For anyone who has read the story of how Matt and I met, you know the significance of Las Vegas in our lives. After visiting the city where our story began for the x-teenth time, I felt like it was time to write a travel guide about it. I figured I’d let Matt do the honors since his enthusiasm for Vegas is unparalleled. So, here is his guide to the city (approved by me)…
Written by Matt…
Vegas is one of my favorite places on earth. It has great food, great nightlife, it’s the city in which I met my fabulous wife and it’s the setting of the greatest television show ever made; CSI (the original with William Petersen, not those phony spin-offs). Over the past decade I’ve spent a couple dozen weekends in the city of sin. You’re probably asking yourself if that makes me fit to write a travel guide, well the answer is absolutely it does.
What To Know Before You Go to Las Vegas.
1. You’re going to spend money. A lot of money, more money than you thought you were going to spend. If you’re not ok with that or you are traveling with someone who may not be ok with that, take a detour to New Orleans or Reno instead. That burger that should be $8 will be $18, the drink that should be $12 will be $27. Being mentally and fiscally prepared for this is more important than any Black Jack strategy or restaurant reservation.
2. Stay on the strip. My recommendations (hotels & restaurants) are on the strip, because when you travel to New York, Los Angeles, or Paris I’m guessing you don’t stay at the hotel connected to the airport. If you’re going to Vegas simplify your life and stay on the strip.
3. The cost of hotels and flights is considerably cheaper during the week than on the weekends. Flights and even the premier hotels will often be 50% the price on a Tuesday than on Saturday. My optimal Vegas experience is fly in Thursday night and out Sunday morning but if you don’t mind flying in Saturday and leaving on Tuesday you’ll save yourself some chips.
4. Three Nights Maximum! Waking up that third morning you’re going to be absolutely shattered in a room littered with ATM receipts and lost betting slips.
5. Resort fees. When booking your hotel make sure to factor in the added resort fee for no surprises later. It’s essentially a hidden tax by the hotels that add no value to you and run for an average of $40 per night (see rule 1).
If you’re still reading that means you’re still interested. I like you already.
Where To Stay In Las Vegas.
These are my rankings of hotels from most preferred to least preferred. For reference, if I see Cosmopolitan and Caesars Palace for the same price I’m electing for Cosmo, but if I see Mirage for $150 cheaper than the Cosmo I’m staying at the Mirage.
Vdara (no casino)
Waldorf Astoria (no casino)
Budget Friend Tier
Where To Eat In Las Vegas.
2. Javier’s. High end Mexican restaurant in Aria.
3. Le Cirque. Arguably the best dining experience in Vegas, located in the Bellagio.
4. E by Jose Andres. An eight-top space in a private room behind a glass door at Jaleo in the Cosmopolitan, E serves only twice each night.
5. Secret Pizza. Well, not so secret anymore but the spot is hidden in the Cosmopolitan on the third floor of the shops. Pizza by the slice that’s open until 5AM on the weekends.
6. Hash House a Go Go. Brunch spot located in the Linq.
7. Bobby’s Burger Palace. Casual counter-serve burger spot located street level in front of Waldorf Astoria. Lunch on the go as you’re exploring the strip.
8. SushiSamba. A cheaper (but great) sushi option located in the Palazzo.
9. Mesa Grill. Bobby Flay’s southwestern style cuisine right across from the Caesars Palace sports-book.
10. Bavette’s Steakhouse & Bar. I’d be remiss to not include a steakhouse on the list and Bavette’s is my favorite in all of Chicago. The Vegas location is only their second and just opened at the brand new Park MGM.
Where To Grab A Drink In Las Vegas.
Keeping this list short and sweet to my favorites.
1. Chandelier Bar. Three level bar in the center of the Cosmopolitan.
2. SkyBar. At the tippity top of the Waldorf Astoria featuring pristine views of the strip and typically isn’t crowded.
3. Rosina. Cocktail lounge right out of a James Bond movie located on the casino floor of the Palazzo.
Best Clubs In Las Vegas.
You’ll likely have time for one or two of these so I’m keeping the list short and concise, mainly because there’s many I don’t recommend (i.e. Hakkasan, 1 Oak, etc.).
1. xS at Encore. It has pools, casino tables, and if you’re claustrophobic you can actually catch a breather outside. Encore Beach Club is an experience in itself but the line to get in even with tickets is a buzzkill.
2. Marquee at Cosmopolitan. Aside from meeting my lovely wife at a dimly lit booth in the back of the dance floor, I enjoy the vibes here especially the day club.
3. Omnia at Caesars Palace. Massive club with amazing sight lines. If the club isn’t your thing go hang out on the terrace upstairs.
What To Do In Las Vegas.
They don’t call it America’s playground for nothing. The possibilities are endless but these activities are (mostly) unique to Las Vegas.
1. Bellagio Fountains. If you didn’t take a boomerang of the Vegas fountains, did you actually go to Vegas? The show goes off every 30 minutes in the afternoon and every 15 minutes from 8PM to Midnight.
2. The High Roller. Currently the largest observation wheel in the world (soon to be passed by one in Dubai). The ride takes 30 minutes to go around and in true Vegas fashion offers all you can drink tickets.
3. Cirque du Soleil shows. The top 4: O at the Bellagio, Ka at MGM Grand, Michael Jackson One at Mandalay Bay, Beatles Love at the Mirage.
4. Neon Museum. Think of it as a graveyard for the neon signs in the history of Vegas, best to be enjoyed at night.
5. Gondala Rides at the Venetian. To be enjoyed indoors or out, it’s like being in Italy, without actually being you know, in Italy.
6. Botanical Gardens at Bellagio. The frequently changing gardens in the Bellagio is one to marvel over.
7. The Big Apple Coaster at New York New York. It’s a roller coaster in the middle of the strip, what more needs to be said?
8. Las Vegas Helicopter Tour. Expensive? Yes. Over the top? Yes. Best way to see the Strip? Also yes.
9. Hoover Dam. Looking for a good time killer? This damn dam is only a 45 minute drive ride from the strip.
Best Shopping in Las Vegas.
Vegas provides some fantastic shopping options from high-end shops to outlets malls and everything in between. At the very least they serve as good time killers on a Saturday afternoon.
1. Crystals in City Center. High end designer shops, easy access from Cosmopolitan and Aria.
2. Forum Shops at Caesars. A Shopping Wonder of the World so they say. The Forum Shops is the highest grossing mall in the United States (by square foot at least).
4. Las Vegas North Premium Outlets. Off the strip but if you’re really trying to do some serious damage this is the place
5. Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian. Similar to the Forum Shops at Caesars, with the added bonus of passing gondolas.
1. While taxis are my preferred method of transport don’t get hustled from the airport to your hotel. They will often ask if it’s your first time in Vegas and which route you want, “side streets or highway?” There’s never any reason to take the highway.
2. Drinks are free in the casino while you’re gambling (even on slot machines) but remember to tip $1 or $2. Ordering a drink and a water is always a wise choice.
3. Mostly every resort has a spa with ungodly prices for services, however most offer a “day pass” at an affordable price if you’re interested in steam/sauna/pools plus complimentary small bites and drinks.
4. Call the hotel ahead of time and let them know you’re traveling with medicine and they’ll empty the mini-bar/fridge for you. You can now use this for your own food and alcohol storage which you can stock up on at any CVS or Walgreens littered throughout the strip.
5. The walk is always further than you think. It’ll be tempting to walk over to Caesars Palace because it’s “right there,” but I can assure you it’s not. When in doubt, take a cab or the tram.