Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small percentage if you click through and make a purchase. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be a good fit for my readers.
There are endless things to do in Las Vegas and plenty of reasons to visit. Use this city guide as a starting point from someone who has been there and lived to tell the tale. I guess what happens in Las Vegas, doesn’t always stay in Las Vegas! Here at Sarah Someplace I am into the experiencing-things scene and making the most of my time in any given place. I give honest reviews of honest experiences. I only scratched the surface of what Las Vegas has to offer, but I will fill you in on what I did get to experience, what I’d love to try next time and share some of my favorites while exploring Las Vegas and the surrounding area. Enjoy this Things to do in Las Vegas City Guide.
Why Visit Las Vegas?
The lights, the never-ending cha-ching of slot machines, the incredible shows, the high of possibly hitting it big, the delicious restaurants… the list goes on and on. Maybe that is why over 42 million people visit Las Vegas every year. Whether visiting for a long weekend or a week, Las Vegas is a city that has something for everyone and an endless supply of entertainment for all ages. Most to-be visitors only think of the 4-mile long Las Vegas strip, but Las Vegas has so much more to offer!
Things to Do in Las Vegas, Nevada
Visit the Welcome to Las Vegas Sign
Get your picture taken in front of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. Yes, it is touristy. Yes, you will have to wait in line. Yes, it will most likely be hot. But you will have a great memento of the time you spent in Las Vegas. Case and point …
To avoid some of the wait and the strong possibility of sweating, get there as early as possible. Temperatures are lower and so are the crowds. If you do find yourself overwhelmed with heat (because you didn’t wake up early and go – GUILTY!), you will be glad to know there was someone selling cold bottled water at the bargain price of two for $3. Which was a lifesaver since I also forgot my trusty travel water bottle. There is also a volunteer resident photographer that offers to take your photo in front of the sign for you and your group. Technically it’s free, but a dollar or two tip is a nice gesture. He suggested poses and asked people to move out of the way that hadn’t waited in line. Our pictures turned out awesome! So while this event was totally free, a few bucks made it an even better experience.
View the Bellagio Fountains
Speaking of free. The spectacle of water set to music that is the Bellagio Fountains outside of the Bellagio Hotel was absolutely stunning. This show runs quite frequently with daytime and nighttime showings. Try to catch both as they are vastly different experiences, but be especially sure to see it at night. Las Vegas has a completely different vibe at night and the Bellagio Fountains with the neon glow of the Las Vegas strip was something to see.
Check out the Mirage Volcano
Along the same lines as the Bellagio Fountains is the Mirage Volcano experience. These hours are much more limited and we, unfortunately, missed catching this heated show but I’ve heard great things.
Seek out Treasures at the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop
This is the pawn shop featured on Pawn Stars. It was a fun and a rather quick stop on our way to Fremont Street. Check the hours before you go. Technically they are open 24/7, but after a certain time, that means they only have a window open for pawning items and you cannot go inside. We ended up there around 7 pm and it wasn’t crowded at all. I’ve heard of lines waiting to get in, so you’ll have to take your chances. There are a few neat pieces to look at and a gift shop with store branded items. No celebrity sightings on our trip but maybe you will have better luck!
See Las Vegas from the Stratosphere
See Las Vegas from 1,149 feet above. The Stratosphere Las Vegas is the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States. I’ve been to the top of the Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls, Canada which was only 775 feet (what a snoozefest, right? Just kidding, it was incredible.) above the falls, so this was considerably higher, but a similar experience nonetheless. The biggest difference is that the Skylon Tower charged almost $20 per person for a view through fencing. The Stratosphere is free and completely open and unobstructed – with a railing of course. There is a second “catch” area below where you actually stand, so there is no fear of going over the edge and an amazing view. This is a nice bonus for those fearing heights AND those wanting to take photos (like this).
No fear of heights? Love an adrenaline rush? Try out one of the three thrill rides at the TOP of the Stratosphere or Sky Jump off the side. This was fun to watch, but I kept my feet planted firmly on the ground.
We hit up the Stratosphere during happy hour and headed straight to the sleek 107 Sky lounge at the top for free. We enjoyed refreshments and light appetizers at half off paired with a 360-degree view of Las Vegas from the clouds. Tip: No food or drink is allowed in the 107 Sky Lounge. They do check bags and you have to go through a metal detector. There is also a restaurant that ROTATES while you eat. So if you are feeling fancy, make a reservation for dinner. When we were done eating and drinking, we took the elevator all the way up and walked right onto the outside observation deck. The view was magnificent as the red light of the sun setting behind the mountains was being replaced by the red lights of the city as night was taking over Las Vegas. For the small cost of a few drinks and appetizers, we had one the best experiences. It was oddly romantic despite the ride goers screaming bloody murder like they were going to plummet to the ground and perish. One downfall (really bad pun) was how long the elevators took to get back down to the bottom. Each elevator did have staff members to help guests get to where they needed to go, which was helpful.
Visit the Grand Canyon
When I found out how close Las Vegas is to the Grand Canyon it really sealed the deal for visiting. I love exploring a city as much as the next person, but getting outdoors and away from the hustle and bustle of the Las Vegas strip was a welcomed break mid-week. If you’ve never seen the Grand Canyon and are in Las Vegas long enough, I highly recommend a day trip to see it. There are dozens and dozens of options for seeing the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas. We decided a small tour via land was the best and most economical option for us. It was a long day, but I am so glad we squeezed this tour into our trip.
Make a stop at Route 66
We got to stop in a Disney Cars themed town (or is it the other way around?) called Seligman, Arizona on our way to the Grand Canyon. Route 66 runs right through this tiny historic town that makes you feel like you’ve walked back in time. Known as the birthplace of Historic Route 66 there is no deficit of Route 66 memorabilia to see and to buy. There is even a really neat and historic barber shop! Seligman offers some great opportunities for photographs. We didn’t stay long but used the stop as a nice way to break up the ride to the Grand Canyon and see a huge part of American history.
Feast Your Eyes on the Hoover Dam
The Hoover Dam is a very easy trip from the strip. It sits right along Lake Mead about 45 minutes outside of Las Vegas. There are just as many options for seeing this concrete masterpiece as there are slot machines in Las Vegas. Okay, that might be a stretch, but there are a lot. You can also easily rent a car, save some money and do it yourself. Our Grand Canyon tour took a quick stop to see the Hoover Dam. It was enough time for our needs, but I think we would have enjoyed making it an activity on its own.
See an Amazing Show
After much debate, and extensive review readings, I settled on seeing Absinthe at Caesars Palace. Read an extensive review of the show here. While there is no shortage of shows in Las Vegas, some are better than others. I wanted to see a performance (vs comedy, concert, headliner etc.) and ended up choosing between Absinthe and Cirque du Soleil favorites Le Reve, O, and Ka. Cirque du Soleil really is at the top of their game in terms of performances, so you can’t go wrong with any of their shows. Looking for something else? Like everything in Vegas, there is a show for every taste.
Casino Hop, Sight See, and People Watch
There are an endless supply of beautiful hotels and hotel lobbies to see in Las Vegas. We got to see many of them but some did stick out for us. There is a tram that runs between Mandalay Bay, Luxor, and Excalibur so we started at Mandalay Bay and made our way to the streets of New York inside New York New York. Each offered a different theme and overall vibe. Another day we started at The Venetian, walked along the Grand Canal with the serenading gondoliers and ended up in The Palazzo. Whenever we got tired of walking (Las Vegas is HUGE), we sat at a penny slot machine and watched people. We also tried different foods along the way. This was a fun way to see Las Vegas. We didn’t get to go up, but we did see the Paris Eiffel Tower and the High Roller from the ground and they were impressive. Either one would be a fun activity to fill some time.
Get some Free Samples in Las Vegas
“Is this Sam’s Club on a Sunday?”, I wondered as I entered my second store in Las Vegas that handed me a free chocolate sample as I passed through the door. I could get used to this. Hershey’s Chocolate World Las Vegas was the “sweetest” attraction on the Las Vegas Strip. Located inside the New York New York hotel and offering a two-story retail store plus an 800 lbs chocolate sculpture of the Statue of Liberty, Chocolate World Las Vegas was a fun stop while casino hopping.
M&M’s World Las Vegas is next to the MGM Grand and offers four full floors of dedicated chocolate and more. There is a wall of M&M’s in more colors than the rainbow, which I fully believe is competing with the wall of colored Hershey’s Kisses across the street. Chocolate wars!! The store has M&M characters and a short 3D film (3rd floor) that was more kid oriented but cute. It really is free Las Vegas fun for the whole family.
The Coca-Cola Store Las Vegas, on the same block as M&M World, is another retail store on the strip. I learned there used to be free soda, but now there is a minimal cost to taste test Coca-Cola products from around the world. What is free is a photograph with the Coca-Cola polar bear. You do have the option to purchase their version with a cool background, but it isn’t worth it in my opinion. The best “attraction” here was riding the elevator up the larger-than-life Coca-Cola bottle you can see from the strip.
Experience Fremont Street
Fremont Street is also known as Downtown Las Vegas or the old strip. Iconic hotels like the Golden Nugget, Binions and Four Queens line the street. These are the Las Vegas hotels and casinos of yesteryear. Basically what the strip was like pre-mega-casino resorts. Everything on Fremont Street is a little louder, a little less dressed, a little less expensive and a lot brighter. The whole area is like it’s very own city while only being a five-minute ride from the Strip. Definitely carve out an evening (or even two) to visit Fremont Street. One bonus is that gambling here provided much lower minimums than we found on the Strip. Four Queens is where I tried (and failed) my hand at real-life roulette. The dealers were extremely nice and helpful which put me at ease for something I was nervous to try.
Those of you that know me know I don’t travel with kids. If you are traveling to Las Vegas with kids, there are plenty of things to do, but Fremont Street is not one of them (at least at night). While my group was there we saw three separate concerts going on, each having their own stage, groupies and audience. Between these and the light show going on every 30 minutes, it was loud. We saw street performers and some people begging, something we did not see much of on the Strip. There were several scantily clad women offering picture opportunities for tips. Not everything was sketchy. Binions and Four Queens both offer a completely free slot pull at their casino entrance – no strings attached. The Golden Nugget has a photo opp with an actual gold nugget and Binions has a photo op with a million dollars. There is a zip line spanning the length of Fremont Street called Slot Zilla. You can choose to do the shorter one sitting or the longer, higher one superman style. Simply watching this is great fun.
Container Park is also located at Fremont Street and provides a nice shopping stop as well as a plethora of dining options.
Where to Eat in Las Vegas
Las Vegas has food for even the most disconcerting palette, the budget-friendly diner and everyone in between. There is something for everyone, all tastes, and all budgets. I won’t pretend to know your budget or what you like and dislike. I will simply list some of the places we tried or wanted to try based on a lot of review reading and personal recommendations ahead of time.
One budget food friendly tip we took advantage of was ordering Von’s grocery delivery right to our hotel. This allowed us the convenience (and savings) of eating breakfast in the room every morning, snacks throughout the day and some late night munchies when we got back to the room. I simply ordered online before we even flew out and the groceries were delivered right to our hotel room door. Easy peasy.
Bruxies totes itself as the “Home of the Original Waffle Sandwich”. In all fairness, I did not know this was a chain because we don’t have any on the East Coast. I usually avoid chains like the plague. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the flavor of the buffalo spiced mac and cheese and the crispiness of the chicken and waffle. The location was in The Park area next to New York New York which felt a little bit like walking through Central Park in New York (if you’re not a New Yorker obviously), and it was a nice contrast to the busy strip.
Capo’s Italian Steakhouse and Speakeasy
Capo’s was the best restaurant we ate at during our visit to Las Vegas. It is a speakeasy with an excellently executed theme and delicious food.
Colin really wanted to try a “world famous” buffet while in Las Vegas, so we chose the Bellagio Buffet and were not disappointed. We popped in (and rolled out) for lunch before a day of sightseeing. There was no wait and the food was mostly fresh and being refilled regularly. I’ve honestly never seen so many options. If you can’t find something you like, you should probably stay home. Other top contenders were the Wicked Spoon buffet in the Cosmopolitan and the Bacchanal Buffet inside Caesars Palace.
Nine Fine Irishmen
Located in New York New York, Nine Fine Irishmen was on our list but we ended up at Bruxies (above) instead. This place had a unique menu and looked really fun. I wish we could have tried it.
Tap Sports Bar
Fighting jet lag, the strong urge to go to sleep at 7 pm and a growling stomach, we found ourselves at Tap Sports Bar on the evening we arrived in Las Vegas. It is directly off the casino floor in the MGM Grand which was connected to our hotel, the MGM Signature. The atmosphere was TV’s and sports memorabilia galore and the menu boasted cold beer, appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and entrees. The perfect combination for the state we were in. I thoroughly enjoyed the wedge salad with salmon and Colin loved the Hawaiian Burger so much that he didn’t care about having garlic breath for the entire night. The service itself impressed me the most. It was the best service we received our entire trip. Tap Sports Bar was definitely a good choice in a pinch.
In & Out Burger
This definitely goes against my no-chains rule, again, but I don’t even need to justify this. It was our first time! I just had to know what all the West Coast fuss was about. We tried the fries (yuck), a mustard fried grilled cheese (no beef for me) and Colin got the double-double. I’m glad we tried it, but I won’t be joining the In & Out Lovers facebook group anytime soon. Less than $10 for a meal was a complete score.
The Smashed Pie, Evil Pie (an evil Kenevil themes pizza shop) and Hash House a Go Go were top contenders while visiting the Fremont Street Experience, but we got too lost in the experience that is Fremont Street and forgot to eat that night.
Looking for something a little more upscale? Try the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, Hugo’s Cellar or Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab.
Believe it or not, there was so much to do in Las Vegas I didn’t spend much of my time drinking. The impending hangover was enough to deter me from going beyond two drinks at any given time, as tempting and readily available as it was. From beers as large as your head on Fremont Street to yards of mixed cocktails on the strip, there is no shortage of places to get your drink on.
The Verbena Cocktail at the Cosmopolitan Chandelier Bar was by far the best drink I had all week (maybe all year), and it’s not even on the menu.
I wrote above about happy hour at the Stratosphere. These drinks were good and reasonably priced with a priceless view. There are many more happy hours to speak of in Las Vegas. I used this guide.
winning dwindling your money away on slots or table games, reap the benefits of free drinks. Don’t forget to tip the cocktail waitresses though. Tipping is a personal preference, but I never know what is appropriate and I wish people would tell me. I chose to give $1 per drink no matter how many were ordered (it wasn’t a lot). You can get these drinks at any slot machine or table game in any casino. Just wait for the cocktail waitresses to come around or wave your arms like a crazy person and point to yourself. They will get the idea. Truthfully though, this isn’t a great way to get drunk (if that is your goal), the drinks can be notoriously weak, but hey, it’s free booze!
Where to Gamble in Las Vegas
This is easy. EVERYWHERE. Seriously.
My favorite place to try my hand at virtual roulette was at New York New York because it was $3 minimums vs $5 everywhere else. As mentioned, gambling in Downtown Las Vegas proved to be slightly less expensive in the form of lower minimums. Lower minimums mean lower risk and lower payout while but higher minimums mean higher risk with higher payouts. Las Vegas will really show you what kind of person you are 🙂
A lot of people ask me what a good gambling budget is for Las Vegas. That’s really hard to say. We aren’t big gamblers, so we set aside $50 per day which equated to $300 for the week. I can tell you we had fun gambling but we definitely came home with some of that money (and it wasn’t winnings). You can stretch your money and enjoy gambling as you would any other form of entertainment. We looked it at is a true entertainment cost vs. a waste.
Where to stay in Las Vegas
There are what feels like endless options of places to stay in Las Vegas. I would 100% recommend staying on the strip (or within walking distance of it) if it is your first time visiting Vegas. It is hard to get the full vibe of Las Vegas without being “in” the action. However, with the abundance of ride-share options, this is less of an issue.
The Cosmopolitan, Aria, Venetian, and Bellagio were all at the top of my list for accommodations, but I ultimately decided on the MGM Signature which is a condo hotel attached to the MGM Grand. The two main reasons were it’s quiet location indirectly off the strip, yet still being connected to the MGM Grand and the non-smoking policy for the building.
Getting around Las Vegas
I highly recommend having a car in Las Vegas if you are staying for more than a few nights and want to do any of the neat things off the strip. We didn’t rent a car but should have. Valet parking at the MGM Signature was free, and driving and parking in Las Vegas is fairly easy. So it would have saved us money to have our own mode of transportation for the week. We spent a good amount on ride-shares going between locations.
If you decide to skip the rental, there are plenty of taxis, Uber’s and Lyft’s to get you where you need to go. We never had a problem finding a pickup place (there are designated areas, which do not include right outside a hotel lobby) and never waited longer than a few minutes for a ride. We found all of our drivers to be kind and courteous. Tip: Always confirm your driver’s name and vice versa to be sure you are in the correct car. One time I did not do this right away and quickly realized we were headed in the wrong direction. An easy fix, but costly in time.
Walking around Las Vegas and more specifically the strip is possible. Our group did our fair share of walking between hotels when we were hopping around sightseeing. If there are any mobility issues in your party, a car or ride share is even more necessary. The hotels themselves are overwhelmingly large and getting from one end to the other (inside!) can often be upwards of a mile. But they are air conditioned which is more than I can say for the hot heat of Nevada.
Best time of year to visit Las Vegas
I rarely travel during the summer months to avoid crowds of families vacationing while their youngsters are on break. However, I definitely wouldn’t go to Las Vegas with temperatures above 100 degrees. I visited in September. Temperatures during the day were still hot, but the evenings were nice. I would recommend visiting in the Spring (March to May) or Fall (September to November). These times of year offer more moderate temperatures. The city didn’t feel particularly crowded during the September visit, which was nice. To avoid crowds, stay away from visiting around any holiday. Weekends are also always busier (and more expensive) than mid-week.
Getting to Las Vegas
Almost all major airlines fly into Mcclaren Airport in Las Vegas. Our group took Southwest, and, as always, enjoyed their service. The best part about Mcclaren Airport is its close proximity to the Las Vegas strip.It is a quick and easy ride to your hotel after picking up your rental car or catching a ride share. We were out and to our hotel in less than 20 minutes.
I always recommend AirportParkingReservations.com for keeping your vehicle at your home airport because I use it and love the service. It provides all the parking options at any given airport you are leaving a car, reading reviews on the site is easy and payment is straightforward. Check it out next time you have to park and fly.
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO LAS VEGAS
I’ve been traveling for years and have come to rely on a few trusted websites that save me time and money. Below are my preferred travel partners:
Do you have tips for things to do in Las Vegas, Nevada? Questions? Please comment below.