Las Vegas, Nevada! Sin City! Vegas goes by many names. We can all agree that it’s certainly one of the most interesting places on the planet. An oasis in the desert and surrounded by nothing but miles and miles of desert and mountains. It’s really a beautiful place. Here’s my Las Vegas Visitor Guide for 2023!
Just a short flight from just about every major airport in the United States, Las Vegas, Nevada has a lot of amazing amenities including buffets, casinos, major works of art, celebrities, and the list just goes on. But if you’re someone who hasn’t been starstruck by the unlikelihood of striking it rich on the slots, you’re like my wife and I. So, this blog will tell you what to do in Las Vegas if you don’t gamble. It’ll focus on AirBnB off the strip stays, strip visits for fine dining and also desert adventures you MUST SEE in Las Vegas!
So let’s start with a stay. Assuming you read my How to Elope in Las Vegas blog (if not just click this link and it’ll take you there) you’ve already scored an amazing deal on Southwest or Allegiant out west. In fact, Southwest flies direct to Las Vegas 3x a day from Indianapolis! But what about your stay? Well, you’ve got the casinos and their rooms. But the problem is that unless you’re a Caesar’s Diamond Status or some other high ranking hotel/resort status, most likely you’re going to incur a daily resort fee, which in the time of Covid-19, seems like the biggest money grab of the 21st century.
To avoid all the resort fees, here’s a better option. AirBnB!
I’ve created a list of amazing and highly rated AirBnBs throughout Las Vegas that will keep things fun but also avoid the unnecessary fees of the resorts. Check out the list here.
Okay, now that you’ve nailed down a spot to crash (and party!) we can move onto rental cars. I recommend checking out rental cars from Budget, Dollar, and Thrifty. All three of these companies are essentially the same but have far lower prices than some of the more mainstreamed options.
BUT THE KEY TO SUCCESS is actually one step further. Before booking, maybe a month or two in advance, sign up for their FREE rewards program. There are a ton of perks including skipping the line (which is a lifesaver after a long flight). There’s also discounts and upgrades as well sometimes.
Alright, now that we’ve got all that settled, let’s figure out some fun things to do! Let’s start with places to eat!
A 2023 Update to AirBnB and Hotel Stays in Las Vegas.
As we’re becoming more and more aware, AirBnB and VRBO are becoming super saturated and problematic. Aside from the ethical issues that AirBnB now poses, we’re also seeing a lot of larger rental companies take over private homes and not do a good job of cleaning them. I’ve had decent experiences in Las Vegas with AirBnB, but my hotel experiences have been far more cohesive, clean, and enjoyable.
Even though we all hate resort fees, I do recommend staying in a resort/hotel in Las Vegas. If you’re not looking to spend a fortune and don’t mind a mid-level roller crowd, The Flamingo Las Vegas in their RENOVATED ROOMS ONLY is a good option. The renovated rooms at the Flamingo include “The Flamingo Rooms”. AVOID GO and FAB rooms at all costs unless you like the smell of oily poverty and unclean carpets. The Flamingo is working their butts off to update and the Flamingo Rooms are very nice.
If you want a little nicer of a stay and don’t love party goers but still want to be on the strip, The Paris Las Vegas is my preferred choice. Rooms can be as low as $25 a night (before resort fees) and their pool when in season, is gorgeous. It’s more relaxed and quiet at The Paris and very much an enjoyable experience.
Hotels to avoid in Las Vegas
I hate to be negative but let’s face it, we work hard for our money. That’s why I’m including a portion of this Las Vegas guide to include places you should avoid.
1. Circus Circus. Outdated, sketchy, and very dilapidated.
2. The Tropicana. Bed Bugs.
3. Excalibur. Also outdated and unclean.
4. The Luxor. A smoky maze and mess that’s too far from anything on the Strip.
5. The Rio —too far off the strip to be enjoyable. Some redeeming qualities are that the rooms are gigantic. It wasn’t awful but it was dated. I upgraded our room size and honestly we could have fit 8-10 people in our room. The water briefly also got turned off while we were there which was awkward. There are better options for your cash unless you’re not doing anything Strip related.
6. The Strat – only worth eating at Top of the World and in a very bad part of the strip.
Basically most unbranded hotels. There are a lot of budget off strip options that are no-name spaces. Do your research because there is a lot of places in Las Vegas you’d rather not be.
The best places to eat in Las Vegas (according to Nate).
- On Top of the World restaurant and the Sky Lounge. This bar and restaurant is located 800 feet up in the air in the Stratosphere hotel. You’ll have to drive to the north end of the strip which gets a little shady but are graciously welcomed by the tallest building in Vegas and the tallest building west of the Mississippi River! (it’s even taller than the Eiffel Tower!) To get the best deals (because I’m all about deals OKAY!) make dinner reservations between 7 and 7:30PM (depending on Sunset time) to guarantee amazing views of Vegas in a 360 degree manner. You’ll get to see Vegas during the day, during golden hour, sunset, and at night. BAM winner!
But On Top of the World Restaurant isn’t a cheap little diner to enjoy. It’s one of the nicer options that still remains in the “approachable for most humans” category. One way to save some cash but still have a good time is to go to the Sky Lounge bar (which is directly above the restaurant) and enjoy 50% cocktails, wine, and beer from 4PM-7PM. That means you can be a cheap date while still enjoying expensive views.
- In-N-Out Burger! A truly legitimate fast food burger that doesn’t taste like a run of the mill burger made by the other burger chains. No, these are freshly grilled patties, grilled buns, and perfectly seasoned french fries and real milkshakes. The line is always long at In-N-Out Burger but they work fast and you’ll probably not wait more than 10 minutes from the back to the front of the line. Definitely worth a stop and at less than $10 for a tasty burger and fries, it’s an amazing deal for Las Vegas’ steep food prices.
- Cinnamon’s Restaurant is truly a blast from the past for us. Having spent 3 weeks in Hawaii this year, we ate at many different restaurants. The consensus was that we love Hawaiian food and the tropical approach and feel it has. While researching “best brunches in Las Vegas” Cinnamon’s Restaurant popped up and said it was Hawaiian. Walking in truly feels like stepping into a Hawaiian restaurant and the food was outstanding. I highly recommend the lilikoi stuffed french toast (it’s passionfruit) and also consider getting rice as a side with some shoyu (soy sauce) with one of your savory meals such as the kalua pig eggs benedict or the laulau (pork wrapped in taro leaves) omelette.
- For a fancy brunch buffet, there’s only one stop, The Buffet at The Wynn Hotel. Since covid is still ruining all our fun, they’re choosing to serve all their buffet brunch or dinner items in a more tapas style way, delivered directly to your table. The brunch option for weekday brunch is $37 but you HAVE to add on the dual drink package which is another $30 (but includes unlimited drinks including mimosas, wine, beer, and aperol spritzes!)
This dining experience experience was unparalleled and the service was so quick and amazing. A pro tip if you’re a foodie is to try a little bit of everything. Instead of eating everything on the plate, try a few bites, savor, and move on to the next dish. Since they’re served on tapas plates in smaller portions, there’s less of that western world guilt of food wasting. But it IS Sin City and you SHOULD indulge a little! Try the baked clams! Felicia loved them so much!
After you’re finishing dining, be sure to the tip your waiter well. Ours treated us so kindly and was fast fast fast! Then, you can stroll through the Wynn’s gorgeous property arm in arm enjoying the vast casino floors which truly exemplify what Las Vegas always looked like in my head and even stop at Balenciaga or pick up some new Louboutins in their ultra high end fashion mall inside the Wynn.
- Pasta Mia, the most legit Italian restaurant you can experience! Just off the strip on our last day we had the opportunity to visit this amazing little mom and pop Italian restaurant. I recommend the Chicken Parmesan which was AMAAAAZING and perfect. (Be sure to check Groupon for specials!)
- China Mama! This gem is located — you guessed it — in Chinatown/Spring Valley –just a short Uber ride from the strip. The last time I went I only took video but believe me, this is THE place you’ll want to stop at while in Vegas. Yes, there are much flashier and crazy spots to stop, but this is THE stop for Chinese food. Authentic, real, and so damn good it’ll make you wanna relocate.
- Bagelmania – Everytime. And I mean EVERY time I go to Vegas, I eat at Bagelmania. It’s become tradition. An authentic Jewish delicatessen with a bakery in front that serves fresh doughnuts too. Everything is amazing in this space but OBVIOUSLY get breakfast. In fact, I recommend the reuben omelette with an everything bagel and jalapeño house made cream cheese.
- Andiamo Steakhouse at The D on Fremont. Now this steakhouse served me and my bestie, Heather, The Vegas Know It All, some of the tastiest steak I’ve had. I especially loved the house made butter sauce they serve their steaks with called ‘Zip Sauce’. Everything here was outstanding and I really enjoyed the truffle they added to the mashed potatoes at the time. If you’re on Fremont, it’s a winner.
- Nevada Brew Works. Located in downtown Las Vegas – this hip space is home to Nevada Brew Works. Opening during COVID, I had the pleasure of meeting Jason and Lauren in person since Lauren is a local from my home town. She and her hubs have continued to press on through the pandemic and even found themselves on Bar Rescue. Thankfully, they made amazing changes and diversified their menu and now offer the best wings in Vegas and some of the tastiest taps (beer). (As a side note, their reasoning for being on the show was purely financial). They’ve bounced back and do super well on TikTok. They also have a philanthropic arm where they donate some of their proceeds to a foundation they created in their daughter’s honor, Ariana Rye, who was born premature with cerebral palsy. They donate proceeds to families in need of medical equipment for their children.
My favorite Las Vegas Bars
- Legacy Club Rooftop and Cocktails at Circa (on Fremont). This is one of the classiest and best views of Fremont. The space is nice, requires reservations, and don’t come if you’re trashed and feeling trashy. This is a more elevated experience and the cocktails reflect that. It’s more expensive than other bars but you’re getting quality. And the views are amazing.
- Vegas Vickie’s Bar (Circa on Fremont). Another Circa bar coming in with amazing drinks, great service, and fun views. Circa was renovated in 2021 and it shows. No longer dated and dusty like many of the other spaces in Vegas, this space slaps, the sports book is huge, and you just feel so expensive while being there. You get a great view of Vegas Vickie, a neon sign with a leg that kicks up and down.
- The Ski Lodge inside Superfrico in the Cosmo. The Cosmo is one of my favorite hotels I’ve never stayed at in Vegas. Amazing views of the Bellagio Fountain and wonderful places to eat including my favorite spot, Eggslut. But The Ski Lodge is a speakeasy inside Superfrico in the Cosmo and is–you guessed it, a ski lodge themed bar. Come get cozy and have some fun!
- Vanderpump Cocktail Garden – Caesar’s. Created by the legendary Lisa Vanderpump, this elevated and elegant bar will have you and your boo swooning over the greenery, details, and the tasty drinks.
- Most bars are fine. Many are very overpriced. If you go off strip, booze is cheaper.
Las Vegas Visitor Guide for folks who don’t want to gamble
Well, here are some fun things to do if you’re not into gambling.
- Visit the fountains at the Bellagio. On the corner of Flamingo and the main strip, you can catch a fountain show every 15 minutes. Pro-tip, go at night and get a good spot for the show. It was amazing and so beautiful!
- Go shopping! Two of the places we checked out for amazing luxury shopping was at Caesar’s hotel and at The Wynn. Whether you’re in the market for some a luxury watch or just enjoy pretending, these are two places you can stroll through and don’t have to spend a dime gambling.
- Check out Red Rock Canyon! If you like to hike, take Highway 159 west out of Vegas and make some random stops out toward Red Rock Canyon! Be sure to bring plenty of water and wear appropriate footwear. If you’re not much into hiking, keep continuing down 159 because it makes a U and takes you back to Las Vegas. This nice hour long drive will take you through beautiful mountains, an inspiring landscape, and lots of places to pull off and check out.
- Book a photoshoot in a Dry Lake Bed! Seriously, you’ve never seen anything like this. There are two easy access dry lake beds outside of Las Vegas. These were where I took my wife for her shoot and Kayla and James for their engagement shoot. It blew my mind how beautiful it was and how flat and empty it was as well. Here are two different spots to check out for your dry lake bed adventure. Here’s a link to book me for your photo session there!
- Also check out Seven Magic Mountains. Built just a little over a decade ago, these multi-ton boulders were brought in, painted, and stacked on one another and are a great and easy stop. This would also be an excellent opportunity for my LGBTQ+ friends to get some amazing social media posts since the rocks are painted in all the colors of the rainbow.
6. Go to the Hoover Dam! Less than an hour away from Las Vegas is the Hoover Dam. Holding back 9.2 trillion gallons of water, the Hoover Dam is a man made wonder and is worth an afternoon trip!
Vegas is a totally different type of feel if you’re anywhere east of Nevada, you’re going to love how dry it is. Living in Indiana, it’s humidity central and makes me miserable. Even though the heat was far higher in Vegas than in Indiana, I didn’t even sweat at all!
So, I’ve got some recommendations below on what you can wear to Vegas to look and feel your best in that amazing dry heat! (These are affiliate links so I do make a little when you pick some of these up but it doesn’t cost you any extra).
Best Shows in Las Vegas 2023
Vegas is known for its shows and residencies. At the time of writing this in late 2022, Adele and RMaroon 5 are doing residencies there. You can find them at Caesar’s Palace and the MGM Grand.
However, if you want something more than just a one person show, I recommend going to see a show. Here are my favorite shows you can see in Las Vegas.
- Cirque du Soleil – O at the Bellagio – This masterpiece from Cirque du Soleil is above and below the water and features a stage where you can see both. It’s spectacular, beautiful, and the best Cirque show in town.
- Drag Race Live – The Flamingo – Look, if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you like humor, comedy, and are inclusive in your lifestyle. This drag show is a treat and tickets aren’t too costly in comparison to some. Go and see these gals kick, shake it, twerk, and lip sync the house down boots mama!
- Absinthe – 19th century show put on at Caesar’s Palace. It’s a more intimate venue with jaw dropping acts and naughty humor. 18+
- Opium – from the creators of Absinthe (and Atomic Saloon) located at The Cosmo, this naughty show is another one of those jaw dropping acts with naughty humor and some trippy moments too.
- The Magician’s Study – An invite only exclusive small room magic show. Now look, I don’t do magic shows but if it’s your thing, this is the best one you can probably not get into. RSVP and work your ass off to get in. I promise it’ll be WORTH it.
Show to skip in Las Vegas.
Just as important as it is to outline the best, we should also tell you to avoid certain shows.
- The Blue Man Group. Very overrated and outdated at this point. Save your money for another show. Bad timing, slow skits, and very dull.
- Criss Angel. Mindfreak. Save your money for something that won’t leave you bored and regretting your decision.
- Shen Yun – This really isn’t a Vegas show and you may see them advertised all over the US. But avoid this show. It’s a Chinese Cult that uses the show to spread their misinformation and malpractices.
- Ka. Probably the worst Cirque show in town.
I hope this is helpful and if you need more insights and details, I totally recommend following my favorite Vegas TikTokers:
Heather with VegasKnowItAll – Heather is a Vegas local who hosts a tour guide company and has a ton of amazing free resources on TikTok. Find her on TikTok here!
I hope that this Las Vegas visitor guide helps you on your trip to Vegas! Never hesitate to reach out for bookings or questions. If you wanna elope or have a photo shoot in Las Vegas, send me a message here!