I just spent a long “weekend” in Vegas with my boyfriend Cody (Sunday to Wednesday) and returned with my dignity! Ok, ok I really wasn’t planning on the typical Vegas drunkathon party weekend so this was to be expected.
I really never considered visiting Las Vegas up until the day I happened upon some extremely cheap Southwest flights and started looking into it. I’m not interested in gambling beyond the occasional lottery ticket, and while some of the casinos I’ve visited were pretty impressive, others were just dirty and sad. But after my trip, I learned that Vegas isn’t one-sided, and there is something to do for everyone.
Since it was my first time, I wanted to stay on the strip, in a nice clean hotel that was relatively cheap. I decided on the Paris because it was smaller and centrally located, plus we got a $50 food and beverage credit! I noticed that a lot of hotels will offer these promotions included in the rate, and they can often be cheaper than the “best available rate” on the hotel websites.
Day 1- Arrival at 11:45 PM & walking the strip
We left at night since Cody works on Sundays, and our flight was delayed so we got in about an hour later than was planned. It was really easy to catch a Lyft from the airport, and it only cost about $13 including fees and tip. Checking in was a breeze because nobody else was there, and the lobby was gorgeous with huge chandeliers.
Although we pre-paid for a room with a king bed, we were placed in one with two queens. The front desk staff was very nice about it and offered us a free upgrade to one of the Red Rooms on the 29th floor which was hands down much nicer than the original.
We ventured out to get a feel for the strip before heading to bed and I was sincerely surprised at the number of people that were out. You would have thought it was 8PM! The bars and the casinos were packed and there were people in every type of outfit walking down the street. Clearly it didn’t matter than we arrived late, the nightlife was just getting started.
Day 2- Hotels, Pool Time, Mon Ami Gabi
10 AM: Breakfast at the Paris Creperie. The crepes were really good, we got the ham & cheese and the breakfast crepes (ham, cheese & egg), which were just the right amount of food to prevent us from feeling stuffed but light enough that I was ready for a snack shortly after.
Mid morning/afternoon: We toured through many of the major hotels but started at the Bellagio where we bought a pastry from the Jean Philippe pastisserie. This place is amazing! They have a chocolate waterfall with three types of chocolate, and absolutely delicious authentic french pastries. We tried the Snicker, which was like a gourmet Snickers bar, it had caramel, chocolate mousse, and crushed nuts.
Early afternoon: Drinks at Wolfgang Puck cafe in Aria. My uncle lives just outside downtown Las Vegas so he suggested this place since it has an all day happy hour. You can’t beat that! The $6 happy hour sangria was delicious and refreshing, plus they had a great happy hour food menu.
3 PM: Pool time! Ahhhh the pool. One of my favorite parts of the trip. The pool at the Paris is on the 3rd floor right below the Eiffel Tower. I’m sure they monitor it more on the weekends but we walked right in without having to show a room key or anything. We had no trouble getting loungers in the sun (possibly because it was Monday afternoon), and decided to get drinks at the pool bar. The drink prices were absolutely ridiculous ($8 for domestic beer cans and $16 for cocktails) but thankfully they didn’t skimp on the alcohol so my pina colada and Cody’s margarita came out pretty boozy. There is nothing better than a poolside pina colada on vacation. Plus with our food & beverage credit, we didn’t have to pay for them.
7 PM: Dinner at Mon Ami Gabi in the Paris. My aunt and uncle suggested this restaurant since it is one of their favorites on the strip. It’s a great place because it sits just above the street with patio seating that overlooks the Bellagio fountains. We enjoyed the warm baguette, country pate, escargot and tomato & blue cheese salad to start, and then got various versions of steak frites, and finished with the classic profiteroles. I loved the starters and the fries were thin and crispy but I wish I had ordered a different steak since mine was a little more thin cut than I like. However everything was delicious and the profiteroles were an excellent end to the meal, filled with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge.
Night: After dinner we crossed the street and watched the Bellagio fountain show. It goes every 30 minutes after 3 PM and every 15 minutes after 8 PM, choreographed to various songs. The show we saw was to Uptown Funk. As an ex-dance team member I absolutely loved it! It was like watching a dance performance but with just lights and water. Afterwards, we bar hopped on the strip before ending the night at PBR Rockbar, which had $5 beers and a live country band with only a $5 cover.
Day 3- Lazy morning, Jersey Boys, dinner at Lago
10 AM: After another late night, we slept in before venturing over to the Cafe Bellagio for breakfast. I was originally craving pancakes but instead went for the homemade corned beef hash with poached eggs, hash browns and toast. It was delicious, the corned beef was well cooked and the hash browns were perfect. I loved them grated and extra crispy on the outside.
Midday: It was an overcast day and we weren’t quite in the mood to walk around the strip so we ended up laying around, napping, and got lunch at the Thai restaurant in the hotel Yong Kang Street. The juicy pork dumplings were good but the dandan noodles were a little gummy.
3 PM: Pool time! Even though it was overcast we wanted to enjoy the pool so we ordered drinks and sat in the hot tub before the sun cam out and it was glorious. I had to drag myself away so that we had time to get ready for the show we were seeing: Jersey Boys!
7 PM: It was on our Vegas bucket list to see a show and we were unsure about going to one of the Cirque du Soleil shows so we settled on Jersey Boys. It was so easy since it happened to be located in our hotel, and we both loved it. They did a great job incorporating the music into the story line and it was so fun hearing all the hits from the Four Seasons. The language is definitely for adults, so I would not say this is a family appropriate show.
9:30 PM: Dinner at Lago in the Bellagio, Julian Serrano’s Italian tapas style restaurant. If you’re smart, you can make a reservation and hope for a table overlooking the fountain but we walked in and sat in the bar area since it was still so packed. I’m not a fan of many tapas restaurants because they charge so much for a tiny plate of food, but the food at Lago was delicious at least. We ordered an assortment of dishes including the fusillioro with lamb ragu, red wine risotto with burrata, shrimp and mascarpone ravioli, and polenta with roast duck. The polenta was the winner, I had to resist licking my plate, but the fusillorio was a close second. We both ordered dessert and the presentation was beautiful. Mine (below) was canelotti with citrus ricotta filling and Cody got a hazelnut chocolate mousse. My one complaint was that the service was mediocre. Our waitress seemed more intent on talking with her coworkers in full view of the table than taking care of us. We got our food all at once before our drinks even arrived and had to politely remind our waitress about the risotto since it seemed clear when it didn’t arrive that she forgot it.
Afterwards we overpaid for some drinks at the Bellagio casino & did some minor gambling. Cody spent $10 on slots and won it back and I spent a measly $1 but won $6 so we were both happy and called it quits. We ended the night at the Nine Fine Irishmen in New York, New York, which had a live Irish rock band and affordable selection of whiskeys, with a $5 cover.
Day 4- Go day 🙁
In true Murphy’s Law fashion, our last day was the nicest day of the whole week. We woke up to clear blue skies and 75 degree weather, with a predicted high of 90. Since we loved it so much for dinner we got breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi, which was just as delicious as dinner and we had a great time people watching from the patio. We went back to the room to collect our bags and I sadly said goodbye to the pool before it was time to head to the airport.
As a first timer, I really enjoyed visiting Vegas and would definitely go back. I realized that there really isn’t just one way to do Vegas. No, you do not have to recreate The Hangover or gamble your money away or come back with a tattoo. Although if you want to, it’d be pretty easy. There is something for everyone and you won’t have to look to far to do any of it. For me, sitting by the pool was one of the best parts.
If you’re looking to plan a vacation to Vegas and it’s your first visit, here are some of my tips:
First off, research: Go visit Vegas.com. It has everything you need to plan your trip and was a huge asset for me as I figured out what I wanted to see and do. You can compare hotel rates side by side, look up show information, find out how much specific clubs are, how to get to/from the airport, everything!
Planning your stay: I would highly recommend staying in the center of the strip. I loved staying at the Paris because it was so easy to get everywhere, and it saved us money because anything we wanted to do was only about a 20 minute walk away. The further south we went on the strip, the more kitschy it got (ex. Excalibur and Luxor). If you’re looking to save a little money, you can stay during the week. You’d be surprised at the number of people that are there during the week, I sure was. Plus you’re more likely to get those prized dinner reservations or the best lounger at the pool.
Hotels: It can be really affordable to say in Vegas, especially if you’re in a group. I had no trouble finding rates for a normal king /queen room for less than $100 a night for some really nice hotels, and the kitschy themed hotels were around $60. I noticed as I played with the fare calendars that rates dropped significantly the closer it was till your stay. If you’re willing to wait until last minute, you could get some killer deals within a week of your trip- although your preferred room type might be sold out.
Seeing the sights: You really don’t need a whole day to see the strip unless you’re hell bent on seeing every major hotel. Trust me, all the casinos look the same, and some are poorly laid out so it’s difficult to find the entrance/exit. Including the hour spent walking around after arriving late the first night, I walked around all morning the first day and was back at the hotel by 2 and that was all I needed to get a feel for the strip. Beyond that, I would highly recommend the seeing the Bellagio fountain, going to a show (I’ve heard great things about all the Cirque du Soleil shows), or just enjoying the pool.
Fitness: You’ll probably do a good job burning off your huge meals by walking the strip but if you’re like me and actually enjoy working out on vacation, check out the fitness center in your hotel. The Paris had a well equipped center that is free to hotel guests (it’s included in the resort charge). I was really hoping to plan an early morning run down the strip but had no idea how difficult that was until I got there. You’ll find that there are very few major crosswalks and you actually will have to go up escalators and through hotel walkways to get to the other side of the street. While it’s definitely possible to go on a run, it would take some maneuvering. And if you do try it, I would suggest running on the west side (Bellagio side) of the street. It’s wider and cleaner, plus there are usually fewer people on that side.
What to eat: There are an incredible number of delicious places to eat it’s hard to narrow it down. I found it easier to check out the dining options near my hotel rather than be overwhelmed by what was available on the entire strip. My basic recommendation would be to eat light during the day and splurge on dinner. You can easily pick up some cheap snacks at any of the local convenience stores. Even with all the walking around, between the huge breakfasts and day drinking, you might not even be hungry for lunch anyway.
Have a booze plan: Drink prices can really get away from you if you aren’t careful, and there are so many other things to spend your money on.
- On the street: The best part about Vegas is that you can get alcohol anywhere, and you can drink it anywhere, including on the sidewalk. Open container laws don’t seem to exist there. Most people walking down the strip are either drinking half yard sized frozen slushie drinks with liquor in them, which are sold every block, or 16 oz beer cans, which are sold in every CVS, Walgreens, or mini mart on the strip. The slushies seemed to start around $15 depending on the cup you chose, and you can pay extra for more liquor and get refills for a discount. The best deal we found for beer was $0.99 PBR or Miller Life 16oz cans at a souvenir shop. Many others had a wider selection of domestic beers for $3.50 and up.
- Restaurants/clubs: Plan to spend around $15 or more per cocktail. Even at breakfast. Unless you want a really good martini you’re better off just finding another option, or search out some happy hours. There is a happy hour deal for every time of the day, and many bars offer a “reverse” happy hour that doesn’t start until midnight or 1 AM. Most hotel buffets also offer a set all-you-can-drink price to add on to the price of the buffet.
- Casinos: Sit at a slot machine or gamble at a table and wait for the cocktail waitresses to come around. They have a selection of liquor, beer, wine, water, coffee, etc. and are generally free (unless you count the money you just lost waiting for them to deliver your drink to you). I didn’t spend enough time in the casinos to do this but it’s not hard.
I would love to hear about your Vegas experiences and what you thought the best sights were!