]It's been a crazy, roller coaster summer for me and I needed a break. I didn't have any particular longing for Vegas, no craving for gambling or crazy nights. I actually wanted a low-key trip, which is what I got. The main reason I chose Vegas over some other destination is that there's just a lot of value to be had, mostly in the form of cheap rooms. If I'd gone to San Diego or up the coast I'd have paid at least double for anything approaching the room I got. The Room I'm a El Cortez fan, and this time I decided to spring for one of their Design-a-Suite rooms, and I was really glad I did. I got The Big Sleep suite and it was terrific. Big, clean, comfortable, and really damn cool. After the "amenity fee" (which is really frustrating. If you're going to charge me $10 per night for basically two small bottle of water and wi-fi, at least make the wi-fi good. When it worked, it was 1mbs at best. It's not too expensive to put in decent internet service in a hotel of that size.) it came out to about $80/night. Here are pics: I had no problems with the room; it was very quiet, and even though it was a million degrees outside, the AC was strong and the room stayed cool enough that I could leave it off for most of the night. The bed wasn't the most comfortable, but it was good enough. Next time I come to Vegas, this is almost certainly where I'll stay. Food/Drink/General Downtown Observations No extravagant meals this trip. I was traveling solo and didn't feel like going all out. First night in town I hit Le Thai, right across from the hotel. I went with the spicy eggplant dish and it was really good. Maybe a little too strong on the soy and/or fish sauce, but the spice level was perfect and I really liked it. I did a happy hour snack in the Parlor Bar at the El Co one evening and got the pulled pork sliders. The best thing I could say is that they had a lot of pork. Not much flavor, though, and the buns were stale. I overheard the bartender saying the new restaurant, Siegel's 1941, wasn't great and with this as my sample, I think he's probably right. I also went to Bocho Sushi, which is a couple of blocks from the hotel, and I liked it. They have all you can eat for $30 at dinner, but I wasn't that hungry so I just got a couple of rolls and a beer. I like sushi but I'm not a connoisseur; I know this wasn't top tier, but it was a relaxing atmosphere and the food was good. No fishy tasting bites. Wandering around downtown, I was really impressed with the new additions, but at the same time I wonder if it's sustainable. The Grand looks great, and the Gold Spike has hipped itself up, but are there enough customers to keep all of the bars, restaurants, and chic-on-a-budget places going? I hope so, but I'm not so sure. I did stroll through the container park a couple of times, once in the morning and once in the evening, and it seems like in the evening it gets a good amount of locals in. I thought the creative use of space was great, and it's a great way for businesses, bars, and restaurants to work together while not feeling like a mall or a food court. Gaming I didn't do too much of this; I played cheap $.25 roulette at the El Co because it was a way to lose money slowly and have a couple of drinks. I played a little 1/3 no limit hold 'em at the Bellagio and dropped $100 due to playing a hand poorly. I also played one of the daily Aria 1pm poker tournaments. For $125 you get a good starting stack and the structure is decent, so you get some play for your money. But because of this, the field is tough; a lot of regulars and internet kids from out of the country. They got 90 runners and I finished 16th, 7 off the money. It was a little frustrating to get so close, but I played well so I wasn't too upset. I do long for the days when poker was easy money in Vegas. Final Thoughts It was really nice having so many places within walking distance of the hotel. There are a ton of interesting places to eat and drink in the east Fremont area. There were a few sketchy homeless people, but coming from LA I'm used to seeing that. Another nice thing in the area is The Market, almost like a mini Whole Foods right across the street from El Cortez. It's got groceries, beer, wine, a small liquor selection, as well as prepared food and a little seating area. All in all, I mostly avoided the strip and the canopy. I was able to relax and spend a lot of time by myself, relaxing in the room and taking advantage of the jacuzzi tub. It was a great trip, and I'm very boring.