Destination Guide: Las Vegas

Hey guys! After all the stress I’ve been through in the last few weeks, I decided that I’m going to dedicate this post to one of my favorite things in the world: travel. I’m actually heading to Vegas for the second time in a year in December, on my and my sister’s second annual sisters’ trip, and I want to share the tips and tricks that our first getaway taught me.

If you have any specific questions about Vegas, comment below and I’ll help you as much as I can. Cheers!

When Should I Go?

My sister and I actually asked this question to one of the bartenders at our hotel. He told us that tourist season starts in May and goes through September, so any time outside of those, save for the holidays and spring break, is off-season. And off-season means cheaper prices.

For everyone saying that the best thing about Vegas is lounging by the hotel pool with a fruity cocktail, don’t worry. If you do early May or late September, you’ll probably still get to swim to your heart’s delight. And if you can’t, there’s a million other things to do. What I’ve got in this guide is only a sample of what the city has to offer.

Something to be aware of for Vegas is all the conventions that happen there. Generally speaking, if a major event is happening–like CES, the consumer technology expo, in March or the iHeartRadio Festival in September–you can expect prices to be much higher. Luckily, the Las Vegas Convention Center has a calendar where you can see not only what conventions are happening and in which hotels, but also how many attendees are expected. This is key because while a 500-person conference won’t affect you, a 12,000-person one very well might.

Where Should I Stay?

The Strip. Yes, there are cheaper hotels off the Strip, but honestly, everything you’ll want to do is on that stretch of road. If you stay at a cheaper hotel downtown, you’ll end up spending your savings in Uber fares. So, do yourself a favor and stay on the Strip.

Of course, there are plenty of hotels on the Strip, from the Venetian and Caesar’s Palace to New York New York and a Best Western. My sister and I enjoy the LINQ because it’s cheap (comparatively), it’s centrally-located, and it’s not a huge hotel. This means that if we forget something in our room, it’s not a mile-long trek to go get it. And trust me, in some of these hotels, that’s exactly what it would be. They’re huge.

If you or someone you’re close to enjoys gambling, look into special rates with either MGM or Caesar’s Palace, whichever company owns your favorite property. Also sign up for their newsletters and see what offers they’ve got going on.

What Should I Do?

Drink. Eat. Explore. People watch. Seriously, if you like people watching, just park yourself at a place on Fremont Street, in downtown Vegas, and be prepared for a couple hours of entertainment.

As far as specific activities, Vegas really does have something for everyone. There’s Fremont Street, mentioned above, if you want a taste of “real” Vegas. Also downtown are the Container Park, a cool area with shops and restaurants, and the Mob Museum.

If you like shopping, I suggest heading either to the outlet mall or any number of hotels that have high-end shops, depending on what your budget is.

For the more outdoorsy types, Vegas is also home to some great hiking. Red Rock Canyon was one that was recommended to us (disclaimer: we don’t hike, so I can’t give any advice on this subject. It looks really pretty though!).

Going to a show is a time-honored Vegas tradition. Groupon has some deals and there are also sellers on the street, like near New York New York, that specialize in selling discounted tickets to shows for that night or the next. Cirque de Soleil is famous, of course, as are magic shows like David Copperfield or Penn and Teller, as well as all the artists who have residencies there. We’ve also been told that Absinthe is a lot of fun, if you don’t mind dirty humor.

My personal favorite thing to do is hit up the spa on our last day there. Vegas puts your body through a lot of abuse, so letting it detox in the steam room or with a custom facial is the least you can do for it.

No matter what you’re into, make sure you take time to explore the hotels and their attractions, like the erupting volcano at the Mirage and the light and fountain show at the Bellagio. The hotels each have their own theme and to me, Vegas isn’t Vegas if you’re not going from Rome to Venice to New York to Egypt without even leaving the Strip.

How Do I Get Around?

I wouldn’t recommend renting a car in Vegas, unless you’re just using it as a base to do a lot of day trips to places like Hoover Dam. The parking garage fees are insane and traffic on the Strip isn’t much better. If you’re dead-set on a day trip, either book an excursion where they’ll pick you up from your hotel, or consider renting a car just for the one day, so you don’t have to worry about parking it.

The Strip actually has a fairly decent rail system called the Monorail. It’s an elevated train that runs on a circuit from Sahara Avenue to the MGM Grand, stopping at a handful of hotels along the way. You can find the map and prices here. Be warned that not every hotel has a Monorail stop, so you might find yourself walking another couple blocks to get to your destination. The LINQ has one, though, which is another reason why we love it.

Uber and Lyft are common in Vegas and you won’t have any trouble getting a ride. Just know that there are only certain places where they’re allowed to pick you up. When you go to order a ride, you’ll notice that it mentions a specific area of your hotel and once you get out there, you’ll see “Ride share” signs.

This is actually something that you can expect at any of Vegas’s tourist areas, like the Convention Center and the airport. So if your phone says your driver has arrived but you don’t see them, check to make sure you’re in the designated ride share area.

One last thing: don’t expect many opportunities to cross the Strip. There are very few places where you can do so safely and with as much traffic as they have, jaywalking is not recommended. Instead, try to plan your day so that you’re staying on one side of the Strip at a time. If you do have to cross the street, Caesar’s Palace has a walking bridge that’s pretty convenient.

Where Should I Eat?

I’ve saved the best for last. Vegas has an awesome food scene, from celebrity chef-owned restaurants on the Strip to local places downtown. There’s also several places there that are typically only found in one region of the country, like the Honolulu Cookie Company. Their locations are limited to Hawaii, Guam, and Las Vegas, so unless you can afford to visit the first two destinations, Vegas is the only chance you’ll get to try them.

Then there’s the legendary Vegas buffets. The Bacchanal buffet at Caesar’s is well-known, but we liked the one at the Paris and I’ve heard good things about the Aria’s. If you go this route, I suggest making reservations ahead of time (check Groupon for discounted rates) and aiming for that sweet spot when they still have breakfast, but you’re there for the switch to lunch. The buffets aren’t cheap, so if you can get two meals for one, why not?

Since Vegas has such a dizzying array of food options, I suggest asking your concierge, Uber driver, or bartender at your favorite watering hole for their recommendations. This approach is how my sister and I found out about a restaurant with an affordable yet delicious steak diner and the place where the LINQ staff buy their pizza.

Vegas also has a surprisingly large offering of Hawaiian restaurants. A Lyft driver told us that it has something to do with housing in the 90s, if I recall correctly, and the extreme cost of living in Hawaii, so a lot of people moved from there to Vegas. Regardless, if you’re an adventurous eater and want to try something you can’t find at home, this is definitely an avenue that you should check out.

In case you can’t tell by this  guide, I love Vegas. It’s a destination where the amount of fun you have is limited only by your willingness to wander off the beaten path. It can be as budget-friendly or as extravagant as you make it and there’s so much to do, you’ll be planning your next trip before you even get on the plane home.

For more travel tips, check out my articles on Venice, Iceland, Paris, and Chicago.

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