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November 19, 2008

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Where's Juliet ...                 Planet Hollywood Las Vegas



Planet Hollywood
This way cool Vegas hotspot offers everything you're looking for -- and is a bargain, to boot!
By Juliet Pennington

There are many hotel options in Las Vegas and many factors that weigh into one's decision about where to stay. Location, price, quality and comfort usually top the list. Using these guidelines, I'd have to say my favorite hotel in Las Vegas is Planet Hollywood. It's located in a great spot on The Strip, it's reasonably priced and it features rooms that are not only comfortable, but way, way cool.

Movie memorabilia -- from Pulp Fiction to Star Wars, from Forrest Gump to Titanic -- can be found in every room. Likewise, photographs of movie stars and musicians, as well as a wide variety of collectibles, are dispersed throughout the hotel lobby, halls and even on the elevators, which, by the way, have multimedia ceilings that play music videos and air advertisements – a great conversation starter to combat those sometimes awkward elevator silences.

The former Aladdin Hotel, which was purchased by Starwood Hotels and underwent a dramatic renovation, opened last year as Planet Hollywood with a completely new look and feel. The 40-storey hotel is open, airy and hip. It emanates a vibe, a buzz that is infectious. I walked into the large, dramatic lobby, past the brightly lit columns and knew right away that I'd made a wise choice for my three-night, four-day stay in Vegas.

There was no wait at check-in and the staff was courteous and helpful. Perhaps I caught them on a good day, but every employee I encountered – from the doorman out front to the housekeeping staff I passed in the hallway on the way to my room – smiled and greeted me pleasantly.

I stayed in a regular room one night and in a suite the other two nights. Of course, I preferred the suite, which included an air hockey table, large flat screen HD televisions, a mini wet bar, a boom box with an iPod hookup (the sound was awesome -- so much so that I received a friendly call from the front desk asking me to please lower the volume, per a neighbor's request …) and awesome views of The Strip, the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Las Vegas and the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel, which look brilliant at night with their multi-hue presentations.

While my room lacked the view and spaciousness of the suite, it did have the same Sheraton Sweet Sleeper bed as the suite -- and boy did I sleep well. The beds at Planet Hollywood are among the most comfortable I've come across.

Most of the more than 2,500 rooms and suites have been renovated, but not quite all, so I'd suggest asking for a renovated room when making your reservation.

With oversize, deep bathtubs and separate showers, the marble bathrooms are roomy, sleek and comfortable.

The casino at Planet Hollywood has tables offering poker and other card games -- and more than 800 slot machines. I found it to be similar to other casinos, but with an edgier feel. The music was good, the cocktail waitresses always nearby and the dealers friendly.

While there are numerous dining options on the Strip and in nearby hotels, Planet Hollywood offers plenty right on site and in the adjacent Miracle Mile shops (with more than 170 stores!). My favorite restaurant would have to be the Spice Market Buffet. For $28.95 for dinner and $17.95 for lunch (coupons and vouchers that bring the price down are readily available), I had a feast that included Mexican, Middle Eastern, Italian and Chinese fare … and that's not including dessert. I was so full that I could barely walk when I left, but it was well worth it. Not only was the variety amazing, the food was fresh and tasty.

Coming in a close second was Koi. Its popularity in Los Angeles and New York is not missed on the Vegas crowd and reservations are strongly suggested. The Japanese-inspired cuisine with California accents is simply superb. I sampled several appetizers, with each one better than the last. The sautéed string beans were out of this world and I had a delicious asparagus, broccoli rabe and grilled tempeh dish that I nearly finished, despite the fact that I was full before it had even arrived. In addition to delicious food, Koi has great ambiance, with low lighting and a chic Asian design that is trendy yet warm and comfortable.

Planet Hollywood also has a P.F. Chang's restaurant (available for in-room dining, too, which is a plus), Yolos Mexican Grill and a Starbucks. The casual coffee shop and café Planet Dailies is open 24 hours a day and is a great option for late-night snacking. For lighter fare, the Earl of Sandwich can't be beat. I had a grilled veggie sandwich that was yummy.

The Miracle Mile, which is attached to the casino entrance of Planet Hollywood, has 15 restaurants including the tasty and affordable La Salsa Cantina and Hawaiian Tropic Zone, which has a multi-tiered dining room, a two-storey waterfall and walls lined with jumbo screens to provide a great view of your favorite sports shows. Friendly, sarong-clad Hawaiian Tropic models serve as "table concierges" and participate in nightly beauty pageants. I had a rich and flavorful French onion soup, served with a trio of onion rings and the signature dessert -- an array of cheesecake lollipops -- that is a must-try item.

In addition to dining and gaming, Planet Hollywood has some pretty impressive nighttime offerings including The Living Room, an upscale lounge with comfortable couches, overstuffed chairs and fireplaces, and the Heart Bar, with its dark wood, mirrored glass and cocktail waitresses wearing black leather go-go getups.

The Playing Field Lounge is a race and sports bar by day and a lounge at night. It has 33 plasma screen TVs, two jumbo screens, and becomes a karaoke bar Wednesday through Saturday nights from 11pm to 2am. The Extra Lounge is a cool hangout scene and if you're lucky, you'll catch correspondents from the television show Extra, interviewing celebrities and dishing the latest news for the nighttime gossip fest.

My favorite nightspot at Planet Hollywood is Prive, an awesome club that doesn't get hopping until after midnight -- although the line at the door begins forming much earlier. Depending on the night, those staying at the hotel can sometimes get their names on a guest list if they call ahead (Tel: 702-523-6002) and get free admission before 11pm. The cover charge is usually $30 for men and $20 for women. If you really want to go all out, reserve a table for your party (starting at $375 plus tax and tips), since it gets pretty crowded, especially on weekends, and it's nice to have a designated area to call your own.

I liked the music, the ambiance and the fact that even though Prive is a young celebrity hot spot, the dance floor was packed with people of all ages -- including some that had a few years on me! The fact that I didn't leave until nearly 6am is a testament to what a good time I had.

If clubbing isn't your scene, check out Stomp Out Loud, located on the mezzanine level of Planet Hollywood. With performers producing percussion sounds out of everyday objects and using their bodies as extensions of their musical expression, it's a fun and energetic show that you don't want to miss. The performance I saw featured Ahmed Best (who had a leading role in the original Stomp and is the voice of Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars movies). Because he's busy with other projects, this multi-talented performer only performs in Stomp Out Loud on occasion, but if you happen to be in Vegas while he's there, that's even more reason not to miss this show. He is amazing -- and not too hard on the eyes.

After a couple of days of going to clubs and shows, gambling, shopping and eating, I was ready to relax. The Planet Hollywood Spa by Mandara was just what the doctor ordered. The 32,000-square-foot spa, with its rich colors and strategically placed antiques, includes more than 30 treatment rooms and a full menu of spa services. I opted for a traditional Swedish massage that was wonderful. My massage therapist was more than accommodating, asking me what areas I wanted her to focus on, whether the pressure was too light or too hard, etc. The spa staff was courteous and eager to please.

Guests getting spa treatments are given a complimentary day pass to the fitness center. Without the treatment, it costs $25 for a day pass. Another additional cost is for wireless Internet service: $13.95 for a 24-hour period.

I guess the only aspect of Planet Hollywood that I wasn't too keen on was the pool area. There's a lot of concrete and it's not very aesthetically pleasing. On the plus side, the water was clean and the music was good.

All in all, Planet Hollywood is a definite bargain. Of all of the places I've stayed while visiting Vegas, it's the one hotel where I believe guests get the greatest bang for their buck. Since staying there earlier this year, I've recommended it to several friends and colleagues and the feedback I have received has all been positive.

Room and suite prices vary, but generally start at $159. Visit for the most up-to-date rates. Bargains can be found on discount travel websites, too.

*Please tell us what you think of this story!

Juliet Pennington is a freelance journalist who lives in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. She can be reached at Juliet at (replace the "at" with an "@").

Pics From The Trip


Planet Hollywood lobby




Air hockey table in suite




View from suite


Comfy bed




Miracle Mile shops


Candy toppings at the Spice Market Buffet


Entrance to Koi


Grilled tempeh with vegetables at Koi


Vegetable sushi at Koi


Hawaiian Tropic girls at the Hawaiian Tropic Zone


French onion soup at Hawaiian Tropic Zone


Cheesecake lollipops


Lobby of Stomp Out Loud


Me and my best friend, Megan, with Ahmed Best of Stomp Out Loud


Spa by Mandara


Fitness center


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