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Las Vegas Tips & Travel Guide

Best Times to Visit Las Vegas

Las Vegas is thought of as a tourist destination. It is also the largest convention city in the world. This makes it tough to find inexpensive hotel rooms. There are certain times of the year that are better than others.

Conventions often create large variance in hotel rates between one resort and another. A large convention held at one casino can cause the rates for its hotel to skyrocket. This convention may not affect hotels that are a block or two away, depending on its size. Sometimes the answer to “Why are rates so high at this one casino?” can be answered by looking at the Las Vegas convention calendar.

There are conventions or other special events that will cause hotel prices across the city to skyrocket. Those are the times to avoid Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Special Events

New Year’s Eve
NCAA Bowl Games: New Year’s Day and various days early in January
Consumer Electronics Show: First full week in January
NFL Playoffs: All January weekends
Super Bowl: First or second weekend in February
NASCAR: First weekend in March
NCAA March Madness: Third week in March
National Finals Rodeo: First and second week of December
All holiday weekends

When is the Cheapest Time to Visit Las Vegas?

The cheapest time to visit Las Vegas is after the National Finals Rodeo leaves in the second week of December and before Christmas. There are no major conventions in town and many tourists are at home getting ready for the holidays or trying to save money to pay off those bills.

The next best time to visit Las Vegas is after July 4th and before Labor Day weekend. The extreme heat discourages many conventions from coming during that time of the year. Family summer vacations also make it hard to draw conventioneers.

Some hotels with large day club businesses may have higher rates. Downtown hotels and resorts off the Strip are the best places to visit during this time of the year.

The week before or after a holiday weekend is another great time to visit Las Vegas. Tourists will flood the Strip on holiday weekends but conventions tend to schedule away from them by at least a week. Consider visiting during the week before or after a major three day weekend to save money.

Save More than Hotel Costs

The hotel room is the most expensive part of a Las Vegas Strip, at least for those that do not gamble. There are other ways to save by visiting during off peak season. Resorts will often offer discounts on shows during down weeks. This is also when restaurants may put out a Groupon or other special offer.

Don’t Forget to Include the Resort Fee

All major Las Vegas hotels now have a resort fee. These include wireless internet and access to business and fitness centers. The resort fee is basically just a junk fee for services that are free at most other hotels. These start at $15 and run as high as $28 per night. Make sure to include it when comparing one property to another or when considering if a trip is within your budget.

Don’t Buy Hotel Room on Travel Sites if You Will Gamble

No matter how cheap it is, gamblers often make the mistake of buying hotel rooms on travel sites. This is a poor decision. No matter how much you play, the casino cannot comp a room if you bought it anywhere other than their website or through their call center. The travel sites are great for comparing rates, but it is always a good idea to buy the room directly through the hotel. The rates will often be identical.

Increase Your Odds by Avoiding These Vegas Casino Game Mistakes

Las Vegas is designed to separate you from your money. It does not have to be that way. There are plenty of ways to conserve cash on a trip to Las Vegas. There are also ways to squander it.

6-5 Blackjack

The worst invention on the Las Vegas Strip in the past decade was 6-5 blackjack. Casinos took a beatable house game and turned it into a carnival offering.

Paying 6-5 on a blackjack may not seem like a big deal, but it adds 1.39% to the house edge. A player can expect a blackjack about once every 20 hands. A $10 bet should get $15 on a natural blackjack. It only gets $12 in a 6-5 game. This is a difference of $15 per 100 hands.

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An average blackjack game will spread about 70 hands per hour. This means that a 6-5 game pays about $10 less per hour than a 3-2 one.

Double Zero Roulette

Another ripoff on the Las Vegas Strip is Double Zero Roulette. For some reason, casinos decided that a 2.7% edge with one zero on the roulette wheel was not enough. A second zero was added to most Las Vegas roulette games. This makes the house edge 5.26%. As if that is not bad enough, a bet that is not available on single zero felts is spread on double zero ones. It involves both zeros and the 1, 2, and 3. This has an edge of over 8%.

Players with a large bankroll that insist on playing roulette will find single zero wheels at several MGM Resorts properties. These include Aria, Bellagio, and Mirage. These MGM single zero games use European rules. This means that a player betting an even money wager – odd/even, high/low, or red/black – receives half of his bet back of the ball lands on zero.

Bad Craps Tables

Craps is always a great casino game, right? Not always. There are some bad craps rules on the Las Vegas Strip. Most casinos offer 3-4-5 times odds. This means that a player can bet three times odds on the 4 and 10, four times on the 5 and 9, and five times on the six and eight. These odds have no house edge. It pays 100% back to the player.

The house edge on a 3-4-5 times craps game is just .37%. If you stick to that, you will do just fine. The problem is the other bets offered on the table.

The Field is the second best bet on the table. The exception is at casinos operated by Caesars Entertainment.

The house edge on the Field is normally 2.8%. This doubles at Caesars properties because the Field only pays double on 12.

All casinos spread terrible house edges on hard ways. The hard 6 and 8 have a 9% edge, while the hard 4 and 10 have an 11% edge. The single-roll bets in the middle on the 2, 3, 11, and 12 are all 11% or worse. If you play craps, only bet on the line and come bets.

Bar Video Poker

All casinos offer bars where players receive free drinks with fast service while playing video poker. This seems like a great deal. Our advice: Not so fast.

There are some perfectly acceptable places to accept the house edge on bar video poker in exchange for great complimentary drink service. The Las Vegas Strip is not one of those places.

Most video poker at bars on the Las Vegas Strip has an edge of 3% or more. These bars require a player to wager at least $1 per hand for free drinks. Only betting $1, as opposed to $1.25, increases the house edge by an additional 1% or more, depending on the game. That is because the royal flush pays 800-1 when five coins are wagered and only 250-1 on fewer coins.

Bar Video Poker

Regardless, giving up four cents per hand may not seem like much, but it is. Players will lose nearly $1 per minute on a theoretical basis on these games. In most cases, it is cheaper just to pay cash for the drinks.

This is not the case at some downtown casinos. The Plaza and Main Street Station offer 99.5% video poker at the bar. At these and other establishments like it, giving action at video poker may be the better decision over paying cash for alcohol.

Slot Machines

Casinos make a bulk of their money from slot machines. These one-armed bandits have a traditional hold of 10% at the penny denomination. The edge progressively lessens at higher denominations. Even at $1 pulls, the house holds at least 5% of the wager on average.

One good policy for casino gambling is that games requiring zero skill have a higher house edge than those that require educated action by the player. Learn how to play video poker correctly and say goodbye to the slot machines. Even better, learn how to play blackjack or Ultimate Texas Hold’em using basic strategy. These table games will keep you in action far longer than slot machines.

Not Using a Players Card

Casinos issue players cards to customers. These programs create databases of players. Offers are mailed in response to the action given. Players are rated based on the amount wagered at slots, video poker, and table games.

Some players feel that this is an intrusive version of marketing. Failing to use these programs will cut into returns. The immediate cash back may be minimal. Most casinos pay .1-.3% of the total amount wagered. The serious rewards are issued in mailers that include free hotel, slot play, and meals. Failing to use a players card is a serious mistake if you ever intend on returning to the casino.

Beware of Resort Fees

Resort fees are a sore topic for many Las Vegas tourists. Most hotels advertise a low rate, only to stuff the bill with resort fees that can be over $40 per night. In some instances, the resort fee is higher than the rack rate for the room itself. Even worse, some Las Vegas hotels that charge resort fees offer little or no amenities to justify it in the first place. It’s little more than a hidden fee at these properties. On the other hand, most services that fall under amenities covered by the resort fee were previously free before the fee was added to hotel bills.

Where Las Vegas Resort Fees Started

Las Vegas resort fees started with Station Casinos in 2004. The company specializes in the Las Vegas locals’ market and owns some large resorts frequented by tourists, mostly from California. The original resort fee was between $15 and $25, depending on the property, with Green Valley Ranch being the highest. At the time, Station Casinos said that it covered amenities such as use of the spa, internet and shuttle service. The company claimed that it saw few complaints and, in some cases, saved customers money as bundling the services was cheaper than buying internet, a spa pass and riding the shuttle. Boyd Gaming launched resort fees at its locals’ properties after Station. It started at The Orleans, Gold Coast and Suncoast. The fees were very low at first, typically being no more than $5 or $10. MGM Resorts joined the resort fee bandwagon in 2008. These fees were in the $15-$25 range at the time, and varied depending on the property. MGM resort fees now approach $40 at most properties. Caesars Entertainment decided to stay on the traditional pricing model until 2013. That is when it added a resort fee to the bills. This helped keep it competitive in travel search engines where Caesars Entertainment’s rack rates were higher in some cases because its competitors hid a resort fee from the advertised price. Like the other hotels, Caesars Entertainment noted that this gave it a way to bundle all of the fees instead of charging for services a la carte. The Las Vegas Sun noted at the time that 88 percent of those polled on the Strip did not use resort fees as a reason for picking a hotel.

Major Las Vegas Properties Without Resort Fees

At this time, Casino Royale’s Best Western is the last casino on the Las Vegas Strip that does not have a resort fee and Four Queens is the only casino in downtown Las Vegas that does not have one. Most of the major hotel chains that do not have a casino have also resisted the temptation to charge a resort fee. This includes Marriott, Wyndham, Red Roof Inn, Royal Resort and Travelodge. The Lucky Club, a budget hotel with a casino in North Las Vegas, also does not have a resort fee.

Downtown Holdouts Start Charging Resort Fees in 2018

Three well-known downtown Las Vegas casinos joined the majority by starting to charge resort fees on April 15, 2018. That is when California, Fremont and Main Street Station started charging $15 per day. This is essentially what it was charging for parking and internet use. Now it is automatically placed onto the bill, regardless of whether a guest uses these services. This leaves Four Queens as the only property in downtown Las Vegas without a resort fee.

Evolution of Resort Fees

Resort fees started out being relatively low, generally falling in the $15 to $25 range. As we mentioned earlier, the first resort fees introduced by Boyd Gaming were only around $5 to start. With that said, Las Vegas resorts and casinos decided to raise resort fees several times since the concept was implemented.

Las Vegas Resort Fee Increases in 2018

As of July 2018, 46 Las Vegas hotels increased their resort fees, according to data from Las Vegas Jaunt. We also found several more that are not mentioned on their 2018 list. The numbers below do not include the 12% tax rate for casinos in the Las Vegas city limits or the 13% for ones in unincorporated Clark County. Mandarin Oriental: $39 to $45 Palazzo: $39 to $45 Venetian: $39 to $45 Aria: $35 to $39 Bellagio: $35 to $39 Encore: $35 to $39 Mandarin Oriental: $35 to $39 Wynn: $35 to $39 Vdara: $35 to $39 Caesars Palace: $32 to $39 Four Seasons: $32 to $39 Nobu: $32 to $39 The Cromwell: $32 to $37 Paris: $32 to $37 Planet Hollywood: $32 to $37 Delano: $32 to $35 MGM Grand: $32 to $35 Signature at MGM Grand: $32 to $35 Mirage: $32 to $35 Treasure Island: $32 to $35 Cosmopolitan: $30 to $35 Mandalay Bay: $30 to $35 New York New York: $30 to $35 Park at MGM: $30 to $35 Bally’s: $29 to $35 Flamingo: $29 to $35 Harrah’s: $29 to $35 Linq: $29 to $35 Tropicana: $29 to $35 Trump: $29 to $35 Green Valley Ranch: $26 to $35 Red Rock Resort: $26 to $35 Westgate: $28 to $34 Circus Circus: $24 to $32 Hard Rock Casino: $25 to $31 Rio and Stratosphere: $25 to $30 Golden Nugget: $25 to $29.50 Hooters: $20 to $29 Tuscany: $24 to $28 Downtown Grand: $20 to $23 Plaza: $18 to $22 Palace Station: $15 to $22 Gold Coast and Suncoast: $16 to $21 Silver Sevens: $15 to $21 South Point: $15 to $21 The Orleans: $13 to $21 Aliante and Sam’s Town: $13 to $20 Ellis Island: $13 to $18 Arizona Charlie’s Decatur: $7.50 to $16 Arizona Charlie’s Boulder: $7.50 to $10 El Cortez: $11 to $15 Cannery and Eastside Cannery: $5 to $9.50 California: $0 to $15 Fremont: $0 to $15 Main Street Station: $0 to $15

Las Vegas Resort Fee Increases in 2017

Fewer casinos raised their resort fees in 2017 when compared to 2018. Venetian: $35 to $39 Palazzo: $35 to $39 Aria: $32 to $35 Bellagio: $32 to $35 Vdara: $32 to $35 Mandarin Oriental: $32 to $35 Delano: $30 to $32 Mandalay Bay: $30 to $32 MGM Grand: $30 to $32 Mirage: $30 to $32 Treasure Island: $30 to $32 Excalibur: $26 to $29 Luxor: $26 to $29 Tropicana: $25 to $29 Bally’s: $18 to $25 Flamingo: $18 to $25 Harrah’s: $18 to $25 Rio: $18 to $25 Stratosphere: $21 to $25 Circus Circus: $21 to $24 Aliante Casino: $13 to $20 M Resort: $0 to $20 Silverton: $13 to $17 El Cortez: $9 to $11 Cannery and Eastside Cannery: $0 to $5 Arizona Charlie’s Decatur: $0 to $7.50 Boulder: $0 to $7.50

Las Vegas Resort Fee Increases in 2016

Resort fee increases were not as common before 2017. However, we found several that occurred in 2016. They include: Aria: $29 to $32 Bellagio: $29 to $32 Caesars Palace: $29 to $32 Cromwell: $29 to $32 Four Seasons: $29 to $32 Mandarin Oriental: $29 to $32 Palazzo: $29 to $32 Paris: $29 to $32 Planet Hollywood: $29 to $32 Vdara: $29 to $32 Venetian: $29 to $32 MGM Grand and Signature at MGM: $29 to $30 Monte Carlo (now Park MGM): $25 to $30 New York New York: $25 to $30 Westgate: $22 to $28 Excalibur: $20 to $26 Golden Nugget: $20 to $25 Tuscany: $17 to $24 Hooters: $14 to $20 Plaza: $15 to $18 Silver Sevens: $10 to $15

Las Vegas Resort Fee Increases in 2015

There were even fewer resort fee increases in 2015. With the help of Las Vegas Jaunt, we compiled the increases from that year: Cosmopolitan: $25 to $30 Aria: $25 to $29 Bellagio: $25 to $29 Caesars Palace: $25 to $29 Mandalay Bay: $25 to $29 MGM Grand: $25 to $29 Paris: $25 to $29 Planet Hollywood: $25 to $29 Wynn: $25 to $29 Encore: $25 to $29 Bally’s: $20 to $25 Linq: $20 to $25 Monte Carlo (now Park MGM): $20 to $25 New York New York: $20 to $25 Tropicana: $20 to $25 Flamingo: $18 to $25 Harrah’s: $18 to $25 Rio: $18 to $25 Excalibur: $15 to $20 Unfortunately, there is not enough data to generate useful numbers for resort fee increases before 2015. However, many Las Vegas hotels either did not have resort fees in 2014 or had just started increasing the original amount for it.

How to Get Out of Paying Las Vegas Resort Fees

Most hotels will not waive a resort fee. The argument is that it covers amenities that are open to all guests and it is not fair to give a discount to some for these property features and not others. In some cases, travelers have reported complaining loudly enough that the resort waived the fees However, these fees are typically disclosed at the time of room reservation on the hotel’s website or search engines which makes it difficult to claim ignorance when hit with the resort fees on your final bill. There are ways to get out of paying the resort fee without having to complain about it. Certain properties advertise special mid-week rates that do not include a resort fee, and some may also waive parking fees at the same time. Higher volume gamblers will usually receive comped hotel rooms, and the resort fee is generally waived for rooms that have been comped by the casino. Caesars Entertainment is the one exception; only Total Rewards members who are Diamond or Seven Stars players will have their resort fee waived on a free hotel room. One way to achieve a higher tier without gambling is to receive one of the casino company’s credit cards. Tier points are earned on all purchases, so this can be enough to clear the threshold to get out of resort fees. Another idea is the Founders Card, which gives Caesars Entertainment customers automatic Diamond level in Total Rewards. Of course, you can always just stay at a hotel that does not charge a resort fee. These generally will not have a casino and may also have limited amenities.

What Do Resort Fees Cover?

The resort fee that customers pay at a casino covers several amenities on the hotel’s property. These features can vary significantly from one resort to another. Some hotels offer little more than free internet access, while others have a large resort experience to accommodate its guests. Phone calls and internet access are usually included in all resort fees. The list below shows the resort fee and additional benefits of it.

What Resort Fee Covers at Las Vegas Hotels

Aliante Casino ($20): Coffee maker, daily newspaper, concierge services, fitness center, two bottles of water and valet parking Aria ($39): Fitness center, daily newspaper and business center access Arizona Charlie’s Boulder ($10) and Decatur ($16): Boarding pass printing service Bally’s ($35): Fitness center and pool access Boulder Station ($20): Local newspaper, business center, fitness center and pool access Caesars Palace ($39): Fitness center access California ($15): Self-parking, boarding pass printing and shuttle to Sam’s Town Cannery ($9.50): Fitness and pool access, as well as boarding pass printing, fax and coffee services Circus Circus ($32): Coupon book, fitness center and boarding pass printing Cosmopolitan ($35): Fitness center and tennis court access Cromwell ($37): Fitness center Delano ($37): Fitness and business center access Downtown Grand ($26): Bottle water, coffee, coupon book, pool and free self and valet parking Eastside Cannery ($15): Fitness center, business center, pool and coffee El Cortez ($15): Airport shuttle, fitness center and pool Ellis Island ($20): Pool, business center, breakfast and coffee Encore ($39): Fitness center and business services Fiesta Henderson ($16): Newspaper and business center Fiesta Rancho ($16): Nothing above typical internet and phone services Flamingo ($35): Fitness center and pool Four Seasons ($39): Fitness center, shoe shine and coffee Fremont ($15): Self-parking, business center and Sam’s Town shuttle Gold Coast ($21): Fitness center, pool, coffee, Strip shuttle and business center access Golden Gate ($25): Show ticket discounts and fitness center Golden Nugget ($29.50): Coupon book, pool, fitness center, parking, newspaper and business center services Green Valley Ranch ($39): Fitness center, pool, show shine, newspaper, airport and Las Vegas Strip shuttle Hard Rock ($33): Strip shuttle, fitness center, newspaper and business services Harrah’s ($35): Pool and fitness center Hooters ($35): Water, pool and fitness center Linq ($35): Pool and fitness center Luxor ($35): Pool and fitness center M Resort ($25): Newspaper and shuttle service Mandalay Bay ($37): Fitness and business center Mandarin Oriental ($45): Shoe shine, business center, coffee and tea service MGM Grand ($37): Fitness center, newspaper and pool Mirage ($37): Fitness center, newspaper and pool New York New York ($37): Fitness center and pool Orleans ($21): Fitness center, business center and shuttle to Strip and related properties Palace Station ($30): Pool, business center and fitness center Palazzo ($45): Pool, fitness center and business center Palms ($32): Fitness and business center access Paris ($37): Pool, fitness and business center access Park MGM, formerly Monte Carlo ($37): Fitness and business center access Planet Hollywood ($37): Fitness and business center access Plaza ($22): Fitness center, business center, bottles of water, pool and airport shuttle Red Rock Resort ($39): Fitness center, business center, pool, shoe shine and shuttle Rio ($32): Pool and fitness center Sam’s Town ($20): Business services, pool and shuttle to Las Vegas Strip and California Casino in downtown Las Vegas Santa Fe Station ($20): Fitness center, daily coffee, pool and free game of bowling Silver Sevens ($21): Shuttle to Las Vegas Strip and airport and business center SLS Las Vegas ($32): Fitness center and pool South Point ($21): Coupon book, fitness center and business services Stratosphere ($33): Coupon book redeemable on property, fitness center and pool Suncoast ($21): Coupon book, shuttle, fitness center and coffee in room Sunset Station ($22): Fitness center and coupons for property The D ($25): Fitness center and show ticket discounts Treasure Island ($37): Coupon book, fitness center, business services and pool Tuscany ($28): Pool, fitness center and coffee Vdara ($39): Fitness center, business services, pool and water bottles Venetian ($45): Newspaper, property discounts, pool, fitness center and business services Westgate ($34): Fitness center Wynn ($39): Fitness center and business services

 

Vegas Casinos – Local vs The Strip

There are two distinct gaming markets in Las Vegas. One is the tourist corridor. This consists of the Las Vegas Strip and downtown around the Fremont Street Experience. The other is the locals market. These include some resorts that are near the Strip that appeal equally to locals and tourists. Most locals casinos in Las Vegas are unknown to tourists.

These locals casinos have many advantages to the Las Vegas Strip. This is especially true for tourists looking to take a Las Vegas vacation on a budget.

Locals Casinos Offer Best Hotel Rates

The hotel prices at locals casinos are the first noticeable difference. These are discovered long before arriving in Las Vegas. Hotel prices at off-strip casinos tend to be at least half what Strip resorts charge and are often cheaper than the least expensive options available downtown, especially on weekends.

Best Casino Games

The casino games at locals casinos will appeal to most tourists in town to gamble. The minimum bet for table games is always $5 at locals joints. You will rarely find 6-5 blackjack at these casinos because locals have too many options to put up with that. Off strip blackjack always allows double down after splitting on double deck and shoe games. Many offer surrender and the ability to resplit aces.

Craps rules are also favorable over the Strip. Instead of the typical 3-4-5 times odds on the Las Vegas Strip, locals casinos will offer 10 or 20 times. The field bet always pays triple on 12.
The locals players clubs are far more generous than the Strip. It is common to receive .3% cash back on slot and video poker play. Comps for free meals and hotel rooms are easy to obtain. A $25 table game player will be treated like he owns the place at most locals casinos. Mailers will often include food and free play vouchers. This level of play will often earn a VIP host.

Video poker pay tables are substantially better at locals casinos in Las Vegas. Nearly all spread full pay Jacks or Better. Almost all games at $.25 denominations and higher return at least 99 percent. All Station Casino properties have video poker machines that spread 100% and higher returns with perfect play and five coins wagered.

Las Vegas Strip casinos typically offer terrible video poker returns. The comp rate on video poker is often .1% or less in cash. Some downtown casinos offer better video. It is often on old coin devices that play much slower than modern ticket games.

Las Vegas Locals Dining

Dining is another segment where locals casinos beats Las Vegas Strip resorts for most visitors. While the Strip offers some of the finest restaurants in the world, the prices are outrageous compared to the locals market. Off-strip casinos offer more affordable options. Most have food courts with a variety of quick serve options. These locals casinos tend to also have one high end restaurant with competitive pricing.

Locals Casinos Not For Everyone

There are some advantages to Las Vegas Strip resorts. The high concentration of luxury properties in one area provides an experience that cannot be had anywhere else. High end restaurants, nightclubs, and lounges line the Las Vegas Strip. There are also attractions that include the Bellagio Fountain and the Eiffel Tower.

High volume table game players will find better blackjack games on the Strip. Most high limit blackjack stands on all 17s. Baccarat limits can be well over $10,000. Luxurious high limit salons await these players with host waiting on their every need.

Downtown Las Vegas has its own advantages. It is the Las Vegas version of Bourbon Street. It is one large street party with live music, dancers, street performers and low priced alcohol. At the very least, Las Vegas tourists should visit Fremont Street for a night, even if they decide to stay elsewhere.

The gambling downtown is closer in quality to locals casinos, including the 10 times craps odds spread at Main Street Station. The best video poker machine in the world is located at The D. This Loose Deuces Wild returns 101.6 percent. It is only available in the $.05 denomination on an old school coin machine.

Top Vegas Attractions – Things to Do Besides Gamble

A common misconception about Las Vegas is that it’s all about the gambling. It’s true you can gamble day and night at all the dozens of casinos, the airport, even the gas stations, and supermarkets. However, the unique and exotic entertainment that Las Vegas offers goes well beyond gambling. There is something here for just about everyone. I have been living in this town for almost 9 years, so here is a list of 10 of the most appealing attractions and shows worth checking out in Las Vegas in no particular order:

Cirque Du Soleil

Before I get into why Cirque Du Soleil is worth checking out, here is the name of each show and where they are playing:

“O” – The Bellagio
“KA” – MGM Grand
“Mystere” – Treasure Island
“Zumanity” – New York-New York, note that this show is part burlesque
“The Beatles LOVE” – The Mirage
“Michael Jackson ONE” – Mandalay Bay

Each Cirque Du Soleil show has some type of theme throughout it. Some of the themes are revealed in the title of the show. Regardless of what each show is about, you really can’t go wrong with seeing any one of them. They are all so mesmerizing and visually stunning that when you walk out you almost feel like you don’t really understand what you just saw. Throughout each show, there is so much constantly happening on the stage all at once. It is a massive blend of all kinds of circus stunts and tricks. There is music being played during the entirety of each show. At times because it is difficult to watch everything at the same time as there is so much to take in, you may find yourself watching one or two activities more specifically.

The cast of each show has several dozen performers and while some are a bit more featured than others, they are all spectacular. It is like nothing you have ever seen before. After they’re over you think about how you walk around every day and almost nobody is even remotely capable of pulling off even a small version of what some of the countless number of acrobatic and athletic stunts that you just saw. That’s what makes it so captivating. Your world goes from knowing nobody who can do these movements, and now suddenly everyone you were looking at could all do them, and none of the tricks were alike. The shows are original, unique, and essentially never take their foot off the gas start to finish. These shows give a most powerful experience. Its magnificence is unforgettable, while at the same time if you were to see one of these shows again, you would be surprised at how much you forgot. That’s how much brilliance is being performed simultaneously.

The Titanic Exhibit

Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition can be found at The Luxor hotel. The movie “Titanic” from 1997 was one of the most smashing successful hits at the box office. If you were taken by the story of how this gigantic palatial ship sunk, you will certainly find the museum to be quite gripping. When the RMS Titanic sunk on April 15, 1912 it was to forever be known as one of the most tragic, yet amazing events in American history. The supposed unsinkable ship which went down in the Atlantic Ocean during its maiden voyage to New York and left many artifacts behind. It is remarkable to see we recovered as many objects from the wreckage as we did. You will see all kinds of kitchenware and luggage. Floor tiles and ship whistles, even a bottle of champagne that never was, nor will be opened. In a way the whole thing is horrifying. You feel your emotions stir as you try to grasp what the many victims aboard this ship went through.

As you tour the museum it’s designed to simulate like you are riding the ship yourself. You walk through carefully recreated rooms that were shared by the first class and third class passengers. The famous Grand Staircase has also been recreated. This gives you a better sense of how beautiful it all was. The accompanied classical music you hear throughout this part of the tour leaves you with a very eerie feeling. You remember that this excitement and beauty is what all the passengers were experiencing. But hearing the enjoyable music also reminds you that none of these people knew what was about to happen.

Throughout the tour there are quotes from those who survived and from those who sensed something was wrong before anything even went wrong. The bow that had the view of the oncoming iceberg has also been recreated. Getting to see what would make the ship’s demise from the same vantage point that the crew did just before collision also leaves you with a haunting feeling. You come across a complete list of all the crew members and passengers that survived and perished. You see who rode in each 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class.

Perhaps the most stunning part of the exhibit comes at the very end when you get to “The Big Piece.” Among all the many small items aboard the ship, only one piece of the actual ship has been hoisted from the ocean floor. In addition to being able to see this large piece, it is also shown where exactly it was located on the ship. After understanding that, it helps one to further understand how huge the Titanic was. The Big Piece is overwhelming to look at in person, yet the picture of it on the ship makes it into a dot.

You won’t find these artifacts anywhere else. It’s a bit ironic that artifacts from the most devastating and famous shipwreck are now on display in the middle of the dessert, nevertheless, the Titanic exhibit completely takes you away and provides you with an unforgettable, emotional close look at one of the most infamous nights in American history.

The Mob Museum

The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, more simply known as The Mob Museum opened recently in 2012. It is located in downtown Las Vegas right near Fremont Street, and is the most comprehensive mafia museum there is. It is one of the most fascinating places to visit, especially if you are a mafia buff.

Three stories high, I spent 3 hours in there during my first visit and it felt like I rushed. That’s how much history and artifacts they have gathered. There are tons of photos of many of the most notorious old time mobsters. There are many photos depicting what life was like during this time and other exhibits displaying the mob’s heavy control over prostitution, gambling, and drugs. There is also a specific wall with photos of all the actors that portrayed famous gangsters in movies or T.V. series. It almost feels like you’re inside a hall of fame, only it’s for the country’s most infamous. Many of the artifacts are hands on, making the experience seem all the more realistic. There are videos that cycle old anonymous interviews with former mobsters. The wire-tapping section, where visitors may listen to old recordings of gangsters discussing plans with one another is perhaps the most astonishing portion of the entire museum. No other segment allows you to come all but face to face with these charismatic yet ruthless criminals.

Las Vegas is definitely a fitting place to have such a museum, seeing as it was the mob that originally built Las Vegas, and presided over it for so many years. It is a bit unnerving to look at some of the dozens of the old photos of famous gangsters at the scene which they were killed. You see the actual corpses and their blood. It is an emotional museum to go through, looking at all the artifacts of old guns, quotes from gangsters and those trying to apprehend them. Even the blood-stained wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago remains intact and on display.

It is a great place to spend an afternoon if you’re looking to slow down the constant fast pace of Vegas and look closely at some of the brutality that used to occupy so much power in this country, and the constant uphill battle of those trying to fight it.

David Copperfield

There are several mind numbering magicians in Vegas like Penn & Teller and Mac King just to name a couple, but none I feel can outdo the unbelievability of David Copperfield. Nothing to do with the fact he is also the most commercially successful magician, Copperfield is simply a genius. If you love magic and only have time to see one show, this needs to be it. Every one of his tricks could be the finale of another magician. You see a lot of magicians where you didn’t necessarily feel like you knew what the illusion was. Even if you really had no idea, just the fact that maybe you think you did is enough to take some of the excitement away. Well, that’s not likely to happen with Copperfield. It gives you the feeling like your reality has just been completely altered. You know what you saw just happen right in front of you. You know everyone else saw it. Except it makes no sense. You really don’t know what you just saw. I left the theater in a state of utter flabbergast.

With his dry humor and how fast he talks sometimes, he makes a spectacle of himself I have never seen before. You can really see how his intelligence is on another level incomprehensible to most people. His presentation is all business. There are no flashy show girls to serve aesthetically. The show doesn’t need anything to make it better. The illusions themselves carry the show all by itself. Even if you are somebody who is bored by magic, this show will befuddle you. It doesn’t matter that you never lose sight of the fact that what you just perceived wasn’t really there. This is more than just a magic show. It serves as a reminder that anything is possible. I can’t emphasize enough that this is a show you have to see if you can. It will blow your doors of reality and common logic completely off.

Real Bodies

Not to bring anyone back to school while they’re in Vegas, but Real Bodies located only at Bally’s provides an incredible look at the human body and teaches us how the body works from the inside out. It isn’t science class. It’s an artistically creative presentation of our functional reality. They quite simply take something that is real (your body), and show it to you. The complicated part is the miraculous process of Polymer Preservation that is used to keep the bodies from decaying. Each gallery features real human bodies on display along with hundreds of organs. It’s the sort of thing you have to see for yourself to believe. The bodies are a bit shocking to look at, but I wouldn’t describe as graphic. Most of the bodies come from China, donated by those who wish to give themselves, literally, to science.

The bodies are displayed doing all kinds of different things like dancing or throwing a ball. This adds a lot of life to the exhibit as we see what the inside our body looks like as we do those kinds of activities. It is visually stunning, and the fact that the bodies are in unique poses adds so much more to the experience than if they were just standing upright. You get a close look at what your intestines look like and the respiratory system. A pair of healthy lungs can be seen along with those of a smoker. They even have a sample of what actual lung cancer looks like. The more you see, the deeper you understand just how deep the processes of your bodily functions go. When we walk around and feel normal, we remain aware of all the activities that are needed just for something as simple as that to happen. There is so much happening, and having this experience brings that awareness to light. It took me by surprise.

There are approximately 20 bodies inside the exhibit, and if you are somebody that has a passion for studying science and/or the human body, this will serve as one of the most memorable parts of your Vegas experience. Even if this isn’t something that particularly grabs you, it will once you come face to face with these preciously preserved and maintained human bodies. That’s what happened to me. This breakthrough is simply miraculous. Nothing else I’ve seen has provided me with such a close look at any and every part of the body, how it functions, and how it all makes us the species we are.

The Bellagio Fountains

They say it is the best free show in Vegas and for good reason. The fountain show takes place right on the strip directly in front of the main entrance to the hotel. It is only about 5 minutes long, and depending on the time of day, this show could run as frequently as every 15 or 30 minutes. There is always music being played in the background during each show. It is a wonderful sight to see the fountains shoot high, loud, and in unison, dancing together letting you know that you are definitely in Las Vegas. A simple 5 minute fountain show doesn’t sound like it should be that amazing to watch, but considering what you get out of those 5 minutes, you can’t help but stop and watch. 

People are always hanging out on the strip in front of the hotel waiting for this little gift to take off. If you’re walking along the strip and are going past the Bellagio, you too ought to stop and take a look to see for yourself what this 5 minute craze is all about. There is something about it that is just very gripping and can give you chills. It is a lot of fun to watch day or night from any hotel room on the strip. It is relaxing and will bring joy to your heart. However long you are in town, making a point to see the Bellagio fountains will easily help you understand why they are so famous. And you’ll always look forward to watching them again when you come back.

Red Rock Canyon

I’ve met and seen a lot of people who couldn’t handle Vegas anymore after a certain point. They are having too crazy of a time. It is obviously their own fault and not Vegas’, but the point is if you’re coming to Vegas for a few days, it might be worth it to take a timeout one afternoon and go out to Red Rock Canyon. Once you get to Vegas, no matter what your intent is, to some extent the volume gets turned up all the way and doesn’t come down until you leave. That’s one benefit to going to Red Rock. You take some time to recharge and regroup, and feel fresher for when you go back to the strip. You might get more out of the remaining days on your trip than if you stayed there the whole time.

You obviously must leave the strip to go to Red Rock Canyon, but it is only 15 miles west. The red rocks and many different hikes there are beautiful. Of the many views there are, some of them you can easily see the entire strip. It’s amazing to be on these hikes and realize how close you are to all the madness you just came from.

Whether you live in Vegas or are just visiting, the relieving feeling of getting away is felt even more when you go to Red Rock because of what you are getting away from. Vegas is such a different place. It’s known for being so crazy yet has the total opposite place you can go to right nearby. Red Rock serves as the perfect complement to Vegas in that regard. You can turn the volume all the way up whenever you want, and then back all the way down.

You can come to Vegas and essentially get the best of both worlds by going as crazy as you need to on the strip (assuming you want to) and get out into peaceful nature. Or if you’re just looking to do everything on the strip except party, you will certainly enjoy Red Rock as an optimal vacation during your vacation.

The Stratosphere

If you are traveling with kids, or if you just like to go on mind twisting rides, head over to the Stratosphere. Located on the northern side of the strip, the Stratosphere is a fun place to be inside of. Before you think about the rides, the observation tower stands at 1,149 feet. That is good enough for tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States. Complete with a 360 degree view of the city, it’s an excellent view of a city that is remarkable to look at from any vantage point.

There are 4 rides you can go on. They are all short and sweet, providing exhilarating thrills from a perfectly safe optical illusion. First there is the Big Shot, which launches you straight up to a height of 1,049 feet and you feel weightless as the ride retreats before being launched again. The entire ride is only about 30 seconds and that could definitely sound like a waste, but there’s no other jolt quite like that one. Kids would certainly enjoy.

The Insanity ride holds you 68 feet out over the strip. You spin around in circles as the ride slowly tilts your seat forward so that you are looking straight down at the ground as you continue to spin.

The X Scream is the closest thing to a roller coaster. In the previous rides, you are safely strapped in familiarly to other roller coasters, but they are not cars lined up on a track. The X Scream has 4 cars lined up on a very short track that also functions as a lever. The lever goes up and down at abrupt and unpredictable intervals while the cars zoom back and forth on it and at times to make it look like you are about to zoom right off the track, off the Stratosphere, and straight into the ground.

Lastly, its most recent addition, the SkyJump. If you’ve ever wanted to safely jump off of a high rise building, now you have a chance. The SkyJump is known to provide a controlled free fall, in which the jumper travels down 855 feet up to 40 mph. The jumper rides a vertical zipline that starts from the 108th floor. The ride is estimated to take about 18 seconds I imagine it would feel quite longer than that.

Fremont Street Experience

It wouldn’t feel right going through a list of things to do in Las Vegas without mentioning the Fremont Street Experience, which could be had 24/7 in downtown Las Vegas. When you go downtown you’ll immediately notice the vibe has completely changed. Downtown just has a much rawer feeling to it. It’s not something you can really understand before you’ve done it. If you are staying on the strip that’s good. I think you’ll be able to take in the difference of downtown more by going there second.

Part of the rawness comes from the people watching. Vegas comes in all shapes and sizes. The wealthiest and most beautiful stand side by side with the most down and out. Vegas is very transient. Many homeless people pass through there, most which have some type of drug and/or gambling problem. A lot of them tend to gravitate towards downtown.

For some people the strip is too fake and glitzy. That too many people are stuck up and trying to be a spectacle. They would rather have the original and that’s what downtown is. Cheaper gambling and cheaper drinking. If you weigh 350lb. or more you can eat for free at the Heart Attack Grille. If you keep walking till you get out of the canopy you’ll reach Container Park, a recently built park that has all kinds of interesting places to have desert and each other munchies. It has a playground and kind of a boutique feeling to it as well.

The canopy stretches a distance over Fremont Street, and at night is the light show which goes on every hour. Also underneath the canopy you can zipline all the way down Fremont Street side by side with somebody else. Live music goes very often and you can always count on seeing some of the quirkiest street performers you’ve ever seen.

The Golden Nugget has renovated its facility and is looking extremely high class while still maintaining its old school character. Across the street from there is Binion’s, the place that made poker famous, which features the wall of all the champions to have captured The World Series of Poker Main Event title, along with every member inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.

It’s a much different experience downtown. It has the loud carnival feel to it, while still giving off the same charm it’s always been known for.

Exotics Racing

If you continue past downtown and continue a relatively short distance up north, you will hit Speedway Blvd., which is the home to Exotics Racing. Up there you may select from a wide variety of top of the line luxury sports cars and let it rip on the track. Start to finish you get around 10 minutes of driving in, and you will be supervised with one of their staff members in the passenger seat.

The cars to choose from are Lamborghini, Porsche, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Audi, Acura, Corvette, McLaren, Mercedes, and Nissan. Before you hit the road you take a short class on safety. Here you learn what the route of the track looks like, and you are briefed on what specific rules of the road you need to follow. It is certainly a good idea to pay attention to this. After the briefing is complete, you going around on the track first as the passenger. You do 2 laps around the course, and after that, the wheel is all yours. In case you are worried about racing around a danger track, it should be made clear that the track is very basic for amateurs. Part of the appeal is the fact you’ll be able to drive well upwards of 100mph. This would not only be too dangerous but it wouldn’t even satisfy one’s need for speed. If you remember that old racing game on PlayStation called Gran Turismo (the only version I ever played) the track you drive on is identical to the simplest course in the video game.

It’s a thrilling experience to drive such a beautiful fast piece of luxury. You are equipped with a helmet, and there are never that many cars on the track at once. Just make sure to listen to the instructor at all times and it’ll be a great rush.

Even though you have to go a way’s from the strip, getting to rip, or even just drive a super baller sports luxury car for a little bit fits right in with the beat of Las Vegas. A lot of people are already riding a high of some kind the moment they land in Vegas. There is an adrenaline pumping the whole time, and converting that adrenaline into a need for speed gives one an awesome euphoria.

Vegas Transportation

About half of Las Vegas tourists arrive by air. This starts their vacation or business trip at McCarran International Airport. There are several ways to get from the airport to the hotels.

Taking a Taxi Cab from the Las Vegas Airport

Most people decide that a taxi is the best way to leave the airport. This can often start a trip with a ripoff.

Many taxi drivers will ask tourists immediately upon getting into the car, “Have you ever been to Las Vegas?” The answer should always be, “Yes”. The driver is trying to figure out if he can rip you off by taking you on a long trip through the tunnel. This is the southern entrance to the airport that can add $10 to a taxi fare because a driver basically takes his customer around in a circle.

If this ever happens to you, call the Taxi Authority immediately. A simple threat will generally make the taxi driver comp the ride.

There is one fee that cannot be avoided. The cab must tack on $2 for all pickups at the airport. This goes directly to the airport authority. One fee that can be avoided is the $3 surcharge for using a credit card. Make sure to always carry cash if you plan on using taxis.

Current Las Vegas Taxi Rates

$3.45 pickup
$.22 per 1/13 of a mile
$32.40 per hour wait time
$.20 per mile fuel charge

The fees listed above do not include driver gratuity.

Limo Pickup at Airport

A limousine is the perfect option for those that wish to arrive in style. The driver will meet guests at the bottom of the escalators with a sign showing the name of the passenger. A Sedan starts at about $60. A standard limo is about $80. Stretch limos and SUVs will run over $100. Expect to pay more if your flight is late. The rate may already include a tip so make sure to ask.

Airport Shuttle

Airport shuttles operate 24 hours a day. Rates are generally $7 one way and $13 round trip for the Strip. Downtown and resorts off the Strip are $9 one way and $17 round trip. These are good options for one or two travelers. Large groups are better off taking a cab and in some cases even a limo.

Some casinos located in the locals market offer free airport shuttles. Check with the hotel before your trip to find out if your hotel offers this service and when it arrives.

Renting a Car

Las Vegas is one of the cheapest places to rent a car. Small cars can be rented for $25 or $30 a day. This includes taxes. There is no reason to look for better rates away from the airport. They are usually identical with the base rate higher to offset the airport taxes that are absent.

Visitors that rent a car should exit the west door at baggage claim. There is a free shuttle that goes directly to the McCarran Car Rental Center. It is located about one mile from the airport.

Getting Around Town

Once you have managed to get to your hotel room, it is time to take in the sights. There are several options for getting from one place to another.

The Las Vegas Strip is much larger than new visitors may think. Walking farther than two casinos can become quite exhausting, especially in the summer months when it is over 100 degrees well into the night.

Taxis

There is a taxi stand at the main entrance of every casino. Large ones will have multiple places to catch a taxi. The rates are the same when picking up at a casino as they are at the airport with the exception of the $2 airport pickup fee. Las Vegas taxis cannot pick up anyone on the side of the road. Riders must catch them at designated areas.

Casino Shuttles

Off Strip casinos run free shuttles. Preference is always given to guests. Players with higher tiered casino cards will receive priority over all others. Luggage is never allowed on these shuttles.

Rio has a shuttle that runs between it, Harrah’s, and Bally’s. These run every half hour from 10am to 1am.

Palms offers a shuttle between it and the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace every half hour between 11am and 8pm.

Sam’s Town offers several shuttles. It connects with Fremont and California in the downtown district. It also has a route that goes to Harrah’s on the Strip. These run from 9am to 9pm daily and pick up every half hour.

There is a shuttle that runs from The Orleans, Gold Coast, and The Cromwell on the Las Vegas Strip every 30 minutes from 9am to 12:30am daily. The Cromwell is located on the northeast corner of Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard.

Several Station Casinos properties offer airport and Las Vegas Strip shuttles. These run from 10am to 11pm. Hotels that are serviced include Red Rock, Palace Station and Green Valley Ranch.

Buses

There are two forms of buses available to tourists. The Deuce runs 24 hours a day between the Strip and downtown. It stops at all hotels. Prices are $6 for two hours and $8 for a 24 hour pass. These must be purchased at kiosks at the bus stops. There is an express bus that runs from 9am until midnight that connects certain stops with downtown.

Las Vegas Monorail

The Las Vegas Monorail runs along the east side of the Las Vegas Strip. It has seven stops:

SLS Las Vegas
Westgate Hotel (formerly LVH and Las Vegas Hilton)
Las Vegas Convention Center
Harrah’s/The Linq
Flamingo
Bally’s/Paris Las Vegas
MGM Grand

Las Vegas Monorail Rates

Single Ride: $5
24 hour pass: $12
Two day pass: $22
Three day pass: $28
Four day pass: $36
Five day pass: $43
Seven day pass: $56

Locals may receive a roundtrip pass for $2 onetime per day. The tickets must be purchased at the Las Vegas Monorail offices at MGM Grand or SLS Las Vegas.

Kiosks accept cash and credit cards. Cash customers will receive change in $1 coins.

Uber

Uber is currently running in Las Vegas. The app is available in iPhone and Android stores. Uber does not pick up on the Strip or at the airport, though it does drop off in those restricted areas. It is based mainly in the residential areas and downtown.