Las Vegas Travel Guide


Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas! Nicknamed Sin City because it's Disneyland for adults, the entertainment capital of the world, it has no shortage of things to do that don't include gambling. If you're in Vegas you have to go to a Cirque du Soleil show! There's also magic shows, burlesque, comedy shows, music residencies, pool parties, escape rooms, exhibits, world renown restaurants, speakeasy's, rooftop bars, zipline, you can ride a gondola or ferris wheel, try indoor skydiving, visit the sphere and hike canyons nearby. Can't make it to Venice or Paris, Vegas has you covered! 

Weather

The best time to visit Las Vegas is spring and fall when the temperatures are perfect. I went at the end of October and temperatures were 90F but with no humidity so it was comfortable. The nights were chefs kiss perfect! In August the sidewalks are so hot people's flip-flops burn a hole. In September Vegas has terrible flooding and lots of  mosquitosGrasshoppers invade Vegas every May. All entrances to clubs are indoors so in the wintertime you don't need a coat as you go from taxi to indoors in January.

Transportation

Be sure to bring your sneakers because you don't realize how much walking you will do in Vegas. The casinos/hotels are huge, the distances between each hotel is huge. You don't want blisters on your feet ruining your vacation. Everything is further away than you think it is, the strip doesn't seem as large but the buildings are huge and far to get to so it will take you hours to walk. You will need sunscreen and good shoes. 

At the airport taxis have fixed prices to hotels on the strip, look for the sign on the wall and compare to uber/lyft pricing. It was $30 for a 30 minute taxi ride to Caesars. Ubers/Lyfts have designated pick up spots at every hotel so you can't just order one to pick you up anywhere on a sidewalk. I heard that lots of Uber riders are being cancelled for not being at the right location and drivers are not calling the riders before cancelling. For Caesars the Uber location is the parking garage near the Forum Shops (no where near the entrance), but if you are arriving at Caesars you can ask your driver to drop you at the hotel entrance. There's so many taxis at the entrance I was always worried about being run over. 

I bought $8 daily bus passes for the Deuce bus which is a double decker bus that runs up and down the strip and to Fremont Street. It's mostly tourists and is handicap assessible. Walking distances look longer than they appear on the map and taking the bus is so much cheaper than an uber. Wait times can be long and the bus is crowded but I always got a seat, usually the first seat on the upper deck. At some stops, armed security gets on the bus and walks around to look for Vegas locals who are living on the fringes, fare evasion, fighting and drunken, belligerent tourists. Thankfully nothing happened on any of my rides, but I did see a few drug induced people walking around Las Vegas. The bus has CCTV cameras throughout the bus. The website says its runs 24 hours a day every 15 minutes. There's a ticket machine at every stop that takes credit cards. It's the best way to get around Vegas on a budget!


The strip has pedestrian overpasses so you never actually have to cross a street but many of its escalators were out of order. I googled why and found articles from every year of the last few years so this is a common occurrence.

Free Entertainment

There's plenty of free things to do in Vegas that you can just walk around and see everything on this list. First off just walking with a drink up and down the strip, simply enjoying all the sights and crowded is a cheap way to spend the night. I walked by a man holding up a huge sign saying he needed money for hookers and coke. People watching is a free show unto itself. The streets are crowded with people at 11pm. Hotel watching is also a thing to do in Vegas as every lobby are decorated out of this world! 

Bellagio Hotel

Chihuly’s art blossom, glass sculpture hangs from the ceiling in Bellagio’s lobby. Walk through there to the Bellagio Conservatory which changes their displays 5 times a year. For fall they pump a pumpkin spice scent through the air! Right now the botanical gardens has fall flora and fauna designed with lavish artistry. You'll feel like you're in an entirely different whimsical place far away from Vegas so make sure you visit every trip.

Next make your way to the Bellagio Chocolate Fountain which is certified by Guinness World Records as the largest chocolate fountain in the world at 27 feet tall. Outside the hotel you'll find the Bellagio Fountains which have a thousand fountains that sway in front of the hotel set to music and light. The water soaring as high as 460 feet into the air! The fountains go off every 30 minutes from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., and every 15 minutes from 7 p.m. to midnight on weekdays. On weekends, the fountain goes off every 30 minutes from noon to 7 p.m., and every 15 minutes from 7:00 p.m. to midnight on weekends and holidays


Caesar's Palace  has the Forum Shops which is a pretty area to walk through and you can watch The Atlantis Show with more than 400 moving parts in each statue that comes to life, The Atlantis Show plays Thursday - Monday on the hour, beginning at noon through 8:00pm. Go window shop at all the stores including the two story H&M that has a DJ spinning. 

At the Wynn walk through the gorgeous lobby with sparkling lights, tons of fresh flowers and a carousel. Catch their Lake of Dreams Show that runs every half hour. You can see it either from Bar Parasol or on the patio at Lakeside, the show is a multimedia experience that blends colorful puppetry to sound and lighting to create a spectacle in front of the waterfall. 


At the Flamingo Hotel you can visit the flamingo habitat, well you will smell them before you see them. 

Fremont Street Experience is a pedestrian mall with 5 blocks of neon lights from the LED roof. Its the second most famous street in Vegas and is considered old Vegas. It has free entertainment nightly on the stages. It's great people watching and chaotic. There's an hourly show on the ceiling. 

Linq promenade 

Situated between the Linq hotel and the Flamingo Casino, the Linq Promenade is a pedestrian street with the High Roller wheel at the end. The High Roller wheel is the biggest in the world, eclipsing both the London Eye and the Singapore Flyer. There's shops, bars and restaurants, an Ice Bar and a bowling alley. Also there you'll find  O'Sheas, an Irish pub, you can not go to Vegas and not get a frozen Baileys milkshake!



Specialty Stores

Visit specialty stories like M&M  World, Hershey store, Lego store, and the Disney Store. The Coca-cola store where you can get a tasting flight of sodas from around the world. I love Sugar martini bar has innovative drinks and a pretty flower wall.  Stranger Things opened a pop-up store at the Showcase Mall on the Strip with an exhibit filled with some of the show’s most iconic set pieces.

Casino Quest If you have always wanted to play casino table games but don't know how, you can make a reservation online here for their $25 classes.

Pools

Bring a waterproof phone case with you as you should never leave your phone, credit card or room key on your pool chair.  Be aware that with the tall buildings in Vegas, they block the sun from many pools for part of the day. 

Stadium Swim, Circa Resort 

Circa swim is such a unique option and party atmosphere! This is a downtown pool party with giant 40-foot-tall LED screens which broadcasts the biggest sporting events of the day. There are six large pools and two enormous hot tubs. It  has a capacity for 4000 people and there's 337 chaise lounges, 32 daybeds, 28 cabanas and 2 owner's suites, and 4 poolside boxes. You have to pay extra if you want an umbrella. It's open 365 days a year, Monday – Sunday from  8:00am – 11:00pm PST, they heat the pool in the wintertime. Adult only 21+ Towel service is provided and you get a new one half way through the day. General admission is $29.50 and the lounge chairs are on a first-come, first-served basis. You do not need to pay extra for a lounge chair as they are included in the daily rate. They have live DJ’s that play music throughout the day. There is a mini storage in each chair to put purses in and  bags are checked before entering the premises. You have to take the longest, highest escalator to get to the pool.


Last time I was in Vegas I stayed at the Mandalay Bay which has one of the biggest pools in Vegas! I walked by it again this trip to go to the Shark Reef Aquarium. It has a sandy beach, waves in the pool, a lazy river (you have to purchase, not rent, the tubes) and an adults only pool at the Moorea Beach Club. Open daily from 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM. Pool pass for non-hotel guests cost $20 and the standard chairs are free, the others you can rent on their website. 

Caesars Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis

When I was there at the end of of October, only 2 of the 4 pools were open. The music poolside wasn't a vibe for me. Their Venus pool is adults only and a night swim 7pm to 1am in the summertime. Non-hotel guests can pay $20 to enter. 


Formula 1 Race

When I went Las Vegas was preparing for the Formula 1 race that will be happening on their streets on November 19, 2023. Which means they cut down all the palm trees on strip in front of the Bellagio Fountain because that's where the seating will be so you couldn't walk on that side of the sidewalk. Here's a rendering of what the race will look like. This construction really backed up traffic. The entire strip will be closed 10 days prior to F1 dates weekend, meaning Monday Nov 6 thru Saturday night Nov 18.


Depending on when you go, you may be affected by the Culinary Union strike. Hospitality workers at MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Resorts have had protests in the streets and are threatening to go on strike in November 2023. 

What Shows to See

A lot of shows are dark on Tuesday nights and holidays so if there's a specific show you want to see, check their schedule before you book your flight. I learned this lesson the last time I went to Vegas 15 years ago, the week after Thanksgiving all the shows are dark! I missed seeing O last time so this time I knew I wasn't going to miss it. But the weekend I was there, they only performed on Friday, the day I flew in. I was nervous to buy show tickets not knowing if I miss my flight I would miss the show. American Airlines only flies once a day from DC to Vegas and the plane was full!  Cirque du Soleil has 6 shows in Vegas, next time I want to see Michael Jackson ONE as I walked by while people were entering the theater and the vibe was nostalgic! 

There's a cheap tickets booth with four locations on the strip where they offer deals to shows.

Cirque du Soleil "O" 

I'm a big Cirque du Soleil fan and have already seen a few. Cirque du Soleil "O" is an Aquatic show as they have a pool on the stage with 1.5 million gallons of water! The show has been in Vegas for 25 years! The show was fantastic and I highly recommend you see it! They have 9 Olympians on the cast, I assume it's the synchronized swimmers, and everyone is scuba trained. 


Wynn Awakening

A new show in Vegas in a 360-degree small, immersive round theater so there's no bad seats.  The seats are comfortable and you are allowed to film the show, so I made a whole tiktok of the performance. lol It has a three tier prismatic stage which is made of glass and LED screens. Anthony Hopkins narrates the show. Each seat has its own speaker but the speakers aren't too loud. It's the most technically advanced show with large scale puppetry as oversized creatures, insane costumes, aerobatics, illusions, and infuses the art of magic since we're in Vegas. A giant whale floats through the theater which was the most memorable part to me, it wasn't on strings and wasn't on a circuit so I was in awe of the artistry and creativity and how it transformed the show! 


Next year New Edition will have a short residency at the Wynn!

Magic Shows

I watch a lot of videos on this youtube channel that demystifies how common magic tricks are done. So I did a lot of research on which magic shows in Vegas are the best, everyone said David Copperfield and Criss Angel are just tired. These were rated the top three:

 Shin Lim Magic 

He's the newest magician in town and he just elevates magic to another level. There is some charisma and "magic" about his stage presence that is very unique. He is redefining a new generation in the magic world in terms of presentation and performance. His tricks are insane and he's famous for his close up card magic. He won America’s Got Talent twice. Tickets start at $50 but the farther back you are, you're watching him on a screen. The show is 75 minutes long.

Mat Franco 

He also won America’s Got Talent and is super likable and a good showman.  Mat is the type of magician who talks a lot to distract viewers from scrutinizing his work. Tickets also start at $50 and is 90 minutes long.

The Magicians Study

Its an intimate and exclusive invite-only interactive theatre experience in Las Vegas. It's a speakeasy magic show where they change locations for each show. Tickets are available for purchase by invitation only and are not on sale to the general public. Performances are for small audiences who will experience a unique interaction with The Magician, unlike anything you would have experienced before. Tickets are $100-160.

Burlesque Shows

These are adult, Paris Moulin Rouge can-can type shows with some topless dancing.  I didn't get a chance to see any these but definitely heard a lot of people, both men and women, speak highly of the first three. I took a picture in front of the X theater and saw lots of women going in. They're all about $50 so a lot cheaper than Cirque du Soleil.

X Burlesque at the Flamingo

X Country set to country music

Fantasy at the Luxor

Rouge at the Strat

Dita Von Teese I read her book and have always wanted to see her show.

Lady Like just opened this month at the new Virgin Hotel so I haven't seen any reviews on it yet.

Chippendales, Rio (off-strip, all suite hotel, rooms start at $29 per night plus resort fee)


Museums & Exhibits

Luxor has a Titanic Exhibit which gained new interest after the fatal Titan submersible implosion in June this year. 

Princess Diana   includes 700 artifacts, including several of Diana’s  evening gown and fashion garments, artist installations, historic royal textiles and a collection of correspondence, gifts and personal items of Diana and the royals.

Museum of Illusions - I got fun pictures here.


Paradox Museum 

Arte museum - just opened an hyper-realistic immersive experience

Stripper101 class teaches you how to pole dance. I also did this 15 years ago. 

Mob Museum with organized crime’s history and impact on American society. The Museum has hundreds of artifacts and immersive exhibits. It gets  rave reviews! 

Ethel Chocolate Factory  They have a free tour and samples at the end. If you go in December, their cactus garden has a beautiful light display at night. But it's a 24 minute drive from the strip. You can buy their chocolates at the airport. 

Neon Museum collects, preserves, and exhibits iconic Las Vegas signs from old hotels. 



Animals

The lion habitat ranch located 20 minutes away from the strip and has retired working lions that you can feed and a giraffe that paints. Open Thurs-Mon in the mornings only.

Camel safari located one hour north of Vegas you can do a safari tour on the back of a camel. I've ridden camels on my travels around the world. It's something you want to try once in your life.

Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay $29
I think this is more for kids, I walked through here in 20 minutes and it's humid inside. 

The Silverton casino  located 20 minutes away from the strip has a free aquarium in its lobby with real life mermaids swimming in it! They also offer Mermaid school for $225 where you learn to be a mermaid and they have tails up to size  XXXL. I went here 15 years ago.


What to Drink

Expect to pay $22 for a fancy cocktail everywhere, except if you're gambling then drinks are free. I'm going to do a full blog post on the best bars in Vegas. My top two are the Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan and Vanderpump.

Vanderpump cocktail garden Even though I've never watched Vanderpump rules, I did watch the Housewives and had to come here. She has a second location in the Paris hotel with a much expanded menu, pictures are from both locations because I had to try both. You can expect lots of pink drinks on the menu and fun cocktail names. 



Taco Bell Cantina has their Flagship fast casual restaurant in Las Vegas. It's a two story restaurant with a DJ and sells 8 different twisted freezes that you can customize with liquor. It's open 24 hours.

Avoid a frozen daiquiri bar where the liquor is pre-mixed, its deluded expensive sugar water.


Where to Eat

Whatever hotel you stay in, research what restaurants they have and start there because every hotel is a huge complex with many restaurants and it doesn't make sense to run around town to eat when you should start with whatever is closest to you. I did both, I started with the best restaurants in my hotel (Caesars) then explored a few elsewhere.

Here's where I ate and recommend:

Chica - a Latin restaurant in the Venetian that has a dark ambiance and for brunch they had a live DJ playing hip-hop, Afrobeats and Latin music. You need a reservation. They have amazing incredible innovative desserts! 

I had this cake that looked like an ear of corn. It's a Strawberry Flan Cheesecake with a Graham Cracker Chili Crumble,


Javier - a Mexican restaurant in the Aria that has a separate vegan menu. They are open until midnight which was great for me because I had dinner after 10pm. 


Urth Caffe - a European-style cafĂ© with high quality, sustainable, farm-fresh, and organic ingredients. I got matcha tea and avocado toast made with almond cheese. In October their menu was pumpkin everything and had a ton of exquisite cakes. I had visited in Los Angeles so I was excited to come here located in the Wynn Plaza mall. By the way the Wynn Plaza mall as the most beautiful bathrooms I have ever seen! There's a soulcycle studio and a Celine store that I had to stop into.


Secret Pizza - is a New York-style pizza place with a casual feel. There's no signage in the front and it's not easy to spot if you were walking by. Hidden on the third floor of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, you won't know this little eatery is there unless you follow the record-lined hallway. Open until 4am or 5am depending on the day of the week this was a perfect end of night pizza spot for me. 

Spago by Wolfgang Puck is an Italian restaurant with spectacular front row Bellagio fountain view. Reservations required and hard to get. I was lucky I got to sit outside on the patio and enjoy this view.
I had this Spiked Lemon dessert that was made with Japanese Yuzu Cream, Chiffon Cake, and Citrus Mousse.

Pinkbox Doughnuts is a fun modern-day twist on your old-fashioned classic doughnut shop with creative and fun doughnuts. I had a hard time deciding what to get! 


Dominique Ansel is a famous New York French bakery that I always visit when I'm in NYC. They are famous for their signature cronut which is a donut croissant hybrid with a custard filling that has a different monthly flavor. There's also their cookie shot which is a cookie baked into the shape of a shot glass and milk poured into it. In Vegas they have a robot vending machine that pours the milk for you!  I love their "DKA" -a Kouign Amann which has layer after layer of buttery, flaky pastry on the inside with a caramelized crust. They don't look interesting at all but taste amazing! But I have to say they taste better in NYC.  One cronut, pictured below with a DKA, with taxes will set you back $10. The shop is open from 6am-11pm. 

 

Amalfi by Bobby Flay is open for dinner only and put the prices on the online menu which you don't see everywhere in Vegas. I ate dinner at the bar and ending up having a great conversation with the two other single folks on either side of me.

There's a new Vegan restaurant, Crossroads Kitchen in Resorts World, that serves a 5 course tasting menu for $85 that I would like to try.

Toca Madera is a new Mexican restaurant at the Aria. When I walked by I thought visually it had a stunning design. In another life I would have been a restaurant interior designer so I always appreciate these types of things.

Speaking of decor, CATCH at Aria was eye-catching and I had to join everyone else and take photos of the shimmering 80-foot entry tunnel and flower wall in the middle. 

Yellowtail Japanese Restaurant at the Bellagio was also beautiful.

Do not get the rainbow cake slice from a vending machine!  Its old and stale, flown in frozen and covered in oil to look fresh.

Buffets are now $50-80 per person, mediocre food and an extra charge if you don't want to stand in a 2 hour line. Non-alcoholic drinks are brought to you, so you have to tip for that.  They have a 90 minute dining time limit. 

According to Bon Appetit,  the best almond croissant in Vegas is at the Bellagio Patisserie. 

Cheri rooftop just opened at Paris. 

Common Vegas Scams

Don't take pictures with any of the showgirls dressed up with big feathers on the strip. They don't tell you before you take a picture with them, but afterwards they demand $50 each! I've seen some of them be very aggressive with men trying to convince them to take a picture. Men dress up in characters.

Don't take a card from a man in a neon shirt handing them out to passer buyers on the strip. Those are escort cards.

Avoid the casino ATMs as the fee it take money is $10! This is a tipping town so come to Vegas with a stack of $1 bills in your wallet. 

Time share trap - if anyone in the lobby of a hotel in a suit asks you how long you will be here for, always say I leave tonight. 

If you stand in the long line at the Welcome to Vegas sign to take a picture, be weary of a man who offers to take your picture for you, he will hold your phone hostage until you tip him. The line to take pictures is very long but you can actually skip the line and stand from the side and get the same photo. I did this and this upset the man taking pictures very much.  I had to tell the people around me that he doesn't own this place and we don't take directions from him. When I went to Vegas 15 years ago there was no line here, but I guess everyone else has caught on and it's gained in popularity. Located at the farthest end of the strip, I took the Deuce bus here. It's very hot outside while you're standing around here because there's no cover.



Where to Stay

I stayed 5 nights at Caesar's Palace  and am going to do a whole post about the hotel. When they had their semi annual sale the basic room category prices ranged from $99-$500 depending on what day you picked. You can also download gambling apps to get comped room stays, I tried that, but decided it wasn't worth my stress. I really like Caesars and think they have nice modern rooms, center of strip location, and moderate pricing. I also think there's so many hotels in Vegas I would want to stay some place different every time I go but I would stick to the Caesars hotel group to keep earning points in one place. The last two times I stayed at Treasure Island and Mandalay Bay. 

For an upscale hotel stay at the Aria, Wynn or Virgin which are all at either far end of the strip. 

For an affordable stay center of strip stay at the Horseshoe or Planet Hollywood. Horseshoe just opened a year ago but doesn't have a pool. Both are Caesars group hotels.

For a party hotel stay at the Linq in the center of the strip and expect a fun pool party that is 21+ to enter. Right now they are advertising $25 mid-week rooms! Just remember a resort fee is added on to that price. It was renovated in 2014 and got a major uplift; it's part of Caesars group.

If you've been to Miami you've heard of the Fountainebleau, well they are opening one in Vegas next month. Rooms range from $200-800.

Try to visit in the middle of the week as hotel prices are cheaper then. But rates will be higher whenever there is a major conference. Bravocon just happened with all the real housewives cast. For instance May 17-18, 2024 is the Electric Daisy Carnival. It is the largest Electronic Dance Music (EDM) festival in North America. Typically more than 125,000 people attend each night over the 3-day weekend. It is hosted at the Las Vegas speedway off the strip. So all hotel rates are much higher right now for those dates. 

Smoking
Caesars had a stale smell of smoke in the casino. Newer casinos on the strip have better ventilation and a “less smoky” environment, the best indoor air quality was at Aria and Wynn. MGM Grand is a non-smoking casino.

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