Las Vegas is more than just a place to gamble, drink and get sunburned by the pool. It's a neon-colored oasis within the desert which transports visitors to another world and, for a moment, gives them the feeling they can be king of the castle. Even if they are playing nickel slots.
It's also a trip not as out of reach as some people think. With careful planning and a commitment to moderation, a new visitor to the city can have a great time and not end up giving the title of their car to the casino. Here are the top five tips the Vegas novice should know.
Las Vegas is Cheap
It may seem the city is overpriced with its celebrity chef restaurants, glitzy shows, and $3 bottles of water. But scrape all of the rich icing away, Las Vegas is a vacation bargain dream. A search of vacation packages on sites like Travelocity and Orbitz will reveal multi-night air and hotel packages which can be purchased for under $500.
These are not just for the older hotels the in the Downtown district. These are for many of the top-named resorts on the Strip, including the newer all-suite, non-smoking properties such as the Signature at MGM Grand. The caveat: the least expensive packages are for visits earlier in the week. Weekend tips and those made during a big convention or event can cost more. Therefore, consider when to go to Las Vegas before making a reservation.
Las Vegas is Walkable
All roads lead to Vegas, but stop dead on the Strip. Though it may sound cool to cruise this 4.5 mile section of Las Vegas Boulevard with the top down on the convertible, the reality is cruising turns to crawling during most days and non-existent inching on evenings and weekends.
Though hard to believe, Las Vegas is a walking town. With wide sidewalks, moving walkways, pedestrian overpasses and misting fans to cool visitors down during the hottest days of summer, the Strip is better seen on foot instead of through a passenger side window. Not only does it allow visitors easier access to casinos and shopping venues along the Boulevard, it provides much needed exercise after sitting at the slots all day.
There was a time in the history of Las Vegas when all-you-can-eat buffets were touted as the end all for hotel dining. Most resorts still offer buffets where diners can pile their plates with crab legs and prime rib, but they're now just one step up from the 24-hour coffee shop. These days, the trendy celebrity chef restaurants are taking up prime real estate on and off the casino floor.
This is a blessing for gourmands, who can choose from dozens of restaurants up and down the Strip from well-known chefs such as Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck and Carla Pelligrino. For those hungry and on a budget, dinner at one of these high-end venues can make a dent in the gambling funds. Luckily, many of these locations are open for lower cost lunches. Best to try them then and fill up on the buffet at dinner.
Las Vegas is not Just Casinos
For decades, Las Vegas was known for three things: nightclubs, quickie marriage chapels and casinos. The nightclubs and marriage chapels continue to flourish. The casinos, not so much. Yes, these large and windowless rooms still bring in folks who wish to deposit their money in the Bank of Las Vegas, but these high rollers are distracted more and more by what else the city offers.
Take shopping as an example. In many cases The Forum Shops at Caesars or Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian are more crowded than their casinos. There are also the resort spas, which feature everything from standard massages and hydro-therapy to Japanese stone sauna beds. Then there are the shows, headlined by people like Donny & Marie, The Blue Man Group, Criss Angel and, taking up seven different theaters, Cirque du Soleil. Throw in thrill rides at New York, New York and the Stratosphere as well as free outside attractions like the Bellagio fountains and Mirage volcano, and a first-time visitor to Las Vegas could easily forget about gambling.
Though the Strip is the most well-known portion of Las Vegas, it's not the city's only place to have fun. At the north end of the Strip, only a few miles past the Stratosphere, is the city's downtown gambling and entertainment area. Located in and around the Fremont Street pedestrian mall, these older hotels and casinos can be less crowded and less expensive to both dine and gamble. The area also offers a nightly multimedia show, the Fremont Street Experience, on digital screens high above the street.
Eventually, new visitors should venture outside of the Strip and Downtown to explore what else the Las Vegas area has to offer. This includes the man-made attractions of Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, which are east of the city, and natural attractions like Red Rock Canyon. There are even opportunities to ski right outside of the Las Vegas city limits on Mount Charleston. Taking a day or two to see these sites not only reveals the other side to Las Vegas, but also allows visitors to gather a second wind for another round of casino and nightclub hopping.