I have been to Las Vegas six or seven times. I’ve played a slot machine…once, maybe. Gambling is of no interest to me. But the phenomenon of Las Vegas, the stories and the mashup and the contrasts and the bigness, that’s what keeps me coming back. Visitors come here for all sorts of reasons – a record 42.9 million of them last year. Increasingly, a casino weekend visit is less about gambling and more about enjoying the other aspects of entertainment and diversion that this town offers.
I have been a travel writer long enough to know everyone’s definition of “the best” experience is different. So, my list of must-sees in Vegas might be different from a foodie’s, or a poker player’s, or a shopaholic’s.
So, I’ll deal out the popular “musts,” and along with my own. You can take it from there.
And because I want you to have a seamless good time, I’ll also provide some helpful tips for the perfect casino weekend.
The must-take selfie
- Make sure you get a picture in front of the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign.
The must-do attractions on the strip
- The fountains show at the Bellagio — 1,214 water jets pulsating 460-feet into the air, every hour on the hour. The fountains are the most Instagrammed attraction in the city, (while you’re there, step inside and look up at the huge Chihuly glass flowers sculpture that covers the ceiling, then proceed to the beautiful, light-filled conservatory, with plants and flowers themed to different seasons.
- A gondola ride at the Venetian.
- The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace with its giant animatronic statues.
My must-do attractions on the strip
- The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, which really does present some great and accessible exhibits (Monet Picasso, Faberge, Warhol).
- MGM’s recent addition, The Park, is an outdoor space right off the strip near the MGM Grand. A selection of reasonably priced restaurants and pubs is adjacent to the park. Get some snacks to go.
The must-do attractions off the strip
- The Fremont Street Experience, a 24-hour pedestrian mall with a massive LED canopy and endless people-watching fun. Some of those people are 40 feet up in the air, on a zip line ride from two-story slot machine, Slotzilla.
- The Mob Museum, a five-minute walk from Fremont. It’s big, Informative, macabre (bullet-riddled wall fragments from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre are on display) and entertaining. Only in Las Vegas…
- Promise you’ll go to the Neon Museum, where huge old Las Vegas signs go to be restored and put on display. Guided tours of the signs give you a whole new understanding of early Las Vegas history. Take a night tour. It’s more expensive ($22, versus $12 for a daytime tour) but seeing that neon glow is worth every penny. Advance reservations are a must.
- Nighttime is also the best time to ride the High Roller – an only-in-Vegas version of a Ferris wheel, complete with booze and snacks.
- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is just a few miles west of Las Vegas; you can take a 13 mile drive through this 196,000-acre swathe of Mojave Desert. Make sure to see the petroglyphs!
- Hoover Dam, about 30 miles southeast of Vegas. It really is a wonder to behold.
Some tips for your casino weekend
- Traffic along the Strip can be insane, day or night. And getting a cab is no piece of cake, either. If you’re going anywhere by car, factor in extra time to get there.
- Getting cash from an ATM? Pay attention to the fee you’ll be charged for the transaction – in casinos, it can run as high as $8. Find a bank/ATM on the street when you need cash.
- Find a convenience store or a Walgreens on the street for sodas, Band-Aids, snacks and other necessities. You’ll pay two or three times more for them in at your hotel.
- If you’re a novice gamer, your best bet is to play some of the electronic table games for blackjack, baccarat, craps and roulette. They have a lower minimum bet, and a lower intimidation factor than a live game.
What’s your favorite way to spend a casino weekend in Las Vegas? Let us know in the comments below!