It’s funny, we’re only a couple of weeks into spring but we’re already planning for summer in Las Vegas. Why not? Spring really only lasts a month or so before the temperatures begin to creep into triple digits. Even though temperatures reach upwards of 100 degrees during the day the summer evenings in Las Vegas are beautiful.
When the sun goes down and the temperatures drop there’s often a nice gentle breeze that brings a calm feeling to the evening. Spending summer evenings in the cooling dry air without mosquito’s is a wonderful thing for this east coast native.
One of the best free outdoor family activities in Las Vegas during the summer are the free movies you can watch in different parts of town. You’ll find different movies shown in different locations all the way from the Henderson area to the Vegas Strip to Downtown Vegas. Best of all is that many of these movies are on different days so you can enjoy a different atmosphere on different nights.
Huntridge Circle Park in Downtown Vegas was the first location showing free outdoor movies in Las Vegas to announce their movie schedule for the year. Huntridge Circle Park shows one movie per month from April through June. There’s quite a variety in these movies from animation to classics that were refreshed by other actors.
- April 10th: “Hook” (from 1991 starring Robin Williams)
- June 12th: “The Great Outdoors”
- July 10th: “An American Tail”
- August 14th: “Rock ‘N Roll High School”
- September 11th: “Freaky Friday” (from 1976 starring Jodie Foster. Not the remake with Lindsay Lohan)
- October 9th: “Walk the Line”
More and more places are offering free outdoor movies. While Huntridge Circle Park only shows movies once a month the following offered free movies weekly last year. Here’s a look at free movie options available in Las Vegas last summer:
Monday – Cosmopolitan – Weekly “Dive in Movies” at the Boulevard Pool. (free for hotel guests, $3 for everyone else)
Thursday – Downtown Container Park – Weekly free movies during June and July.
Saturday – The District (Henderson, NV near Green Valley Ranch) – Free movies weekly from June through October.
None of these locations that showed free movies last year are affiliated with one another so keep an eye out for separate announcements over the next month or so. The best thing about these free outdoor movie locations is that they’re spread out all over Las Vegas. You don’t have to be in one specific area to enjoy them. The variety of locations make these accessible for both tourists and locals.
Watching these free outdoor movies has become more popular every year with both tourists and locals, so don’t be surprised if you see another location or two pop up showing free movies.
The Vegas Strip says goodbye to a classic in the beginning of May just as it welcomes a humongous new project. A few weeks ago we let you know that the Vegas Strip was about to undergo another major transformation. In February it was announced that the Riviera would be sold and demolished by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA).
Now we know that the Riviera will be officially closing its doors to customers on May 4 at noon. The plan remains for the LVCVA demolish the Riviera this summer but there hasn’t been an announcement on how or when demolition will begin. Fans of famous Las Vegas implosions have their fingers crossed for another spectacle.
Last week Genting Group announced that they will be breaking ground on their new $4 billion hotel-casino, Resorts World Las Vegas, the day after the Riviera closes. Resorts World Las Vegas will break ground on May 5. The property will be built on the land where the Boyd Gaming began construction on another ambitious project called Echelon. Veterans of Las Vegas may remember this plot of land on the north end of the Vegas Strip as the former home to the Stardust.
Plans for Resorts World Las Vegas are as ambitious as the previous owners plans for Echelon. Resorts World Las Vegas will be built on 87 acres of land in multiple phases. The $4 billion price tag is only for the first phase of the project which will include 3,000 hotel rooms, 175,000 square foot casino, over 30 bars & restaurants, 4,000 seat theater, 50,000 square foot aquarium and shopping area.
Resorts World Las Vegas will be the first themed hotel to open in Las Vegas in a while. The last hotel to open with a true theme was The Venetian way back in 1999. Resorts World Las Vegas will have Asian theme that extends to the shopping area on the Vegas Strip. The shopping area will have Asian style pagodas similar to a Chinese village. There have been rumors that Resorts World Las Vegas will even have panda’s on display similar to how MGM Grand used to have Lion’s.
The closing of the Riviera, the oldest casino on the Vegas Strip, will bring a moment of sadness on May 4th. That sadness will quickly turn around with hopes and visions of the future on May 5th when construction begins on Resorts World Las Vegas.
Casino players clubs are a great way to earn discounts and freebies when you visit Las Vegas. Players clubs were introduced as a way to entice gamblers to return to a casino to gamble. They used to only reward those gamblers. That’s no longer the case as many larger players clubs act more like traditional loyalty clubs for any kind of business.
The larger and more forward thinking casino players clubs are offering points and rewards for all money spent on property. Cash spending rewards often offering points for spending on dining, hotel rooms, spa treatments and shopping. Here’s an overview of which casino players club offer points for money spent outside of the casino.
Total Rewards (Bally’s, Caesar Palace, The Cromwell, Flamingo, Harrah’s, The Linq Hotel, Paris, Planet Hollywood, Rio) – Earn 1 Reward Credit for each dollar spent on dining, shopping, hotel rooms and amenities (i.e. pools, golf). Note that some off-property and leased businesses may not participate offering points. Check with each business when making a reservation or when making a purchase.
M Life (Aria, Bellagio, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, The Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York-New York) – Earn 25 M Life Tier Credits for every dollar you spend on hotel, dining, entertainment, or spa in Las Vegas per dollar spent. MGM/M Life hotels in other locations offer different ratios.
Grazie (Palazzo and Venetian) – Grazie offers different amounts of point rewards for cash spending based on your status in the club. Grazie level receives 5 Status Points per dollar spent. Gold and Platinum earn 20 Status points $1 dollar spent. All spending must be charged to your hotel room. You may want to charge everything to your room at Palazzo and Venetian.
Red Card (Encore and Wynn) – Spending is rewarded differently at Encore and Wynn than other Las Vegas hotels. You should charge everything you spend to your hotel room. At the end of your visit a host will let you know if you’ve spent enough to receive any complimentary items or discounts. The ambiguity isn’t meant to be sketchy, it’s a way for the hotel staff to create a better one on one relationship with their customers.
Identity (Cosmopolitan) – The Cosmo probably has the most aggressive players club regarding cash spending. You earn 5 Identity points for every dollar spent on hotel, dining, spa and shopping. Additionally you earn $5 in resort credit for every $100 spent.
The idea of rewarding casino customers for spending outside of the casino and in the rest of the hotel is only a few years old and still growing. Like the original players club rewards in the casino these new rewards are aimed at keeping you loyal to the particular brands.
Not every casino operator has moved to this model yet but some of these companies are already looking ahead at ways to extend their brand to you beyond Las Vegas. Total Rewards and M Life have started to offer players club rewards outside of Las Vegas and even in your house. Casino operators are always looking for new ways to attract customers today so expect more outreach.
Las Vegas doesn’t have the same kind of low temperatures during the winter like other parts of the country but it is still relatively cold. When you’re used to 115+ degrees in the summer the 20 degree temperatures can feel more chilly than you’d ever imagine. Las Vegas is finally beginning to warm up with temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s. Add a little direct sunlight and the temperature feels more like 90 degrees.
You can see the change in weather just about everywhere you look outside. People are wearing shorts and flip flops, more people are dining and drinking outside and it seems as though people are generally happier as the weather gets warmer. Pools have been opening slowly but they’ll all be open before you know it. This is a great time to revisit the great outdoors in Vegas. Here are some of the best free or cheap things to do outside in Las Vegas.
Visit The Welcome To Las Vegas Sign – There’s almost always a wait to take a picture (or 10) at this iconic sign. The higher temperatures make the wait feel much shorter than it did in December.
Check Out The Bellagio Fountains – Ever since Bellagio opened in 1998 the fountain show has been one of the most recommended free attractions in Las Vegas. The show never gets old whether you’re watching, taking pics/video or just walking by.
Stroll Through The Flamingo Wildlife Habitat – This is one of the most serene parts of the Vegas Strip. Take a leisurely stroll through the grounds, make a wish in the pond beneath the waterfall or just grab a seat on a bench and enjoy the lush grounds and beautiful weather.
Go Shopping Outside – The Linq, Grand Bazaar Shops and Downtown Container Park are all outdoor malls that offer very different retail outlets, restaurants and bars. If you have a car you can take a drive to Town Square, Tivoli Village or the new Downtown Summerlin for even more variety. Wow, there’s a lot of outdoor shopping in Las Vegas.
Take A Walk Down Fremont Street – The afternoon is the best time to stroll down the Fremont Street Experience. Most people are still waking up so the crowds are small and you can actually see everything that’s going on. It’s amazing how different the Fremont Street Experience is before the sun goes down. It’s like day and night!
Grab A Bite With A View – Mon Ami Gabi, Diablo’s Cantina, Serendipity 3 are just a few restaurants with al fresco dining on the Vegas Strip. Here’s a tip if you have to work while in Las Vegas but still want to enjoy the weather outside. Grab your laptop and head to the Downtown Container Park. The crowds are small and the wifi is free. Also drinks and food are close.
Get Yur Freak On at Wynn – The Lake of Dreams at Wynn is one of the strangest, but free, shows you’ll see in Las Vegas. You can observe the show from the restaurants or the downstairs patio. You may want to buy a drink at the Parasol Down bar and hang out for a while. Customers get priority for seats on the patio.
The Vegas Strip is about to undergo another major transformation. This transformation will bring the end of some of the cheapest gambling on the Strip. If you haven’t heard by now it looks as though the Riviera will be sold and demolished by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Demolition of the Riviera is unofficially scheduled for this summer.
Besides the end of another casino from the 1950’s this will mark the end of the only $1 blackjack game on the Vegas Strip. You can still find $1 blackjack at Binion’s every Thursday as part of their “Throwback Thursday Blackjack” promotion. The game pays 3:2 when you’re dealt blackjack making it a better game than the $1 blackjack at Riviera which pays 6:5 when you’re dealt blackjack. Too bad it’s not available every day.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is making this plan in order to make room for a major expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center. The expanded Las Vegas Convention Center will essentially extend to the Vegas Strip. It’s said that the new space will include new and upgraded facilities, a trade center and a transportation hub. Depending on the final design this expansion might make for a separation of the Vegas Strip where Main Strip hotels stop at Wynn then a new section of the Vegas Strip begins with Circus Circus, Rock in Rio grounds and SLS Las Vegas.
Part of the Riviera sale rumors over the past couple of weeks has been that the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority would also be buying Peppermill coffee shop and Fireside Lounge. Thankfully that’s not the case. For the time being the Peppermill will remain open for everyone to enjoy. It seems as though the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority wants to purchase all the businesses in the area but the owner of the Peppermill has no plans to sell. That might change in time if the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority makes “an offer he can’t refuse”.
Together the Peppermill and Fireside Lounge are a great throwback to the days of neon on the Vegas Strip. More importantly, the Peppermill is one of the best dining bargains on the Vegas Strip. You can usually enjoy a fresh meal at the Peppermill for under $20. If you just want to drink some wine and enjoy the scene at the Peppermill you and your friends can share a bottle of wine for under $40.
The Fireside Lounge still remains a hotspot for those looking for a retro or vintage Vegas place to hang out and grab a late night drink.
If plans hold true you might want to stop by Riviera in the next few months for one last look at a casino that hosted such movies like “The Hangover” and “Vegas Vacation”. While you’re at in the area you may also want to stop by the Peppermill and Fireside Lounge. The constant facelift happening on the Vegas Strip may take our sweet Peppermill sooner than later.
March Madness is right around the corner. The first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament is one of the biggest and busiest sports weekends in Las Vegas. This isn’t your typical weekend. Rather it’s a four day weekend between March 19th and 22nd and every day is more busy than the day before. If you’re a sports fan this is one of the most fun times to visit Las Vegas. If you’re simply a fan of Las Vegas when it’s busy and going crazy then you’re in luck. There are people everywhere and the basketball action isn’t contained to the sportsbook.
College basketball games will be on just about every TV you pass in Las Vegas between the 19th and 22nd from morning until the end of the day. March Madness isn’t limited to the sportsbook. Just about every bar, restaurant and casino TV will have a basketball game on. The first game of the day on March 19 and 20 will tip off just after 9am and the final game of the day will end between 10pm and 11pm.
Watch The Games
If you want to watch the games you’ll have a few choices. Sportsbooks are still free but the other options will cost you some kind of money.
Sportsbooks: It’s free to watch the games at any casino sportsbook but seating is limited. If you aren’t at the sportsbook before 8am you probably won’t get a seat and will have to stand. That’s what you get for free in Las Vegas today.
Reserved seating at Bars and Restaurants: Some bars and restaurants offer reserved tables where you’ll have to put down a deposit in order to sit and watch the games. The deposit will often be placed against your bill. Check your favorite spot for specifics.
Stopping by Bars and Restaurants: Bar stool seating is usually free but first come, first served. Stools are for paying customers so you’ll have to eat and/or drink. Some bars will have cocktail tables with a view of the games but, again, you’ll have to eat and/or drink in order to keep your spot. Space will be available throughout the day but you may have to wait for a table as everywhere will be crowded.
Viewing Parties: If you want to make sure that you have a seat for all of the games then a viewing party is probably the best option. You’ll have to pay per day to ensure that you have a chair so this could get costly. Some viewing parties cost over $200 per day. These kind of parties will usually bring unlimited food and drink. You can find more basic viewing parties for less money so don’t get too flustered by that price tag.
Tables: If you’re just a passive basketball fan you can watch the games for free while you’re gambling at the tables in some casinos. While the off and on viewing is free the gambling certainly is not. Be careful with this option as distractions are typically bad for gamblers.
After The Games
This is one of the busiest weekends of the year. After most of the games are over people will head out to enjoy Las Vegas. Restaurants will be booked and shows will sell out so you might want to make reservations and purchase tickets in advance of your visit.
I don’t mean to be an alarmist but there’s nothing worse than being shut out from making a trip to Las Vegas perfect. Deal with a little bit of madness before reaching the Madness in Las Vegas. This will help you have a great trip. There are a lot of great weekends in Vegas and this is unlike most you’ll experience.
Las Vegas players clubs have changed a lot in the past few years. In many casino resorts you can now earn rewards from all money you spend at a property and not just from gambling. In addition to earning points everywhere on property some casino players clubs have also changed by adding outside partners where you can earn and use casino players club points from other businesses and even games. These are great ways to use your rewards but, more importantly, you can now earn rewards without ever stepping foot into a casino.
Caesars’ Total Rewards and MGM’s M Life have taken players club partnerships to a whole other level by adding partners where you can not only use your rewards but you can earn rewards. Earning extra comp points at home or when traveling for work is a great way to save money on your personal vacation in Las Vegas. Let’s take a look at the their partners where you can earn reward credits from before ever you get to Las Vegas. Note that these are reward credits and usually won’t apply to your tier status.
Caesars Casino – Play the Caesars Casino game on Facebook for free and you can enjoy the game for fun. You can earn reward credits for coin purchases. The more you spend on coins for the game the higher your reward credit bonus.
$20 = 20 Reward Credits
$50 = 60 Reward Credits
$100 = 150 Reward Credits
$200 = 400 Reward Credits
Total Rewards Visa – This might be the easiest way to earn reward credits without going into a casino. You can earn up to 10,000 reward credits as a bonus when you spend $750 outside of Total Rewards destinations in the first 90 days of having a credit card. You can also earn up to 5X reward credits for every $1 spent at Total Rewards destinations, 2X reward credits for every $1 spent on gas, groceries & airlines, and 1 reward credit for every $1 spent everywhere else Visa is accepted.
Starwood Hotels – Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars Total Rewards members earn both Tier Credits and Reward Credits on eligible room rates and folio spend in addition to earning Starpoints. This isn’t available to Gold Total Rewards members.
TR Marketplace – You can earn reward credits at hundreds of Total Rewards retail, dining and entertainment partners like – Apple, Best Buy, Gap and Target. You can also earn reward credits by purchasing gift cards from the TR Marketplace.
1800-Flowers – You can earn up to 15X Total Rewards credits when ordering with 1800-Flowers.
M Life only has a couple of partnerships where you can earn rewards without visiting Las Vegas. The majority of their partnerships are more outward, meaning M Life will get you a discount elsewhere.
Hyatt hotels (including Park Hyatt, Andaz, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Place and Hyatt House) – M life members may present their M life card at check-in at participating Hyatt hotels and resorts to receive Tier Credits for their eligible spend. Membership in Hyatt Gold Passport is required.
Pinnacle Entertainment (locations all over the US, details here.) – M life members may receive gaming, food and hotel offers from Pinnacle Entertainment’s casino resorts.
M Life has partnerships where you can earn discounts and reward points with many other businesses including Southwest Air, Royal Caribbean and Avis. You can see a full list of M Life partners here.
Players clubs are continuing to expand their reach so this is just the launching point for earning rewards outside of a casino. Keep tab on your casinos partners and earn and use your rewards wherever it’s convenient.
Caesars Entertainment is currently in the middle of one of their two semi-annual sales for Las Vegas hotel rooms that they’ll have this year. The discounts used to be anywhere from 10%-40% and were deals that you wouldn’t normally see any time during the year. This time they’re just offering discounted rooms without putting a percentage on the discount. Some of the room discounts are visibly deep while others are similar than you’ll get if you’re a Total Rewards member.
The key to unlocking value in hotel room sales is to know how different hotel rooms rank. You may find that a less expensive hotel room was recently renovated offering a better value than a hotel room that hasn’t been updated in 5 years or so. When I look at the different Caesars Entertainment hotel room prices they usually stack up in the following order for base rooms with no upgrades. (from highest to lowest)
- Caesars Palace
- The Cromwell
- Planet Hollywood
- The Linq
The newest and cleanest hotel room products don’t match the price rankings. Here’s how I rank the base rooms at each hotel with commentary on why I’ve switched the order.
- Nobu – Relatively new rooms with high end finishings. Real luxury in the middle of Caesars Palace.
- The Cromwell - Hotel rooms are only a year old and still fresh.
- The Linq - Most recently renovated hotel rooms in Caesars portfolio.
- Caesars Palace - Base rooms are very old. This is still their flagship property but upgraded rooms are a must.
- Planet Hollywood – Rooms are nice but not kept up very well and not updated since the property was renovated from Aladdin.
- Harrah’s – Rooms were renovated a couple years ago and casino is being refreshed regularly.
- Paris – Base rooms look like they’re from 1992.
- Flamingo – Fab room renovations a few years ago didn’t include bathrooms. Go Room upgrades are a must.
- Rio – All suites are great if you get an upgraded room. Not all rooms are upgraded and property does not receive enough TLC.
- Bally’s – Basic rooms aren’t bad but they’re nothing better than a Comfort Inn.
I think The Linq Hotel offers the best value of all Caesars Las Vegas hotels. Hotel room prices are among the least expensive of the group. The rooms and casino were renovated last year so you have a clean and modern experience. The entire property has wifi unlike the other Caesars hotels. This is great if you’re in Las Vegas for work. The Linq shopping promenade is just outside and you have quick access to a good amount of fairly valued restaurants. The Linq Hotel’s location can’t be beat as you’re dead center in the Vegas Strip.
When booking the lowest rates at Caesars hotels you’re given the lowest quality room available. You may be able to receive a free upgrade or purchase an upgrade at a higher price point. If you want to stay at Caesars Palace, Paris or Flamingo I suggest getting an upgraded room. These recently opened or renovated rooms offer a much better experience than an entry level room.
Sales like this Caesars Semi-Annual sale offer a good excuse to upgrade rooms since you’re paying less than they may normally charge. This also offers a good way to save a few bucks on a base room. Knowing which hotel rooms have been more recently renovated is a great way to get more value for your money regardless if there’s a sale or not.
One last note, sale prices do not reduce the resort fees. You’re still responsible for the full resort fee each night which is $25+ depending on the hotel.
The weekend of May 2nd may seem like an innocuous early spring weekend but it isn’t. The first weekend in May is one of the best weekends to visit Las Vegas. Annually this seems as though it’s the first weekend where you can really feel the weather changing for the summer. It’s finally turning into pool season even if the official kickoff of pool season is still a few weeks away.
The first weekend in May is when Las Vegas often celebrates Cinco De Mayo, even if it isn’t the 5th of May yet. Cinco De Mayo is a celebration of Mexican heritage so you’ll find many parties, celebrities, DJ’s, etc. with come kind of connection to Mexico.
Horse Racing fans know that the Kentucky Derby is the first weekend in May. Many of the casinos on and off the Vegas Strip have special parties for the Kentucky Derby. My favorite party is at South Point where they open a 2nd floor ballroom and set up plenty of screens to watch the race and tables for hundreds of people. There are betting stations, bars and cocktail service specifically for the ballroom so you never have to leave. Unlike many of the sportsbooks on the Vegas Strip you may get some drink tickets for your wagers. This is a fun and inexpensive way to spend a few hours during the afternoon watching the big race.
It’s easy to get spoiled by Las Vegas. Not only are there plenty of good hotel and restaurants options there are plenty of great hotels and restaurants. Every year Forbes Travel Guide releases it’s best hotels and restaurants in each state. These ratings are gathered by their intrepid staff secretly monitoring and experiencing hotels, restaurants and spas across the country.
Hotels and restaurants have a great desire to receive a prestigious high Forbes rating while many consumers use these ratings to choose which establishments they’ll visit on a future vacation. It should come as no surprise that Las Vegas has a lot of hotels and restaurants that have garnered top ratings from Forbes. This list of hotels and restaurants is a great place to start when planning a Vegas vacation.
Five Star Hotels
Aria Sky Suites
Encore Tower Suites
Skylofts at MGM Grand
Wynn Tower Suites
Four Star Hotels
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