If you're coming to Las Vegas for the first time, you're probably laser-focused on the Strip -- a place that's equal parts Monte Carlo and Jersey Shore. The four-mile-plus stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard runs between Russell and Sahara, dominated by bright lights, giant marquees, and mega-resorts loaded with restaurants, nightclubs, and other attractions. Don't let locals scare you away by saying the Strip is overrated, expensive, and not as good as it used to be. All those things are true -- and we wish the mob still ran the casinos, too -- but it's now a new era. Time to make the most of it.
Where to stay: If you want a mega-resort with an over-the-top theme, Caesars Palace, the Mirage, or Mandalay Bay may be calling your name. if you're feeling extra-goofy, the Luxor (Egyptian!) or Excalibur (Camelot!) will do the trick. Keep in mind, these are all sprawling properties, so be ready for endless walking. Other big resorts include the Aria (newer) and the MGM Grand (older). If you want something smaller but sexier, The Cromwell is pretty cool. So is the Cosmopolitan. If you’re looking to save a few dollars by staying in the relatively quiet and secluded north end of the Strip, check out The Strat or Sahara. A pair of twin properties -- Wynn/Encore and Venetian/Palazzo -- offer the best bang for the buck (although it's a big buck) and follow an all-suites format. While their resort fees are among the highest on the Strip, there isn't a parking charge. Take your victories when you can.
Things to do: See a show -- whether it's one of seven Cirque du Soleil productions on the Strip or a big-name residency at the Park Theater (Lady Gaga, Aerosmith, Cher, Bruno Mars), the Colosseum at Caesars Palace (Keith Urban, Sting, Mariah Carey), or Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood (Shania Twain, Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aguilera). The magic shows here do more than just pull rabbits out of hats, especially Piff the Magic Dragon, Matt Franco, Penn & Teller, Mac King, and David Copperfield. If you just want to laugh, everyone says the same thing about Carrot Top -- "I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did." Otherwise, get familiar with actually cool things to do in Vegas. Some things live up to the hype (the High Roller wheel, blackjack at the Cromwell) and some things are actually free (Bellagio Fountains, the Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, Mirage Volcano).
Best restaurants: Options for breakfast include the egg sandwiches at Eggslut and the seared-with-a-blowtorch cinnamon rolls at District Donuts. Pronto by Giada at Caesars Palace is another safe bet. But it's hard to beat Della's Kitchen at the Delano with all your breakfast and lunch favorites made fresh and clean, often with Nevada-sourced ingredients. If you're at the Park MGM (or a nearby resort like New York-New York or the Waldorf Astoria), Eataly will cook some Creekstone Farms steak on the spot at retail prices to take back to your room. (Note: You'll probably shell out serious dollars on dinner, So try to spend reasonably on other meals.)
If money really isn't an issue, upscale French restaurants like Joel Robuchon, Twist by Pierre Gagnaire, Restaurant Guy Savoy, and Le Cirque put together some of the most complete dining experiences in town, often with multi-course tasting menus crafted with precision by well-trained kitchen teams. If Joel Robuchon looks a little too pricey, nextdoor sister restaurant L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon is a bit more casual and less expensive, but still a great culinary experience. If you feel a need to cross a steakhouse off your "Things I Did in Vegas" list, Bazaar Meat, Delmonico Steakhouse, Jean-Georges, and Cut are top options to consider.
Bars and nightlife: Vegas is a great town for drinking -- and you can't go wrong with all the cocktail lounges in the big resorts -- but the prices add up fast. Grab a few bottles for pregaming in your suite. CVS or Walgreens (and the Strip has a growing number of both) will be less expensive than hotel lobby shops. If you have a car, head to Total Wine at Town Square for a large selection at standard prices most human beings can process. Probably the best way to mingle with the locals -- and watch them go bananas -- on the Strip is to see a Vegas Golden Knights hockey game at the T-Mobile Arena, which opened in 2016 and still smells like new. The energy, not to mention the food, is hard to beat.