palazzo las vegas
Credit: Thomas Bullock

Travelling to Las Vegas is a rite of passage; you have to go at least once in your lifetime.

After 25 years, I finally packed my bags and booked a weekend to Sin City with some friends. Having never been to the popular destination, I had heard several things that shaped what I figured Vegas would be like.

Mostly: partying, pools, buffets, and scorching heat.

Now that I’m back from my crazy weekend, I want to share Las Vegas through the eyes of a first-timer, along with five things you need to know if you've never been that'll help you make the most of it. 

 

Tip #1: Do your research on hotels prior to booking

las vegas hotel room palazzoThomas Bullock

There are 20+ hotel-casinos on The Strip, each speaking to a different theme, budget, demographic, and vibe. And did you know, Las Vegas is not only a popular destination for young people, but for families as well? 

When planning your trip, it’s important to think about which activities you value the most. Then, research to see which hotels on The Strip offer the best fit. 

las vegas palazzo gondola ride venetianThomas Bullock

I stayed at the gorgeous Palazzo, which is connected to the Venetian Hotel. If you would like to be transported to Italy for an afternoon, I recommend walking through the Palazzo to take a Venetian gondola ride. There are two gondola routes: an indoor and an outdoor ride. I opted for the indoor, but the painted blue skies created the illusion of the great outdoors, minus the 40-degree heat.

 

Tip #2: Prepare for the desert heat

venetian las vegas outdoor the stripThomas Bullock

Don’t forget that Las Vegas is, well, a desert! I could literally feel the heat gathering in my contact lenses, and my iPhone stopped working thanks to overheating.

The heat doesn’t get any better once the sun goes down either, so prepare with tons of lightweight, light-coloured clothing, generous applications of sunscreen, and aloe vera. 

 

Tip #3: Explore beyond The Strip

While The Strip is fun and glamour, it is also tourist central. I managed to chat with several Las Vegas locals, and surprisingly, they said that people who make Vegas their home, stay as far away from The Strip as possible.

Taxis, Uber and car rentals are key for exploring beyond The Strip. (Though I wouldn't recommend using Uber for longer distances, say to the the desert.) Even accounting for the exchange rate, car rentals are more affordable in the US than in Canada. 


Fremont Street, aka "Old Vegas" or "Downtown"

freemont experienceThomas Bullock

I would definitely recommend checking out the Fremont Street Experience, otherwise deemed as "Old Vegas" or "Downtown Las Vegas".

It has a completely different vibe than The Strip. The streets are a lot more rustic - even bordering on the grungy at times - but fun it's nonetheless.

I was told that the first Friday of the month is a great time to experience Fremont, as the area fills with people and basically becomes a huge outdoor party, complete with street beers and multiple stage concerts. (I thoroughly enjoyed the older men with luscious long hair head-banging to classic rock.) And if you look up, you’ll see people zip-lining overhead.

 

Get into the desert: Seven Magic Mountains

seven magic mountains las vegasThomas Bullock

Located just 30 minutes from The Strip is Seven Magic Mountains, a large, colourful art installation by Swiss artist, Ugo Rondinone. We made the trip out at 6 a.m. not only to avoid the crowds, but because early morning temperatures are much milder than mid-day when temperatures soar. 

Other nearby desert experiences include Valley of Fire State Park and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

 

Tip #4: Feast for the senses

food dining las vegas octopusThomas Bullock

Eat it up

I am such a foodie and prior to heading to Las Vegas, everyone was raving to me about the amazing buffets. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to buffet it up, but I did sample my fair share of delicious food.

While water might be a scarcity in the desert, food and drink is not. The dining options are near-limitless, and happily, the heat made me extra hungry. I could go on at length about tasting my way across the city, but I'll save that for another time. What you should know, is that close to The Palazzo, were margarita bars, candy stores, and a delicious Italian restaurant called Maggiano’s, located in Fashion Show Mall. (Hot tip, order the mushroom ravioli).

The Venetian ® Las VegasThe Venetian ® Las Vegas

Catch a show

I also managed to catch a show: BAZ - Star Crossed Love at the Palazzo Theatre. It's an intimate, cabaret-set musical that combines Romeo & Juliet, The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge into a spectacle of song and dance. 

 

Tip #5: Sample the Las Vegas party scene

east side rickeyThe Venetian ® Las Vegas

This is almost a given if you’re in Vegas.

There is no shortage of clubs and pool parties to attend, but the thing about the Vegas club scene, is that the more people you know, the easier (and possibly cheaper) it is to get in.

I found that posting to social media, such as Instagram and Twitter, with relevant hashtags can help. Party promoters crawl these hashtags and reach out with free entry into clubs. 

Tip: Water in the clubs is notoriously overpriced. Trust me, I speak from experience.

 

More Las Vegas quick tips:

desertThomas Bullock

  • When you arrive, be sure to buy water from the convenience stores
  • Download Uber before you go. It'll make getting around Las Vegas that much easier
  • July and August are peak season for pool parties
  • Always hydrate throughout the day
  • Have a ton of fun!

 

Are you a Las Vegas first-timer? 
Got a question for me? 
Tweet me --> @otisamantha 

 

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