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Top 10 reasons to visit SAHARA Las Vegas

24 January 2022

As the rebirth of the Las Vegas Strip’s north end continues to gain momentum, it’s only fitting that SAHARA Las Vegas is sitting smack dab in the middle of it all, both literally and figuratively.

The iconic SAHARA name and its enthralling African Sahara desert theme have been a part of Las Vegas lore for nearly 70 years, opening on the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue in 1952. The property closed in 2011 and reopened three years later as SLS Las Vegas. In 2017, the Meruelo Group purchased SLS and began a $150 million renovation that brought back the SAHARA moniker, much to the excitement of the many long-time guests who never stopped calling the resort by its original name.

Today, SAHARA Las Vegas is one of the cornerstones of the prevailing effort to revitalize the area on the Strip in between Encore Resort and The STRAT Hotel, Casino and SkyPod. The up-and-coming location, combined with the plethora of world-class amenities that have been unveiled at the resort in recent years, truly makes SAHARA a great option for your next Las Vegas getaway and today we present 10 reasons why.

10. Location and convenience
In addition to a pair of nearby, “must-visit” Las Vegas restaurants (Golden Steer and Peppermill), the refreshed SAHARA is now surrounded by the impressive Resorts World Las Vegas, a $4.3 billion mega resort that opened in June, becoming the first new resort built on the Strip in more than a decade, since The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas opened back in 2010. Directly across the street from SAHARA, the MGM Festival Grounds, an open-air venue owned by Phil Ruffin, hosts musical acts and events and is rumored as a potential site for a Major League Baseball stadium. Fontainebleau Las Vegas, another massive, multi-billion-dollar casino resort, is scheduled to open in late 2023 and there are plans for more infrastructure, such as a circular, elevated walkway, to make it even easier for pedestrians to navigate the area.

A bold slogan used at SAHARA is “The Strip Starts Here” and it’s a saying that the folks at the resort stand by.

“This is where it all started,” SAHARA VP of Marketing Rachel Hunt told Casino City. “The property has been here since 1952. We feel pretty confident that this is the spot to begin your trip or begin your night. This really is a great place to kick it all off when you’re in Las Vegas.”

An added bonus for guests of SAHARA is that the rideshare area is in a prominent and convenient location. It’s very easy to get in and out of, which frequent visitors to Vegas will tell you is not always the case at many Strip resorts. There is also a dedicated stop a stair flight away from the main entrance for the Las Vegas Monorail, which makes it seamless to cruise down the Strip and back, at a cost much less than Uber or Lyft, with rates as little as $5 per ride.

In addition, there are rumblings that Elon Musk’s Boring Company may be adding a stop for its underground Las Vegas Loop because of the proximity to the Convention Center.

9. Nostalgia
The Meruelo Group’s goal from the very beginning was to modernize SAHARA, but continue to pay tribute to the past and celebrate the SAHARA name. After a recent five-night stay at the resort, I’m here to report that goal was accomplished and then some.

“Stay Iconic” is another saying the SAHARA is fond of and that’s exactly what they’ve done, while also providing all of the other bells and whistles you would expect from a true Las Vegas boutique resort. The message rings true throughout the property, whether it’s via the creative names of the classy cocktail lounges or the artwork in the hallways.

“Our designers had so much fun researching SAHARA and learning what that name used to mean to this town,” said Hunt. “Every time we open a new bar or restaurant or any other amenity, there is a lot of discussion about the name and how it fits the history of SAHARA. In many ways, we feel like this property belongs to the Las Vegas community so we’re always doing our best to celebrate the past.”

A perfect example is “The Library” sitting area, found just off the reception area and across from Starbucks. The lounge has comfortable couches and coffee tables and is the decorative theme is classic SAHARA with black and white photos of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Jerry Lewis, Elvis, George Burns, Carol Channing and others performing at the property. The shelves are filled with books and more safari-themed decorative items, creating a very warm and soothing atmosphere that guests take advantage of during down times.

8. A “boutique” feel
Call it a personal preference, but I typically like to stay in a smaller, boutique resort rather than one of the other gargantuan properties found on the Strip. Sure, the extravagance found at places like Bellagio, MGM Grand Hotel & Casino Las Vegas and Caesars Palace is extraordinary, but a stay at a resort like SAHARA is more intimate.

During your visit, you’ll likely see familiar faces at the blackjack table or sitting at the bar, allowing you to strike up a conversation from the night before. Your bartender will remember how you like your martini and the dealers greet you by name.

“That’s something we try to be really cognizant of,” Hunt said. “We may be on the Strip, but in a lot of ways we try to provide our best to have that local feel. The person who checks you in may very well check you out and remember your name. That’s unheard of at mega resort.”

7. The guest rooms
Much like the rest of the resort, the guest rooms have been refreshed, but still feature elements of the classic SAHARA theme. Every room in the three hotel towers – Alexandria, Marra and Blanca – has either already been remodeled or is in the process, a project expected to be completed within the next year or so.

The Blanca Tower renovation is finished. Alexandria, a AAA Four Diamond premium tower, was in the process of having all of the suites remodeled at the end of 2021, while the Marra Tower is being renovated floor by floor. When completed, each tower will have its own look and feel.

Hunt added, “You're staying at an upscale Las Vegas property, but again, if you understand the SAHARA brand and you’ve been here before, you are going to recognize certain shapes and styles that are original to the property in each room.”

6. Chickie’s & Pete’s
In lieu of a traditional sportsbook, SAHARA opened the first Chickie’s & Pete’s venue on the West Coast back in October and the sports bar, famous on the East Coast for its crabfries, was buzzing with activity every time I walked by or stopped in for a quick bite and beer.

“So often, sports bars are about viewing first and the food is kind of secondary,” Hunt said. “But at Chickie’s & Pete’s it’s all about food first and everything else complements it so well. It’s a great marriage for people who are foodies and love to watch sports.”

William Hill has four counters stationed at the entrance surrounded by odds screens and the restaurant itself has over 20 large-screen TVs as well as three VIP Gaming Pods that each include two televisions, oversized sectional sofas, video game consoles and a buffet-style table.

5. Cocktails bars

Casino cocktail bars are a personal favorite and SAHARA does an excellent job of offering multiple options, including CASBAR, a carryover from the SLS days, and The Tangier, which has an excellent choice of bourbon, scotch and cognac, including a one-of-a-kind SAHARA Rare Character Bourbon.

The CASBAR name, of course, originates from the resort's original live music venue that hosted big names on a regular basis back in the hey-day of SAHARA. While you won’t see any members of the Rat Pack performing these days, CASBAR does have a regular schedule of live music on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and the glimmering bar with video poker machines is surrounded by comfy sitting areas with couches and tables. It’s also a great people-watching spot since it’s located just off the casino floor.

There are two extended daily Happy Hours (3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.) providing the perfect scenery for a pre- or post-dinner drink. My favorite libation? I’m going to cop out and give you two recommendations: Mediterranean Martini (Ketel One Grapefruit and Rose Vodka, Lillet Rose, blood orange syrup, lemon zest, and grapefruit soda) and The Brazilian Mula (Tito’s Vodka, pineapple liqueur, Ancho Reyes Verde, lime juice and ginger beer).

As for The Tangier — the cozy bar that sits just off the main lobby — you may recognize the name as of one the original hotel towers at SAHARA. Or it may ring a bell as the fictional casino (Tangiers Hotel and Casino) run by Robert De Niro’s character, Sam “Ace” Rothstein, in the classic movie, Casino. The Tangier is truly one of those cocktail bars where making your drink is a form of art that the bartenders take tremendous pride in.

My drink of choice here was Penicillin (Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch Whisky, honey & ginger syrup, lemon juice with an Islay Float).

4. The Poker Room
Like many poker players, when I sit down at the felt for a session I always want to be able to keep an eye on any sports bets that I have in play – which is often the case when I am in Las Vegas – so it’s crucial to select a room that allows me to do so.



This was most definitely something that SAHARA had front of mind when designing its poker room, which features a 16x9 foot LED video wall that can break down into as many as eight different screens. There are six other TVs, as well as a William Hill odds screen in the room, which, like everything else at the resort, offers a more personal atmosphere with just seven tables, equipped with charging ports, a “must” for all poker rooms.

As for the poker itself, there is a robust schedule of daily tournaments with a wide range of buy-ins and game selection. There is also free parking, creative player promotions and a $2/hour comp rate for live cash games with points are redeemable at any of the resort’s dining options.

3. Azilo Ultra Pool
While TVs in a poker room isn’t an unusual expectation, it’s not a guarantee when you hit the Las Vegas pool scene. Once again, SAHARA took care of its sports bettors when designing Azilo Ultra Pool, which features an LED wall of more than 10,000 square feet that stretches two stories high and spans the length of the south side of the venue.

Overall, the 35,000 square-foot space, which is currently closed for the season, is filled with lush greenery and palm trees with Moroccan décor. There are 10 cabanas and three bungalows loaded with TVs, private pools, spas, and restrooms. There are also 11 daybeds, 14 lily pads, three bars and lounge seating available.

Once again, while this isn’t the biggest pool scene area in Las Vegas, Azilo Ultra Pool provides a more insulated and personal experience.

2. Bazaar Meat
When you leave a restaurant and refer to the meal as an “experience,” you know you’ve just had a memorable evening.

That was the vibe for our group as we walked out of Bazaar Meat by José Andrés at SAHARA and, apparently, we are not alone.

“It’s hard to explain until you go and see it for yourself,” Hunt said. “That’s one of the things that makes it so great. The staff takes so much pride in making sure it’s going to be one of your most memorable meals in Las Vegas.”

No hyperbole here. This was most definitely one of the best meals (Smoke and Ice Fresh Oysters, Salmon Tartare, Chateaubriand Tenderloin with Setas al Ajillo) I’ve had in Las Vegas and there have been plenty of them when you consider the culinary scene in this great city.

There’s a reason Mr. Andrés is a James Beard and Michelin-starred chef. There are also Bazaar Meat locations in Miami, Chicago, New York and very soon in L.A. Executive Chef Candace Ochoa runs the show at the SAHARA venue.

In addition to the mouth-watering cuisine and excellent selection of wine, Bazaar Meat’s wilderness-themed décor and ambience is captivating. As you are brought to your table you stroll past a huge refrigerated display full of the cuts of beef and the chefs doing their thing out back in the open grill. Throughout the restaurant you’ll see glowing deer and crocodile taxidermy and grandiose chandeliers. Red teardrops fall from the elevated ceiling in the Bar Centro.

Like Hunt said, it’s difficult to describe unless you actually see it with your own eyes, so we’ll leave it up to you to make the trip.

1. More to come…
Despite all of the developments described above, SAHARA is not done.

“The pandemic made the construction seem like a bigger task than it normally would be, so we're glad most of it is behind us,” Hunt said. “We have more behind us than in front of us, but there is more to come.”

Indeed. In just the last two months, SAHARA introduced AZILO Ultra Lounge, a night club that on Saturday nights transforms into VIBRA, which is what they are calling “a new concept of sexy and groovy house music with a mainstream and catchy touch of urban music” offering a “visual experience, with some of the city’s most creative cirque performers and The Strip’s sexiest dancers.”

The Noodle Den, from Chef Guoming “Sam” Xin, also opened in December, and the next new restaurant to be unveiled (sometime in 2022) will be Balla Italian Soul, led by Chef Shawn McClain, who promises to “offer everything you know and love about Italian cuisine made bold and fresh in a vibrant setting that celebrates Italian culture and la dolce vitstration kitchen for guest viewing.”

Finally, an elegant Porte Cochere will begin welcoming guests at the Las Vegas Boulevard entrance by the middle of this year.

“The Porte Cochere has been a long time coming,” said Hunt. “Because of the construction, a lot of people walking or driving by haven’t been able to really see what’s going on inside, but once we open it all up, I think people who haven’t made their way inside are going to be surprised. It continues to be an exciting time and we can’t wait to show off all we have to offer.”
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor. He also manages new business ventures for Casino City.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor. He also manages new business ventures for Casino City.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT