Guide To Vegas

Welcome To Vegas Sign

When you decide on a trip to Vegas, you have a ton of decisions to make.   Where to stay, what to do, where to eat and so on.  It can be quite overwhelming at first due to the sheer number of different choices available.  I will help you narrow things down, so that you can get those plans booked and start looking forward to your upcoming trip!

There are several main categories of items you need to take care of when booking a trip to Vegas.  They are hotel, activities/shows, excursions and dining.  These will vary in importance from one person to the next, but they all need to be considered when planning your trip.

Vegas Hotels

If you plan to check out all the amazing hotels and casinos on the strip, you’ll probably want to stay somewhere centrally located.  Depending on your budget, a great choice is the Bellagio.  On our most recent trip to Vegas that is where we stayed and we couldn’t have been happier with the accommodations and the central location.

Your first insider tip is to research the “$20 trick” for whatever hotel you choose.  The $20 trick involves slipping a $20 bill in with your license and credit card when checking in with the front desk person.  You may feel uncomfortable doing this, but I can tell you first hand it is WELL worth that few minutes of discomfort.

I approached the front desk attendant, slipped a $20 bill in with my license and credit card at check-in and asked if any ‘complimentary upgrades’ were available.  A few minutes later, that landed us an upgrade from a standard room to a partial fountain view room, which actually had a full view of the Bellagio fountains and the Eiffel Tower of Paris across the street.

Bellagio Room View

I was happy to accept the upgrade and she was happy to accept the $20.  Win/win!  Your mileage may vary from one hotel to another, but the Bellagio is one that is known to take your tips and if you’re looking for even bigger upgrades, feel free to try $50 or $100.  Most likely, the worst that will happen is they will say there are no upgrades available and give you your $ back.

For us location was key and we figured our chances were good for an upgrade, so we booked the cheaper room at the nicer hotel rather than go with a lower end hotel.  Most people tell you that the room doesn’t matter all that much since you’ll be out of the room most of the time, but it did make a big difference to us to have the view of the fountains and the strip.  It definitely added to the experience and the entire Bellagio resort is very impressive.

Other notable hotels that are highly rated include The Venetian, Vdara, Cosmopolitan, Wynn, Pallazo, Aria and Encore.  Some other middle of the road resorts which can be less expensive, but also get some good reviews are The Mirage, Monte Carlo and Planet Hollywood.  There are many others that are also good, those are just the main ones that we researched and have experience with as far as reviews go.

Vegas Restaurants

Sensi Restaurant Bellagio

I wanted to highlight a few restaurant that we enjoyed on our last visit.  Since we were staying at the Bellagio in the Spa Tower, we had to walk by the Sensi restaurant whenever we went to/from our room.  It is very visually appealing from the outside, with a water wall effect and the kitchen areas are exposed since the different areas are sectioned off with glass.

The service was excellent, the food/presentation was excellent and it was a very enjoyable experience.  I had the Tandori Chicken with Basmati Rice.  Prices were higher with my dinner running around $32 and prices ranged from there on up to $60 for a 14oz NY Strip Steak.  Since that was our dinner to splurge we did enjoyed ourselves and it was an excellent choice whether you’re staying at the Bellagio or not.

Diablo's Cantina Vegas

Diablo’s Cantina is a Mexican themed restaurant with a lively party atmosphere.  The food was decent, typical Mexican faireNothing amazing, but it was good.  We definitely went more to be where the action was.

It is located right on the strip at the Monte Carlo hotel.  For Happy Hour they have a spinning wheel that they spin every 30 minutes to determine the drink specials.  And the bartenders put on a show.  They stand on the bar and pour shots, light stuff on fire and entertain the crowd.  It’s a cool place to check out.

Battista's Accordian Player

Battista’s Hole in the Wall is a great little off-strip Italian restaurant that you really should check out.  It’s an old Vegas Italian landmark located behind the Flamingo Hilton hotel.  It’s a short walk from the strip and it lives up to it’s name, but it is a great little hole in the wall!  The decor is old vegas, the wait staff appear that they have worked their most of their lives and there is a cute little old man Gordy that goes around from table to table with his accordion playing well known tunes, he even takes requests. 

All dinners include soup or salad, garlic bread, unlimited red or white house wine, a main entree and cappuccino.   For all that the price is only $21.95 for Spaghetti and HUGE Meatballs, $23.95 for Lasagna and $27.95 for Chicken Parm. just to list a few of the items.  And the entire menu is listed prominently on all the wall, no menu required.

It was a place where we met up with a local friend and we were very glad we went!  We would have never known about the place other wise and the food was excellent, prices great for what you get and you got a feel that you experienced a bit of old town Vegas in the process.  Well worth it to check this place out, very fun festive place and the food was great.

Vegas Shows / Activities

There are almost an unlimited number of choices when it comes to Vegas shows and attractions. You could choose from performances by legendary artists such as Celine Dion, Elton John, Shania Twain and Rod Stewart. You could take in an number of the amazing shows by Cirque Du Soleil such as Mystere, O, The Beatles Love, Ka, Zumanity or Viva Elvis. You could attend theatrical shows such as Jersey Boys and Le Reve or you could take in a hybrid show that combines high energy music, dance and humor with The Blue Man Group.

My recommendation would be to try a little bit of everything if your budget and time allows. If you’ve never seen a Cirque show, by all means check one of those. We saw Cirque O, which is a Cirque show that takes place over a stage that includes water. We wanted to do this one because the water element was very unique and not something we would likely see anywhere else. However, it is one of the most expensive of their shows, so if you are on a budget, Mystere was very highly rated and a bit less expensive.

I’ve also seen the Blue Man Group in Vegas and Orlando and the Vegas show was definitely the best. Well worth it, especially if you’ve never seen them perform before. The show combines great visuals, great music and humor, a little something for everyone.

In addition to the shows, the hotels themselves are an activity of their own. We choose the Bellagio for it’s central location on the strip because we planned to walk as far as Mandalay Bay on the South and The Pallazo on the North. Each hotel has a completely different look/feel outside and inside and it is well worth your effort to check each of them out.

An off the beaten path idea you might not have thought of is the Pinball Hall of Fame.  It is free to enter and has 152 vintage pinball machines and 54 classic arcade games that you have to pay to play.  We did not make it here, but it was on the list in case we had time.

Free Activities!

Since there are plenty of things to spend your $ on, I wanted to be sure to include a list of things to do that are free and definitely worth checking out!

Bellagio Fountains

The Fountains at The Bellagio, must see! There are several different shows that are shown over any given night. Be sure to check out several of them.
Monday to Friday 3:00 p.m. to midnight
Saturday to Sunday 12:00 p.m. to midnight
Every 30 minutes until 7:00 p.m., Every 15 minutes from 7 p.m. to midnight
Shows are subject to cancellation due to high winds.

Bellagio Botanical Gardens

Conservatory and Botanical Gardens at the Bellagio Hotel, after you check out the fountain show, wander inside by the main entrance to see the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. They change the display to match the season.

Sirens of Treasure Island, at the Treasure Island Resort. This is a free outdoor performance that runs every night, weather permitting, at 7:00 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 10:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Unfortunately we missed this one due to high winds. Get there early as the crowds gather about 30 minutes before each show.

The Mirage has an outdoor volcano that erupts every 15 minutes from 7pm to midnight.

Venetian Gondolas

Be sure to check out the shops at the Venetian, complete with Gondola rides.

Wildlife habitat at the Flamingo including Penguins and Flamingos. The penguins are fed at 8:25 a.m. and 2:55 p.m

Fremont Street Experience
A 90 foot high, four block long electronic canopy that presents spectacular sight and sound shows. This pedestrian promenade was built to attract visitors to the Downtown area of Las Vegas. It is surrounded by 10 casino/hotels. Every night at dusk the shows begin and continue throughout the night until midnight.

World of M&Ms Las Vegas

M&M World  4 floors of chocolate heaven and everything M&M related!

Atlantis Water Show in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace
This show features animatronic statues acting out the story of the fall of Atlantis. Fountains, lasers, fire, steam and sound effects add to the excitement of the action. This high tech production is one of the most popular free shows in Las Vegas.  There is also a 50,000-gallon salt water aquarium located here that features tropical puffers, flounder and sharks. Daily feeding take place at 3:15 and 7:15 p.m. daily.
The show takes place next to the Cheesecake Factory in the Roman Great Hall.

Rock and Roll memorabilia at the Hard Rock resort.

Vegas Miracle Mile Storm

If you happen to be walking through Planet Hollywood at the top of the hour, you can experience a quick thunder and lightning storm in the Miracle mile shopping area.

Excursions

While there is definitely enough to keep you busy right on the strip, there are several excursions you could do as a day trip.

We didn’t get a chance to go there, but we wanted to go to Red Rock Canyon.  You can rent a car somewhere on the strip and head  just 15 miles west of Las Vegas.  There are awe-inspiring views most wouldn’t expect to see near a major metropolitan city.  Red Rock offers desert beauty, towering red cliffs and abundant wildlife.

Another popular day trip is a visit to the Hoover Dam to take the Dam tour.  Last time I was there some friends and I rented a car and visited Hoover Dam.  It was neat to see just how big it is in person, but I wouldn’t say this is a must do activity.

Maverick Helicopter Tour

Maverick Helicopter Tour

One last excursion I highly recommend if you have the $ and time is a Maverick Helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon.  We did the plane, helicopter and tour of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  They pick you up at your hotel and take you to Henderson Airport about 20 minutes away.  Then you go via small plane to their location at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  You then head out for your helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon.  We’re both not big fans of heights, but this was a truly amazing once in a lifetime experience.  So cool and had no issues whatsoever.  Then afterwards they take you by shuttle to the South Rim so that you can walk around and explore on your own for an hour or so.  Great experience and the highlight of our trip!  Definitely one of those once in a lifetime, bucket list items to try at least once! Be sure to check out their site for the most updated tour information and the latest deals!