Table of Contents
- A FEW CASINO TIPS
- HOTEL RECOMMENDATION: THE BELLAGIO
- HOTEL RECOMMENDATION: THE WYNN & ENCORE
- DECADENT DINING: BEST PLACES TO EAT IN LAS VEGAS
- COCKTAILS IN VEGAS
- LAS VEGAS NEVADA ATTRACTIONS
When it’s time to scratch that gambling itch, there’s really no better place to go than Las Vegas, Nevada.
Because, even if you lose, there’s plenty of other attractions in Las Vegas to make you forget the pain of losing (even if it’s just for a little while). But, who knows? You may even win. And when you do, there’s nothing that quite matches that rush.
A FEW CASINO TIPS
- Sign up for a Player’s Card. I’m primarily an M Life casino player and it has definitely paid off. Of course, the quality of perks depend on how much you play and your average bet, so it might take a while to level up to the type of rewards and kickbacks you’re looking for, but my M Life rewards allowed me to take 2 free trips to the Bahamas, several free Caribbean cruises, plus room upgrades at participating hotels. Not to mention the bonus play in either chips or free play.
- Have a budget. Unless you have more money than you can spend in a lifetime, then I recommend some spectrum of a budget. Ask yourself: How much are you willing to lose and it not ruin your mood or your trip? Once you settle on a number, do your best to stick with it and pace yourself.
- Know the odds. If the only games you know how to play are slot machines, then I would suggest you also learn a game where the odds are more in your favor. I used to only play slots, and while I would win sometimes, overall I would net a loss. I decided to try a different tactic and teach myself Blackjack and Video Poker, both of which offer extremely favorable odds provided you know basic strategy for Blackjack and which hands to hold in Video Poker.
- Pay Attention to the Rules. Some table games do not offer the most favorable rules or payouts, so be aware what you’re getting into from the beginning before you sit down at a table (or stand at a craps table). A helpful site that I have used frequently to prep my strategy is TheWizardofOdds.com.
“Casinos … know that chips are a wonderful, pretty tool, and possess none of the stigma of dollars.
Dollars translate too easily into hours or houses or cars or sex or food or everything, and so losing a dollar is a much more tangible experience than parting with a chip, an object that looks more like a midway consolation token than a medium of exchange.” | Hunter S. Thompson
I’ve stayed at the Bellagio in Las Vegas four times now, and it has been a fantastic experience every time.
I never tire of seeing those powerful yet elegant fountains, hearing the piano music from the Petrossian Bar & Lounge, which is the merger hub between the Chihuly glass check-in area to the left and the pulsing blue and gold casino to the right.
While the Bellagio Spa Tower rooms offer surprisingly great views of the fountains and the strip, my recommendation is to stay in one of the penthouses if available.
Since the Bellagio is centrally located in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, it’s easy to explore other casinos and attractions to the right or left either by tram or on foot.
When you want to explore the opposite direction of the Las Vegas strip, the trams are not quite as accessible, but there are relatively wide sidewalks, pedestrian cross bridges, and escalators to assist your trek (although the escalators may or may not be working).
If you want to take a tram towards Sahara Ave, visit Vegas.com for more information on the tram system.
While I have never personally stayed at either of these sister resorts (I’m a Bellagio girl), I know people who have and loved both of them.
A walk through the garden-like pathways of the Wynn past the undulating Parasol Bar and cascading waterfall just outside the glass is enough to convince me to want to spend my next Vegas vacation there.
The Encore is saturated in sumptuous rich reds and is alluring in its own vibrant aspects.
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN LAS VEGAS
In the mood for Italian Tapas with a view? Then check out Lago by Julian Serrano, located fountain-side at the Bellagio. It’s a gorgeous spot with equally gorgeous cocktails.
Downsides to Lago? It is on the pricy side and gets really crowded.
The tables are also relatively close together and, due to the design of the space, can get a little loud.
Also, don’t order the Fusili. It looks and sounds great, but it tastes like Chef Boyardee.
Brunch & Early Lunch
Mon Ami Gabi at PARIS is not only a tasty spot for casual French dining but also a perfect place for people-watching on the Las Vegas Strip. If you can, try to snag a spot on the patio.
If you go during the cooler months, it can get breezy and chilly, but they provide several heaters that do a fairly remarkable job of heating the patio.
I’m a sucker for a savory crepe, so my go-to order is the Chicken & Mushroom with Kale & Brie (they are happy to make that crepe vegetarian for you as well).
If the Soup du Jour is a Creamy Potato & Leek: order it. It’s served with a large, crispy crouton with sour cream and chives layered on one end.
*Note: This restaurant is a small chain with 4 other locations in Illinois, Maryland, and Virginia. I usually try to locate “non-chain” restaurants, but I always make an exception for this one.
An Irish Pub
It has a relaxed, cozy yet sprawling atmosphere with excellent Guinness on tap as well as one of my personal faves, Murphy’s.
Also, if you’re looking for hard-to-get Irish whiskeys, like Midleton Very Rare, there’s a strong chance they carry it.
A majority of the staff are Irish, so those lilting voices lend authenticity to dining here. The menu is fairly extensive, offering everything from a Scotch Egg to traditional English Tea. Go hungry (or thirsty).
If you’re too full for dessert but craving something sweet, ask for a “Chocolate Cake Shot.” It’s half parts Vanilla Vodka and Frangelico with a sugar rim and a wedge of lemon.
Take a sip, then bite into the lemon, and for about 3 seconds, it tastes like you have just had a bite of chocolate cake.
Dinner in Las Vegas
Located inside ARIA, Javier’s is a romantic, candlelit authentic Mexican restaurant with a wide variety of traditional and creative margaritas and Mole Enchiladas that make my mouth water as I type this.
Javier’s is not afraid of spice either. They serve a trio of salsas that span the spectrum of heat to match any palate.
Dinner & Cocktails with a Vegas View
If you can arrange it, go for Happy Hour to SKYFALL. It’s offered daily from 5-7, with bar bites starting at $6 and cocktails starting at $12. No cover or reservations are required, although reservations can be helpful during crowded times.
From the menu, my cocktail recommendations include “Cowboy Hunting,” a concoction made with Thai Chili-Infused Elijah Craig Bourbon, Amaretto, and Lemon Juice.
For a less spicy option, sample the “Slow Motion” made with Vodka, Luxardo, Passionfruit, and Lime Juice. I also recommend the “Crop Top” crafted with Gin, Amaro, Grapefruit, and Lime Juice.
I have had hit-and-miss experiences with “restaurants with a view.” RIVEA, however, is definitely a hit.
The restaurant is both indoor and out, and we were lucky enough to be seated outside. While it was slightly chilly, the heaters offered enough warmth to battle the breeze.
Rather than order 2 large entrees, you can order 3 smaller sharing ones. I recommend the Asparagus and Ricotta Ravioli, the Paccheri Pasta, and most definitely, the Lobter Risotto.
If you’re tired of the uber-trendy hot spots and are ready for some traditional Italian in a traditional atmosphere that Sinatra and Dino would most likely approve of, The Bootlegger is the way to go.
It’s a bit of a drive to get there since it is located on the far end of the strip past the iconic “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign. The complimentary garlic bread balls and marinara are so good, you’ll be tempted to overdo it.
Save yourself for either the Bolognese or the Cheese Ravioli with “Rose” sauce. If those options don’t tempt you, the menu has a variety of additional options. If you have room for dessert, order the Italian Cream Cake. Lusciously decadent.
COCKTAILS IN VEGAS
The Chandelier Bar at The Cosmopolitan is one of the most visually unique bars I’ve ever experienced. A 3 story bar encased in a shimmering crystalline cascade of chandelier beads.
Each level offers a different vibe with my favorite being the second story where you can sample sophisticated, hand-crafted cocktails.
LAS VEGAS NEVADA ATTRACTIONS
I have a love-frustration relationship with magic. It both fascinates and confuses me. But, Mat Franco is pure fascination. (Not that I don’t want to know how he does those amazing magic tricks, of course, but I felt like a kid just enjoying being entertained.)
Franco’s Vegas magic show is housed in The Linq, and it’s a little hard to locate. Follow the signs to his show and look for the escalators that take you to the second floor where the entrance to the theatre is located. Or just ask.
Also, get reservations. He’s pretty popular, and there will most likely be a line to enter the theatre. Once seated, you can order drinks or even a bottle of champagne as you settle in to watch the magic for the next couple of hours.
And since we are on the topic, Matt Franco’s magic is absolutely jaw-dropping. (My jaw literally dropped on several occasions. I even knew it was dropping, and I just let it hang there, not caring.)
My favorite part was his sleight of hand with playing cards. Cards effortlessly flew from his hands, disappearing into the air in a shimmer of gold, and then later cascaded back to the stage.
Poetic, Mesmerizing, Beautiful, and most definitely–Magical….. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Every trick was an egg nested within another egg. I was entertained and amazed from start to finish. If you get a chance, go.
Here’s a question: Where would America be without the Mob? We would, for sure, be short quite a few movies plus a tv series or two. And (other than New York or Chicago) where else but Las Vegas, Nevada, to have a museum dedicated to crime and gangsters?
Located downtown just a block or two off Fremont Street is The Mob Museum, housed inside a restored former courthouse and post office circa 1933.
If you have the time, purchase the comprehensive package ($41.95/person), which includes the CSI Crime Scene Investigation and the “Use of Force” training experience combined with the regular museum access.
The “Use of Force” experience is located on the first floor adjacent to the gift shop. You will be asked to remove any metal that you are wearing along with purses or bags and place them in a safe.
Inside the first room, you are fitted with a police gun belt. A guide shows you how to hold and use the gun (not loaded, of course), and then you get to test whipping it from your holster and shooting at a target.
The training is one-on-one, so if you’re with another person, you will be separated after this point, and one of you will proceed to the next room where you are put into a particular scenario (via a responsive video screen) and based on what you see, you have to determine what to do in that situation.
Do you pull the gun and fire? Or do you talk the suspect down?
The next room presents you with a different scenario played out via a responsive video screen, and again, choices must be made.
The final scenario presents you with a real actor in the room that you interact with, and, in my case, there were two different interactions with the actor leading to quite different reactions and results.
To be honest, I was sweating more bullets than I was shooting. This experience pushed me out of my comfort zone, but not necessarily in a bad way.
The CSI Crime Lab experience is also located on the first floor and just around the corner from “Use of Force.” In this lab-like room, you get to test how fingerprinting works firsthand, learn how to identify bullet signatures to see if they were fired from the same gun, examine autopsy evidence to determine how a person died (some of which are based on real gangster examples and quite gruesome), and also provides a quick overview of DNA forensics.
A guide will help and answer your questions if necessary, but the experience is primarily self-guided.
If you’re just there to tour the mob museum, you will start at the top floor and work your way down to the first. The initial exhibit walks you through the early days of immigration and the formation of various gangs in America, then on to organized crime that became further developed with a little help from Prohibition.
Ultimately, you learn how the mob took over and shaped Las Vegas into what it is today. After you finish the top floor, there is a waiting area with a small concession bar where you can purchase a beverage or a snack before continuing the tour.
Fremont Street is where the ghosts of Las Vegas past party with the neon newcomers of the 21st century.
The stakes are low, and so are the ceilings at these casinos.
Cigarette smoke permeates every pore, and chances are you may be breathing in the leftover second-hand smoke of the Rat Pack.
Outside, Fremont Street is wide and allows for pedestrians only (and Michael Jackson dancers, of course). You never know what you’ll see there. You’ll most likely hear the driving beat of makeshift drums and see scantily clad people willing to bare basically all for a photo and a tip from you.
People fly above your head on the zipline that spans the distance of the street, and if you’re looking for a bite to eat, continue walking past the giant slot machine. The block beyond is now revitalized with top-rated restaurants and bars.
Las Vegas Shopping
So, maybe you hit the jackpot and want to spend it on something tangible; or, maybe gambling isn’t your cup of tea.
In any case, Las Vegas has a vast array of shopping hubs spanning from trinket shops to fine luxury goods. Below are listed the shopping areas worth visiting along with links to help you decide which hub suits your needs: