Las Vegas is a top U.S. destination, receiving as many as 3.6 million visitors per year. However, Sin City has moved above and beyond mere gambling and cabaret shows. Here’s what you can see and do in the Vegas of the 21st century, without ever having to leave the Strip.
Las Vegas is not called Sin City for no reason. However, “what happens in Vegas” is evolving, as casino hotels and resorts step up their game to meet the entertainment cravings of millennials, who are less keen on gambling. Likewise, new attractions for the “experiential traveler” are popping up, whether you prefer adrenaline-pumping activities or a refined culinary adventure.
While the Strip itself isn’t a very large area, it offers a plethora of options within one small, walkable space. Plus, it’s located mere minutes from the airport, making Las Vegas a temptingly convenient getaway.
A leader in convention and event hosting, with more AAA Five Diamond hotels than any other city, Las Vegas calls itself the Entertainment Capital of the World. However, it has not always been this way.
Vegas is a relatively new city. It wasn’t settled until 1905, and the glitz and glam the city is now known for didn’t develop until the 1940s. At first, huge amounts of money were poured into the Strip, with casinos, lavish hotels and big-time shows catering to high rollers. It was The Place to go for celebrities, like a mini-Hollywood with more gambling.
As years passed, attention was directed toward other parts of Las Vegas, including Fremont Street in the 90s and Downtown Las Vegas in the early 2010s, with new restaurants, museums and more expanding Las Vegas’s appeal. Now, there are several different neighborhoods, all close together, that you can experience while in Vegas. If you’ve never been before, though, you’ll certainly want to start with the Strip.
Festivals & Events
Conferences, events and festivals are big business in Las Vegas. So much so that, last year, nearly half a million Vegas visitors were in town for an event of some kind. A large number of venues are switching things up to provide more unique spaces for visitors to converge, such as the Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas pictured above.
Some of the city’s top festivals and events are the Electric Daisy Carnival (held Memorial Day weekend and possibly the largest EDM festival in the country); World Series of Poker (June–July, attracting approximately 7,000 players); and Life is Beautiful (Vegas’s version of Coachella, held each September).
If you’re looking to plan your Vegas trip around a holiday, there’s no better time than Halloween, when the festivities are top-notch and the costume parties are fittingly over the top.
Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas (3960 South Las Vegas Blvd.) prides itself on being on the Strip, but also somewhat removed from the hubbub. Situated on the very edge, it’s only accessible via a private, tree-lined drive, or through a small series of hallways within the Mandalay Bay property. The two hotels’ partnership gives guests the ultra-luxury comforts and refinement of the Four Seasons brand, while also convenient access to gambling, shopping, shows, extensive pools and more at the Mandalay Bay. It’s the perfect solution for travelers who want supreme relaxation during the day (the hotel just remodeled its beautiful spa!) and a party vibe at night.
Speaking of, the Mandalay Bay (3950 South Las Vegas Blvd.) provides the typical casino resort experience, with hundreds of guestrooms to choose from, its own shopping mall, endless dining options, an on-site aquarium and a selection of shows. The main attraction, though, is Mandalay Bay Beach, named one of the best pools in the U.S. by Trip Advisor. Bob on a raft in the massive wave pool or relax on the real-sand beach. Better yet, go all out and book a cabana, daybed or bungalow to party in style, with a VIP reprieve from the scorching Vegas sun.
The Park MGM (3770 South Las Vegas Blvd.) is a brand-new hotel that’s still putting on the finishing touches. The guestrooms are highly design-centric, and the social spaces are superb. A small, intimate theater features big-name acts like Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars. World-class dining is served in sophisticated spaces, such as an outpost of the Chicago-known Bavette’s Steakhouse & Bar and the whimsical Juniper Cocktail Lounge. The location, right next-door to T-Mobile arena, is perfect for sightseeing.
Restaurants & Bars
Like many Vegas hotspots, Brooklyn Bowl (3545 Las Vegas Blvd.) pulls double duty as an event venue and a great place to hang out, catch some live music and even challenge your friends to some bowling. The atmosphere is hip and eclectic, as are many of the musical acts that show up here. The menu is filled with hit-the-spot selections like an array of sliders, sloppy joes and fried chicken platters. Wash it all down with a frosty beer.
A newer restaurant, but an absolute must for fans of the hit TV show, Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen (3570 South Las Vegas Blvd.) serves dishes like those you’ve seen your favorite contestants prepare. Think Beef Wellington and sticky toffee pudding. While you won’t see Ramsay himself giving some poor amateur chef an earful, the staff does do its best to mimic a noisy, open kitchen environment like you’d see on the show.
Just steps off the Strip (and you’ll soon learn that’s an important component — some restaurants require tons of walking, once you traverse an entire casino to find them) Bond (Level 1, The Boulevard Tower, 3708 South Las Vegas Blvd.) is a super-chic bar located within The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. The upscale theming is pink, glittery and very Vegas. The small space looks out onto the Strip, so you can grab your drink and people watch, feeling the beats blasted by a live DJ. The small selection of cocktails changes seasonally, but expect inventive concoctions like the Bridget Jones, with mango vodka, mango puree, basil, lemon, Champagne and Thai chili ginger syrup.
Another newer hotel property is Aria, which offers great shopping along with delectable dining. A top pick is Bardot Brasserie (3730 South Las Vegas Blvd.), a little French-inspired place that works for both casual and more upscale dining. Enjoy classic French favorites, like seared foie gras and escargot, or branch out and see what French comfort food is all about.
Only in Vegas for a few days? Check out a different kind of dining experience, with Lip Smacking Foodie Tours. This tour provider is a step above your normal culinary experience, providing VIP dining experiences to discerning guests. Enjoy five restaurant stops in one night, seeing the best of the best across the Strip, with menus specifically created for you alongside craft cocktails. Whether you’re joining a tour as a single or a group, you’ll leave having made new friends and tasted the top-tier Vegas bites.
Shopping and Las Vegas go hand-in-hand. After all, you need somewhere to spend all that hard-earned gambling money. The Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace (3500 South Las Vegas Blvd.) are well-known and worth the hype. Even if you’re not ready to pull out your wallet for the high-end brands that line the manufactured Roman streets (from Louis Vuitton to Gucci), you’ll still enjoy the theming that’s been so thoroughly integrated into the space.
If the weather is nice, the LINQ Promenade (3545 South Las Vegas Blvd.) is a newer shopping option, with lots to choose from. Worm your way through the crowds and become part of the hustle and bustle as you browse the various unique shops, restaurants and bars. The picturesque shopping area also includes the High Roller Ferris wheel, which quickly became an iconic Las Vegas attraction when it opened several years ago.
The Shops at Crystals (3720 South Las Vegas Blvd.) is another spot for all-luxury shopping, with a traditional mall feel. Notable names include Balenciaga, Bvlgari, Christian Louboutin, Dior and more. Get here in a flash when you take the complimentary tram from the Bellagio Las Vegas, Vdara Hotel & Spa, Aria Resort 7 Casino or Park MGM.
Similar to the Forum Shops, the Grand Canal Shoppes (3377 South Las Vegas Blvd.) at the Venetian Las Vegas provide an atmosphere that’s just as good as the shopping itself. The famous canals wind their way through more than 150 stores. Hop on a gondola and window shop for a truly unforgettable experience.