Vegas, baby! Here's how you can get the most bang for your buck
If you are reading this article, you have most likely been tasked with the high honor of organizing a Las Vegas trip for a bachelor or bachelorette party, significant other, reunion, conference or seminar, or anything else out there worth celebrating.
This post is written with the express intent of providing valuable tips for those who are seeking to get the most bang for the buck during their initial foray into the land of excess. Notice I did not say the cheapest tips. I have found that there are hundreds of cheap deals for “The Strip” that aren’t any good. And there are thousands of places on the internet to look for such promotions.
For a little background of this writing, I’ve been to Vegas several times. After each visit, I’ve sworn never to return. But somehow, someway a friend or two coaxes me into revisiting. I'm always amazed witnessing the evolution of the city every time I reunite with this fair maiden.
Last weekend, Memorial Day weekend, I visited the Silver City with five other couples. As the perceived resident expert, I was the Sherpa of this mountain-climbing expedition —— responsible for authoring the agenda, shepherding the herd, and planning our big nutrition breaks.
The Three Phases of Vegas
Now if you’ve never been to Sin City, there are usually three phases:
- “We are going to Vegas, baby!”
- “Wow, this place is like an adult Disney World.”
- “Someone needs to bulldoze this place to the ground.”
Because people from all walks of life visit the Gambling Capital of the World, for a plethora of different reasons, with very different tastes and preferences, I will attempt to be as specific as possible, while attempting to include a broad array of advice. Hopefully you learn a thing or two in this quick read. For the sake of brevity, I will keep our recommendations pithy.
Without further ado, here is Storia’s Protip Guide to America’s Playground:
While you may not have needed a R&R (rest and relaxation) day after vacation in your early 20s, it is likely your mind, body, and soul will need one nowadays after your excursion to the desert. I have found the best way to do this is to go Thursday night on a holiday weekend and leave on Sunday. This way you get a built-in R&R day.
By going Thursday night and leaving on Sunday, you beat the crowds, save a little bit on the hotel (Thursday rates will be cheaper than the weekend rates), and have Monday to recover.
If you are into the club scene or any other tourist events which would require long lines, it may make sense to visit during a non-peak weekend. Despite advice to the contrary, in my experience, I have found there hasn’t been a dispositive price difference between Thursday-Sunday rates of peak and non-peak weekends.
The Strip is almost four miles long. For my money’s worth, the stroll from The Venetian to Bellagio is the best distance of walking, wandering, and people watching. It has an amazing amount of restaurants, shopping, bars, and pools packed in this relatively short area. You should book a hotel along this exciting, fascinating real-estate patch.
If you are staying with four or more people, The Venetian provides the most bang for your buck. The standard one (Luxury) and two bed (Bella) suites are massive —— 650 and 700 sq. feet respectively. Each type of suite has a sunken living room that has a pull-out couch. This is obviously great for more roommates, if one is so inclined.
The Venetian not only has convenience stores in it, it is next to a Walgreens, White Castle, McDonald’s, Panda Express, and Casino Royale —— a great dive, walk-by casino lobby with $1 minimums on Roulette.
Regardless of where you stay, make sure to find out where the designated pick-up zones are for Lyft and Uber. They are usually in much different places than the general taxi queues and valet spots. They are not easy to locate. Even the ride share locations in McCarran International Airport (LAS) can be a wild goose chase upon landing, especially if you had a few adult beverages on the bird. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
The Entertainment Capital of the World has done a great job of becoming an adult Disney World. Even if you don’t gamble, there are plenty of other things to do on your trip. Besides all the amazing shows, I wanted to bring some other highlights to your attention.
I highly recommend visiting the Capital of Second Chances during pool season, which is roughly late March to early October. Although some pools are open year round, it just isn’t the same —— the weather or the scene. Pools and adult beverages are a big reason why Sin City is such a draw. It doesn’t get better than waking up to a cold drink, cool pool, and hot scene.
If pool parties are you thing, there are plenty of those. At this point in my life, I would rather relax at the pools of Venetian/Palazzo, Caesar, or Aria rather than turning up at Tao Beach, Drais, or Encore.
During the day, some great ways to explore The Strip are to check out the panache of shopping, restaurants, other hotel pools and casino lobbies.
Fountains of Bellagio
The Fountains of Bellagio cost $40,000,000 to build and provide some of the best free entertainment to anyone who is passing by. According to vegas.com, the Fountains’ pool covers 375,000 square feet, equivalent to three city blocks or eight football fields. The water could fill 2,000 swimming pools and would take more than a year to fill with a garden hose. You can check out the Fountains’ show schedule here.
If you’ve never been to a Top Golf, make sure to visit the one near MGM Grand. Top Golf is a high-tech driving range that tracks which balls you hit as you aim for different targets on the range. Because the environment is so live and vibrant, I really enjoy hitting the range at night.
If you are an inexperienced golfer or prefer a little advantage, I recommend playing on the second floor. Playing from higher ground allows the ball to go a little farther and provides a great view.
I recommend having a drink on the third floor as it provides the best view. But it is more expensive to play on this floor, and in my humble opinion, not as fun as the second floor (too much of a handicap). Meanwhile, true golfers prefer the first floor as it best simulates real golf.
In my travels to Las Vegas and beyond, I’ve become an avid fan of Peek, a curated travel-planning platform that offers easily bookable quality activities. Some of my favorite random events have been horseback riding, the double-decker sightseeing bus, dance lessons, and the Hoover Dam tour.
For the Foodies
Simply put, Vegas is a foodie’s dream. You can get any type of food you want here.
One-Day Meal Pass
A One-Day Meal Pass is great way to sample all The Strip has to offer. For a prepaid price of $55, you are granted access to a breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the following restaurants: Planet Hollywood, Hofbrauhaus, Pampas Brazilian Grille, Jackson’s Bar and Grill, San Gennaro Grill, Spice Market Buffet, Fresh Grill and Bar, Cheeseburger Las Vegas, Lombardi’s Romagna Mia, and La Salsa Cantina.
Mon Ami Gabi
My friends consistently ask me where to go to get the best Asian eats —— Japanese, Korean, Thai, and Chinese food. For some reason, the best gems always tend to be in a strip mall. So I don’t have to repeat myself in the future, I will just direct them here:
Goyemon Sushi House
Goyemon Sushi House is an all-you-eat Japanese restaurant that is about a ten-minute Lyft/Uber ride from the strip. At $21.95 for lunch and $26.95 for dinner it is a fantastic deal for sushi fans.
The all-you-can-eat menu is one of the most extensive I’ve seen. I highly recommend the Ecstasy Roll —— chopped albacore, avocado and tempura crumb wrapped with tuna, smelt eggs & seaweed salad drizzled with orgasm sauce.
Gangnam Asian BBQ
Gangnam Asian BBQ is a Korean BBQ restaurant also about a ten-minute Lyft/Uber ride from the strip. It has the best happy hour —— half-off beer and Soju as well as $4 Korean BBQ plates.
For those unfamiliar with Korean BBQ, there is a grill in the middle of the table where customers get to cook the dishes themselves. Prior to your main course, as is customary, many complementary sides are brought to the table. Lunch for four people, two couples, was $55, including some Sapporo and Soju.
Lotus of Siam
Lotus of Siam is a Thai-food restaurant and may be the most popular of the foodie spots I’ve listed. The folks at Zagat are big fans and Serious Eats labeled Lotus one of the best Thai places in America. Basically, if love Thai, then you’ll love this place. For a multitude of reasons, I was not able to visit it during my last trip, but that is story for another time my friends.
Asia Noodle House
“There’s nothing worse than a fourth night in Vegas”
I’ve heard former ESPN analyst Bill Simmons once proclaim, “there’s nothing worse than a fourth night in Vegas.” I couldn’t agree more. He went on to compare all sorts of horrible things (e.g., coming home to find your dog ate your cat) to a fourth night in Vegas, while contending that a fourth night in Vegas would be much worse.
If you don’t understand this post-trip mindset, you simply haven’t been to Vegas yet.
Like with all the other travel articles you will read prior to your trip, don’t treat this one as the Holy Grail. Make sure to explore the City of Neon Lights for yourself and take time to aimlessly wander The Strip —— the people watching is a wonderous activity all unto itself.
I thoroughly believe in the philosophy, “everything in moderation… even moderation.” So make sure to live it up while you’re on vacation. After all, what happens in Vegas will be on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and possibly LinkedIn!
But trust me (and Bill Simmons), there’s nothing worse than a fourth night in Vegas.
"Fountains of Bellagio" - Scott Owen, Vegas Comrade
"The Strip at night" - Trip Advisor
"Sunset Gondola Ride" - vegas.com
"Champagne Showers at Encore Pool Party" - Taken Memorial Day Weekend
"Venetian pool at sunset" - Taken Memorial Day Weekend
"Wynn's Lake of Dreams" - Taken Memorial Day Weekend
"Fountains of Bellagio" - las-vegas-how-to.com
"Views from the top of Top Golf" - Taken Memorial Day Weekend
"Breakfast is served at Mon Ami Gabi" - Scott Owen, Vegas Comrade
"Korean BBQ, lunch for four people $55" - Taken Memorial Day Weekend
"Dim sum and wings at Asia Noodle House" - Taken Memorial Day Weekend
"A Guide to Las Vegas" - A Make Believe World Travel Blog