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Chris Jones

Not Much Room at the Inn

28 December 2005

Whether it's VIP parties, citywide fireworks or the chance to binge drink on the Strip, Las Vegas' worldwide appeal typically soars around New Year's Eve.

This year is no exception. Sky-high room rates and limited availability mark much of the city's inventory of approximately 134,000 guest rooms.

"Every weekend plays out like New Year's Eve in Las Vegas, but this (weekend) is still a big event," Palms owner George Maloof said Tuesday. "You've got a lot of people who want to come here to party."

While several Strip resorts report no room at the inn, inbound travelers can still find accommodations over the three-day holiday. But they'll pay plenty for the privilege -- often more than double rates charged for a Thursday stay in the same room.

This year's calendar should further boost rates and visitation. Because New Year's Eve is on a Saturday, out-of-town revelers can more easily arrive in time to countdown 2006's debut.

To determine what New Year's Eve accommodations could still be had as of Tuesday, the Review-Journal contacted several local resorts using their respective online or telephone reservation systems -- the same options accessible to the general public. That research found:

*•Unless you've already booked a room, or can work some late-night magic with someone who's already a hotel guest, ditch any thoughts of waking up at Wynn Las Vegas on New Year's morning. The city's newest megaresort is sold-out Friday and Saturday. Resort-style rooms are available Thursday evening for $399, but those rates jump to $699 Friday and Saturday, a Wynn Las Vegas spokesman said.

*••The city's largest hotel, the 5,034-room MGM Grand, was still accepting Friday check-ins for two-night stays. Saturday check-ins were no longer available, however. The property's Web site offered up a Grand Tower room for $599 per night. The same room would go for $89.99 Thursday evening.

Special Saturday events at the MGM Grand include a $150-per-ticket party at Studio 54 and $100 soirees at Teatro Euro Bar and Tabu Ultra Lounge.

*••The Venetian had two room types available: a king bed luxury suite that costs $699 per night, or a comparable room in the fancier Venezia tower for $859. The same rooms on Thursday cost $259 and $319, respectively.

New Year's Eve festivities at the Italian-themed megaresort include a party at St. Mark's Square and a VIP late-night gathering hosted by home video starlet Paris Hilton at the nightclub Tao Las Vegas.

*••Bellagio had rooms open for one-night stays beginning Friday with posted prices of $499 for a deluxe room, or $1,050 for a salon suite. Friday-Saturday stays were unavailable as were Saturday check-ins at the 3,933-room megaresort.

*•• Harrah's Entertainment will end 2005 with a flourish. Its Caesars Palace, Harrah's Las Vegas, Paris Las Vegas and Rio resorts are each fully booked Friday and Saturday. Rooms could still be had at Bally's for $329 per night.

*••The Hard Rock Hotel is sold-out Friday and Saturday. Its primary competitor for the young, hip visitor, The Palms, had rooms available for two-night stays beginning Friday at a cost $399 and $499 per night. Saturday-only stays were sold out, and Maloof promised several big year-end parties will occur throughout his resort on West Flamingo Road.

*••Travelers willing to venture off the Strip have more room options. The Cannery, a 201-room locals hotel-casino in North Las Vegas, reported some late cancellations that created vacancies Friday and Saturday. Daily rates were $169 and $174, respectively.

Separately, the upscale Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas offered multiple room sizes ranging from $364 to $1,200 per night. The latter package includes access to a jewelry show, Friday champagne reception and Saturday gala featuring live music from the Las Vegas Philharmonic.

Terry Jicinsky, senior vice president of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said New Year's Eve in Las Vegas used to be enjoyed primarily by high rollers and other VIPs attending exclusive events at local casinos.

The holiday began evolving into a citywide event in 1994, when the Strip was first closed to vehicle traffic so pedestrians could enjoy fireworks set off by several casinos. The city's biggest displays were previously held downtown.

The choreographed, citywide fireworks show now known as "America's Party" began Dec. 31, 2000, according to sponsor Las Vegas Events.

"Now there's something for everybody, from a black-tie party in a ballroom to parties in the street," Jicinsky said.

Las Vegas also remains one of a few cities where things happen around the clock, he said, adding celebrations here "can go all night long if you want them to."

Throw in the once-per-year chance to walk the Strip without getting crushed by a taxi or bus, and you've got a spectacle people want to be a part of, Jicinsky added.