48 Hours in Las Vegas: A Weekend Guide to Vegas
I have a couple of confessions to make. First, I'm one of those people who loves visiting Las Vegas. And secondly, I rarely gamble, I don't go "clubbin," and I've never been to a strip club. Okay, perhaps that was a lot of confessions but you get the picture.
The fact is that the people who love Vegas really love it and the people who hate Vegas, well they love to hate on it. But Vegas is so much more beyond the casinos, clubs, and yard-long margaritas. Las Vegas is kind of like visiting....Well actually, traveling to Vegas is unlike visiting anywhere in the world, and not just in the number of casinos and fancy resorts. For example, did you know that you can fly an aerobatic airplane over Las Vegas with an adventure outfitter, Sky Combat Ace? Or that you can visit multiple James Beard award-winning restaurants, such as Lotus of Siam? Or that you could be on hiking trails within a half-hour of the Las Vegas Strip, such as Red Rock Canyon, which also happens to offer world-class rock climbing? Oh, and I'm just getting started.
Whether a poker player, adventure lover, or dayclub pool party hopper, I can guarantee you that you can find a lot to do in Vegas that's your speed. So today I'm coming at you with my Las Vegas travel guide on how to do Sin City for a weekend.
Where to stay
First things first, decide which end of the Vegas Strip you want to stay in. Consider where you’ll be spending most of your days and nights when choosing. The South Strip has recently upgraded its hotel options with the addition of the Delano, adjacent to Mandalay Bay, one of my other favorite Vegas hotels. Generally speaking, with the exception of Mandalay Bay and the Delano, the South Strip hotels, restaurants, and bars leave a little to be desired, and isn't quite as convenient to the rest of the Strip. However, the highest concentration of hotels (and many of the top hotels, restaurants, and things to do) can be found mid-Strip, such as the Bellagio, Venetian, Caesar’s Palace, and the CityCenter hotels, which includes the Aria and Cosmopolitan. And as long as it's not a 100-degree day (and you're not dressed to the nines), you can largely hop from pool to pool and bar to bar by just walking.
Where to eat
If you want it, you can find it on the Las Vegas Strip. If you want good sushi, there’s Nobu at Caesar’s Palace or Blue Ribbon at the Cosmopolitan. For Mexican there’s Javier’s at Aria or Diablo's Cantina at the Monte Carlo. For Italian there’s Scarpetta at the Cosmopolitan or FiAMMA at the MGM Grand. While brunch isn't a thing in Las Vegas like it is Los Angeles or San Francisco, I do recommend at least one breakfast at Della's Kitchen at the Delano, which has just about every one of your favorite breakfast dishes, including chicken and waffles, breakfast burrito, crab benedict, and huevos rancheros. Make at least one reservation for a nice dinner, such as one of the trendiest new restaurants on the Strip, Giada, or a steak restaurant like CUT at The Palazzo or The Capital Grille. When the munchies hit, or on the way back to your hotel from the bars, grab a burger at Shake Shack or pizza from Secret Pizza at the Cosmopolitan.
Where to day-drink
It’s not just any city, after all, that you can day party like you can in Vegas. The day parties, or rather, “dayclubs,” are one of the many standouts of Vegas. Encore Beach Club, located at the Wynn, is a three-tiered pool complex that often features world-renowned deejays while the Mirage's Bare Pool Lounge is lined with cabanas and includes a see-through, infinity-edged pool. Elsewhere, there's Aria's Liquid Pool and Lounge that features cabanas tricked out with their own flat-screen TVs and gaming consoles, while Mandalay Bay is like a pool complex, which includes Moorea Beach Club's “toptional beach”. Yes, that means just what you think it would mean.
Where to go out
Alright, so perhaps you're not a "dayclubber" or want some recommendations of where to drink beyond just Vegas nightclubs. While you’ll be getting handed drinks just about anywhere and everywhere on the Vegas Strip, there are some standouts if you want more than just a well drink. Mandalay Bay's 1923 Bourbon Bar is a modern-day speakeasy and burlesque bar by model and showgirl Holly Madison (only fitting for Vegas), while another of the hotel's bars, the Foundation Room, is perched atop the hotel tower and has the best bar view in the city. At the Cosmopolitan there's The Chandelier, featuring one of the best cocktail programs in the city (coming from my friend and award-winning mixologist Mariena Mercer), and The Neapolitan, which features her great boozy frozen concoctions, such as popsicles, sorbets, and milkshakes.
You'll have to hop in a cab, but one of the most iconic Las Vegas bars is Double Down Saloon, one of the cities diviest bars, where you'll have to order what they call, "Ass Juice" (don't ask any questions). If craft beer or wine is more your style, go to the Public House at the Venetian, a gastropub which has one of the best beer and wine selections on the Vegas Strip, but also a solid cocktail program. Bonus points that their food is spot-on, too. Last, but not least, is one of the newest additions to the Las Vegas Strip, The Linq, where you'll find the tallest observation wheel in the world, the High Roller, and one of my new favorite joints, Brooklyn Bowl, which features a great line-up of concerts, good cocktails and food, and, of course, bowling.
Where to nightclub
While I wouldn't exactly call myself a "clubber," I can shake my booty with the best of them, and ultimately have to mention nightclubs, since this is Vegas after all, and the reason many people visit it. No matter what your bar or nightclub personality, there’s one for you in Vegas. For the staple nightclub with pumping electronic music and lots of dancing, you have your pick of clubs like Hakkasan, Marquee, XS, and Tao. For the same type of vibe but a smaller venue and the best view of the Bellagio Fountains, then go to Hyde, which of the Vegas nightclubs on the Strip, is my preference. If a more local, offbeat vibe is what you’re after, think about Downtown Las Vegas for places like Gold Spike, which has adult-sized versions of your favorite childhood games (plus cornhole and beer pong), Banger Brewing for local craft beer, Commonwealth for craft cocktails (and a secret speakeasy, The Laundry Room), and Atomic Liquor Store and Bar for a fantastic dive bar.
What to do when you’re not drinking
What’s great about Las Vegas is that when you need a break from the Strip, there are a ton of activities that you can only do in Vegas, such as fly an actual plane with Sky Combat Ace, where guests are taken up in a two-seater aerobatic plane and handed over the controls of an aerobatic plane to perform maneuvers like loops and barrel rolls. Other unique adventures include Dig This, where guests get to drive heavy machinery in a “adult sandbox," while other outfitters offer the chance to drive exotic cars in Vegas. For a more soft adventure, there’s nearby Red Rock Canyon, home to some of the best hiking and rock climbing in Southern Nevada.
This is a great time to mention what's my favorite part of Las Vegas, Downtown Las Vegas. Downtown Las Vegas is everything that the Strip isn't. You've got history and culture in museums like the Mob Museum and the Neon Museum, which houses more than a hundred of Vegas' old iconic signs in its Neon Boneyard. You have great food that comes at a more reasonable price, from more dive-like places such as Tacos El Gordo and Le Thai to classier joints like Hugo's Cellar and Joe Vicari's Andiamo Italian Steakhouse to great pizza options, too, such as Pizza Rock, coming to you from World Pizza Cup champion Tony Gemignani. Last, but not least, there's Downtown Container Park, an open-air entertainment complex made out of shipping containers that includes everything from a wine bar, Bin 702, to a whiskey bar, Oak & Ivy, to several small restaurants, such as Big Ern's BBQ, to shopping to concerts and outdoor movie nights.
What's your favorite thing to do in Las Vegas?