88: Vegas Faves & Observations
Howdy! I've been to Las Vegas twice now and was very impressed by the range of activities, food, and sites. So far, it's my favorite city I've visited in the USA. My husband and I don't gamble, so while we enjoy cutting through casinos, mostly to see the décor, we spent most of both trips outside of the hotels.
Favorite Restaurant: Andiamo Steakhouse
The food was delicious. The portions were big. The staff were very friendly. The prices, while not exactly affordable, were very fair for the quality of the food. I was impressed by everything, and my husband's steak was perfect, but I actually recommend the Gnocci Gorgonzola Con Punti. This place is right by Fremont St. but far from the strip.
Favorite Buffet: Bucchanal Buffet
It's in Ceasar's Palace and pricey, but the food is fantastic, and from all over the world. You want to book for reservation at least two weeks in advance. The farther out, the better. They are that popular.
Favorite Activity: Omega Mart
At first glance, I pegged Omega Mart as some sort of anti-consumerism art exhibit and didn't want to blow ~$50 checking it out. What appears to be a tiny artsy psuedo-grocery store is actually a massive adventure park, and a mystery for you to solve. The whole place is super fun. There are a lot of stairs and some crawling. There used to be slides, but they have blocked those off. While there are elevators, I don't think you'll have the same experience if you have a stroller or mobility impairments, unfortunately.
Fave place for Live Music: Fremont St.
Starting at 6pm, every night, there are live performances. The performers rotate, and there are three stages so if one band doesn't pique your fancy, head over to the next. Unlike at some of the bars on the strip, that have live music, you don't have to flash ID to listen to music out on the street. There is no cover charge. The bands take a short break every hour while the light show overhead flashes a music mash up of some big artist. There are tons of bars and restaurants nearby too, so you aren't limited to any one menu.
Fave show: Cirque du Soleil: Ka
The special effects alone, are worth it, though I found the story reasonably easy to follow, and the physical feats very impressive.
Along the way, we learned some lessons:
Expect odd fees and extra charges, like service charges when buying tickets, or extra charges if you want to access features of your resort beyond just your room, the mall, and the casinos. Zak Bagan's Haunted Museum wanted another, I think $40, for an extra part of the tour. That extension amounted to crawling through an unlit tunnel between rooms, lasting maybe thee minutes, and a visit to a basement that I believe included a mirror. So sometimes, those extra charges aren't even worth it. My trip to the Hoover Dam, that I booked online, cost an extra $5 per person the day of, for gas. Except, when I read that in the booking, and confirmed it with a woman from the company, both stated that I was to bring $5 in exact change, not $5 for every person in my party, so I was unprepared when the driver pulled up requesting $10. Luckily, he had change and broke our $20 bill.
If you want to eat on the strip, it's best to get a reservation first, usually through Open Table. The same goes for touring museums, exhibits, and checking out indoor activities, anywhere in the city. Pre-pandemic, I used to just walk in to a museum, buy tickets, and go about my visit. Unfortunately for me, museums and indoor activities have limits on how many folks they'll let in at a time, now. If you're booking for anywhere that's been on TV or is number one in a bunch of online listicles, book far in advance. I tried booking a buffet a week in advance and they had no times available for the four days I was in town.
Eating on the strip is far more expensive than eating off the strip, plus off the strip, waits aren't as long if you didn't make a reservation. Always check the menu before stepping up to the hostess. Prices can surprise you. If the prices aren't listed, that is intentional because they are absurd. Check google. There is probably information in the reviews regarding pricing.
Renting a car isn't worth the hassle, nor the parking expenses beyond the resorts, especially if you plan on drinking. It's best to just budget for Ubering or taking Lyft when you're going farther than you can walk (or you've got a reservation to get to).
When seeing a show, even though you bought tickets and seating is set, arrive early so you'll be amongst the first in. I've found that the lines get crazy and the show will not delay starting while folks are still being led inside.
Carry cash. Some of the tours have an extra charge for gas, that must be paid either over the phone, in advance, or in cash the day of. Also, I'm not aware of any means of tipping housekeeping other than in cash.
Don't wear a ton of eye makeup. If you have sensitive eyes, consider glasses as opposed to contacts for your trip. If you're asthmatic, bring your inhaler. Between the cigarette smoke and strong perfumes, etc, my eyes were red and irritated by the time I got back to my room each night. This isn't just limited to being inside the casinos. At night, walking outside on the strip, or on Fremont St, it seemed there were smokers every three feet.
Carry hand sanitizer. If you're planning on walking around, once you see the litter, folks urinating on walls, vomiting on the walkways, etc, you'll be glad you've got it. Easier than trying not to touch any of the hand rails or doors.
If you have very small kids, getting around without a car, will be difficult. The strip and Fremont St. are walkable, but depending on where you're going, you can expect a lot of escalators and stairs, but not as many elevators. This can be a hindrance if you've got a stroller, you're lugging around a car seat, or you have any mobility impairments. Honestly, if you're bringing a stroller or a car seat, you're better off renting a car than Ubering. In my limited experience, parking is free at the mega resorts on the strip, and I didn't see paid parking near Fremont St. A tour guide mentioned that parking on the strip costs $16+ but that wasn't the case at The Venetian, Caesar's Palace, The Strat, nor MGM in 2022, so unless something changed, I think he meant parking on the strip, outside of the casino's parking garages. If you have mobility impairments, the mega resorts have elevators inside, but your trek will be long and convoluted, trying to get from one resort to the next.
Wear comfortable shoes. I walked over 50 miles according to my pedometer, over the span of 4.5ish days. Sneakers are good. Inserts can be a help, too. I saw folks limping in heels, barefoot, carrying heels, and one lady in a very nice dress with heeled boots, pleading with her friend to go buy her some flip flops, anywhere. You don't want to have to choose between agony and going barefoot on the ground where you just saw somebody throw up.
Don't bring children. The mega resorts on the strip try to be kid friendly, and if you don't mind your child inhaling a shit-ton of second-hand smoke every time they pass a casino, they mostly succeed. However, outside is another story. Most of the show girls I saw, posing with tourists, were wearing the equivalent of bikinis with either feather headpieces or wings. Tame, right? Except some were wearing nipple pasties instead of bras, and some of the bikini bottom equivalents were borderline thongs. Also, the poses varied, and some included spanking. Do I think the United States is weirdly prude about nudity? Yes. But do you want your kids to see barely clad adults spanking each other out on the street? Also, Fremont St. does not have the family-friendly vibe of the mega resorts. There were dominatrixes whipping men out in the open, for cash. More power to them, but I wouldn't suggest bringing kids out to Fremont St.
Don't bring pets either. The strip is loud and crowded and covered in litter. The mega resorts off super tiny spots to relieve your pets, who will doubtless be bored all day, stuck in some hotel room. Hire a sitter or leave them with family/friends while you travel.
Do not record street performers (including folks in costume or show girls/Chippendale dancers), unless you plan to pay them. They will shout and/or curse after you because you did not pay them for a service they offer. I think this one is obvious to city dwellers but I saw people make this mistake so I'm including it.
Wake up early and take pictures at the sites. There is no line in front of the Vegas sign at sun rise, and the strip is basically empty until the malls start opening around 9-10am.
Be ware of your surroundings. At Fremont St. I spotted a guy walking by folks seating at the counter-bars, staring at men's back pockets. Maybe he was an ass-man, but I'm pretty sure he was looking for a wallet. If you've got a purse, keep it zipped, and I personally prefer cross body bags because it's harder to grab a purse that's looped diagonally over the chest, as opposed o just hanging off the shoulder. Don't have your wallet or phone in you back pocket. make sure your phone has a passcode or some other lock mechanism so if it's stolen or picked up, the finder can't access anything you have saved there.
Keep your politics to yourself when Ubering or using Lyft. Ride share companies don't do much vetting, and the last thing you want is to be trapped in a locked vehicle with somebody who has lost their temper.
The locals are very insistent about not drinking the tap water at the mega resorts. I was told I'd get a rash and stuff would grow on my hands. Water bottles are expensive though, so I drank tap water daily, on both trips, and haven't noticed any problems from it. I guess drink the tap water at your own risk?
If you gamble, set a hard limit both on how much you are willing to lose, and at what point to walk away when you are winning. You may be happy winning $200 and devastated when you lose the pot. I don't gamble so I might be off on the terminology, but you know your budget. Stick to it. And look around at those people staring at slot machines. Don't be mean about it but do they look happy? Because to me, the majority look strung out and miserable. You're on vacation. Go do something that makes you smile.
Honestly, I love cities, as much for the range of foreign cuisine, as for the activities. To me, a weekend at home is a weekend wasted. So I would thrive in a place like Vegas. However, as every single tour guide and Uber driver stated, Lake Mead is drying up. I visited the Hoover Dam and can personally confirm the water level appears low, and of the 6 turbines I was allowed to see, only 1 was running. Also, much like with every other fun city, too many people are coming too quickly, causing rent to sky rocket. The locals would prefer if folks stopped moving there, and seeing as the summers can technically get up to 125° (that's the record), maybe another city might be a better fit for most people. I know my dogs aren't allowed outside for longer than 10min, supervised, when in goes above 100.°
The strip was also too crowded for my dogs to have safely walked there, at least in the afternoon and at night.
Thanks for stopping by. I drop a new blog post every Monday. Toodles and happy travels!