Viva Las Vegas!
I’ve been to Las Vegas four times now – for a family trip, for work, a conference, and most recently, a wedding – and yet, I still feel like I haven’t fully experienced the city. 😀 That’s how it goes when you wake up in Vegas. They were all quick trips with set agendas and not enough free time, but maybe one day I’ll be back and I’ll have this handy travel guide.
Honestly, I don’t think I’m a Vegas person. I’m not a fan of losing money to gambling and I prefer to go to bed early. But if you had paid me to eat everything, I would gladly partake. There are many excellent restaurants in Sin City. If you prefer not to go gambling and partying, there are still things you can enjoy on your visit.
So, if you visit Las Vegas, here’s a guide to help you plan your trip!
Why Visit Las Vegas
Did you know Las Vegas is one of the top 10 visited U.S. cities? They welcome over 40 million visitors annually. In 2017, its casinos reported $26 billion in revenue, which includes rooms, food, and beverage. Simply put, people flock to Vegas and spend lots of money there. Because of this, Las Vegas is built for visitors and nicknamed the “Entertainment Capital of the World.”
When to Visit Las Vegas
The best time to visit Las Vegas is in the spring or fall, March to May and September to November. Summer can be unbearabl hot in the desert but it does make those pool parties more fun.
Getting to Las Vegas
You’ll fly into McCarran International Airport. A non-stop flight from Austin is three hours. Driving from Los Angeles is four hours and from Phoenix is four hours and 45 minutes. Don’t forget, Las Vegas is in the Pacific Time Zone so you may experience a little time travel.
Getting Around Las Vegas
Lyft and Uber are available. The airport has a special section in their parking garage for pickup. Taxis are also available.
Where to Stay in Las Vegas
You bet there are some nice hotels in Las Vegas and plenty of hotels to choose from here. Las Vegas is the city with the most hotels in the U.S. With this many hotels, you might want to do some research to find the one that fits you the best. Maybe it’s location or maybe it’s a quiet night.
If you would like a good night’s sleep, be sure to check online reviews before you book. Hotels tend to be noisier near a club. I still chuckle when I remember the front desk’s response when I asked to be moved to a quieter room – “you’re in Vegas, it’s loud everywhere.” 😀 (Maybe for that hotel but not everywhere!)
I’ve stayed in The Flamingo twice, and they’ve recently renovated several floors. It’s a BIG difference and well done. They also have a bunk bed suite if you’re coming with a big group. The hotel is on the strip and a central location to activities.
Best Things to Do in Las Vegas
If you’re looking for things to do, you’ll be lucky to know you’re in the city that never sleeps. (Though the city gets fairly quiet from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.) “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” as they say, and you’re bound to find some very interesting entertainment. Here are some activities you could put on your schedule.
You’ll find casinos on every corner. How to make money, however, is not my forte. Roulette seems fairly easy to play, especially when it’s at a digital table. I also know in some cases, you have to spend money to make money, and of course, be willing to lose.
If you want to enjoy the party scene, look for hotel pool parties during the day and nightclubs at night. The pool and location can help determine which hotel you book.
In this desert oasis, you’ll also find entertainment. Las Vegas is known for its shows. Here are some you might like:
- Highly-Rated: Absinthe
- Cirque du Soleil: O, Zumanity, The Beatles Love, Michael Jackson ONE, Mystére, KÀ
- Musical Acts (2019 residencies): Celine Dion, Elton John, Aerosmith, Backstreet Boys
- Other Recommendations: Le Rêve, Penn & Teller, Blue Man Group
- Akhob by James Turrell: Call (702) 730-3150 to make a reservation to see this “secret” exhibit. It’s free to attend but reservations are required and go quickly. Reservations open two months in advance. The exhibit is located at the Louis Vuitton store at City Center.
- Bellagio Gallery of Fine Arts: This is a space featuring visiting exhibitions. It is currently showing a Yayoi Kusama exhibit through June 2019. Tickets are needed.
- The Art of Richard MacDonald: With galleries located at the Bellagio and ARIA, Richard MacDonald is known for his contemporary sculptures of expressive figures. Free admission.
- The Arts Factory: Located in the arts district, you’ll find art galleries galore here.
- SlotZilla Zipline: Fly through the streets and see Las Vegas zip by.
- High Roller Observation Wheel: Take a ride on the tallest observation wheel in the world at 550 feet.
- Neon Museum: Look around Las Vegas and you’ll see glowing neon lights in every direction. The Neon Museum houses a collection of old signs and hopes to share the history and art with visitors. Only one camera is allowed per person and no video recording is allowed. General admission is $22 per adult, $17 for kids and students. Guided tours are $28 per adult, $24 for kids and students. A $48 combo ticket is available and includes a guided tour and admission to the Mob Museum.
- Mob Museum: Officially called the National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement, this museum gives an interesting look into U.S. history. General admission is $26.95.
- Red Rock Canyon National Conversation Area: Located in the Mojave Desert, this national area is about 20 minutes away from downtown. Pricing is $15 per car and camping is also available.
- Sloan Canyon National Conversation Area: Also 20 minutes away from downtown, this park is known for its petroglyphs.
- Grand Canyon: That’s right. You’ll see advertisements in Las Vegas for Grand Canyon tours by bus, helicopter, or plane. A bus will take four to five hours one way and a flight will be 45 minutes. If you want a quick visit, this is one way to do it.
Best Places to Drink in Las Vegas
You bet Las Vegas has craft cocktails and craft beer. If you get disappointed by your free casino drinks, here are some places to get something fancier.
Best Places to Eat in Las Vegas
Being an international destination, Las Vegas caters to all with a wide range of eats. From hotel buffets to the many restaurants on the strip, dining in Las Vegas will cost you, but when in Vegas, you should always be up for the gamble.
Are you really a celebrity chef if you don’t have a Vegas restaurant? The answer appears to be no as you see Gordan Ramsay and Giada de Laurentiis’ faces and names on signs advertising their ventures. If you’re a fan of these TV stars and award-winning names, try some of their restaurants and see if they live up to your expectations. Here are a few of them:
- Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres
- Buddy V’s Ristorante
- Tom Colicchio’s Heritage Steak
- Bobby’s Burger Palace
- Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen
- Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House
If you’d rather some other options, take a look at these. Even if you don’t see the faces of some of these chefs on TV, I’m sure you’ve recognized some of their names.
- Pok Pok Wing – Portland’s favorite Thai restaurant
- Eat – Breakfast and lunch spot
- Raku – Japanese small plates
- Peppermill Las Vegas – Classic restaurant with breakfast, sandwich, and dinner items
- Lotus of Siam – Very popular Thai restaurant. I love my last visit!
- Bouchon Bistro / Bouchon Bakery – Chef Thomas Keller’s Las Vegas restaurants. The bakery is more casual.
- Nobu – Sushi
- Beijing Noodle No. 9 – Casual Chinese dining
- Momofuku – Chef David Chang’s Las Vegas restaurant
- Milk Bar – The famed dessert shop is here too.
Las Vegas seems to be all about excess, so there’s no shortage of restaurants, casinos, pool parties, clubs, and drinks. It’s a lot and it’s definitely a place where your to-do list might have items unchecked when you leave. That’s probably ok as long as you don’t find yourself in a real-life version of the movie ‘The Hangover’ instead!