Celebrating 100-plus Years of a Vegas Original: Golden Gate Hotel and Casino

Las Vegas Guide images
The hotel in the 1920s.
(Photo courtesy of Golden Gate Hotel and Casino)

In a land of spectacular demolitions and cranes jutting into the desert sky, you’d be surprised, perhaps, to learn that any hotel can last more than 50 years in Vegas. That said, Downtown Las Vegas has copious historic flair - and none more storied than the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino.

The hotel/casino, which celebrates an amazing 115 years in operation this year, opened at a time when Las Vegas wasn’t much more than a dusty hitching post of the Old West era. While it was a far cry from the glamorous, soaring resort towers of the 21st century, the hotel offered modern amenities - including electric lighting and steam heat - that made the $1 a night rate an amazing deal for weary travelers.

Always Expanding
Golden Gate Hotel may remain on the same corner it was founded, but it never stood still. The casino opened and shuttered as Nevada illegalized and reintegrated gaming in the early 1900s. The same went for alcohol Prohibition, though bootleggers kept whiskey well stocked at the bar (that definitely didn’t exist, wink wink) in the hotel. Golden Gate was one of the first locations to feature an electric sign on their hotel building, a precursor to the bright neon that would come to dominate the Vegas Strip and Fremont Street. The hotel also set up the first telephone in the city of Las Vegas: How to reach them? Simply dial “1.”

In the 1950s, the hotel was redesigned to match the prevailing modernist style and became a pioneer in cuisine by offering the first shrimp cocktail in Vegas. During the swinging 60s, Golden Gate served as a hang for Frank, Sammy, and the rest of the Rat Pack.

By the time the Fremont Street Experience was erected up and around the Golden Gate, the property had seen more than the fabulous light show could ever depict. But the Golden Gate continued to reinvent itself, completing a higher-end remodel, featuring high-limit gaming and penthouses, in 2012.

“The Original 10”
A truly unique experience in Vegas, the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino offers guests a chance to rent one of 10 original rooms from 1906. While they’ve been renovated and modernized, they still retain the bones - and the stories - of every guest that has stayed a night over their 115 years. The hotel’s description of the rooms includes, “These rooms welcomed ranchers and railroad men. Singers and starlets. Mobsters, middle-America vacationers, and honeymooners. The Original 10 are part of the bones of Golden Gate. These rooms have seen things.” Guests can stay in the comfort and modernity they’d expect out of any Vegas hotel, with the added fun of possibly being haunted by ghosts of guests past.

Regardless of how you like to stay and play, the Golden Gate offers the combination of old and new that Vegas often lacks. If you’re a history buff or simply looking for something different during your next vacation, it should be your first stop.

-Alan LaGuardia