Just about everyone wants to visit Las Vegas at one point or another. Even if it’s beginning to seem mildly old-fashioned, it’s still one of the world’s true entertainment Meccas, and as such it’s a draw for all kinds of people. As much as we all have a vague general idea of what to expect there, however – bright lights, gaudy attractions, and all-night entertainment – most of us haven’t really thought through the specifics. Below I’ll look to help with some of that by covering some of the logistics, strategies, and attractions involved.
When To Go
Usually, when we ask a question like this, it’s about weather and crowds. Where Vegas is concerned though, these factors don’t really mean much. The weather is at least manageable all year round, and there’s always at least a reasonably dense crowd. You won’t find a time to go to Las Vegas when it’s just too cold, nor a time when the streets will be empty.
That said, there are some things to look for if you’re looking for an easier and more affordable experience in Sin City. Weekday flights are always more affordable (as is true with most any trip); the height of summer can see at least a slight decline in tourism and prices because it’s very hot; and traveling around holidays, or when there isn’t a particular event like a major boxing fight or huge concert in town can also lead you to more manageable prices.
What To Expect
This is a category worth including here because there are so many depictions of Las Vegas out there, and as mentioned most of us have some idea, or some picture in mind. If you’re more into the classic image of Vegas you may take your cue from a film like Casino or the original Ocean’s 11. If you’re into the rowdier takes on the town you might instead trust The Hangover. And to give you an idea of how these films and portrayals shape perception, they can even build on each other! The 2001 Ocean’s 11 was in many respects an updated but unchanged view on Vegas from the original decades prior. An online video game called Weekend in Vegas specifically states that it’s loosely based on The Hangover (and it helps that it happens to be a casino game). In short, images of Vegas sort of stack up on each other and intensify.
So should you expect one or the other? Or a blend of them all? Truthfully it depends on how you approach your visit. In an overarching sense though you should expect something at once bigger and more casual than what you see in the films. It’s bigger in that the entire town is at your disposal rather than just a few sets, and there really is so much going on it can be overwhelming. It’s more casual in that not everyone there is part of a bachelor party, and very few are dressed in tailored suits to hit the high roller poker tables. If anything, it’s almost more like one giant theme park packed with people you could fit into just about any category of tourist or reveler.
As you might expect, this section could be a whole article – or rather an entire guidebook – in itself. Vegas is a city built entirely of attractions, and passing through them is mostly a matter of what you’re looking for as an individual. Still, it can’t hurt to have a few specifics in mind.
Where resorts are concerned, the main attractions are mostly divided between old and new. The old guard, so to speak, consists of venues like the MGM Grand, the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, and the Venetian, among others. Some of the newer resorts that are drawing major crowds and raving reviews are the Aria and the recently sold Waldorf Astoria (formerly the Mandarin Oriental). These resorts altogether provide a combination of spa facilities, pools, casino floors, and of course luxury accommodations that can make up the core of your stay.
As for additional attractions that can keep you entertained, you can really take your pick, even beyond the dozens of casinos that still serve as the foundation of the city. If you want to relax in Vegas-style opulence, the Garden of the Gods pools at Caesars Palace may be your speed. If you’re seeking raw amusement, some of the rides at the Stratosphere may do the trick. For dining, there’s a deep selection of fancy and well-reviews restaurants, and the same can be said of bars, clubs, and even show venues.
It should also be noted that there’s plenty you can do for free in a city that’s famous for its expensive allures. You can see the Bellagio fountain show, enjoy the famous Fremont Street Experience (basically an elaborate light show), and even do some simple sightseeing and people-watching all without spending a dime!
My own recommendations for a range of attractions to hit: the Garden of the Gods, the Bellagio fountains, the spa at the Waldorf Astoria, Parasol Up & Parasol Down bars, and the Bazaar Meat restaurant by José Andrés.