Casinos in Las Vegas look different today than they used to. You may have noticed some changes on your last visit to Las Vegas. Frankly, the casino floors all around Las Vegas have evolved a lot in the past five years. Casinos are no longer exclusively gigantic rooms of slot machines and table games that they used to be.
You may notice that casinos are broken up into smaller areas. Many traditional gaming floors have specific gambling spaces dedicated to certain games. Some casinos like The Linq create “pods” that make this somewhat obvious to the naked eye.
A casinos like MGM Grand simply segments their main gaming floor by different table games and slot machines. This makes it a bit easier to navigate around the property. Some casino floors like Encore break things up by adding gaming lounges outside of the main gaming floor.
The casino floor at MGM Grand is so large (170,000 square feet according to their fact sheet) that the casino operator has taken the gaming space to another level. They’re combining all strategies in order to make a unique casino.
In addition to breaking up the gaming floor, they’ve added gaming lounges. Whiskey Down was one of the very first gaming lounges with a mix of bartop video poker and blackjack tables. Last year MGM Grand opened The Level Up gaming lounge. The new bar and gambling area offers traditional bar games with new and old casino gambling.
Planet Hollywood recently took a more loungy concept right to the middle of the gaming floor. They recently installed social and skill-based games from Gamblit Gaming in between the traditional table games and slot machines. This is currently a planned field trial for the new games. If successful, we can expect these games to appear in more casinos.
These skill-based games aren’t traditional casino table games or slot machines. The small area of three tables includes Gamblit Poker and Cannonbeard’s Treasure. Here’s a description of each game:
Gamblit Poker tests skill and speed while allowing players to win up to 240x their bet in a single hand. Each player starts with two cards, followed by a single deck of cards shown in rapid succession in the middle of the table. Players have to quickly virtually grab the cards they need in order to complete the best possible poker hand.
Cannonbeard’s Treasure engages players in a fast-paced game of cards, skill and naval warfare. This game is similar to blackjack but on a whole new level. Cannonbeard’s Treasure challenges players to fill their hand without winning or busting, initiating a burndown. During the burndown, a set of additional cards will be dealt. The player who gets closest to the objective, without going over, wins a chest of gold.
Between two and four players can compete against each other for a head-to-head gaming experience at these tables. Each gaming terminal offers a unique, multi-player – multi-game machine with access to a shared 42” touch screen, plus a USB charging port, purse hook and two cup holders for each player. I’ve played slot machines and bartop video poker simply because they have an outlet to charge my phone. This is a modern amenity that every game should have.
MGM Resorts has interactive tables which include some skill-based but non-gambling games at some of their casino bars and sports books. Almost every visit to The Mirage sports book takes me to these tables. I’ve wished that I could wager a few dollars on some of the games while relaxing with a drink and sports on TV. Gamblit Poker and Cannonbeard’s Treasure seem more appropriate for this kind setting than the middle of the gaming floor.
While Caesars Entertainment touts the new games as the first skill-based games in Las Vegas, they’re actually second. Earlier this year MGM Grand introduced a skill-based gambling version of Frogger at their Level Up lounge. If the field trial is a success, these games will be placed at The Linq and Caesars Palace.
Casinos aren’t what they used to be. There are new places to gamble and new games to gamble on. These skill-based games are still new to casinos but could become a new way to gamble. Like most new technology, the games are targeted to a younger customer. That said, I know plenty of older casino visitors that enjoy a relax, have a drink and throw a few bucks on a game of skill.
The Vegas Strip is the first place that comes to mind when most people think of Las Vegas. It’s understandable and in 2016 approximately three-quarters of all visitors to Las Vegas stayed in a hotel within the Strip Corridor. Much like all major cities that are vacation destinations, there’s more to Las Vegas than just the Vegas Strip.
According to the Las Vegas Visitors Profile by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, more people decided to explore beyond the Vegas Strip in 2016 than previous years. In fact, 21% of those survey said they visited somewhere else near Las Vegas. That’s an increase from 14% in 2012 and 16% in 2014 who explored beyond the Vegas Strip.
As usual, the majority of exploration away from Las Vegas took people to the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon. The most common responses of places visited in the Visitor Profile were the Grand Canyon (65%), Hoover Dam (57%), Zion National Park (12%, down from 20% in 2014), and Lake Mead (11%, down from 21% in 2012). Eight percent each said Bryce Canyon (down from 15% in 2014), Mt. Charleston/ Lee Canyon (up from 2% in 2014), and Red Rock. Six percent (6%) said Death Valley (down from 13% in 2014), 5% each mentioned the Valley of Fire (down from 10% in 2014) and Laughlin (up from 3% in 2014), and 2% mentioned Primm, Nevada, (up from less than 1% in 2014).
Not nearly enough of the respondents visited the nearby National Parks. Even though Red Rock is a “National Conservation Area,” it’s not technically a park. There are more than 400 National Parks around the country and a handful of National Parks in and around the state of Nevada. Not only are these a great place to explore nature but for short periods throughout the year, entry to the National Parks will be free.
National Park Week takes place from April 15 to 23, 2017. This is this a celebration of National Parks and a great excuse to explore parts of Nevada away from the Vegas Strip. Death Valley, Great Basin, Lake Mead, and Tule Springs Fossil Beds are all a quick drive from Las Vegas. You can find information on each National Park here.
Each of these National Parks charges an entry fee that will be waived throughout the year. Here are the dates for free entry to National Parks around the state of Nevada.
- April 22-23 (Weekends of National Park Week)
- August 25: National Park Service Birthday
- September 30: National Public Lands Day
- November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend
While prices on the Vegas Strip continue to rise, visitors are looking for other places to supplement the fun during vacation. If you’re looking for some low rolling in the casinos you can head to downtown Las Vegas or casinos all over town. If you’re looking for fresh air and nature, you can head out to the national parks all over the state.
Downtown Las Vegas hotels are getting better every year. There was a time where some of the properties were run down and beat up. Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case for a few years now. Many of the hotels have been renovated in the past 5 years or so. If you visit the California, you may find room renovations that were finished in the past few weeks.
The rooms and casinos aren’t the only improvements you’ll find in downtown Las Vegas casino-hotels. Many restaurants have been updated and upgraded. Unfortunately, there’s one important renovation for the summer that you won’t find at every hotel. There’s nothing like the pool scene on the Vegas Strip. There’s something for everyone whether you just want to relax or you want to enjoy music.
Well, when Downtown Grand opened in 2013, the property brought a new and improved pool experience. The pool was one of the nicest pools at a downtown Las Vegas hotel. Much like the casino as a whole, the pool area at Downtown Grand has already been improved. There’s new decor, outdoor gaming, food, and drink.
The pool area at Downtown Grand, known as Citrus, is now more than 35,000 square feet large. This pool deck has an infinity pool, restaurant and full bar, very affordable semi-private cabanas, a fire pit, backyard games like cornhole, foosball, and table tennis. There’s even a grassy seating area with umbrellas and outdoor day beds.
This year, Downtown Grand is adding, even more, fun to their pool scene beginning May 4. Take a look:
Thursday – Old School by the Pool
Enjoy “back-in-the-day” R&B hits poolside every Thursday night, presented by the valley’s own KOAS Old School 105.7. For the launch on May 4 at 8 p.m. catch Next Movement. Upcoming bands and performers include Phil Flowers, NA Fect, Sons of Soul, and Rhythm Nation.
Friday – Dance Party Kicking Off with Shakira Tribute Band featuring Lorena Peril
Poolside dance party every Friday night? Yes, please. Kicking off on May 5 – Cinco de Mayo – with a Shakira Tribute Band featuring Lorena Peril, hangout poolside every Friday night with KLUC’s Morning Zoo personality, Kayla, and watch local favorite on-air talent Davey The ShowKiller serving as DJ.
Saturday – Rock Nation
Summer Saturdays will rock at Citrus with 92.3 KOMP and 97.1 The Point alternating throughout the weeks. A combination of live bands and DJ-driven nights including a monthly Albumpalooza show – a concert that highlights classic and timeless albums played live – will turn the pool deck into a classic rock concert every Saturday night. The fun kicks off on Saturday, May 6 with Albumpalooza: A Tribute to “Zeppelin IV.”
Sunday – Noche de Ritmo
La Buena 101.9 presents a tequila-friendly combination of live bands and a DJ. Noche De Ritmo or Rhythm Night begins Sunday, May 7 with Banda Corazon Sinaloense taking the stage.
This is the perfect use of a pool area in Las Vegas. You can relax at the pool during the day with a book while you work on your tan. At night you can party outside with a beautiful summer breeze. In-between time at the pool you can grab a drink and snack during Happy Hour at Pizza Rock, play some blackjack in the casino, or walk down the street to see the Fremont Street Experience.
There are many people looking for places to stay in Las Vegas that are less expensive than the Vegas Strip. The great pool scene at Downtown Grand will help separate it from the other options in the area.
One of the very best free activities in Las Vegas is the free entertainment in downtown Las Vegas at the Fremont Street Experience. During most of the year, you’ll find local bands, tribute bands, DJ’s and other forms of entertainment on the three stages under the canopy of the Fremont Street Experience.
The quality of the entertainment gets even better during the summer when the Fremont Street Experience hosts a variety of well-known national touring bands. That tradition will continue this summer as the Fremont Street Experience presents The Downtown Rocks summer concert series.
The big-name free entertainment gets a boost this summer from a different venue. The Downtown Grand casino, just a block away from the Fremont Street Experience, offers their free Rock The Street concert(s).
Downtown Rocks will host performances by the Rock’n Road Trip Tour with Fuel, Tonic, and more (June 10), Rick Springfield (August 12), Seether (August 26), Collective Soul (September 1) and Chevelle (September 30). Rock The Street with Vince Neil will take place on Sunday, May 27, and will be headlined Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe. Todd Kerns & the Anti-Stars and open the show.
“This year we’re kicking things up a notch with our new summer concert series, Downtown Rocks,” says Patrick Hughes, CEO, and president of Fremont Street Experience. “The free concert series is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to our tremendous, loyal fans. Their support and patronage allow us to show our appreciation in the best way we know how, by throwing parties and free concerts featuring top acts all summer long that deliver exciting, quality entertainment experiences for our fans.”
The Fremont Street Experience will be adding, even more, national touring bands as the summer gets closer. Keep an eye on this post as we’ll update the list of events. All concerts are free to enter but have different entry processes. The concerts at the Fremont Street Experience are ticket-free shows so just show and and have fun.
You should note that these free concerts are always crowded. Arrive early for the best spot. The best spot for these concerts will be different for everyone. Some people may want to stand close to the stage for the best view while others might want to stand near an exit for a quick run to the bar or restroom. It will take a few minutes to navigate from the front of the stage through the huge crowd if you don’t plan on watching the entire concert.
While “Rock The Street” is free, you need a ticket to enter. You can obtain tickets for the Vince Neil performance from the Downtown Grand website. Tickets are limited and available on a first come, first served basis. Downtown Grand will have other events during the summer so keep an eye on this page of their website.
Here’s a current list of free concerts in downtown Las Vegas this summer (all shows at the Fremont Street Experience unless noted):
May 27: Rock The Street with Vince Neil (tickets here for Downtown Grand)
June 10: Rock’n Road Trip Tour with Fuel, Tonic, Marcy Playground, and Dishwalla
August 12: Rick Springfield
August 26: Seether
September 1: Collective Soul
September 30: Chevelle
The Linq promenade has come a long way from its days as an alley for Imperial Palace, O’Sheas, and Flamingo to leave their trash. Since opening in 2014 the reformed alley has become a destination on the Vegas Strip for indoor and outdoor drinking, dining, and shopping.
Many people seem to be familiar with The Linq as “the place with the big ferris wheel.” The High Roller, at the farthest point from the Vegas Strip at The Linq, is the world’s tallest observation wheel. This is an attraction in its own right. Even if you avoid heights, it’s still easy to see the awe of such a tall ride.
Over the years The Linq has changed tenants but some of these new restaurants seem destined to become a fixture on the Vegas Strip. In the past few months, The Linq has welcomed a nice variety of places to grab a bite including a new quick serve restaurant from Gordon Ramsay, the first Vegas Strip location of one of the most popular west coast burger joints, and an import from New York City.
Amorino is one of the most popular names in gelato in Europe. There are 24 regular gelato flavors as well as seasonal selections. In addition to desserts, the small restaurant also offers crepes, macaroons, and other breakfast pastries.
Gordon Ramsay Fish n Chips
This is chefGordon Ramsay’s fourth Las Vegas restaurant in Las Vegas. GRFC is a quick-serve restaurant intended with dishes intended to eat on the go. The reason you’re visiting this restaurant is for fresh fish and chips like you might find in England and that’s about all you’ll find on the menu. The small restaurant has seating for fewer than 20 people.
In N Out Burger
There is no longer a need to leave the Vegas Strip for one of the most popular fast food burgers in the country. This In N Out burger location serves up the same fresh food that many have come to love. As you’d expect the prices here are a little higher than they are away from the Vegas Strip. Don’t worry the prices aren’t insane, just enough to cover the higher rent and probably close to what you’d spend on a taxi to the nearby locations.
Jabburito brings one of the hottest trends in dining to the Vegas Strip. Sushi served in burrito form has been growing in popularity on the west coast for the past year. This is the only place on the Vegas Strip where you’ll find this unique combination.
Virgil’s Real BBQ
This import from New York City is the largest of the new restaurants at The Linq. The 14,000 square foot restaurant occupies two floors and has enough room for bands to perform every night with plenty of room for dining. The BBQ served at Virgil’s is from a variety of regions so you’ll have more than just one flavor profile.
Urban Turban Express
This quick-serve Indian food stand isn’t a restaurant but does offer food to eat on the go. Actually, you’ll probably want to grab a seat at the nearby fountains for most dishes. The Linq is probably the only place on the Vegas Strip where you’ll be able to find Indian favorites such as curry bowls.
It’s been less than a year since MGM Resorts International became the first Vegas Strip casino operator to charge parking fees at their various casinos. Well, those prices are old news. Effective April 12, both self-parking and valet fees at MGM Resorts International casinos will increase. Here are the new rates:
Excalibur, Circus Circus, Luxor, Monte Carlo – $10
Mandalay Bay & Delano, MGM Grand, The Mirage, New York-New York – $15
Aria, Bellagio, Vdara – $20
Excalibur, Circus Circus, Luxor, Monte Carlo – $15
Mandalay Bay & Delano, MGM Grand, The Mirage, New York-New York – $20
Aria, Bellagio, Vdara – $25
0-1 hour: Free
1-2 hours (Shorter):
Excalibur, Circus Circus, Luxor, Monte Carlo – $5
Mandalay Bay & Delano, MGM Grand, The Mirage, New York-New York – $8
Aria, Bellagio, Vdara – $10
2-4 hours (New):
Excalibur, Circus Circus, Luxor, Monte Carlo – $7
Mandalay Bay & Delano, MGM Grand, The Mirage, New York-New York – $10
Aria, Bellagio, Vdara – $12
Excalibur, Circus Circus, Luxor, Monte Carlo – $7
Mandalay Bay & Delano, MGM Grand, The Mirage, New York-New York – $12
Aria, Bellagio, Vdara – $15
The new parking fee increases may only be a few dollars for some parking segments but, as the Las Vegas Review-Journal notes, that could be as much as a 39% increase. You can see the initial parking fees at MGM Resorts properties here.
There’s still no charge to self-park at Circus Circus. It should be pointed out that if you’re visiting T-Mobile Arena, The Park or The Park Theater it’s less expensive to park at Monte Carlo than New York-New York. Expect that to change when Monte Carlo renovations are complete and Park MGM opens.
Since MGM Resorts International started charging parking Caesars Entertainment and the Cosmopolitan have announced self-parking and valet fees. Caesars Entertainment has just started charging for parking at some of their properties. The fees will roll out to all Vegas Strip casinos. Rio will be excluded as it’s not on the Vegas Strip. The Cosmopolitan fees should begin shortly. Wynn and Encore are now charging for valet, but not self-parking.
Avoid MGM Resorts International Parking Fees
Not everyone has to pay self-parking or valet fees at MGM Resorts International properties. M Life Rewards players club members that are Pearl, Gold, Platinum and Noir will receive free self-parking. M Life Rewards members that are Gold, Platinum and Noir receive free valet.
If you’re not a big spender you can upgrade to M Life Rewards Pearl and receive free self-parking just by signing up for the M Life Rewards credit card. You can find information on the M Life Rewards players club here and the M Life Rewards credit card here.
The M Life Rewards players club upgrade process takes 7-10 days after approval for the credit card. There is no annual fee for the credit card. Make sure you read the current terms and conditions before signing up for the credit card as those may have changed.
Last summer the news about renovation at Palace Station started to leak. Eater was first with the news and I was able to confirm that something was being planned with Station Casinos, owner of the Palace Station. At the time, Station Casinos wasn’t ready to reveal all details of the renovations.
Despite its proximity to the Vegas Strip, Palace Station goes mostly unnoticed by tourists. The casino is located on Sahara Avenue just west of the I-15. Lucky Dragon, SLS Las Vegas and the Stratosphere are the closest casinos. However, they’re towards the less busy north end of the Vegas Strip.
Palace Station has been undergoing subtle upgrades in the past couple of years with new carpeting, new restaurants (Charcoal Grill, Little Tony’s) and a recent sports book upgrade. However, renovations and upgrades are going into high gear now as Palace Station returns to its roots.
Shortly after the casino opened in 1976, it was renamed Bingo Palace. The first major part of the renovations at Palace Station is to add a new, larger bingo room to the casino. While Bingo isn’t the most popular game with tourists, this is still popular with Las Vegas locals. Besides the Gold Coast, Palace Station has the closest Bingo Hall to the Vegas Strip.
Coming in at more than 9,000 square feet, the new Bingo Hall will be an improvement for current Bingo players. Station Casinos will also reach out to potentially new Bingo players. A couple of years ago Red Rock Casino (another Station Casino) debuted a nighttime version of bingo. The room is dimly lit and players are given neon necklaces. There’s a DJ bumping the jams and winners are doing shots. This is not your granny’s Bingo.
The concept may sound a bit out there but it’s become a very popular way for younger people to kick off the night. Approximately $20 gives a player an hour of gambling fun and booze. The game brings potential for winning a few bucks and more booze. The older players just avoid these games if they’re not in the mood for loud music and good times.
Back to the renovations. The upgrades to Palace Station will be done in phases over a couple of years. This first phase of renovations should conclude by summer. Upgrades will include a new valet area at the casino entrance facing Sahara Ave., the exterior facade will receive a facelift, the parking lot will be repaved, and some fixtures on the casino floor will be changed out. (semi-related, Chick-Fil-A is opening nearby)
The next phase of renovations will move the Feast Buffet from the second floor to the casino level. Station casinos will add two new restaurants which remain unnamed. The renovations for Palace Station may or may not end here. Station Casinos didn’t confirm or deny that there would be a new hotel tower added while the courtyard rooms are removed. They also didn’t confirm that future renovations would include a movie theater, bowling alley, or rooftop pool.
Prices to eat, drink and sleep in a casino on the Vegas Strip continue to rise so there’s reason to look elsewhere to balance your travel budget. Before the upgrades, Palace Station is already a viable option for anyone looking to save some money while still being near the Vegas Strip. The renovations will only give more reason to consider the near-Strip property.
I’ve stayed at Palace Station during conventions. They offer a solid value for the price. Palace Station is a few minutes away from the Las Vegas Convention Center. Rideshare companies make the trip back and forth to Sands or the LVCC quick and inexpensive.
Going to a museum might not be the first thing that crosses your mind when planning a trip to Las Vegas. However, there are a couple of museums in Las Vegas receiving upgrades that might be worth your time.
The Neon Museum and Boneyard is a must see for anyone looking to see what Las Vegas used to look like. The Mob Museum gives a look into the mafia and their place in Las Vegas history. Coincidentally, both museums are located in downtown Las Vegas.
Neon Museum and Boneyard
This nearly two-acre campus is a bit more than a typical museum. The Neon Museum is where you go to physically see the history of what makes Las Vegas unique. This isn’t a museum for by the book education. There aren’t many museums that are popular because they have a bunch of signs. However, the vintage neon signs allow tour guides to educate guests on casinos and other businesses throughout Las Vegas history. These signs are why the majority of people visit the neon museum.
The majority of education and activity at the Neon Museum takes place outside in the Neon Boneyard and Boneyard Park. You’ll find more than 250 historic signs at the Neon Museum including signs from the Sahara, Stardust, New-New York, Lady Luck and O’Shea’s. The new expansion will bring about 30 to 40 new signs out to the Boneyard. Early additions include signs from the recently imploded Riviera, recently closed Las Vegas Club and world famous Spearmint Rhino gentlemen’s club.
All tours are guided and many sell out in advance. Visit neonmuseum.org to learn more and reserve a time to visit. The tours last about an hour and can be exhausting during the day in the summer when temperatures reach over 110 degrees in the shade. Keep that in mind when scheduling a tour.
This is a more traditional, but modern, museum. At the Mob Museum you will take an interactive tour throughout the history of the mob. You’ll learn about the mob’s impact on Las Vegas history and the mark it’s made in the world. The Mob Museum isn’t just a place to walk around and read plaques. The museum has high-tech theater presentations, one-of-a-kind artifacts and interactive, themed environments.
You’ll learn about such historical mob figures like Al Capone, Charlie “Lucky” Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Ben Siegel, Sam Giancana, Frank Rosenthal, Whitey Bulger, John Gotti and much more. The Mob Museum also looks at law enforcement and the mob. There are items and artifacts like different guns that relate to law enforcement’s role in helping to defeat the mob.
New exhibits this year at the Mob Museum include “Organized Crime Today,” “The Crime Lab” and “Firearms Training Simulator.” The exhibits feature wall-sized touchscreens and hands-on learning. This unique museum offers a lot of education about Las Vegas and cities around the country.
The Mob Museum is a great summer activity as it brings you inside for at least two hours of air conditioning and education. Visit themobmuseum.org for more information.
You may have heard by now that the Oakland Raiders received permission from the NFL to relocate to Las Vegas. The football team won’t become the Las Vegas Raiders until construction a new stadium is completed. The stadium isn’t expected to open until 2020. Yay?
Las Vegas is stoked to become a major league city. The Raiders will not only change how Las Vegas feels about itself but how others feel about the city. The team will play at least eight home games per season in Las Vegas. Additionally, the new stadium is expected to draw 50-100 events per year.
Arena And Stadium Will Bring More Major Events Than Ever To Las Vegas
Many of these events like dirt bike racing and monster trucks will move from Boyd Stadium and won’t be considered major events. Even though people go to those events, they’re nothing like when Beyonce comes to town.
However, even smaller events near the Vegas Strip will have an effect on the Las Vegas experience. Hotel room prices will fluctuate more than ever. I spent most of my life in New York and New Jersey and could see hotel room prices fluctuate as events were near the various stadiums, arenas, and theaters. This new 65,000 seat football stadium, T-Mobile Arena and all of the increased convention space in Las Vegas will have a similar effect in Las Vegas.
Hotel room prices are always higher when there’s a big event in Las Vegas and this won’t be any different. In 2020 and beyond we should see more major events than ever in Las Vegas and especially on the Vegas Strip. Heck, we’ll see more big events starting later this year when the Vegas Golden Knights begin play. Every home game against a team from major cities will be an event that people plan vacations around.
Look for the other arenas and venues to take advantage of the eight Raiders home games and 41 Vegas Golden Knights hockey games. The other venues will be stacked with major talent beyond just the games. This is how to best maximize hotel room rates. We’re already seeing it on a smaller scale. Busy weekends in Las Vegas will be explosive by today’s standards.
Hotel Prices And Fees In Las Vegas May Explode
Hotel room prices won’t only increase on the Vegas Strip, but all around town. When prices are too expensive in the high demand hotels near the action many visitors will look elsewhere. Luxury hotel rooms during major events like Super Bowl weekend and the first weekend of March Madness can reach near the $1,000 mark. Lower end casino-hotel rooms may be double or triple their normal rate. Hotel rooms at the low-end Circus-Circus were near $300 the night of the Floyd Mayweather fight against Manny Pacquiao. Off strip hotel that might normally charge $100 for a room might be able to charge $150 for that room.
If resort fees are still around in 2020 we may see a sliding scale. For (extreme) example it wouldn’t be surprising to keep resort fees at $45 per night during weekdays and slide all the way to $100 per night during major event weekends. During normal busy weekends, the resort fee might be somewhere in the middle. We may see this sooner than later as regular resort fees can’t go much higher.
Since more people will be visiting Las Vegas we could see more hotel operators begin plans similar to MGM Resorts Profit Growth Plan (PGP). That’s the plan that seeks to maximize revenue while minimizing expenses. You may know this today as parking fees and drink monitoring. If there’s a fee that can be charged it will be charged by 2020. If there’s a perk that can be cut, it will be cut.
All of the price increases could lead to another construction boom. If Resorts World wants to cash in on the great stadium effect they might want to speed up construction. They could be the shiny new casino-resort in Las Vegas that opens just in time for the kickoff of the 2020 NFL season.
The Las Vegas Raiders and new stadium isn’t the end of days and we should continue to see record visitation to Las Vegas. Not that they need it, but this new stadium gives an excuse to casino operators to tighten up their business.
I recently visited downtown Las Vegas at night for the first time this year and was, once again, reminded how much fun it can be. Downtown Las Vegas offers a very different kind of fun than the Vegas Strip. I’ve come to enjoy both equally for their differences since my first trip downtown.
The Vegas Strip is the Las Vegas that everyone knows from TV, movies, and the majority of visitors. Downtown Las Vegas isn’t as famous and that suits the area fine. “Old Vegas” has always offered a different experience from the Vegas Strip and that’s what has always made it special.
While the Vegas Strip continues to offer the “latest and greatest” of everything, Downtown Las Vegas offers a less flashy experience. A visit to downtown Las Vegas is closer to what visitors may remember from the 1990’s on the Vegas Strip. The gambling is good, even the nicest hotel rooms are affordable, there are plenty of good restaurants and there’s free entertainment everywhere you look at the Fremont Street Experience.
Increasing resort fees, parking fees, etc. on the Vegas Strip don’t bother me. I can budget for that stuff so Las Vegas is always fun for me. However, if you’re tired of all that (I know many of you are!) and looking for a different Las Vegas experience you might want to look downtown. Here are 5 reasons to visit downtown Las Vegas.
Fremont Street Experience Is Kind Of Amazing
There’s nothing like this mall of casinos at night anywhere in the world. There are three stages with, often free, entertainment and a light show on the canopy above that covers the mall. You’re free to wander without concern for vehicular traffic. There are street performers that are equally as entertaining as they are annoying. Just about every casino has access to a bar from the street. The alcohol helps fuel the chaos in the area. You’ll hear people riding the giant Slotzilla zipline screaming above you all night. A night out at the Fremont Street Experience is sensory overload in the best way.
The Gambling Is Great
If you’re the kind of person that enjoys a fun atmosphere, low limits, and good odds when you gamble then you’ll have a great time in the downtown Las Vegas casinos. The atmosphere is loose and not stuffy at all. You’ll find $3 and $5 minimum wagers for craps and blackjack at just about every casino. El Cortez even has quarter roulette. The casinos in downtown Las Vegas tout that they offer looser slots than the Vegas Strip.
For what it’s worth, I probably gamble more frequently in downtown Las Vegas than any other part of town. There seems to be more bang for the buck.
Great Drinking Options
My friends and I never hung out to eat or drink when I first started visiting downtown Las Vegas. That’s changed and there’s a great variety of restaurants and bars. The Vue Bar at The D has good video poker games and the bartenders are quick with a drink. If you prefer a non-gaming bar you can head to Downtown Cocktail Room, The Griffin or The Commonwealth. Beer drinkers can enjoy local brewery Banger Brewing or visit Pizza Rock for a great beer selection at fair prices. Beer prices (and food) are even better during Happy Hour at Pizza Rock.
Surprisingly Good Variety Of Dining
Downtown Las Vegas has grown beyond the mall of casinos at the Fremont Street Experience. Just walking a block or two outside of the canopy can bring more restaurants that may not be on the radar of most people visiting downtown Las Vegas. While the casinos boast some good high-end, but affordable, steakhouses like Andiamo’s at The D and Oscar’s at the Plaza you’ll find some great food options just a few steps away. Therapy, Eat, Carson Kitchen, and Pizza Rock are just a few good non-casino restaurants.
The Vegas Strip is great but it can feel a bit fancy at times with the newest of everything. It’s the hotspot of Las Vegas. There’s a time to dress nicely, have a great meal, and see a hundred dollar per ticket show. There’s also a time where a t-shirt, shorts, and a football of beer feel more appropriate. Las Vegas is great because you can enjoy both of those feelings in the same day. There’s just a more relaxed vibe in downtown Las Vegas than the Vegas Strip.
Salute at Red Rock casino recently welcomed a new chef, Luke Palladino, to the restaurant. I was lucky enough to be invited to a tasting of the new menu. Since I’m in this casino almost every day (I’m actually typing this at Red Rock casino), I figured that I would check it out.
Media tastings come in different shapes and sizes so I wasn’t sure what to expect. This tasting was a fixed family-style menu. Each dish for the tasting was chosen by the restaurant. We were treated to 6 courses and 20 dishes. YOWZA! Now, this is a tasting!
We tried everything from a caciocavallo scaloppine to a delicious veal chop made with roasted sunchokes, wild mushroom-prosciutto and sage cream. The signature pasta was finished tableside on a wheel of cheese and was probably my favorite item on the menu.
My table at Salute was made up of mostly strangers who all got to know each other by sharing the family-style dishes. This tasting was a blast and reminded me how much I love to share meals with friends. It’s not only fun to share food but it’s often enjoyable to have a meal with a variety of different foods.
Not every restaurant offers this kind of a 20 dish tasting menu but in many restaurants in Las Vegas you can order so that you can sample and taste different foods during a meal. I’ve done this often throughout the year. Here are some examples of shared meals I’ve had with friends in Las Vegas over the years.
Cleo – SLS Las Vegas
The dishes here are perfect for sharing. There are many small dishes and shareable main courses. We ordered a couple different mezzes, meats, and flatbreads for the table. Not only was the food excellent but everyone was able to sample a few different flavors and dishes that might not have had the chance to if we ordered individually. The server was happy to help us order the correct portions to satisfy everyone who wanted to try certain dishes.
Rao’s – Caesars Palace
It helps to have a friend who speaks the language when visiting a true ethnic restaurant. My Italian-speaking friend ordered shareable portions for pasta, chicken and more for the table. Rao’s wasn’t offering a tasting menu when I visited. We all wanted to try different items on the menu. The restaurant was able to portion out dishes differently. They didn’t have to do much work and they made this table very happy.
Beauty & Essex – Cosmopolitan
The dishes here are intended to be shared so it was easy to try a lot of different food. A recent dinner with 5 here with friends bought seven or eight different dishes. Not only did we have a wide variety of flavors but we had a ton of food. This meal was much better and more fun than the traditional appetizer/main course meal I had on a previous visit.
Bazaar Meat – SLS Las Vegas
Bazaar Meat is billed as a steakhouse but it’s so much more. The menu is about 2 feet long and has way more dishes than you’ll find in most steakhouses. We stared and stared at the menu and couldn’t make a choice on what to eat. The server saw our lost eyes and offered to help. She asked for our budget and asked if there were any restrictions. We had a fantastic meal with about eight different dishes and included several different types of meat with a massive rib eye as the final main course.
Every meal included different people in each party trying dishes that they might not have ordered by themselves. I’m not adventuresome when ordering a single dish. However, I’ll almost always try something in a small portion.
Las Vegas restaurants often save their tasting menu for special nights. Recently Sushisamba at The Palazzo introduced their Japanese whiskey collection with a special pairing menu. Last year I visited Yardbird for their National Bourbon Month menu.
Everyone visits Las Vegas for a fun time. Sharing great meals with friends is just one way to start a great night out.
There are a lot of “Best Of” lists for Las Vegas, but few are as highly regarded as the Forbes Travel Guide. This is a list of the best of the best hotels and restaurants around the world. Many businesses use these awards as a milestone for service and quality.
Forbes Travel Guide’s scoring system uses a proprietary algorithm that weighs service at 75% and the quality of the facility at 25%. Forbes inspectors anonymously visits and evaluates properties using nears 800 objective standards in 162 destinations across 42 countries.
Forbes Travel Guide Hotel Award Winners In Las Vegas
This year just 175 hotels achieve the coveted Five-Star Award for the best of the best. Five of those winners are in Las Vegas.
- ARIA Sky Suites
- Encore Tower Suites
- Mandarin Oriental
- Skylofts at MGM Grand
- Wynn Tower Suites
Among the total 1,464 Star Award winners in 2017, there are 175 Five-Star, 478 Four-Star. Las Vegas has a host of Four-Star Award-winning hotels too. M Resort is the only off-strip hotel to receive this prestigious award. There’s a reason we listed M Resort as one of the five resorts to help you transition away from the Vegas Strip. The rest of the winners are below:
- ARIA (regular rooms)
- The Cosmopolitan
- Four Seasons (at Mandalay Bay)
- The Laurel Collection by Caesars Palace
- M Resort
- The Palazzo
- The Venetian
- Wynn Las Vegas
Forbes Travel Guide Restaurant Award Winners In Las Vegas
The number of hotels to receive a Star Award from the Forbes Travel Guide seems massive when compared to restaurants. There were only 62 Five-Star, 176 Four-Star restaurants around the world. Las Vegas is known for great fine dining and make up nearly 10% of the Five-Star restaurants.
- Joël Robuchon (MGM Grand)
- Le Cirque Las Vegas (Bellagio)
- Picasso (Bellagio)
- Restaurant Guy Savoy (Caesars Palace)
- Twist by Pierre Gagnaire (Mandarin Oriental)
- Wing Lei (Wynn Las Vegas)
Le Cirque, Picasso, and Wing Lei are new Forbes 5-Star Award winners. The 5-Star award winners are the finest of fine dining and will cost more than most meals you’ll ever eat. By comparison, the 4-Star Award winners are affordable. While still expensive and fine dining the prices are what you’d pay in most high-end restaurants.
- Andrea’s (Encore)
- AquaKnox (The Venetian)
- Aureole Las Vegas (Mandalay Bay)
- barMASA (Aria)
- Costa di Mare (Wynn)
- The Country Club (Wynn)
- CUT (The Palazzo)
- Julian Serrano (Aria)
- L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (MGM Grand)
- Lakeside (Wynn)
- Michael Mina (Bellagio)
- Mizumi (Wynn)
- Sage (Aria)
- Sinatra (Encore)
- SW Steakhouse (Wynn)
One of the many things that make Las Vegas so great is that there’s something for everyone. If you’re traveling on a budget, you can find plenty of fun low rolling around Las Vegas. Likewise, if you’re looking for the most luxurious vacation of your life you can visit these Forbes Travel Guide Award winners.
You can see the full list of Forbes Award winners around the world here.
Over the years Las Vegas has transformed from a city of cheap buffets to a city filled with the some of the best chefs and restaurants. Las Vegas is home to restaurants by just about every celebrity chef you can think of. Many of the people who do the cooking at the celebrity chef restaurants are famous and carry awards of their own. Las Vegas is now a destination for those seeking the best food in the country.
Las Vegas is home to many foodie festivals over the year, but there’s one that annually stands out because of the big name chefs and unique culinary experiences. Vegas Uncork’d returns to Las Vegas from April 27 – 30.
Chefs appearing at Vegas Uncork’d this year include Alain Ducasse, Bobby Flay, Buddy Valastro, Charlie Palmer, Giada De Laurentiis, Gordon Ramsay, Guy Savoy, José Andrés, Julian Serrano, Shawn McClain, Michael Chow, Nobu Matsuhisa and Wolfgang Puck to name a few.
Once again you’ll enjoy the one-of-a-kind experiences and a world-class lineup of renowned celebrity chefs, master sommeliers and cutting-edge mixologists from Caesars Palace, The Cromwell, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, MGM Resorts International, The Palazzo and The Venetian Las Vegas.
You’ll get to enjoy some of the most famous chefs preparing food in casinos and restaurants all over Las Vegas. Here are some of the new and notable experiences at Vegas Uncork’d this year:
- Quickfire Happy Hour with Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger (Caesars Palace), Thursday, April 27: Ever wondered what it takes to win a quickfire challenge like you see on Top Chef? Don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to feel like a contestant on a cooking competition show. Put your culinary chops to the test and become part of the action! Guests will divide into teams and compete in a series of quickfire challenges all while enjoying free-flowing cocktails, cool craft beers, and signature Border Grill bites. Celebrity chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger will be on hand to coach the teams and provide participants with top-notch advice before they face the panel of judges.
- Master Series: Rao’s 10th Anniversary Dinner (Caesars Palace), Thursday, April 27: (The original) Rao’s is widely regarded as the hardest reservation to land in the country, if not the world. Guests will have the opportunity to grab a seat at Rao’s in Las Vegas as the Rao’s family celebrates its 10th Anniversary on the Strip and their newest cookbook, “Rao’s Classics,” written by Rao’s owners Frank Pellegrino Sr. and Frank Pellegrino Jr. From time-honored Italian staples to classics that are uniquely Rao’s, like their famous lemon chicken, don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate this milestone with a multi-course meal at an Italian-American dining institution.
- Lunch like a Spaniard with José Andrés at Jaleo (The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas), Friday, April 28: Experience a taste of Spain with internationally acclaimed culinary pioneer and innovator, Chef José Andrés. Join José as he prepares lobster paella over their renowned live fire pit in a dish-and-tell session, and shares his favorite stories behind the unique restaurant’s menu items, like José’s Taco, a slice of jamón ibérico de bellota topped with osetra caviar and gold flakes; Coca con Erizas del Mar, crusty Spanish cristal bread topped with sea urchin, ibérico bacon and butter; their renowned Gin and Tonic program, and more.
- The Hog in the Hen House: Yardbird Presents A Pot Belly Brunch (The Venetian), Friday, April 28: From the fried green tomato BLT with house-smoked pork belly to maple-glazed bacon doughnuts, Yardbird’s exclusive Pot Belly Brunch will be hog heaven for lovers of all things bacon and pork belly. Enjoy a range of Yardbird’s inventive Southern comfort dishes while sipping on a bloody mary with bacon infused vodka.
Some other Vegas Uncork’d experiences include:
- Master Series: The Ultimate Throwback with MR CHOW (Caesars Palace)
- Master Series: Rich Tradition with a New Twist with Old Homestead’s Greg & Marc Sherry (Caesars Palace)
- Master Series: The World’s Best, An Epicurean Affair With Guy Savoy (Caesars Palace)
- Three-Kitchen Tasting at SUGARCANE raw bar grill with Chef Timon Balloo (The Venetian)
- Celebrate Spago: 25th Anniversary Lunch with Wolfgang Puck (Caesars Palace)
- Lunch like a Spaniard with José Andrés at Jaleo (Cosmopolitan)
- A Movers & Shakers Mixology Journey with Mariena Mercer (Cosmopolitan)
- Brunch with Bobby Flay at Mesa Grill (Caesars Palace)
- Montecristo Cigar Bar—Up in Smoke (Caesars Palace)
- Picnic in The Park with Alain Ducasse, Charlie Palmer, Michael Mina, Julian Serrano, Shawn McClain, Roy Ellamar, Akira Back, the Voltaggio Brothers & More (The Park, located between Monte Carlo and New York-New York)
- #FoodPorn Cooking Demo & Luncheon with the Too Hot Tamales (Caesars Palace)
- Sweet Escape: An Evening of Buddy, Beignets, Bon Bons & Booze (The Palazzo)
- The Ultimate Big Cake & Craft Cocktail After-Party (The Venetian)
There are even more experiences that seemingly take place all day and night. You can see a full list of Vegas Uncork’d events here. Ticket information and prices are available for individual events here. This isn’t an event if you’re traveling on a small budget. Prices start at $79.99 for an after party with Buddy V. and go as high as $595 for a Master’s experience with Nobu Matsuhisa. Visit vegasuncorked.com for more information.
I was immediately hooked when “Hotel Impossible” debuted on the Travel Channel in 2012. I’m a sucker for renovation shows. Between three rescue-style TV shows, “Bar Rescue,” “Restaurant Impossible,” and “Hotel Impossible,” we had the makings of an even better TV show.
Together these three TV shows could be the backbone of a mega show called “Casino Impossible” or “Casino Rescue.” I wrote about the idea for a website that is no longer around called Vegas Chatter (sad trombone). Well, it seems as though we might actually see this idea on television a few years after that original idea.
Casino veteran Gary Green is searching for troubled casinos for a new television series. In the series, Green’s team of casino experts will makeover troubled casinos. Like other makeover shows, the host will show off his marketing and casino knowledge. Gary Green is the former vice-president of marketing and player development for Donald Trump and is recognized as one of the most colorful marketing characters in the casino world.
“We have already struck deals with vendors, designers, regulatory experts, financial experts, and a whole array of casino experts who are eager to help turn around troubled properties. This is an operation that most casinos could never afford,” Green added.
What would a casino get in return? Green says they’ll receive “nationwide television exposure of their casino plus a state-of-the-art makeover and marketing; what more could a struggling casino ask for?”
Green started pitches for casinos last year but the show isn’t quite ready. According to IMDB the show is still in development.
Possible Casino Rescue In Las Vegas
The Rio All-Suites Casino And Hotel has been rumored to be on the market by Caesars Entertainment for at least 5 years. Despite many rumors, it’s still owned by Caesars Entertainment. The casino-hotel recently had a power outage that forced 900 people out of their room just before New Year’s Eve. To say the property, inside and out, is in need of some TLC is in understatement.
The exterior of the hotel looks as though it hasn’t been cleaned or maintained in years. Inside the casino there’s little connection to the Rio theme. The structure of the building is becoming dated and there could be more small accidents that become a big deal because of a lack of maintenance.
Caesars Entertainment has been in bankruptcy protection for over a year now. A “Casino Rescue” could come in handy. If the Rio is on the market and Caesars doesn’t want to put money into the building this could help them find a buyer. At minimum, cleaning it up and fixing some of the problems might be what’s best for the Rio, Caesars and those who stay at the property.
It was a sad day for many downtown Las Vegas visitors when DuPar’s abruptly closed at the Golden Gate Casino. The restaurant and bakery was one of the most popular breakfast joints under the Fremont Street Experience.
In my mind, there was only one dish worth eating at DuPar’s. Those fluffy pancakes covered with drawn butter were divine. A tall glass of fresh squeezed orange juice was the perfect accompaniment. These pancakes were so good that they would satisfy for a meal at anytime of the day. While the DuPar’s restaurant at the Suncoast Casino is still open, it’s not very convenient for anyone staying in downtown Las Vegas.
Have no fear pancake lovers! There are still a handful of restaurants located in downtown Las Vegas where you can enjoy a stack. The restaurants range from a national chain with the cheap pancakes to one of the hottest restaurants in the area.
The Denny’s in downtown Las Vegas is different than the other locations of the chain. Not only does this Denny’s have a full bar, but you can get married here. More important is that this location still offers ALL YOU CAN EAT PANCAKES FOR $4. ‘Nuff said, right?
Eat has been a breakfast and lunch hot spot since the day it opened. This is the kind of local restaurant that creates dishes from scratch and from the heart. The Las Vegas tourists districts are often seen as soulless so you might not expect this kind of restaurant so close to the casinos. Eat was a great addition to downtown Las Vegas. If you’ve been here before, you know that there’s a reason that the pancakes are listed so high on the menu.
The pancakes were a favorite for visitors at the now closed El Cortez Cafe. Thankfully for pancake lovers, the tradition of tasty cakes has just moved to the new restaurant inside the casino. Seigel’s 1941 offers a wider variety of pancakes including a short stack for only $5.
Hash House A Go Go
This regional chain has multiple locations in Las Vegas, including the downtown restaurant at The Plaza. They’re known for having “twisted farm food” and massive portions. In fact, the pancakes are so large that there’s only one in a serving. This is the kind of restaurant and amount of food you’ll need if you’re waking up after a day and night of drinking too many footballs of beer or yard-long frozen drinks.
This quick-serve cafe is a quick walk from the Plaza on Main Street. This isn’t a fast food restaurant, but they dish out fresh food faster than most restaurants. Many of the dishes at MTO cafe are unique but the pancakes are a great place to start exploring. You can top pancakes with butter and syrup anywhere but where you can you have fat butter and tree sap? Bacon lovers might want to look at the Bacon Pancake Dippers with peppercorn maple syrup. These are not your parent’s pancakes.
In Memory of Dupar’s:
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, it’s still Winter. The first day of Spring is technically March 20th. The first day of Summer isn’t until June 20! However, Las Vegas doesn’t wait for farmers or almanacs to decide what season it is. According to a handful of casinos and clubs, Summer is here!
Sure, there are some pools that are open all year around but we’re about pool season is already here in Las Vegas. Some casinos are opening pools while nightclubs are opening their daytime parties on March 3rd!
Here’s a look at some of the pools that will be opening over the next couple of weeks.
- MGM Grand
- The Mirage
- The Venetian
- Treasure Island
These casinos have some of their pools open all year long with limited hours:
- Caesars Palace
- Casino Royale
- Circus Circus
- The D
- Golden Nugget
- Hard Rock
- The Linq
- Mandalay Bay
- MGM Grand
- The Mirage
- Paris Las Vegas
- Planet Hollywood
- The Venetian
Not all casino pools are open for the new season yet. The pools that are open during the winter still have limited hours. The “winter” and closed casino pools will open full time over the next couple months. If you’re looking ahead you can plan for the opening of the Tropicana pool complex on May 25th.
While regular casino pools are slowly trickling open, some of the biggest and most popular dayclubs and pool parties are off to a flying start in the next couple of weeks.
- Encore Beach Club at Encore
- Marquee Dayclub at Cosmopolitan
- Tao Beach at Venetian
- GO Pool at Flamingo
- Rehab at Hard Rock Hotel
- Daylight Beach Club at Mandalay Bay
- Liquid at Aria
The dayclubs and pool parties are just revving their engines for the real “pool season” in Las Vegas. The dayclubs will be open in time for spring break and March Madness but this is just the beginning. The pool party and dayclub seasons traditionally kick into high gear with premier talent closer to Memorial Day Weekend.
Who’s ready to take a dip?
There are plenty of bars and lounges in Las Vegas that will make a delicious cocktail or pour a fantastic beer…if you pay for it. This is Las Vegas and you can get just about anything you want if you’re willing to pay. Big deal. Let’s get some free drinks!
You can still earn delicious cocktails, top shelf liquor and amazing beers complimentary at a few bars in Las Vegas. I’m not talking about a middle-shelf vodka and club soda or another complimentary domestic beer. You can still get an amazing cocktail or beer for no additional charge while you’re gambling at a few casinos bars.
There was a time where you could just sit at a video poker bar in a casino and drink all day and night on just a few dollars. That changed last year and some casinos have installed drink monitoring systems to make sure you’re spending money and earning a complimentary drink (you can see a comparison here).
Additionally, more bars are limiting the kind of drinks you can have complimentary. Many bars in Las Vegas will only offer a complimentary bottom or middle shelf liquor or domestic beer. Call me a snob, but I want the good stuff.
This isn’t about the best video poker paytables. This is about the best complimentary drinks. There are a handful of video poker bars in Las Vegas casinos where you can still get great complimentary drinks.
Chandelier Bar – Cosmopolitan
The complimentary cocktails when playing video poker is one reason that the Chandelier Bar is my favorite bar in Las Vegas. Sure, the Cosmopolitan has instituted a drink monitoring system at all of their video poker bars but you’ll still receive better drinks and service than most casino bars in Las Vegas. Unlike other video poker bars, you can receive fantastic signature cocktails ($16) and top shelf liquor (up to $15) complimentary while playing one of the machines. While other casino bars only offer a limited selection of spirits, almost everything at the bar is available here. You can receive similar treatment at the other bars at the Cosmopolitan, Bond and sports book, but neither match the atmosphere of this beautiful bar.
Tag – The Linq
Tag is one of the best beer bars on the Vegas Strip with about 150 different beers to choose from. Many (many, many) of the craft and imported beer can be earned complimentary when playing video poker or one of the other games on the bartop machines. Caesars Entertainment owns The Linq and has a drink monitoring system so you’ll have to keep up your pace of play. Don’t worry if you slack off, the beers are affordably priced if you just want to pay.
The Linq is also home to the 5150 bar. This bar has a few machines and doesn’t offer complimentary signature cocktails. However, they deeply discount their delicious signature cocktails to $2. You can order regular cocktails without paying the $2. However, the signature cocktails are so good that you almost forget that you’re paying for a drink while playing video poker.
Pub 365 – Tuscany
This bar and restaurant at the Tuscany, just off the Vegas Strip, opened last year and quickly became one of my favorite beer bars in Las Vegas. The food is good and they have an immense beer selection. In addition to the 365 beers in their name, they have a unicorn list of very limited beer that you can purchase. The bar has video poker machines and offers complimentary beer while playing. Tuscany hasn’t installed a drink monitoring system. If you’re not familiar with the Tuscany, this small casino is about a 2-minute taxi, Uber or Lyft east of Bally’s or a 10-minute walk.
The first weekend of March Madness is more than just a weekend. It’s actually a loooooong weekend. The first weekend of the NCAA (college) basketball tournament will begin around 9 am on Thursday, March 16 and will end around 8 pm on Sunday, March 19. This weekend is so long because many serious college basketball fans will begin on Wednesday.
In recent years, the first weekend of March Madness has started rival Super Bowl weekend as the busiest time of the year for sports fans in Las Vegas. Even though the tournament lasts all month, the first weekend is the only weekend that’s a big deal in Las Vegas. The other games don’t draw nearly as many people.
There are nearly 100 games during the first four days of March Madness. The sports books are packed with people wagering on the action. The lines to place wagers in the sports books tend to be slower than normal. First of all, college sports fans tend to be younger than professional sports fans and that brings a lot of young and new bettors to Las Vegas. New bettors are usually slow to place their wagers. Similar to the Super Bowl, there are just a lot of people in Las Vegas for the weekend.
The action doesn’t slow down when the games are over. Even before the final buzzer of the last game goes off you’ll see sports fans heading out to enjoy all Las Vegas has to offer. Restaurants, bars, shows, clubs, casinos will be packed. These four days are magical for a sports fans and a fun time for anyone who loves the chaos in Las Vegas.
The first two days of March Madness have 16 games packed into 12 hours. There are often between two and four games happening on at the same time. This action is what makes the beginning of March Madness so popular all over the country.
Saturday and Sunday have a manageable eight games per day. Since there are so many games it can be difficult to get a seat in a sports book to watch the games. Much like the Super Bowl, you may want to look into other options to watch the games.
Outside of the sports book, the options to watch the games during March Madness are similar to the Super Bowl:
- Casino Bar
- Walk Into A Bar and/or Restaurant
- Free Parties
- Paid Viewing Parties
You can read more about these events from the post for watching the Super Bowl.
The last thing anyone wants to do in Las Vegas is to stand in line instead of enjoying the action. This is a time where you should seriously consider a sports wagering app to avoid most of the lines. You can see a list of apps here. While you can download an app from anywhere you can only use the mobile sports wagering apps in Nevada, you must sign up for an account in person.
If you’d like to avoid the lines in the sports book, you can look for a sports wagering kiosk. The majority of sports bettors like to place wagers with a person. This leaves the self-serve kiosks relatively quiet. Most William Hill sports book locations have a kiosk. Other properties, like Caesars Entertainment properties, will offer a kiosk just for this occasion.
The first weekend of March Madness is one of the most fun times for a sports fan in Las Vegas. Basketball isn’t the fun during this weekend. Don’t forget, this year the Madness happens at the same time as St. Patrick’s Day. Party.
In the best way, March in Las Vegas really brings the Madness. The long weekend of Thursday, March 16 through Sunday, March 19 is one of the most fun weekends of the year. Las Vegas is a national destination for a combustible combination of people visiting for Spring Break, St. Patrick’s Day and the first weekend of March Madness. It’s also a time where many locals mingle with tourists.
While activities in Las Vegas typically draw people of all ages, this weekend generally attracts a younger crowd. You’ll find spring breakers partying like there’s no tomorrow. Sports fans and sports bettors will be awake from the first tip of the college basketball tournament at 9 am each day and partying until the sun rises again. Saint Patrick’s Day attracts crowds of all ages, some looking for debauchery and others looking for a more familial celebration of the day.
The first weekend of March Madness is always one of the busiest sports weekends of the year. Spring break usually falls during this time and brings more than just sports fans to Las Vegas. The years when St. Patrick’s Day falls during this weekend can be explosive in a great way. This weekend brings three different groups of people all looking for fun.
March Madness, Spring Break & St. Patrick’s Day Fun
The first weekend of March Madness is the busiest of the college basketball tournament because of a) there are a lot of games played and b) you can legally wager on all of those games. Thursday, March 16 and Friday, March 17 each has 16 games beginning at 9 am and ending around 9 pm. The pace slows down on Saturday, March 18 and Sunday, March 19 when each day only has 8 games.
Sports books will be overflowing all day and night. Many casinos, bars, and restaurants will have parties that offer food and drink to go along with seats for you to watch the games. Some of these parties will have mobile betting stations so you can skip the sports book. It’s a great time for all sports fans but the fun doesn’t end there.
Spring break brings out the hardcore partiers. Most dayclubs won’t be popping off like the summer, but the nightclubs bring in A-List talent for those looking for entertainment. You’ll find that many of the big name Las Vegas residencies will have shows that sell out shows for this weekend. This group of mostly college students don’t need all that much more than just being in Las Vegas and enjoying everything Sin City has to offer.
St. Patrick’s Day brings out a few different groups of people in addition to those already in Las Vegas. Many people from nearby states like California and Arizona will visit just to celebrate some away from home. There are whiskey and beer specials at bars all over town. Local residents will often make an appearance on the Vegas Strip to partake in the parties.
One of the larger celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day takes place at New York-New York. The Celtic Feis festival takes place on March 17 and 18. Festivities kick off on Friday, March 17 with live entertainment beginning at 11 a.m. on the Brooklyn Bridge. The Las Vegas Pipe Band will lead a parade at 10 a.m., starting on the Mezzanine and continuing through New York-New York. The parade is complimentary and open to guests of all ages. Starting at noon on March 17, guests must be at least 21 years of age and admission starts at $10.
Between the Brooklyn Bridge and Nine Fine Irishmen, my favorite Irish Bar in Las Vegas, you’ll find Irish food, booze, music and more. It’s a true celebration or the holiday that you might not expect to find on the Vegas Strip.
Beyond all of this, the weather is just heating up and it’s a great time to be outside in Las Vegas. This is probably my favorite weekend to be on the Vegas Strip. You might want to get busy, if you want to visit for this weekend and haven’t already made plans.
You tend to not think about home and real life when you’re in Las Vegas. It’s understandable since that’s often the purpose of visiting Las Vegas. However, one of the best ways to find discounts in Las Vegas comes from your home life. Many of us have a membership with the American Automobile Association and rarely think about it in Las Vegas because we’re not driving. It still might not be front of mind even if we are driving.
Heck, I have AAA and live in Las Vegas and rarely think about the discounts it offers when I’m wanderings Las Vegas like a tourist. AAA is a great resource for discounts wherever you are. They currently have well over 150 discounts available in Las Vegas. There’s even a free “perks” book that members can order.
While all of the discounts are geared towards local residents, you’ll find many that you can use wherever you’re from. Here’s a quick look at the AAA discounts in Las Vegas that would appeal more to people visiting.
MGM Resorts (Aria, Bellagio and more) – Save 10%
Marriott (Cosmopolitan and more) – Save 5%
Best Western (Casino Royale and more) – Save 10%
Hilton and Double Tree Hotels (Tropicana, Elara at Planet Hollywood and more) – Save 5%
Embassy Suites (Elara at Planet Hollywood and more) – Save 5%
Four Points by Sheraton (Westin and more) – Save 15%
Blue Man Group – Save up to 30%
Cirque Du Soleil – Save up to 20%
Chart House – Save 10% on food and non-alcoholic drinks
Hard Rock Cafe – (All locations) Save 10% on food and non-alcoholic drinks
Dollar Rental Cars – Save 10%
Hertz Rental Cars- Save 20%
Thrifty Rental Cars – Save 8%
Exotics Racing – Save 10%
Miracle Mile Shops – Free Coupon Book
Super Shuttle (to and from airport) – Save $2 per person
UPS Store – Save 15%
Ticketmaster – Save up to 50% on tickets
TravelVegas.com has put together a list of AAA deals you can book online. Visit here.
There are plenty more AAA discounts available in Las Vegas, but most won’t be of interest to you unless you break your glasses, damage your car, and so forth. If you’re a AAA member looking to save a few bucks on your next visit to Las Vegas make sure you visit aaa.com to see if there are any deals available. You may be surprised with that you find.