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The Ultimate Guide to Las Vegas for 2013

Posted by Blane Bachelor on May 30, 2013 at 1:53:43 PM EDT | Post a Comment

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Whether you're going for a girls' getaway, spa retreat, or casino-and-cocktails sojourn, Las Vegas is an over-the-top destination that always delivers. And while what happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, we're willing to share our insider tips on making the most of your time in Sin City. Check out our latest intel on what's new, where to stay and play, and the hidden secrets that make Sin City such an unforgettable spot.

Savvy Stays

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The current trend in the revolving door of hotel openings and closings has shifted from rebuilding to reinventing an existing venue; in other words, what's old is new again. One property getting serious buzz among in-the-know locals and visitors alike: Nobu Hotel. This extension of the famed sushi empire, located in the Centurion Tower in sprawling Caesars Palace, is a zen Asian oasis, where its 181 rooms feature round-the-clock room service from a menu created by star chef Nobu Matsuhisa himself. Other guest perks include VIP access to the restaurant—the largest of Nobu's worldwide locations, at 12,775 square feet—as well as to the ever-hip Pure Nightclub.

In the booming downtown area, the former Fitzgeralds Casino & Hotel, the oldest casino hotel in town, unveiled a smart transformation into the 638-room, 34-story D Las Vegas, complete with a two-level casino. Rooms, done up in modern, red-tinged décor, start at an absurdly low $38 midweek, and be sure to check out the casino's second floor for old-school slot machines.

Insider Tip: Since most of the action happens on the weekends, your chances of scoring a hotel deal or upgrade are much better midweek. Also consider the more family-oriented holidays. If you're not going home for Thanksgiving, you can score a sweet deal on the Strip.

In-the-Know Nightlife

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Is there any destination more primed for partying than Vegas? Hitting the town in Sin City is serious business, and keeping up with the latest "it" hotspots—not to mention waiting lists and lines at the door—can be as head-spinning as a potent cocktail. One way to avoid the stress of where to go (and if you'll even get in): Book a tour that specializes in nightlife, such as Sip the Strip. For about $60 (plus reservation fee, tips, and drink costs), you'll get VIP access to five nightclubs, lounges, and bars on this walking tour.

Planning ahead can give you an edge at the Strip's hottest clubs, like the long-standing favorite XS at the Wynn. Book a table or get your name on the waitlist a few weeks before your trip and you'll be worry-free.

If you manage to over-imbibe, hop aboard the Hangover Heaven Bus. This luxury bus is staffed with a board-certified anesthesiologist and "hangover specialist," as well as trained medical professionals, who will administer an IV and other remedies to ease the pain of last night's revelry, from $99 and up.

Insider Tip: Choose your on-the-town outfit carefully. Ladies: Stilettos may look sexy, but after hours of dancing, they'll turn tortuous. Guys, leave the ripped jeans and flip flops at home, as most of Vegas's nightlife venues have a strict dress code.

Off-the-Strip Secrets

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While the Strip will always anchor the nonstop action in Las Vegas, the city's downtown area has enjoyed a revival in recent years, anchored by the Fremont Street Experience, an outdoor concert space, as well as a burgeoning arts and culture scene. Two recently opened attractions that evoke the spirit of vintage Vegas: the Neon Museum, which opened its extended campus in October and houses more than 150 historic neon signs, and the three-story Mob Museum, which opened last year and highlights the history of organized crime across America with interactive exhibits, finishing up with a look at Las Vegas and the wise guys it's attracted over the years (the squeamish can opt out of a photo gallery of mob hits).

For an adrenaline rush, this summer will see the opening of the $11.5 million SlotZilla, a two-level thrill ride that includes a Superman-style harness that whisks riders 110 feet off the ground, and a zipline that zooms 1,700 feet over Fremont Street.

Insider Tip: On a budget? Downtown hotels and casinos offer prices significantly lower than those on the Strip.

Partying at the Pool

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A decade ago, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino kicked off a trend that's still scorching hot: pool parties. Its original Sunday fun-day experience, called Rehab, is still rocking, but the hotel has expanded its Beachlife experience to other days of the week, too. Other properties have plunged into the fun, and now nearly every resort beckons with poolside experiences, or dayclubs, complete with DJs, private cabanas, and signature drinks served by bikini-clad servers.

This spring marks the arrival of two new dayclubs. First up is Daylight Beach Club at Mandalay Bay. Modeled after the world-famous party hotspot that is Ibiza, the 50,000-square-foot outdoor space will feature a massive stage with six LED screens, daybeds and cabanas, signature cocktails, and big-name DJs. The other buzzy newcomer is Bagatelle Beach at the Tropicana Las Vegas, part of the hotel's $156 million overhaul. The venue will feature a 250-seat outdoor eatery with a Mediterranean-style menu, volleyball courts, and concert area.

For a more serene sun-and-soaking experience, the Mandarin Oriental's sleek 8th-floor pool deck is just the spot. It boasts beautiful views, two pools and two Jacuzzis, and impeccable service—circulating attendants even clean your sunglasses and dish out mini smoothies. For a true VIP experience, reserve a cabana (they're available to non-guests, too).

Insider Tip: During summer peak season, reservations for dayclubs can be tricky to score. Make reservations when you're booking your hotel.

Dinner and a Show, Vegas Style

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Both the Cosmopolitan and the ARIA have raised the bar not just for luxe accommodations and happening nightlife, but also for the city's culinary scene. Foodies flock to the hotels' mouthwatering restaurants helmed by world-class chefs. At the Cosmopolitan, you'll find Chinese-Mexican fusion at China Poblano, run by El Bulli alum José Andrés (don't miss the signature salt-air margaritas), the sleek STK steakhouse, and the NYC Greek import Estiatorio Milos, which offers a solid three-course prix fixe menu at lunch for $22.13.

At the ARIA, indulge in another NYC import at BARMASA, find impeccably cooked fish and seafood at Michael Mina's American Fish, and go big at Jean Georges' Steakhouse.

Post-dinner, indulge in a timeless Vegas experience: a Cirque du Soleil show. Currently, there are seven shows running; the eighth is the highly anticipated "Michael Jackson One," now open at Mandalay Bay. Other new arrivals: "Zarkana" at the ARIA, which follows the story of a magical ringmaster visiting a haunted theater, and the adults-only "Absinthe" at Caesars Palace.

Insider Tip: Tickets for recently opened, big-named shows often sell out, especially on weekends and during conventions, so reserve as far in advance as possible.

Photo credits: Nobu Hotel courtesy of Nobu Hotel; XS Nightclub courtesy of XS/Wynn Hotel; Neon Museum courtesy of Flickr/dbking; Pool at Mandarin Oriental courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas; BARMASA courtesy of ARIA Las Vegas

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