One of summer’s many fine traditions is hanging out by the pool. The weather is warm. The water is cool. Sometimes there are even food and drinks involved in the process. Of course, every pool experience is different, from the simple and homely backyard afternoon to the ultra-chic party at midnight at an expansive pool club on the Strip. It is actually quite amazing if you think about it. The concept of “hanging out by the pool” can be as mild and tame or wild and crazy as one’s imagination.
The days of simply laying out a slab of concrete next to the house and taking a quiet dip every weekend, however, have been replaced with bells, whistles and commercialization in Las Vegas. These days there are lazy rivers, wave pools, water slides and marble statues to surround yourself with if you so choose. A sprawling resort can have pools for kids, pools for adults, pools with clubs, and even pool parties that are as rowdy as a Friday night at Tao or Tryst.
In fact, demand for a place by the pool at a Vegas resort can be as competitive as getting in without a wait at a nightclub during Memorial Day weekend. This demand has led to a market for pool-goers in Sin City, one that has also led to a heavy commercialization of pool experiences, products, and real estate (all with their own price points a well). In the old days, the hotel pool was considered a free extra for staying at that property. Modern resort pools, however, are all about enhancing a resort’s “take” or bottom line on guest spend.
Somewhere along the line, someone figured out that selling suntan lotion, branded towels, sunglasses, and bottles of water was not the only way to make money off of a resort’s pool.
Most Las Vegas resorts do still allow hotel guests to use their pools for free simply by showing their room key card at the pool entrance. Most also have free pool chairs and seating available to their pool patrons. However, “preferred” seating, daybeds, cabanas, and other areas of certain pools often come with a large fee. In fact, pool cabanas often have a minimum spend requirement that forces their temporary inhabitants to buy food and beverages at nightclub and room service prices. Of course, prices for daybeds and cabanas fluctuate depending on the time of year, day of the week, how exclusive the location of the cabana or daybed is relative to the pool itself, and how exclusive or upscale the resort is as well.
How much are are talking about here?
Well, a cabana at the Garden of the Gods Pool at Caesars Palace can run a good $500 for a full day rental during a summer weekday. Yes, five-hundred dollars to enjoy a covered area by the pool. And that is nothing compared to the $1,500 for a full day rental during a summer weekend day (or during a special event or celebrity-hosted party, when the cost for a full day rental can be thousands of dollars). Yes, that amount does include a credit for food and beverage purchases brought right to your cabana. Yes, you do get your own cabana attendant for the day. Yes, the cabanas are very nice and spacious, even for a full group of six or eight people. Yes, a covered, private area near the pool is a cool experience and nice luxury.
However, $500 is nothing to sneeze at, even in Las Vegas.
Then of course, there are the private pools reserved for adults only like Moorea Beach Club at Mandalay Bay. Some of these pools (like Moorea) are topless pools, although going topless at those pools is always optional. These fine private establishments charge anywhere between $10-$25 for entry, although women are generally admitted for free.
Pool dayclubs are another pool sensation (see Drai’s at the Cromwell, Rehab at Hard Rock, Encore Beach Club at Encore). At such locations, expect to pay an entry fee (even during the day) just as though you were entering a Vegas nightclub. In some cases these fees are waived for certain people, but most visitors have to fork over some dough in order to experience the club at the pool.
Some resorts offer poolside massages through their spa services as you lie in the sun and soak up the rays of the Vegas sun. Others have casino games and blackjack tables dropped right into the water so you never have to leave the pool to scratch that itch to gamble. Most higher end resorts will have servers walking around the pool area taking food and beverage orders from pool patrons. Even more resorts have some type of snack bar or cash bar right in the pool area. With how easy it is to simply charge things to your room these days (even if you are staying at a different resort that is still within the “family” of hotels where you’ve decided to spend your pool day), a day a the pool can quickly become an expensive proposition.
Pool commercialization is here to stay it seems. Similar to how Las Vegas resorts (and resorts everywhere) realized the value of non-gaming revenue and resort or retail spend, providing services at the pool is just another way that they can make money from patrons.
This is not a bad thing.
If the demand is there, why not provide exceptional facilities, services, food, beverages, and products? In fact, I quite enjoy the fact that it is so convenient to order a salad or a drink right from your pool chair. As long as there is still a free option for hotel guests, locals, and casino patrons to enjoy a day by the pool, I see nothing wrong with having other options as well.
Vegas has had many faces over the years. This is just another change in the way things work. Change can be good though. Change can be exciting. Just like the concept of the “resort” is constantly changing, the concept of what the pool experience is will change as well. Options are good, especially when “free” is still an option and possibility.
Like many things before it, Vegas has redefined the pool party and made it louder and crazier than ever. Parties, alcohol, models, bikinis, optional clothing, screaming, yelling, and more can all be found at a resort pool near you. Sin City is finding more ways to push things to the limit and it seems to be working out quite well.
Of course, sometimes you just want to sit by yourself, plug in your headset, and zone out for entire afternoon.
Now that’s a pool experience I could get used to…