The Saturday City: Las Vegas

hotel in las vegasI like to gamble. A lot. Poker, blackjack, and, more recently, craps (though I find that game a bit boring). Given that hard truth, I’ve avoided Las Vegas my entire life. I knew any trip to Vegas would lead to lots of gambling and that the easiest way to defeat my addiction was to deny it battle. But one day I knew I would up there and, with a heavy and weary heart, last week I finally went to Las Vegas.

Blogworld Expo, the yearly conference on blogging and social media, was being held there and I wanted to attend the conference. There were a lot of bloggers going I wanted to finally meet in person and I was curious to see if I would walk away with any tips on making my blog better.

I figured that with a conference going on and all the events and parties that go with it, I wouldn’t have too much time to gamble. I was very wrong but I did control myself or more accurately I made my friends control me. I walked away with money in my pocket. I also walked away thinking Las Vegas was awesome.

It’s an adult playground. The casinos are more than hotels – they are palaces! Aria, the Venetian, and Bellagio were among the most gorgeous. They are filled with amazing clubs, shows, and delicious food. Oh the food. I could definitely get fat living in Vegas. Vegas rocked my world and I will definitely go back. I won at blackjack, I dined on great sushi, I floated in Mandalay Bay’s lazy river, and thanks to Abby the Jungle Princess, I got to crash Kim Kardashian’s birthday party. Vegas was amazing. I plan on going back. Roaming Sin City trying occupy my time and avoid the blackjack tables, I came up with this list of non-gambling things to do:

  • Take in a show (or seven) – Vegas does entertainment better than anywhere else around and you’ll find some of the best acts in the world here. Plus, it’s a better way to spend your money than at the casino. It’s often a good idea to book tickets with your accommodation as it can work out cheaper.
  • Hoover Dam & Lake Mead. It’s worth making a couple of side trips while in Vegas and 35 miles south of the city you’ll find Hoover Dam. The dam is a massive curved wall, towering 726 feet above bedrock and acting as a plug between the canyon walls to hold back over 9trillion gallons of water in Lake Mead, the country’s largest reservoir created by its construction.
  • Grand Canyon – Yes, even though the Grand Canyon is 250 miles away, people do go do day tours there. Plan a very long and tiring day if you do decide to go. While you can do it, I would say make it an overnight activity in order to get the most out of the place. The Grand Canyon is too amazing to be seen in one day but it will get you away from the slots!
  • Sratosphere – Offering the best views of Vegas, Stratosphere is the tallest free-standing observation tower in the US. If you’re feeling brave then consider having a go on one of the extreme rides at the top. The aptly name X-Scream propels you headfirst 27ft over the edge of the tower and leaves you hanging over 850ft in the air. Admission to the tower and all rides costs $40.
  • Clubbing – Clubs in Vegas are some of the most prestigious (read: pretentious) in the world so you can expect to wait in line for a long time, pay outrageous prices for drinks and entry into the club, as well as being rejected if you’re not dressed smartly enough. However, the clubs are amazing inside and the world’s top DJs can often be found behind the decks.
  • Shop – If you don’t want to lose money gambling, spend it shopping. Every brand imaginable has a store here. You can especially find some really good stuff at the Palazzo in the Venetian. I could definitely do some serious damage here.
  • Eat – If you want to do Vegas on the cheap, you can find many all you can eat buffets where you can eat all day at. But with so much food in Vegas (and the buffets being so bad), if you really want to occupy your time, go pork out on some delicious food. The casinos as well as the strip have amazing, mouth watering places to eat.

Vegas is the adult playground of the world and, after finally seeing it, I can see why everyone loves Vegas. If you are like me and like to gamble, go with friends who can keep any eye on you. Vegas may be artificial and cheesy but it’s fun with a lot of ways to relax. Vegas is a vacation. Travel doesn’t always have to be about learning some deep cultural meanings. Sometimes travel is about having mindless fun. And if I can give you one final tip for Vegas, it’s don’t stay at the Luxor. That place is a complete dump. There are a lot of better cheap hotels to choose from. And this is coming from someone whose stay in roach infested hostels. Oh, and remember that what happens in Vegas now goes on Facebook and Twitter. I guess that’s two tips.

  1. Couldn’t agree more Matt.

    Many people have a negative view on Vegas despite never having been. The seven things you suggested doing did not include gambling, this shows that even people who are not into gambling can still go to Vegas and have an amazing time.

    You can get a beautiful room in one of the 5-star marque hotels on the strip for a fifth of the price of a 5-star hotel in London or New York.

    It’s a great place.

    I was like you before I’d been, I though Vegas would be dangerous for me and my only option was to take cash only (no cards), don’t take anything valuable I could sell and take a mild poison before my trip so I couldn’t sell any organs. The truth is that you can sit at a blackjack table all day betting table minimum with the dealer giving you tips and the stunning cocktail waitresses bringing you free drinks all day. Even if you end up $50 down you’ve had a great day and not spent a penny on drink.


  2. LOL, I remember you telling me you couldn’t go to Vegas because you’d gamble all your money away. Nice to see you walked away with your shirt intact. Did you make it down to Fremont Street at all? It’s not as glitzy as the Strip, but the gambling’s cheaper there. Just sayin’. 😉

  3. Yay! I love posts like this. I love living in Las Vegas, even after living abroad, on the beach, for a year. And I don’t gamble! I like it here because of the shows (I’ve been to one the last two nights), food, parties, spas, shopping… There’s always something to do! Glad you made it to the Stratosphere, although my personal fav ride up there is the Big Shot. 😉 I had a blast with you — see you soon!

  4. Matt, it was great to meet you again in Vegas. You know I live a real life vicariously via your posts and tweets!

    Above, you may wish to mention to shell out a little extra to visit the south rim of the Grand Canyon also available via day tours, instead of the so-called “west rim” closer to Vegas, for more vivid colors and a better canyon experience. It’s especially good to visit at sunrise or sunset.

    In a world of social media, the Luxor makes an incredibly stupid mistake when it rents out inferior rooms. A friend also had a really crummy one in the pyramid building. Hers was a real dump badly in need of renovation and updating.

    However, mine in the tower building, both this year for Blog World and last year for another conference, were fine. Comfortable beds, great views, and wired Internet. No extra price.

    As long as they request the towers, I’d still recommend the Luxor to budget friends. They’ll get a lively and fun Strip casino hotel for the price of a motel.

    I especially like the two large pools, unlike the single small one found so often at newer hotels like the Aria, and the fun vibe. Even the buffet is decent, in fact better than the one at the more upscale Mandalay Bay next door.

  5. As a lover of all thngs Vegas, I’d like to add that if you have an all-female group and want to go to a club, you won’t have to wait in line or pay a cover and you’ll probably get a few free drinks as well. Just make sure you’re on someone’s guestlist by 5 PM or so!

  6. I also Love Las Vegas. Las Vegas is to me the most favorite holiday destination in the world. I love to visit the hotels, shows (Le Revé, Circue du Soleil), Downtown Las Vegas (Fremont Street Experience), free & paid attractions, cheap & good buffets and cheap slots.

    Las Vegas has (for me) 1 disadvantage. Distance!!!
    I’living in the Netherlands (Europe) far away from Las Vegas and the stunning Natural Parks (Bryce, Red Rock, Grand Canyon, Death Valley) in the area. I hope to visit Las Vegas again in 2011. I’m a Vegas fan since 1995. My last visit was in 2006.

    Did you visit City Center?

  7. Yes, I would say, the Strip is nice, it’s super-cool looking, and most of the famous shows are there. However, if you just want a decently-priced vacation, gamble without spending a fortune, stay in downtown, around Fremont Street. The hotels there are good, food is reasonable priced, and it’s more… charming, I guess you could say. We went to Vegas this past summer and had a great time staying on the south end of the Strip, but I think I will definitely stay downtown next time!

  8. Yay! I’m so glad you liked Las Vegas! There really is so much to do here besides gambling. Like Abby, we love the food and shows! Everything else is just a bonus.

    Just in case any of your readers are interested, I write about Las Vegas exclusively on this site, which offers tips and information on just about everything related to Sin City:

  9. We are shameless Vegas fans! Our favorites:

    – Wynn / Encore
    – Capriotti’s
    – The buffet at Treasure Island (yes, TI – we said shameless)

    The only reason I can think of going anywhere near the Stratosphere would be to get a full turkey dinner sandwich (the bobbie) at Capriotti’s. Vegas is a blast, but it can be extremely depressing if it starts to get too “real.” The area down by the Stratosphere is just to “real.”

  10. Tracy Barb

    Matt you have done a great job on collecting good things about Vegas! It is obvious that everyone will have a bad picture on Las Vegas because of this gambling. I found the entertainments are valid. So I am going to add Las Vegas in my Christmas holiday trip.

  11. Hey Matt, did you get my first comment here? I left it a few days ago! Anyway, I hope it didn’t end up in spam folder…I was telling you I love gambling too and craps is a fun and complex game at a hot table – and it was ever so nice to meet you in Vegas!

  12. Hey Matt; Another digital nomad here, been roaming around on-and-off since late 2004 (including ~2 years in Japan) :)

    Man, Vegas really is an amazing city; definitely one the best “adult playgrounds” out there. There are some *really* cheap long-term lodgings to be had too – you can get a fully furnished private apartment within walking distance of center-strip for $200 a week (which I’ve done several times). Summer’s hot as hell, but in my mind that’s the BEST time to go…the pool parties are simply insane. Maybe not quite Koh Phangan…but wow…something you’ve still got to experience to believe :)

  13. Natalie T.

    I agree with Kate. If you’re a female, it is a LOT easier to get into the clubs. You just have to bump into a promoter who will put you on the list for that night, and show up on time. I as lucky to ahem, participate in a premium open bar for about a hour and get free admission into one club.

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