Vegas is the number one weekend destination from Southern California, and it’s little wonder. A international tourist destination unlike any other, only a few hours drive away. And while we heartily recommend a trip to Las Vegas as one you won’t soon forget, there isn’t a destination where the saying “a fool and his money are easily parted” could be more pertinent. As such, we’re bringing our Tourist Traps you Should Get Caught In feature back with a few tips on how we did an epic three day weekend for two in Vegas, including a luxury on-strip hotel, a Cirque du Soleil show, a concert, and delicious meals and for slightly over $500.
1. When to Come
Any time! There isn’t a bad time to come, and don’t fear the heat as a 60 degree Casino floor is never more than about 100 yards away. If possible, we highly recommend a three-day itinerary just to avoid the legendary I-15 traffic to Las Vegas. Leaving on a Thursday afternoon allowed us to sail right into Vegas. Additionally, the three day itinerary opens up a lot more package deals with your hotels, giving you more for your money and turning a cramped two day trip into a three day holiday where time seems much more plentiful.
2. Where to Stay
One of the top priorities for our trip was seeing a Cirque du Soleil show. If you’d like to see any type of show, check out the package deals that are available with the host hotel. We got three nights at Treasure Island plus two tickets for Mystere in a package that was priced better than most three night hotel stays. If a show isn’t in your plans, or the show you’d like to see is at a very high-end hotel, give bidding on Priceline a try. Arrange your room early, room rates do go up just like airline tickets. And unless you have a very high budget for your trip, don’t waste any money on chasing a luxurious hotel room. Our standard room at TI was extremely luxurious and up to date. All of this said, we think it’s worth it to stay on the strip – having all of Vegas in walking distance is a huge part of the fun.
3. Where to Eat
Stop at a grocery store on the way into town. As Vegas is a place of excess, you simply couldn’t eat all your meals at the buffets and restaurants even if you did have bottomless pockets – there’s just too much good food. Grab any breakfast stuff you’d like, plus some other snacks (cheeses, breads, bars, chips and salsa, etc.) and you’ll be able to keep yourself satisfied in between any buffet or restaurant stops you do make.
Now for your meals out – choose carefully! It’s too easy to stumble into any old restaurant or buffet in Vegas. Wandering around and checking menus isn’t so practical as many good restaurants are buried in Casinos, so finding something you’ll really appreciate before you go out is advisable. Buffets can be good as well, but read reviews and plan ahead on this front as well. Stick to the Breakfast and Lunch buffets, rather than the Brunch and Dinner, to keep prices down. Most hotels give a 2-for-1 coupon at their buffet as well. As for restaurants, we had a lovely dinner on the patio at Mon Ami Gabi, with a view of the Bellagio fountains. An important tip: stick to water with your dinner. Why? The price to check out many cool spots in Vegas is the purchase of a drink, so rather than giving that money to the restaurant, go check out a cool sky lounge such as The Mandarin with your drink money after dinner.
4. What to Watch
Most who come to Vegas seek out some type of entertainment such as a Cirque du Soleil show, concert, or other type of show. You’re best off arranging this ahead of time, as ticket prices can be raised arbitrarily at the door, or space will simply be unavailable. Again, see the tip in the hotel section about combining your entertainment and hotel purchases for extra savings.
As previously mentioned, we saw Mystere for our Cirque du Soleil show. While one of the older and more straight forward shows, we found it impressive, funny at times, and well produced. In order to enjoy a club and get some dancing in, we also went to XS at Encore and enjoyed the DJ skills of deadmau5. If you’re going to a club, this is another thing to plan ahead for – we got in quickly due to having pre-sale tickets (and because my co-writer is very good looking!).
5. Where to Go
Walk the strip! No Vegas trip is complete without walking the strip and enjoying the mind-boggling reality of the countless thousand-room skyscrapers and hilarious people watching.
While most of the sights are fairly self-evident, I’d like to mention the Peppermill 24-Hour Restaurant/Lounge on the north strip as a slightly more off the beaten path but not to be missed destination, and locals favorite (one of the only 4+ star Yelp entries in the area). Once inside, you’re greeting by nothing but chrome, mirrors, neon, and fire pits – and delicious food and drinks for a bargain price on the strip.
Have even more time than the three days we did? Use one to get outside the strip/downtown, and check out the beauty of the land in this area. The Hoover Dam is very close by, the less adventurous can explore it by foot, or check out on via kayak like we did.
6. What To Gamble
You have a $1 budget. Use it wisely. There’s simply too much to see to spend anymore time/money than this!
7. When to Leave
We thought that three days of Vegas would be more than enough, but we weren’t ready to leave! That said, I’d recommend dragging yourself out of bed and hitting the road well before check-out time. Otherwise, you can easily spend 8+ hours making what should be a 5 hour drive back to SoCal. We experienced this traffic driving back from our Black Canyon kayaking trip and from Utah, and it is miserable.
With all those tips in store, get out and do Vegas right!