Yes, there are people who have never been to Las Vegas–or at least not in a while. With the plethora of great choices, every Las Vegas first-timer needs a guide to the best and brightest. Want to try the casinos, shows, and nightlife but don’t know where to start? Just walking down Las Vegas Boulevard the first time presents a lot of opportunities for intense experiences, and the first-time visitor may not always know where to turn.
Queerty compiled an easy user’s guide to making the most of your Las Vegas holiday…
1. The City
Las Vegas is basically divided into three areas: The Strip, Downtown, and surrounding city. The section of Las Vegas Blvd. with the largest casinos runs generally from Mandalay Bay at the southern end and to The Stratosphere at the northern end.
The big-name resorts are packed along the four miles of this strip, although a few popular spots (Rio, The Palms, Hard Rock) are a block or two back from Las Vegas Blvd. itself. This is the Las Vegas everyone has heard about: the dancing fountains of Bellagio, the High Roller observation wheel at The Linq, the Forum Shops at Caesars. Walking up and down Las Vegas Blvd. is an entire day’s activity all on its own, from window shopping and people watching to taking in the sights and architecture of the lavish hotels with neon lights ablaze.
Downtown is the classic side of the city, where bikers park their choppers in front of Hogs and Heifers Saloon and the hotels and casinos are still drenched with the glitz and glam of vintage Las Vegas. The Fremont Street Experience, a pedestrian mall lined with casinos and bars, runs through downtown beneath a metal canopy, which echoes the roar of the crowd and music from the free live entertainment. If you’re lucky, you may catch an Elvis impersonator, and don’t bother trying to pretend you don’t think he’s great, because they always are. Keep walking down Fremont, a little bit east, and the retro vibe gives way to a hipster wonderland: coffee houses, quirky shops, and eclectic cafes that have popped up in this new neighborhood, adding another side to the multifaceted Las Vegas identity.
Beyond the district, Las Vegas is a thriving metropolis, with a wonderful symphony orchestra, Whole Foods and all the amenities of urban life. It’s no wonder the local LGBTQ community thrives in Las Vegas, in part thanks to the many who moved here to work in the hotels, casinos and shows, in addition to enjoying the fabulous nightlife scene. These residents have created a vibrant community, and the city in turn has created a safe and friendly atmospher for all things LGBTQ both from the perspective of a resident and visitors. A cluster of gay bars known as The Fruit Loop sit a mile east of Mandalay Bay, but numerous popular bars and clubs dot the metro area. Here visitors can find a local guy to show you the city lights.
Las Vegas offers a stunning array of places to stay, from boutiques to some of the world’s most luxurious and magnificent hotels and resorts. The variety is so great it can be difficult to even know where to begin to look. So think about what category you want? Lounging by the hotel pool? A great spa? View? Bar & Restaurant? Close to The Strip? Many of course have all of these advantages and much more, composing their own private oasis, but think about the kind of experience you want before you start your hunt. Online reservations are a great place to start (try LasVegas.com, which is easy to navigate and lists all the options), but it never hurts to actually call a hotel once you have picked a favorite and get even more info on everything from rates to amenities. The reservation clerks are known for their knowledge and can suggest special events for your trip and rates, such as the discounts that come along with signing up for the casino Player’s Club. They can also recommend which rooms in the hotel are considered quiet, have the best views or have been updated most recently. Downtown hotels can be less expensive than hotels on The Strip. But you may not want to go to bed any earlier than you absolutely have to: Fremont Street parties til the wee hours of the morning, and you will likely not want to miss out on the fun–or at least witness it from the comfort of your view from your luxury abode. Room service can provide the rest of the celebration.
5. What To Eat
In recent years, the hotels of The Strip have filled up with celebrity chef restaurants, and fine dining has become an extraordinary experience. Most casino hotels are host to that Las Vegas legend, the buffet, where “all you can eat” is an art form. Gayot (pronounced Guy-oh, it’s not gay) ranked the Top 10 best buffets in the Las Vegas area, and made some very good choices. Budget travelers, fret not: many hotels also have food courts, the multitudes of shopping centers have counter service eateries, and even the most upscale resorts usually have a deli tucked away in a corner hidden from view, where sandwiches can be devoured for under $10. But don’t forget Downtown: Eggslut at the Cosmopolitan, 800 Degrees as SLS Las Vegas, Beach Café at Tropicana are fantastic.
6. What To See
Going to Las Vegas and not seeing a show is like going to the beach and not sticking your toes in the water. You will remember a lot of the performances for the rest of your life. The Las Vegas stage is as important to the city’s history as are casinos, and due to the lucrative funding and scale of production, the shows here are some of the best in the world. Cirque du Soliel® alone produces eight incredible shows, each with a unique identity and style but all featuring famed acrobats and contortionists. The various Vegas pop star residencies (Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Celine Dion, Ricky Martin, Elton John) to name just a recent few, are the best anywhere in the world.
To see the endless array of possibilities, check ticket options here.
Photos courtesy LasVegas.com