We’ve been to Vegas any number of times (always to attend or speak at industry conferences – never to fritter our money away in the company of drunken revelers), and we have always used it as a starting point for adventure. This time our destination was Death Valley and the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel was definitely a high point. After our first day of hiking in the national park, we spent the night at the hotel. Driving into the national park, and again on the way back out, we passed a small herd of wild horses. (For miles and miles along the roads of the area, signs warned us to “watch out for wild horses and burros” and sure enough – there they were.) Come to find out, even though these 6 horses are indeed still “wild”, they have sense enough to come close to the Amargosa for extra feed from time to time. (Their schedules are their own, but mornings and dusk seem to be good times to see them up close.) The same evening that we explored the historic Opera House, we actually got an opportunity to stand in desert scrub out in the middle of nowhere literally feeding wild horses out of our hands! You certainly don’t get an opportunity like that at the Ramada Inn.
That same evening, we set the alarm for 2 a.m. and walked out with our night vision goggles (yes, we do plan ahead. We figured Death Valley would be remote enough to present an interesting “night vision” experience and we were not disappointed.) All we had to do was turn the corner by the café to be in total darkness. And with the absence of city lights, we were treated to a stunning stellar view. So many stars, and so bright, that we had to really struggle just to identify the big dipper and Orion’s belt (always clearly visible at home). This starscape rivals experiences we have had in the middle of Zion National Park, on remote beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula and out-of-the-way locations at various Caribbean islands. These two experiences alone would have been more than enough to make this a truly wonderful stay (and that’s not even counting the step back in time to the Opera House with its hand-painted walls of perpetual spectators – because the resident prima ballerina got tired of playing to a less than full house – its ornate ceiling and sets, and, of course, the pot-bellied stove to keep patrons comfy during winter performances).
But that’s not all. Many of the things noted in other reviews are, to a greater or lesser extent, accurate. The Hotel and Opera House are old. Old adobe. Yes, old adobe does tend to get a bit musty. And yes, old adobe settles and sometimes (or rather, eventually) the paint does crack a bit. If we were at a Holiday Inn Express, these would be bigger problems. Here, when you step into a lobby with interesting murals on the walls, a display case of 60 years of performance memorabilia from the Opera House, and an overwhelming feeling of a hacienda where John Wayne’s characters would have been right at home in many of his more interesting movies, you are moving into the heart and soul of a very interesting place. Is the internet access “spotty” at best? Yes. Is the cell coverage nonexistent? Yes (It’s hard to imagine what it would cost to build out a decent cell tower this far into the middle of nowhere). So, OK, if you can’t leave your “Masters of the Universe” personality at home, this is not going to be your place.
And yes, by modern standards, the rooms are small. So are the bathrooms. But we simply could not pass up the opportunity to stay in a room with a fancy headboard literally painted on the wall (complete with cherubs). And we happen to love what could only be described as a grotto-type shower, complete with a very high skylight (which in the original days most likely housed a water barrel on the roof – all you have to do is look around with open eyes and just a little bit of imagination to see what once was, and what once was must have been truly fascinating).
We don’t mind the little notes reminding us that the plumbing is ancient, or that the housekeeping staff can’t move all our belongings aside to make the bed if we leave the room in complete disarray (remember: Death Valley Junction – population 4. Things take some time out here, and there is a lot to be done by not too many individuals.)
Oh, and if you experienced rudeness from Staff, you might want to ask yourself what attitude you, yourself, walked in with. Everyone we encountered was very friendly, helpful – dare I say it, “real people; nice people”. The Café was open every time we wanted to eat (two huge lunches and one huge breakfast). And, although it wouldn’t be wise to eat this way every day, the Death Valley Junction (DVJ) cheeseburger – with lots of bacon and tons of jalepenos – was the best black angus burger we have come across. And personally, we loved being served by the fellow who actually made our meal because the waitress (who is also with the volunteer fire department) had to literally run out to assist at the scene of an accident down the road.
Look, we’ve been perfectly happy at Auberge du Soleil, several Ritz Carltons, tentalupas on Gulf of Mexico beaches and everything in between. We understand stellar service, and we appreciate one-of-a-kind experiences as well. There are hundreds of chain hotels out there but there is only one Amargosa Opera House and Hotel -- and we would not have missed this for anything in the world.
Go with Room 15 -- it's the one with the cherubs headboard; just about dead center of the hotel...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.