Your Ultimate Las Vegas Travel Guide
Las Vegas isn’t just a city; it’s an experience. Located near the southern tip of Nevada, this city boasts itself as “The Entertainment Capital of the World” and is perhaps most known for its gambling, nightlife, live shows, and fine dining. With all that it has to offer, it’s no wonder that visiting Las Vegas is a bucket-list item for many travelers. It’s also no surprise that those who have visited in the past often plan return trips. After all, there’s so much to see and do in Sin City that even the locals can have a hard time keeping up.
Whether you’re in the middle of planning a trip to Las Vegas or are considering a vacation here, familiarizing yourself with the area can help you make the most of your trip and potentially save some money in the process. We’ve got plenty of tips and tricks for getting to the Vegas Strip, finding the best places to stay, and saving money on the attractions that interest you.
Unless you live within driving distance of Las Vegas, you’ll probably need to book a flight. Fortunately, most major airlines in the United States (and many international airlines) offer service to McCarran International Airport, so you should have no problem finding a way there.
Finding Affordable Flights to Vegas
Saving money on a flight to Vegas is all about being flexible with your travel dates. Flying into or out of Las Vegas is always going to be most expensive on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. If possible, try to book your flights during the week to maximize savings. You might also consider using rewards points with your favorite airline to save money.
Getting to The Strip From the Airport
Once you’ve landed at the airport, you’ll have plenty of options for getting to the Las Vegas strip or anywhere else in the area. The airport itself offers a number of shuttle services that make stops at popular places along the strip, including major resorts. These shuttles tend to be the most affordable option, and shuttle service is available 24 hours a day for added convenience.
If you don’t mind paying more for more direct transportation to your hotel, a taxi or ride-sharing service will be your best bet. Just keep in mind that getting to the strip from the airport can take some time during periods of heavy traffic, so be patient. You may be able to get to your destination faster by asking your driver to avoid the tunnel.
What to Pack: The Essentials
Two things are almost guaranteed to be true when you visit Las Vegas:
- You’ll be doing a lot of walking.
- It’s going to be hot.
With this in mind, there are some essentials you won’t want to forget as you pack your suitcase.
Comfortable Walking Shoes
Because vehicle traffic on the strip is often heavy, most tourists will find that walking is the easiest way to get from point A to point B. Other than times when you leave the strip, plan on walking to many of your destinations and make sure you’ve packed a comfortable, supportive pair of shoes for this purpose.
Sandals and Swimsuits
Most resorts have pools that are free for guests to use. Even if your hotel doesn’t have a pool, you can typically pay a small fee to use one at a nearby resort. Beat the Vegas heat by bringing sandals and multiple swimsuits.
A Light Jacket or Hoodie
Yes, Las Vegas is in the desert. However, it can get surprisingly cool at night—especially during more mild months of the year. Even if you’ll be visiting during the dead heat of summer, it’s wise to bring a light jacket or hoodie. Casinos, restaurants, and other indoor attractions can be chilly year-round.
Casual Summer Outfits
T-shirts, shorts, and other casual summer outfits will probably make up the bulk of your daily wear while in Vegas. Make sure you have a few options to choose from.
A Couple of Nicer Outfits
If you plan on going out to a nice restaurant, night club, or going to see a show at a high-end resort, it’s a good idea to have a couple of nicer outfits packed. Some exclusive clubs may even have a dress code. If you don’t have anything to accommodate an establishment’s dress code, there is no shortage of clothing stores both on and off the strip, so you can always pick up a formal outfit while you’re out.
Plenty of Sun Protection
Did we mention that Las Vegas is in the middle of the desert? Protect your skin by applying sunscreen regularly and bring at least one pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes as well. If you’ll be spending time lounging by the pool, a sunhat is another smart accessory to have.
Travel Hand Sanitizer
It never hurts to have a small bottle of hand sanitizer on you, especially if you’ll be spending time at the slot machines. While casino staff wipe down machines daily, you can never know how clean the last player’s hands were!
Hotels and Lodging
Las Vegas is known for its high-end casinos and resorts. You’ll have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to hotels and lodging, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you book.
Finding the Best Deals on Lodging
If you’re dead-set on staying at a hotel on the strip, take time to compare rates and amenities. When looking at room rates, be careful not to overlook “resort fees,” which can quickly add up. When you come across a great deal, book as soon as possible, as rates are constantly fluctuating and your amazing deal could be gone the next time you check. If you’ve booked with a hotel that offers free cancellation, you can always continue checking rates and cancel/rebook if you come across a better deal.
Another way to save money while staying on or near the strip is to book at a non-casino resort, such as the Four Seasons Hotel or Palms Place. These hotels will have lower resort fees and (often) cheaper rooms. These hotels are also available to be booked with airline miles.
You may also consider staying a little off the strip to maximize your savings. If you choose to go this route but still will be spending the majority of your time on the strip, just be sure to factor in the additional transportation costs to get from your hotel to your destinations each day. In some cases, it may actually make more financial sense to spend a little more for a hotel room on the strip.
What About Airbnb?
Las Vegas, like many major United States cities, has strict laws and regulations regarding short-term rentals on services such as Airbnb. Specifically, it is not legal for a property owner/investor to rent out a non-permanent residence for less than 31 days in Las Vegas. As a result of this relatively new restriction, finding Airbnbs in Las Vegas can be a challenge. There are still a handful available here and there, however, so it may be worth looking into if you’d rather avoid staying at a hotel.
If you’re like most travelers, you won’t have a car when you visit Las Vegas. In fact, visiting Vegas with a vehicle generally isn’t recommended, as street traffic is heavy and parking can be near-impossible to find. It may make sense to rent a car for a day or two during your trip if you plan on going somewhere outside the city, such as the Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon.
Otherwise, there are plenty of viable options for getting around the Vegas strip and nearby without a car.
Use Your Hotel’s Taxi Stand or a Ride-Sharing Service
Most of the resorts in Las Vegas have a taxi stand near the main entrance where you can call for a cab to come pick you up. Just keep in mind that heavy traffic makes taxi services more practical if you’re traveling somewhere outside the strip. The same applies to ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft. These are available in Las Vegas, but are generally recommended if you have somewhere outside the strip to go.
Take the Deuce or SDX Bus
One of the cheapest ways to get around Las Vegas is to take the Deuce or SDX bus service. You can purchase an “all-access pass” for as little as $6, which will get you access to both bus services. Deuce buses feature a double-decker style that is great for doing a little sight-seeing on the way to your destination. This bus service also runs 24 hours a day, whereas the SDX typically runs until midnight.
Purchase a Monorail Pass
Another excellent and economical way to get around the Vegas strip is to purchase a monorail pass; the monorail itself makes stops at major destinations along the strip, and you can purchase a single-day pass for as little as $10. The monorail is also great for avoiding traffic and getting to your destination quickly.
Rent a Limousine
If you’re celebrating a special event with a group, consider renting a limousine for a few hours to get where you’re going. You might be surprised to find that a short-term limo rental costs just about the same as a taxi or ride-sharing service when the cost is split amongst a group—but offers the added benefit of arriving at your destination in style!
Drinks and Dining
Las Vegas is known for its incredible selection of fine dining and amazing culinary experiences. No matter what type of fare you fancy, you can find what you’re looking for without having to go too far. Still, there are a few dining hot spots that you may want to set time aside for during your visit.
Breakfast and Brunch
Whether you’re an early riser or a little late to the game, there are plenty of great breakfast and brunch spots to choose from. Consider Americana Las Vegas, for example, which offers a $42 unlimited brunch on Sundays. From shrimp and grits to eggs Benedicts and every option in between, a brunch buffet is a great way to sample a little bit of everything.
Other Vegas restaurants that serve up delicious breakfast and brunch include:
- Flock & Fowl
- The Smashed Pig
- Park on Fremont
There are plenty of hot lunch spots to choose from in Vegas. If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind experience, make lunch reservations at Top of the World, which is located at the top of the Stratosphere tower. For less than $50, you can enjoy a three-course lunch between 11:30AM and 3:00PM daily. And of course, you’ll enjoy some incredible views of the city while you dine.
Looking for something a little more practical and affordable? There are a number of food courts scattered along the strip, where you can find your fast-food favorites for a quick bite.
Most resorts have their own restaurants that specialize in basic dinner fare—but as a culinary center, you can literally find any type of cuisine imaginable in Las Vegas. So, if you’re in the mood for more “Americana” food, such as burgers or a steak, there’s nothing wrong with dining at your hotel. If you’d like something a little more exotic, check out restaurants such as Wing Lei, which specializes in authentic Asian cuisine. Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar is also a must-try for delicious pastas, seafood, and more.
Las Vegas is one of the few cities in the country where you can drink pretty much anywhere; nobody will bat an eye if you walk down the strip drinking a margarita, and you can even enter most establishments (including casinos) with a drink in your hand.
If you’re looking to imbibe something beyond your standard malt liquor or traditional cocktails, however, there are some must-see bars and lounges throughout Las Vegas. The Downtown Cocktail Room, for example, is a fun experience that mimics the speakeasy feel of the Prohibition era. If wine is more your flavor, Bin 702 on Fremont Street offers 16 different wines in addition to specialty liquors and beers.
What About Buffets?
This is Vegas, where anything worth doing is worth overdoing. Many resorts offer their own all-you-can-eat buffets, where you’ll have access to a ridiculous amount of food. Many would argue that eating at a buffet is part of the Vegas experience, but if you plan on partaking, you’ll want to choose wisely.
For starters, keep in mind that you generally get what you pay for; cheaper buffets may be fine for filling up, but if you really want to wow your taste buds, you’ll want to spend a bit more. You can save money on top-rated buffets by arriving about an hour before lunch or an hour before dinner—as long as the restaurant doesn’t close during this time. You might also consider buying a buffet pass to save money, as these will give you access to up to five buffets per day!
There are a handful of attractions that are so iconic, you pretty much have to experience them in order to say you’ve been to Las Vegas.
Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas
In Downtown Las Vegas, you’ll find a five-block section of Fremont Street that has been blocked off to vehicle traffic and deemed pedestrian-only. Here, you’ll find all kinds of unique dining and entertainment experiences. The street itself features a large canopy of LED lights overhead that adds to the spectacle. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can even take a ride across Fremont Street on the famous zip-line!
If you plan on visiting Fremont Street or other parts of Downtown Las Vegas, be prepared to take a taxi, Uber, or similar service—as these destinations are not within walking distance of the strip.
High Roller Ferris Wheel
One of the best views of the city can be found on the High Roller Ferris Wheel, which tops out at 550 feet. Each individual cabin on the ferris wheel is fully enclosed and temperature-controlled, so you can stay cool and comfortable regardless of the weather outside (although the wheel may shut down in high winds or other inclement weather).
The cabins themselves are very spacious, and their 360-degree designs provide an excellent photo opportunity. Drinks can also be purchased and brought aboard the cabin as desired. There is even an “open bar in the sky” available for riders 21 and older; this cabin includes a full open bar for your 30-minute ride.
Roller Coaster at New York-New York Hotel
Keep the thrills going on the famous “Big Apple Coaster” at New York-New York Hotel and Casino. This bright red roller coaster has been a staple of the Las Vegas strip for years, thrilling more than 1.4 million riders annually. Individual tickets for this ride are available daily, though full-day passes are also an option for those who would like repeat rides. Riders must be at least 54″ to enjoy the Big Apple Coaster.
The Stratosphere Tower
Take your vacation to new heights at the Stratosphere Tower, which rises a whopping 1,149 feet over the Las Vegas skyline. There’s so much to see and do here, including an observation deck that offers incredible views of the city and beyond. For those looking for a little more excitement, there are also a number of thrill rides located on the top of the tower. This includes a drop tower, a swing that dangles riders over the edge, and more. There is also an available “SkyJump” experience, which allows daring individuals to experience an open-air leap from the tower at more than 800 feet.
Bellagio Fountain Shows
Outside the Bellagio Resort, you can experience the world-famous daily fountain shows that were once popular in Rome. These shows are completely free to the public and typically run every 30 minutes during the day and every 15 minutes from sunset through midnight. If you decide to check out a Bellagio fountain show (and you should!), try to arrive early to get a decent spot—especially if you’ll be visiting during the weekend, when foot traffic along the strip tends to be higher.
Once you’ve checked off the “must-see” tourist attractions off your list, there are a few hidden gems you may want to check out for yourself. These attractions can also be a great way to spend your time if you’re not a big fan of “tourist traps” and enjoy going behind the scenes at your travel destinations.
Pinball Hall of Fame
Arcade lovers unite; the Pinball Hall of Fame features more than 200 pinball machines—most of which can be played for just a quarter apiece. Due to expansion, the Pinball Hall of Fame has recently moved into a larger location on Tropicana, which is just over a mile away from the strip. Still, this is an easy destination to get to via taxi or rideshare, and you can easily spend several hours or an entire day here!
The Neon Boneyard
Explore more than 150 old neon signs that used to be displayed on the Las Vegas strip at The Neon Boneyard. This “graveyard” for old signs is a one-of-a-kind sight and is easily walkable from Fremont Street and parts of Downtown Las Vegas. You’re free to walk through the Boneyard with your paid admission during the day—but to get the full experience, consider taking a sunset guided tour, where you’ll actually get to see some of the signs lit up.
Did you know that the Flamingo Hotel actually features a full Flamingo Habitat? Right in the middle of the busy Vegas strip, flamingos, swans, parrots, and other exotic animals enjoy a 15-acre habitat featuring beautiful waterfalls, koi ponds, and a lush green landscape. Guests can enjoy daily presentations during the morning hours, where they can learn more about the habitat and the animals living there. This is a great, tranquil place to spend a few hours right in the middle of Sin City.
Often referred to as an “adult playground,” Dig This allows guests to operate heavy machinery in a controlled setting. Following a 30-minute training session and safety orientation, participants can take their turns on bulldozers, excavators, and other machinery. From digging trenches to taking part in a friendly skills competition, Dig This offers five acres of fun and activities for those who have always wondered what it’s like to operate construction equipment.
Vegas has earned the nickname of “Sin City” for a reason—but if you’ll be traveling with children, there are still plenty of family-friendly activities to enjoy.
Catch a Live Show
Many of the Las Vegas resorts feature live shows daily, and while not all of them are family-friendly, many of them are. Take some time to review the show offerings during your stay, and you’ll most likely be able to find a few that are suitable for children. Catching a live show can be a great way to beat the heat and keep the kids entertained for a couple hours during your stay.
Visit Downtown Container Park
In Downtown Las Vegas, you can also find Downtown Container Park—which is exactly what the name suggests! All the shops, restaurants, and buildings in this plaza are made from old shipping containers, which is a sight to see on its own. In addition to this, Downtown Container Park features a large tree house and an interactive playground for kids. Adjacent to the playground, there’s also a family-friendly area that offers outdoor movies, games, and similar entertainment throughout the year.
Take the Kids to Glowzone
Glowzone is a must-do for parents who are looking for an activity that will let their kids burn off some energy! This glow-in-the-dark play space is indoors and air-conditioned, which may be worth the entry fee alone during the dead-heat of a Vegas summer. This complex has something for everyone, including:
- bumper cars
- bowling and arcade games
- a laser maze
- a ropes challenge course
- a jungle gym (children 7 and under)
Spend a Day at The Adventuredome
Another great option for beating the heat with your kids is to visit the Adventuredome amusement park, which is located inside Circus Circus. This indoor amusement park features roller coasters, flat rides, a laser tag facility, and fun for the entire family.
Check Out Discovery Children’s Museum
The three-story Discovery Children’s Museum is another great spot to check out while you’re in Vegas with family; this three-story museum features interactive displays for all ages. This museum is also located in Downtown Las Vegas, so it’s a convenient stop to incorporate after a day at Container Garden Park and Fremont Street.
There’s something different going on in Las Vegas every single day, whether it be a major convention, a festival, or something in between. However, there are a handful of recurring events each year that garner special attention. Consider attending one of these events yourself, or—if you’d prefer to avoid heavier crowds during your visit—planning your trip around these special events.
The Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosts NASCAR Weekend every March, though specific dates can vary from one year to the next. This huge auto-racing weekend attracts more than 70,000 visitors annually.
World Series of Poker
Throughout June and July, the World Series of Poker takes place in Las Vegas and attracts about 7,000 players each year.
Great Vegas Festival of Beer
Beer lovers won’t want to miss the Great Vegas Festival of Beer, which takes place twice annually in April and October. This event features regional brews, live music, and plenty of great food.
Maximizing Your Time and Money
With so much to see and do in Vegas, you’d need to spend months (or maybe even years!) here to experience it all. Still, there are some tips you can follow to help maximize your time and make your money go further during your visit.
Inquire About Room Upgrades
You’ll never know if you don’t ask! When you arrive at your hotel to check-in, politely ask if there are any free room upgrades or perks available. If you’re visiting during a non-peak time of year, you may be able to snag an upgrade to a suite or even some free show tickets. Some hotels may even store your checked luggage and carry-on if you do not want to keep it in your room.
Enjoy Free Drinks While You Gamble
If you spend any time at the casinos, you’ll likely be approached by a waiter or waitress with a tray full of drinks. These beverages are complimentary for gamblers (though it is customary to leave a small tip); if you don’t mind waiting a few minutes, you can even request a drink of your choice. If you plan on drinking and gambling at the casinos anyway, you might as well take advantage of the free drinks available to you.
Buy Show Tickets Same-Day
If you’re flexible with your schedule and want to catch a show, you can save up to 50% on your tickets by waiting to purchase them until the day of the performance. One reputable service, known as Tix4Tonight, has kiosks located up and down the strip where you can purchase these discounted tickets on-the-fly.
What many visitors don’t realize is that you don’t necessarily have to visit a kiosk to buy these discounted tickets; you can purchase them online or even over-the-phone, saving yourself the wait at the kiosk. From there, you can pick your tickets up at a kiosk at your convenience.
Gamble Earlier in the Day (And Set a Budget)
Table minimums at most Vegas casinos gradually increase throughout the day, so your money will go further if you gamble earlier in the day. Regardless of when you decide to do your gambling, be sure to set and stick to a budget.
Sign Up For Player’s Cards
Most casinos and resorts offer player’s cards and programs, which are free to sign up for and can yield you a number of perks. For example, you can often receive a modest casino credit as soon as your card is activated. If you plan on doing any gambling, be sure to take advantage of these free programs. Even if you won’t be doing much gambling, some programs offer other perks, such as discounts on dining and hotel stays.
Have a Blast in The City of Lights
Whether this will be your first visit to Las Vegas or you’ve already been a few times, a little research and preparation can go a long way in maximizing your experience. By knowing what to pack, as well as what to see and do while you’re there, you can hit the strip with confidence. From gambling and sight-seeing to shopping, dining, and dancing—there’s truly something for everybody in The Entertainment Capital of the World.