I don’t know if this is something I should admit to or not, but I’m going to: I’ve been to Las Vegas so many times I’ve lost track. Mr. PRL and I have been visiting Sin City for well over a decade and try to fit in at least one or two trips a year. At this point I figured it’s time to share some of the tips, tricks and general info I’ve discovered over the years, so today I present you with my Unofficial Las Vegas Travel Guide! Below you’ll find many of my recommendations for accommodations, dining, shopping, attractions, things to do, and more. I’m contemplating doing some more in-depth posts about some of these topics (i.e. shopping, dining, accommodations) because I feel I’ve just barely skimmed the surface but that’s TBD. For now, let’s get into the guide!
There is a wide range of hotels and resorts in Las Vegas and for the most part, you should be able to find something that fits your budget. Many of the lower priced hotels seem to be turning over and are being transformed into higher-end resorts so it’s not as affordable as it once was but there are still deals to be had.
- Our first choice is always Aria. It’s a modern resort with beautiful rooms, fantastic restaurants and a lovely pool area.
- We’ve also stayed many times at the Mirage, and while it’s looking a little tired, the rooms and the resort itself is still more than adequate. Plus, it has a great pool and I love its close proximity to the Fashion Show Mall.
- The Bellagio has more of a high-end feel with more mature clientele but has a fantastic location (smack dab in the middle of the Strip!) and of course, you can’t beat being able to watch the Bellagio fountains right from your room!
If we ever do decide to stray from the three hotels I’ve mentioned above, we’re likely to select one from this list:
- The Cosmopolitan (love the vibe here);
- MGM Grand (if only for their lazy river);
- and maybe the Wynn/Encore.
Everything is in excess in Vegas and that especially applies to food and drinks; where else can you can walk down the strip with a plastic guitar filled with a boozy slushie and then eat a Michelin star restaurant in the same night?
I feel like you could spend an entire year on the Strip and never eat at the same place twice. There are endless dining options and on top of that, they are constantly changing, so much so that it can be hard to keep up with all the updates. We’ve eaten many amazing meals in Vegas but when we return to a place we’ve been before (because it was that good and it’s still there), that’s usually a really good sign.
Some of my favourite higher-end restaurants include:
For more casual fare, I’m a fan of:
- Bobby’s Burger Palace @ Mandarin Oriental (Burgers);
- The Still @ Mirage (American);
- Five 50 Pizza Bar @ Aria (Pizza)
A few mid-range restaurant recs:
- Wolfgang Puck Cucina @ Crystals Mall, Aria (Italian);
- Buddy V’s @ Venetian (Italian)
- Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen @ the Linq (American)
Bars & Lounges
After a long day of walking the strip, shopping or sight-seeing, it’s nice to relax with a drink or two and there’s no shortage of places to do just that than in Vegas. Some of these places are more casual, some a little fancier but I can assure you they’re all great places to enjoy your favourite cocktail:
- Rhum Bar @ Mirage;
- The Chandelier Lounge @ Cosmopolitan;
- Sugar Factory @ Fashion Show Mall;
- Lily Bar & Lounge @ Bellagio;
- Rosina @ Palazzo;
- Beer Park @ Paris;
- The Chocolate Bar @ NY NY
Vegas is truly a shoppers paradise – there are full-scale shopping malls, outlet malls, outdoor malls and even malls in hotels! They have everything from discount souvenir shops to high-end luxury stores and everything in between. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in Vegas you’re unlikely to find it anywhere.
As a self-professed shopaholic, I always dedicate some time towards shopping on any trip I’ve taken to Vegas. One of my favourite spots is the North Premium Outlets. This is around a $20 USD taxi ride (one way) from the middle of the Strip (Bellagio/Aria area) and it has some great outlet stores including a Bare + Beauty (BareMinerals), Ann Taylor Loft, and Marc Jacobs. This is a huge mall so take comfortable shoes and prepare to spend a half day here (at minimum) if you’re a serious shopper.
Other malls I recommend:
Things to do
There is literally no lack of things to do while in Vegas – whether you like to gamble, watch a hockey game, see a Cirque de Soleil show or relax at the pool, there’s truly something for everyone.
Walking the Strip
One of the very first things you should do when you get to Vegas is to walk down the Strip. In my opinion, it’s the best way to orient yourself with it and get the real feel for Vegas. Not only is there plenty to see outside, but there’s also a lot to see inside all of the hotels lining the Strip, and if you’re not walking, you’re going to miss them.
To do so you’re going to want to be wearing comfortable shoes; the Strip itself is 6.8 km but when you factor in the often long and winding paths to get to the hotels and the potential of walking through extensive lobbies and casinos to get to where you want to go, those kilometres add up fast. Also, the Strip is somewhat of an optical illusion – the distance between hotels look much closer than they actually are, due to the sheer size of the signs and hotels themselves.
Vegas has changed a lot since we first started travelling there – years ago all the hotels had some kind of theme but now they’re trying to be more generic which is kind of boring in my opinion. Regardless, there are still some notable things to see (both inside and outside of the hotels) and the best part is the majority of these are free, at least to observe!
My favourite free hotel attractions:
- the Bellagio fountains (I never get sick of them);
- the Chandelier Lounge @ the Cosmopolitan (curtains of crystals spanning nearly three stories);
- watching the volcano erupt @ the Mirage.
Other notable attractions you may want to check out:
- The Big Apple roller coaster @ New York, New York;
- Canals @ the Venetian/Palazzo canals
- Luxor Pyramid
- Eiffel Tower @ the Paris hotel
- Observatory @ the Bellagio
If you ever get a chance to see your favourite artist perform in Vegas, take it! You might get lucky enough to see them perform in a much smaller venue than you normally would; case-in-point, a few years ago we saw Bruno Mars at the Park Theatre, which only holds 5200 people – about 1/4 of the people that would normally be in an arena! His show was amazing by the way! 😉
Concert residencies are quite popular in Vegas; icons such as Elton John, Celine Dion and Britney Spears (she’s an icon – don’t argue with me) have had them and that’s fantastic if you want to see your favourite living legend live, especially if they no longer tour or tour to your area. You can also catch unique events like the I Heart Music Festival that takes place every September or EDC (Electric Daisy Carnival) that features EDM music.
There are a large variety of shows playing in Vegas – everything from musicals and theatre productions, Cirque de Soleil, comedians, magic shows, tributes (more than just Elvis!) and more! We’ve seen a few of the Cirque shows and they’ve all been amazing (and better IMO than the travelling shows) but my absolute favourite was Cirque de Soleli Michael Jackson’s ONE. If you like MJ’s music (and who doesn’t), this is a must-see and my absolute favourite show in Vegas.
Comedians are another go-to for us – we were lucky enough to see Chris Rock many years ago and we’ve compared every comedian we’ve seen since to him (probably unfair). I also strongly recommend Carrot Top whose schtick is prop comedy. I’ve seen him twice (with about a decade between his shows) and both times I had tears running down my face from laughing so hard – he’s very reasonably priced too!
I don’t tend to spend a lot of time or money gambling but I must admit that during our last few trips, the slot machines have hooked me in more often than not. Many of them are similar to video games and those are the ones that attract my attention and money; some of my go-to machines are:
- Willy Wonka;
- The Wizard of Oz;
- The Walking Dead;
- Game of Thrones.
I’ve never won more than a hundred bucks or so and typically ended up losing my winnings shortly thereafter, but I’d be lying to say it’s probably the most enjoyable way that I’ve thrown my money away.
Mr. PRL does play the tables once in a while but they’re way too intimidating for me. If you’re interested in learning how to play and the etiquette that goes along with it, I’d suggest visiting them during down times (early in the mornings or on weekdays) and have a dealer explain all the rules to you.
Ultimately though when gambling it’s important to set a limit for yourself and stick with it – it can be easy to get carried away, especially once you start winning!
I’m past this stage in my life but it was fun while it lasted (minus the hangovers). Vegas has some of the most prestigious and beautiful nightclubs in the World but be prepared to pay; cover charges start at $20 a person and go up from there, and basic mixed drinks are upwards of $12 each (not including tip).
Thinking of bottle service? Hopefully, you won big at the casino! Bottle service typically involves a reserved table, dedicated cocktail waitress and busser and however many of full-sized bottles of alcohol you desire (usually with a minimum of 1 bottle per 3 people) and the very least it will run you is $350 USD (excluding tip and taxes). Expect a much higher tab at some of the newer, more exclusive clubs. Now I will say, if you can afford it, are with a group and want a really fancy night out, bottle service is definitely the way to go. It’s awesome to have a place to sit whenever you want (especially in heels!), not to worry about fighting the crowds to get in or at the bar and have your own little slice of space to dance, mingle and people watch.
Note that during the spring and summer months there are also day clubs – aka nightclubs with pools that are open during the day. I’ve never been (because this sounds like a bad combination) but I’ve heard they can be fun too.
A couple of nightclubs that I’ve been to recently (within the last 5 years), enjoyed and are actually still around are:
If you’re visiting Las Vegas between the months of April – September, it’d be a mistake to not pay your hotel’s pool area a visit. The temperatures in Vegas can reach well into the mid-to-high 40’s in the late Spring and Summer months and the pool is the perfect place to relax, enjoy a pina colada and either work on your tan or cool off in the shade. In addition to the two I mention below, hotels that are known for their fabulous pool areas include:
- MGM Grand;
- Mandalay Bay;
- and Caesars Palace.
Out of the hotels that we’ve stayed at, Aria and Mirage have my two favourite pool areas. Mirage has more of a tropical feel with one large pool with a waterfall and lots of foilage, a great pool bar and more of a lively atmosphere. Aria’s pool is more modern and contemporary with two smaller pools and a sleek design.
If you want a more luxurious experience, you might want to look into renting a cabana. These typically come stocked with non-alcoholic drinks and snacks, and you have access to cushy lounge chairs, misters, a safe, a tv, and more. Price-wise they can run anywhere from $200 USD a day but obviously depends on the time of year, the day of the week and availability.
This might be my favourite past-time in Vegas; people from all walks of life come to Sin City and there’s nothing better than finding a comfortable spot, perhaps a drink and just observing everything (and everyone) going on around you. Some of my favourite spots for people watching include:
- Lift Bar @ Aria;
- Cabo Wabo Cantina @ Planet Hollywood;
- Mon Ami Gabi @ Paris;
- Chandelier Bar @ Cosmopolitan.
- Enjoy sports? Catch the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights at the brand new Park arena
- Play a round of golf at the surrounding golf courses
- De-stress at one of many luxurious hotel spas
- Take a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon and surrounding area.
Whew – that’s a lot of info, I hope you found this informative and helpful for any future travels to Las Vegas!
Tell me – what’s your favourite thing to do in Vegas?