Before you think of reliving The Hangover, MICHELLE WILDING shares her tips on entering clubs, following the law, and where not to get a tattoo.
Whether you’re visiting Vegas for business, a romantic getaway, family vacation, or all-out bachelor party, there are 10 things you should know in order to get the most out of your trip.
1. Pick a Suitable Resort
Checking in to the right hotel can make or break your Vegas trip. So accommodate your needs, as a buffet room full of hungry kids and a slight hangover don’t always mix for either party. Bachelor wolf packs, girls-only weekends, and anyone wanting a “grand Las Vegas” time should stick to resorts with big crowds like MGM Grand or Wynn. The Palazzo, Bellagio, and Venetian are lavish options when romance and honeymoons make the agenda. In summer, skip them for Mandalay Bay, also 5-star, for the pool factor, which features a manmade beach. Affordable, family friendly Circus Circus and Flamingo are ideal for spending time with the kids by the pool or over a nice meal. For those on a tight budget, you can still have a great time if you check in to a three-star hotel like Riviera or Stratosphere. You spend most of your time outside your room anyway, right?
2. Be Smart with Your Cash
Avoid using ATMs located in casino floors. Most of these machines will charge a high fee, which is anywhere from US$3 to $6 just to withdraw cash from savings. On top of that, there’s also the amount your bank decides to add for the service. And if you’re getting a cash advance on credit, expect the fees to be considerably higher. A smarter alternative is to withdraw money using non-casino-owned ATMs on The Strip, such as Bank of America, CitiBank, and Wells Fargo machines. Find their locations online or by using the ATM Hunter app on an iPhone.
3. Anything Is Possible at 2 a.m.
New York is supposed to be the city that never sleeps, but how much can you do there at 2 a.m.? In Vegas, there are more chances of doing whatever you want, at any hour. Knock over some pins at North Las Vegas Texas Station’s 24/7, 60-lane bowling alley. Shoot some hoops in your hotel room if you’ve checked in to The Palms’ Hardwood Suite, which comes complete with a half-sized basketball court, lockers, and scoreboard. Twenty-four-hour drinking is permitted in Vegas and buffets are also open at all hours. Plus, you won’t get kicked off the dance floor of a club when it’s just getting good. Matter of fact, some after-hours clubs like Drai’s begin opening at 5 a.m.
4. See the Grand Canyon Safely
Seeing the Grand Canyon is strongly recommended—but never compromise your safety to reach it. There are many vendors hanging around The Strip who vie for business. Beware of the unscrupulous ones who offer significantly cheaper prices compared to the going average—they use older planes. Papillion is the best West Rim helicopter operator in terms of safety, quality, and price. Book the Grand Celebration Tour online, starting at US$304 per adult. The trip includes breathtaking views, a 4,000-foot below-rim landing, and a champagne brunch on the Canyon floor.
5. Get Inked the Right Way
A visit to Vegas isn’t complete without a new tattoo. But if you’re game to get inked, make sure you do it the right way. Avoid tattoo parlors located inside casinos and resorts. They’re not only pricier, but you’re more inclined to rush into it if you’re under the influence. Instead, head to West Coast Tattoo Parlor or Rock Star Ink as a walk-in or make a booking. Artists Javier Martell and Ron Gonzales are more than capable of customizing a thoughtful design that you actually want and will be proud to have permanently etched into your skin.
6. Buy Designer for Less
Skip the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian and The Forum and Appian Way Shops at Caesars Palace because some of the best designer shopping is done off The Strip. Charleston Premium North Outlets is a must for scoring cheaper-than-retail Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Juicy Couture, Gucci, Coach, and American Apparel. For an Adidas Original store, head to the Premium South Outlets. Another option is Town Square Shopping Mall, a five-minute cab ride from The Strip, where you can shop in peace knowing popular H&M and Victoria’s Secret sizes are in stock.
7. Obey the Law
Some people take the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” mantra too seriously. No one is invincible to the law, so abide by it. The legal drinking age in the Philippines may be 18, but you still cannot legally buy a drink in Vegas unless you’re 21, despite the fact that the city allows 24-hour drinking. Tourists are also surprised to learn that it’s illegal for a cabbie to drop off or pick up passengers along the main thoroughfare (Las Vegas Boulevard, aka The Strip). The only legal way to flag down a taxi is to head to a hotel and have the front bellman call one on your behalf.
8. The Shows Make Vegas
Las Vegas is arguably the entertainment epicenter of the world. Dozens of shows, concerts, big-name productions, and celebrity acts are showcased daily at afternoon and evening venues. For a true Vegas spectacle, watch Cirque du Soleil’s popular KÀ at the MGM Grand; it’s a mix of martial arts, acrobatics, pyrotechnics, and puppetry. For a freebie, don’t miss Mirage Casino’s show-stopping volcano eruption each day after 6 p.m., and every 15 minutes thereafter until midnight. It’s also worth venturing off away from The Strip to Fremont Street (where the locals hang out). Here is where you’ll find the best free light and sound show downtown featuring more than two million lights!
9. Skip the Club Lines
There’s an abundance of nightclubs, lounges, and bars on The Strip that fill up fast. To evade long door lines and pricey entries, get on the guest list by talking to promoters on The Strip or RSVPing online on Facebook event pages. XS Nightclub plays hip-hop and boasts the hottest line up of electronic resident artists (Calvin Harris, Deadmau5, David Guetta, Tiesto, and Chris Lake to name a few). Wet Republic at MGM Grand is a wild mix of dance nightlife with an outdoor pool party in summer. Bottle service at The Bellagio’s Bank Nightclub grants you access to an elegant VIP booth table that’s very close to the main dance floor; something you would pay a lot more for elsewhere. And if you want to hit the only club in Vegas playing straight hip-hop, then it’s Crown at Rio. Cocktails and glamour? The first-floor Chandelier Bar at Cosmopolitan serves the classic Cosmo.
10. Eat Lavish or Cheap
Come 3 p.m. wakeup time, there are times to eat absolutely delicious $5 -10 hangover food at Denny’s oily spoon diner. Skillets and omelets are just some dishes making up their 24-hour breakfast menu. Yard House at Town Square serves the best happy-hour lunches, including authentic American mac and cheese. Craving Jap? Eat yummy creative sushi rolls, sip sake, and try sushi-inspired desserts at RA Sushi Bar at Fashion Show Mall. If you’re feeling a little fancy, Joël Robuchon is the first and only three-Michelin-star restaurant in Las Vegas. At $385 a head, your decadence begins with a free limo ride before you indulge in a 16-course French tasting menu. Specialty roast lobster in green curry ensures you won’t question your pricey night.
Have a fabulous time in Vegas! Take lots of photos on The Strip with dressed-up characters for $1 tips. And remember, airport security lines are legendarily long in this city, so get to McCarran International Airport with a few hours to spare to avoid missing your flight.