, but just ignored the requests. The number of beggars and costume characters seemed about the same as our last visit in May. All in all, a very enjoyable trip other than the cruelty of the machines. They did not treat us well. Cheap Pai Gow remained the sanctuary to slow the bleeding while maintaining a healthy blood alcohol ratio.