The Perfect Hotel for Every Vegas Visitor
When you're in a normal city, let's call it Austin or San Diego or Des Moines or what-have-you, you can just book a hotel in an area that, by all appearances on Google Maps, seems to be "downtown"-adjacent and be relatively assured that there will be things to do in that area. Things one can walk to from said hotel, and plenty of them, in such a way that one can feel one has explored said city to his or her satisfaction in the amount of time he or she stayed there. In fact, this is such a generally assumed travel reality that it is more or less an expectation.
But Vegas is not a normal city, and you are not going to be able to explore this neon-soaked altar to capitalism's id on foot (unless, of course, you never leave your own resort).
The resorts here are all the size of city blocks. To walk from your hotel room deep within the bowels of ONE of the 600-room towers of your home for the weekend to the craps tables at the casino next door might take half an hour.
Literally. Thirty minutes of walking. To get from your hotel room to the casino right next to your own.
And this is why you need to be very intentional about where you stay. What are you here for? What do you want to experience while you're here? What do you care about? What are your dearest wishes and deepest desires? Who are you as a person? If you were an Oreo flavor, which Oreo flavor would you be?
Now that you have done some serious self-examination, you're ready to book your Vegas vacay, and we've broken the Vegas hotel scene down for you by categories of special interest so you can strategize accordingly.
If you're here for a bachelor party, you care about one thing and one thing only: blowing unconscionable amounts of money at the strip club on girls from whom the only "ride" you'll be getting is the ride they'll taking you on to separate you from your money. Since there are no strip clubs on the Strip, you'll want to be somewhere with easy access.
A non-gaming boutique hotel known for its after-hours debauched and "European" pool (that's code for "topless"), the Artisan is relatively cheap and conveniently located to some of the best, er, "talent" in Las Vegas -- just a few minutes' drive to Sapphire and the Spearmint Rhino.
Staying at Mandalay you get the whole Strip experience, with the added value of close proximity to top adult entertainment at Crazy Horse III and the Hustler Club. If you need a break from racking up $40 ATM fees every day, you can ogle your fill of free boobs at DAYLIGHT Beach Club, Mandalay's party pool, or at the more secluded "toptional" Moorea Beach Club.
The Palms is just off the Strip, making it a hell of a lot easier to get in and out of (also it has free parking, which is quickly becoming a unicorn in Vegas). Plenty of strip joints sit within a 15-minute driving radius, and even when you're on the property there's still lots of silly-ass debauchery to be had inside the Ghost Bar (especially when it's GBDC season). And since this is a bros weekend, you can also splurge on practical lodging like the Hardwood Suite, which comes with its own indoor basketball court and professional locker room -- perfect for a bachelor blowout, so long as it doesn't go the way of Very Bad Things.
Alright, so, you're here to throw down. You don't want to see sunlight unless it's on your way back to your hotel room to pass out until it's time to get ready for the club again. You'll want to stick close to those clubs, in fact, because that walk back to the room can be a real struggle at 6am with legs made of Jell-O shots.
Wynn and Encore are home to the best clubs in Vegas -- XS, Surrender, Intrigue, and Encore Beach Club -- so if you stay here, you can go utterly bonkers without ever leaving the property.
This super-sexy hotel is home to both Drai's BeachClub & Nightclub -- a rooftop open-air day and nightclub with incredible views directly overlooking the Strip -- and Drai's After Hours, a pro-level joint for Vegas partiers. Once again, if you stay here you really never have to leave the property, and you can also do the full 24-hour club circuit... but only if you're ready.
Basically you stay here because it's close to the Cromwell (and therefore Drai's), but way, WAY cheaper. It also puts you close to Caesars (for OMNIA), Bellagio (for Hyde), and the Cosmopolitan (for Marquee).
So maybe you've heard this one, but we have a lot of shows here in Vegas. Like, a LOT. Like, you think you know how many shows there are here (and that there are indeed a lot), but you really have no idea. From the dozen-ish (OK, more like six, but it feels like a dozen) Cirque shows to off-Cirque shows like Le Rêve (le meh) and Absinthe (go, now), the quality of stage productions you can see in Vegas seven days a week surpasses Broadway.
But then there are also all the impersonation acts (Elvis, Prince, '80s rock bands, drag queens as pop stars) and the improvisation acts and the A- and B- and C- and yes, even D-list comedians and the headliner magicians like Penn & Teller and Criss Angel and the magicians that play in some sketch back-alley venue behind the Denny's on the Strip that looks kind of like a high-school classroom theater practice space -- NOT the actual theater, mind you, but the classroom used to store gym equipment that's occasionally used for acting practice -- and, OH RIGHT, the residencies with performers who need only one identifying name: Celine, Mariah, Elton, Britney, J.Lo (still only one name!), Tim and Faith.
And THEN you've got the top-line entertainment at the Smith Center, including all the touring Broadway productions and the cabaret jazz club, then there's all the off-off-OFF-Strip fringe theater that inexplicably exists here despite not really seeming to have much of an audience even among locals, and then there's just bizarre shit like Puppetry of the Penis because this is Vegas and nothing makes sense. That's just the culture here.
At the MGM Grand you have the only Cirque show with a loose plot, Ka; all of the concerts at the MGM Grand Garden Arena; proximity to all of the concerts across-the-street-ish at the new T-Mobile Arena and Park Theater; proximity to some of the more ridiculous big-name Strip shows like Blue Man Group at the Luxor and Thunder From Down Under at the Excalibur; plus you can always "Cirque and chill" with the sexy-time Zumanity at New York New York.
On property at PH is Zombie Burlesque and Britney Spears' Piece of Me, one of the most successful Vegas residencies of all time, BUT see it while you can, because it ends December 31! Bye-bye, Brit Brit. *tears* Her show's home, The AXIS at Planet Hollywood, is also a stopping point for big-name touring acts. PH also puts you close to Celine at Caesars, O at the Bellagio, and concerts at The Cosmopolitan's Boulevard Pool and The Chelsea.
The only true "boutique hotel" Downtown, the Oasis at Gold Spike -- a hipster entertainment complex -- is a stylish place to stay that puts you in a central location of Downtown Vegas so you can check out punk-rock shows, burlesque shows, fringe theater, and touring Broadway shows at places like the Las Vegas Little Theatre, Bunkhouse Saloon, Beauty Bar, and the Smith Center. If you're here for a long weekend extending into Tuesday, don't miss Mondays Dark at The Space LV.
Often related to the obsessively-seeking-strip-clubs bachelor party are the pool partiers: sun worshippers and water rats, all. Just kidding -- if you're here specifically for pool clubs then you definitely don't care about the sun OR the water. JUST kidding, I suppose not everyone here is in desperate pursuit of sex with strangers. HA, kidding, don't be an idiot, of course you are. #PoolSeason is a serious thing in Vegas. It is a months-long holiday, a season ("summer" is what it is called elsewhere, and while they share some common points they are not fully the same thing), a lifestyle, a mindset. There are many kinds of pools and many kinds of pool clubs for many kinds of tastes, and your flavor preference is going to make a big difference in where you should stay.
Encore Beach Club is pretty much the best of the beach clubs, and one of the least shitshowy -- which isn't to say things (THINGS) don't go down, it's just not quite as, um, "When was my last tetanus shot?" as some of the others. It's a beautiful beach club with top-tier DJs that also has "night swim" parties -- known as "NightSwim," go figure, on Friday and Saturday nights; NightSwim at XS Nightclub goes off Sunday nights.
If the party pool isn't really your thing, book a stay at The Venetian, where the massive pool deck also connects with The Palazzo's for your choice of pool experience, be that huge and crowded or secluded and toptional. The Aquatic Club in the Palazzo pool deck offers a throwback pool-party experience ideal for those accustomed to partying at private boat clubs, while TAO Beach offers the full Vegas party-pool experience (though it is a bit light on the "pool").
Hard Rock is the reigning king of gong-show pool parties with Rehab, Vegas' OG dayclub. If you're aiming for more of the "rock" in Hard Rock, Friday Night Live hosts a variety of live music in the pool area. And if you're looking for lower-key, the Breathe Pool Ultra Lounge rooftop pool is the best pool club no one knows about (open Friday and Saturday nights).
If you want the Vegas experience without all of that Vegasy-ness, check out one of the "locals" casino hotels, which are an easy cab ride to the Strip if Strip things still need to be done, but also far enough from the hordes to feel somewhat civilized while also still feeling like a Vegas vacation. Added bonus: These places tend to be a lot cheaper -- like, by HALF -- and are also quite nice.
South Point offers a complete cowboy-vibe getaway with a movie theater, a 64-lane bowling alley, a top-tier equestrian center, a variety of concerts and comedy shows -- it's a bit of a hotspot for touring stand-up -- and solid dining options. Pro tip: Bloody Marys and mimosas are $1 and Irish car bombs are $2 DAILY from 6am to noon at all casino bars and the Coronado Cafe.
Located in Green Valley, another somewhat-fancy suburb 20 minutes from the Strip in the other direction than Summerlin, Green Valley Ranch and the surrounding retail and restaurant district offer a welcome respite with excellent dining and a fine spa and pool. It smacks of suburbia but in a really pleasant way.
About 10 miles south of Mandalay Bay (where the Strip starts) on Las Vegas Blvd, the M is a true locals casino, and a favorite one at that. It has all of the amenities of a Strip resort -- very stylish with great dining, gaming, pampering, and pool life -- with none of the hassle. It's sort of like The Cosmopolitan's stylish-but-low-maintenance Midwestern cousin.
Oh right, gambling! That's a thing that people do here! Now, some of you will want to play at a high-limit poker table, while others will be happy with pai gow. Some casinos are known for their hot craps (LOLWUT), while others specialize in more library-quiet table games, and others still are just places to go drink in with the gambling being secondary. Everywhere has its own area of specialty, but basing yourself in these hotels will guarantee a #winning streak, even if you're not actually "winning."
The LINQ gives you O'Sheas, where you can bet on beer pong (and other things, but c'mon, BEER PONG), as well as close proximity to the dumpy little Casino Royale hidden in plain sight on the Strip, which gives you 20x odds on craps.
A local favorite for pai gow poker, a preferred game for poker players who just wanna have fun, the Gold Coast always has lots of action and low minimum bets. Plus it's a cheap stay.
The El Cortez is classic Vegas, Downtown's first "major" resort. It does what it does well: keeps rooms, dining, and gaming cheap to attract a loyal clientele, which more and more has included that coveted millennial demographic (perhaps you, dear reader). Recently slashed table minimums and boosted drink specials further make it a draw. You're also right downtown, so you can easily get into shenanigans on Fremont.
Nevada is the only meaningful state to allow sport betting (sorry, Delaware, but we're not saying anything you didn't already know). Because of this, an integral part of the Vegas gambling experience is the Vegas sports book, basically a sports bar on steroids (the extra-good ones that pro athletes use to make their biceps big and 'nads small). If you're here to watch and bet on sports, you want to be somewhere with a killer sports book.
Lagasse's Stadium, a favorite among sports fans, is equal parts incredible sports book and incredible tailgate party, with food from good-time celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.
The Westgate is home to the world's largest race and sports SUPERBOOK, which is all the reason you need. Also, the Westgate is WAY cheaper than staying on the Strip. Parlay those savings into more ill-advised parlays!
The Golden Nugget's race and sports book has a screen at every seat, in addition to a giant video wall for more TVs per square inch than any other book in the state. It also claims the state's most extensive wagering menu, which has its own mobile app.
Hey, we all need a little bit of retail therapy sometimes, and Vegas is basically Rodeo Drive AND Fifth Avenue AND the Mag Mile x10 x10 x10. You'll find the ultra-ultra high-end, "our items don't have price tags and we do not have 'stores' but 'retail experiences'" spots down the block from the quirky, indie, vintage, and sometimes bizarre. Including regular-ass malls, which we are specifically not including here. You have those at home. Seriously. Stop.
You ever wonder what it might be like to go on a $30,000 shopping spree in one store? Wonder no more at the adjoining Shops at Crystals, where the majority of stores are sitting on inventory worth more than your life.
The Forum Shops at Caesars is pretty much THE original Las Vegas shopping destination (and made ceilings painted to look like the sky a thing). Stay on property so you can make repeated trips back to your room to deposit all of your bags of stuff, and also swing over to the adjoining Bellagio shops, provided they're not on fire.
While this choice of lodging might be a little too on-the-nose (get it? "Grand"? Like, spending a grand?), staying downtown puts you close to the popular Las Vegas North Premium Outlets as well as the uniquely Vegas vintage shopping on Main St -- we're talking clothes, furniture, chips from demoed casinos -- and the Pawn Stars pawn shop.
If you are a self-professed foodie, scouring endless IG posts and listicles and Yelp reviews and solicited Facebook comments to find the best of the best of the BEST places to eat while you're in town is a recipe for burnout. Don't fry yourself. Instead, get to the center of the city-sized Kitchen Stadium that is Las Vegas.
Simply put, Vegas' top restaurant collection. David Chang recently opened outposts of Momofuku and Milk Bar, LA's cultishly popular Eggslut now has a spot here, the not-at-all-secret Secret Pizza is a Vegas bucket list item, Wicked Spoon is hands-down the best buffet in a city sadly synonymous with them, STK and D.O.C.G. show that some restaurants are so great they need only letters, and our favorite celeb chef in Vegas has his Jaleo located here. Plus, next door at ARIA there's Sage, one of the best restaurants on the Strip yet woefully underrated.
Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa is pretty much the only gaming game on this side of town, and the property has gone to great lengths to make itself as desirable as its Strip counterparts 20 minutes to the east. Staying here puts you minutes from Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, and also in the heart of Vegas' most popular fancy-pants neighborhood, Summerlin. The on-property dining is great, with places like Hearthstone, Libre, Lucille's BBQ, and a Yard House, while nearby Downtown Summerlin (which is not so much a "downtown" as it is a mall) has excellent restaurants like Andiron, Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill, Crave, and the upscale burger and beer joint Public School 702. Elsewhere in Summerlin you'll find Honey Salt -- arguably responsible for making Summerlin an all-comers Vegas dining destination -- and Echo & Rig butcher and steakhouse, known for weekend brunches.
You won't find a better jumping-off point than D Hotel, at the center of the Fremont Street Experience and the excellent dining you can now find there, including *inhales deeply*: Carson Kitchen, The Perch, Park on Fremont, MTO Café, Makers & Finders, Le Pho Vietnamese Kitchen, La Comida, Chow, The Smashed Pig Gastropub, Oscar's Steakhouse, Andiamo Steakhouse at the D Hotel, American Coney Island also at the D Hotel if you're getting sloppy, Pizza Rock, eat., etc.
If you're here for reasons other than gambling -- maybe you came out for a little "me time" on the golf course or at the spa, or you're stuck going to a conference at the Las Vegas Convention Center and are bumming hard that the conference isn't in Miami this year, or you're here for a wedding and are bumming hard that the wedding isn't in Miami, or you're prone to seizures triggered by flashing lights and ringing bells and all the noisenoisenoisenoise -- then you might just want to consider a non-gaming property. Which do actually exist, even on the Strip! They're a hell of a lot quieter, both in terms of the lack of gaming floor but also in terms of the decidedly less WOOOOO-y clientele. Not surprisingly, these cases are also among the upper echelon of Strip properties, for a more civilized Vegas experience.
Gaming or no (actually perhaps because of the "or no"), the Mandarin is the finest hotel in Las Vegas (and pretty much everywhere Mandarins are found). It is the #hotelgoals of the hospitality industry. The Strip-side Vegas location is no exception, butt-up in front of City Center (because the Mandarin doesn't do anything less than first) and boasting the most phenomenal views of the Las Vegas Strip -- even from the bathrooms. It's a hefty splurge to be sure, but, you only YOLO once, you know?
Four Seasons or Delano Las VegasThe Strip
Both the Four Seasons and Delano Las Vegas are basically extensions of Mandalay Bay, so you're still very much action-adjacent, but also shielded from it by these upscale properties that don't suffer the trifling masses.
Just 20 minutes from the Strip in fancy-pants Summerlin, the JW Marriott is just the kind of civilized experience you need if you're just looking to relax, maybe get a massage, play some golf, you know. The Rampart is a small casino located at the resort, though it does not overtake the entire property and certainly doesn't assault you with the sound of its dinging slots if you don't want it to.
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