How long has it been since you’ve visited Las Vegas? If it’s been more than a blink of your eye, you won’t recognize it the next to you’re there!
I’ve learned to never expect the same Las Vegas that I remember. It’s a constantly evolving city that never sleeps! I know New York claims that distinction… but c’mon, you won’t see such drastic changes in NYC that you do in Las Vegas.
In Las Vegas, it’s Hotels down, followed by Hotels up. Six hotels have been imploded there in the last 10 years. And the newer hotels can hardly be classified as hotels… that term is to be reserved for other cities. So don’t expect the great “hotel bargains” and “free stuff” of the past. They disappeared with the $.99 dinners.
Las Vegas developers today, don’t build “hotels” anymore. They install mini-cities, mega-resorts, and the ultimate destinations! The new developments include: World-Class Chefs, Uber Spas, and amenities unheard of, or offered only to the super-rich not so long ago. Now, instead of the tacky diners and buffets, you are presented with the finest restaurants in the World, and the highest levels of entertainment. It’s a different Las Vegas!
However, there are some bargains to be found if you know where to look. Explore the older places. There, you’ll still find good deals on food. You can still get a $5 steak dinner at Ellis Island on Koval Lane.
One key to finding bargains is not where, but when! Don’t go at peak times. Visit in Mid-Summer for instance. You’ll need to take advantage of the AC everywhere, but the prices are lower then. Also, a good time to visit Las Vegas is during Christmas. It’s definitely an off-peak period. Don’t confuse that however with the following week; “New Years” the prices will be right back up during that period. Also, stay away during the larger conventions when Las Vegas is packed with convention attendees. During the Consumer Electronics Show in early January each year… the city is standing room only. If you don’t have to be there that week – Don’t! You should try to avoid weekends in Las Vegas too if you’re looking for a bargain. Mid-Week rates are lower.
Always plan in advance of your trip to Las Vegas. Do your research, or you’ll be overwhelmed and disappointed. All the best shows will be sold out; the restaurants will be accepting no more reservations. You must make your reservations and ticket purchases ($30 – $100+) at least 7 – 10 days before your trip. To help you, most reservation desks are open 24 hours every day!
If you plan well, you’ll be treated to gourmet meals prepared by celebrity chefs. The ubiquitous buffet is gone, (although, you’ll never find a better one than at the Aladdin); the 99¢ dinners are gone. But, as always, there is no time limit to enjoy the tasty treats of Las Vegas… If it’s 3am, you’ll find great restaurants are still serving! Let me mention two still-great bargains. Not only because of the low price, but because the steak dinners are very good at the steakhouses at the Imperial Palace, and at Circus, Circus. Try them, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the existence of remnants of the past meal deals of Las Vegas!
Did I say there are no more freebies? Not so, you can still be treated to great entertainment for free. You must see the outdoor attractions including the Volcano at the Mirage, Rio’s Masquerade Show in the Sky, and the Sirens of Treasure Island. For the cost of a drink or two, there are indoor entertainment venues that are free as well. The lounges in most Casinos have ongoing musical acts with no cover charge. Ask your concierge for a recommendation.
When you fly into Las Vegas, if you’re not fortunate enough to be met by your casino host or the hotel limo, you’ll most likely take a taxi to your hotel. Don’t let the driver take you by way of the Airport Tunnel… it’s longer by about $10.00. Tell the driver to go down Paradise Road instead.
If you’re heading for the south end of the strip (MGM Grand, Tropicana, New York, New York) you’re taxi charge should be $8 – $9. Mid Strip; $12 – $13, and north end of the strip; $14 – $15)
While we’re discussing taxis… it is illegal to hail a cab in Las Vegas. There are taxi stands and every hotel has taxi pick-up and drop-off areas. You must go to one of those. The drivers will ignore you standing in the middle of the street waving at them. Instead, get to a driveway, there, they can turn in, get out of traffic, and let you jump in. One more thing; don’t try to pay the driver with chips. They won’t take them, and they won’t take credit cards either. It’s a cash town outside of the casinos! In fact, chips are rarely used outside of the casino… for anything!
Here’s a great time saver… the Harrah’s Group will let you check in to one of their hotels… AT THE AIRPORT! Harrah’s, Caesars, Bally’s, Horseshoe, Flamingo, Imperial Palace, and Rio all offer this great service… take advantage of it!
Don’t ask for hotel amenities if you’re not registered there as a hotel guest. You’ll end up being embarrassed and worse! However, the Hard Rock Café opens their pool to everyone on Sundays (their Spa too – where you can get a massage inside or poolside for $85 – $155).
Las Vegas has become very famous for their nightlife… I’m not talking about gambling and shows… I’m referring to the nightclubs. At any one given time, you’ll find 25 of the World’s Best DJs spinning in Las Vegas. Word of caution though… don’t try to see them all! You’ll end up spending your entire evening in line – trying to get in. It’s best to reserve a spot for yourself and stay put! Especially on weekends (again) the lines are brutal! Get on the VIP list if you can (you must be well known or well connected). Tightest hours?… 10pm – 4am – Wed – Sat. Dress codes enforced. And guys… bring a girl (or more) or you’ll likely see ONLY the outside of the place – period!
If you drive to Las Vegas, or rent a car while there, always use Valet Parking… it’s free with a tip! And when trying to get your car, remember the peak times include immediately following the end of a show when the lines at VP are longest. For the downtown properties, use the parking garages, and get your ticket validated. You might want to rent a car to see the dam and Lake Meade. But other than that… there really is no need. I remember one of the last times I rented a car in Las Vegas. The agency delivered the car to me at the airport, it was a Cadillac with 4 miles on it! Yep only four! I drove it to Caesars Palace and unloaded it, had it parked, and when I turned it in to the agency 9 days later, it had 14 miles on it. What a waste! I tell you this to save you the money. It is not necessary to have a car in Las Vegas!
It gets windy in Las Vegas… and often without warning. It’s not important unless you’re at the top of the Stratosphere, or the Eiffel Tower. They both close down in high winds. If there’s a 25mph wind, the elevators in the ET move at half speed… at 35mph they evacuate the tower, and at 40mph, they shutdown. The winds also will cause cancellation of the “Sirens of Treasure Island”.
You simply cannot do “The Strip” from one end to the other by car. There’s so much traffic on Las Vegas Blvd that it makes it virtually impossible. Again, there is a peak time: 2p – 6:30pm.
Can you walk it? Hmmm, are you nuts? It’s 120 degrees out… I told you to come here mid-summer, but I also said to use the Air Conditioning everywhere! There are many alternatives to walking the strip. But for the little jogs between hotels, always use the crosswalks. You’re one of 30 Million visitors all heading to different places. The chaos is confusing and frightening – for you and for drivers! Always use the crossovers too. They are very convenient (most with elevators) and provide the fastest way to cross the busiest streets in America! By the way, if you “Jay-Walk” you’re risking your life and a fine of $150 – $250!
While you’re walking here, you can be drinking too! The “open container law” states that you can walk and drink ON the sidewalks, crosswalks, and crossovers… BUT, don’t throw empties, and don’t take that open container into a car… that’s illegal! A bus is OK!