Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Travel Guide - Las Vegas

Jeff and I went to Vegas twice in 2016, including for New Year's Eve, and have been several times together in the past couple of years too, and it is always a blast. We've stayed in a bunch of different places, once got a friend of a friend to sneak us into a bunch of different pools, have seen a lot of shows, and eaten at some amazing restaurants, so I'm pretty confident in my ability to give recommendations at this point! Here are some of the best places to stay, things to do, and places to eat and drink.


When you're looking for a place to stay, you obviously want to choose the Strip, which is the stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard that all of the casinos are on. When picking a place to stay, location is definitely key! The strip is really long and the blocks are huge, so even if you're staying one or two blocks off of the strip you may still be quite a walk to all of the casinos. We stayed off the strip once to try to save money, and ended up spending so much on cabs to and from our hotel that it would have been cheaper to just stay in one of the casinos! I've always wanted to stay at Wynn or Encore, but again, they're so far away that you'd spend most of your trip walking or in a cab if you feel like leaving the casino. For location, central strip has always been the best for us - we love Aria and Bellagio for location, and I'd love to stay in the Cosmopolitan at some point!

Also consider if you're going to want to spend a lot of time at the pool. When we went this winter it was too cold for any pool time, but it's generally pool weather from March through October, although be careful with the start and end dates if you're from the South - crazy Chicagoans like myself will go swimming just about anytime it's sunny! I personally love the pools at Mirage and Aria. Mirage is an older casino but has a fun, oasis-themed pool with a lot of alcoves and waterfalls, and gets a good amount of sun. Aria has some really beautiful pools and is mostly full-sun, and we loved the zero-entry option, which let us lounge in the water like we were at the beach. Some of the casinos that have high towers will block the sun at the pools - we especially noticed this at Caesar's Palace!

The pool at Caesar's Palace - you can see that the right side is completely in the shade! 


You're in Vegas, so definitely check out the casinos! I'm super risk adverse so I don't like to gamble a lot, but I always love checking out the craps table and the slots, and this past trip I got really into blackjack. If you don't want to spend a ton of money, come up with an amount you're okay with losing over the trip, and don't go over that amount! I usually stick with a limit of $100 per day, and once I hit that limit I'm not allowed to spend any more. I also like to look for casinos that have lower-priced tables so I can get a little more bang for my buck. We usually have luck finding cheaper tables at Mirage and Planet Hollywood. Generally the fancier a casino is, the more expensive it will be to gamble there!

If you're visiting Vegas for the first time, definitely take a walk along the strip. It's a little crazy, but you can grab an adult beverage (there are no open container laws in Vegas) and do some great people watching. It's also fun to wander from casino to casino, most of them have some form of entertainment right on the strip to try to draw you in, like a volcano that explodes in front of Mirage and a pirate show in front of Treasure Island.

While you're wandering the strip, you have to do in Vegas are to see the fountains at the Bellagio and the interior of the Venetian. You've probably seen the Bellagio fountains in a movie at some point, but they are absolutely beautiful in person! The fountains go off every half hour, and have a show that coordinates with music. On New Year's Eve, they had the fountains going off every fifteen minutes and played more modern music (including Bruno Mars!) which was really fun to see. If you want a really good view, plan your visit out ahead of time as people will line up around the fountain fifteen or twenty minutes in advance! You also have to see the Venetian - the inside is decorated to look like Venice, complete with a canal and gondolas you can take a ride in! It is really beautiful, and of course, there's also a bit of shopping to do while you're inside ;)

I rarely shop when I go to Vegas, since most of the stores are the same I see in downtown Chicago, but if you don't live and work in what's basically a gigantic mall then I definitely recommend checking it out! For higher end stores like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, etc, check out the shops at Bellagio as well as The Shops at Crystals, which is the mall connected to Aria. For more affordable shopping, definitely check out the shops at Caesar's Palace or Planet Hollywood.

I had a little spa day this past time I was there, and I definitely recommend checking that out if you have the time! We stayed at the Bellagio so it was a bit pricy, but once you pay for a service (I got a hot stone massage, mmmmmmm) you get access to the spa for the whole day, which lets you into the hot tubs, sauna, and steam room, as well as access to their showers, fancy hair products and tools, and makeup mirrors. I didn't quite know what to expect, and I literally spent all day in there!

If you're there in the winter, check out the roof of the Cosmopolitan - they turn one of their pools into an ice skating rink! We didn't skate because someone is a scaredy-cat (hint: it's not me ;), but it is such a cute set-up, plus there are great views of the strip, yummy wintery cocktails, and even little fire pits you can rent out and roast s'mores over!

I'm not that into the Vegas shows, but we saw Britney when we were there over the summer and it was amazing - definitely go if that's your scene!

Eat and Drink

Eggslut - A favorite from Los Angeles, this is a fast-casual breakfast spot in the Cosmopolitan with freaking amazing breakfast sandwiches. We tried the Fairfax and the Gaucho, and they were both so good!! There is always a huge line, but it moves pretty fast - we made it through the line and got our food in about thirty minutes on a busy Saturday morning.

Herringbone - We went for brunch here once, and they have lounge seating right next to the pool that's really fun. I loved the cocktails, and we really liked sharing a bunch of their small plates, and of course the chilaquiles!

Yellowtail - I eat here almost every time we come to Vegas, partially because I have that rice portion of my stomach that always needs to be filled, but mostly because they have amazingly fresh sushi! Like, I rarely eat sashimi or non-rolled sushi, but I do eat it here - so good!

The Chandelier - a bar in Cosmo that's built to look like you're inside a giant chandelier! It's so beautiful I make Jeff stop by for a drink every time we're in Vegas. The drinks aren't bad either ;)

Lago - I thought the food here was really good (Italian small plates), but the drinks were what really shined! They have really beautiful presentation - one of the cocktails I had came with a gold sugar "nest" and a gold raspberry on the top, and they're also really good! Jeff actually spent a good amount of time sampling the cocktail menu while I was off spa-ing on our last trip ;)

LVB Burgers - Giant burgers and boozy milkshakes. Need I say more?

Mesa Grill - In case you're feeling some tacos (we always are!) this place is great for lunch or brunch!

So there you have it, my guide to Las Vegas! What are your favorite places in Vegas? Anything I missed?

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