If you're even thinking of being in Vegas, check out the rest of our DestiNATION: Vegas guide. It's stacked with expert advice from locals on what to eat, where to drink, and what to do.
Miami: The Ultimate Local's Guide
S ay this for Vegas: No matter how idiotic your decisions here, someone nearby has just one-upped you. They've jumped into a pool with their phone in their jeans. They've taken so many shots that yet another round of shots sounded wise. Or maybe they've just hit on 12 -- everything's relative. Sure, places like New Orleans and Austin have their shares of tourists behaving badly, but Vegas has staked its entire reputation (and built a whole tourism marketing campaign) around fucking up. Mistakes here aren't just part of life. They're not even a way of life. They're the reason almost anyone in this town even has a job. Vegas is the mistake-industrial complex in full effect.
Certain things you know will stay in Vegas (your last five weeks' pay at the craps table, for instance). Others seriously will follow you around. So don't get dismembered. Don't get heat stroke. Don't wind up with a felony record. And don't start acting like a poor person's idea of a high roller. To have a good time and maybe not totally hate yourself at the end of it, keep reading. These are the things that everyone, at some point, will get wrong.
This, first and foremost this, this uber alles, all of this. Casinos exist to get you lightheaded and part you from you money. Sure, sometimes you might win -- that's all part of the game! People HAVE to win sometimes to ensure they keep pumping credits into the machines. Without that margin of hope, that small chance of getting a big payout, the casinos would empty out and the Strip would be returned to the desert sands. But that's not the case, no: because the casinos give you just enough to keep playing. There's a whole risk/reward neuroscience and economic theory behind this but, spoiler alert, this place looks so expensive because billions of bad bets built it.
Treating your servers and bartenders like crap because you didn't beat the house
You have no one to blame but yourself if you ignored the first lesson. Everyone who lives in this godforsaken sun-stained patch of asphalt depends upon YOU, dear tourist, and your wads of cash. In return, they deal with your bullshit and your belligerent friend's bullshit and Squawking Sally from Omaha's bullshit and everyone else's bullshit all day, every day, for all eternity. So be a mensch. Also, tip. (Unless you're charged the tourist tax automatically, see below.)
Not pacing yourself
A weekend in Vegas is a marathon, not a sprint. You're not Lance Armstrong. You're not Ben Johnson. Or, to put it in Vegas terms, you're not Anderson Silva. You're not breaking any records here, and besides, those dudes only managed to do so with chemical enhancement. Which is FINE if that's the route you want to go, but just remember: Those dudes were also seasoned professionals in the big leagues of their respective sports. Unless "Vegas" is your way of life 24-7, remember that you need to crawl before you can set a world record racing. So maybe lay off the chemical enhancements.
Wearing completely impractical attire for the sake of looking "hot"
This inevitably ends in "the Vegas Girl Walk," and it makes even the world's hottest chicks look like concussed baby giraffes.
Not strategizing your transportation and/or thinking you can walk everywhere
This is the desert, the buildings are larger than life, and distance is a mirage. Too many tourists look out from the Bellagio and say, "Let's walk to the Venetian -- it's right down there, we can see it!"
Your eyes have no idea how close a thing is. Also, you're probably wearing the wrong shoes. Also, all the cabs are out to screw you. Also, you have to get back at some point. Don't waste a whole day walking and whining about it. Know where shit is in relation to other shit and how you're getting from one thing to another. We're not saying plan every second of your WILD AND CRAZY Vegas WOOO vacation; just have a general idea of what your day might look like.
There is the long hauling and the promises of taking you to "the best" clubs. But beyond all of that, Vegas cabs are quite simply a shakedown. Compared to other cities, Uber and Lyft aren't "cheap," but they are cheaper than the absurdly, should-be-but-isn't-because-lobbyists-and-politics criminally expensive cabs.
Paying the tourist tax
At many bars and clubs on the Strip, you are automatically charged both an automatic service fee AND an "entertainment fee." There is absolutely nothing you can do about this, BUT you can at least be aware that it's happening so you don't add another 20% onto the extra 28-or-so-% already tacked on. Such is the price of partying on the Strip.
Trying to recreate The Hangover or Very Bad Things or What Happens in Vegas or any other VEGAS, BABY party movie because your life is just not that cool and you'll go to clubs and spend more money than you ever thought possible and probably nurse a wicked hangover or two and that's frankly it for the overwhelming majority of you
Also saying douchey things like, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!" No one cares what happened to you in Vegas because all that happened is you got wasted and got hustled by a stripper and that's really not that cool of a story.
Thinking you can do Vegas cheaply
You CAN, but it's not the kind of Vegas you want to "do." And it's certainly not the kind of Vegas that will send you home with a WILD AND CRAZY story to tell. You are going to hemorrhage money while you're here. You just are.
Thinking prostitution is legal here
Hey, no judgment, just know that prostitution is NOT, in fact, legal in Clark County, Nevada, aka where Vegas is located. It is legal in Pahrump, where all the brothels are, which is not a place you would ever want to go for any other reason but for the brothels, and even then it's questionable.
Thinking the hot girl at the casino's center bar wants you
Oh, so some blazin'-hot chick who happens to be sitting by herself at your resort's center bar at 2am is happily chatting you up and has asked if you want to go back to your room? She's a working professional. And you're an amateur.
There have been so many pedestrian deaths in the past couple of years that the Nevada Department of Transportation describes them as being at an "epidemic level." And most of them happen at night. Now, whether this has more to do with drivers blowing through crosswalks or pedestrians wandering out into traffic isn't for you to determine. This is basic risk management, plain and simple.
Driving yourself anywhere
If you decide to rent a car but don't plan on going much beyond the Strip and Fremont, save yourself some headaches and Uber/Lyft it instead. Otherwise all you'll end up doing is sitting in traffic on the Strip and paying for parking everywhere because ugh, yes, now paid parking is a thing.
Waiting in line at the clubs
The clubs here are massive -- Vegas pretty much defined the "superclub" -- and they're open damn near seven days a week and the entry fees can be preposterously expensive and all of that should mean there's plenty of room for anyone who has the money and desire to go, but it doesn't.
Now, you can try to avoid some of this by buying your ticket in advance, for which there is a separate, shorter line, or you can get a table from one of the club promoters scattered throughout each property like cockroaches (though there is yet another line for this), or even have a VIP host (still no guarantee of skipping lines but your odds are better). But if it's a Saturday night and Steve Aoki or Calvin Harris or Skrillex is headlining, you're going to be waiting in lines. And you are going to pay a LOT of money for the privilege of doing so. Also, if you're a group of guys with zero ladies in your all-penis pack, you're not getting in. Period.
Claiming you want to experience Vegas "like a local"
Nah. You think you do, but you don't. The local experience here is the same as the local experience anywhere: same disgruntled bartender lifers, same soulless sports bars. The difference here is that you can gamble and smoke inside here. Wheeeee.
You're gonna get real cold in those tank tops and flip-flops when it's only 50 degrees in November.
Not properly preparing for the sun and the heat. And the sun. And the heat.
Nine months a year, the city is a magnifying glass and you are the ant underneath. The heat here will melt your delicate, four-seasoned brain. The sun is a 10,000-megawatt UV laser that will bore into your skull and melt your face from the inside. At the BAREST of minimums, wear sunscreen and shotgun bottles of water the way you once shotgunned beers at your frat house. Otherwise expect sunburn, near-deadly levels of dehydration, and excruciating headaches. Vegas, baby. Vegas.
Assuming the airport is not going to be a complete clusterfuck at 6am on a Tuesday
So you had your EPIC BENDER or whatever and now you've got to shuffle your ass into the airport and catch a barely-break-of-dawn flight home because your friend who booked the flights wanted to save $40. Welp, plan on treating this like an international flight. Allow at least two hours to get checked in and through security (not to mention walking time to your gate one mile away), because some days it's a breeze, and others it's the day after EDC and every line is an hour long and none of those people have slept all weekend and are actually in worse shape than you.
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.
Nicole Rupersburg is a freelance journalist whose years living in Vegas have done permanent damage to her sense of "normal." She likes to 'Gram things @eatsdrinksandleaves but it's mostly pictures of mountains and beer because that's her #VegasLife.