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Help Me Plan A Vegas Vacation

I’m currently in the investigational/planning stages for a trip to Sin City. Actually, to say I’m “planning” is not entirely accurate. I’m doing something a little different (and very out-of-character for me) this time. Aside from researching hotels and scoping out some restaurants online, I haven’t planned anything. That’s right, I’m making a conscious effort to NOT.PLAN. I’m thinking it’ll be a short trip, more of a long weekend-type thing, and I want to try a new approach. Baby steps, am I right?

So, the only thing I’m sure of so far is that I won’t be arriving with an itinerary planned out to the minute. I’m abandoning my usual vacation schedule, a carefully researched perfect balance of informational/historic sightseeing and scheduled fun. That’s right, I’m going to see what happens. And it’s kind of killing me. But I’m taking deep breaths and trying to focus on being spontaneous (instead of imagining all the things that could go wrong because I didn’t plan ahead). That’s where you guys come in.

I’ve been to Vegas before, about a million years ago as a just-graduated-from-college-with-no-money adult, but my traveling companion is a Vegas virgin. So, I thought I’d outsource my planning to all you Vegas experts out there. Here are the details: we’re not huge foodies, so I don’t think we’ll investigate anyone’s recommendation to eat something weird like octopus or scorpions-on-a-stick (I don’t even know if they have that kind of stuff out there; I just tried to think of the weirdest food I’ve heard of people actually consuming).

We’re also not huge gamblers (you might be asking yourself, so why are you going to Las Vegas?! And I’d say to you, cheap flights and unrivaled people-watching). Don’t get me wrong, I plan on making my grandma proud and playing some slots, but we won’t be spending all our time trying our luck at the tables. I picture a lot of laying-by-the-pool action happening. Most of the reason I’m not planning anything is because this is supposed to be a relax-cation (I totally just coined that term. I think). The main focus is supposed to be on fun-having, not sightseeing.

My last few trips have been get-up-at-8-am-and-get-going, full-on-scheduled sightseeing extravaganzas. And you know what, guys? While I love those kinds of adventures, I’m tired. Nothing sounds better to me right now than staying out late, sleeping in and relaxing all day. Whether “relaxing” means laying by the pool one day, and hiking up and down the Strip the next, I’m open to that. It’s time to mix things up a bit and try a new approach to how I travel.

I’d love any tips you have, from where to eat to the best shows to see. Can you still find cool free stuff to do, or does it cost you just to stand on the sidewalk? What are some insider tips and off-the-beaten-path advice you can offer me? Best buffet? Most overrated restaurant? And is there anything in the vast desert beyond the Strip?

Any and all advice, tips and tricks are welcome and appreciated. Let’s share in the comments!

Also, feel free to tweet your tips to me @StephSpitler

Featured Image via Shutterstock.

  • Erin Gibson

    If you want some awesome Mexican food, Border Grill in Mandalay Bay is the way to go (BLOOD ORANGE MARGARITA!). I don’t know about free stuff because I was there for a marathon and pretty much just ran & ate…

    • Stephanie Spitler

      Thanks, Erin! Mexican food is my favorite :-)

  • Rachel Hradisky

    Favorite buffet is The Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood. I pick my rooms based on Pool. The Rio and The Flamingo have awesome pools if you are on a budget, Mandalay Bay has the best pools in my opinion. History nerd like me? Check out the Neon Graveyard!

  • Nina Alexandra

    Even if you’re not the dance club type of person, they’re sill worth checking out just for the experience. I would also highly recommend heading down to Fremont Street and giving the zip line a whirl (so much fun). I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to do Vegas (as long as you don’t end up like The Hangover). I found endless entertainment just walking up and down the strip and people watching. The Venetian is beautiful and worth exploring, Circus Circus is worth experiencing, it’s all just mind-blowing. You’re going to have a blast with or without an itinerary.

  • Alli Michelle

    It seems in recent years Vegas is less popular for the gambling and now all about live concerts of our favorite artists singing their classics (pretty sure Britney will be there soon joining the likes of Shania Twain and Celine Dion) and shopping and eating gourmet food. Don’t forget to pick a Cirque Du Soleil show, most of the hotels have their own and I’ve never been to one myself but I’ve been wanting to see the Beatles one. There is extensive shopping at the Venetian and Caesars, it’s beautiful to experience even if you’re not going for the designer duds most of the shops offer. There is a monorail that goes between many of the hotels in the Caesars/Monte Carlo area of the strip, and I want to say also comes from the Hilton Las Vegas. It probably goes through many others but I don’t want to give you false promises. In my experience nightclub wise, Tao at the Venetian was always really overrated and played music popular from when I was in High School; such as Yeah. etc etc. I would recommend Bank at the Bellagio was quite the experience, with better music. They all have lines so be prepared to stand in line and get there early enough (shoot bring a red cup and a snack to stand in line with).
    Also I realize you didn’t need food but The Wicked Spoon at the Cosmo is an amazing buffet but very expensive.
    Pool wise the Hard Rock has a great pool; we went on an off season (February) so it was chilly but it looks like a beach and is fantastic. They also host a Sunday Beach party called rehab, which you’ll need to purchase entrance to ahead of time I believe. The Flamingo does have a fantastic pool and is very fun, waterfalls and all though no swim up bar like the Hard Rock. They also host a pool party at Flamingo though I don’t remember the details on it. Also walking the strip is fun but bring either flats of wedges because it starts to hurt. Also the roller coaster at New York New York is really fun.
    That is all strip advice non-strip advice in downtown Las Vegas at the Golden Nugget there is a fantastic pool and a water slide that has a shark tank over it giving the illusion you’re sliding in with them. Downtown Vegas is the best kept secret and while there is still quality people watching there is less crowds and less inflated prices of things.

  • Lisa Kopec

    I love Aria. My fav restaurant there is Julian Serrano, it’s a Spanish restaurant and their entire menu is “tapas” or small appetizers. Their red sangria is also the best I’ve ever had.

  • Jenna Lakshmi Ferone

    The one thing is there are a ton of buffets. Most hotels have them, breakfast bars, slots and pools, so you won’t have to travel far, which means more time by the pool. Bring more money than you think you’ll need cause everything on the strip is overpriced. If you rent a car and you like nature, go to the mountains like in Valley of Fire. It was breathtaking. If people watching is your thing, then The balcony at Fashion Show is a great seat. Plus, there’s a free pirate show not too far from there. It’s outside across from the Venetian I think. Oh, and drink a ton of water! So many people get dehydrated due to the extreme dry air. Good luck!

  • Michelle Grove Shaffer

    The fountains outside the Bellagio are awesome and free (I’ve seen them once in full daylight with the hotel itself behind them, and once at sunset from the other side with Paris’ Eiffel tower behind them) and different every time. Additionally, the botanical gardens inside the Bellagio change every season, are beautiful, and are also free!

    • Michelle Grove Shaffer

      Oh…I’d also recommend avoiding the Sirens show at Treasure Island – 10 years ago when it was still the Pirate Stunt show, it was kind of awesome, but for several years now it’s just been a bunch of scantily clad women badly acting (lip-syncing…even worse) on a boat, with a couple of guys doing the occasional stunt around them. We (husband and another couple) made the mistake of attempting to see it last time we were there, and even when we decided we were bored, we literally couldn’t escape the sea of people that were trapping us there until it was over. It may be free, but it’s terrible.

  • Stephanie Spitler

    Thanks for all the great tips, everyone!

  • Juli Digate

    Just got back from Vegas this week! Go to Brad Garret’s Comedy Club at MGM – you can get cheapish last minute tickets and while the comedians rotate, they’re always good.

    Consider taking a trip to the Grand Canyon (tours w/ Comedy on Deck are great and get you back before 5pm). It’s only 2.5 hours away and obviously worth seeing. If you aren’t up for that, renting a car and driving the 20 minutes to Red Rock Canyon for some sunset photos is also very worthwhile.

    You can do TV pilot screenings for free at MGM studios in “the District” part of the hotel. It’s fun/novel and can be done at any time.

    Encore pool club is pretty sweet if you’re looking for a party. Rain at the Palms is supposed to be a good club, although I didn’t check it out. The Bellagio fountains, Treasure Island pirate show, and flamingos at (you guessed it) The Flamingo are all free and quick. The Stratosphere has rides at the top (109th floor) and a great observation deck, and the Frankie Moreno show there is pretty good as well.

    The Fremont St experience in downtown/old Vegas is awesome. It’s 4 blocks of LED-screen roof with shows and music playing on it. For $20 you can zipline down the block. The gambling is cheaper here and comped drinks come more frequently. (Think The Fremont, Golden Nugget, etc.)

    Food-wise, the pizza place in the Palazzo (G-something) is awesome and cheap and Ping Pang Pong over by the Rio is great.

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