My Favorite Spots in Las Vegas
The Strip - for first-timers, visiting The Strip is a must. Take a walk down and visit all the casinos. Here's a map to follow. I'd go during the day, as the city gets crazier after the sun goes down. Albeit, Las Vegas is always a bit of a danger, so stay aware every time you step out of a casino. Beware of the porn advertisers, as these guys have no limits - they are situated at every corner and once tried to hand my 10-year-old son a card with a nude woman on it. Sigh. But you should check out the street performers, and visit the various casinos that are next door to each other. Some of my top visits are the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, the Bodies exhibit at the Luxor, CSI Experience and M&M World Store at the MGM Grand, Aria/Cosmopolitan, Fountains at The Bellagio, the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace (they focus on high-end luxury retail like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, and more),the white tigers and other cool
animals at the Mirage, the gondola rides at the Venetian, and if you are daring, you can walk down to the Stratosphere and ride these 'heck nos' - which are the highest thrill rides in Vegas. I'm a 'no' on these, but many folks like bungee jumping off tall buildings or spinning vicariously from the side of a high rise hotel. Nope. I've outlined more specific spots to visit below.
Mirage Volcano and Secret Garden - the volcano is scheduled to erupt at 8 pm and 9 pm, Sunday through Thursday. On the weekends, they add a 10 pm show. It's a hit with the kids, for sure. The Secret Garden is a must. They have a dolphin aquarium, and white tigers, lions, and leopards. Back when my daughter (~15 at the time) and I were viewing the majestic white tigers, a male spotted us, and gazed at my lovely daughter as his massive paws
hit the ground in front of us behind the fence, step by step. He turned around, rose his tail, and sprayed the most terrible substance on her (from his anal glands). What did I do? Screamed with an open mouth. It tasted as bad as it smelled, by the way. The staff member came over and explained that the tiger had 'marked my daughter as his next mate.' We quickly exited, but nobody wanted to ride the elevator with us after that. My warning - run if the tiger makes eye contact with you!
Go CSI at the MGM Grand Hotel - you can play the role of a detective/forensic investigator and solve a murder case with the CSI Experience (open daily 10-7). There are cast members who help you along the way while you perform real-life like laboratory tests to catch the killer.
Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum - for ~ $19-$29, you can see all the impressive, lifelike details of Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, some of the Kardashians, and more.
If you've never been to a wax museum before, Madame Tussaud's is work a look.
Mandalay Bay's Shark Reef Aquarium - for a $20 admission, the Shark Reef is nice to visit, as the sharks can literally swim above your head as you walk through the glass tunnel. With ~ 2000 animals there: you'll see sharks, giant rays, endangered green sea turtles, piranha, and a Komodo dragon.
If you are brave, dive with the sharks (at an additional charge). This location is open from 10-8 pm with the last group allowed to enter the aquariums at 7 pm.
Also, at the Mandalay Bay is the Michael Jackson One show, another Cirque du Soleil style performance which is pretty awesome.
Gondola Ride at the Venetian - the Gondola Ride is a nice boat ride down the Grand Canal in an authentic Venetian gondola. Your singing gondolier will take you beneath bridges, beside 'outdoor' cafes, and through a taste of a Venetian streetscape.
They have an indoor or outdoor version, albeit in this hotel with the clouds painted on the ceiling - it can be difficult to discern which one you are on. A shared Gondola Ride will run $29 per person, whereas a private tour for two is $156.
Bellagio Fountain Show - this is a must-see. There are various themes you might stumble upon but this one is my favorite - the Game of Thrones show. They have various themes you can catch, but to be honest - any of them are awesome. And better yet - free. The audience will stand in front of the fountain (or room windows/balconies if you stay at the Bellagio) to be mesmerized by carefully planned out and interlaced water, music, and lights.
Where to stay. If you are going to Vegas, you won't have to pay as much for luxury as you would visiting anywhere else. My favorite hotel on the strip is the Cosmopolitan with its inviting pools (some with DJs), a DJ in the lobby at night, great restaurants, and lovely rooms. Right now, it's $280 per night for a 620 sq.ft. king room. Albeit, it's a bit young for me now, so I belong at the Bellagio or Venetian, but the Champagne Bar is a trendy place to hang out and have drinks, and Egg Slut is one of the best breakfast spots in Las Vegas - but there's always a long line.
Another suggestion if you are more on a budget, but want something with clean lines and lots of room is the Delano (formerly called The Hotel) - which is a part of the Mandalay Bay. They have nice suites for slightly more reasonable prices - but will fluctuate with the seasons based upon their occupancy. At this time, for a 725 sq.ft. King Suite, it's $199 average per night. Not too much difference right now from the Cosmo in January - but in the busier seasons, this will become more prevalent. The Cosmo is at the lowest I've seen in a long time right now.
Best place to gamble. Scale back a bit from the upper-tier luxury hotels (Cosmo, Bellagio, and Venetian), and go to the more moderate ones like the Luxor, Treasure Island, Monte Carlo, or MGM if you want to find a reasonable table minimum. I'd say we usually end up at the Mirage to lose our money. You can walk down the strip or take a quick cab/limo (suggested since sometimes, there are crazies on the street, especially as the night goes on).
Best shows. My family has seen Beatles Love five times. It's almost a must when we go together, so I hope they never end this show. It's a Cirque du Solei show, but it's converted my son after watching it the first time at ~ 14 and then later when my nieces were 14 into Beatles fans. This couples well if you are gambling at the Mirage, as the show is there. I've seen many other shows there, and they are all good, but Beatles Love just stands out. We've been to Blue Man Group at the Luxor (which is very similar to the Blue Man Group show in Orlando), and O in the Bellagio by Cirque Du Soleil, which uses fire and water in the show, which is cool. I've found that others have found Absinthe at Caesars is a must-see, so maybe I'll check that out next time I go.
Best pool to rent a cabana for the day. To date, we've rented cabanas at the Cosmopolitan at the Bamboo and Boulevard pools. Both were lovely and accomodating but expensive. You pay a fee for the day with a dedicated server for food/drinks. You can rent anywhere from a simple daybed in the sun, which will be ~ $250 food/drink minimum to a large cabana suite with couches, televisions, refrigerator stocked with complimentary soda and water, complimentary sunscreen and fresh fruit, and a safe to put your belongings. This will run you ~ 750 and up - but you can have ~ 8-10 people split it, which makes it worth the price. At this time, I can't see where you can rent a cabana at the Bamboo pool anymore, but they list the Chelsea instead. I don't think you can go wrong here.
Another location we've done cabanas is off the strip at the Green Valley Ranch resort. If you want a more low-key, off the beaten path experience in Vegas - you should stay here. It's more family oriented. They even have a movie theater, good restaurants, fair gambling minimums at tables, and nice rooms. And, to get a taste of The Strip, a limo ride is about 10-15 minutes tops.
I've been to Vegas so many times since ~ 2003. I can say the tables have become more difficult to win at, the slots have become less likely to hit, and the free drinks are scarce unless you are losing a money at the speed of a raging river. Las Vegas used to be the place to be pampered without having to ask for a thing. It's still a fun place, but the 'good ole days' seem to be behind us. Back in 2003, I could almost count on paying for the trip by my winnings, the enticing low hotel rates, and the comps (free stuff the pit bosses will give you if you win - free buffets, upgrades, etc.). Now, I plan to lose a set amount of money and sometimes, must take trips to the bar myself while losing. Ugh! With that said, Las Vegas is still a fun place to be and worth a visit.