The thing about living in the Entertainment Capital of the World is that you’ll never be alone. Everybody you’ve ever known, loved, hated or dated will eventually pass through Sin City on vacation or for a convention.
No matter how many years have passed since you last spoke, a surprising number of long-lost besties will reach out. They’ll want to catch up for drinks or crash on your couch. They’ll invite you to join their weeklong bender or their cousin’s bachelorette party. Sometimes, they’ll just want advice for the best Cirque show, because their co-worker is planning a trip.
It can be a lot of fun to pal around with old friends while getting to play the cucumber-cool Vegas insider. And sometimes it can get a little annoying. (Ever scrolled right past a buddy’s social media post about heading to Vegas, baby? Guilty as charged!). Nevertheless, it’s every Las Vegan’s duty to be hospitable and keep Vegas fabulous. Don’t feel overwhelmed—the Weekly is here to help. We’ve built the ultimate tourists guide to make sure they have a great time while they’re here … and you do, too.
An itinerary for every type of Vegas visitor:
1. The Vegas Virgin
It’s easy for us locals to forget how the mere sight of neon sparks feelings of awe. So if you’re lucky enough to host a first-timer, get out of the way and let Vegas do what it does best.
Fuel up for a day of walking (and drinking yard-longs) with breakfast at the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace. Point your guests in the direction of the Bellagio fountains and Conservatory, then let them spend the day touristing on their own. Meet up in the evening at Treasure Island to view Cirque du Soleil’s excellent Mystère (or, if money is tight, check out the free circus shows at Circus Circus). While you’re in the neighborhood, drop by the Welcome to Las Vegas Sign (5200 Las Vegas Blvd. S.) for the requisite photos. Then drive your guests very slowly up the length of the Strip so they can see the lights and grab a late dinner at the delightfully kitschy Peppermill (2985 Las Vegas Blvd. S.). Order the fresh fruit plate for a tower of fruit in a pineapple boat, with ice cream, banana bread and marshmallow sauce. Continue north to the Fremont Street Experience to carouse with buskers, ride the SlotZilla zipline and watch a free Viva Vision light show on the canopy.
Got an extra day? Tour the Hoover Dam and walk across the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge for epic
2. The Frequent Flier
Impress even the most jaded Vegas regular with a to-die-for breakfast sandwich at Eggslut at the Cosmopolitan. Then swing by the newly renovated Palms for a drink at the Unknown Bar while viewing Damien Hirst’s shark art.
The hippest new thing in Vegas is sports, and you’ve got options all year: the Golden Knights (NHL), Las Vegas Aces (WNBA), Las Vegas Lights (United Soccer League) or the holdover, Triple-A Las Vegas 51s (set to move into a new stadium next season). We love Golden Knights practices at City National Arena (1550 S. Pavilion Center Drive), which are free and open to the public. While you’re in the area, dine at the hot new Masso Osteria at Red Rock Resort. Our food critic recommends the pasta al pomodoro and gnocchi with clams.
After dark, take your tourists to something they haven’t seen before, like Brilliant: A Neon Museum Experience (770 Las Vegas Blvd. N.), Opium by Spiegelworld (the folks behind Absinthe) at the Cosmopolitan, Gwen Stefani’s Planet Hollywood residency or a late set at Comedy Cellar at the Rio.
Got an extra day? Hike the 2.2-mile Calico Tanks trail at Red Rock Canyon (1000 Scenic Loop Drive) for a mind-blowing view of the Strip. The hike is rated moderate-strenuous, so if you’re not up to the feat, opt for Red Rock’s 13-mile scenic drive instead.
3. The Urban Explorer
If you’ve got intrepid friends who eschew the Strip in favor of finding the “real” Vegas, you could have a philosophical discussion about how the touristy side of Vegas is the real Vegas. Or you could start the morning right by buying a one-day pass to a hip local gym, like TruFusion, Real Results or Raw Fitness, so they can sweat with the locals. (You can’t get more authentic than exercising alongside cocktail waitresses and valet parkers!) Recover with food and cocktails at off-Strip hangout Starboard Tack (2601 Atlantic St.) or brunch at the Kitchen at Atomic (917 Fremont St.), where you must try the whiskey bread pudding!
Spend the day strolling the Downtown Arts District and hanging out at Downtown Container Park (707 Fremont St.). As night falls, see a play by a local company like Cockroach Theatre (1025 S. 1st St.), Majestic Repertory Theatre (1217 S. Main St.) or Las Vegas Little Theatre (3920 Schiff Drive), or catch a touring Broadway production or a jazz show at the Smith Center (361 Symphony Park Ave.). Eat dinner in Chinatown (the cool kids love District One, 3400 S. Jones Blvd. #8) or indulge at an off-Strip steakhouse like Golden Steer (308 W. Sahara Ave.) or Echo & Rig in Tivoli Village (440 S Rampart Blvd.). End up at an indie show at the Bunkhouse Saloon (124 S 11th St.) or Beauty Bar (517 Fremont St.).
Got an extra day? Travel to Boulder City to discover a world of small-town quirk.
4. The Partier
So your friend is getting married and wants you to plan the bachelor or bachelorette party. If you hate the hassle, opt for a package deal from a local party planner, like VegasPartyVIP.com, MySinCityParty.com, VegasGirlsNightOut.com or BadAssBachelorParty.com. Bonus: Packages generally include a party bus!
If yours is a DIY celebration, start by taking your friends directly to a dispensary (like Essence on the Strip, 2307 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; Canopi Downtown, 1324 S. 3rd Street; or the Source, with two locations in the suburbs) to load up for later. (It’s legal to buy but not to consume publicly, so might we suggest edibles?)
Before you imbibe, spend your morning zooming through desert sand dunes on a guided four-wheeler tour via Las Vegas ATV Tours (lvatvtours.com). In the afternoon, hit up a party pool club like Encore Beach Club at the Wynn or a more subdued hotel pool like the Flamingo’s Go Pool. See a sexy show (Zumanity and Absinthe are sexy fun regardless of your gender). Ladies’ parties might hit up Magic Mike Live, while the boys head to X Burlesque. For edgier fun, try Sapphire or Hustler Club, which feature both male and female dancers—just pick your dancefloor. Cap off your evening with the ultimate nightclub experience at XS at Encore.
Got an extra day? A carb-heavy French brunch at Bouchon at the Venetian should sober you up, or cure your hangover completely with Hangover Heaven Las Vegas IV Specialists (hangoverheaven.com).
5. The Family
In the morning, before it gets hot, head south of Las Vegas for one-of-a-kind art installation Seven Magic Mountains (SevenMagicMountains.com). Let the kids run around and touch the art while parents snap photos. Suggest that your guests stay at a hotel with an awesome pool. On the Strip, Mandalay Bay has both a wave pool and a lazy river; Downtown, the Golden Nugget features an awesome pool slide and sharks!).
Feed the kids at Bobby’s Burger Palace (3750 Las Vegas Blvd. S.), with more than 12 signature burgers by Bobby Flay. (Adults, sneak upstairs to the Mandarin Bar for a child-free cocktail and epic Strip views … assuming you have someone to watch the kiddos.) Then, escape the heat at the Pinball Hall of Fame (1610 E. Tropicana Ave.) for lots of arcade fun before it temporarily closes to move to the South Strip. Or spend the afternoon making kid- and adult-friendly creations at Corks ’n Crafts in Downtown Summerlin (1875 Festival Plaza Drive #100), seeing nature at Springs Preserve (333 S. Valley View Blvd.) or learning at the Discovery Children’s Museum (360 Promenade Place).
Got an extra day? Head to Circus Circus to play the kid-friendly midway games, watch free circus shows and ride the roller coasters inside the Adventure Dome.
6. The Sober/Vegan/Self-Disciplined Visitor
Las Vegas might be famous for its sinfulness, but it’s even better known for its hospitality, so your teetotaling—or otherwise obnoxiously healthy—friends should have just as much fun as your rowdy ones.
Start with breakfast at Ronald’s Donuts (4600 Spring Mountain Road)—they’ve been vegan since before vegan was cool. According to LiveKindly.com, Las Vegas has seen a 400 percent increase in Vegan restaurants in Las Vegas, so you’ve got options galore. Some of our favorites are VegeNation Downtown (616 Carson Ave. #120), Chef Kenny’s Asian Vegan in Chinatown (6820 Spring Mountain Road) and Violette’s Vegan Organic Cafe & Juice Bar in the suburbs (8560 W. Desert Inn Road).
No matter how discerning, your opinionated guests can’t discount the splendor of nature. So after you’ve filled their bellies, whisk them off to the stunning Valley of Fire State Park (29450 Valley of Fire Hwy. in Overton) for some hiking. Or, if they’re allergic to the outdoors, take them shopping at the Caesars Palace Forum Shops or Las Vegas North Premium Outlets (875 S. Grand Central Parkway). After dark, get your friends high without chemicals by taking them to the High Roller on the Linq Promenade or the rides atop the Stratosphere.
Got an extra weekend? Encourage your guests to visit during a special event they might enjoy, such as Downtown’s Life Is Beautiful Festival (September 21-24) or the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon (November 10-11), which rolls right down the Strip.
PRO TIPS: HOW TO STAY SANE WHILE KEEPING GUESTS HAPPY
“Let’s meet for brunch.”
Practice that phrase. You might be tempted to pull out all the stops for every old friend and acquaintance who visits, but you’ll soon tire of taking newbies on the same endless walk down the Strip. Save time and avoid animosity by letting your tourists explore on their own. Meet your buddies for brunch, catch up on old times and gloat about not being hungover. (Warning: Do not attempt this with your parents.)
Home or hotel?
Unless they’re in your wedding party or immediate family, advise them to stay at the nicest Strip resort their budget can afford. They’ll have more fun that way … and so will you.
Make a list of your own favorite restaurants and store it on your phone so you’ll have automatic suggestions at the ready.
Keep plans simple.
Skip the back and forth by meeting friends at the center bar of whichever hotel they’re staying in.
Are cars necessary?
Unless they plan to spend lots of time off-Strip, advise them to skip the rental. Parking isn’t free most places anymore, plus cabs and rideshare services abound. And if you’re feeling extra generous, you can offer to pick them up one night for a dinner in the ’burbs.
Not too long, not too short.
When your friends float the idea of visiting, suggest a three-day weekend. Anything less will leave them wanting, but anything more can feel like too much. Ben Franklin once said, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”