We were lucky enough to squeeze TWO trips to Vegas in last year but we’re not going again until next Easter so I am suffering serious withdrawals right now. Between that and the fact that Vegas and New York tips are some of the most requested posts (and I never seem to get around to them) I thought I’d take a virtual trip with you today and share some of my favourite things to east, sleep and do in sin city.
*these may not be particularly original and if you live in the US they may be super dull but if you aren’t you might appreciate some of the non-Vegas specific picks*
1 Cheesecake Factory
I told you they were boring. We always make this place our first meal because it’s stodgy comfort food and the portions are big enough to take some home for breakfast. I would highly recommend choosing a hotel with a kitchenette.. between reheating leftovers and cooking your own bacon and eggs you can really save on food! I personally LOVE the Chicken Alfredo Pasta and will never stray from it but Lee tells me everything he’s tried has been good too.. although ironically, we’ve never had any cheesecake.
2 Fat Tuesdays
You cannot turn a corner in Vegas without seeing 10 people with alcoholic slushies around their necks and Fat Tuesdays is the best place to start.. especially since it’s right by The Cheesecake Factory. I usually get the Pink Lemonade (there’s always some variety of this in each frozen bar) but I can’t manage the huge ones. A regular cup is plenty. Although you can take drinks literally anywhere (you heard me.. you can walk around Sephora with a beer!) it’s annoying to carry a cumbersome plastic guitar when you’ve had your fill.
3 Caesars Forum Shops
I probably should have started with this since it’s where the first two things are but when i get off the plane my mind goes to food first. The shops themselves are on the pricey side. All but for a few exceptions they’re almost exclusively high end designer wares but the reason to visit is the sky. It’s painted with clouds and the lighting gives the illusion of the passing of time so you can pop in Chanel in the morning and Dior in the evening without an hour having passed. It’s surreal and definitely something to experience. There’s also a rather fabulous spiral escalator in the entrance that everyone should ride at least once.
4 Bellagio Fountains
Well, duh. I’m thinking chronologically and walking back from Caesars I always try and time it to see the show. In the past I’ve put a lot of pressure on when we see it and getting the best view and as a result we’ve often not seen it until the very last night. Now I try and time our days so we see it earlier in the trip.. for those of you who’ve never been, the strip seems tiny but you could spend an entire week in just a small section and never see the fountains unless you intentionally plan to so it’s really easy to miss things that you’d assumed were a given. I think we visited 4 times before we saw the Vegas sign, for example! So if you really want to see it, put it on your list. No matter how obvious.
5 The Vdara
This is a hotel recommendation, it’s accessible through a walkway from The Bellagio and it’s a non-gaming hotel. Super quiet, very residential in feel and there are amazing views to be had. It’s our hotel of choice and if you can bag the corner suite with a strip view there are few better rooms for the money. The pool is nice, it’s close to everything (including the Aria Express tram) and unless you’re a big gambler I can’t think why you’d want to stay anywhere else.
6 The Cosmopolitan
UNLESS… Haha. We stayed at The Cosmopolitain last year purely because the deal was insane. I think it was 50% off and we upgraded to the most insane room. One of the only hotels in Vegas with balconies (you can only imagine why) this hotel is SWISH. It has a distinct party feel, our view was postcard perfect and there was even a dressing room area of dreams. The jacuzzi bath was practically a swimming pool and if we were feeling flush we might stay there again.. but as with most hotels you can’t leave without walking through a casino and that’s something we really like about the Vdara. There are actual window in the lobby so you don’t feel that timelessness that casinos hide in. I had to throw it out there because it really was epic but it’s very much going to be down to preference and what you want from your Vegas experience.
7 The Chandelier Bar
While we’re in the Cosmopolitan.. you can’t miss this epic bar! I haven’t actually been inside it (yet) but it appears to be floating inside a giant chandelier on the ceiling of the hotel. It’s on my list for our next visit but even pictures outside are pretty cool 😉
8 Secret Pizza
This we did do. It’s a super simple pizza place, hidden from those who don’t know to look for it. Delicious, unpretentious food in a cool, New York-style setting. A breath of fresh air compared to the stuffier dining options that surround it and (very important) very instagrammable.
9 Todd English Food Hall
Across at The Aria you will find more designer shops at Crystals but on the ground floor is the real gem. I first discovered Todd English in New York at the food hall in The Plaza hotel and I fell in love with the lobster rolls and parmesan fries so imagine my excitement to see a restaurant in my second favourite city. The menu isn’t the same but they do have my 2 favourite items and if you’re a lobster lover you will not be disappointed. Amazing food with what I’d describe as a high end sports bar vibe.
*apparently this has closed now GODAMMIT – I’ve been writing this for a while. I’m leaving it anyway because if it reappears elsewhere you need to go!
10 Aria Bridge – Photo Op
There are many photo ops in Vegas (obvs) but if you’re already there, this is a great one. There tend to be less people, the glass is cleaner (the posher the hotels and all that) and you can see some landmark hotels.
11 Miracle Mile Shops
Across the bridge at Planet Hollywood is a more affordable mall called The Miracle Mile. The average shopper may actually drop some dollars there as opposed to the more pretentious Cystals/Forum etc but I personally prefer the Fashion Show Mall further up the strip.
Man, there are so many eateries around here but many are chains so I’ll stick with the iconic Pink’s. I believe the original restaurant is in LA and it’s famous for it’s hotdogs, burgers and pink lemonade. Did I mention that I’m keen on that? This is one of the places Lee insists we visit once a trip.
13 The Linq
Between Planet Hollywood and The Linq we’re not really enticed but there are plenty of cheap places to drink and gamble around this areas of the strip. The Linq is a new side street development that (to me) is very uncharacteristic of vegas and more California in feel. There’s a fountain, a Sprinkles Cupcake (complete with ATM) and Irish bar, a pizza place a (ridiculously overpriced) bowlng alley and…
14 The High Roller
Vegas’ answer to The London Eye. We weren’t particularly bothered about riding the wheel but when we visited last year with the kids we thought it was a good family friendly activity so we took it for a spin. It. is. awesome. It’s more immersive than The London Eye, I’m not afraid of heights but even I wanted to lie down at one point, you really feel like you’re in the air. Most people got their own pod when we were there and (extra bonus tip) if you prop your phone up on the glass and set off timelapse mode you will get some pretty epic drone-style clips!
15 Grand Canal Shoppes
Again, this mall is too rich for my blood but in the same way The Forum is a must see, the cobbled streets of faux Venice are not to be missed either. There are Gondolas you can ride among the ‘streets’ that peek outdoors before circling back in through the canals. There are street artists and vendors in the square and another indoor/outdoor painted ceiling effect. Oh and on the outside there’s what I believe to be the largest Sephora on the strip, so..
16 Buddy V’s / Carlo’s Bakery
Every time we go to New York I say we have to visit the Cake Boss bakery but we still never have. They’ve even opened up a second one in Manhattan but still, we never get around to it. So when we were in Sin City last we stopped by the bakery in the afternoon for cream cakes and sweet treats and for dinner in Buddy’s V’s. We had Chicken Parmeggiano, yummy! A little pricey but a nice atmosphere and the closest we’ve coming to dining with the Cake Boss himself.
17 The Wynn Fountains & Flowers
If you’re a fan of the Bellagio Fountains you’ll get a kick out of the mini display they’ve installed at The Wynn. The songs are classic American, rat-pack standards and the water dances just as it does over at the big one. Never as busy and the shows are all the time so you’re guaranteed to catch one if you walk by. Before you do, though.. walk on in and check out the floral displays. As with the Bellagio they change with the seasons and some (like the carousel) even move.
18 The Wynn Bridge – Photo Op
Between The Wynn and the Fashion Show Mall is one of my favourite bridges to take pictures down the strip. It’s a lighter, brighter, cleaner aspect and the perfect place to showcase your starbucks
19 Fashion Show Mall
Since you’re there now you may as well stop by the mall. At certain points during the day a runway appears from the floor and a brief fashion show, featuring mall brands , plays out. It’s unique and a fun distraction while you’re shopping. Everything in Vegas has to have an element of show, doesn’t it? On top of that draw there are giant, genetically modified chocolate strawberries to be had from Godiva, a baseball cap store called ‘Lidz’ that will embroider items while you wait and (my daughters favourite) a Sugar Factory restaurant selling the most obnoxious milkshakes money (a lot of it) can buy.
20 Philly Cheesesteak
A super basic recommendation we always make is to head up to the food court and check out the Philly Cheese Steak stand. The most filling and delicious hoagies, prepared in front of you. Fast food but we never visit without getting at least one!
21 Mirage Volcano
I’ve skipped Treasure Island because since they closed Sirens of TI (probably 10 years ago now) there’s really not much to see aside from a big pirate ship left over from the show. So on we go to The Mirage. The approach alone is welcome after so much walking among people and concrete, a waterfall suddenly takes you out of the desert and in to nature.. it is of course a mirage (get it?) because you’re still surrounded by people and concrete but it freshens up the long walk in the heat, for sure. In the evenings, the volcano erupts with fire, water and lights to put on quite a show so if you can plan to be walking by at the right time it’s fun to see. At the time of writing it erupts at 7, 8 and 9 but you can double check online here for more up to date info.
22 The Beatles Love
I know it’s blasphemous but I was never really a Beatles fan. My parents didn’t listen to them when I was growing up and I just wasn’t bothered as an adult so when my ex decided we were going to see the Cirque Du Soileil show that used exclusively their music I wasn’t excited but it was amazing. I have seen it twice more and cannot recommend it enough. I’m still not necessarily a fan (though there are songs I took away and loved) but I liken it to a Coldplay concert.. I don’t listen to their music at home but few bands rock like they do on stage. It’s one to see, for sure.
23 Celine Dion
And we’re back to Caesars.. and since I mentioned Love I really think I should mention Celine. She’s basically part of the furniture so chances are she’ll stick around for a while and if you can get hold of tickets. WOW. Even Lee (who again, wouldn’t choose her music in the car) said she put on the best performance (vocals wise) he’s ever seen. She is something else. I was so excited after her show that she was touring that I spent a small fortune taking my Mum to see her in the UK and the stadium experience is just not the same. Vegas shows are tiny by comparison, every seat is a great seat so I’d say fit in as many shows as you can because a Vegas concert is better than any other concert. It just is.
24 Fountain-Side Dining
Ok, so in writing this up I’ve discovered that quite a few places I wanted to recommend have since closed. Unfortunately this is the nature of the city, it’s constantly changing but hopefully I will have amassed a large enough list of suggestions by the time I finish this that there is still a lot to go on. I was going to recommend Olives at The Bellagio because the food was good but mostly because you could (if you’re lucky) snag a fountain-side table for dinner and a show. Now, I cannot vouch for the food in the following restaurants but they all offer this same perk – Picasso, Prime Steakhouse, Le Cirque & Lago. If you’re celebrating I can’t think of a better location for dinner.
25 Bellagio Gardens
Past the fabulous coloured glass ceiling over the lobby of The Bellagio is the Conservatory and Botalical Gardens. This is redecorated for every holiday/season meaning that (unless you’re very lucky and visit frequently) you’re unlikely to see the same display on each visit. A pretty place for pictures, if nothing else but the displays can be really quite extravagant. If you’re going to see the fountains anyway you may as well pop in.
Walking back down through the Cosmopolitan I’m remembering an ice cream place called Milk. They do a cereal milk flavoured icecream which, in truth, I was not enamoured of but it’s very pretty and very popular and very instagram.
27 New York New York Arcade
When we visited with the kids last year I did so much research as to what there was to do for them outside of the Vegas basics and this Arcade was top of the list. The Big Apple Arcade was massive, you had to load up a card and collected tickets for each game you played. It wasn’t the cheapest but it was fun. One to take a look at.
28 Coyote Ugly
If you love a dive bar, you’ll love the Cowboy Casual vibe here. Likewise if you love the film you’ll enjoy the dancing on tables, pouring drinks directly in to the mouths of customers.. you’ll love it or you’ll hae it but it’s lots of fun! Head up the stairs in New York New York to find it.
29 Exalibur Arcade
This made the list but I wasn’t as excited about it as the Big Apple one.. this was so much better. Cheaper, more tickets, more prizes for less tickets.. we spent hours there. Ella (hilariously) bought a lava lamp with her tickets which she then (obviously) has had no use for at home because the plug is American. Milo bough Game Of Thrones lego figures (another odd one) and I played this game of chance for so long I didn’t even feel like I’d missed out on visiting the casinos. If you’re taking kids, this is the one to visit!
30 The Luxor
I haven’t spent a lot of time in the hotel but I couldn’t compile a ‘must see’ listicle without mentioning the pyramid, could I? It’s a fair walk from the end of the more established strip but on a pleasant day it’s worth the trek to see the giant sphynx alone. The hotel is home to The Blue Man Group, Bodies.. The Exhibition and another exhibition of artifacts from The Titanic that (as I write this, from a cruise ship) I’d actually quite like to see at some point. It’s an iconic hotel, 9th largest in the world and I mean.. it’s a pyramid!!!
31 Welcome To Las Vegas Sign
Would you believe that I didn’t visit this sign til my 4th visit?? It’s CROWDED so don’t expect to get the picture perfect snap you’re expecting and it’s off the beaten track so you’ll have to make a special trip but I think it’s worth the trek to the end of the strip to see this iconic signage!
32 Hooters Casino
We LOVE Hooters! It’s going to be a love/hate, I get that but if you’re the sports bar type, don’t be put off by those who’d have you believe it’s a step away from a strip club. It’s family friendly, cheap and tasty and in the case of Las Vegas it’s the most relaxed gaming experience you’ll find! Low cost slots and the coldest Coors light on the strip!
The best way to get up and down on a budget. You’d be surprised how long the strip actually is so if you want to see as much as you can during your stay, the monorail will be your friend. There’s a mini monorail on the Aria side but the one that takes you from MGM to the Sahara is the one you want if you’re looking to explore.
34 Coca-Cola Experience
They do this in various places, apparently so you may have seen it elsewhere but the idea is to taste CocoCola drinks from across the globe. It’s a bit like ‘soda roulette’, if you will and there are some real duds (no spoilers) but fun to do in a group.. especially if you have kids with you!
35 CVS Minute Clinic
I’m ending on possibly the most important tip of all and one I’ve never heard mentioned before. A few years ago I suffered with some major toothache that hit me almost as soon as we landed (I’m convinced it was the cabin pressure) and I self medicated (tylenol and morning beer) for the first half of the week but eventually it was too much. I asked everywhere (including concierge/online forums) and all people told me was how expensive it would be to see a dentist, then randomly we found a walk in centre on the strip. If memory serves it cost me around £80 to be seen and for the antibiotics (infection, apparently) but the next day I felt 50% better. I wish I’d gone on the first day. Expensive but 100% worth it!
I could keep going so I may add to this/follow up in future but for now I hope these 35 things to eat/sleep/do were useful for those of you looking to visit Sin City some time soon!