I should probably just call this page “Las Vegas”. Are there other places to visit in Nevada?
I’ve been to Vegas several times. It is a city of complete and total excess, so take advantage. Another no-holds-barred foodie paradise – from massive all-you-can-eat buffets to Michelin starred restaurants, there is something for literally everyone. Every top chef you’ve ever heard of has a spot.
You can combine old world Nevada with modern casinos, see incredible shows, and shop and eat like you’ve traveled the world – all in just a few city blocks.
Las Vegas – its a Disney World and Epcot center for adults.
My most recent trip to Las Vegas was October 2012 so updated research may be needed.
Fly into McCarran International. Keep an eye on the window as you land…very neat to see the desert below occasionally dotted with turquoise lakes. Take a cab to your accommodations.
Where to Stay
This is very much about personal preference and budget. If you have a fixed plan of where you will spend time, stay as close to that as possible. Vegas requires TONS of walking. You could put miles on your feet without ever leaving your casino resort on the strip. They are all HUGE. Comfortable shoes are a must. I stopped at a Walgreens on the strip and bought rubber flip flops on my first trip and tossed the cute platforms I had been wearing.
Save the nice shoes for dinner only, and even then they MUST be walkable.
- Bellagio – The ultimate paradise. Gorgeous rooms, glitzy casino, sprawling pool area, great restaurants – and of course, the fountains. Also a great location roughly in the middle of The Strip.
- Wynn Las Vegas – My favorite because it is simply the most beautiful indoor place I’ve ever seen. Its colorful botanical-garden-meets Willy-Wonka feeling just draws you in. I can just hang out in the common areas for hours. I like the modest-sized casino, the pub in the lobby, amazing restaurant selection and the poshest nightclubs. It connects to the newer Encore property, also a Steve Wynn hotel, via a very long corridor lined with shops, restaurants and clubs.
- The Venetian – I love this property for its rooms. Huge with sunken living room. Feels like a Vegas hotel should. There are two towers to choose from, the original Venetian Tower and the newer Palazzo Tower. There is an extremely strong floral fragrance pumped throughout this casino that can be cloying, but it also feels somehow luxurious. The Venetian boasts the Grand Canal, an indoor multi-level mall of shops and restaurants with a ceiling you’ll swear is actually the sky and real Gondola boat rides that move between indoor and outdoor spaces.
- MGM Grand – Stayed here on a business trip because I had to. This would be a good choice for a family as it has many MGM themed shops, is more affordable and the food is more standard American if you are not an exotic eater. I believe their sports book (restaurant/bar that caters to televised sporting events and betting) is considered one of the best. Downside – all the way at one end of the strip so very far to walk to see everything.
- New York, New York – Also a good place for families, looks like the streets of New York inside, mostly Italian restaurants and New York delis, near MGM at the end of the strip. All casino resorts are a maze, but this one made me crazy. So hard to find the right elevator to your room. Highlight: They have a roller coaster.
Things To Do
When planning your time in Vegas, you have much to choose from. For me, a perfect Vegas weekend consists of:
- Eating as much high-end ethnic cuisine as possible
- Spa – expensive, but every resort has them
- Shopping – at least window shopping since I am saving my money for food and shows
- Gambling – I love video slots. But I also love craps.
- Shows – Always over the top, though I’ve seen some pretty cheesy things. Vegas does cater to the blue-hairs so if it looks like that kind of show, it probably is.
Almost every huge casino hotel has amphitheaters hidden somewhere competing for your nighttime attention and money. From Celine Dion to Cirque du Soleil to David Copperfield, you’ll definitely be entertained.
Cirque du Soleil
If you have never seen a Cirque du Soleil performance, this is an absolute must. It’s hard to describe your first experience. To say it is an acrobatic performance reminiscent of the flying trapeze you saw at the circus as a child would be a serious understatement. I’m inserting a 3 minute video clip below to get you excited. There are many Cirque shows active around the strip at any given time. I’ve listed the ones I’ve seen below.
These shows are simply mesmerizing. You can see the same show multiple times and it always feels new. There are no bad seats. In fact, the higher up or further away your seats are is usually the better so you can take more in. Many of these performances are set up “in the round” where the audience completely surrounds the stage(s). There is no way you won’t get the full experience. I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t say they were fully entertained even if its not their thing. It’s a feast for the eyes and sensory overload. Worth every penny.
Cirque du Soleil Shows
- “O” – Bellagio
- “La Reve” – Wynn Las Vegas
- “Zumanity” – New York, New York **this is a risque cabaret performance, adult only
- “Ka” – MGM Grand
- “The Beatles LOVE” – The Mirage *this is a good one if you husband is totally against the idea of Cirque du Soleil unless he also hates the Beatles
- “Mystere” – Treasure Island
Freemont Street Experience
Want to get away from the expanse and expense of the strip? Check out Fremont Street. This was the original strip back in the day. Glitter Gulch. It is now an outdoor mall and tourist destination.
This is also a great place to gamble for two reasons – you don’t want to play the $30 minimum tables on the strip or you don’t really know what you’re doing.
Gambling at Binion’s, The Golden Nugget or 4 Queens is easier, cheaper (last time I went it was also smokier which was a downside but maybe that’s finally changed) and a lot less crowded. Good place to learn the ropes or just have fun without breaking the bank.
Fremont Street is a cab ride from the strip.
A Word on Gambling
Gambling is for entertainment. Not for making money. Set a budget, know your limits. If you’ve never done it, Vegas might not be the place to start. If you have an addictive personality, be careful.
I’ve seen so many people hit Vegas for the first time and completely wipe out their bank accounts. There is nothing sadder than stumbling home from a festive night on the strip and seeing the desperate look in someone’s eyes as they try to get a cash advance on their credit card.
When it stops being fun, just walk away. Vegas has many diversions and you will soon move on to something new.
All that said, it can be lots of fun. Find an empty table during the day, ideally at a smaller, off-the-beaten path casino, and ask the dealer to teach you. I learned craps by playing for free online to understand the basics, then spent a few fun hours with a nice dealer at Paris Las Vegas who was bored because it was 10am and the place was empty. As mentioned above, Fremont Street is also a good starter spot but the ultimate cheap gambling can be found at Slots of Fun – halfway between Freemont Street and the Strip. It’s part gas station, part diner, part pizza joint. But they had the cheapest tables in town!
The choices are absolutely endless. If eating is important to you, plan accordingly. Below are some of my suggestions but restaurants tend to come and go, so do your research. Don’t waste any meals!
- Tao – The Venetian – Dine under a 20ft Buddha floating above a pool. Amazing atmosphere, swanky vibe. Unique sushi and more.
- Nine Fine Irishmen – New York, New York – Irish Pub. Period.
- Nobu – Hard Rock – an often overlooked off-strip choice, outstanding sushi (main location at Casear’s)
- B&B – Venetian – Mario Batali’s place, very classy
- Mon Ami Gabi – Paris – al fresco French dining overlooking the strip.
- Le Cirque – Bellagio – Super small French food, extremely expensive as is everything in Bellagio but it was magnificent. Still had room for a late night meal after this..
- Parasol Up/Parasol Down – Wynn – This is a two-level bar, just trust me.
- The Buffet – Wynn – the most beautiful brunch location ever, exceptional food. You must do at least one buffet!
Le Cordon Bleu Cooking Academy
After many trips to Vegas, I just needed something new. Decided to give this a try…it is a decent cab ride from the strip so figure that into your cost. I had an amazing half-day here, learned some great techniques and that there is a reason scallops don’t come out at home like they do in restaurants. The chef also demonstrated how to butcher a chicken properly which I video-taped and still refer to.
The group prepared about 5 dishes. You only get to participate in one, so don’t be shy when they ask for volunteers for the dish you want to learn (I did Beef Wellington-another clutch lesson). You get to keep your recipe cards at the end and of course you get to eat!
This is it for Nevada for now!