Hitting the Jackpot

DATING BACK TO 1946, THE ICONIC GOLDEN NUGGET HOTEL AND CASINO IS the embodiment of Old Vegas. Located downtown, it attracts Sin City guests who are looking to escape the hoards of people crowding the Strip. Once there, these guests don't have to travel far to find themselves in a peaceful haven at the Golden Nugget Spa, a serene retreat where spa-goers can leave the hustle and bustle behind.

This Old Vegas area, which was, until recently, rundown following its heyday in the 1950s, is becoming hot again. This time, it's attracting a younger, hipper crowd looking for luxe amenities, as well as maintaining its loyal longtime client base. "There's this renaissance happening, and I can't use the term 'rejuvenation' enough," says spa director Zita Sims. "From the spa point of view, we're leading in the downtown area." The Golden Nugget recently underwent a $100 million facelift, including an overhaul of the spa, making the resort a one-stop shop for luxurious amenities in the area. Guests have become more educated when it comes to spa-ing, so it made sense to give the facility a boost, making it livelier and more contemporary. "The spa itself took on its own identity rather than just being somewhere to go while waiting for your luck to turn," says Sims. "Now it's the reason to come to the hotel." The updated spa has 10 state-of-the-art treatment rooms, fully appointed lounges, an herbal steam room, and saunas, as well as manicure and pedicure rooms, a full-service salon, and a fitness center.

 The opulent spa foyer provides a place to relax before and after treatments.
The opulent spa foyer provides a place to relax before and after treatments.

The renovated treatment rooms offer a relaxing respite with their soothing decor. The bright lights and loud casinos on the Strip fade into memory when guests enter the ornamental spa, which is bathed in soft golden hues. The classic design creates a serene sanctuary. Male clients in particular enjoy soaking up the atmosphere, with Sims dubbing the men's area a definite "boys' club." Masculine touches like dark wood, shades of blue, and stone accents dominate the men's locker room. Here, guys can unwind in leather-upholstered chairs in front of a plasma TV, and many come back repeatedly to use the sauna and steam room.

In addition to the updated facilities, the spa also added a greater variety of treatments to its menu, including more body treatments and massages. The most popular treatment, according to Sims, is the Lavender Dreams Envelopment ($185, 80 minutes), which includes an invigorating full-body scrub, a warm wrap, and a full-body massage, in which a lavender scent lulls clients into a state of relaxation. The overall goal of the menu is to offer a memorable, yet not-too-overwhelming experience.

Top: The spa's reception area includes a well-organized display of retail products. Bottom Left: The recently renovated two-story Spa Tower Suites include plush living rooms, lavish bathrooms with whirlpool tubs, and views of the pool and downtown Las Vegas.  Bottom Right: The multimedia Freemont Street Experience plays just outside the legendary entrance of the Golden Nugget.
Top: The spa's reception area includes a well-organized display of retail products. Bottom Left: The recently renovated two-story Spa Tower Suites include plush living rooms, lavish bathrooms with whirlpool tubs, and views of the pool and downtown Las Vegas. Bottom Right: The multimedia Freemont Street Experience plays just outside the legendary entrance of the Golden Nugget.

"The theme is classic meets contemporary," says Sims. "We want to appeal to those guests who have been so good to us over the years while also attracting the educated spa-goer who understands the benefits." This approach is necessary at the spa, which caters to a mix of clientele, from those trying spa treatments for the first time because they are on vacation to the more experienced spa-goer, as well as a number of locals who recognize the Golden Nugget name and have noticed the recent improvements.

By keeping this balanced appeal, the spa has been able to successfully hold onto a majority of returning guests while at the same time attracting a new, younger following. Through the quality services offered and word of mouth, the spa's reputation has been solidly building, and extra lengths are taken to bring in more people with unique specials, events, and packages. One such package is the Golden Indulgence ($470, 4 1/2 hours), which showers guests with head-to-toe pampering. It includes a custom facial, a classic manicure and pedicure, a relaxation massage, and makeup application, so that guests will not only feel great, but look great too.

Part of the spa experience is the product lines incorporated into the treatments. Kerstin Florian was chosen because of its superior reputation as well as the effective training available, and Spa Blends and Pure Fiji are used as well. Because of the scorching weather in Las Vegas, the climate is a factor in the products Sims selects. She generally looks for lines that include shea butter and other hydrating ingredients.

While wellness is a plus, people come to the spa looking for fun. Unlike other more corporate environments, the Golden Nugget hosts people on vacation and those looking to hang out with friends and family or attend a wedding. According to Sims, guests enjoy their time at the Golden Nugget because they feel at home there. "Being a little smaller than other spas in Vegas, we're able to really concentrate on guests from a service point of view," she says.

Golden Nugget SPA
Golden Nugget SPA

The spa has approximately 18 full-time and 15 part-time employees. On a typical day, they can accommodate about 100 guests in the spa and salon. Making up 15 percent of the revenue, retail sales are important as well.

The biggest challenge the spa faces, in Sims's opinion, is people's perception of what downtown Las Vegas is like and what kind of services the Golden Nugget is capable of providing. She says it's important that visitors become aware of the improvements being made, making the Golden Nugget very competitive with the hotels on the Strip and beyond. "A challenge is having guests realize that, while it's called 'Old Vegas' and has been around for a while, the Golden Nugget is very much in the ballgame and, in some areas, ahead of the game," says Sims.

And the improvements will keep coming, as Sims plans to keep expanding the menu. Additionally, the spa will offer poolside neck and shoulder massages, raising the visibility of spa services for those who are still unaware of the benefits available upstairs at the spa. "It's a matter of getting them up to the fourth floor," says Sims. "Then they say, 'wow!'"

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