When the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino closed in February of 2020, it seemed the end of an era. For 30 years, its rock-themed decor thrilled a clientele seeking something a little naughty and off the beaten track. Word at the time was that the property would be renovated and rebranded, but there were still a few that preferred the Hard Rock’s iconic guitar at its entrance.
Then, something happened. It was announced that Richard Branson, the world-famous wunderkind at the helm of the Virgin Group, had bought the property, impressed by its location less than a mile east of the Strip. Despite the pandemic, renovations began apace—and then the gossip really started. What would a Virgin-branded property look like? Who would be its clientele? Despite postponing its opening twice in 2020, deep interest remained.
One year and 200 million dollars later, Virgin Hotels will be unveiled to all on Thursday, March 25. Riding a wave of optimism that has swept up Sin City since the beginning of the year, Virgin Hotels marks a new chapter in Las Vegas hospitality. All of the amenities you expect are here, but the property also has added numerous innovative touches that are both classy and functional.
In touring the property, one gets the impression that it is positioning itself the go-to destination for both locals and travelers. The entrance, it must be said, appears more luxurious than its predecessor with a red and tan exterior that announces itself in desert hues. This theme is continued in the lobby, which summons the feel of a desert oasis. In contrast to the subterranean and neon dark of the Hard Rock, it seems as if the developers consciously took the opposite tack here.
The interior is bedecked with mountain landscapes and Joshua trees. The lobby is large and airy, with more muted earth tones. There are also gems, rocks, and desert plants, offset by sets of crystal chandeliers and other luxurious touches. Both locals and visitors will immediately be set at ease upon entering.
There is no shortage of amenities, starting with 1,500 rooms spread across three towers as well as a 60,000 square foot casino space. In a nod to the past, the iconic dome ceiling suspended over the Hard Rock’s Center Bar has been kept. While the bar is no longer there, the Dome lends a sense of space to the middle of the casino floor. Naturally, from here the visitor can easily find their way to ground-floor restaurants, high-stakes gaming tables, lounges and more.
Don’t miss the Shag Room, a bar and event space that harkens back to the 1970s and the velvet decadence of discos such as New York’s famed Studio 54. Meanwhile, the casino itself offers more than 600 slots and 150 table games, with a sports book set to open later in the year.
As for the rooms, they have been renovated in full. In keeping with the design philosophy of “hotels within a hotel” Virgin’s rooms are located within three separate towers, named the Opal, Canyon and the all-suite Ruby Tower. As the newest rooms on the Strip, each features an array of contactless amenities courtesy of “Lucy,” its in-house app that enables visitors to control lighting, order room service and to even initiate check out–all from the convenience of their mobile phone.
Depending on which tower the visitor selects, the property’s spacious rooms offer commanding views of the Strip, the surrounding Valley, or its own five-acre oasis-themed pool and event lawn (aka Elia, open later this Spring).
The higher-end Ruby Tower features its own dedicated check-in and valet service. A very thoughtful touch found in all the rooms is the presence of an additional door that seals off the main bedroom and sitting area from the entrance area. This not only contributes to its suite-like feel, it guarantees an extra degree of privacy.
Virgin Hotels opens with great fanfare March 25 with DJs and street performers, starting at 6 pm PST. Rooms have already been booked for the weekend, but the casino and restaurants such as Hakkasan Group’s Casa Calavera, the Nobu, and the One Steakhouse–among others–are ready.
In another indication that Virgin has its ears to the ground insofar as the locals are concerned, the property offers both valet and free self-parking in its Paradise and Harmon garages. It also offers free Wi-Fi to guests and, in a move that may well shake up the Strip, guests will be charged no resort fees–the first property on the Strip not to do so.
We will always treasure our memories of the Hard Rock, but Virgin Hotels looks to put its own imprint on the Sin City map. If this is what 2021 promises, look out! It will be a wild ride as Vegas roars back. Dream of Vegas no longer!