Durango Casino and Resort Is the Newest Impossible-to-Ignore Landmark in Las Vegas

The new casino and resort gets (almost) everything right in the Southwest Valley.

Durango Casino & Resort
Durango Casino & Resort | Photo by Clint Jenkins, courtesy of Durango Casino & Resort
Durango Casino & Resort | Photo by Clint Jenkins, courtesy of Durango Casino & Resort
With a year of unparalleled activity and worldwide attention ahead, Las Vegas is in the midst of a major transformation. This week, all bets are off as we head to the desert to explore this exciting moment and what it means for the future of Sin City. Read more here.

Somebody at Station Casinos likes hair metal. The same resort company that used Poison's "Nothing But a Good Time" in an anniversary ad campaign a couple of years ago teased its latest property with snippets of "Home Sweet Home" by Mötley Crüe in a series of commercials. Now, with the ferocity and aggression of a Mick Mars guitar solo, Durango Casino and Resort has roared into the Southwest Valley, instantly reshaping an already fast-growing corner of the Las Vegas Valley. Does it feel like home? Not quite, but it's got plenty to offer to locals and tourists alike.

The golden 15-story hotel tower is an instant, impossible-to-ignore landmark, just off the 215 Beltway, with a color palette inspired by the surrounding desert and a small forest of palm and pine trees lining the perimeter. The interior is bright and engaging with light, neutral tones, waves of natural sunlight, and a smartly built integration of outdoor spaces. Fresh flowers by Flora Couture are prominently featured and it's easy to walk from one end to another without fuss. Even the parking garage looks good at night.

Much like the Fontainebleau on the Strip, Durango Casino is a project more than 20 years in the making, finally coming to fruition after being sidelined during the Great Recession of 2009. Everything worked out for the best. It made far more sense for Durango Casino and Resort to open in 2023 with the Southwest booming with new communities and businesses in areas like Rhodes Ranch, Spring Valley, Summerlin South, and Mountain's Edge.

So, where do we begin?

Durango Casino & Resort Resort Queen City View
Resort Queen City View | Photo courtesy of Durango Casino & Resort
Durango Casino & Resort Resort King City View
Resort King City View | Photo courtesy of Durango Casino & Resort

Spending the Night

Durango Casino is designed to be an easy, attractive alternative to the chaotic Strip hotel experience, where it's not uncommon to see guests trudging luggage through sprawling casino floors. By comparison, Durango Casino and Resort is a well-oiled machine with customer-service "pods" offering a more personal, intimate way to check-in. They're just steps away from the hotel porte-cochère with personnel communicating on earpieces like secret-service agents to keep every moment as seamless as possible. There are no kiosks here, but mobile check-in is available with a digital key option. Sometimes, the time between arrival and entering the room can be as low as seven minutes, which is notable for Vegas.

Parking and valet are free, with digital tickets for the latter. That makes it easy to request your car with the touch of a phone while finishing up dinner. The resort fee is $45, maxing out the standard for off-Strip resorts, but it is in line with luxury Station Casinos properties like Red Rock Resort and Green Valley Ranch.

The hotel tower has 180 standard rooms and 29 suites with lounge furniture and TVs on outdoor terraces at a few high-end options on the top three floors. Some suites receive butler service, which is like having a personal concierge. The standard rooms (97 Kings, 83 Queens) have a few perks, including 65-inch televisions, glass-front minibars with high-profile brands like Casamigos tequila and Effen vodka, and espresso machines with four complimentary pods. Adjust the lighting to something moody with the touch of a button, and hook up your phone to a Bluetooth system with crystal-clear audio. No clunky ironing boards. Each room has a handheld steamer instead.

seafood platter at Nico's
Seafood Platter at Nicco's | Photo courtesy of Durango Casino & Resort
mijo butter poached lobster tacos at Mijo Modern Mexican
Mijo Butter Poached Lobster Tacos at Mijo Modern Mexican | Photo courtesy of Durango Resort & Casino

Roaming for Restaurants

Nicco's is here to play. The steakhouse is positioning itself among the best in Vegas under the guidance of Durango Casino executive chefs Danny Ye and Frankie Gorriceta. The kitchen team flame-grills prime cuts over almond wood and is certified to carry true Kobe beef, sold by the ounce. Seafood is cooked in a Mibrasa oven, fueled by Binchotan white charcoal. The day's catch, proudly displayed on ice in the dining room, features items like Australian Tristan lobster, Mediterranean scarlet prawns, and Gulf snapper flown in daily from Miami. The restaurant is dabbling in the emerging trend of dry-aged seafood, applying the practice in-house to Spanish branzino as well as sea bream, Ora King salmon, and Santa Barbara spot prawns as specials on a seasonal basis.

Like other Durango Casino and Resort restaurants, Nicco's seamlessly blends indoor dining rooms with outdoor patios and multi-dimensional in-between areas. Summer House serves a menu of California-inspired fare for both lunch and dinner. A takeaway counter opens at 9 am on the weekends for boozy coffee, cocktails, breakfast bites, and ridiculously decadent cookies. Mijo Modern Mexican has a few things going for it too: a photogenic marigold-lined hallway by the entrance, butter-poached lobster tacos, and Wax Rabbit—a hidden agave spirits cocktail lounge that's near impossible to find if you're not clued-in about the secret entrance.

Durango Casino & Resort Eat Your Heart Out Hall of Foods
Eat Your Heart Out Hall of Foods | Photo by Clint Jenkins, courtesy of Durango Casino & Resort
Durango Casino & Resort Oyster Bar
Durango Oyster Bar | Photo by Clint Jenkins, courtesy of Durango Casino & Resort

Figuring Out the Food Hall

It's no secret. Buffets are going out of style with a growing wave of food halls taking over Las Vegas hotels. Durango Casino is no different but gives the format a new twist with Eat Your Heart Out, billed as a "hall of foods."

Some of the concepts are strictly counter service, including Prince Street Pizza for classic New York and square-shaped Sicilian slices, Uncle Paulie's for submarine-style deli sandwiches, and Irv's Burgers, an LA favorite dating back to 1946 (although the best burgers on the property are at Nicco's and Bel-Aire Lounge). Nielsen's continues to expand its relationship with Station Casinos, serving frozen custard at an optimal temperature without a harsh, excessive freeze.

A few of the concepts at Eat Your Heart Out have their own enclosed dining rooms, making them mini-restaurants within the food hall—an idea reminiscent of Eataly on the Strip. Fiorella Pasta is the greatest success here, taking inspiration from Marc Vetri's original Philadelphia pasta spot. You get a smaller menu similar to the acclaimed chef's other Vegas concepts (Vetri Cucina at the Palms and Osteria Fiorella at Red Rock) in a more intimate, affordable environment. Yu-or-Mi Sushi, a hit in the Downtown Arts District, opened a second location with an ambitious menu of new dishes. It's great stuff, but unfortunately, the prices are noticeably ambitious, too, and the most off-balance of any concept in the food hall. Ai Pono Cafe's Hawaii street food by Gene Villiatora (a Vegas chef who ended up in Orange County) is a better value in comparison—and in a ballsy move, drops an F-bomb in the name of at least one dish.

Oyster Bar—a staple at other Station Casinos properties, most famously at Palace Station, where lines are notoriously long—falls a little flat here. Servers take the orders, cutting down on the traditional across-the-counter interactivity, leaving the rest of the team to heat up pre-portioned ingredients. No information is offered on the oysters themselves. East Coast? West Coast? Who knows? It pales compared to Bar Oysterette across the street at the Sundry inside UnCommons, which takes pride in sourcing and discussing the country's best oysters and shucking them with expertise.

Durango Casino & Resort casino floor
Casino Floor | Photo by Clint Jenkins, courtesy of Durango Casino & Resort
Durango Casino & Resort High Limit Table Games
High Limit Table Games | Photo by Clint Jenkins, courtesy of Durango Casino & Resort

Placing Bets

Durango Casino and Resort has 83,000 square feet of gaming space with something you don't see in a casino too often: windows and sunlight. It's a nice change of pace. There's a heavy presence of Baccarat, slots (with a few exclusive machines), and hand-held double-deck blackjack, which locals prefer over the overloaded shuffling machines that dominate the Strip. Whales will appreciate the ultra-VIP private gaming saloons, a rarity for a neighborhood casino.

The STN Sportsbook is especially impressive with a curved 136-foot-long video wall, lounge-like seating, and the ability to place a wager at your choice of 17 kiosks, seven windows, or on the convenience of your phone. There's a first-of-its-kind double-sided viewing screen that circles above the bar.

The sportsbook is adjacent to The George Sportsman's Lounge, which truly elevates the game with sports bars in Las Vegas. Open 24/7 with an endless parade of TV screens, it's the kind of place where you can watch your favorite team from any angle while sipping on an Old Fashioned with root beer syrup and munching on a 32-ounce Tomahawk. The outdoor patio is a monster party zone with sloped, stadium-style seating facing another massive video screen. The George keeps things fun throughout any game with DJs, live music, and a Kiss Cam during commercial breaks. You may even see a few actors show up between plays to liven things up. Then again, if you just want to play a round of cornhole, that's cool, too.

Durango Casino & Resort Vesta Coffee Roasters
Vesta Coffee Roasters | Photo by Clint Jenkins, courtesy of Durango Casino & Resort
Durango Casino & Resort Vesta Coffee Roasters Macadamia Almond Latte
Macadamia Almond Latte | Photo courtesy of Durango Casino & Resort

A Killer Caffeine Fix

Forget familiar chains. The coffee game at Durango Casino is strong, with Vesta setting up shop with counters in both the food hall and check-in lobby. A local favorite that first caught the attention of Las Vegas in the Downtown Arts District, Vesta roasts its own beans, sourcing them from the world's great coffee regions. It's not an exaggeration to say you won't find better quality coffee in any other Vegas hotel. You can get a fancy latte, sweetened with house-made syrups, but automated pour-over machines allow you to enjoy the java in its purest form, awakening your senses to enjoy all that gambling on the casino floor.

The move to Durango Casino and Resort prompted Vesta to dramatically expand its pastry selection under the direction of pastry chef Julissa Escobedo with bread, cookies, cakes, and more. Sink your teeth into a pear and blue cheese Danish, pinole (ground maize) shortbread cookies, a roasted pineapple tart with marmalade and almond cream, and other inspired recipes.

Durango Casino & Resort Bel-Aire Lounge
Bel-Aire Lounge | Photo by Clint Jenkins, courtesy of Durango Casino & Resort
Durango Casino & Resort Bel-Aire Lounge cocktails
Pistachio Berry Bliss and Watermelon Paloma at Bel-Aire Lounge | Photo courtesy of Durango Casino & Resort

Partying by the Pool

The poolside deck won't open until at least March, but it's already providing some gorgeous scenery. Surrounded by 16 cabanas and a multi-color evening light show, the pool looks sharp and stylish with a centralized fountain and an emphasis on wet-deck relaxation with lounge chairs and daybeds in shallow water.

View the scene through tall floor-to-ceiling windows at Bel-Aire, a sophisticated cocktail lounge that would traditionally be more in line with the Strip than the suburbs. It's a great spot with an excellent menu of small bites, yet the prices reflect the biggest question mark about Durango Casino. Will locals go for these prices? Much like Oasis (an overachieving casino bar) and DRNK (which serves boozy slushies in the food hall), prices fall into the high teens ($16–$18) for most standard signature cocktails. That's reasonable for the Strip these days but stretches the limits for neighborhood drinking.

It would be nice to see some locals' discounts or at least a happy hour somewhere, but it appears anything like that will be gauged on consumer demand. Durango Casino and Resort is off to a strong start, and how it evolves will say a lot about the development and growth of Las Vegas. A second phase is in the cards with additional hotel rooms and other attractions. Anything is on the table, including a bowling alley, mini-golf course, or a Kids Quest play center (a familiar sight at other Station Casinos resorts). However, that kind of stuff seems to clash with the Durango's refined image, which isn't adults-only but adults-oriented—and a welcome sight for a community still shaping its identity.

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Rob Kachelriess is a full-time freelance writer who covers travel, dining, entertainment, and other fun stuff for Thrillist. He's based in Las Vegas but enjoys exploring destinations throughout the world, especially in the Southwest United States. Otherwise, he's happy to hang out at home with his wife Mary and their family of doggies. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.