Here are some fun things to do in Las Vegas. Some are free and some cost money. Las Vegas is actually a small town (pop 646K). Las Vegas Boulevard (The Strip) is only 4 miles long. With a little planning, here are some ideas to get the most out of your trip. If you are coming here for work, stay an extra day or 2 and relax and see the city – outside of your hotel room. Go out for dinner. Go see a show. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Voodoo Lounge at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino
Voodoo Lounge is on the ROOF of the Rio. It has a gorgeous, 360 degree, unobstructed view of the city. There is no cover charge from 8-10pm, but there is a slight dress code. Wear something a step above t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops. I usually go up for a quick drink at 8pm (just as sun is going down) and then on to a nice dinner. It is the perfect introduction to the city. For more info, call 702-777-7800. Parking is free.
Bellagio Resort & Casino
The Bellagio Fountains have been featured in most modern movies set in Las Vegas. Beautiful music plays during the free shows. It is a bit misty when the fountains go off, so it is a great way to cool off. In general, they play every 30 minutes during the daytime and every 15 minutes at night. I like to buy some ice cream inside and then walk outside to watch the show. They use to have the Fontana Room which had a deck where you could get a drink and watch the show, but a nightclub took over that space. 🙁
While at the outside Fountains, go on into the hotel to the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden. The enormous collection is switched out every 4 months and entry is free.
As you enter the Bellagio hotel, be sure to look up and see the breathtaking Chihuly blown glass flower sculptures floating above. The installation cost $10M and covers 2,100 square feet!
The Bellagio has the perfect blend of art, class, architecture, design…everything is just right. The attached Bellagio Shops has some of the best names in the world: Tiffany’s, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, …
Walk across the bridge to Caesars Palace. (NOTE: There is no apostrophe in the offical name. Don’t ask me why.) I like Caesars for its history, the Rat Pack performances, partying, etc. Many films have shot here, both past and present.
The entire casino has been renovated over the years and just about everything has been replaced, EXCEPT for Cleopatra’s Barge. Sometimes they have free music and dancing, sometimes they have paid concerts. The open air lounge only seats 100-200 people and is prized for its smaller/intimate/jazz feel.
Caesars also has the attached Forum Shops featuring many great shops, including Apple (like in case of emergency). You can call Apple directly at 702.684.8800. Many fantastic restaurants are in here also, like Joe’s Seafood, The Palm, Cheesecake Factory, … Just before going into the Forum Shops is a Food Court with more affordable food choices.
The Cheesecake Factory is at the end of the Forum Shops in Caesars (past the Apple Store). Absolute best thing on the menu is the Avocado Egg Roll. I order without onions and scallions. They are under the Appetizer menu, but I often end up ordering it as my entree’. Huge portions and not too pricy. Their phone is 702.792.6888. Don’t forget to bring me a slice of cheesecake.
Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino
If you walk back to Bellagio, you can take the bridge the other direction (across LV Blvd) and go to Paris Hotel and Casino.
Mon Ami Gabi
One of my favorite restaurants in the entire city is Mon Ami Gabi (French for My Friend Gabe) on the front sidewalk of the Paris. Bread and butter is made fresh, daily on premise. Beautiful location out front on the sidewalk (with water misters) or you can dine inside in the air conditioning. Most entree’s are $20-$25. My favorite is the Steak Frites with peppercorn butter sauce. Their phone is 702.944.4224.
Just about all hotel/casinos on the Strip are owned by 2 corporations: MGM/Mirago and Caesars.
Grand Lux Cafe at Venetian Resort Las Vegas
The Grand Lux Cafe’ is inside the Venetian. Asian Nachos are the best thing on the menu. This chain is also owned by Cheesecake Factory – so that means come hungry! I order this without onions and scallions and extra peanut sauce on the side. Listed as an Appetizer, I usually order this as my entree’. Excellent and not too pricy. Of course, they have a few cheesecakes to choose from. Free parking! Their phone is 702.414.3888.
Because no one celebrates over a salad. 🙂 My favorite steak house in Las Vegas is Fleming’s. The owner is Paul Fleming and he is the F in PF Chang’s. There are a few Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar around the country with 2 locations in Las Vegas. My favorite is the one in Summerlin (about 20 min due West of Strip). There is another at the bottom of the Strip in Town Square Shopping Mall. A little pricy, but not outrageous for steak.
If you want to stay closer to the Strip, Lawry’s is just a block West of LV Blvd on Paradise Rd. Old school waitresses (in uniform) will cut your beef table side and spin a salad for you. Their phone is 702.893.2223.
The Golden Steer Steakhouse is one of the last old mob hangouts. Many of the booths are named for famous Vegas stars (Frank Sinatra booth, Marilyn Monroe booth, etc.) and have enormous portraits hanging in them. Food is prepared table side. A little pricy, but oh so worth it. Be sure to call ahead and make reservations at 702.384.4470. Free parking is available, but neighborhood is a little sketchy, so maybe go for the Valet? Ask what booths are available. Tell ’em Chad “No Thumbs” sent you. 😉
All of the excitement in Las Vegas is happening Downtown. The Strip is SO over-commercialized. My favorite Downtown restaurant is Therapy – and not just because I’m friends with one of the owners). Every time I go, I try something different. The menu is always changing. They recently took off my favorite appetizer – Devils on Horseback are figs, wrapped in bacon, stuffed with gorgonzola cheese and a cherry glaze. YUM! If you sweet talk Maria (General Manager), she might make you some. My backup favorite app is Chicken and (Red Velvet) Waffle Slider or the Mac & Cheese Croquettes.
The City of Las Vegas was moving out of the City Hall building. They sold it to Tony Hseih for $1 and he moved his Zappos world headquarters there. They cleaned up Downtown and many groovy, hip and trendy shops opened up.
I don’t really have a favorite sushi place anymore. My favorite was Hyakumi at Caesars, but they closed it a few years ago. They had the best Miso soup. There are 3 different levels of miso paste and they used the top grade. Let me know your favorite.
Chinatown is just West of the Strip on Spring Mountain Road and is an excellent choice for sushi. I don’t really have a favorite per se, but I haven’t had a bad experience yet. Parking is free, but tight.
Most casinos have sushi in them, but I can’t recommend a place if I don’t feel passionately about it.
There are several Bucca di Beppo restaurants around town, including 3 on the Strip. They serve huge portions, family style, so definitely come hungry. Ask for the Pope Room. He sits in the middle of the lazy Susan turntable and is always watching – Always! 🙂 You can order online and they can deliver food.
Napoli Pizza and Restaurant is 15 min West of the Strip and one of my favorite pizza joints in town. They are known for the flat, New York Style pizza. I often get their ginormous 30″ pizza for Wrap Parties. You can order online and they also deliver. Their phone is 702.252.7050.
Amore’ Taste of Chicago specializes in Deep Dish, Chicago style pizza. I usually go for the flat style, but occasionally you want a deep dish. They are located about 15 min W of Strip, but will deliver. They have online ordering and their phone is 702.562.9000.
Here is my martini recipe. A lot of booze, but I love them dirty with bleu cheese stuffed olives.
Peppermill Restaurant is centrally located near the Wynn. It is near the street that connects the Las Vegas Convention Center to LV Strip Blvd. Huge portions so come hungry. Entrees in the $10-$15. Still stuck in the 1970s with red pleather banquettes, I love it.
Welcome to Las Vegas Sign
Built in 1959, this is a world famous free photo destination. The Sign is located at the south end of the Strip at 5200 S Las Vegas Blvd 89119.
No visit to Las Vegas is complete without going to The World’s Largest Gift Shop towards the top of the Strip at Sahara and LV Blvd. 40K square feet where you can get a dice clock, Rat Pack poster, or Elvis Salt and Pepper Shakers. It was formerly known as the Bonanza Gift and Souvenir Shops.
Neon Museum “Boneyard”
The Neon Museum is where all the old neon signs go to die. It is fascinating. In general, General Admission tickets are $22 and available 9am – 7pm every day. However, the museum is frequently bought out for Special Events, so call ahead. I prefer going in the evening for the “Look and Feel” of old Vegas signs. The daytime is more for an analytical evaluation and to see how they degrade over time. The Neon Museum phone is (702) 387-6366. You can save a couple of bucks by buying your tickets online.
Downtown/Old Las Vegas
Downtown Las Vegas still has some of the old/retro Vegas feel to it. They were the first hotels before Bugsy Siegel helped finish The Flamingo Hotel in 1946 on what is now the Strip. All the downtown hotels connect to Fremont Street Experience, an outdoor pedestrian mall closed to traffic. It has an enormous canopy that they project video show onto and play music. The shows run 6 minutes long and play at the top of every hour from 6pm – 1am. 1500 feet long, 90 feet wide and 90 feet above. There are also several free stages with bands playing through the night. Zappo’s world headquarters is nearby and has cleaned it up a lot, but it is still a little wooly. Park in the garage. There is also the SlotZilla zip line.
Las Vegas is quickly losing what makes it special. It is becoming so “Corporate” now. When “The Boys” ran the joint, they knew what you drank, the employees greeted you at Check In Desk using your name, etc. Now you have to pay these goofy resort fees and pay for parking.
Martin Scorsese’s Casino is a brilliant film. It is Sharon Stone’s best work. My favorite scene is when she is shooting craps, gets caught cheating, and laughingly throws the dice up in the air. The camera is on the ceiling. The dice come up and in to focus and then back down. This captures the excitement of Las Vegas.
When I first moved here, one of my best friend’s in the world flew out to see me. Her family had a summer house here and often came to gamble. She taught me how to shoot craps and I had Beginner’s Luck – I couldn’t lose. I rolled for like 20 minutes long. Everybody at the table LOVED me, because I was making them all money.
I was holding the chips in my flat hand, pressed against my chest. After a while, I had a pretty large stack of chips. The croupier said, “Sir, you can put your chips down on the table.” I was mortified and said, “Oh No! That’s my mojo.” That cracked everybody up, since I was obviously a newbie.
I did get to cross something off my Bucket List. When I was winning, I threw the dice and said, “Mama needs a new pair of shoes.” 🙂
I walked up to the table with $20 and rolled for 20 min straight. I walked away with just over $500. The croupier said if I really knew what I was doing/how to bet, I would have made more like $2000, but you can only absorb so much, so fast. I looked at it as a math problem.
The House Always Wins
You have to make a deposit (or “gamble”) while here. Even if it is only $20. You gotta try. Just remember – The House Always Wins. Always.
On the subject of parking…this still irritates me. The casinos now charge for parking. When they first started this policy, I said, “This will be a mistake of EPIC proportions.” Some casinos are starting to reverse this because the Customer is finally saying, “Enough”.
After you grab your luggage, walk across the Pedestrian Bridge to the Passenger Pickup Zone and sit down on a bench. Text the Pylon number (big, huge round concrete pillar with numbers painted on them) to whoever is picking you up. The cops are Nazis, so cars can’t hang out very long.
Force yourself to drink water. Breathing all the compressed air on the plane, the desert air, coffee, booze – these all suck the water out of your body. I drink water with lemon. Plain water is so boring, but the lemon makes all the difference in the world. I alternate a glass of water with every drink and an extra one just before climbing into bed.
Best Source for All Things Vegas
Vegas.com (the website) is the best source for anything to do with your stay while in Las Vegas. It is a good resource to get ballpark rates for hotels, shows, restaurants, etc. Everything is based on supply and demand. This means you could book something today and tomorrow it could be $50 cheaper.
However, if you want to see a show, it is usually best to go thru your Hotel Concierge. They have the most bargaining power, at no extra cost to you.
In general, Las Vegas is very casual, and it is usually pretty hot. So you can be walking outside in the boiling hot sun and then go inside – and the AC is cranked up. It is very hard to regulate the temperatures inside these enormous buildings. I suggest dressing in layers, so you can self-regulate. Even during the summer when it is Africa Hot, bring a light jacket or dress shirt to wear over top.
When going out for dinner or to see a show, yes you can get away with shorts and t-shirt, but don’t. Dress up, look nice!
Nightclubs are almost exclusively a more formal attire. While you don’t have to wear a suit and tie, you do want to look upscale in a nice shirt and pants or a Little Black Dress.
Regardless, wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking A LOT! It is possible to stay in a room at the hotel and have to walk to the attached convention center at the opposite end. At one hotel, it is 2.5 miles!
All the traditional musical theatre shows are gone. There is no more Jersey Boys, Phantom of the Opera, Hairspray, etc. So are the boobs and feathers shows.
Cirque is still here – and will be until the end of time. I can understand the appeal, but that is now why I see shows. I’ve seen all the Cirque shows. My favorite is La Reve (The Dream) at the Wynn.
The Beatles LOVE show at the Mirage is excellent – and I’m not even a huge Beatles fan. I like them, but I don’t worship them, like some people do. But it is an outstanding show. Don’t forget to buy the CD soundtrack. Giles Martin (son of the original sound engineer Sir George Martin) digitally remastered the originals. Even if you already seen these shows once, Cirque is constantly updating them.
Another great CD of a Cirque show is the Zumanity CD – the adult Cirque show. Fantastic, sensual music. Leave your inhibitions at the door.
Feel free to contact me for any reviews or questions. Do you have any other suggestions to add to this page?