On many bucket lists, the reasons why you should learn how to plan a trip to Las Vegas at least once are as long as the city’s list of attractions. Really, if you’re honest, you’ll need to return several more times. What was once a mining town in the desert has swelled into a veritable adult playground with world-class everything (dining, shows, gambling, attractions and so much more). So help us get you to the Strip and onto the floor with our best tips on how to plan a trip to Las Vegas.
When To Visit
There really isn’t an unwelcome time to visit Vegas, but there are definitely better times to take advantage of. According to U.S. News and World Report, the optimal season is March to May and September through November, as these months feature the most moderate temps. In the summer, it gets hot. Hot as in 100-plus-degrees hot. But many visitors plan to stay inside the air conditioning or splash in the many luxurious hotel pools, so it just depends on how you can handle the heat. In winter, temperatures hover in the 50s and 60s (and if it’s minus-whatever-below where you’re from, it will feel downright balmy), but January and February are when the city plays host to some really large conventions, so be certain to check the schedule in advance. One way to become an expert on how to plan a trip to Las Vegas is knowing that year-round, hotels and flights will be more expensive on the weekends. So if you’re looking for a deal, travel midweek for a cheaper escape.
Just because it looks like the hotels on the Strip are close together does not mean they actually are a short walk apart. Like a certain hotel, that’s a desert mirage. If you don’t mind a hike, then you can hoof it, but make sure your shoes are comfy. Many of the hotels offer shuttles; taxis, too, are plentiful, and buses are easy to take. The Deuce is a transit bus that runs 24 hours a day on the Strip. You can also try the Las Vegas monorail to traverse those 4 miles in 15 minutes. There’s also a free tram ride that runs from the Excalibur to the Luxor to Mandalay Bay; it also includes the Monte Carlo, Crystal and Bellagio. It’s also easy to rent a car or bike… or grab a helicopter ride (but you can’t fly it yourself). If you’re planning more than one trip away from the Strip, renting a car is the way to go.
Best Things to Do in Las Vegas
Obviously, the first thing you should see in Las Vegas is the Strip, as the hotels here and their free attractions from the fountain shows at the Bellagio to the cafes at Paris Las Vegas are worth seeing. Some attractions aren’t free, however, including art galleries, roller coasters and more. The Fremont Street Experience, another free attraction by the downtown casinos, with its free light shows, is also a must-visit.
To understand the history of the city, head to the outdoor Neon Museum as well,
where all the old marquee signs go to die (actually, they have been preserved quite regally).
Besides gambling and hanging out at the hotel pool (most of them are pretty magnificent), you’ll want to take in one of the many shows. Cirque du Soleil
has been putting on spectacular spectacles in Vegas for 20-some years now, and each one is mind boggling, including KA, O and the Beatles’ LOVE, among others. If you want to be entertained by illusions with some comedic sass, then you’ve gotta see Penn and Teller too – one of the best shows in town.
Touring … Away from the Strip
Add it to your bucket list, and take a tour to the Grand Canyon while you’re in Sin City.In fact, make it a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas. Best of Vegas recommends many different tours, including helicopter tours, ATV Tours and plenty of others. There are also bus tours to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, Hummer tours of the Grand Canyon and even three-day tours of Brice Canyon, Grand Canyon and Zion national parks. Closer to town, take a tour of Red Rock Canyon or just grab a gondola ride at the Venetian.
Come REALLY Hungry
The food and wine scene is more than $3 steaks and waffles made to order. In fact, Las Vegas is home to the largest concentration of master sommeliers in the country (really), and the restaurant scene here is top-notch. Las Vegas has always been a steak town, but for something even more spectacular try Jose Andres Bazaar Meat, where meat in all of its glorious forms is celebrated.
If you’re more into sushi instead of steak, than it doesn’t get any better than Sushi Roku, a sushi pioneer that transforms the freshest fish flown in from around the globe into edible art. You can get a free cocktail while you’re sitting at the slots, but for a more rarified experience, head to The Tipsy Robot, where machine mixologists will mix your custom-programmed cosmo in under 90 seconds. Yardbird serves up great chicken and waffles, Jaleo serves up amazing tapas, and for other recommendations, check out this curated list at Thrillist.
Jeanette Hurt is the award-winning writer and author of eight culinary and
drink books, including The Cheeses of California: A Culinary Travel Guide, which received the 2010 Mark Twain Award for Best Travel Book, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine and Food Pairing. She's written for TheKitchn.com, Four Seasons Magazine, Wine Enthusiast, Entrepreneur.com, and dozens more publications.