So I am right in the middle of my friends Vegas trip and am at work. I thought I would post on the last couple of days and wrap the weekend posts with photos later. Besides, I have so much to say about my hometown, it's gonna take more than one post.
Vegas as a tourist is fun. Vegas as a local... Not so much. This weekend I experienced Vegas as a tourist and it was pretty cool (not literally since it was the hottest weekend so far).
A few friends were visiting from Canada and Australia. My Canadian friends have all been here at least twice but my new Australian friend was a Vegas virgin. That said, my old friends had done a few of the Vegas checklist items but not all so I decided to put together a quirky mini list for them. These are some of the random things in town that are fairly "Vegas" (and one that is uniquely) and fun. They are also either cheap or free.
Most people think of super cheap casino specials and buffets when they think of Vegas food. All of the culture you find in Vegas is mostly going to be in the food. We have some of the best restaurants in the country here. Most celebrity chefs have at least one outlet here and there is a huge variety. Of course, msot of it is expensive, but there are some great deals to be had too.
- Mr. Lucky's at Hard Rock- The 24 hour cafe at Hard Rock Casino. I've spent many late nights here eating steak and eggs after clubbing. No it's not gourmet but they do have an awesome $7.77 surf and turf special for player's club members who order a beverage (sign up, it's free and there's usually a new member incentive). It comes with a salad, steak, grilled shrimp, and mashed potatoes. Most casino cafe meals are not cheap, they count on you being drunk and hungry at 2AM. If you're looking for a $1 shrimp cocktail or something of that type, you'll have to go to Fremont Street. The Mr. Lucky's special is one of the best quality casino deals that you'll find, especially this close to the Strip. While you're here, wander around. Some of the coolest displays you can find in town are here and they're around the casino so it's free. Always fun especially if you're part of the MTV generation.
- Vegas sign- Since they added the parking lot, this is just insanely easy. There is almost always a photographer on hand (please tip them) and the pictures are practically guaranteed to be awesome.
- Fremont Street Experience- So much nicer now than 10 years ago. Hint- If you don't want locals to sneer at you, never refer to the Strip as "downtown". Fremont Street is our downtown and that is fairly literal since our city hall is in the vicinity. The bars here are more loungey than clubby and the restaurants are smaller but these are the places that locals are more likely the frequent when venturing to tourist areas. You'll notice random neon signs along the street along with plaques that have info on them. Consider it a free mini tour and go to this site.
- Mermaid's for fried Oreos and Twinkies- Mermaid's is a tiny casino. It's got beads and the drink girls are pretty fast (partly because the place is so small). The best thing here? The Nathan's in the back has deepfried goodness for about $99 (for one Twinkie or three Oreos). It gets super busy after 10PM and they frequently sell out on weekends but the line is long because it's good and cheap.
- Cosmopolitan's secret pizza place- Cosmo has a pizza place. It's not listed anywhere really on the site which makes it "secret". It doesn't really have a name but ask anyone and they'll tell you where to find it. Cosmo has some of the best and most expensive restaurants on the Strip and also one of the cheapest. The pizza here is way better than most of the other pizza places on the Strip. You may be able to find it just based on the line sticking out of a random hallway.
- Bellagio fountain and conservatory- The Bellagio fountain is probably one of the only Vegas icons that most locals still appreciate. The Bellagio actually has a lot of pretty cool stuff to look at that are free so if you only make it to a few casinos on the Strip, Bellagio should be at the top of your list.
And now for some Vegas rules-
- If you are going to a club and you are a GIRL, you likely can get in without paying. There are promoters all over the Strip on the weekend but nightclub website and Jack Colton's site for contacts for the guestlists. Don't be shy about it. Promoters make their money by getting people into the club, especially girls. Sometimes they get fired for not getting people in; so take advantage of them and have them get you in. Talk to them before even considering buying "tickets". Those "tickets" are pretty much just your name getting added to a guestlist. The wristbands you can get on the Strip for free sometimes come in handy a bit more only if they're offering some kind of open bar or free drink special with it. And remember, just because you got one, doesn't mean they will always let you in but it definitely helps. Guys... You're almost always going to have to pay. Just deal with it. There are exceptions and ratios and a lot of weird math but count on paying for it and be pleasantly surprised if you get lucky and don't have to pay.
- On another related note, girls, if you are traveling in a large group of girls, SERIOUSLY talk to the promoters. A bunch of places in town do massive comps for girls. I'm talking free drinks, free dinner, free daybeds, free booths, etc. Ask around. Bring cash for tip.
- There are really great hotel deals off the Strip. Orleans, Gold Coast, and the Palms have shuttle service and nice rooms. I got my room on Thursday for $34 at Gold Coast. I can spend the money I saved on other things now!!! My fave sites to check for cheap rooms in Vegas are I4Vegas and Travelworm. When I worked in the casinos, for some reason, these sites had great prices. Expedia is my personal fave for any deals too. Before booking on these sites, call the hotel of your choice to see if they will match rates. Usually, they will.
- If you're bringing a car, USE IT. Casinos on the Strip all have free parking and valet (please remember to tip). Avoid taxis. Our city streets are a grid, there are about 10 different ways to get places and it's pretty easy to turn around and avoid getting lost. That also means there are 10 different ways for the cab drivers to take you and if they can, they might. Avoid a $20 taxi ride for one mile if you can (and a super long line). If you're planning to explore, rent.
- This sounds stupid but it has to be said. There are a number of bridges above the Strip at major intersections. These intersections have walls, no sidewalks, and no crosswalks. Please use the bridges and don't get hit by a car. That simple.
- Casinos with malls- go to guest services and inquire about coupon books. Planet Hollywood has a great one. I get one every single time I'm there. If you're trying to save money, they come in handy. That said, look online for coupons as well. We have a lot. Groupon has some great deals all the time.
- Sign up for player's club cards before you gamble. New members usually get some kind of cool deal or free play or something. And Caesar's restaurants typically have special pricing for club members (even at Gordon Ramsay).
- If you are a drinker, go to the ABC store when you arrive, purchase alcohol, pregame in your room. Vegas drinks are expensive. If you want a cheap drink, though, they can be found. Just sit down at a slot machine and put in a little cash. Drink girls come by and offer free drinks to players (just tip).
- If you're going to get a permanent souvenir, don't go to some creepy small place. There are some amazing off-Strip local shops that are really reasonable; however, for a really awesome piece that will look amazing forever, go to Club Tattoo at Planet Hollywood and ask for Ben.
I can't think of anything else right now partly because I am exhausted from the heat... More to come soon...