9. Las Vegas, Nevada
There’s no place like Vegas. You can do almost anything here -- within the parameters of local laws, of course. For whatever reason you might find yourself on a weekend trip to Vegas, Vegas will deliver in spades: A bachelor party (strip clubs!), a conference (baller dinners on the company dime!), a sinful escape from your painfully normal life (swingers and sex shows!) There’s even world-class climbing, bouldering, and hiking a mere 20 minutes from the Strip.
And Vegas, she is always changing. The last five years have seen some major overhauls on the Strip, most notably the Linq Promenade and the Park Las Vegas, transforming what were once alleys into walkable outdoor spaces with dining and entertainment options unmoored from the confines of casinos. BTW, residencies in Vegas are cool now, something we can probably chalk up to Brit-Brit's monumentally successful run. A "Vegas show" no longer means Cirque -- it means a big-name like Lady Gaga, and soon, Ms. Jackson if you're nasty.
But a weekend in Vegas can leave you broke and broken. Everything is expensive. The Strip might look walkable, but trust us, this is a mirage. (Just take a Lyft everywhere. It’s relatively cheap, and each casino has designated rideshare pick-up spots.) For more expert tips on making it out alive, see our Vegas destination guide.
Neighborhoods to check out: If you want some genuine local flavor (yeah, people live here!), head downtown. Have brunch at the hipster-friendly PublicUs, where all the phenomenal breads and pastries are made in-house. Hit up East Fremont institution Atomic Liquors, the oldest freestanding bar in town (est. 1945) with Vegas’s best selection of craft beers. It’s also where people gathered in the ‘50s to watch nuclear tests while drinking on the rooftop.
The Arts District is Vegas’ hip, gentrifying neighborhood where Hop Nuts Brewing is making some of the best beer in the city, Vesta Coffee Roasters is brewing coffee that would make Seattleites jealous, and Esther’s Kitchen is positioning itself as one of the best restaurants in Las Vegas, on or off the Strip. Visit the Neon Museum, a singular Las Vegas experience. And, though the sea of strip malls may not be much to look at, Chinatown has become one of the most interesting and best food neighborhoods not just in Vegas, but the whole country.
Must eat & drink: Nearly every celebrity chef has a restaurant in Vegas and most of them are overhyped and overpriced -- EXCEPT Roy Choi’s Best Friend, which just opened in the revamped Park MGM. Everything about this place is spectacular, from the lobby made to look like an L.A. bodega full of booze slushie machines, to the neon yellow menu interspersed with photocopied pictures of Chef Roy from the ‘90s, to the staff uniforms… you just have to experience it. This is, hands-down, the most exciting restaurant on the Strip.
Don't leave without: Visiting the Cosmopolitan. There’s a reason it’s still the hottest property in Las Vegas more than a decade later. See Opium, the sexy-raunchy space-themed must-see Vegas show. Have a cocktail inside the “hidden” Ghost Donkey cocktail bar (located through an “exit” door at the back of the new Block 16 Urban Food Hall -- look for the donkey on the door). Also check out the new Barbershop, which is apparently a salon and cocktail bar and live music venue and maybe also exclusive lounge all in one? Vegas, baby! -- Nicole Rupersburg