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After a long break from not traveling, many are anxious to get back on the tarmac and take flight to escape their Covid bunkers. As a good majority of the world turns the corner, if one of the destinations you are thinking about or have always wanted to travel to is Las Vegas, please read the below. I’m going to be posting a series on the ins and outs of going to the world famous playground for adults.
There’s something for everyone - whether you gamble or not, Las Vegas has found a way to make sure that all its visitors are entertained and make lasting memories to take home, after all money and drinks run dry. I will give you some of my personal observations & factoids - starting with the Strip and off Strip, as the locals say, in this series. After writing this I’m realizing that everything I want to say is a lot and have had to cut it back so you can digest each piece properly and not inundate your brains - their full of crypto knowledge so I want to make this reader friendly.
*Notes: Pay attention to the parentheses and it will tell you their affiliation and some special extras will soon come, stay tuned!
It’s a Miami/Cuba themed casino resort, with the light smell of coconut scent pumping the air. It’s medium to smallish sized and has been reconstructed since its comeback, keeping the only an original stained-glass ceiling that sits above some of the blackjack tables. Sitting at the edge of the Strip, it’s the closest one to the airport and across from the Luxor. It’s white and red themed interior and coconut smell will make it feel that you are indeed vacationing amongst the palm trees, the palm trees of Vegas that is ;-).
I have not spent much time in this one but there’s a few things I can tell you about it. It is connected to the Luxor - so if the weather outside is extreme, cold or hot - you can walk entirely inside and make it to Luxor through the connected walkway. Also, there is a tram that you can catch here that stops at Luxor and than Excalibur and it’s free. [Please note that the tram is closed at this time. I’ll update this post when it’s open.] They have an Aquarium which I have been to, and it’s a decent sized one that takes anywhere from 30-45 minutes to get through depending on the crowd and your interest. What’s great about that visit is I was able to get in free by playing the myMGM games on my phone and using the accumulated coins to get a ticket. I may do a separate post about it in the future so you can get in on it.
I’ve stayed at this one a few times, it’s affordable and connected to Mandalay Bay. There’s a shopping area/mall that you walk through between the two locations. It’s a large size casino, plenty of tables, slot machines and rooms for many. The pyramid is definitely a big attraction, and I’ve been able to stay in a few rooms that have a cool slanted wall that’s part of the pyramid. I would say that makes the rooms interesting.
More affordable than Luxor, is Excalibur, in its medieval themed casino you can find a large layout and some of the most affordable minimums when it comes to table games. I have only passed through here. My family members stayed here, and actually told me never to stay at this one, not sure why. The tram from Mandalay Bay connects here. [Please note that the tram is closed at this time. I’ll update this post when it’s open.]
This is the megalith of all the MGM chain resorts on the Strip. So large, I’m quite sure that one could get lost easily. The interior seems to stretch forever, casino floors seem endless and continuing, like you’ll never find the exit - which I almost think was the idea when they built it. I have stayed here once and been a few times but the immense size always intimidates me, as I tend to like smaller sized venues. But if you are into the nightlife, they do have one of the hottest night spots Hakkasan, bringing in the best performers in music worldwide.
Yes, Vegas has it all! The Big Apple themed casino stays true to its theme and you can find all signs and comforts of New York here, pizza, rude cabbies and the cityscape. Maybe not rude cabbies - the Vegas cabbies are actually really nice! Again, I have only passed through this one. Like the other MGM properties, a large casino floor and plenty of affordable rooms are here at this property. I did go here once because Shake Shack opened here - great yummy, affordable (by Strip standards) grass-fed burgers here.
It is one of the newest resorts in this chain - formerly known as the Monte Carlo, it is now the only one on the strip to be a mandatory non-smoking facility. Goodbye having to launder all your clothes to rid itself of the residual, lingering smoke smell of the casino. It also has an outdoor walking path that is reminiscent of a downtown pedestrian area, complete with artistic sculptures. Eataly is one of their top attractions - it’s the sister store of the one in New York.
I would say this is my favorite strip located hotel and casino out of all others. The decor of casino and hotel rooms are a bit flashy but don’t feel dated like the other Strip locations. It’s atmosphere is hip, trendy, young and exciting. But don’t be fooled, Vegas is a place for all ages. Dining and entertainment are top notch too - matching the trendiness of the rest of the resort is the latest in dining chef superstars and musical/comedy guests performing. They are also part of the Autograph Collection, which is part of Marriott, so if you have any Bonvoy points you can earn or use them here.
One of the more glamorous and sophisticated Italian themed Strip resorts, Bellagio definitely is a nice one to stop by. They offer their fresh Gardens, Art Gallery and luxury shopping. Who could forget their fountains that welcome every visitor, designed to lighting and music is a definite spectacle not to be missed and very much has become synonymous with representing the Strip. They are enjoyable anytime of day. But I will caution you - I met a very disappointed British traveler who did not get to see the fountain show because it was too windy and they closed them for the evening. Expect a show every 30 min before 8p and every 15 minutes thereafter until midnight.
Now we’ve come to our first Caesar’s owned property. The theme here originated with the now defunct Planet Hollywood brand and tried to bridge into the new generation in branding itself. It’s now slightly aged but still holds its glitz and glamour Hollywood style with the sparkling lights and deep red interior. It has a sensuous and seductive feel to its design, all the way to their hotel rooms. Holding true to this is, I don’t know if it’s my age, but the music is always banging loud, like a constant party. It’s a nice smaller sized casino that has a decent sized shopping mall attached to it with good shopping choices.
Next door to Planet Hollywood is Paris Las Vegas - complete with replicas of the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and various Parisian themed foods, outlets and more. I have stayed at this resort the most next to the Cosmopolitan. For me, I think I get the best value at this resort due to location, shape of the property and access food/shopping. They also have an inner walkway lined with shops and restaurants that leads to Ballys for those blistering hot summer days. The Eiffel Tower by the way is integrated into the casino floor and is complete with a restaurant and elevator ride up in it just like the real deal. But it wouldn’t be Vegas styled though if a nightclub was not built somewhere inside the attraction - so plan on dancing inside the Eiffel Tower Vegas style.
As mentioned above - it connects through an interior walkway of shops and restaurants to Paris. So if your heart was set on staying at Paris but they have no rooms, no fear - check Ballys out and you’ll be as close as can be. This resort reminds me of a typical casino that is worn and cliched in what casinos are - smoke-filled and cheesy. To me, it’s as no frills as you can get on the Strip - just your average hotel and casino that are attached. There are a few restaurants, they usually have a Vegas style show going on and this resort has an arcade on the lower level, which I’ve noticed has become more of a trend to have a place for your under gambling age folks to spend time. They have pretty affordable food prices compared to the rest of the Strip and a brand new outdoor shopping area in front on the corner which is actually pretty cute and has it’s touristy fare of shops and restaurants.
On the newer side, Cromwell is easiest the smallest hotel/resort on the Strip. Taking the corner across from Caesar’s Palace, it is the most boutique style and close to feeling like one of the Downtown casinos. It’s decor almost seems like it’s competing with Cosmpolitan in decor, entertainment and feel. It has a hip and sumptuous feel - lots of shiny metal and swathes of purple. If you want a more intimate feel to your Vegas experience, and have a casino floor, room, two restaurants - casual and fine dining and one hot nightclub, Cromwell is your place.
A behemoth on the strip and comparative to MGM in mega resort, is Caesar’s Palace. As a Roman-themed casino and hotel, there’s no shortage of the ancient statue replicas all over, frescoes and complete with architecture that matches that of the past empire. Again here, it is easy to get lost and is easily a city within a city with it’s sprawling casino floor, several food outlets and it’s own upscale shopping mall. It definitely is one of the nicer casinos with more room to spare but just be aware of its immensity and be prepared to walk. If I’m not staying here and walking over, it always seems like such a long time to just walk in and then get where you want to be.
The second newest branded hotel in the Vegas Caesar’s family is The Linq, which was formerly known as many other property names but the most recent one is the Quad. They have invest a lot into this property in its most recent renovation and is one of the most affordable on the Strip. It’s got a young and cool vibe while being on the lower scale of price. I did visit the pool here once and they even had fun games to play like pool Jenga. One of the biggest attractions here is the High Roller Ferris Wheel, which is comparatively like the London’s Eye. While I have not personally ridden this, I was surprised to find out how spacious it was, accommodating 40 people in one cabin. While you’re taking in the sights of Nevada high above, you can buy cocktails and even rent a private cabin for a special event. Right outdoors this casino is another big attraction their citywalk area, which reminds me of a mini version of the Universal Studios city walk. It’s an area that is lined with restaurants, shops, bars and Jimmy Kimmel’s comedy club. It makes for a nice mini outing if you are in the area.
You may have a Harrah’s somewhere near you and the one in Las Vegas is quite the same except for it’s location. For this location, I have heard they have the most newest renovated rooms out of all the others on the Strip. There’s more of a feel of American-style businesses and there is an outdoor bar/stage outside on the way to the Linq for any free entertainment or drinks.
Just like it’s name, the entire place is themed under that special bird the flamingo. The pink bird shows up everywhere and most of the interior is in pink or similar complementary colors which is fun. What’s fun is that they do have live ones in their Wildlife Habit, complete with other bird friends, turtles, koi fish and more. I noticed there is kind of a coconut smell that mixes with cigarette smoke here, kind of like Tropicana, that is throughout the casino.
I have not spent very much time here but can tell you that they have a volcano in front on the Strip that erupts on the hour from 8-11p. Not only that, but it also houses the Siegfried and Roy Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat, open daily 10a-6p. You’ll get to see the most intelligent animals of the ocean - dolphins! It’s pretty cool and you can find a decent decor and environment. I would say that it’s not the bottom of the barrel and won’t break the bank. It should make for a comfortable stay if you’re okay with basic accommodations.
Here we come to a pirate-like themed casino. Low table minimums and affordable in every since. It reminds me a lot of a local casino, offering its slot players lots of incentives, low costing food options, cheap rooms and fantasy-themed attractions such as the Marvel Avenger Station.
Venetian is, you guessed it, a Venice themed resort. All the replicas of Venice under one roof and you can take a gondola ride and have a gondolier sing a special song to you. St. Mark’s Cathedral, canals and the frescoes adorn throughout. There’s a youthful feel to this place and they have a popular nightclub Tao. It is a fun place to go with lots of great places to eat. They do have an upscale shopping mall and is related to the Palazzo property, which you can read about below.
Sophisticated and upscale, this one continues its Italian themed outlets. Luxury is its theme and the casino floor is quite reserved, except for the occasional fun times around the bar. I do enjoy the calm here and if looking for more action or excitement, Venetian is just a short walk away. They are connected and, you guessed it, by a line of shops and restaurants. What’s nice about this walk between the two is their art/garden installation that is in front of the Palazzo that changes quarterly and fits the current season. Lots of great fine dining and shopping is a mere steps away.
We’ve made it to the end of the Strip! Congratulations 🍾, now hold your money so you can pay for that Uber back to the airport. The Wynn and Encore resorts are two separate locations connected by an interior walkway. Note that it is a long walk between the two. I’m embarrassed to say that the walk is so far, I’ve only done it once and decided I didn’t want to do it more often than not . This place is a Steven Wynn themed casino resort. I don’t know how else to describe that - it has all the most expensive shops, luxury and upscale offerings of the Strip. They’re’s a golf course, spa and they have a complimentary mini-attraction Lake of Dreams - a LED run show against the backdrop of nature made up of a waterfall and pine trees. Now I’ve only exclusively stayed at the Wynn and that’s because there is just more offerings in that location. Encore is more limited and mini, but I might give it a try sometime.