There’s no happier words in the English language than “We’re going to Vegas”! Here are my top insider tips to enjoy your stay in the worlds playground and make the most of your Las Vegas encounter!
Some people say they don’t go to Vegas to gamble. Admitted, there’s a lot of other things to see, but if you don’t gamble you haven’t really experienced Las Vegas. Just don’t plan on winning big. I consider my gambling money a donation to the U.S. economy and just a way to have a few (free!) drinks and a great evening people watching. And hey, you might just get lucky and hit the jackpot.
If you’ve had enough of it all the hotel pool is always a great place to relax, soak up some rays and possibly a few more drinks. Be aware that once you stop playing, drinks are no longer free and especially at the pools you can expect to pay top dollar. Not all hotel pools allow outside drinks to be brought into the pool area, even if you bought it from the hotel lobby. The worst experience I had was at the Hilton Elara (inside/behind Planet Hollywood), where the pool attendant called security on me when I tried bringing in my slushy drink. “We’re fostering a family environment here.” In Las Vegas, of all places. They even check children’s backpacks now. Of course buying drinks from the pool bar is not against their family policy. I’d rather go elsewhere.
Don’t try to maintain your diet in Las Vegas. There’s food options for every palate and budget. Most hotels have cheap eateries and some even a food court. But even if you’re on a budget, don’t miss the buffets. My favourite so far has been the Buchannal at Ceasar’s Palace (about $50 pp). A cheaper alternative is the Village Buffet inside Paris (about $30 pp) which you can also reserve on Open Table. If you have an Open Table reservation skip the long lineups and head straight for the “Diamond Entrance” through the red door on the left. If you’re a bit of a foodie, try to secure a seat with one of the celebrity chefs. It’s worth the experience, but comes with a price tag. Two of my favourites are Michael Mina (inside Bellagio), and Gordon Ramsay’s Steakhouse (inside Paris). Gordon also has a burger place, BurGR inside Planet Hollywood. It’s expensive for a burger but at least you can say you’ve eaten Gordon’s food. Don’t miss Gordon’s favourite beer, just ask your waiter.
It’s easy to find a place to sleep in the city that doesn’t. Las Vegas hotels are often cheaper than what I’ve paid for hostel accommodation in Banff. Being nice to hotel staff always goes a long way. Not only is it good karma, it’s also got me room upgrades and much more – for just a smile. When booking hotels, especially in Vegas, don’t always get the cheapest rate available. Look at what comes included with that rate. I often pay slightly above average to get much better value. Benefits might range from a nicer room, to free breakfast, dinner, and much more. In Vegas, status matters, but there’s ways to get upgraded without gambling too much. Sign up for the loyalty program and watch out for bonuses or partner offers.
As long as your gambling you’ll get free drinks, even at the penny slots. Playing a little and enjoying a drink or two is often cheaper than paying cash at the bar. Please tip your waitress at least a dollar per drink every time they serve you. My favourite touristy drink is the Paris Eiffel Tower souvenir glass. Unlike most other slushy drink outlets Paris does not pre-mix their drinks, so especially if you tip your bartender you’ll get a lot of value for money. Once finished, they’ll refill your glass as a discounted rate which is still one of the best deals on the strip. There’s a bar right outside on the strip, but a good tip is that they also sell them inside the casino, just before the buffet entrance.
There’s always something to see. Don’t miss the Bellagio fountains. The combination of light and music and water is mesmerizing during the day and night. Some other casino’s offer similar free “shows” too. Don’t miss the volcano eruption at the Mirage, the Fall of Atlantis inside Caesars Palace and the Rainstorm in Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops. Share you favourite in the comments below!
The new 550-foot-tall High Roller eclipses both the London Eye and Singapore Flyer. A ride takes about 30 minutes. Don’t miss the happy “half” hour most afternoons and all evenings which includes an open bar right inside the cabin.
Vegas is relatively close to the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon, and many pushy street vendors will try to sell you tickets. A much better alternative is to fly there by helicopter, but make sure to get the one that actually lands in the canyon. It’s a little more expensive, but the picnic lunch and champagne are usually included and well worth it.
Don’t miss the Vegas shows, no matter what you’re into the Vegas entertainers always put on a great show. There’s some local deals to be had, but to avoid getting ripped off by vendors that approach you with tickets. My personal rule is to ignore everyone who approaches me with something for sale in Vegas. I always get my Vegas show tix in advance (usually at 50% off) or through the hotel concierge desk. Don’t be fooled: the concierge is the desk you walk up to, usually near reception, and not the pushy people who approach you with show tickets. Most of those are timeshare sales people who give you free tickets in exchange for several hours of your time in a high pressure timeshare sales presentation.
A closer alternative to the Grand Canyon is the Red Rock Canyon. It’s only a short drive north of the Strip.
Explore my Las Vegas fine art photography.
You want to go outlet shopping? My favourite is the North outlet mall. There’s a south one too which makes sense if you’re visiting from Los Angeles. You can take the “Deuce” bus to North outlet mall, but always take the express one which is the single level bus, not the double decker! Bus fare is about $8 for 24 hours per person. Once you drop your shopping bags off at the hotel you can take the bus back in the evening to enjoy the Fremont Street experience in the “old” downtown Vegas. Depending on how many people there are in your group, a limo might be even cheaper: they usually go for about $70-90 per hour (plus tip), and fits 6-12 depending on the car.
Getting there and getting around
Airfare to Vegas is cheap and often goes on sale. By now you should know how to fly for free or at least super cheap. If not read my book.
My preferred method of transportation in Vegas is a stretch limo. It’s all part of the experience. A transfer from the airport to a hotel on the strip can be done in a limo for under $100. Or you can take a taxi for about $15. Anything more than $15 and you’re probably being taken for a ride unless there’s actually heavy traffic. The airport shuttles aren’t worth it since they tend to charge more per person than what a taxi costs. In Vegas, if you have enough people a limo can be cheaper than a shuttle!
Long taxi line-up in front of the hotel? Ask the bellman for a private sedan (or limo). A bit more expensive than a taxi, but you skip the lineup and enjoy the feeling of having a private driver.
Last but not least – let’s bust one of the biggest urban myths out there: You can not get married on a whim in Vegas as they do in the movies. You need to go to city hall first to get your marriage license. And if you’re visiting from abroad, you might need additional paperwork to get legally married. Luckily there’s a great less binding alternative – you can get fake married in Vegas, including pictures, fake rings, and Elvis.