Experience a vibrant, New Orleans-themed hotel just a few blocks west of the Las Vegas Strip on Tropicana Avenue. The Orleans, a locals-oriented resort, may be far from the French Quarter, but it's not without attractions that bring to mind the Big Easy.
For instance, the 140-seat Bourbon Street Lounge -- marked by a giant upside down piano that hangs from the ceiling -- showcases live entertainment. Listen to bands and dance here nightly, just like you would in the world's music capital. Amid the floor-to-ceiling murals that depict idyllic riverboat scenes at Canal Street, eat gourmet delights (like Louisiana crab cakes) that you'd find in New Orleans. Get freshly shucked oysters and clams served with authentic Creole flair at Big Al's Oyster Bar. And drink classic cocktails to your heart's content at the Crawfish Bar, Mardi Gras Bar and Alligator Bar -- all of which boast a lively atmosphere that will transport you to the French Quarter's rollicking streets.
There are other forms of entertainment, good food and recreation at The Orleans as well.
The resort is home to the Orleans Arena. Hosting about 200 events a year, you'll discover top concerts, sporting events (including college basketball tournaments) and family fun (like Disney on Ice) at this huge venue.
The Orleans Showroom, an 850-seat theater, also brings a stellar lineup of headlining musicians and comedians to town. Plus, lounge acts accompany the fine spirits and great beer poured in Brendan's Irish Pub.
In addition to live entertainment, guests can amuse themselves at the resort's 70-lane bowling center or catch a flick in the 18-screen Century Orleans cinema. Buzz'n Brushes offers a creative experience for aspiring artists and the not-so-artistic who are just looking for a good time. Not only will you learn the basics of acrylic painting during one of their classes, but you'll also enjoy wine, cheese, socializing, listening to music and dancing to tunes like "Y.M.C.A."
There are still more ways to unwind at The Orleans. Young kids (ages 3 - 12) will discover adventure and activities of all kinds at Kids Tyme. The professionally supervised facility offers everything from a giant jungle gym and imaginative crafts to a movie room and PlayStation/Nintendo Wii gaming systems. The Time Out Arcade is designed for teens. Adults will follow their bliss at the Spa Orleans, where you can be pampered by an array of soothing massages, body wraps and facials. While women get dolled up in the beauty salon, men will appreciate a haircut and good old-fashioned straight razor shave in the barber shop.
For sun lovers of all ages, The Orleans has an Olympic-sized pool as well as a wading pool and large hot tub. Tucked in a central courtyard that's lushly landscaped, you'll feel well removed from all things urban, especially if you reserve one of the five cabanas where you and your party can soak up some rays in comfort.
The resort's fitness center -- with a mix of cardio and muscle-building equipment -- overlooks the pool area, creating a truly pleasant atmosphere for a workout as well as allowing easy access to cool off with a dip after you work up a sweat.
The Orleans is packed with good eats spanning many cultures. Costa Cantina serves the spicy cuisine of Mexico. Be sure to try the tacos de pescado and chicken Azteca. Koji features an exceptional dining environment merging elements of a sushi bar and Chinese bistro. Meat lovers will want to walk upstairs to the second-story Prime Rib Loft. Although this restaurant has a stunning view over the casino floor as well as colorful murals of jazz performers, nothing beats its delectable cuts of prime rib.
For a quick and casual meal, you can head to T.G.I. Friday's, the 24-hour Courtyard Café or the food court (home of Fuddruckers, Sbarro, Subway and Baskin-Robbins). Those who really want to binge should check out the French Market Buffet, where you can savor Italian, Mongolian, barbecue, American, seafood, Mexican and Chinese cooking, along with items from an enormous dessert bar.
Like the city, the casino floor at The Orleans is always bustling. Try your luck on more than 2,600 slot, video poker and video keno machines or sit down at one of the numerous table games. There's also a 19-table nonsmoking poker room that's open 24 hours. Packed with giant high-resolution TV screens, the 125-seat race and sports book is the perfect place to watch the big game.
If you're able to tear yourself away from all the excitement in the casino, you'll be more than comfortable in The Orleans' 1,885 beautifully appointed rooms. Available with one king or two queen beds, the amenities include a flat-screen TV, a desk and a spacious sitting area with a plush sofa and armchair.
Visitors who don't have a car can take advantage of free shuttle service from The Orleans to its sister property, the Gold Coast, as well as to the Las Vegas Strip.
Although it's not in New Orleans, the resort's exterior was designed to resemble the French Quarter, and inside the atmosphere oozes hospitality just like it does in the South. An affordable place to stay, The Orleans is perfectly positioned near the heart of the action in Vegas -- and it offers all kinds of action under its own roof.
--By Renée LiButti