We started 2019 with celebrating a milestone birthday for my boyfriend Ricky. To celebrate I chose to take us to one of our favourite cities in the world. One we have travelled to many times before. Where celebrity chefs open some of the most sought after restaurants in the world, where the headlight glare and shimmering billboards light up the night sky and a place for iconic music stars to sell out venues night after night. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada. A city that opened its first casino in December 1946 has gone through a major revamp in recent years; no longer a haven for the middle-to-retired age bracket and gambling is no longer the driving force for tourists. Instead the demographic is twenty (and thirty, the forty) something year olds who need instagram worthy pool shots, signature cocktails, luxurious hotel rooms followed by designer shopping and front row tickets to the hottest show on the Strip. This is no longer the ‘once in a lifetime holiday’ destination – instead Vegas is jam packed with so much to do and see your itinerary will be fully booked and before the holiday blues have faded you have already booked your flights to visit again.
Since 2015, I have been to Las Vegas five times. As someone who visits the gambling capital often and since my last trip was so recent, I often get asked many questions regarding what to do, where to stay, where to eat and who to see live. Instead of answering each person individually (because the questions and answers are generally the same) I have decided to pack everything I possibly know and have to offer into one blog post. Here you will find everything you need to know including insider tips to make sure you have the most incredible first time experience in Vegas – and also save some serious $$$ until you loose it all in the slot machines.
When To Go
The time of year you decide to visit will factor what you can actually do when in Las Vegas. Just because you are visiting the desert does not guarantee warm weather – I learnt this during my January trip in 2017. Be sure to keep an eye on the weather in the lead up to your trip and pack appropriately. Also take into consideration federal holidays in the United States that could have an increased number of people visiting including Memorial Day in May, Independence Day in July, Labour Day in September, Columbus Day and Nevada Day in October.
The typical pool season begins in early March and draws to a close late October. Both will be celebrated with major pool parties and promotions, but never underestimate Las Vegas as there will certainly be an event at your resort pool during your visit.
Start Earning Rewards
As soon as you book your trip to Vegas it is time to start earning rewards. On the Apple App Store and Google Play Store download the myVegas apps (there is three in total.) Sync the account to your Facebook and play free slot machine and black jack games to earn gold coins you can spend while in Las Vegas. How much you earn depends on how often you play but complimentary cocktails, two for one lunch buffets and money off Maverick Grand Canyon helicopter tours are just a few of the rewards myself and Ricky have used to save money. Do not waste another minute – download the apps and begin playing immediately.
Get an MLife Reward Card
So you spent the last six months earning gold coins on the myVegas apps and you want to start saving money. In order to turn those coins into real life rewards you first need to sign up to the Mlife Rewards Loyalty Programme online. Click here to sign up now using your email address. Once you arrive in Vegas you will need to head to an MGM owned hotel (MGM Grand, Aria Resort, Bellagio Hotel, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Luxor, Excalibur, New York New York, Park MGM… to name majority) and look for the Mlife Rewards desk somewhere on the casino floor. Provide them with your government issued ID and the email address used to sign up and they will give you a loyalty card you can use when gambling, visiting resort buffets and when claiming a reward from the app to start building points.
Things To Do
You will honestly never be short of something to do when visiting Las Vegas. Out of my five trips I can not say I have done everything yet and still have a list of things to do on my next visit. As I mentioned earlier the city no longer uses gambling as its main attraction and has instead created mega-resort hotels with so many attractions and from my recent visit in January – they show no signs of slowing down any time soon. Below I have highlighted some of the many things to do when visiting Las Vegas.
Fremont Street Experience
Fremont Street is an entertainment district taking up seven blocks of downtown Las Vegas and easily accessible from the Strip using the SDX bus. The abundance of neon nights is easily one of the most recognized symbols of Las Vegas, apart from The Strip itself, and has been featured in virtually every movie and piece of photography that wanted to depict the glittery lights. The original and some of the most iconic hotels are located within the area including The Golden Nugget and Fremont Hotel.
Fremont Street Experience features an LED canopy suspended 90ft above the street which is billed as the worlds longest video screen and has free light shows every night of the week. Three stages are located within the area and free concerts are on nightly featuring tribute acts and independent artists trying to gain recognition.
Above the street is the Slotzilla Zip Line.
There is two options available depending on how much of a thrill seeker you are. I have done both and they are incredible, so you can choose from
Which is 7 stories high, fly sitting upright, runs for two blocks. Cost: $25
Which is 11 stories high, fly superhero style, runs for five blocks. Cost: $45
Rio Hotel VooDoo Zipline
Another zipline of course! The Rio Hotel has a zipline called VooDoo.
The zipline is suspended 500ft in the air and takes you between the two towers of the Rio Hotel just off the Vegas Strip. The ride lasts just over one minute and can reach a speed of up to 33mph! This is definitely a step above the Fremont Zipline but both offer unique views of the city and a completely different experience.
The Linq High Roller
The Linq Hotel has one of the most recent and unique attractions to open on the Vegas Strip: the High Roller.
The tallest observation wheel in the world is right in Las Vegas and soars 550ft above the Vegas Strip giving you breathtaking panoramic views of the entire city. The trip takes roughly 30 minutes and is so smooth you don’t even realize it is moving.
You can even upgrade into an open bar cabin which offers all you can drink while still giving you those incredible views. Just be sure not to drink too much as you will need to hold it for the duration of the ride!
Dolphins at The Mirage
Seigfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage Resort and Casino.
The Mirage gives you the opportunity to come into close contact with some of the most beautiful and majestic creatures you can think of including white tigers, white lions, leopards and bottlenose dolphins. Seigfried & Roy’s Secret Garden opened in 1990 with a focus of scientific research and education. The purpose is for us to understand and appreciate the animals and their environments which is done by enhancing the human-animal bond.
You have a variety of options to choose from when it comes to interacting with the dolphins, including A Trainer For A Day Programme which lets you work side by side with the trainer and even swim with the dolphins and Painting With Dolphins which is the option myself and Ricky took! We were able to help train the dolphin and then one of them was chosen to paint a picture for us using our own colour scheme. They are such majestic creatures and to be able to see them up close is truly one of the most magical experiences.
Stratosphere Hotel is the largest building in Las Vegas at 1,149ft and only the second tallest observation tower in North America behind the CN Tower in Toronto! It has everything imaginable for anyone seeking an adrenaline high with their impressive and downright crazy activities.
First one on the list is SkyJump!
Image jumping 829ft from the Stratosphere Tower on a controlled descent to the bottom. For $129 you can do just that! Every time I visit Las Vegas I toy with the idea of doing it but never work up the confidence to do – maybe on my next visit but again no promises.
The world famous Thrill Rides!
Three rides are located on the upper observation deck that incorporate every element of fear one could possibly think of. You can challenge yourself and take an Unlimited Ride Pass to experience each. It is also something I have yet to tick off my list and know I will one day – it just takes time to prepare yourself to hover 109 stories above the Strip!
Bellagio Hotel Fountains
The Fountains of Bellagio is only another one of the list of iconic attractions in Vegas – and completely free of charge which makes a nice change when everything can else can very quickly begin to add up.
When you think of all things romantic from Paris to Madrid to Rome fountains are sure to cross your mind – Las Vegas goes above and beyond with the incredible display they have synced to 26 different songs. The show is every 30 minutes from 3pm to 8pm Monday through Friday and every 15 minutes from 8pm to midnight. On Sundays the show starts at 11am every 30 minutes until 7pm when the show goes on every 15 minutes until midnight. On Saturdays and Holidays the shows start at noon every 30 minutes and change to every 15 minutes from 8pm to midnight.
The Neon Museum Las Vegas is another one on my bucket list I am yet to tick off. Founded in 1966 the non-profit organization is dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historic, arts and cultural enrichment.
Take the time to Google Image the Neon Museum and you are sure to understand why this needs to be added on your to do list. The photo opportunities and to hear the incredible background stories to the iconic signs are something I swoon over – without a shadow of doubt the first thing on my agenda when I visit again.
Granted this may not be suitable to everyone and I am in no means promoting or endorsing gun violence or any violence for that matter. I am however recommending a wide variety of activities to do while in Vegas and the city is no stranger to some of the best shooting ranges. These are carried out in a controlled environment under the supervision of highly trained and skilled specialists who monitor you throughout.
Myself and Ricky visited the Gun Garage which is no longer operational, but a quick Google search listed Battlefield Vegas and Machine Gun Experience as the best in Vegas along with Range 702. Majority of companies will offer a free shuttle bus service to pick you up from the hotel and drop you back again, especially those that tend to be off the main Strip.
Vegas Golden Knights
T-Mobile Arena opened in 2016 and is located between New York New York and Park MGM. The arena is home to the NHL team Vegas Golden Knights who entered the 2017-2018 season.
The hockey team is now a staple of Las Vegas and can sit a 17,500 strong crowd – definitely not to be missed if you happen to be in town.
Drive to Los Angeles
This is something I so highly recommend! August 2016 myself and Ricky hired a Mustang convertible and drove across the desert into California with my cousin and his new bride!
Alamo car hire was our choice and they offer a free shuttle bus service that took us directly from the airport to the car hire and we drove away in our car. For an additional $20 we added a GPS navigation system and an additional $12 covered us for breakdown; including outside the state of Nevada.
We drove through the desert and stopped at Peggy Sues which is a famous 50’s style dinner that offers great food for an affordable price and is located roughly halfway between Vegas and L.A. From there we drove directly to the Hollywood Sign before passing through celebrity haven of Calabasas, over into Malibu and drove directly to Santa Monica where we spent the day on the Pier.
One of the seven natural wonders of the world is the Grand Canyon located in Arizona. I have been incredibly fortunate enough to visit the wondrous site twice and it does not disappoint. We choose to fly with Maverick Helicopter who offered a shuttle bus service from our hotel to the terminal within McCarran airport. From there we boarded the helicopter and headed directly to the Grand Canyon and landed 3,000ft within the canyon for 30 minutes and had champagne and a light snack while overlooking the Colorado River before flying back, passing Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam into Las Vegas.
The Vegas Strip is practically filled with mega resort hotels, each has its own unique theme and offers something different. I absolutely recommend taking the time to walk between hotels and explore what each has to offer. I have listed some of my most visited and favourite hotels on the Strip, starting with the hotel I have stayed in most.
I have stayed in the Luxor Hotel and Casino three out of my five visits and every time I am completely blown away, especially with recent renovations to the Tower Suites. The hotel is themed of ancient Egypt and has over 4,400 rooms and over 2,000 slot machines.
The iconic sky beam is the strongest beam of light in the world and can apparently be seen from space. The Luxor is connected through walkway tunnels and a free tram to Excalibur and Mandalay Bay.
The hotel is named after the mythical sword of King Arthur and themed after medieval Europe. The facade of the hotel is the instantly recognizable castle and has close to 4,000 rooms. In 2003 a man from Los Angeles hit the highest winning Megabucks jackpot worth $39.7million in the Excalibur Hotel.
This luxury hotel has 3,200 rooms and features an incredible 11-acre pool area that boasts a lazy river, three heated pools and a wave pool that is open year round. Unfortunately this is the only hotel on the Strip that does not allow the public access to the pool area, it is guest exclusive.
On the top floor is the House of Blues Foundation Room that features a dinning room and balcony overlooking the Vegas Strip. Cirque du Soleil: Michael Jackson One is performed within the hotel.
The property was previously named the Aladdin and hosted the wedding of Elvis and Priscilla Presley . The Hollywood hip theme is present throughout the hotel with just a hint of over the top Vegas and has just over 2,500 rooms that is dedicated to a particular movie. The rooms feature actual props from the movie set and memorabilia. Gordon Ramsey has one of many restaurants within the hotel and you can guarantee the queue to be right through the casino floor before the sunsets on the Vegas Strip.
Caesars Palace is another luxury hotel on the Strip and easily one of my favourite hotels to visit for its stunning Roman Empire theme and decor while still remaining modern and up to date, the incredible casino floor space and the Forum Shops within the hotel. Celine Dion is due to end her residency at The Colosseum this year and Mariah Carey has recently started another residency. Omnia nightclub in the hotel hosts some of the top DJ’s including Calvin Harris and Martin Garrix and you can guarantee a long wait time to get into the sought after club.
The Venetian and Palazzo
The Venetian and The Palazzo are two separate hotels but is connected through the Grand Canals Shopping Complex where you can take an indoor gondola ride. While the hotels are independent the suites are identical and priced the same. Both hotels are of Italian Renaissance ambiance and offer the utmost luxury.
While I would only recommend a Las Vegas hotel buffet if you have earned enough reward coins through the myVegas app, purely because you will never eat enough to cover the cost for a buffet (in my experience anyway.) I wanted to mention three of my favourite spots for food while in Vegas. Obviously any restaurant in a hotel complex will cost more.
Village Pub and Cafe offers one of the most affordable dining experience, purely for being located off the Strip. To get to the hotel from the Strip take the E Flamingo intersection between Bally’s and The Cromwell and turn right on the next intersection. I highly recommend the bacon and eggs special for $6.99 and the raspberry iced tea.
Wahlburgers is between Paris Hotel and Bally’s. Open daily for lunch and dinner, offering full-service dining, counter service, take out and a full service bar. The restaurant chain is co-owned by Mark Wahlburg need I say more.
Located on the Strip between the Coca Cola store and MGM Grand Hotel (look for the giant cola bottle!) This boisterous Australian-themed chain serves steaks, seafood & other hearty steakhouse fare. The views of the Strip are absolutely incredible and the service is outstanding.
Las Vegas is vastly becoming the entertainment capital of the world and home to some of the most sought after and outstanding shows. Each hotel will host one (if not several) shows and I have listed below some of my most recommended shows and the accompanying hotel.
- Cirque du Soleil: Zumanity @ New York New York
- Cirque du Soleil: Mystère @ Treasure Island
- Cirque du Soleil: Kà @ MGM Grand
- Cirque du Soleil: Michael Jackson One @ Mandalay Bay
- Cirque du Soleil: The Beatles Love @ The Mirage
- Celine Dion – Celine @ Caesars Palace
- Britney Spears – Domination @ Park MGM [currently postponed]
- Lady Gaga – Enigma @ Park MGM
- Cher – Classic Cher @ Park MGM
- Criss Angel – Mindfreak @ Planet Hollywood
- Penn and Teller @ Rio
- Australia’s Thunder From Down Under @ Excalibur
- Magic Mike Live @ Hard Rock
- Chippendales @ Rio
To wrap up this blog post I have included some tips and tricks I have tested and tried and found to be extremely helpful. May I hope they serve you well also!
Once you check into your hotel you will need to pay resort fees for each night you are staying there. Due to the fact this is a local tax it is not included in the final price at the time of booking and can not be paid before checking in. Resort fees vary depending on the hotel and what type of room you are booked in but expect anywhere between $25 – $45 per night.
If in doubt the hotel website will have all of the information listed.
Room Upgrade at Check In
When you are checking into the hotel you need to provide your passport to confirm your age as there is an additional fee for anyone under 21 years old. This not relevant to my upgrade tip – between your passports have $20 neatly folded and you can expect a room upgrade. This is completely at the discretion of the hotel receptionist checking you in and depends on room availability but myself and Ricky have done it every time we check in and are always upgraded to a nicer room.
Nevada ID Law
In the state of Nevada you are required to present your ID when gambling or drinking. Regardless as to what age you are, how old you think you look or how mature you are. Be prepared to get nowhere near a blackjack table or an alcoholic beverage until you have provided some form of government issued photograph ID. This includes pool parties!
On the topic of pool parties… you have complimentary access to any of the pools within your hotel. However you will need to present your room card as proof you are a guest to avoid charges. If you decide to check out the pool at another hotel be prepared for charges. The price varies depending on the hotel but keep it in mind should the desert heat ever become too much.
As with the rest of United States tipping is a requirement wherever a service has been provided and is usually 15% of the total cost. Typical tipping services include the waiter or waitress at a restaurant, waitress serving drinks, barman if you ordered directly from the bar, taxi driver if you did not take an Uber, concierge, the casino host and dealer, tour guide and bellman.
For $20 you get a three day pass to use the Deuce and SDX bus which serves the Vegas Strip. This is so highly recommended and something I always do when in Vegas. The entire Strip is four miles long – please do not underestimate the amount of walking you will accumulate when exploring.
The Deuce serves North and South bound Strip while it is the SDX to look out for if you want to visit Fremont Street, The North (and) South Outlet Malls and the Fabulous Las Vegas Sign!
I hope you have found this helpful and be sure to put it to good use when you are first in Las Vegas – it is truly an incredible place and I wish you the best time. Should you have any further questions please let me know in the comment section below.