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Las Vegas Travel Tips
Las Vegas is a city of excess. Everything is artificial and designed to distract you from real life. It's sort of like Disneyland for adults.
Las Vegas is so over-the-top that its gaudiness becomes kind of cool. Where else can you gamble in a make believe Monte Carlo, ride in a fake Venetian gondola and watch a fountain with dancing water, and have a genuinely good time? There is no other place quite like Las Vegas in the world.
Planning a Trip to Las Vegas
Las Vegas started out as a gambler's hideaway but evolved into much more. It is now a popular convention site, an entertainment destination and a great place to take the kids. Gaming is still the biggest draw, but there are all sorts of things to do for people who don't gamble.
You can see a live show, watch a sporting event, dance at a club or ride a roller coaster. You can do all of this any time of the year. Much of it you can do 24 hours a day.
When To Go To Las Vegas
Las Vegas is in the desert. That means it gets very hot in the summer and can get rather chilly in the winter. Temperatures often top 100 degrees but there is very little humidity and every building is air conditioned.
It is rare for temperatures to drop to freezing but it can happen on winter nights. Las Vegas has a booming convention business that attracts crowds year around. Holidays are very busy, especially New Year's Eve.
The best time of year to go to Las Vegas is between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The weather is mild, the crowds are very small and hotels offer deep discounts.
Getting To Las Vegas
More than 3 million people visit Las Vegas every month. A vast majority of them fly there. As a result, there a lot of flights in and out of McCarran International Airport.
This competition keeps airfares low, especially if you book months ahead of time. Southwest Airlines is especially strong in Las Vegas. They offer "no frills" discount flights for ridiculously low prices.
Getting Around Las Vegas
Most visitors to Las Vegas do not need a rental car. Taxis are abundant and cheap. A cab from the airport to the strip costs $10 to $13. There are also shuttle buses that run 24 hours a day. A taxi ride from one Strip casino to another costs just a few dollars.
There is also a trolley and several monorails linking hotels. Better yet, walk to your destination. The Strip was designed with pedestrians in mind. It is lined with interesting sights, pedestrian bridges and movable sidewalks in places.
Where To Stay in Las Vegas
There are more hotel rooms in Las Vegas than in any other city in the country. The 13 largest hotels are located in Las Vegas. Yet, despite all these rooms, Las Vegas still sells out several times a year. Other times you can find a room but it costs much more than at another time. The key is to avoid holidays and times when there are lots of conventions in town. Book early for the best selection and the cheapest prices.
When there are many empty rooms you can get amazing deals like $39 per night for a luxury hotel room. Resorts don't mind doing this because they expect you to lose a lot of money in their casino. Deals are available at every hotel but naturally expect to pay more at nicer properties. Here is a sampling of popular hotels on the Strip:
- Nice - Bally's, Circus Circus, Excaliber, Flamingo, Harrah's, Imperial Palace, Stratosphere, Tropicana
- Very Nice - Caesar's Palace, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, Mirage, New York New York, Paris
- High End - Bellagio, Trump, Venetian, Wynn
Arriving and Departing Las Vegas
There is no need to waste a day's worth of fun waiting around when you arrive or depart Las Vegas. If you arrive before check in time, leave your bags with at the baggage check and go have a good time. Come back when your room is ready.
If you have a late flight out of town, check out and leave your bags at the bell desk. Swing by and get them on your way to the airport. The service is free. Just tip the guy who brings you your bags.
Comps used to only be for high rollers. Now they are for everyone. Casinos want you to gamble in their establishment, so offer incentives to get you to stay.
Sign up for a player's card at every casino where you gamble. They will usually give you some coupons or a free slot machine spin just for signing up. When you play a slot machine, insert the card. When you play a table game, give the card to the dealer.
The casino will track how much you bet and how long you play. The more you bet and the longer you play, the more incentives they offer. These can include free meals, merchandise, shows and rooms. Keep in mind that they expect you to lose a lot of money while earning these incentives. Don't play for the comps. Just consider them a small bonus for losing your money.
What To Do in Las Vegas
Las Vegas offers plenty to see and do to distract you while not gambling. The distractions are also for spouses and children of gamblers so they will leave them alone while they are in the casino.
Some visitors only come for the activities and never gamble at all. This can be fun and save you a lot of money.
The casino industry prefers to call gambling "gaming." It is the same thing, just a less ominous word. Most inexperienced players head for the slot machines. Unfortunately they offer the worst odds in the casino.
Slot machines pay you a little back periodically to encourage you to keep playing. In the long run most people lose all the money they put in the machine. If you want to play slots, look for casinos that offer "loose" machines with payouts of 95% to 99%.
These are usually the smaller casinos. Also play maximum coins on every spin to take advantage of improved payout odds. Experienced gamblers can make money playing blackjack and poker if they know how to play. These are games of both skill and chance where a player's decisions about the cards greatly influences their ability to win. Craps and roulette are much more about chance.
The odds are significantly in the casino's favor, so if you play long enough you will lose. The bottom line is that the house always wins.
Gamble if you enjoy it, not to make money. Designate an amount that you are willing to lose and when it is gone, stop. There are plenty of things to do in Las Vegas that are more fun than losing money.
Las Vegas has some of the best shows in the world. Top name entertainers perform there. If you want to see a big name production like Cirque du Soleil, Bette Midler, David Copperfield, Penn and Teller or Blue Man Group, book your tickets at least 3 months before your visit. The same goes for special sporting events like boxing, mixed martial arts or ice skating.
If you just want to see a decent show and don't particularly care which one, get discount tickets on the day of the performance. There are several half price ticket shops on the Strip. Just stand in line in the morning and you can watch a show that night.
Clubs and Bars
Las Vegas is known for its nightlife. Clubs and bars can be a lot of fun but also crowded, expensive and difficult to get into. There are many types of clubs and bars that appeal to a broad range of tastes. Here are the hot nightspots right now:
- Pure at Caesar's Palace
- Voo Doo Lounge at Rio
- Parasol Up Parasol Down Lounge and Tryst at Wynn
- V Bar at the Venetian
- Fontana Bar at the Bellagio
- Forty Deuce at Mandalay Bay
- Jet Nightclub at the Mirage
- Studio 54 at the MGM Grand
- Rain in the Desert at the Palms
Las Vegas for Kids
There is plenty for the kids to do in Las Vegas. Several casinos have amusement park rides. These include New York New York, the Stratosphere and Circus Circus. Circus Circus also has carnival games and free circus acts all day long.
The Tournament of Kings show at Excaliber is a kid friendly jousting show. Gameworks is a huge video game complex that will keep children occupied all day long. Kids also enjoy walking around and seeing all the cool buildings and free entertainment listed above.
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