Getting Out: Las Vegas

If you’ve been reading my blog for any time at all, you’ll know that I usually aim for under-the-radar, hip stuff to do when I’m traveling. My interest level in going to the Galco Soda Stop, for example, is greater than my desire to see the Hollywood sign. You will never hear me advocating that you visit a restaurant with locations in more than one county.

That said: Get over it.

Not pictured: sequined minidress, six inch heels.

Not pictured: sequined minidress, six inch heels.

The point of Las Vegas is that it is corny, it is over-the-top, it is terrible, it is bright and loud and dingdingdingdingding. Embrace it, and do what you’re there to do. Eat well, drink too much, lose some money you had to lose, and take in some shows. After the jump, I’ve got some suggestions.

I don’t have a ton of great photos from this trip. It’s exceptionally hard to take photos of neon lights, as it turns out, and they really don’t like you to take photos in some places in the city.

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We had a free weekend in a hotel thanks to some odd connection, so we stayed at Harrah’s. My mom likes the Wynn because she is extra fancy, my cousin says the Bellagio is the way to go but offers no real reason why, and so on and so on. Everyone has an opinion on this front, but it’s really all about the same. It’s noisy no matter what, but the Strip hotels are clean. Plus you probably aren’t going to even see the inside of your room. If you want to save some cash and meet locals, it looks like AirBnB has offerings in the $80 range. You don’t really need a car– the Strip is maybe 1.5 miles long end-to-end and you can get a cab if you want to go the 2 or 3 miles to downtown. If you do get a car, don’t drink and drive. I feel like I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but you know, um, vacation makes a fool of people. Lastly, we were only in the Capital of Second Chances for about 18 hours, but we made the most of it. Unfortunately, I can’t first-hand vouch for more. Here and here are good guides for if you have way more time to kill.

That’s out of the way, so without further ado:

Shop:

I didn’t shop much in Las Vegas, but I did a copious amount of window shopping. There are more beautiful things to look at than there are hours in the day, so here’s a rough guide.

  • The Shoppes at Caesar’s Forum. I liked these the most. First of all, the statues come alive and do a creepy show in the fountain every so often, so that’s perfect. Second, there are a few affordable places like Pin Up Girl which has a ton of great rockabilly dresses I could reasonably purchase without selling my car. I also wandered around Agent Provocateur for an unhealthy amount of time.
  • The Grande Canal Shoppes of the Venetian. Again, really expensive things you probably won’t buy, but there’s a haberdashery that I loved and you can distract yourself with the neon blue canals and the gondolas which are somehow even weirder than they are in Venice.
  • The Shoppes at Mandalay Bay. This one is also expensive, but there’s a nice bookstore called the Reading Room which was the only place in Las Vegas I saw another brunette, I think.

Eat:

This is a food person’s town for sure. We ate more than probably was advisable in an effort to really get it, but you can’t miss for the most part.

  • Bouchon. Excellent breakfast, and open at 7. If you’re really pinched for time, head to the Bouchon Bakery to get a taste of Keller to go. I recommend the French toast and cinnamon buns especially.
  • Chin Chin. Great pan-Asian with an extensive menu. They deliver. That’s what you need to know.
  • e. This is on my hit list as soon as I get back to LV, which I hope is ASAP. I want to eat all the appetizers. Fair warning, this is a really, really tough table to get, so be advised.
  • Bonnano’s Pizza. This is not the best pizza I’ve ever had, but it is quite good, and it’s open until forever o’clock. Sometimes that’s the only thing you need out of your pizza.
  • Joel Robuchon. Food is good and blah blah blah blah blah blah blah there’s a candy cart.
  • Rao’s. A 300-table version of the 5 table New York mobster hangout. The meatballs? Perfect and the size of a toddler’s head. The lemon chicken whatever? Excellent. The pasta with peas? Very good. Honestly, I would have settled for just the bread basket.
  • Lotus of Siam. Allegedly, this off-the-Strip Thai place is the best Thai in North America. I hope to put it to the test on my next visit. If you get there first, let me know.

Do: 

I was surprised how many free or cheap things there were to do in Las Vegas. As I said many times, if you wanted to travel but had cash for just one ticket, you could see New York and Paris and any number of other places in just a few blocks. If you aren’t a drinker or gambler, there’s still much to do.

  • See a show. We saw a Cirque du Soleil production, which I recommend, though I would happily have seen the Coco show (heyyyy girlllll), the Donny and Marie trainwreck, or…God help me…Rod Stewart. This can get super pricey, but if you check StubHub, ask your concierge, use Groupon, or are active duty military, you’ll be fine. You didn’t come here to save cash.
  • The Bellagio Museum of Fine Art. It’s $11 and amazing. They had a great Andy Warhol exhibit when I was there, but I’ve been told it’s great no matter what. You need to get a modicum of high culture in, okay? Being in Las Vegas is like watching reality TV for too long.
  • The Neon Museum. We didn’t get to this, but it looks really visually stunning. You must must must plan ahead and make reservations (no exceptions), but the photos you bring back are worth it.
  • Red Rock National Park. This is on the way out of town, and really showcases the natural beauty of the American West. After all the fake boobs, you’ll be glad to see some natural beauty.
  • The National Atomic Testing Museum. Okay, okay, this is my one hipster campy kitsch allotment. I can’t help myself.
  • The Bellagio Fountains. I also saw Ocean’s Eleven, alright? This is pretty, and they go off every 15 minutes. It stops at midnight, so make sure you plan accordingly.
  • Lose some money playing the slots and some black jack. Take $50 and blow it. It feels kind of good, and this is what you came for.
  • The Mob Museum. By the people who brought you the Spy Museum, the Mob Museum is an infotainment setup that is actually pretty grounded in facts. Allow yourself about 2 hours, and check out the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre wall and all that. Coupons for this place abound.
  • Wander up and down the Strip, agog at the things people build. This is free and will cost you only the years off your life from breathing the air.
  • Get married. No, actually, don’t do that. It’s a terrible idea.

Okay, cool. Las Vegas in an 18-hour nutshell. I love it there.

Have you been? What’s your favorite stuff? Tell me!

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