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 – a Disney World and Epcot center for adults.
MOST RECENT TRIP – DECEMBER 2021
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. Possible the most expensive option.
- 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 and the variety of restaurants. It connects to the newer Encore property, also a Steve Wynn hotel, via a 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 (not sure if COVID affected the fragrance – it was gone on my most recent trip). 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. Click here to jump to my spa review.
- 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 – Updated Dec 2021
“O” – BellagioNo longer performing “La Reve” – Wynn Las VegasNo longer performing “Zumanity” – New York, New York **this is a risque cabaret performance, adult onlyNo longer performing
- “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
- “Michael Jackson ONE” – Mirage – I have to say, while I love Michael Jackson and did feel transported back in time for a few magical moments during this show, it was by far the least impressive Cirque I have seen (set, acrobatics, special effects, overall show)
On my most recent trip, I went to two other shows that I highly recommend.
- Absinthe – Casaer’s Palace – This show replaced “Zumanity” as the most controversial show in Vegas. If you are easily offended, you might want to double think this ticket. If you can go in with the mindset that our society has gotten a bit oversensitive about diversity, you’ll have a great time. I loved that it was theatre in the round, and it was just over an hour with no intermission. Perfect.
- The Nutcracker – Obviously this show only happens around Christmas, but if you happen to be in Vegas at that time, I highly recommend it. I saw the Nevada Ballet perform it at the Smith Center, a short Uber from the strip. Excellent performance.
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 more sad 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!
Las Vegas – The Food
The choices are absolutely endless. So, if eating is important to you, plan accordingly. Below are some of my suggestions. The restaurants in Las Vegas 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..
- Lakeside – Wynn – Really good food, something for everyone. Front row seat for the waterfall show every 20 minutes after dark.
- Casa Playa – Encore – Mexican coastal cuisine, great Tequila/Mezcal selection. I suggest a flight of Mezcal with food pairing. That was exceptional. Wagyu tacos, whole roasted branzino – skip the squash blossom quesadilla – big greasy mess
- The Buffet – Wynn – the most beautiful brunch location ever. Has an equal amount of American, Asian and Mexican offerings plus copious desserts. You must do at least one buffet!
- Cipriani – Shops at Wynn – Lacks in atmosphere because it is actually in the Shops at Wynn. That said, had an excellent beef tartar here.
- Top spots at Wynn I could not get a table for – wish list for next time:
- Wing Lei
- Delilah – This is a new supper club concept.. Looked super cool but I couldn not even get a seat at the bar.
Spa At Wynn Las Vegas
Las Vegas is all about nightlife. Sleep late. But you can’t sleep all day, so if the weather isn’t good enough for the pool, hit the spa. But bring your wallet.
As spa treatments go, you have your two basic categories – massages and facials.
You can do that anywhere. If I’m going to splurge on a pricey spa treatment in a city like Las Vegas, I’m looking for something a little more special.
Well, I found it. The Samadhi Enlightenment.
You can pick either 80 or 130 minutes – I chose the latter.
It was a top 2 or 3 spa experience of all time – I still credit Juan Carlos at Gaia in Costa Rica as my top experience ever – he introduced me to sound healing and chakra balancing. A close second was Chuan Spa at The Langham in Chicago. I had some kind of body scrub/mud wrap and massage that was heavenly in a huge, luxuriously sensual room. My recent experience with Sarah at Wynn Spa was fully restorative and transformative, and now that I reflect I would put this solidly at #2. Sarah’s genuine passion for energy healing and seemingly authentic joy at being able to perform the service contributed greatly to the experience.
I like to get the most out of my money, so I usually spend the entire day in the spa facility. This one was ideal. For reading or just contemplating they have a dark, quiet co-ed sitting area or a bright and comfy female-only area. There is a hot tub for the ladies with fabulous heated stone loungers. They provide snacks and fresh citrus water, as well as herbal teas.
I spent Christmas Day here. Not cheap, but worth every penny. Planning to do that again for Christmas next year.
Le Cordon Bleu Cooking Academy – Dec 2021 update – Sadly, this has closed
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!