Perhaps you will remember that Las Vegas lobbied hard in the 1990s to be considered the ultimate family-friendly destination. That forgettable campaign was later abandoned for the wildly successful “What Happens Here Stays Here” slogan, returning the city to its naughty Sin City roots. Now more than a decade old, the slogan persists because it so perfectly embodies the escapist fantasy of the Strip: Come to this unlikely mashup of the world’s greatest cities and you’re empowered to be anyone and do anything (within the bounds of the law) until you board your plane back to reality. Eat beef more precious than Kobe while sitting on a floating pagoda table? Done. Share a 30-liter bottle of Midas Ace of Spades with 200 friends while programming the dancing fountains at Bellagio? That, too, is possible. Of course, Las Vegas may be the world’s most outlandish adult playground, but it’s also a far more nuanced place than most visitors realize. Now with more and more museums and cultural programming happening off the Strip, neighborhood restaurants that hold their own against the best celebrity-driving spots, and some of the most uniquely luxurious retail in the world, there’s much more to do than wait for caped superhero servers to fly you your bottle service. Though naturally, this too is an option in Las Vegas.
Best Time to Go
Spring and fall, when temperatures are at their most pleasant—in the 80s. But those who don’t mind extreme heats can find great deals at hotels in the summer.
McCarran International Airport is a ten-minute drive from the Strip, and taking a limo from the airport is often not much more expensive than taking a cab. There is a Centurion Lounge located in Concourse D, opposite Gate D1.
Public transportation is easy (particularly along the Strip), though walking the Strip in nice weather is underrated. The Las Vegas Monorail runs from the MGM Grand on the south end of the Strip to SLS Las Vegas on the north, with seven stations in between. Rates start at $11 for an unlimited 24-hour pass, and top out at $50 for a full seven days. Two bus services provide reliable rides: The Deuce runs every 15 minutes, 24 hours, from Downtown’s Fremont Street to Mandalay Bay; and the Strip & Downtown Express (SDX) operates from 9 a.m. to midnight between the Las Vegas Premium Outlets North and the South Strip Transfer Terminal (past the outlets to the south) for similar rates.
Can’t Leave Without
1) Getting a history lesson at the Mob Museum in Downtown Las Vegas (300 Stewart Ave.; 702-229-2734; themobmuseum.org) and then seeing the neighborhood’s oldest family-owned casino, El Cortez, set within walking distance (600 Fremont St.; 702-385-5200; elcortezhotelcasino.com).
2) Cocktailing with views of a fiery sunset over Red Rock Canyon to the west and the sparkling Strip lights to the east from the 64th floor Skyfall Lounge at the Delano Las Vegas. (3940 S. Las Vegas Blvd.; 877-632-5400; delanolasvegas.com)
3) Walking the shopping Esplanades of Wynn and Encore—don’t miss the balcony with the waterfall view from Chanel. (3131 S. Las Vegas Blvd.)
Deserves the Hype
The dancing Fountains of Bellagio are a sight to behold, though the best place to watch them isn’t from the street. Book a table at the Eiffel Tower restaurant at the Paris (3655 S. Las Vegas Blvd.; 702-948-6937; eiffeltowerrestaurant.com) or Lago in the Bellagio (3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd.; 866-259-7111; bellagio.com) for the best view.
Local Dish to Try
Artichoke and black truffle soup at Restaurant Guy Savoy. It’s a Sin City staple. (Caesars Palace, 3570 S. Las Vegas Blvd.; 702-731-7286; caesars.com)
Local Drink to Sip
Any drink at Las Vegas’s oldest freestanding bar, Atomic Liquors, where people used to watch atomic blasts from the roof. We like the Hunter Smash with Old Crow whiskey, Aperol, lemon, ginger, mint, and bitters. (917 Fremont St.; 702-982-3000; atomicvegas.com)
WINTER: Only 30 minutes north of the Strip, Mount Charleston—at elevations of 8,000 feet—is where locals go to play in the snow (there’s even a ski and snowboard resort). Settle in by the huge central fireplace at Mount Charleston Lodge (702-872-5408; mtcharlestonlodge.com).
SPRING: The temperatures are at their most mild this season, making spring the best time to hike some of Las Vegas’s most beautiful natural environments, such as the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, only 20 minutes west of the Strip.
SUMMER: Get a cabana at one of Vegas’s pool parties. The most serene environments are at Mandarin Oriental (3752 S. Las Vegas Blvd.; 702-590-8888; mandarinoriental.com) and the Sky Suites at Aria (3730 S. Las Vegas Blvd.; 877-580-2742; ariaskysuites.com); the biggest party atmospheres are at Marquee Dayclub at Cosmopolitan (702-698-7000; cosmopolitanlasvegas.com), Palms Pool & Bungalows (702-942-6832; palms.com), and Drai’s Rooftop Pool Party (702-777-3800; draislv.com).
FALL: The busiest time for visitors (book well in advance), fall festivals are in full swing. Don’t miss Life Is Beautiful, which attracts more than 100,000 people to Downtown Las Vegas for its three-day celebration of music, art, food, and high-profile speakers.