It helps to know a few things before you go to Las Vegas.
Las Vegas may attract in excess of 45 million visitors a year, but it’s still a mystery to many, so advice from an insider can be particularly handy.
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Know the Slowest vs. Most Crowded Times
Las Vegas doesn’t have clearly defined high seasons and off-seasons like a lot of tourist destinations; the biggest crowds (and therefore the highest hotel rates) are simply when the greatest number of people visit, which include CES in January, the Super Bowl in February, March Madness, MAGIC twice a year, and SEMA in the fall, along with a number of other large conventions. December is a particularly odd month: busy early, during the National Finals Rodeo, and mega-busy around New Year’s Eve, but fairly quiet in between—a particularly nice time to visit because of the holiday decorations. Summers draw a large number of families but also tend to be slower because of the heat. And Sunday through Thursday hotel rates are always significantly cheaper than Friday and Saturday rates except during those big events.
Find the Best Weather
Winter in Las Vegas can be extremely unpredictable. Ultra mild weather in 2017/2018 was followed by a winter with a number of snowfalls (exceedingly rare in the Valley) in 2018/2019. Spring and autumn tend to be particularly pleasant, with moderate temperatures coupled with the famous low humidity. But watch out for summer; highs in July and August can easily reach 116, and while it may be a dry heat, it can be deadly if you’re taken unawares. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, and make sure you can get to a space that’s air-conditioned or at least shady.
Know How to Get Discounted Show Tickets
The biggest local dealer probably is Tix4tonight, which sells tickets online and at 10 booths around the valley. They advise showing up early in the morning; for booth locations and more advice, visit Tix4Tonight. Other popular (legitimate) websites are Show Tickets and Vegas.com. Check out the regular ticket prices before you shop so you know if you’re getting a good deal. If you’re staying in a hotel with a concierge, check with him or her, and if you’re a premium player, talk to your casino host.
Airport Transport: Fast vs. Cheap
The most economical way to get from the airport to your hotel is via the Regional Transportation Commission’s Westcliff Airport Express, whose stops include Tropicana Avenue and the Strip or downtown; or the Centennial Express, which stops at Sands Avenue/Spring Mountain Road and the Strip, downtown, and at the UNLV transit center, but this will likely not be the fastest, and will not take you door to door. For a quick trip and luxurious ride, opt for a stretch limousine, but a ride share or taxi will be just as speedy in terms of both speed and will cost less; ride shares tend to be noticeably cheaper than regular taxis. Shuttles are also quite popular in Las Vegas, but they make multiple stops; still, the price is right if you’re on a budget or traveling alone.
How to Travel the Strip
The Strip is about 4 miles from one end to another, although most visitors seem to stick mostly to their clusters at the south, center, and north ends. Even though two resorts may be right next to each other, the walk can be very long because of the sheer size of the properties. Free trams can make things easier: a popular one links Bellagio, Vdara, Aria, The Shops at Crystals, and Park MGM; another goes from Mandalay Bay to Excalibur; yet another connects Mirage and Treasure Island (all of these on the west side of the Strip). But your best foot-saving option may be the Regional Transportation Commission’s The Deuce, Strip, and Downtown Express (SDX), which is $8 for 24 hours, or $20 for three days.
INSIDER TIPCarry a refillable water bottle with you, especially in the summer. You’ll pay super-premium prices if you have to buy bottled water at a Strip casino
What About the Monorail?
Las Vegas also has a monorail that connects several of the major resorts on the east side of the Strip to the Convention Center. When does it pay to use the monorail? Should you get a pass? The Las Vegas Monorail doesn’t go to and from McCarran International Airport, but if you’ll be attending a convention or other event at the Las Vegas Convention Center, it’s extremely convenient—especially during CES, when taxis, buses, and ride-sharing vehicles choke the areas near the center. There are stations at MGM Grand, Bally’s/Paris, the Flamingo, Harrah’s/The LINQ, the Westgate, and the SLS Las Vegas. If you’re staying at a hotel on the west side of the Strip (including Bellagio and Caesars Palace), just walk across the street, though be aware that it can also be a very long walk to the monorail stations, which are typically on the back sides of the resorts. One-ride tickets are $5, and one-day passes $13 ($23 and $29 for two- and three-day passes, respectively), so plan according to your travel needs.
Parking: It’s No Longer Free
The free resort parking that Las Vegans and visitors once considered practically a right is no longer—not even for hotel guests. Also gone are the days when valet would cost you only the tip. The only exceptions on or near the Strip are The Venetian and Palazzo, SLS Las Vegas, Treasure Island, Tropicana, Westgate, The Palms, Rio, and Orleans resorts, which still have free parking, as do the resorts in the outlying areas. Wynn and Encore have free parking only for resort guests. Most other resorts charge nothing for the first hour, but rates vary thereafter, and there’s generally a fee for valet parking in addition to the tip. If you plan to visit a lot of MGM Resorts properties, it may pay you to get their MLife Mastercard, which entitles you to free parking; so do some of the players’ clubs, provided you reach a high enough level. Some resorts, including the Westgate, may charge for parking during large conventions because of their proximity to the action.
Resort Fees Are Now Ubiquitous
Resort fees (which hotels say cover things like pools and Internet access, but which are mandatory for every guest) have become common on the Strip and can add up to $45 a day to the room rate—and they don’t include parking. Hotels that don’t charge them tend to be off the Strip and often are noncasino properties (and they usually trumpet their lack of a resort fee), so cruise around the Internet to find one without the charge.
You Can Get a Good and Cheap Breakfast Near the Strip
The Omelet House, west of the Strip at Charleston Boulevard and Rancho Drive, just celebrated its 40th anniversary, and social media is guiding crowds of visitors to it. Breakfast places have grown exponentially in Las Vegas during the past few years; somewhat farther afield (but easily reachable by ride-share, taxi, or rental car) are the various outlets of Blueberry Hill, the Cracked Egg, the Egg Works, Rise and Shine, Hash House a Go Go, Babystacks, Metro Diner, Black Bear Diner, and Squeeze Inn. Even with the cost of the ride-share, you’ll typically save significantly over the cost of an on-Strip breakfast buffet.
There's Plenty to Keep You Busy off the Strip
Visitors who confine their trips to the Strip are missing out on some of the best things Las Vegas has to offer. Downtown Las Vegas has seen a resurgence in recent years, particularly the Fremont East area, including the Downtown Container Park. And what a lot of visitors don’t know is that the Las Vegas Valley is filled with natural wonders. Three popular spots are Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Valley of Fire State Park, and Mount Charleston; the latter tends to be at least 20 degrees cooler than the Valley and also offers skiing and snowboarding in the winter. There are a number of fun museums, including the Mob Museum, Neon Museum, and Discovery Children’s Museum downtown; the Las Vegas Natural History Museum is just north of Downtown; the National Atomic Testing Museum east of Downtown, and the Clark County Museum in Henderson. And the Springs Preserve on the west side is a way to get out in nature and learn about the history of the area.