Heading to Vegas for the first time? We share these Las Vegas tips and tricks so you can plan a trip with ease!
Las Vegas is one of the most fascinating cities in the world, and as a result, travelers near and far make their way to the Nevada desert to experience everything that Sin City has to offer. However, there is so much to do and see in Las Vegas that one’s trip can be overwhelming to plan. No need to worry though, this Las Vegas travel guide has you covered regardless if you are there for an overnight Las Vegas layover or even for several days!
Las Vegas Airport Tips
As soon as you step off the airplane at McCarran International Airport, you will instantly know that Las Vegas is unlike any other city you’ve been to before. There are slot machines for gambling throughout the airport and large billboard-style signs advertising shows and nightclubs on the Las Vegas strip.
The bustling airport has a mixture of other giddy visitors arriving to experience Sin City and those departing the city looking like they got hit by a train after their wild escapades of the trip.
There will be lots of drivers holding signs with names on them, waiting for arriving visitors in baggage claim, and most likely will not be holding your name unless you arranged for this type of service ahead of time or are a frequent high-roller at one of the casinos.
To get to your Las Vegas hotel, I’d recommend a taxi or ride-sharing option like Lyft / Uber. The taxi queue is right outside of baggage claim but the line can be long especially when arriving for the weekend. If you are interested in taking Uber or Lyft, McCarran airport does not make it easy for you. To meet your ride-share driver, take an elevator from baggage claim up to level two, cross a sky bridge to the parking garage, then take another elevator up to level 2M.
While the ride-share pick-up is not in a very convenient location, it can still be much quicker to take an Uber or Lyft than to wait in the never-ending taxi line outside of the airport.
Where to Stay in Las Vegas
When considering where to stay for your Las Vegas trip, you will want to take into consideration a variety of factors: price, location, amenities, casino (or not), etc. For this post, I am going to break down three different areas to consider when looking for a place to stay: on the Las Vegas strip, off-the-strip or in Fremont / downtown Vegas.
Staying on the Las Vegas Strip
This is the most popular option but is also the most expensive when compared to the other two areas I talk about below. The good thing about the Strip is that there are so many different hotels to choose from that there is really something for everyone, including those looking for budget-savvy options or even hotels that do not have casinos (ie: Vdara).
The Strip, for purposes of hotel accommodations, has Mandalay Bay on one end and the Stratosphere on the opposite end. While Mandalay Bay is a nice hotel, it’s located at one end of the Strip isn’t ideal, but it at least has a tram that connects it with the Luxor and Excalibur next door. The Stratosphere is probably one of the cheapest hotels to stay at on the Strip but it’s secluded on the other end of the Strip with nothing around it. In between these two hotels is a 5-mile stretch of hotel options that range in price and quality – depending on what you are looking for in your travels.
While hotels like the Wynn, Bellagio, and The Cosmopolitan are luxurious, they can also be expensive. Other hotels like Bally’s and Flamingo are more affordable options in great central locations but are dated and in desperate need of a facelift. My favorite hotel is The Linq because it’s extremely affordable, in a fantastic central on-strip location and it’s been completely remodeled.
Off-Strip Hotels in Vegas
Believe it or not, as soon as you go only a block off of Las Vegas Blvd, your nightly hotel prices will plummet. While budget-savvy travelers may like the prices of off-strip hotels, a lot do not like the inconvenience of staying off of the strip.
If you’ve never been to Vegas before, you may be thinking “what’s wrong with being a block away from the strip?!” – but that’s because you don’t realize how far a block really is in Las Vegas. Some hotels, like the Hard Rock Café, are literally only one block from the strip but are at least a 20-minute walk to the nearest on-strip hotel.
Other hotels, like the Palms, Rio, and Orleans, are not within walking distance of anything and require a taxi or shuttle to get to the strip.
So why do people stay at off-strip hotels other than to save money? The great thing about these hotels is that they come with all of the normal Las Vegas resort amenities, but add a layer of peace, quiet, and tranquillity since your hotel isn’t a stomping ground for every other visitor to the strip.
I’ve stayed at the Orleans before because the room was ridiculously cheap – like $50 per night. Meals at the restaurants were affordable, there were $3 beers at the bars and $5 Blackjack tables which are all almost impossible to find at the on-strip hotels. While I personally don’t typically opt for an off-strip hotel, there are definitely hotels to consider when deciding where to stay in Las Vegas.
Staying near Fremont Street & Downtown Vegas
Before Las Vegas Blvd became the hub of the Las Vegas experience, there was Fremont Street. A lot of our parents probably stayed in Fremont when they first started visiting Vegas and it is still a great option for a place to stay to this day.
While Fremont is nowhere near within walking distance of the Strip, it’s easily accessible via taxi, Uber/Lyft, or even the RTC double-decker bus. Like staying in off-strip hotels, budget-savvy travelers can always find hotel rooms for <$100 per night and can expect cheaper drinks and lower table limits when gambling.
The benefit of staying in Fremont, over an off-strip hotel, is that there are lots of things to do in the area. Not only are there other hotels and casinos to check out but there are bars, restaurants, and the Fremont Street Experience which includes an LED show on the canopy over the street and even a zip line.
The original and most well-known hotel in Fremont is the Golden Nugget. There are also other hotels to choose from like the Downtown Grand, the D Las Vegas, and the Fremont Hotel & Casino.
Where to Eat in Las Vegas
Las Vegas is known for over-indulgence… whether it’s gambling, drinking, or eating, there are so many amazing options that it’s easy to overdo it. The assortment of dining options is astronomical – I’d love to meet someone who has dined at every restaurant on the Las Vegas strip.
When I am in Vegas, I am looking for quality food at an affordable price along with a great drink menu. We also love checking out the many buffets of Las Vegas too. Here are some of my favorite places to eat in Las Vegas:
Secret Pizza: Pizza typically sounds pretty appetizing, especially after a day or night of enjoying adult beverages in Las Vegas. The best place to grab pizza-by-the-slice (or even a whole pie!) is at a secret pizza spot in the Cosmopolitan Hotel. There is no signage for “Secret Pizza” which makes it truly a hidden gem. To find Secret Pizza in the Cosmopolitan, head to the restaurant level on the 3rdfloor. After getting off the escalators, there is a hallway to the left of Jaleo. Head down the hall and you will find the best pizza in Las Vegas!
Margaritaville: The Jimmy Buffet song, “Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville,” has a restaurant named after it on the Las Vegas strip. This multi-level restaurant, across from Caesars Palace, and next to the Flamingo, is usually packed at all times of the day. The Margaritaville menu has a large variety of food ranging from nachos to salads and burgers. But let’s be honest, the best part is the margarita menu, which has 10+ different kinds to choose from!
Mon Ami Gabi: Located in the Paris Hotel, Mon Ami Gabi is a French-style bistro, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus brunch on the weekend (which is a must to experience!). This is an affordable, yet delicious, dinner option for steak and seafood, and my favourite part is that everything comes with steak frites (French fries!) on the side.
Hash-Hash-A-Go-Go: This 24-hour restaurant, known for its farm-style cooking and large portions, serves its brunch menu from 7am – 11pm. Hash-Hash-A-Go-Go is located in the Linq and is a great place to go for breakfast after a long night in the town regardless of the time of day. In addition to a traditional breakfast menu (eggs, pancakes, waffles, etc.), they offer several types of “hashes” served in a cast iron skillet on a bed of fried potatoes – now that’s comfort food!
Burger: Gordon Ramsey’s Burger, in Planet Hollywood, is the absolute best place to get a bougie burger on the Las Vegas strip. Yes, you are going to spend at least $17 on a burger and another $12 on the to-die-for truffle parmesan fries (at least they are shareable!) but it’s so worth the splurge! And for my fellow non-beef-eating friends – I highly recommend the turkey patty which you can sub for any of the burgers on the menu.
What to do in Las Vegas
What is there not to do in Las Vegas? Even considering how many times I’ve been there, I am still able to find new things to experience each time I visit. Make sure you check out the Romantic things to do in Las Vegas too if you are visiting with your other half.
Here’s a list of my top things to do in Las Vegas that don’t necessarily involve gambling or drinking alcohol (which are the obvious choices for things to do there)!
Top Golf: The massive Top Golf entertainment venue is located at the MGM and is home to an interactive driving range (think bowling but with golf), 5 bars, and 2 pools. Top Golf locations are popping up all over the USA but Vegas is Top Golf’s flagship location. It should definitely be checked out when visiting Vegas, even for those who do not golf!
Las Vegas Golden Knights Game: The Las Vegas Golden Knights were the first professional sports team in Las Vegas and they made it to the 2018 NHL finals in their first season. Not only are the Knights a premier hockey team but the venue knows how to put on a great show for spectators before and during the game. T-Mobile Arena, where the Golden Knights play, is easily accessible for tourists as it’s located behind the New York, New York and Park MGM hotels on the Strip.
M&M World: The M&M World on the Las Vegas strip is a massive, multi-level store dedicated to M&M’s (what is there not to love about that?). M&M World has merchandise ranging from M&M pillows to pajamas, free samples of flavors you didn’t know existed, a 3D movie featuring your favorite M&M characters and you can even customize your own M&M’s to take home!
Carrot Top Show: There are so many shows to choose from in Las Vegas that it’s hard to pick which one to see. One of the most underrated shows I’ve seen is the comedian Carrot Top at the Luxor. He is absolutely hilarious and speaks of current events (like things that have happened in the last week) so you know his act is always changing. Tickets to his show are fairly affordable, for Vegas standards, at about $50 in advance.
Savvy tip: Carrot Top doesn’t typically sell out his shows in advance, so you can usually pick up tickets for about $35 on the day of the show at one of the ten Tix 4 Tonight locations on the Strip that sell reduced-price tickets the day of the show.
Bellagio Fountains: There is a reason why the Bellagio Fountains are an iconic attraction in Las Vegas. The water fountain show is engineered to “dance” to popular songs every evening. They are free to watch so it’s imperative that you plan to stop by the Bellagio to watch the show!
Free things to do in Las Vegas
Bellagio fountains – From 3 pm the fountains dance to music every 30 minutes, then every 15 minutes after 7 pm.
Fremont Street Experience – Yes, you can spend money in the casinos, bars, and restaurants of Fremont Street but the street itself is worth visiting and experiencing with its old-style lights and ceiling light show.
The Aquarium at the Silverton – With over 160 species of fish and open 24 hours a day, the Aquarium is a fantastic free attraction based in the Silverton Hotel. Don’t miss the mermaid shows; you can even have a meal during the performances!
Flamingo wildlife habitat – Situated in the Flamingo hotel, this is a surprise for many Vegas visitors. Beat the heat, escape the crowds of the strip and enjoy these beautiful creatures up close.
The Mirage Volcano – Every hour, on the hour between 6 pm and 11 pm, the volcano in front of the Mirage hotel rumbles into life and erupts; delivering a fantastic show to the many tourists that experience it every day.
Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens – Another free attraction in Las Vegas are the Bellagio Conservatory and botanical gardens. Open 24/7 and opposite the front desk, the garden display changes seasonally and is worth admiring.
Fabulous Las Vegas Sign – A trip to Vegas is not complete without that iconic photo in front of the Las Vegas Sign. The sign is located about one mile south of Mandalay Bay and is easy to reach via car.
The Circus – The Circus Circus hotel offers free circus performances every half hour from 11 am. Head to the upstairs level of Midway and enjoy the 40-minute performance. This is one of many free things to do in Las Vegas with kids and the mini-theme park inside Circus Circus makes for a great day out too.