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Las Vegas For Beginners. What Happens In Vegas.... Your First Time.
What Happens In Vegas, Stays In Vegas...But how do you know what happens, if you've never been there before?
Las Vegas is an adult playground. And nothing about a playground, at least by definition of the word 'playground', should be intimidating. Yet the first trip to Vegas can be just that. Sure, you've seen Vegas in the movies, and photos of the strip at night (like the one to the right). Heck, you've probably even seen an episode of CSI: Las Vegas, or the movie Swingers. Chances are, you've heard friends, family members, and co-workers tell stories about Vegas. While some of these stories overlap, enough of seem like they're about completely different places on earth. That's the beauty of Vegas. There's something for everyone...
First Things First...Booking Your Trip
1) Stay in a hotel on The Strip. Even if you're planning a budget-friendly trip, there are plenty of affordable hotels right in the heart of the action. If possible, avoid staying at the absolute cheapest Strip hotels. Most of these hotels offer very little "atmosphere". For a few extra bucks a night, staying at one of the "middle tier" hotels will make your trip much more enjoyable. Even if you're not planning on spending much time at your hotel, you'll want to take this advice.
2) Read up on a few shows that sound interesting. Vegas is known for it's world class entertainment. Even if you think "shows" aren't your thing, I'd still recommend seeing one. And if you have no idea where to start, check out http://www.vegas.com/shows. You can't go wrong with a Cirque du Soleil show. And in general, it makes no difference if you stay at the hotel that the show is playing at.
3) Make reservations for at least one "nice" meal. The French will tell you that they have the best cuisine in the world. They're wrong. It's Vegas. You'll get lost on the internet trying to read reviews and "pick the right restaurant". Trust me when I say: pick any place at one of the nicer hotels, and you won't be sorry. If a restaurant in Vegas isn't great, it doesn't last. Period.
4) It's hot in the summer. 100+ degrees hot. But it's a dry heat, right? 100 degrees is still hot, even if it's "dry". Plan accordingly, with sunscreen, etc.
5) If you're going in the winter (Nov - Mar), and a hotel with a pool is important to you, check here first: http://www.travel2vegas.com/poolschedule.html. More and more pools are staying open year round, but there are plenty that are still seasonal.
What To Expect When You First Get There...
1) You're going to hear the sound of slot machines the minute you step off the plane. Gambling is everywhere. Literally. Be prepared to be over-stimulated, it's all part of the first-time experience. Veterans know where to go, and how to escape the buzz, but I'll save that for a later article. Since this is your first time, the buzz is part of it.
2) Take a cab from the airport. You can save a buck or two by hopping one of the "shuttles", but depending on where you're staying, you may have to sit through 5-10 stops before you get to your hotel. And if the shuttle is full, and you're one of the last hotels, it could take an hour.
3) Check In. Go to your room. Drop off your stuff. Take a deep breath of oxygen-enriched air (that's a joke...the rumor you hear about casinos pumping oxygen into the air is actually completely false).
1) Walk The Strip. And bring comfortable shoes. Everything in Vegas is bigger and farther than it looks. You'll almost inevitably do more walking than you think. There will be at least one time when you're outside walking and say, "Let's go to (insert hotel/casino here), it's right there (while pointing)"...20 minutes later, you'll be "almost" there.
2) Imbibe. There are drinks, and drink specials EVERYWHERE! And in Vegas, it's ok to walk down the street with an adult beverage.
3) Eat. As I mentioned above, Vegas is famous for it's restaurants. All-you-can-eat buffet's are a staple out here, so bring your appetite. Oh, and if you've never had In-N-Out Burger, make sure you eat there at least once (it's behind New York, New York Hotel/Casino). As of this article, In-N-Out Burger only has locations in California, Arizona, Texas, Utah, and Nevada. I know, I know, I'm recommending a fast-food burger joint...tell me I'm wrong after you've tried it though.
4) The "touristy" stuff is fun on your first trip. The Rollercoaster at New York, New York. The Fountains at Bellagio (free). Insanity at Stratosphere. Sirens at TI (free). Ferrari/Maserati Dealership at Wynn (annoyingly not free). The dolphins at Mirage (skip the volcano at Mirage, even though it's free, trust me). I wouldn't necessarily call any of these "must see", but keep them in the back of your mind as your walking The Strip and checking out the sights. Every hotel has some sort of "attraction". Again, some are free, some are not.
5) Are you a gambler? You can have a blast in Vegas without gambling a penny. You can also have a blast in Vegas while gambling multiple pennies at a time. The rumor is true, the drinks are free while gambling. Just make sure to tip your waitress. And here's some friendly advice: if you plan on having a few cocktails while in the same seat, tip well on your first drink. Waitresses in Vegas have great memories. You can find cheap tables too, ($3 black-jack at O'Sheas) if that's your style. And if you're planning to spend some time at one casino, sign up for a "players club" card. The reason: comps. Comp is short for "complimentary", and is a common buzz word among gamblers. The more you play, the more "credits" or comps you earn. You can typically spend your comps on things like meals, hotel rooms, etc. Also, the number one rule in Vegas when it comes to comps: it never hurts to ask. The "pit boss" is the gentleman/lady in charge of a specific section on the casino floor. Say hi and bye if you're planning to be gambling for a bit. The next time you see them while playing, ask for a recommendation for lunch. And assuming you're with a friend/spouse, ask if they'd be willing to comp one your meals. You'll be pleasantly surprised how far a good rapport goes in Vegas.
Tips, tidbits, and tricks
1) Check out this fare estimator for expected cab fare (especially to/from the airport). http://firsttimelasvegas.com/taxi/
1a) If you are planning to pay for cab fare by credit card, make sure to ask if the cab is equipped for that.
2) If you're new to gambling, a lot of casinos have free lessons for many types of games. http://www.lasvegas-how-to.com/lasvegas-gaming-lessons.php
3) Some hotels try to nickel and dime you with "resort fees". Essentially you are paying for things like access to the fitness room, free local calls, etc. Check out this link for a list of resort fees: http://www.lasvegas-how-to.com/las-vegas-hotel-resort-fees.php
4) Don't jaywalk. Traffic moves quick on Las Vegas Blvd, and there are too many lanes to fool around.
5) Avoid the people on the street handing out cards for "hot girls that come to your room". These street vendors make an annoying "flicking" sound with their cards. You'll know exactly what I mean the first time you hear it. Just ignore them.
6) Ignore the people on the street who are offering free tickets to shows and attractions. They are typically selling timeshares. While they are actually willing to give you free tickets, it's at the cost of some of your afternoon, and lot's of "saying no" to their sales pitches. Not worth the hassle, in my opinion.
7) Check out time is typically noon. Some hotels charge for a "late check out".
8) Most importantly: have fun, and be safe. It's your first trip.
Hopefully you found this article helpful and interesting. If there are any other parts of this hub that you'd like to read more info on, just leave me a comment, and I'll be glad to write some additional, more in-depth Vegas hubs.