Exploring the Vegas Strip: Riviera

Our Vegas vacation was a success! We walked all over the Strip and explored everything. So much is changing in Vegas right now (as always) – there was construction everywhere. I hurt my foot due to a terrible choice of footwear, so that did slow us down some. We never got to Fremont or Sam’s Town or Stratosphere. That’s okay because we’ll likely be back in the spring.

We did make it to some places on the Strip that I hadn’t been to before, including the North end. We could’ve ridden the bus or the monorail up there, but when I saw it really wasn’t THAT far, I wanted to hoof it.

The Riviera is one of the older properties on the strip; it was built in 1955 and is one of the few remaining casinos from that era. Like many hotel/casinos in Vegas, it was once at least partially controlled by mafia members, supposedly leading to the murder of one of its managers and his wife after an embezzlement scheme was discovered. More recently, the Riviera filed for bankruptcy in 2010. If you look at the area in which it sits, you can see why it might have a harder time pulling in folks these days: it’s far less bustling than the mid- and south-Strip areas, and is adjacent to two halted resort properties which have both sat only partially built for five or six years. When I looked up walking directions to the Riv online, I encountered several comments from visitors and locals recommending that we not walk there after dark. Not one to stick my nose up at a place just because it’s old or less-flashy or even dingy-looking, I insisted we visit it anyway (in broad daylight) just to see it (and also so I could find the hidden pool I wrote about earlier).

My Frommer’s guide stated that the Riviera casino may leave one feeling “lost and cranky.” Um, you called it, Frommer’s. By the time we left the Riviera I had been reduced to a mumbling, irritated, slightly-less green human version of Oscar the Grouch.

The outside of the casino is beautiful with its gleaming silver and bright neon stars. I’d ridden by it at night before and loved the glitzy evening Vegas effect.

The inside was dim and smoky, with kinda grungy-looking carpet, but whatever. It’s a casino, and a very storied one at that.

But then I started looking around for the valet elevator to the second floor roof so I could view the abandoned pool I wrote about earlier. Armed with seemingly simple directions from a couple of Las Vegas forums, I confidently marched to the registration desk area and began searching … and searching … and searching for an elevator labeled “Valet” or one that would have a 2nd floor button. We got in so many random elevators and walked around the same areas so many times I’m surprised security didn’t come after us. As I felt the jaws of irritation gobbling up my patience and normally chipper attitude, and my attitude toward the Riv getting sour, we sat down for a smoothie break and re-examined the directions. Then we wandered around some more. The pool shouldn’t be THAT hard to get to – it was, after all, originally built as something that could be “easily” accessed from the casino. I thought about asking a staffer, but just in case we weren’t supposed to be up there, I didn’t want to get anyone’s eagle eyes on me. Plus, for all I knew the next time I was in Vegas, the Riviera could be a pile o’ dust. I WOULD SEE THAT POOL IF IT KILLED ME.

“I mean, how important is this to you, beautiful?” my wonderful husband finally said very patiently, getting wary of my scowl and the strange growling noises I had begun making.

“I hate the Riviera,” I grumbled in reply.

Then, we spied an elevator in a little back hallway just beyond the arcade area (more about THAT later!). The only buttons available were P, 1, and 2. That had to be it! I punched the 2 button with way too much excitement and there we were – staring at a roof with a man in a suit smoking nearby. (There are offices that exit into the pool area.) He paid us no mind as we came out and made our way to the fenced-off hole in the ground, where we saw THIS:

The Circus Circus clown in the background looks like he is coming for you! Creepy.

The Circus Circus clown in the background looks like he is coming for you! Creepy.

It looked way different than I imagined. I had thought of it as being longer and much more shallow, which seems typical of today’s Vegas pools. I also didn’t realize it had a boarded-up hot tub at its head.

Close up of the "R"

Close up of the “R”

Closer view of the hot tub, with depth marking still in view

Closer view of the hot tub, with depth marking still in view

The view of the pool was gross, but the view from the rooftop was great. This would’ve made a really nice swim. Too bad I hear it still leaks into the casino whenever it rains.

The deep end of the pool

The deep end of the pool

Closer view of the tiles in the deep end, or what's left of them. People have thrown plastic bottles full of questionable liquids in here and a pool of muddy water sits where I assume the deep end drain would be.

Closer view of the tiles in the deep end, or what’s left of them. People have thrown plastic bottles full of questionable liquids in here and a pool of muddy water sits where I assume the deep end drain would be.

The stepped patio leading up to the pool is full of cracks that have been plastered over. Adjacent to the office area is this little putting green. I’m not sure if this was put in at the same time as the pool, or if it was put there just for the people who work there. Either way, at least one cigarette butt had been flicked onto it.

It looks old, but it's definitely in better shape than its neighbor!

It looks old, but definitely in better shape than its neighbor!

View of a Riviera tower with the pool deck's plastered areas visible in the foreground.

View of a Riviera tower with the pool deck’s plastered areas visible in the foreground.

View of the pool deck from the putting green with the Stratosphere visible.

View of the pool deck from the putting green with the Stratosphere visible. The big blue tower you see is the failed Fontainebleau resort project.

All self-pitying mumbling about the Riv aside, it might be fun to come here again next time, get a drink at the bar and see if we can find someone who’s worked here for a long time and knows more about it. It’s a nice looking place in its own right … on the outside, anyway. If you walk around the casino and theatre areas, you will find a lot of plaques on the walls displaying the history of the resort’s famed headliners such as Liberace and Dean Martin (to name just a couple). And the Pinball Hall of Fame section is killer. What’s that, you say? PINBALL HALL OF FAME? Why, yes! Las Vegas is home to the Pinball Hall of Fame off-strip on Tropicana Avenue – and the Riv’s arcade has teamed up with the Hall of Fame to create a little outpost. There are some great classic games here from the past several decades, along with air hockey and plenty of video games.

It's blurry, but this is my husband playing some classic pinball games. Some of the machines have hand-written index cards taped to them with additional information

It’s blurry, but this is my husband playing some classic pinball games. Some of the machines have hand-written index cards taped to them with additional information.

In addition, this memorable sculpture advertising the Crazy Girls show can be found outside the Strip-facing casino entrance. Note that some parts of the statues have been touched more than others!

Clever!

“NO IFS, ANDS, OR …” Clever! Hey, I chuckled at it.

We both enjoyed seeing the Riviera (in the end) and I’m glad I found the hidden pool. If you find yourself in Vegas, I recommend at least taking a look around the Riv and playing a few slots (and pinball machines)! There’s no telling how much longer this relic of old times will be around.

Note: If you drive to the Riviera, then finding the pool elevator is probably easier. From the parking garage under the building (not the separate garage – remember the pool is overtop the casino), head towards the Strip side and look for an elevator labeled “Valet”, or at least I am told it’s labeled “Valet”. I didn’t go down there, so I don’t know. Get in that elevator and head up to the 2nd floor.

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4 responses to “Exploring the Vegas Strip: Riviera

  1. Thanks for your description of this hidden gem. With your help I was able to find the abandoned pool, and actually it was quite a bit easier than expected. Following your description, we entered the casino from the strip, walked past the little food court area and immediately found the arcade area with pinball machines. I quickly looked around and spotted a little hallway with elevators and got in one, but found that instead of the P, 1 and 2 buttons it had just floors 1-4. We pressed 2 and went up, but didn’t see much there (I was expecting it to open to the pool). After walking around up there for a moment and almost giving up, I noticed an area that appeared to be lit by natural light, so we walked over, opened a door and bingo – the pool!
    So, for anyone reading this, here are much easier instructions for finding it: Enter the casino from the strip (through the doors on the curved part of the building). You will walk past the food court area and into the casino. Right before you actually enter the casino you should see numerous pinball machines and more prominently an escalator. Take the escalator up then turn right and go up the stairs immediately to the right of the top of the escalator. Follow the little hallway down, open the glass door to the outside and enjoy.
    I suspect the elevator in the original article may have referred to an elevator on the opposite side (right by the pool itself). This elevator would open right into the pool area, and would not reach any floors higher than 2. However it would not be accessible from the pinball machine area (unless they have been moved to where they are now). Additionally when we tried to use that elevator to go back down, it did not appear to be functioning.
    Thanks to the original article for highlighting this interesting space, and hopefully these updated and simplified instructions help more people find it.

    • Hi! We were there in December 2013. Thank you for the updated instructions! It sounds like your way (going up the steps to the door) is much easier because we had a horrible time finding that P2 elevator! It’s entirely possible I got the instructions a bit wrong because I was really confused by the time we did locate it but I do remember it was right near the pinball area. There was a lot of elevators near it though. :/ I’ll check it out next time I’m there. 🙂

  2. Today i spent 300 $ for platinium roulette system , i hope that i will make my first $$ online

  3. Looks like the “pile o’ dust” prediction will come true this year.

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