“Man, I really like Vegas.” This is a quote from The King of Rock and Roll himself, Elvis Presley. He also knew where to go, who to talk to, and what to do when he got there. By the time you finish reading this, you’ll be ready to do Vegas like a pro!
Las Vegas really is a great town. I traveled across the country to visit about 7 times before I lived there for close to 4 years.
There is something to do for anybody at any time, and you can literally have whatever you want.
Do you want to drive a Lamborghini? How about shooting an M-60? While these activities will cost you a few bucks, you can at least plan for the expense. If you’re gambling, though, anything can and will happen.
First-time vegas visitors have the potential to turn a modest family vacation into a financial crisis in a matter of minutes. I’m here today to help you not do that.
I want you first-time visitors to Las Vegas to know some of the secrets I wish I knew when I visited for my first time.
You can create some of your best memories in this sprawling desert oasis. You can also lose your whole trip’s worth of spending money in the first weekend. Or worse, you could go to jail because you broke a law you thought was “totally cool” in Vegas.
Here are some questions I hear all the time from potential first-timers, and some answers to guide you on your Vegas journey.
How do I get free drinks?
This is probably the most frequently asked question I hear when people come to town. “Free drinks” isn’t really the best way to put it. After all, there is nothing free in this world.
In casinos, if you are gambling, a cocktail waitress will make her way around to you and ask if you would like a drink. The drink is free, but tipping is highly encouraged. If you don’t tip, then don’t expect her to make her way around to you again.
As far as how much to tip, a $1 chip is fine. If you’re playing a table game with several other players, she is more likely to stop by. Table games can get expensive. So, break up your time gambling between the tables, slots, and sportsbook.
Playing the slots is more relaxing than sitting at the table with other players and the dealer. If you have just lost some money and want to keep gambling, the slots are a good place to regain your focus.
If the waitress sees that you’re actively playing the slot and not just resting your feet and back, she will come by and get you a drink.
My favorite way to get “free” drinks was at the sportsbook. It’s the best deal in town. You can bet as little as a few dollars on a 3-hour football game, set your ticket in front of you, and she will be around to take care of you.
One more thing before we go to the next question. Don’t get the bighead and order a Macallan 12 on the rocks. Paying a dollar for a beer or well drink is the best deal in America. There’s no need to push the issue as you’ll likely be served the well liquor anyway.
Is prostitution legal?
No! Prostitution is not legal in Clark County, which includes the entire Las Vegas metropolitan area. It is, however, legal in the rest of the state of Nevada.
I’m not going to give you any reviews of the Bunny Ranch. I’m sure it’s a fine establishment. Let’s focus on your time inside the Sin City.
Next question, please.
What hotel should I stay at?
This is a tough question. It can depend on what you want to do while you’re in town. Are you with your significant other? Did grandma cancel and you have to bring your two small children?
Las Vegas has some of the largest, and most extravagant hotels in the world. Most of them are located on The Strip. The Strip is a section of Las Vegas Blvd that runs north and south through the city.
The first hotel you will see driving from the south is the Mandalay Bay, and The Strip ends at the Stratosphere to the north.
Since it’s your first time visiting Las Vegas, I recommend you stay at a hotel on The Strip. Almost every hotel on The Strip has accommodations and activities for every kind of party.
Bachelor parties will be alongside families of four walking through the casino. You might see a celebrity buying a coffee in front you at one of the many Starbucks.
I assume you’re visiting Vegas for excitement, so find a hotel that is centrally located on the Strip. You can save a few dollars staying somewhere close by, but you won’t be getting the full experience.
My favorite picks for centrally located hotels are Caesars Palace, The Cosmo, and The MGM. These hotels will have absolutely everything you need for a “mostly” memorable Vegas vacation.
Is tobacco smoking allowed in the casino?
Yes, it is. You will see a lot of people smoking while they’re gambling and/or drinking inside the casino.
You will know if you’re in a nice casino or not very quickly by the smell. Many casinos like the Bellagio have higher ceilings and an ultra-powerful ventilation system that pumps out the smoke and pumps in the freshly scented air.
Some of the older casinos in various parts of town smell absolutely terrible from nearly everyone smoking inside. You are going to have to deal with the smell somewhat. Spend your time in the nice casinos, though, and the smell will be minimized.
Oh, and if you’re a smoker, light up early and often. You’re on vacation!
Can I drink outside?
On The Strip, it is legal to consume alcohol on the street. This is, as long as it isn’t in a glass.
The yard-long mixed drink giant tubes you see people drinking out of are worth all 30 dollars. They are loaded with liquor, and the refills are usually less expensive than buying another drink.
Where should I go shopping?
The shopping industry has been booming in Las Vegas for the past 10 years especially. Clothing stores have sprouted up all over the strip. Most all of them located in a casino hold a very high price tag.
Before you start shopping, ask yourself if you are looking for a good deal or a bad deal. Do you want to pay more for an outfit then you would back home or do you want to pay less?
If you’re like me and chose the latter, then you need to visit the outlets. The Las Vegas Premium Outlets are a couple miles south of Mandalay Bay and you will find some of the best deals on designer clothing in the country.
Where should I eat?
I assume you’re visiting for at least a few days, so I’ll give you a breakfast spot, lunch, dinner, and a late-night spot as well.
One of the best things about living in Vegas was not only the massive variety of foods but also the quality. Some of the top chefs in the world call Las Vegas home.
The competition is high within the restaurant community. Every single week there is a new hip fusion restaurant opening and also one closing its doors for the last time.
Dinner can get expensive and the popular spots will get crowded around 7 or 8. Le Fleur at the Mandalay Bay has an extensive Tapas menu, wine list, and the steak tartare is the best I’ve ever had.
Secret Pizza at The Cosmo is a favorite of locals and well-informed tourists alike. If you’re craving noodles, head west on Spring Mountain to Chinatown and eat at Pho Kim Long.
What kind of clothes should I bring?
I would start with some comfortable shoes. They don’t have to be the New Balance “super dads”, but be smart. You are guaranteed to walk much more than you anticipated.
You’ll want to bring a swimsuit and flip flops even in the winter time, because you may win some extra cash and feel the need to pamper yourself at the spa.
The nightclubs are dress to impress. You won’t see many suit jackets in the summer, so I wouldn’t “sweat” that.
Ladies, bring an extra pair of flats that you can keep in your purse. You don’t want to be one of the thousands of bare feet risking tetanus with every step back to your room.
Minus the club dress codes, it’s really a free for all. You can wear shorts and a tank to many of the bars and restaurants. You’ll see every different tax bracket in almost every hotel. Vegas is for everyone!
Should I go hiking or exploring outside of Las Vegas?
Absolutely! The wilderness surrounding Las Vegas is absolutely stunning and surprisingly diverse. When most people talk about the Vegas outdoors, two places are brought up. One is the Hoover Dam, and the other is, of course, the Grand Canyon.
Both of these landmarks have to be seen in person to believe. I had to stare at the Grand Canyon for hours until I could take it all in. The Hoover Dam is impressive as well, but more so from a human engineering perspective.
It can get very crowded visiting these spots with only a couple public bathrooms at the Dam parking lot. Your car is subject to search at the Hoover Dam, so keep that in mind if you drive.
Even in the summer, the Grand Canyon can get cold as the sun sets. So bring a hoody and leave the flip flops behind as you don’t want to step on any cacti.
Red Rock Canyon is usually frequented by locals and rock climbing enthusiasts as well. There is no escape from the sun, so plan your hike accordingly.
My favorite outdoor activity in Las Vegas is hiking Mt. Charleston. It’s a 12,000 ft mountain just 40 minutes outside of town. Drive the 40 minutes, and you’ll start your hike at around 7,000 ft elevation.
Most people have never even been a mile high on a hike, much less 2! The vegetation is green with Ponderosa Pines lining the trail. The temperature is significantly lower than in the Las Vegas Valley. If it’s 110 in Vegas, Mt Charleston will be a sunny 75.
Is Las Vegas really that hot?
Yes, very. It is the sun that is hot. You can catch a break in the shade if you can find it. In humid climates, the air is hot. Shade doesn’t really help you somewhere in Florida.
Drink plenty of water and pack on the sunscreen or you’ll be toast, literally.
That wraps it up for the first-time Vegas visitor Q and A. Find a hotel in the middle of The Strip. Tip your waitress. No prostitutes. No glass alcohol containers outside.
Get outdoors for a day, dress comfortably, and above all enjoy yourself. Get the full tourist experience. That is, minus the losing your life savings part.
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