Las Vegas is one of the most fascinating cities in the world, and as a result, travellers 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!
I have been to Las Vegas so many times that I’ve lost count, but it’s well over 20 times. My parents took me a couple of times growing up, back in the 1990’s when Las Vegas was trying to re-invent itself as family-friendly (an initiative that didn’t last long), and it was the first trip I planned with friends upon turning 21. Over the years, I’ve visited Vegas as an excuse for a long weekend getaway, to attend friend’s weddings and my husband and I even had our joint bachelor/bachelorette party there. To say I know a thing or two about visiting Las Vegas is an understatement… and with all that I’ve picked up over the years, I’ve put together this Las Vegas travel guide – Enjoy!
Las Vegas Airport
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 on 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 location 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 favourite hotel is the Linq because it’s extremely affordable, in a fantastic central on-strip location and it’s been completely remodelled.
Off-Strip Hotels: 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 travellers 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.
Fremont / 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 is 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 Streeyt 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 over-do-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. I guarantee that it hasn’t happened (but feel free to prove me wrong by leaving a comment below!)
I’ll be honest, I don’t go to Vegas to eat at 5-star steak restaurants. When I am in Vegas, I am looking for quality food at an affordable price along with a great drink menu. Here are some of my favourite places to eat 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.
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!
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.
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 on 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!
Creative Tip: Don’t forget to check out the best buffets of Las Vegas whilst you’re in town.
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. 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!
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 under-rated 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.
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 pyjamas, free samples of flavours you didn’t know existed, a 3D movie featuring your favourite M&M characters and you can even customize your own M&M’s to take home!
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!
So with that, it brings me to the end of my Las Vegas Travel Guide. Enjoy your trip – cheers!
About the Author: Andrea is a wife, mom, and full-time HR professional who somehow finds time to travel the world (economically, as insisted by her accountant husband!) and share her wisdom and hard-earned tips on her travel blog, One Savvy Wanderer. Follow her on Facebook to find out more on how to get the smallest bill while travelling the world