People are always asking me for good places to check out when they travel, so I thought I’d put this together to share some recommendations for places to hit and places to miss! My knowledge of L.V. comes from multiple visits while I lived in L.A.
* The Bellagio Fountains / Restaurants: Can’t miss fountain shows outside of The Bellagio are best paired with a great place to dine, as well. Mon Ami Gabi and Sugar Factory at The Paris are two of my favorite spots, as is Cabo Wabo outside of Planet Hollywood. While it doesn’t show the fountains, another water show of sorts can be seen every hour on the half hour in the evenings at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. Good places. Good fun.
* Inside The Bellagio: A must see is the breathtaking colored glass ceiling in the lobby by artist Dale Chihuly. In the adjacent room to the lobby, you also must see the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens where the display is changed according to the seasons. Many casinos are gorgeous, but especially in the summer months when the pool is where you most want to be, this is the one casino interior you still can’t miss. – http://www.bellagio.com
* Cirque Du Soleil: A Vegas staple now, seeing a Cirque Du Soleil show with its spectacular sets and contortionists will take you to another world. “O” at The Bellagio is one of the most popular shows where the performances happen in the water. – http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/destinations/las-vegas/home.aspx
* Pool Parties: For a Friday, The Palms kicks off the weekend with “Ditch Fridays.” “Wet Republic” at the MGM Grand is the place to be seen on a Saturday. “Rehab” is the unrivaled Sunday Funday pool party at The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, just a little bit off of the strip. On a Monday, “Relax” at The Hard Rock is the place to be where you can both relax and still have fun. Encore Beach Club is another popular choice for Saturdays and Sundays while Wet Republic is also a popular Sunday spot, but I’m simply stating my preferences. I’ve never opted to go to Tao Beach in the daytime which also throws pool parties simply because the pool there is far too small for a large crowd. And, if you’re not in the water in Vegas in the summer, you’re going to get a bad sunburn. Be sure to check out Tao Beach at night though.
* MGM Grand Pool: With its lazy river, for a midweek Vegas pool day, there is no better place for relaxing. Pure bliss. Like all of the hotel pools, they are just for hotel guests, but be smart and say perhaps the rest of your party already went to the pool and have the room key to prove it, but no cell phones on them to be reached. Just say something. Figure it out. It’s worth it. – http://www.mgmgrand.com/amenities/grand-pool-complex.aspx
* Mandalay Bay Beach: Another nice midweek pool choice, Mandalay Bay has a wave pool and a lazy river, as well. However, given the fast speed of the lazy river here and the set up that’s more of a water park ride than a lazy stroll, I prefer the MGM’s lazy river instead. If you can catch a concert here though, you’ll be lucky to stand in the water, watching a show, and having a blast. http://www.mandalaybay.com/beach
* Concerts and Shows: The MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay Events Center, and Caesars Coliseum are the most popular places in Vegas to see headliners. Some of the best events take place at venues like these such as the iHeart Radio Music Festival, The Billboard Music Awards, The Academy of Country Music Awards, and The American Country Awards, all events I’ve been lucky enough to have attended during my trips where I “Viva Las Vegas-ed” it! Boxing, rodeos, wrestling, and comedians are also popular around town as are the Broadway productions and topless showgirl reviews.
* Hotels: My best advice for getting a room in town is to get what you like that fits your budget. That being said, my best tip is to sign up for promotions from various properties. Given their size as two of the largest hotel resorts in the world, MGM Grand and Luxor have always seemed to be the best for rates and promotions in my opinion. Don’t cave in to save a few bucks at The Excalibur or Circus Circus. They are cheesy and overrun with kids. While we’re at it, if you have kids under 21, they don’t belong in Vegas. Take them to Disney.
* Shopping: Every casino, everywhere, you can waste your money in non-gaming ways. Some of the best places? The Forum Shops at Caesars where you can even see a free show hourly. – http://www.caesarspalace.com/casinos/caesars-palace/casino-misc/the-forum-shops-detail.html. Try a gourmet chocolate topped with lavender or pepper from Vosges while you are browsing around. Fashion Show Mall is your classic mall. – http://www.thefashionshow.com. And Crystals at City Center is the place where you will find everything designer to drool over. – http://www.crystalsatcitycenter.com. While you are over at City Center, also be sure to browse the Dale Chihuly gallery to see incredible glass art. You can also grab a bite at Eva Longoria’s Beso or Todd English’s Pub. Need to get away from the craziness at The Strip for a few? Check out Town Square for some of the locals’ favorite places to shop and dine. – http://www.mytownsquarelasvegas.com
* Red Rock Canyon / Grand Canyon / Sedona: If you are looking for a great place to hike and enjoy the mountains nearby, be sure to check out Red Rock Canyon. One of the easier hikes features a waterfall that you can walk around. It ‘s the complete antithesis of The Strip. – http://www.redrockcanyonlv.org. Have a whole day to get away? You’ll be bombarded with advertisements for options to get out to The Grand Canyon and Sedona. I’ve never traveled from Vegas for one of their package deals to get out to either of those places, but I have been to both of those locations more than once and you should visit both of those places at least once in your lifetime. While The Grand Canyon is famous for it’s deep ravines plunging into the canyon, Sedona is the mountainous reverse. One of the most fascinating features of Sedona are the vortexes where Native Americans believe you can communicate with the dead. In a strange video I once took to capture the panoramic skyline atop a mountain referred to as having a strong vortex in Sedona, I actually had somehow picked up what sounded like tribal chanting and drumming which was not audible to the human ear otherwise. – http://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm – http://www.visitsedona.com
* Nightclubs: Let’s face it… this is why you probably came to Vegas if you’re not gambling. XS at Encore is simply the most beautiful nightclub venue in America. With its indoor/outdoor grounds including a pool, be sure to check it out on a Sunday or Monday night. Of course, it will be busy on a Friday or Saturday, as well, but there are other places you can check out on those nights like Tao at The Venetian including Tao Beach on the roof. Additionally, Tao boasts of a trendy Asian Fusion restaurant, as well. Pure at Caesars is another favorite top spot with its huge dance floor downstairs, more relaxed siderooms, and fantastic view of The Strip from it’s outside roof deck upstairs. Across The Strip at The Paris, Chateau also has both an amazing outdoor roof party as well as a cool indoor dance vibe. Candy Shop Tuedays are simply too much fun to miss with Sugar Factory’s treats at Chateau. Marquee at The Cosmopolitan is one of the newer hot spots that features a day club and nightclub scene. You can party at night pool side or crowded up by the stage.
LAX at The Luxor, Haze at Aria, Lavo at The Palazzo, and The Bank at The Bellagio are all other popular Vegas options, but I tend to pass on them in the summer as they don’t offer outdoor areas as part of their clubs. Likewise, while I haven’t been to 1Oak at The Mirage since it reopened under its new name, I was there when it was JET and it’s also an indoor club. Tryst at the Wynn is mainly indoors with a small outdoor area and just seems like the kid sister of XS at this point, which is why I generally pass on it. Also, while Surrender at Encore shares the outdoor area of Encore Beach Club, to actually get into the area with music and dancing, you need to wait in a second line. Skip Surrender for the XS around the corner, too. Vanity at The Hard Rock is also popular, but it’s very small outdoor patio also makes is one to pass on for me. Club Nikki at The Tropicana has a lovely indoor and outdoor club, but doesn’t seem to be as popular as it was expected to be.
As for The Palms, nightlife there is always a blast. Rain puts on the best nightclub displays hands down and things seem to rain down on you from above. Moon allows you to see the best views of The Strip from high above from it on its two outdoor patios and the roof over the dance floor inside retracts so you can see… the moon! The Playboy Club has Playboy Bunnies for dealers and is a nice lounge where you can actually hear the company you are with. Pass on Ghostbar at night as it’s not the hot spot it once was, but it functions now more popularly as a day club. I’ve never been for the daytime parties, but they are supposed to be fun. Personally, if I’m not at a pool in the daytime, I’d rather skip the club in the afternoon in favor of waiting till nighttime. If you are in town for The Midsummer Night’s Dream party based off of the party of the same name at The Playboy Mansion, the pool turns into an elaborate night spot and everyone is in costumes. This is the best annual party in Vegas and if you can get a comp ticket as a VIP Palms Girl, you’ll have saved yourself $200.
Lastly, if 4am isn’t late enough for you to be at a club, Drai’s After hours at Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon is the place to be.
Over all, don’t forget your cash wherever you go… everywhere has cover charges and pricey drinks. Or, be savvy and find a promoter to get on the guest list before you go. Be sure, in fact, to always call the club you plan to go to by 7 pm to make sure you are on a list. Get there early to avoid long lines and dress to impress. If you’re smart like I was, I networked with the promoters in town that would stand in front of the clubs in the afternoons. I rarely paid covers, usually completely skipped the lines due to the connection, and occasionally was given complimentary drink tickets. I consider some of these promoters my friends after four years of trips out there and would do a favor for them if they ever needed it in turn. It also helped that I used to be an Entertainment Coordinator in Atlantic City for multiple casinos, so just be smart and network.
Vegas doesn’t need me to promote it anymore than its name promotes it, so just be sure to check local websites to find out where might be best to go if you are there midweek. I think I’ve got you covered with my advice for everything other than a Wednesday or a Thursday night. Oh wait… Tao is the spot on Thursdays. So, good luck for a Wednesday. I think I might be taking a break that night myself!
* Wedding Chapels: One last note for after the clubs… see Carrie Underwood’s song “Last Name….” http://bit.ly/VegasLastName