However, the title is a bit misleading. Also the obligatory eye candy which I'm sure most guys (or girls) would prefer to seeing my fizzog plastered on the top of the page, bikini or not.
I had a few emails in the last couple of weeks asking for some advice on staying in Las Vegas, a couple from first timers (cue the sound of a penny thudding to the ground). Since I've (ahem) shall we say spent a few nights in Nevada over the years, I'd occasionally been asked where to stay, where was good to eat, sights to see etc. Whilst I try to be a carefree giving soul and mete out useful advice on an individual basis, after a few years this began to get right on my tits. To this end I compiled a makeshift list, and added/removed bits of it as time went by, until it blossomed into the masterpiece below. When people would ask, I'd email them and they could take the useful bits and bin the rest. It's not all for everyone as some of the stuff is subjective, but the main questions I got were normally about food, hotels and shows, so that was quite often the bulk of it.
So, for the curious, behold a bloody great cut and paste. Easier than emailing the people who asked! God I'm getting lazy.
If you are there for a few days or a week or so, the Venetian/Palazzo and the Wynn/Encore are easily the best and most central on the strip. On checking in, the $20 trick (slip a $20 bill discreetly to the receptionist when you hand over your passport) works well normally. Basically say "if there's anything you can do to give me a nicer room I'd appreciate it". Ask them for the highest floor possible, with a strip view or you can easily end up on the 2nd floor looking out at a car park. Bellagio is a bit older but still pretty nice too but further up at the South end of the strip. If you can afford it I’d pretty much always do the Venetian/Palazzo. Other OK strip hotels are Aria, the Mirage or TI (Treasure Island) the MGM Grand or Caesars Palace. If you book Caesars try to get the Augustus tower, which is the most modern block of all of them. Some of the older ones are now pretty shabby. Going down lower in class, ones to avoid in my opinion are the Quad (Imperial Palace,good location but horrible rooms and a real fleapit casino), Luxor, Circus Circus (running alive with kids…if you like screaming kids and being miles from anywhere then go for it), and also the Flamingo, Ballys and the Excalibur. I would avoid staying at the Rio or Orleans too as they are miles from anywhere so if you're not renting a car you're at the mercy of cabbies (something in Las Vegas you don't want to be, trust me). If you’re on a tight budget then staying Downtown is a far better option, rooms are much cheaper and you’re only a short drive or bus from the strip. Of the downtown hotels the Golden Nugget is in my opinion easily the cleanest and the best. Websites like allvegas.com and smartervegas.com regularly do short stay offers and bonus codes, so it’s worth looking on there before you book if you don't mind staying 3-4 days then hopping across the street. Also most good hotels have their own website so you can get a feel of the place before you commit.
Make sure you get players cards for every casino in which you play any kind of games at all including poker, and always present them to rack up comps and player points. Most casinos have some kind of reward scheme running.
Download an app called TALKATONE (on most formats) when in the US (it won't work if you try to do it outside the US, you MUST downlod it there. Once set up it will work from the UK but must be initially set up there), and it will give you your own free Las Vegas 702 phone number. Use it to text your mates etc if you need to hook up. Recieving calls is free (make sure you are using wi-fi NOT your cellular connection), and making calls is pennies if you have to. Mostly this is ideal for just texting one another to meet up. I've had mine for 4 years and it's flawless.
You're hard pushed to get a bad meal anywhere in Las Vegas... but my tips if I can fit them all in are as follows.
Grand Lux Café in Venetian and Palazzo-open virtually 24 hours with a huge menu that is simply fantastic. It's not the cheapest but is good to visit as a group and share a few plates in the table centre. I eat there a fair bit when playing in the DSE. It's not haute cuisine but very good and certainly affordable on a day to day basis if you don't go mad. You will probably only order a starter and a main once and then realise why so many Americans are obese..the food is good but the portions are bloody huge.
If you like Thai and spicy then:
One of my faves on Fremont street is Le Thai
Lotus of Siam is on Sahara
or on the strip Lemongrass in Aria if you can't travel
Valentinos is a good Italian in the Venetian. It’s Split into two sections-the main restaurant and The Grill. The Grill is cheaper but equally good food and my tip to go for there rather than the main section.
The walkway between the Venetian and the Palazzo contains several excellent restaurants. Of these David Burke, Delmonicos, and Cut are all very high end, which is reflected in the bill, but they are all excellent if you want to splurge. Likewise if you like seafood, Bartelotta in the Wynn is superb but expensive. For Chinese, Jasmine in Bellagio is VERY expensive!
Maggianos in the Fashion Show mall. Good Italian food served family style-again very reasonably priced. Part of a chain but very passable standard of food. Fashion show mall is opposite the Wynn and an easy walk from Venetian. Canaletto in Grand Canal Shoppes at Venetian is also Italian and very nice.
Fix in Bellagio is a nice mix of modern food. Mid-price range. Lollipop chicken wings.
There is an EXTREMELY good Italian called Noras which is off strip on West Flamingo. It’s more of a locals place but very good and much more affordable. I eat there quite a bit. Their website is http://www.norascuisine.com/www/
If you're driving down from the strip, (come out of the Rio and turn RIGHT onto West Flamingo) it's kind of Flamingo/Lindell. When you see a sign for an Arbys on the right, you're in the right spot. Closed on Sundays for some strange reason.
PF Changs which again is a chain, for Chinese. There are 2 or 3 of them around Las Vegas. The one I normally go to is on Paradise. Also I very much like Red 8 at the Wynn (poached sea bass with ginger and spring onions...do it! Also the Malaysian fried rice), and Wing Lei though it's a bit more pricey. Changs is my bet. For more basic Chinese grub by the poker room in the Venetian, Noodle Asia is OK oriental fast food at a good price.
Hugos cellar at the 4 Queens downtown. A good place to take the Mrs for a romantic dinner if that's your thing. A bit cheesy, but good food and its old Las Vegas as opposed to the strip. One of the better downtown restaurants. The sommelier is from the UK! Food is nice and they make a salad fresh at the table for you, but careful, they tend to drown it in dressing unless you reign them in.
Steak (which needs it’s own complete section!)
Grand Lux is good (filet mignon with spice rub). Going up in class a few notches, Carnevino (Italian Steak and wine) at the Palazzo, and Craftsteak at the MGM are both Superb steak houses. CUT at Venetian is expensive but good. SW steak house at Wynn, and Botero at Encore are both fabulous steak houses. Also worth noting in Planet Hollywood is Striphouse http://www.striphouse.com/ Look online or pick the steakhouse you like from this list, but all are good in my opinion. Although the hotel itself is crappy, the steakhouse at Circus Circus always wins numerous awards and gets good reviews. I’ve never eaten there but maybe worth a look if on a budget. Steak 9 at palms is quite nice too.
The Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace(opposite the poker room) is very good for a wide range (have the Jamaican spice rub Pork tenderloin), as is the Samba grill, a Brazillian barbeque at the Mirage where you get to try a lot of different dishes for one price.
If you go to the Town Square mall http://www.mytownsquarelasvegas.com/, try BRIO:
I promise you won't regret it.
Texas de Brazil is a more upmarket Brazillian BBQ/steakhouse also in Town Square mall. Along the lines of the Samba Grill, but classier. Huge salad bar as well. If you want to try it, I recommend not eating for 2 days before you go. Very good if you want to really push the boat out.
For healthy fast food find a place called Tropical smoothie cafe for heathy wraps etc. Slightly less healthy but still nice is Chipotle for burritos, bowls etc. Google them for locations.
For buffets, the Bellagio, and the Wynn and Cravings at the Mirage are all good. I tend not to do buffets as I don't like sitting down to eat 15 different types of food in one go.
Californaia pizza kitchen, at Mirage, Town Square mall and Fashion Show mall. Does what it says on the tin.
Palm restaurant at Caesars is good but a bit expensive....they do a business luch menu between 11am and 3pm at $19 a head which is exactly the same food at 1/3 of the price so go then if you’re going.
Ok that may be enough food! Just one more...
My absolute favourite place to eat is Musashi on Paradise. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Xq6QhwV6VE
It's a Japanese steak house. Think Benihana but with better food and freshly made sauces at the table. Try to book and sit at the teppan, not the regular restaurant. Ask for Tiger the head chef if he's available as he's by far the best. They also do a late happy hour menu at reduced rates. And raspberry sake.
Bellagio fountains. It happens every 20 mins or so and is a Kodak moment, especially at night if you've never seen them in person.
Fremont street downtown-light shows in the evenings, it's VERY busy... possibly combine with dinner at Hugos. It's old Vegas and very different from the strip, but Binions is worth a look also. You find that downtown as opposed to the strip there are a lot of bums walking about, but generally bums having a good time!
A note about downtown Vegas. The strip itself is pretty secure and open and safe to walk freely, when downtown though if you’re on Fremont street and the surrounding bits you’re fine, but try not to stray off from the canopied area…some very unpleasant bits only a block or two away where you really wouldn’t want to find yourself lost with a bit of cash in your pocket.
The waterfall at the Wynn by the SW steak house, light show and music. Get a drink on the patio to enjoy better views.
Mirage Volcano. Self explanatory. Every hour in the evenings.
Treasure Island-Sirens of TI show-lots of women pirates wearing not much kit.
They often move around from hotel to hotel, Google them if you can't see them plastered on every billboard.
if at all possible GET A LOCAL (Las Vegas resident) to buy tickets for you. They get all sorts of discounts, 2 for ones etc. If you buy as a tourist you get raped. If all else fails, go to HALF PRICE TICKETS or Tix4u -there are a few booths around the strip.
Good ones in my opinion are:
Wayne Brady or Gordie Brown… improv and "Whose line is it anyway" type stuff.
Jersey Boys is a great show even if you don’t think you’d like it. You’ll find you know all the songs and it’s also funny and well acted…and a true story.
Love - Mirage-Cirque du Soleil. Show based on the Beatles music. I enjoyed it but always think if you were stoned before you went in it would be even better.
"O" - Bellagio. Probably the best of the Cirque shows.
"Mystere" - Treasure Island-again, Cirque du Soleil. Lots of acrobatics and stuff. Visually very good.
Blue Man group-Venetian. Some like it, some don’t. I think it’s OK, look online for clips and you’ll get the idea. Lots of percussion.
Most Europeans simply do not get the tipping thing at all,,,,if you tip the staff in Las Vegas you get a much better service than if you did in the UK, because there they work pretty much entirely for tips. sometimes a well aimed $5 at a waiter or staff member goes a long way toward getting a better table before the meal. 10-15% at the end of a good meal with good service is perfectly acceptable. If you valet park then tip $1 or $2 when you collect your car, not when you drop it off. Once you know your way about you can self park pretty easily too in every casino.
UPDATE 2016. MGM properties are now starting to charge to self and valet park! (don't get me started on this one). Info can be found here:
PREMIUM OUTLET MALL on the way to downtown-best for brand names at good prices. Primms is also good, as is the Town Square mall. These are all just a short drive away.
Fashion Shop mall,Caesars Forum Shops, and Bellagio shops are nice and worth a wander but a total rip off price-wise and there for people who don’t know to look further afield.
Frys Electronics or Best Buy for cheap electrical goods, ipods etc near Town Square mall.
If you get a cab or have transport, then go to Wal-Mart or 7-11,Smiths or Albertsons and buy a whole case of water for 5 bucks, instead of paying $1 or $2 a pop for one bottle in the casinos, you will drink A LOT of water and do a lot of walking in Las Vegas.
*Under no circumstances buy bottled water from vendors on the bridges and on the streets! This is often just ordinary tap water put back into empty discarded water bottles and resold! You do NOT want to be drinking Nevada unpurified tap water, unless you fancy spending 3 days in the toilet, trust me*
Out and about
I always rent a car when I'm in town. Firstly it makes getting around so much easier if you live even remotely off-strip (which I always do), secondly listening to Las Vegas cabbies bleating about shitty tippers and their 12 kids while they try to long haul you based on your accent isn't a pastime I'd recommend. NEVER take the freeway from the airport whatever the guy says!!! Just tell him to go up Swenson and Tropicana and buy me a drink next time you see me :o)
Google is your friend, but try a trip out to Red Rock Canyon if you can. Think "the Gand Canyon" but without thousands of screaming kids and helicopters buzzing overhead. It's a 13 mile loop road, with loads of hikes and canyons out there to do, a bit of non-strip escapism. Quite surprising how a place so wild a beautiful is only a few miles away from the plastic structure of the Strip. If it's not your thing so be it, but pretty much anyone I've ever advised to go there has enjoyed it.
Shooting ranges. 'Murcia has a big gun culture, and if you fancy blowing off steam for an hour then $100 or so will have you firing Magnums, AK's and all manner of assorted hardware in no time. I've been to a few like The Gun Store on Tropicana, or The Range, (most of my US pals have their own guns so nowadays us just going out into the desert is cheaper and far easier as long as it isn't a one-way trip!
There are plenty of other bits if you don't want to just gamble or grind day in day out (which sadly most people do). Indoor sky diving, real sky diving (did that in Mesquite a few years back), pool halls, kart racing, golf ranges, bowling, cinemas, The Mob museum, The Neon Museum, boating on Lake Mead...it's all out there.
Las Vegas is a very funny place. Everyone has their own favourite bits and it’s something you kind of need to just discover for yourself as you go along. Hopefully some of my rambling makes sense. I get so many people asking me about the place that I compiled this list as I went along…hope it helps.
Anything else please feel free to ask. Enjoy the trip. You can always drop me a line if you have any questions.