Las Vegas Vacation Guide
Glitzy, gaudy, often gauche and always entertaining, Las Vegas shimmers like a desert oasis. High-energy casinos, dazzling shows, body-to-body nightclubs, plus scores of top-rated restaurants make Sin City a 24/7, top-rated destination.
Casinos and Their Thrill Rides
Casino-hopping on the Vegas Strip pulls you into the city’s conga-like rhythms. And if it takes a drink beforehand to better appreciate the theme-park architecture, so be it. Along the Strip — a 4.2-mile stretch of South Las Vegas Boulevard — the Eiffel Tower rises in lights at Paris Las Vegas, the pyramid at Luxor points a powerful beacon into the night sky, gondolas float on canals at the Venetian, a volcano spits fire at the Mirage, and the Stratosphere’s 1,049-foot-tall tower tops the skyline.
Admire the city’s otherworldly skyline from the Stratosphere’s observation deck. Among the thrills for adrenaline junkies: jumping bungee-like off the Stratosphere’s 108th floor on SkyJump, or dangling 866 feet over the tower’s edge on X-Scream. For a much less gut-wrenching ride, board High Roller, a 550-foot observation wheel at The LINQ.
Some Strip casino resorts aim for elegance. Fresh flowers and fine art adorn the fountain-fronted Bellagio. Encore Las Vegas reigns as a Forbes five-star and AAA five-diamond resort. The Mandarin Oriental is another five-star luxury winner and the Cosmopolitan creates élan with its oversized rooms and sweeping views.
The Strip doesn’t own all of Sin City’s dazzle. The Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas’s downtown creates a canopy of lights that links casinos and restaurants along a five-block pedestrian stretch. Throngs mass for the free show-stopper: a light show that pulses to music delivered on a screen that measures 1,500 feet long by 90 feet wide. Immerse yourself in the experience at SlotZilla, where you get tethered to ziplines that glide you through the flashing light canopy.
Remember the phrase, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”? Well, mostly, what stays is your money. After all, casinos win far more than they lose. But gambling is entertainment.
The newest kind, interactive gaming, adds the social element so de rigueur for millennials. Forget about standing quietly behind players, watching them at a poker table. Now your posse cheers for you. Caesars Entertainment recently launched Gamblit Poker and Cannonbeard’s Treasure, a game similar to blackjack. At 42-inch, tablet-like tables, you and others play for prizes. The systems are currently at Planet Hollywood, Harrah’s, Paris Las Vegas, and The LINQ.
MGM Grand launched LEVEL UP in December 2016, the company’s entry into interactive gaming.
“Our goal is to create a fun, social atmosphere featuring a variety of traditional games, as well as games of skill, that showcase the industry’s leading technology,” says Scott Sibella, president and COO, MGM Grand.
Along with such long-time favorites for group play as QuadAir Hockey, Connect Four and Giant Pac-Man, LEVEL UP features a 40-seat arena for table game watchers. To lubricate play, the Live Lucky Bar serves specialty cocktails and 24 craft beers.
Clever Vegas casinos turned the less-busy daytime hours into revenue-producing parties. The revelers don their best bikinis and swimsuits to hang out, drinks in hand, at the pool, moving to the rhythms of DJs and rock bands. Cabanas for rent provide better vantage points and cushy chaise lounges, nice to have if heading toward tipsy. Some of the high-energy happenings take place at Encore Beach Club at Wynn Las Vegas, Wet Republic at MGM Grand, TAO Beach at the Venetian, and the Rehab Beach Club at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Of course, you’ll be too busy with continuing education, but pack sunscreen just in case.
Restaurants and Drinks
In Vegas, it’s easy to savor great food. Many high-end hotels harbor award-winning kitchens helmed by noted chefs. The city’s AAA five-diamond restaurants include Restaurant Guy Savoy at Caesars Palace, Joël Robuchon at MGM Grand, Twist at Mandarin Oriental, plus Picasso and Le Cirque at Bellagio.
Among the buzzworthy new places are Chica, with its Latin-inspired menu; Hawthorn Grill at the JW Marriott, an upmarket steak house; and Canter’s Deli, a branch of the popular LA eatery slated to open at The LINQ in summer. Foodies also like Cosmopolitan’s three new venues: Momofuku garners raves for its fried chicken with caviar, the Milk Bar’s cake truffles define decadent, and Zuma features Japanese cuisine.
The Venetian’s Dorsey serves inventive craft cocktails, as does Caesars Palace’s Vista Cocktail Lounge. At the Cromwell Hotel’s Bound, the mixologist favors orange marmalade. Experts concoct tableside cocktails at Cosmopolitan’s CliQue, and at the Wynn Las Vegas’ sister lounges, Parasol Up and Parasol Down, tasty cocktails come with views of the resort’s waterfall.
The craft beer craze thrives in Vegas. Drink up at Tuscany Suites and Casino’s PUB 365, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s Goose Island Pub, and Aria’s Todd English P.U.B . Downtown, popular places for suds are Fremont Street’s Banger Brewing; Park on Fremont, a gastropub; and the Arts District’s Hop Nuts Brewing.
Nightclubs and Shows
Las Vegas’ nightlife is legendary. The bars, lounges and interactive gaming venues mentioned above certainly rate as evening venues. For wrap-around music and body-to-body dancing, go clubbing. Trendy options include Encore’s XS with its outdoor pool; Wynn Las Vegas’ Intrigue, ARIA’s Jewel; Drai’s, located on Cromwell’s rooftop; and Mandalay Bay’s LIGHT.
With twisting, high-energy acrobats and intriguing music, several Cirque du Soleil shows captivate Vegas audiences. KÀ, billed as “an epic adventure of love and conflict,” draws crowds at the MGM Grand; Michael Jackson ONE plays at Mandalay Bay; and Mystère, a suggestive tribute to the human body, is staged at Treasure Island.
We know people who come to Las Vegas just for the shopping, both the high-end fashion buys as well as the discounted outlet finds. If you haven’t “donated” all your dollars to the casinos, and if your stash remains significant, then browse for luxury goods at the 500,000-square-foot Shops at Crystals, where the stores include Christian Louboutin, Cartier, Versace, and Stella McCartney. Las Vegas Bellagio tempts buyers with Hermès, Giorgio Armani, Prada, and Tiffany & Co. Among the luxury boutiques at the Shoppes at the Palazzo are Diane von Furstenberg and Jimmy Choo.
Although the Forum Shops at Caesars sell Gucci and Dior, the facility also houses one of the world’s largest H&M stores, a trend-forward, moderately priced brand. Stretching for 1.2 miles, Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops include such affordable clothiers as French Connection and True Religion.
Whether you’ve blown your budget or just like a bargain, good deals can be found at Vegas’s outlet malls. Three to troll: the 200 or so stores in Las Vegas North Premium Outlets, the 100-plus stores of Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas, and the more than 140 stores in Las Vegas South Premium Outlets.
Off the Beaten Path
So you’ve been to Vegas before and you want to do something different. Commune with more than 200 of Vegas’ iconic marquees at the Neon Museum’s 2-acre outdoor campus. At the facility’s Boneyard, the resting place of the no-longer-needed signs, get up close to classics such as Binion’s Horseshoe, Lady Luck, the Sahara, and the Stardust. You must book a guided tour. The best ones take place at night. Not only is the temperature cooler than during the day, but the signs are hot: Seven of them light up, glowing in the evening like the grande dames they used to be.
Close to the Fremont Street Experience, the Mob Museum, also known as the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, delivers the dirt on Vegas’ gangsters. Find out how the frontier town morphed into a gambling mecca with the aid of Bugsy Siegel, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, and other Vegas kingpins. The museum also provides information on contemporary organized crime around the world, such as human trafficking and cybercrime.
You can go low-tech and hands-on at the Pinball Hall of Fame. Forget virtual. These old beauties have heft, and many still zip and zing. Hit the flippers, get the bells dinging to pile up the points, but at all costs, avoid “tilt.”
Come to think of it, that also turns out to be overall good advice for enjoying your Las Vegas experience.
How to Extend Your Gaming
- Choose slow play over fast. The quicker you play, the quicker you use up your allotted funds.
- Since easy-to-use slots consume tokens rapidly, avoid those machines. Table games extend your gambling time, especially if you join full tables.
- Off-the-Strip casinos, such as those downtown and in outlying neighborhoods, tend to have better returns per-dollar wagered.
- Always join the free players club at a casino before you place a bet. Sign up online or at the casino to earn rewards points. The Boarding Pass allows you to accumulate points at 18 casinos.