When people ask me where my favourite place in the world is I say without hesitation, Las Vegas. They are often disappointed with my answer but I refuse to apologise for it, because Vegas is f**king awesome.
I like to play poker and I like to gamble but you can go to Sin City and have an amazing time without doing these things. It is a true 24 hour party place where clocks don’t matter (which is good as most of the casinos don’t have them!) The normal strict rules you might find elsewhere in the United States are relaxed to allow people to have a great time. Drinking on the streets is allowed, smoking in bars and restaurants, not a problem. And of course you can gamble pretty much anywhere.
So I will start with the gambling. Since my first visit (I have been four times) I have noticed the price of gambling has gone up. especially on the strip. What I mean by this is the minimum bet has increased on the popular table games such as Roulette and Blackjack. Where previously you would find $5 minimum during the day at nowadays you are lucky to find $10 minimum, with it stretching to $25 during at the weekends. For the recreational player this is not ideal, unless you get lucky early in the session. However there is a solution, head away from the strip and go to Fremont Street. This is the original Vegas and it has a certain grungy charm. The gambling chips are a little grubbier and the waitresses not quite as attractive (where waitresses go to die as one of my friends described!) Here you can find a much more palatable $5 table minimum so your money potentially should last a bit longer!
One thing I have realised about Vegas is if you want a drink, the best thing to do is go to the bar and pay for it. Sitting at a Blackjack table for a ‘few minutes’ to get a ‘free’ drink rarely works. The dealer can quickly makes a few ’21s’ and all of a sudden that free drink now costs you $50! My game of choice Texas Hold’Em poker is actually a good one for sitting there and getting loaded, although conversely this usually leads to you losing all your poker chips! Other fun games include Craps (Dice in the UK), Casino War (dangerously addictive) and The Big Wheel (great low stakes fun!) If you treat them as fun and don’t rely on winning money or chase your losses you’ll have a great time.
If gambling is not your thing, fear not because Las Vegas has many other entertainment options to enjoy. The casinos owners have recognised that they cannot rely solely on gambling revenues anymore so have had to diversify their operations. Below I have listed some of the other things you can do in Vegas that do not involve gambling.
This has always been a big part of Vegas. Here you can find some amazing culinary experiences from the Cosmopolitan’s Hidden Pizza parlour to Joel Robuchon’s 3 Michelin Star restaurant. I have met some well travelled people who say there are sushi restaurants in Las Vegas that are better than those in Japan. Whereas if you want a real American breakfast experience head to the great value Denny’s for grits and streaky bacon.
From the days of Elvis and Liberace to more recently Celine Dion, Britney and Elton John, Sin City has always attracted the world’s biggest stars. In the last decade Cirque Du Soleil shows have dominated the strip. These are best pre-booked, but if you are not fussy about what you see, go to Tix For Tonight stalls on Las Vegas Boulevard where cut-price tickets can be found.
These are great if you are on a European sleep pattern and want to start the party early afternoon. They are similar to a nightclub and can be tricky to get in if you are just a group of lads. I would advise pre-booking a cabana if you are there on a stag do. If you are lucky enough to be partying with a few women you will find it easier to gain entrance. A special shout out to Drai’s nightclub which combines a night club and a pool party!
My last visit I went to Omnia nightclub in Caesars Palace. The sounds system, the lights and some guy called Calvin Harris meant for an epic night, although the girls I was with will remind me I went home early, Vegas had got me this time.
Obviously you can get a drink anywhere but here are my favourite places to drink in Las Vegas:
1) The rooftop bar at the Rio Hotel and Casino, as it is away from the strip, offers a great panoramic of the famous skyline.
2) Twin Peaks: A fantastic sports bar with great views inside and out.
3) The Linq Promenade: This is a great place to sit outside, drink a Coors and people watch away from the traffic of the Las Vegas Boulevard.
4) The High Roller observation wheel at the bottom of the Linq Promenade has a happy hour where you pay around $40 for unlimited drinks whilst the wheel goes round.
5) If you have ever wondered where those people get those huge cocktails that need a shoulder strap to hold get yourself to Mardi Gras Frozen Cocktails just past Harrah’s.
If you need a bit of time away from the degeneracy then why not try one of the excellent museums scattered across the city. The Mob Museum, Neon Graveyard and the car museum at The Linq are some of my favourites.
If you fancy a quick thrill (not that kind) you could head to one of the many rollercoasters / rides in Las Vegas. The top of the Stratosphere has 3 rides that are pretty impressive and offer amazing views down the strip. New York New York has a old school rollercoaster, Fremont Street and The Rio have slightly less exhilirating ziplines.
If you have won big inside the casinos then Sin City has plenty of places where you can spend your hard-won dollars. Caesars has an impressive shopping arcade with a seriously tacky free show called ‘Fall Of Atlantis’. Planet Hollywood has the Miracle Mile, Aria has Crystals. However the best value shops are the Premium Outlet Malls, here you can get discounted designer gear for half the price of elsewhere, well worth the short taxi ride.
Other Things To Do:
Watch the Las Vegas Knights Ice Hockey team, a new franchise that play in the fantastic and brand new T-Mobile arena on Las Vegas Boulevard. Play some golf at Steve Wynn’s very own course. Visit the Pinball hall of fame, drive a race car at the track, get married!
Top 5 free things to do in Las Vegas:
1) The Mirage Volcano
2) Fremont Street Experience
3) Flamingo Wildlife Habitat
4) Bellagio Fountains
5) The famous Las Vegas sign
Unfortunately the Treasure Island Pirate Show is no more, bring back the pirates, arrhhhh!
Coming soon! Where to stay, the best casinos and what to do outside of the city in Las Vegas Part II