Some people think that once you’ve been to a place, you should not waste your time and go back to that place, but should instead visit new places. Vegas doesn’t seem to have that effect on most people. People whom I’ve met say they like visiting Vegas as often as possible. It seems like almost an addiction for some.
For me, Vegas is more than just a destination. It’s memories made with new-found friends and a historical journey through the countercultures of our society. Yes, it’s a playground for adults where people without tattoos stand out in the crowd, where the “show” is all around you, and where glamour still exists on some levels.
I’ve been to Vegas over a dozen times. Each time I go, I’m surprised that I can still find things to do that I haven’t done, both on and off the strip. I’m always a bit mystified by changes made to the strip since my last trip. New casinos and hotels pop up while old classics are torn down to make way for progress. The large, empty sections of the strip will be bursting with construction vehicles and suddenly a new skyscraper appears. Here, nothing old is sacred.
On this trip, I stayed at the Mirage Casino and Hotel right in the center of the strip. As far as hotels go, it was very nice, clean, and our group loved its proximity to everything. Mirage is home to the Carnegie Deli, the Cirque du Soleil show “Beatles LOVE”, and one of the strip’s best free night shows, the volcano fountain. The fountain show starts every 15 minutes and lasts for 5, but it’s worth standing around and waiting to get a good spot along the street to feel the heat.
On our first night in Vegas, we kicked back and wandered around old town, the Fremont Street area. A quick ride on the Deuce, the public transportation service, gets you to Fremont Street. Notably the cheaper side of town, it’s also the side of town that still shines as the old desert oasis that was originally Vegas. In fact, in 1931, Fremont Street became the first paved road in Vegas, and the first street light was installed shortly there after.
Fremont was developed as a result of building the Hoover Dam power station and creating available water locations between the surrounding states’ cities. The struggle between the city and the dam workers was later called the Helldorado Days. With the construction of the dam came electricity which dubbed Fremont Street as the Glitter Gulch because its many lights spawned from the dam’s hydro power source.
To appreciate Vegas at night, you really must see the Hoover Dam by daylight. That’s just what we did. I had visited the dam in past trips to Vegas, but they have since been busy building the new highway bypass, parking garage, visiting center, and museum. It all seemed new to me again and I couldn’t believe that it was such a busy attraction for the region.
Although the Hoover Dam is important and interesting to some degree, it’s the lights and entertainment I am sure you’re more interested in. On the strip, there are dozens of show options, more than a few thousand places to eat, and tons of people-watching opportunities. So where do you start? We started by exploring each of the casinos around us: wandering Mandalay Bay’s tropical jungle-themed landscapes and touring the shark tanks; heading into New York New York to grab a bite to eat at one of several dining options or ride the coaster around the building; cruising around in a gondola at the Venetian; shopping in Caesar’s Palace; and checking out the new City Center, created to support the city’s staff and visitors.
So much to do, but never enough time. If you’re new to Vegas, here are a few quick tips and highlights you don’t want to miss.
Best Cirque Du Soleil Show: KA
KA is a must see! I’ve seen shows on Broadway as well as some other Cirque shows that were brilliant, but nothing compares to the amazing experience that is KA. Find half-price tickets to these shows and others at the big Coca Cola bottle the day before the show of your choice.
Best Animal Exhibits: Dolphins & Big Cats at the Mirage and Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay
Both of these exhibits show an amazing dedication to bringing new energy to preservation of the wild kingdom’s most beautiful creatures. There are hotel discounts and bundle deals for this and other Vegas attractions.
Top 3 FREE night Shows: Treasure Island, Mirage, Bellagio
Stand outside one of these three casino hotels just before a show and you can see just how popular they all are. My favorites are those seen outside Bellagio, Treasure Island, and Mirage. Mirage is number one in my book.
Best Bar Entertainment: Harrah’s or Circus Circus
There are good acrobatic shows at Circus Circus and you can watch the show from the upper level’s rotating carousel bar. At Harrah’s, the fun begins at the dueling piano bar where guest pianists try their hands at playing the best piano classics.
Best Casino Games: Roulette
My favorite way to gamble is roulette. I like it because I can sit and play for hours without breaking the bank. Maybe I’m just lucky, or maybe I just know how to play the odds, but there is quite a bit of strategy found in winning this game, and it seems if you play to the statistics you can walk away ahead. If you’ve never played this game, try it out. Find an empty table, ask the dealer for help and they will explain the rules and show you what each betting area represents. Another option is to try the digital variety. The ones in the Mirage were especially easy to use.
Best Pool: Tropicana
Hands down, the best pool is at the Tropicana. It’s designed to remind you of a tropical oasis in the desert and it does just that. There is even a tiki hut atop a waterfall where visitors can hold their wedding ceremonies. Here you can sip frozen drinks, bask in the sun, and enjoy a mini tropical vacation while in Vegas.
Best Gardens: Bellagio’s Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Each season, the Bellagio goes over and above to drastically alter the garden’s landscape and bring an added touch of amazing to the display. In their words, “Brilliance abounds inside our breathtaking Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. The attention to detail is astounding. The passionate display of nature in all its awe-evoking glory – quite simply, sensational!”
Best Eats: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Carnegie Deli at Mirage has the best breakfast and/or lunch, no contest! If you have never experienced the real New York City Carnegie Deli, here’s your chance to try it first hand. I’d recommend the Reuben for lunch and the eggs and hash for breakfast. $$$
Boulder Dam Brewing Co. located in Boulder City is easily accessible on the way to and from the Hoover Dam. Boulder City has a few iconic spots, but this is the one with great burgers, salads, sandwiches, beer, and service. $$
Dinners in Vegas can be difficult because you almost always need a reservation and they are always overpriced. I’m not a fan of buffets, so I’m not going to steer you that direction. My top choice is Michael Mina in the Bellagio. The entrance is inside the Botanical Gardens to the left of the buffet. They have incredible food and service as well as the best view for the fountain show. $$$$
For the cheaper side of things, head to Mickie Finnzs on Fremont Street where you can grab sliders, wings, and great burgers. That’s what fills their patrons’ bellies, but the live classic rock ‘n’ roll is why I’ve chosen this spot. $
I hope you have enjoyed this entry and find that this advice helps you to have the best Vegas vacation possible.
Thanks for all the visitor advice. It would be fun to go back to L.V. someday. One place that we ate while there was called Rosemary’s. It was located about 8 miles west of the strip. The best food I’ve ever eaten! About $35 – $40 & well worth it. It only seated maybe 30 people. We ate along a small bar that overlooked the chefs in the extremely busy kitchen. A real fun experience! Don’t know if it’s still there?